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The Price of Liberty

In July of 1776 fifty six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Though we commemorate this day, most of us know little about these men or what happened after they signed.

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.

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. 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 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 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."

We didn't just fight the British. We were British subjects at that time. We fought against our government for the right to create a new government.

As we celebrate America, remember the price of American freedom. And remember that we have that freedom because, in part, we were willing to sacrifice our safety, our security, our fortunes and our lives.

The Rest of the Story

This was one of the very first pages I posted on my website. I was desperately looking for stuff to put here and I grabbed this one. I didn't check it out much.

Unfortunately the above story is almost kind of true.

A page from the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution shows the research that Professor Brooke of Susquehanna University did on this particular piece. As he puts it: "a grain of truth", "but an inaccurate portrayal of our founders".

But, I wasn't the only one who didn't check their facts. An article by Carl M. Cannon in the American Journalism Review discusses this story and others as part of what he calls "the real computer virus": misinformation. It seems that this particular story caught Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe as well as Ann Landers. It seems that "what Landers was passing along was a collection of myths and partial truths that had been circulating since at least 1995, and which has made its way into print in newspaper op-eds and letters-to-the-editor pages and onto the radio airwaves many times before."

But it gets even juicier. Seems that Carl M. Cannon quotes Mark Twain in his article. But as Mr. Cannon notes in a postscript to his original article, that the Mark Twain quote is not from Mr. Twain at all but from Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

A lie travels 'round the world,
while Truth is putting on her boots.

American Journalism Review (Apr.2001), "The Real Computer Virus"American Journalism Review (Apr.2001) , "The Real Computer Virus": Carl M. Cannon discusses misinformation on the net. 

The Price They Paid (Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution)The Price They Paid (Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution): This page includes a detailed analysis of the story by Professor Brooke that shows just how wrong it is. 

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This page created:
Wed, 16.Aug.2000

Last updated:
16:17, Sat, 10.May.2014

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declaration of independence, 56 signers, price of liberty, freedom, july 4 1776, fourth of july, memorial day, veterans day . . . declaration of independence, 56 signers, price of liberty, freedom, july 4 1776, fourth of july, memorial day, veterans day