Monday, July 4, 2011

What happened to the signers of the Declaration?

I heard a sermon in church yesterday that reiterated the truth that true freedom is found in Jesus Christ alone. Dependence on God and obedience to His word along with self government allows a people to experience the greatest amount of freedom. Freedom is not doing what we want. Freedom is living responsibly with the bounds of God-given laws, which our nation was founded upon. 

So what happened to those who wanted this kind of freedom? There are variations in writings on the subject, but here are a few I found especially interesting and sobering. 

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and large plantation owners. All were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.

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, (Really? That would instantly restore integrity to our government!) and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. His home on Long Island was destroyed by British calvary in the fall of 1776. Mrs. Lewis was captured by the British but was eventually released in exchange for a British officer's wife. Mrs. Lewis died two years after her release. Altoghether, eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed.

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. A few weeks later he died of exhaustion and a broken heart. Morris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples of "undaunted resolution" was at the Battle of Yorktown. Thomas Nelson, Jr. was returning from Philadelphia to become Governor of Virginia and joined General Washington just outside of Yorktown. He then noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters, but that the patriot's were directing their artillery fire all over the town except for the vicinity of his own beautiful home. Nelson asked why they were not firing in that direction, and the soldiers replied, "Out of respect to you, Sir." Nelson quietly urged General Washington to open fire, and stepping forward to the nearest cannon, aimed at his own house and fired. The other guns joined in, and the Nelson home was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.Nelson's house is still standing at Yorktown and there are cannonballs embedded in its east wall.

New Jersey's Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying in 1781 a broken man.

Among the first to sign had been John Hancock, who wrote in big, bold script so George III "could read my name without spectacles and could now double his reward for 500 pounds for my head." If the cause of the revolution commands it, roared Hancock, "Burn Boston and make John Hancock a beggar!"

And there are others. 
Take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July Holiday and thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the  price they paid. 
Remember Freedom is never free!

May God help us to live our lives worthy of what so many have given their lives for....the privilege of governing ourselves within principles of truth so we wouldn't have to be governed by oppressive rulers. 


  1. Thank you for this inspiring story!

  2. This was so wonderful, Patty! I've had these patriots on my mind all week -- I had no idea what had happened to them all :( I am so indebted to them -- and I really feel it today :)

  3. yes yes yes! Thank you so much for blogging and posting this - amen :)

  4. Lovely story! How quickly we all forget! Wonderful story and thanks so much for sharing it here!

  5. Amazing Patty!
    I had no idea that they suffered so after the signing.:(
    And Thomas McKeam working for free! That would restore gov. integrity indeed!!
    I saved this so I can teach my own girls!!
    Thanks so much for bringing this info. to light!

  6. Thank you all for these comments and taking the time to read. I am always so tearful on these holidays as I think about what we USED to be and where we are now. But God is able. And I have hope that one day He will restore America's integrity and honor if we turn back to His ways.