Sunday, July 3, 2011

what became of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

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

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and torturedbefore they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Twolost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sonscaptured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardshipsof the revolutionary war.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and theirsacred honor.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantationowners, men of means, well educated. But they signed theDeclaration of Independence knowing full well that the penaltywould be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw hisships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home andproperties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced tomove his family almost constantly. He served in the Congresswithout pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessionswere 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.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr., noted that theBritish General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for hisheadquarters. The owner quietly urged General George Washington toopen fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemyjailed 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 hisgristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived inforests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and hischildren vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and abroken 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 weresoft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but theyvalued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, theypledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm relianceon the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge toeach other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

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