If have seen my YouTube channel you seen me in my full American flag motif and there is no doubt that I am a patriot. The difference between myself and todays millennial has more to do with the fact that what I know I got from yellowed pages in very old books and they got what they know from a short YouTube video no reading required. So I am going to put some perspective of the Men, Woman, Blacks Germans, French I admire from the Founding of the United States.
With the average age of a constitution in this world being only 17 years old to have one that that is 230 + years old and the first to empower the people and not the government is a human feat that most every other country and many in our own want to HIDE. Empowering you the individual is to NOT give power to them and only ignorance will allow this imbalance to grow.
First you hear half a story, Rich white men who didn’t want to pay their taxes. Yes very wealthy men some were who were so oppressed and plundered by a government that these men felt they needed to Self Govern and not simply be taxed from a far without any say in how or where their money was spent. Lets put tax in perspective. A man with a gun says he is with the government and gimme money. Your money now is being spent in another country. Some call that thievery and in todays world they use the internet vs a gun.
Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase “by a self-assumed power.” “Climb” was replaced by “must read,” then “must” was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called “their depredations.” “Inherent and inalienable rights” came out “certain unalienable rights,” and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.
A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.
Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: “I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American.” But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
With Much to Lose and nothing but responsibility of a nation to gain.
What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them? From the minute they met in that room their names were on a list of traitors to the crown and warrants for their arrest and public hanging were issued.
Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half – 24 – were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.
With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century. Their confirmation of treason by forming the declaration of independence was not to be just their burden to bear. Their families would pay dearly for this act to commit freedom for all which we celebrate.
Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. There was no doubt in that room that each man was personally signing his own death warrant.
Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.
The overweight Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny sprite of a man Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts:
“With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.”
A small note often left from history is while they were signing the document an entire British Fleet was already at anchor in the New York Harbor. Every man who had entered the buildings name was known and warrants for their arrest already issued.
They were not hot-eyed fanatics yammering for attention or an explosion to their fame. There were no dreamy intellectuals thinking they could remake the world better if only they were in charge. They simply asked for the status quo. It was a resistance to change they were gearing up for. America was made up of men who came to be ungoverned for generations now and government was imposing on the wealth that was born of those who came before and risked it solo for the betterment of themselves and their families. Taxation without representation they sought, Conservatives all yet they rebelled.
It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)
Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: “Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.
“The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.
If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.”
Richard Henry Lee
Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.
William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers’ faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, “but in no face was he able to discern real fear.” Stephan Hopkins, Ellery’s colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared:
“My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”
New York delegate saw his home plundered — and his estates in what is now Harlem — completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured raped and beaten regularly. At the point she was so near death she was exchanged by the British for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse days from being returned.
Another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin. None of their homes or properties had been left intact.
Had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home to the streets of New York abandoned. While Cut off from his family Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause. His family lived on charity of neighbors.
The fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family. The British Army had took up permanent residence at his home.
From Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. The 13 children are assumed to have been raped and murdered as no trace of his family has ever been found again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.
Dr. John Witherspoon
Signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. The British burned most of the Princeton library for heating fuel of the troops they had billeted in the Princeton college.
Judge Richard Stockton
Another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton’s parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity for the rest of their lives.
Merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington’s appeals and pleas for money year after year as an individual. He both made and raised the arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry. He was never returned to his status of wealth within his lifetime.
Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns. Spent the war keeping himself and family one step ahead of the British soldiers.
Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.
A Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly British loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was considered a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. Despite letters and diaries that viewed him as weak when he died in 1777, his last words transcribed by his British that killed him with the extreme torture trying to get him to recant his signing of the Declaration of independence were:
“Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country.”
Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from starvation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. He simply as the commandar would not eat when his mean could not and have any source of warmth while one of his men did not. He had done this for so long his body wouldn’t come out of the state of eating itself. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea due to a storm which sank the ship.
Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr.
The other three South Carolina signers, were all taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out as prisoners for public torture and abuse. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.
Thomas Nelson Jr
Signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson’s palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, “Why do you spare my home?” They replied, “Sir, out of respect to you.” Nelson cried, “Give me the cannon!” and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson’s sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson’s property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, broken and impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.
Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his all 13 children. Two wives were publicly raped. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Theye committed their honor, to a nation that did not yet exist. they sacrificed so much to create a nation that is still intact.
Two more men of note.
Signer, He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given only the food that could squeeze through a keyhole. With the end almost in sight, with the war won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for giving in to the British request when they offered him his sons’ lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. Please imagine the utter despair in a mans heart, and endless torment of his soul even after 200 years of success due to his sacrifice when he answered
James Armistead Lafayette
Was on paper the property of Marguis de Lafayette a French officer. While serving with George Washington, listened to the discussion for the need of a spy in Lord Cornwallis camp and he volunteered and was twice refused by George Washington not wanting to risk the man’s life in such a way. James Armistead wondered into Cornwallis camp claiming to run away from the “abusive Americans” as written in diaries and letters. This narrative has been repeated and overshadowed the importance of Armistead’s importance to the founding of the country and specifically the battle of Yorktown that turned the tide of war. He uncovered Benedict Arnolds treason and plot to kill George Washington. He kept the Americans informed of the British planned movements and was such an intelligent man that Cornwallis had him as his personal servant and sounding board for his battle plans not knowing the spy the British were looking for was Armistead himself.
Since Lafayette didn’t serve in the war in the place of Marquis but beside him a clause in the law wouldn’t allow him to be declared a free man in all states. This was corrected in 1818 when the Virginia state legislature when we was granted this freedom and paid the wars soldiers relief of $60 for having served and $40 a year for the rest of his life for his service (Officers wages).
He took the generals last name of Lafayette to honor the man he respected and while on tour the general saw Amisted and publicly embraced his long missed friend.
There is no more profound sentence than this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”
These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.
Sacred Honor, To love the general freedom of man more than your own life, love and property. To stand up for those who stood up for us and are not here to defend their sacrifice. That is the sacred task for those of us who come next.