"When they signed the Declaration, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor."
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Five of the signers were captured by the British as traitors. They were tortured before they died.
Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.
Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.
When they signed the Declaration, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists; 11 were merchants; nine were farmers and large plantation owners - men of means and well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.
Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Continental Congress without pay and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him and poverty was his reward.
Vandals and soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that a British General had taken over his house for his headquarters. Still, he quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The British jailed his wife and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his mill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
Such are the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of this Declaration with firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
They gave you and me a free and independent America. The history books never tell a lot about what happened to these men during the Revolutionary War. We didn't just fight the British - we were British subjects at the time and we fought our own government!
Some of us take these liberties so much for granted. Please take a few minutes this year while enjoying your 4th of July holiday to silently thank these patriots and other patriots over the years who have died to preserve our gift of freedom. It's not much to ask considering the price already paid. Remember, freedom is never free!