"When in the course of human events..." Those are the words that started a revolution. Not just a physical revolt against tyranny but an ideological revolt. An idea that became us - you and me and this country.
"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 a new government,laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its power in such form ,as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
Do you read those words and not feel amazed? It is clear to me that this country was truly blessed by God - how else could all these brilliant men have been together in this country at the same time ?Can you imagine no Jefferson , Washington , Adams ,or Franklin? What a difference there would have been without any one of these men? But ultimately, that these men believed that you and I have God-given rights that no man or government can take away. They had faith in us that they would create this republic and we would keep it. They knew when they wrote and signed this document that this was for themselves and for generations to come.
"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, ans our sacred honor."And each of these men from the 13 colonies signed. They signed knowing that they could lose everything. Who were these men?
Well we all know John Hancock. His is the first and the largest signature. John Hancock was the president of the Continental Congress during the debate and signing of the Declaration Of Independence.He was one of the wealthiest men in the thirteen colonies and served as Governor of Massachusetts for many years.
New Hampshire was represented by Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple And Matthew Thornton.
Josiah Bartlett was a doctor. He held various political offices before and after the American Revolution. His house was burned to the ground by British loyalists in 1774. He was the first person to vote for independence on July2,1776. He was the first to sign his name on the Declaration after John Hancock. He became the first Governor of New Hampshire.
William Whipple was a former sea captain who became a successful merchant in Portsmouth. He served as a brigadier general in New Hampshire and led four brigades in the Battle of Saratoga. The Battle of Saratoga defeated General John Burgoyne's British army, a major turning point for the American's in the war for independence.
Matthew Thornton was a doctor from Londonderry, New Hampshire. He served mostly in New Hampshire politics.He held the highest offices in the state. He was not appointed to the Continental Congress until November 1776, but was still allowed to place his signature on the Declaration of Independence. His signature is on the bottom because there wasn't enough room to write beneath the other New Hampshire signers.
Massachusetts was represented by (at this point one could interject that they have never been as well represented since but I won't ..... ok I did) John Hancock, Samuel Adams ( not the beer),John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, and Elbridge Gerry.
Samuel Adams was largely responsible for uniting the colonies in their war for independence. He was a fiery leader. His aggressive views toward the British even alarmed some of his fellow patriot leaders. He became well known in America and England for his writings denouncing British policies and politicians. He became Lieutenant Governor and then Governor of Massachusetts. ( so lets get a Sam Adams this week-end and thank the Sam Adams who the beer was named for)
John Adams was called the "Atlas Of American Independence" by fellow signer Richard Stockton. He was one of the most active and loyal men in the fight for independence. He was a diplomat, Vice President and President of the United States. He lived to see his son John Quincy Adams become the the sixth President of the U.S.
Robert Treat Paine was a clergyman who later became a lawyer. He was an early member of the inner circle of Massachusetts rebel leaders, being a good friend of John Adams and John Hancock. He gained national prominence as one of the prosecuting attorneys of British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.
Elbridge Gerry was a prosperous merchant. He served as a leader in raising troops and supplies for the revolution. He barely escaped British soldiers the night of April 18,1775 as they marched to Lexington and Concord. He became Vice President under James Madison.
Rhode Island was represented by Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery.
Stephen Hopkins was the second oldest signer of the Declaration. His shaky hand is noticeable in his signature. He held numerous political offices and was Governor ten times before the revolution. During the war, he served on the committee that created the Continental Navy. His brother Esek was the commander in chief of the navy.
William Ellery was unlike the other signers. He had never held any other significant political office other than being a delegate to the Continental Congress. He served as a customs officer in his home of Newport. His home and property were destroyed in the British invasion of Newport and he never fully recovered financially. He died at age 92.
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington,Oliver Woolcut, and William Williams represented Connecticut.
Roger Sherman started out following in his father's footsteps ( or shoes) as a cobbler.But ,like American stories to come, he worked his way up to one of the most powerful political offices of the land, He served n the Committee of Five that wrote the Declaration of Independence. Hi is only one of two Founding Fathers who signed all three major documents of A merican Independence, The Declaration, The articles of Confederation,and the Constitution. He introduced the Connecticut Compromise which broke the deadlock between large and small states at the Constitutional Convention.
Samuel Huntington was a cooper ( barrel maker in early life. He then became a lawyer, judge and politician. He was the Kin's Attorney in Connecticut for a decade but resigned in 1774 to join the Revolutionaries. Samuel Huntington served as the president of the Congress, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Superior Court and Governor after the revolution.
