And on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
It’s still perfect and I find a small measure of comfort in Lincoln’s words and in yours. Thank you for guiding us through this terrible, frightening time.
“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 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.
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 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 or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, 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. The owner 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.””
What happened to the signers of the Declaration of Independence?
This is the Price They Paid -
Thank you! Some of us still hold that these truths are still self evident. Justice Brown Jackson and the rest of us have a lot of work to do ..
I am afraid this Independence Day las lost much of its meaning for me. Racism and mysogyny and greed are so overwhelming.
Thank you for being a clear and measured voice for our most sacred institutions that we all share as people. I’m a relatively new subscriber, and I have already learned so much from you. I appreciate your tireless efforts to bring us along.
Last week I visited cousins in Washington DC and we went to the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial. This statement he made is so relevant today.
“We must scrupulously guard the civil liberties of all citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization.”
I like this too . . . I've been sending 'round 4th of July emails for a few years now . . . having some technical difficulties this year but thought you might like to see . . . I so very much count on and appreciate your letters, thank you . . . Sharon Rawlins
This "astonishingly radical document" is indeed a shining light that should guide us all through the darkness settling upon us. If only the puffed-up, flag-wearing, self-parody "patriots" dragging us into hatred and violence would bother reading and grasping its intent.
With all the fear and danger intensifying, we need to keep reminding ourselves of the extraordinary gains made in the quest for equality. And stiffen our resolve not to let the gains be stolen away.
My history professor at UCLA in the fifties, whose last name was Hyman, spoke of the three miracles of the United States. He said the colonists were reading the radical English philosophers and didn't realize the rights they claimed were not already in effect for Englishmen. So, he said it was a miracle that this nation was actually born. Then he said it was a miracle that it survived, referring to the Civil War. Finally he said it was a miracle that it is still here. Hearing that, one understood and needs to be reminded of the fragility of democracy in this world.
This is pretty darn great, Heather, for writing going out the door or for doing in any amount of time! Yes, we as a country now need to acknowledge deeply and truthfully where we have failed to live up to these ideals - what harms were done in the horrendous facts of both slavery and of the genocide of the Indigenous peoples, and we need to treat all people equally and with respect, always, but it was at least a start...what these founders wrote.
Well, HCR, you've made me cry - again. It feels as though we're on the edge of the abyss - that we're about to lose it all. I appreciate the reminder of how many times we've had to struggle. I just wish I had faith that we can recover from this. Heaven help us all. And thank you for putting things in some sort of context every night. It helps. Good night.
I am awed at the brevity and eloquence with which Lincoln made this timeless principle a part of our national heritage. Thank you for repeating it. We need to have it inscribed on a card which we can carry over our hearts.
I listened to Bruce Springsteen sing, as a young performer, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”. It was beautifully done on an acoustic guitar and a harmonica around his neck. It’s on YouTube. Please, everyone, have a happy Fourth of July. This land is OUR land, all of US.
HCR, Your clarity and brilliance and oversight are a beacon in these uncertain times! With great gratitude, Christine
Well said and good to read it again. You cannot say it more eloquently than you said it the first time. Peace and Courage in these very strange and unsettling days in which we live. Happy Fourth of July----celebrate the Declaration of Independence!
I read it was actually July 2nd. But of course my kind was not included at all. And good old Clarence Thomas would be 3/5 of a man with no vote. I wonder if those predominantly slave holding, mostly racist and misogynistic white men would believe their eyes if they could see this country now.? Some place in at least a few of their minds was the sweet smell of freedom for more than just them. A hope against all hope that there was decency in this world. On this momentous day, I prefer to read:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus
That was why my poor family came here. To get work, to have food, to have a chance if not for them, then their children.