“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” –Psalm 33:21
THEY PAID THE PRICE
Paul Harvey, News and Commentary
July 4, 1974
Americans, you know the 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence that first 4 of July—you know they were risking everything, don’t you?–’cause if they won their war with the British, there’d be years of hardship and a struggling nation. If they lost they’d face a hangman’s noose. And yet there where it says, “We herewith pledge, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor,” they did sign. But did you know that they paid the price?
When Carter Braxton of Virginia, signed the Declaration of Independence, he was a wealthy planter and trader; but thereafter he saw his ships swept from the seas and to pay his debts, he lost his home and all of his property and he died in rags.
Thomas Lynch, Jr., who signed that pledge, was a third generation rice grower and aristocrat–a large plantation owner–but after he signed his health failed. With his wife he set out for France to regain his failing health. Their ship never got to France; he was never heard from again.
Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five times in five months. He served in Congress without pay, his family in poverty and in hiding.
Vandals looted the properties of Ellery and Clymer and Hall and Gwinett and Walton and Heyward and Rutledge and Middleton. And Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia raised two million dollars on his own signature to provision our allies, the French fleet. After the War, personally he paid back the loans, wiped out his entire estate; he was never reimbursed by his government. And in the final battle for Yorktown, he, Nelson, urged General Washington to fire on his, Nelson’s own home, then occupied by Cornwallis. And he died bankrupt. Thomas Nelson, Jr. had pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor.
The Hessians seized the home of Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey. Francis Lewis had his home and everything destroyed, his wife imprisoned—she died within a few months. Richard Stockton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, pledging his life and his fortune, was captured and mistreated, and his health broken to the extent that he died at 51. And his estate was pillaged.
Thomas Heyward, Jr. was captured when Charleston fell. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside while she was dying; their thirteen children fled in all directions for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves and returned home after the War to find his wife dead, his children gone, his properties gone. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Lewis Morris saw his land destroyed, his family scattered. Philip Livingston died within a few months of hardships of the War.
John Hancock, history remembers best, due to a quirk of fate–that great sweeping signature attesting to his vanity, towers over the others–one of the wealthiest men in New England, he stood outside Boston one terrible night of the War and said, “Burn Boston, ‘though it makes John Hancock a beggar, if the public good requires it.” He, too, lived up to the pledge.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few were long to survive, 5 were captured by the British and tortured before they died, 12 had their homes–from Rhode Island to Charleston–sacked and looted, occupied by the enemy or burned. Two of them lost their sons in the Army; one had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 died in the War from its hardships or from its more merciful bullets. I don’t know what impression you’d had of these men who met that hot summer in Philadelphia, but I think it’s important this July 4, that we remember this about them: they were not poor men, they were not wild-eyed pirates; these were men of means, these were rich men, most of them, who enjoyed much ease and luxury in personal living. Not hungry men, prosperous men, wealthy land owners, substantially secure in their prosperity. But they considered liberty–this is as much I shall say of it–they had learned that liberty is so much more important than security, that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. And they fulfilled their pledge–they paid the price, and freedom was born.
Paul Harvey, good day.
In Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
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, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
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.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee