Monday, July 5, 2010

The Price They Paid – Text modified for 100% Snopes truth rating

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Listed below are some of the hardships that fell on these great men and their families. Note - some of these events occurred before and some after each particular man added his name to this most meaningful document.

Five signers were captured by the British during the course of the Revolutionary War and endured deplorable prison conditions. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned, which was commonplace as the war raged. Abraham Clark of New Jersey saw two of his sons captured by the British and incarcerated on the prison ship Jersey. John Witherspoon, also of New Jersey, saw his eldest son, James, killed in the Battle of Germantown in October 1777. Nine of the 56 died during the course 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 could 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 suffered grievous financial losses because most of his wealth was tied up in shipping. Thomas McKean had been "hunted like a fox” by the British and was forced to move his family “five times in three months”. 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 had looted the properties of Ellery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton. Their properties had also fallen into the path of armed conflict being waged on American soil.

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 shelled, and to this day stands as evidence of the event as part of Colonial National Historical Park – the southeast face of the residence still shows evidence of damage from cannon fire.

Shortly after Francis Lewis signed the Declaration of Independence, the British raided his Long Island estate, possibly as retaliation for his having been a signatory to that document. While Lewis was in Philadelphia attending to congressional matters, the British took prisoner his wife after disregarding an order for citizens to evacuate Long Island. Mrs. Lewis was held for several months before being exchanged for the wives of British officials captured by the Americans. Her captivity was undoubtedly a hardship.

In the winter of 1776, the British overran the area of New Jersey where John Hart resided. His farm was looted and he was forced into hiding.

Lewis Morris saw his Westchester County, New York, home taken over in 1776 and used as barracks for soldiers. He saw the horses and livestock from his farm commandeered by the Continental Army. Shortly afterwards, his home was appropriated by the British. Morris and his wife were able to reclaim the property and restore their home after the war, but Philip Livingston was not so fortunate. Livingston lost several properties to the British occupation of New York and sold off others to support the war effort. His losses were never recovered because he died before the end of the war.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: freedom is never free!

Snopes commentary- The signers of the Declaration of Independence took a huge risk in daring to put their names on a document that repudiated their government, and they had every reason to believe at the time that they might well be hanged for having done so. That was a courageous act we should indeed remember and honor on the Fourth of July amidst our "beer, picnics, and baseball games." But let us also not lose sight of the fact that many men (and women) other than the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence — some famous and most not — risked and sacrificed much (including their lives) to support the revolutionary cause. The hardships and losses endured by many Americans during the struggle for independence were not visited upon the signers alone, nor were they any less ruinous for having befallen people whose names are not immortalized on a piece of parchment.

Yes Snopes - the struggle for independence was a team effort. God bless America.

Original Author Unknown – Snopes identified erroneous text removed, modified and replaced per information listed in Snopes analysis last updated: 3 July 2010 (

Photo by stan.faryna - Full-size view of Signers of the Declaration of Independendce, reproduction of the 1936 Faulner mural by Romanian Artist, Gabriel Prundeanu under commission of Stan Faryna. Location: Bucharest, Romania.

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