In today’s fast-paced world, we sometimes lose sight of what this patriotic holiday means to each and every one of us—because the real reason for it occurred so long ago…over 200 years in the past.
In the “big picture”, 200+ years is not really so far away—we’re a relatively new country, compared to so many others. But because of the frenetic pace our contemporary society keeps, the past is something that’s easy for us to forget.
But think of what the men who signed our Declaration of Independence faced for putting their signatures on such a document…Treason.
Five of these men were captured by the British during the Revolutionary War. Though the signers’ homes were not specifically targeted for looting, twelve of the signers’ homes were occupied, ransacked, and vandalized in the process of the war.
Abraham Clark’s two sons were captured and incarcerated on the prison “hell” ship, Jersey. They were treated with special brutality because of who their father was. When offered their lives if he would recant, Clark’s answer was an anguished, resounding no. John Witherspoon’s son, James, was killed in the Battle of Germantown, 1777.
Francis Lewis’s wife was held prisoner for several months before being exchanged for two British prisoners.
Lewis Morris and Phillip Livingston lost several of their properties. Morris’s home was taken over and used as a barracks for soldiers—by the Continental Army, first; and then, not long afterward, it was “appropriated”, looted and burned by the British.
The youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence was Edward Rutledge, age twenty-six. Benjamin Franklin, at age seventy, was the oldest. Eighteen of them were under forty—three of these in their twenties. Almost half of the fifty-six men who signed—twenty-four—were lawyers and judges. Eleven were merchants, twelve were doctors, ministers and politicians. The remaining nine were landowners and farmers.
Two future presidents signed—John Adams (second President) and Thomas Jefferson (third President).
Those who were not there to sign? George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Patrick Henry.
John Hancock was one of the richest men in America at the time. There was also a price on his head—500 pounds. He signed with a mighty flourish, in letters so large “that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward.”
I wish I had room to go into further detail about these remarkable men who came together and, in three hot days, hammered out the Declaration of Independence for this great country or ours to be born and recognized.
These are 1337 of the most important words ever written—the birth certificate of a nation.
As we cook our hotdogs and shoot off our fireworks tomorrow, let’s remember the real reason for the Fourth of July holiday, and the other name we call it: Independence Day. And please remember these men who took such a chance with their property, their families, and their lives. They had much more to lose than they stood to gain—but they saw the love of their country sacred above all else.
What are some of your favorite memories of Independence Day? Leave a comment below, and I will draw two lucky winners for my novella ONE MAGIC NIGHT that takes place in Indian Territory at a 4th of July picnic!
HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!