The Sacrifices of the Declaration Signers: A July 4th Reflection

Have you ever wondered what became of the 56 men who dared to sign the Declaration of Independence? When they affixed their names to that historic document, they declared: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They did not take these words lightly.

The Price of Freedom

The cost of their commitment was steep. Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and endured torture before their deaths. Twelve saw their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost sons fighting for the revolutionary cause, while another saw two sons taken prisoner. Nine signers perished from wounds or hardships directly related to the war.

Who Were These Men?

These weren’t mere rebels without a cause. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants, and nine were farmers and large plantation owners. Men of tremendous wisdom and education, they signed knowing full well that capture would mean death.

  • Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, lost his ships to the British Navy. Forced to sell his home and properties to settle debts, he died in poverty.
  • Thomas McKean was relentlessly pursued by the British, forcing his family into constant relocation. Despite serving in Congress without pay, his possessions were seized, and he faced abject poverty as a result.
  • Properties belonging to Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton were looted by vandals or soldiers.
  • At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. saw his home commandeered by British General Cornwallis. He urged General George Washington to fire upon it, resulting in its destruction. Nelson ended his life bankrupt.
  • Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed, and his wife was imprisoned, dying shortly after.
  • John Hart was driven away from his dying wife’s bedside. His thirteen children fled for safety, and his property was devastated. He spent over a year hiding in forests and caves, only to return home to find his wife deceased and his children missing. He died soon after from exhaustion and heartbreak. Norris and Livingston faced similar fates.

The Legacy of Their Sacrifice

These men were not wild-eyed rabble-rousers; they were composed, intelligent, and principled individuals who valued liberty above their own security. They stood tall and unwavering, pledging their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of freedom. Their sacrifices have paved the way for what America has become—the greatest country in the world.

As we celebrate this Fourth of July, let’s reflect on the monumental risks they took and ask ourselves: Are we willing to stand up for our values with even a fraction of the bravery they exhibited?

Happy Independence Day!

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