Ladyfisher
Outdoor Writers Association of America
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

July 3rd, 2000

What Happened . . .



We celebrate the Declaration of Independence in America this week. For many it is just a long weekend get-away. For the patriotic it is a day for remembering and to be thankful for those founding fathers who risked everything to produce a document declaring they would no longer tolerate the treatment they received from an absent ruler in England.

If you haven't read The Declaration of Independence (or not since you were in grade school) take the time to click on the previous link to the Library of Congress transcription of it. There may be things you never realized were there, or like me had forgotten.

We all take for granted the dedication of those who drafted and signed the 'Declaration' but few know what happened to those who did so. The following was sent to me by Steven McGarthwaite. One more time, Freedom is not Free.

"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 of the Revolutionary War.

They 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, men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well 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 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 the 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. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were 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 the 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 told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government!

Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't. Take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th 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 is more than beer, picnics and baseball games."

Amen. ~ LadyFisher

In honor of all those who served in the United States Military we bring you the original poem, which has become the "Navy Hymn." To hear it sung by the U.S. Navy Band's Sea Chanters, click Here!

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