Homily for July 4th, 2017.
The 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence in
241 years ago today pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred
honor. Have you ever wondered what happened to them? Philadelphia
Five of the 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.
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 if they were captured, the penalty would be death.Carter Braxton of
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 Continental 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 8 others [Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton].
At the battle of
, 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 waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning
home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.
As we give thanks to God for the courage and generosity of these founders of our beloved country, we need to remember: Freedom is never free!