Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Signers of the Declaration of Independence

I didn't write this. It came to me in an email from my mom, and I found it so relevant that I absolutely had to share it with you all. I have not had the time yet to verify all the statements listed below, so if you find discrepancies, I apologize. However, if you can appreciate the words in this message, feel free to copy and paste it into an email of your own to send out to everyone you know. In days such as these, it never hurts to recall our beginnings...

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and 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.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships during the
Revolutionary War. When signing the Declaration, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of
Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

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.

McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of
Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his
headquarters. 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 enemy 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 gristmill 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.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4
th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots.

It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: freedom is never free!

It's time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball games.

I don’t know who put this together, but I will follow their example and remember the many sacrifices made for us by our founding fathers.

A Day of Remembrance

As many of you are well aware, this weekend marks the 233 anniversary of the day the United States of America declared her independence from the tyrannical rule and oppression of King George III and Great Britain. For some, this day will mean little more than outdoor barbecues, hot dogs, and beer, all of which are typically followed by impressive and inspiring fireworks displays. But for others, true American Patriots who still believe in what our Founding Fathers accomplished on that date so very long ago, it will mean so much more.

The passage of time tends to dilute and sterilize even the greatest events of the past, often to the point that we forget the magnitude of moments so monumental as to grace the pages of our history texts. The occasion we celebrate this weekend is far more than a tick mark on a timeline. We would be remiss in forgetting that these events happened to real men made of flesh and blood--real people who endured seemingly insuperable struggles to secure the freedoms that each of us enjoys today.

I figured that this would be a good time to briefly remind everyone just what all transpired over two centuries ago. As you read these events, try to imagine yourself sitting among the delegates of the Continental Congress. Try to relate to the sentiments of men who were about to wager their political careers, their fortunes, and even their lives on a decision that would become the most significant in US history.

On July 1st of 1776, Richard Henry Lee’s resolution that the American colonies declare their independence from Great Britain was again brought to the floor of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia for further deliberation. In attendance was Samuel Adams, who hoped that the vote would bring his more than two decades long struggle for liberty to fruition—nearly two and a half years after American Patriots boarded ships in Boston Harbor to let the king of Great Britain know how they felt about his unjust taxes.

Only nine of the thirteen colonies favored Lee’s resolution, and therefore the long-running debate continued. Among dissenters were the Representatives from South Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania argued that independence should be contingent on three things: the formation of a formal “confederation” of the states, defined continental boundaries, and a confirmed agreement by France to support the Americans against King George III. He, and several of the delegates who supported his arguments, believed that it would be folly to declare what could only result in war without some indication that the colonies would be successful. Even our forefathers understood the crippling effects of fear.

A unanimous agreement seemed all but impossible, even after the lengthy and eloquent impromptu pleas by John Adams. The final vote on the matter was to be slated for the following day: July 2nd.

Just before the delegates adjourned from the July 1st session, they received an urgent report from General Washington who was strategically positioned in New York. His letter announced that several British warships and transport vessels (carrying some 32,000 skilled professional soldiers) had moved into position and appeared to be preparing to launch an attack on the American forces stationed nearby.

The time for deliberation and delay had come to an end. Washington’s words drove genuine dread into the hearts of the congressional representatives, and they knew the time for action had come. The alarming report was all Lee, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and other supporters of independence needed to sway the dissenting delegates in favor of Lee’s resolution.

On the 2nd of July the Continental Congress in Philadelphia agreed with a unanimous vote that the thirteen British colonies were thereafter to be considered free and independent states: the United States of America.

Thomas Jefferson’s preliminary draft of the Declaration of Independence had already undergone several revisions by the congressional delegates, and each alteration made to the deliberately-worded document distressed the Virginia Representative immensely. Few argued the inherent beauty and eloquence of the document. Their editorial efforts centered mostly around Jefferson’s statements against slavery, as well as some of his more wistful sentiments describing the loss Americans would feel as they severed all ties with their motherland and former brethren.

As Jefferson agonized over every change to the statement's verbiage, Benjamin Franklin attempted to assuage him by offering a humorous (and, many argue, invented) anecdote about how such editorial recommendations affected something as seemingly trivial as a hat maker’s sign. Though Franklin’s words offered little comfort, Jefferson forever recalled his appreciation for Dr. Franklin’s admirable kindness in trying.

On the 4th of July of 1776 the final draft of the Americans’ declaration to King George III was agreed upon, and independence was officially declared by Congress.

One can only imagine the gravity of their decision. To them, the future was uncertain. It is likely that many of them feared they would come to regret the decision they made that day, even as King George's soldiers made preparations to suppress yet another rebellious uprising among the disloyal colonists. John Hancock was described as warning the other delegates, “We must be unanimous. There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.”

Ben Franklin’s witty and well-known reply was simply, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

And so it was, even as British forces were moving into position to launch an attack on the unruly colonies, the free and independent United States of America was conceived.

On July 3, 1776 over 9,000 British soldiers landed on New York’s Staten Island. General Howe and George Washington were witnessing only the beginning of a standoff that would become part of a long and arduous battle for liberty from oppression and tyranny.

As copies of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence were read throughout the colonies, the mood of people was electrifying. George Washington had the document read to his soldiers to uplift and inspire them. Many citizens of the thirteen colonies rallied and cheered with patriotism. And the Sons of Liberty attacked an enormous equestrian statue of King George III, which stood on Bowling Green in New York, shattering the monument. The statue’s head was shipped—intact--to London by British loyalists, and the remainder of the two ton effigy was melted down and used to mold over 42,000 lead musket balls for use by the American soldiers.

So, as we all gather together this weekend--whether you gather for backyard barbecues or at local Tea Parties with fellow Patriots--please take a solemn moment to remember and appreciate the men who took a stand to ensure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And, if you should so be moved, offer a prayer of thanks to them, as well as a prayer for that same Divine Providence that guided them to lead and protect all of us in our attempts to protect and preserve the efforts of our Founding Fathers.

Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans. God bless you and keep you.