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Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Updated 9 September 2003

Signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776 was not a trivial act on the part of the men who pledged the lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.  

These men were not natural rebels, or crazies looking for a fight.  Eleven were merchants, while nine were farmers and large plantation owners. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.  All were men of means, well educated.  But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.  

Of the 56 men who signed the document, five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.  Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.  Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, while another had two sons captured.  Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships incurred in the revolutionary war.  

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 McKeam was so hounded by the British that 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 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 the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner 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 grist mill 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 America 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.”  

American history books have been particularly derelict in describing what happened in the American Revolutionary War.  This wasn’t a case of simply fighting the foreign British.  Those who joined the American Revolution were British subjects at that time and they fought their own government!  They committed treason.  But they did so for reasons that people today might think of as very noble.  At the time, it was questionable in the extreme to go against one's king.

Our founding fathers had a hatred for standing armies -- for obvious reasons -- which is why they provided The Second Amendment, allowing citizens to be armed.  

They created for posterity, a Republic.  But as one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin observed, “Whether or not future generations keep the Republic is the issue.”  All things considered, it would appear that the Republic paid for in lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, has been lost.  Clearly the passing of the USA Patriot Act following 9-11-2001, and the institutionalization of Homeland InSecurity -- aided and abetted by the Supreme Court -- is not what the Signers might have had in mind.

Can the freedoms and rights being trashed ever be regained -- especially in the current State of the Union?  


Declaration of Independence         Justice, Order, and Law

Forward to:

Original Declaration of Independence

Constitution of the United States of America


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