PDT Staff Writer
Today is the Fourth of July, a day that sometimes gets away from us. It comes and goes and the only reflection we have from it is that it was a day off. My friend Jack Hughes sent me an e-mail that I felt I had to share with our readers to give them something to think about on this important day. Most people do not know the fates of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, so this may come as a shock to you. But it further emphasizes that these men were wealthy businessmen who put their lives on the line.
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; 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.
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 looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, 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. He 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 gristmill 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.
So, take a few minutes while enjoying your Fourth of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: freedom is never free! It’s time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball.
A special thanks to my friend, a patriot in his own right, Jack Hughes, for sharing this information. Have a great and patriotic Fourth of July.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org