Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor

Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence, the video is representative of the scene although they fiddled a bit with the timeline. Two, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson would be the 2d and 3d Presidents of the United States, as well as friends, then enemies and finally friends again. They died on 4 July 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration. Jefferson’s last recorded words, on the evening of the 3 of July were, “Is it the Fourth yet?”. Adams died later that day saying, “Jefferson survives.” That left only Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who was also one of the founders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

The other fifty-three, while not as storied, all had their life changed by John Hancock’s invitation to commit treason. Gary Hildrith did the research, which he published at Tales Along the Way

Have you ever wondered what happened to the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence? This is the price they paid: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 in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships resulting from the Revolutionary War.These men signed, and 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. All were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty could 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 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 or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples of “undaunted resolution” was at the Battle of Yorktown. Thomas Nelson, Jr. was returning from Philadelphia to become Governor of Virginia and joined General Washington just outside of Yorktown. He then noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarter, but that the patriot’s were directing their artillery fire all over the town except for the vicinity of his own beautiful home. Nelson asked why they were not firing in that direction, and the soldiers replied, “Out of respect to you, Sir.” Nelson quietly urged General Washington to open fire, and stepping forward to the nearest cannon, aimed at his own house and fired. The other guns joined in, and the Nelson home was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis’s Long Island home was looted and gutted, his home and properties destroyed. His wife was thrown into a damp dark prison cell without a bed. Health ruined, Mrs. Lewis soon died from the effects of the confinement. The Lewis’s son would later die in British captivity, also.

“Honest John” Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying, when British and Hessian troops invaded New Jersey just months after he signed the Declaration. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid to waste. All winter, and for more than a year, Hart lived in forests and caves, finally returning home to find his wife dead, his chidren vanished and his farm destroyed. Rebuilding proved too be too great a task. A few weeks later, by the spring of 1779, John Hart was dead from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

New Jersey’s Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying in 1781 a broken man.

William Ellery of Rhode Island, who marveled that he had seen only “undaunted resolution” in the faces of his co-signers, also had his home burned.

Only days after Lewis Morris of New York signed the Declaration, British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris’ sons fought the British.

When the British seized the New York houses of the wealthy Philip Livingston, he sold off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.

Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolina tight. In the British invasion of the South, Heyward was wounded and all three were captured. As he rotted on a prison ship in St. Augustine, Heyward’s plantation was raided, buildings burned, and his wife, who witnessed it all, died. Other Southern signers suffered the same general fate.

Among the first to sign had been John Hancock, who wrote in big, bold script so George III “could read my name without spectacles and could now double his reward for 500 pounds for my head.” If the cause of the revolution commands it, roared Hancock, “Burn Boston and make John Hancock a beggar!”

Here were men who believed in a cause far beyond themselves.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the America 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 the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Emphasis mine Life, Fortune, and Sacred Honor

As an American warrior would write in a song nearly two hundred years later,

“These were men, America’s best.”



About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

17 Responses to Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor

  1. I believe that Charles Carroll of Baltimore, Maryland was the only Roman Catholic who signed the Declaration of Independence? And John Witherspoon was the only ordained minister (Presbyterian) to sign the Declaration. Interesting to my mind when one considers how different were the religious positions of Jefferson! As I have said he was perhaps the most Deist of the signers, and the debate continues whether he was a Mason or not?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Btw whether Jefferson was a card-carrying Mason is mute to my mind, since he was a profound Deist in his beliefs! Indeed Freemasonry affected many of the American Founding Fathers to some degree. I am one that does not see Masonry as completely negative, at least in that era. George Washington as Benjamin Franklin were of course practicing Masons.


      • I have told this story before, but one of my Irish Catholic grandfathers who fought in WW 1, after he came home from that so-called War to end all Wars, left the RCC and became a Mason. He said that he could not believe in the God of French Catholicism, but he was a Mason and believer in God until he died.


        • Closing this, I think my one grandfather reacted negatively toward the actions of the French Generals during WW 1, and thus the Catholicism of the French (to his mind), he did say this at least a few times. Indeed it was simply a horrible war, and challenged no doubt many a personal faith!


  2. the unit says:

    Amazing dedication, patriotism, and honor fulfilling their envisioned duty.
    I had read other accounts before and am always astounded over and again when reading about them.
    Funny that I was wondering something considerably different last evening. That is this:
    Wonder how America haters celebrated July 4th.? Wunderground weather probably isn’t one of those, but don’t comment there and let on you’re, according to their definition, a “climate denier.”
    Headline for page Hurricanes & Tropics (July 4):
    Slowly but Surely, 94L Organizing in Tropical Atlantic
    Beginning of article:
    “While Americans celebrated a holiday on Tuesday…”…blah, blah, blah 🙂
    Just another holiday, eh?
    P.S. You don’t have to watch all the crazy video. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      I am as well, what a high bar they set us.

      Yeah, just another holiday…I’m sure the Spanish Empire would have been better for Wunderground, as long as they didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        Yeah, but they saving inquisitions for us.
        What was the weather like July 4, 1776?
        I would have linked, but they had to mention the weather is warmer now than it was back then. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Nifty! Not as hot as I had always heard though! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • the unit says:

          Yeah, I didn’t go there looking for weather in 1776 or to see if they celebrating. It’s that time of the year for me. Monitor the tropics. We moved to the Gulf Coast right after the unnamed ’47 hurricane. Been through everything since that has come my way. Camille, Ivan, Dennis, and Katrina were the baddest. The eyes came in at slightly different locations, but lucky me happened to be in each place. Water up to my nose in Katrina, and me on my tippy toes. 🙂
          So I follow the forecasts and plots. Surely I won’t have to endure any more? But if so, I’ll do my duty (JeanofOrleans style). 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Yep, we pay attention, too. I’ve gotten so that I can track a tornado to +/- a half mile or so, on the internet NWS (or whatever they call it now) radar display. Saved me a lot of worry over the years. 🙂

          So shall we all, no snowflakes we. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Btw speaking of the French Military (pre – WW 1 and a bit after), the Dreyfus Affair always comes to mind, it is history, and anti-Semitism!

    I have noted that today the French military is placed above the British, for readiness and ability. Hum, have to think about that one?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. the unit says:

    Because we usually get the point, we don’t bother to point out each other’s typos, but this one I’m laughing to much to pass up.
    “Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolina tight.”
    Afraid I’d’ve been plum drunk. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      On plum wine no doubt! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. the unit says:

    First Independence Day, and then, and then…Gulp!
    July 5, let freedom ring around the world!
    “On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveils a daring two-piece swimsuit dubbed “bikini,” inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week. He declared that a two-piece suit wasn’t a genuine bikini ‘unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring.’ ”
    And not far behind along came the ’60’s. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yay! Both the bikini and the song! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Weekly Headlines – My Daily Musing

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.