Signers of the Declaration of Independence paid high price; ‘for if we stumble and fall …’

July 4, 2016

Special to WorldTribune.com

Bill Federer, www.AmericanMinute.com

38-year-old King George III ruled the largest empire that planet earth had ever seen.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence, approved July 4, 1776, listed the reasons why Americans declared their independence from the King:

__ He has made judges dependent on his will alone…

__ He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

__ He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies…

__ To subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution…

__ For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us…

__ For imposing taxes on us without our consent…

__ For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury…

__ For…establishing…an arbitrary government…

__ For…altering fundamentally the forms of our governments…

__ He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

__ He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny…

__ He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions…”

33-year-old Thomas Jefferson’s original rough draft of the Declaration contained a line condemning slavery:

“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself…in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither…

…suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold.”

A few delegates objected, and since the Declaration needed to pass unanimously and time was running short with the British invading New York, the line condemning slavery was unfortunately omitted.

John Hancock, the 39-year-old President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration first, reportedly saying “the price on my head has just doubled.”

Next to sign was Secretary, Charles Thomson, age 47.

70-year-old Benjamin Franklin said:

“We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.

The Declaration referred to God:

“Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God…

All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…

Appealing to the Supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…”

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

This was revolutionary, as kings claimed “the divine right of kings,” namely, that the Creator gives rights to the king, who dispenses them as his discretion to his subjects.

The American Declaration by passes the King, declaring that the Creator gives rights directly to “all men.”

Many of the 56 signers sacrificed their prosperity for their posterity.

Of the Signers:

  • 11 had their homes destroyed;
  • 5 were hunted and captured;
  • 17 served in the military; and
  • 9 died during the war.
  • 27-year-old George Walton signed, and at the Battle of Savannah was wounded and captured.
  • Signers Edward Rutledge, age 27, Thomas Heyward, Jr., age 30, and Arthur Middleton, age 34, were made prisoners at the Siege of Charleston.
  • 38-year-old signer Thomas Nelson had his home used as British headquarters during the siege of Yorktown. Nelson reportedly offered five guineas to the first man to hit his house.
  • Signer Carter Braxton, age 40, lost his fortune during the war.
  • 42-year-old signer Thomas McKean wrote that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to remove my family five times in three month.”
  • 46-year-old Richard Stockton signed and was dragged from his bed at night and jailed.
  • 50-year-old signer Lewis Morris had his home taken and used as a barracks.
  • 50-year-old signer Abraham Clark had two sons tortured and imprisoned on the British starving ship Jersey. More Americans died on British starving ships than died in battle during the Revolution.
  • 53-year-old signer John Witherspoon’s son, James, was killed in the Battle of Germantown.
  • 60-year-old signer Philip Livingston lost several properties to British occupation and died before the war ended.
  • 63-year-old signer Francis Lewis had his wife imprisoned and treated so harshly, she died shortly after her release.
  • 65-year-old signer John Hart had his home looted and had to remain in hiding, dying before the war ended.

41-year-old John Adams wrote to his wife of the Declaration: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

Gustave de Beaumont, a contemporary of Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote in Marie ou L’Esclavage aux E’tas-Unis, 1835:

“I have seen a meeting of the Senate in Washington open with a prayer, and the anniversary festival of the Declaration of Independence consists, in the United States, of an entirely religious ceremony.”

John Adams continued in his letter to his wife: “You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.

Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.” …

Senator Daniel Webster stated in 1802: “Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”

John Jay was President of the Continental Congress, 1778-1779, and later nominated by George Washington to be the First Chief Justice of Supreme Court. John Jay wrote in 1777:

“The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of…choosing the forms of government under which they should live. All other constitutions have derived their existence from violence or accidental circumstances…

Your lives, your liberties, your property, will be at the disposal only of your Creator and yourselves.” …

Ronald Reagan opened the Ashbrook Center, Ashland, Ohio, May 9, 1983:

“From their own harsh experience with intrusive, overbearing government, the Founding Fathers made a great breakthrough in political understanding:

They understood that it is the excesses of government, the will to power of one man over another, that has been a principle source of injustice and human suffering through the ages.

The Founding Fathers understood that only by making government the servant, not the master, only by positing sovereignty in the people and not the state can we hope to protect freedom and see the political commonwealth prosper.

In 1776 the source of government excess was the crown’s abuse of power and its attempt to suffocate the colonists with its overbearing demands. In our own day, the danger of too much state power has taken a subtler but no less dangerous form.”

John Adams wrote in his notes on A Dissertation on Canon & Feudal Law, 1765:

“I always consider the settlement of America…as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for…the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”

Calvin Coolidge stated July 5, 1926:

“The principles…which went into the Declaration of Independence… are found in… the sermons… of the early colonial clergy…

They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the Divine image.”

Henry Cabot Lodge, who filled the role of the first Senate Majority Leader, warned the U.S. Senate in 1919:

“The United States is the world’s best hope… Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance… for if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.”

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