Editor: Who were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and what happened to them? Were they a bunch of rabble-rousers? No. They were soft-spoken men of means and education.
They had security, but they valued liberty more. Twenty-four were lawyers, 11 were merchants, and nine were farmers and large plantation owners. But they signed the declaration, knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter, 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 that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him. Poverty was his reward.
Vandals, soldiers, or both, looted many of their homes. 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. His fields and mill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home after the war to find his wife dead and his children had vanished. He died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
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Five of the signers were captured as traitors by the British, and were tortured to death. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army. Another had two sons captured. Nine fought and died of wounds or the hardship of the war.
Sadly, there are few of us today who have the courage to stand for our convictions. But these men stood, and without wavering pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Washington served without pay, and helped finance the war with his own money. Where are such men today?