Friday, July 03, 2009

Lives, Fortunes & Sacred Honor

Editor's Note: All of us here at Top of the Morning hope you enjoy this piece about the signers of the declaration of independence. May we all have similar courage and hold sacred our honor as did these patriots who, with us, across the span of two centuries, still stand for liberty in the face of government tyrrany.

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 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.

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 looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr, noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over his 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 Redcoats 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.” They gave you and me a free and independent America.

The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn’t fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government! Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t, not in the face of modern government tyranny. Take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday to silently thank these patriots, and then decide to stand with these uncompromising men of liberty and refuse to let tyranny destroy the gift of a republic they bequethed us with their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

Join author David G. Woolley at his Promised Land Website.


Sandra said...

Thank you.

And remember those that still are willing to give their lives for our freedom and their families that are here waiting.

Cami said...

Very humbling thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to share them with us. Happy Fourth of July!

Makayla said...

Are you a David McCullough fan? I actually haven't read any of his books (though 1776 is sitting on my "to read" shelf), but I've heard that they're spectacular.

He came to BYU to give a forum a couple of years ago, and it was STUNNING. I've sat through many devotionals and forums in the last 5 years (nearly all of them, actually) and he was probably one of the very best.

If you haven't heard or read it, and are interested, you can access the text version or get a MP3 File (which I recommend... hearing a speech is so much better than reading one) here:

I wish they had the Ronan Tynan and Ken Burns speeches available as well (they don't, because both used copyrighted material in their speeches). All three said some great stuff about America. Loved it.

David G. Woolley said...


You are very welcome.


You are very welcome.


You are going to same devotionals I go to. Loved the McCullough one. My other number one was Terryl Givens on the 200th Anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth. That would be four years ago. I think it was titled something like "Lightning from Heaven". It is one of my favorites all time, ever. You can listen to that one on my digital player which I don't loan out. Get your own MP3 for crying out loud :)

Cami said...

Makayla: How come I never get invited to any of the good stuff? And DON'T say it's because I'm never around.....:)

Makayla said...

David: I liked the Terryl Givens one too. He's very smart.

And Mom... in all fairness, half the time I've never heard of these people who come to BYU, and so I don't invite in advance because I have no idea if they'll be good or not (though I should have learned by now... BYU is good at picking their people), I'm always pleasantly surprised. :)

David G. Woolley said...

So its only the OTHER HALF OF THE TIME she doesn't invite you, since half the time she doesn't know who these people are.

Which, in the mathmatics of love, means she only doesn't love you half the time, not all the time.

I get it.

Cami said...

Dave!!!!! Hmph.

Cami said...

She loves me when I have chocolate.... :) don't you Kel? Next time I'm only giving you HALF what I would have before. :)

Becky said...

David, Thanks for your comment about my Nephite temple drawing/ post. You are welcome to use it for your book, although I may also use it for a book I am working on myself. I have not decided if I will use it yet, though.

And thanks for the correction on Nephi seeing Solomon's temple. I should not have been so lazy in checking my dates. I corrected the post wording and asked readers to check out your comment because it was so helpful.

e-mail me at rebecca at irvinemail dot org if you want me to send a jpeg of the drawing.

Anita said...

A wonderful reminder Dave. Reminds me that I would have been a lousy patriot. And still am. I find the issues perplexing, the system daunting, and the corruption pervasive. Its a good thing the Lord foreordained men with the gifts and talents for such a work. It would have been a big mistake to leave the founding of nation to such as me. Would have been a terrible mess.

On the lighter side, you all might enjoy reading Cokie Roberts' book "Founding Mothers." She researched and compiled the stories of the women of the time, the wives, daughters, sisters, mothers of our founding fathers. I found it fascinating and humbling. And no, Dave, they didn't just talk the enemy to death.

While I don't share all of Ms. Roberts views and values I think she is a superb journalist and an excellent writer. She's written another volume I'm anxious to check out, "Ladies of Liberty."

Cami said...

Anita: I love reading your comments! They have bite, they make me laugh, and you read good stuff that makes me want to read it too! :)

Anonymous said...

Some of this is true. A lot of it is false.

Why can't we just love America without all the heroification?

David G. Woolley said...

You're right. After doing some reserach this is what we, here at the Top of the Morning, found out:

First, none of the signers of the Declaration of Independence died in captivity. All but two, or possibly three, died natural deaths and the majority of them lived to advanced age and had adequate possessions if not wealth. Of the deaths, Thomas Lynch, Jr. was lost at sea on a recreational voyage, Button Gwinett died from injuries in a duel with a political rival, and George Wythe was thought to have been poisoned by a man who wanted his estate, but the man was acquitted. At least four of the signers were captured by the British, but apparently because they were soldiers, not signers of the Declaration. We consulted seven sources about the signers and none contained accounts of what could be called torture, at least not that was directed toward any of them for being founding fathers. Two who were captured may have experienced some kind of torture because of the severity of their confinement, but that is conjecture. All were released and died natural deaths, although the health of some was affected by their imprisonment.

We will remove this post after this comment has been here for about a week or two in case anonymous or any other reader would like to know the reasons for removal. We are sorry to have posted anything that has an error or appeared without documentation. Please accept our apologies.

A story conveys important ideas, principles, and morals. It can convey faith or faithlessness, courage or cowardice, honesty or lies. It can also show the fruits of each. And though stories do have actors who are often considered heroes or heroines, it is the essence of the story that is that transcends the actors who people the story.

God is no respector of persons, but he also rewards the obedient and punishes the wicked which are two very different matters. He loves all his children, but justice demands that He reward repentance with mercy and with different mansions prepared in heaven. Stories and the heroes and heroines who populate those stories, serve a very important purpose. They show us the way. Both ways. The wide path that leads to destruction and the narrow path that leads to eternal life. For that reason, heroes and heroines, are very important embodiments of our values, our faith, our courage and our honor. They can also be rascals.

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