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What a sobering find on the 4th of July; let me share it with you

  • Published in Letters
To The Daily Sun,
I write this on the 4th. This morning I rose early to beat the humidity in the garden and then settled to price and label books that the Friends of the Meredith Library sell at the Laconia Antique Center. As I was going through the sacks to label, I pulled a small book entitled: "I am an American: What Every Citizen Should Know," published in 1940. It is what fell from the pages that really captured my attention and I decided to take the time and share it with others.
It was a very yellowed newspaper clipping – actually, an Ann Landers' column published on July 4th and entitled "Declaration cost flesh and blood." It was a reader from New Jersey who shared it with the columnist; no author was cited. Here it is:
"Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
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 who served 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 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 plantation owners. All were mean of means and well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing 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 McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family constantly. He served in Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken, and poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Ellery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnet, Heyward, Rutledge, 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.
The home of Francis Lewis was destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from the bedside of his dying wife. 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 children gone. He died shortly thereafter heartbroken. Morris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American 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 the Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.'
They gave us a free and independent America. The history books never tell us much of what happened in the Revolutionary War. We were British subjects at that time, and we fought against our own government. Too often we now take these liberties for granted.
So – while you are enjoying the festivities of the July Fourth holiday, take a few minutes and silently thank these patriots for their heroic contributions. It is not too much to ask for the price they paid. Freedom is never free."
What a sobering find on the 4th of July — and a reminder also about the patriots that have followed in their footsteps to this day to preserve and share that Freedom.
Eliza Leadbeater
New Hampton