Lest we forgetů
Independence Day. Ah yes, a day of picnics, hotdogs, beer and baseball games. But for the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence it was no picnic. And I suggest that we stop chewing on our hotdog, set the beer aside, and pause the baseball game for just a moment, to remember who they were and what happened to them.
These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians rebelling against their own government--Britain. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but valued liberty more. When they signed the Declaration, they knew full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured. But they stood tall, straight, and unwavering as they pledged "...to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." Many of them lost the first two, but never gave up the third--"their sacred honor." Nor should we as we recall who they were and the price they paid for our freedom and once again remind ourselves that freedom is not free.
Five of them were captured by the British, considered traitors to their government, and tortured before they died.
Nine of the 56 fought and died of wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
Two lost their sons fighting in the Revolutionary Army.
Another had two sons captured.
Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.
John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid 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 of a broken heart.
At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that his home had been taken over by the the British General Cornwallis as his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire on it. His home was destroyed and he died bankrupt.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter sold home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
The properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnet, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton were looted of everything of value.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The British jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
So now you can go back to chewing on your hotdogs, slurping your beer, playing baseball and enjoying the freedom of living in a country where you are free to gripe about your government--a freedom that a lot of us are excersizing these days. And that's OK, just so long as you don't forget that freedom is not free, and never well be.