Backyard picnics, family get-togethers and fireworks are all part of the Fourth of July celebration across America. It’s a time when our nation’s workers pause to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in a free country.
However, too often we take our freedom for granted and neglect to teach the next generation the true value of living in a free nation. Our children need to be instilled with a sense of pride in our American flag and be taught that patriotism is a fine and honorable thing. They need to understand that in the beginning, our freedoms were not the inalienable rights we now assume them to be — our forefathers fought for them, often losing everything they held dear in the process. And while the new movie The Patriot will stir in one a deep sense of pathotic pride, and give a brief glimpse into the Revolutionary War, it falls short of providing a comprehensive education about America’s roots.
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.
One had two of his sons captured in the Revolutionary War.
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds, or hardships of the war.
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 property to pay his debts, and he died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to constantly move his family. He served in Congress without pay, lived in poverty, and kept his family in hiding.
British General Cornwallis took over the home of Thomas Nelson Jr. and used it for his headquarters. Nelson quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed and Nelson later died bankrupt.
The British destroyed Francis Lewis’s home and jailed his wife, who died a few months later.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for theft lives. Hart lived in forests and caves for more than a year, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were well aware that if captured, the penalty was death.
These men took a stand for freedom by pledging their lives, fortunes and their sacred honor when they signed the Declaration of Independence. Those who signed the document were well-educated men of means. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, nine were farmers and large plantation owners. They had security, but they valued liberty more.
The Revolutionary War wasn’t just about fighting the British; since our forefathers were British subjects, they were fighting their own government. When the 56 signed the Declaration of Independence, they were well aware that the penalty would be death if they were captured. They stood tall and pledged; “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 gave us a free and independent America. Let us not forget the price they paid as we celebrate our nation’s independence.