William Williams ( don't you love a mom with a sense of humor ) was a prominent merchant who married a daughter of Royal Governor John Trumbull. He raised money and gave his own money for the war effort and was a colonel in the Connecticut militia.
Oliver Woolcut was a lawyer. He was a sheriff,legislator, judge and colonel before the Revolutionary War. He served as a brigadier general in the New York campaigns that eventually lead to the surrender of British General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. He was also a major general defending the Connecticut seacoast from the raids of British royal Governor William Tyron.
Delaware was represented by Caesar Rodney, George Read and Thomas McKean.
Caesar Rodney served in various public offices in Delaware and was one of the leading figures for independence in the state. He is best known for riding through the night in the rain in order to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 2,1776.
George Read was a lawyer and was married to the sister of fellow signer George Ross. George Read was the only signer who voted against independence on July 2,1776. He became Governor of Delaware led his state to ratify the Constitution. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution.
Thomas Mckean held various public offices including high sheriff of Kent County,militia captain, customs collector, and judge. He became president of the Continental Congress,Governor of Delaware, and Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Samuel Chase, Wiliam Paca, Thomas Stone and Charles Carroll represented Maryland.
Samuel Chase was a lawyer who was involved in the public destruction of British stamps in Annapolis during the "Stamp Act". He was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Washington but was impeached during Thomas Jefferson's administration.
William Paca was a mayor and councilman of Annapolis. He was a delegate to the General Assembly of Maryland.
Thomas Stone was a lawyer and plantation owner.He served on the committee that wrote the Articles of Confederation which was the ruling federal document from 1777 to the creation of the Constitution in 1787. He died suddenly in 1787 at the age of 45.
Charles Caroll of Carollton ( yes that is how he signed it) was the wealthiest man in the 13 colonies. he owned a ten thousand acre plantation in Frederick County. He was the only Catholic signer of the declaration. He was a strong supporter of religious freedom due to persecution of catholics in England. Charles Carroll lived longer than any other signer. He died at the age of 94 in 1832.
Virginia was represented by George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson Jr, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and Carter Braxton.
George Wythe was a wealthy lawyer. He trained many lawyers ,his most famous student was Thomas Jefferson. He became the Professor of Law at William and Mary College making him the first professor of law in America.
Richard Henry Lee was born into wealth and never had to work to sustain himself. He was involved in politics and was an early supporter of the rights of all Americans. He led a group that publically burned British stamps during the "Stamp Act". He is credited with proposing the final dissolution of all ties with Great Britain.
Thomas Jefferson is one of the most well-known of the Founding Fathers and signers of The Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote the original draft of the Declaration. He was Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, Vice President and President of the United States. His home was Monticello.
Benjamin Harrison was born into a long line of politicians. His son William Henry was the 9th president of the United States and his great -grandson Benjamin was the 23rd President. Benjamin Harrison led the discussions in the Continental Congress leading up to the signing of the Declaration.
Francis Lightfoot Lee was Richard Henry lee's brother.He served in the Continental Congress and served for many years in the Virginia Legislature.
Carter Braxton was a wealthy land owner and merchant. At first, he did not support independence but later joined the patriots and signed the Declaration of Independence. Carter Braxton lost most of his wealth during he war. His ships were captured by the British and his lands were pillaged.
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis and Leis Morris signed for New York.
William Floyd was a wealthy landowner from Long Island.When the British invaded Long Island in 1776 he and his family were forced to flee to Connecticut and were in exile there for 7 years. His wife died during the exile in 1781.When he and his children finally returned to Long Island he found his trees and fields destroyed and his home badly damaged. It was used as barracks for the British army.
Philip Livingston was a wealthy landowner and merchant. After the defeat at the Battle of Long Island, George Washington and his officers met at Livingston's Brooklyn Heights mansion and decided to evacuate the island. When the British invaded Manhattan they confiscated Livingston's mansion and used it as a naval hospital. He died unexpectedly during the war when Congress fled Philadelphia to York to avoid the approaching British army.
Francis Lewis was a wealthy merchant. He suffered the most of any of the signers. When the British invaded Long Island , his estate was destroyed and his wife was captured. She remained in terrible conditions during her captivity and became very ill . She was eventually released but never fully recovered and died in 1779.
Lewis Morris was the owner of Morrisania Estate.He gave much of his wealth to the war effort. The British wrecked Morrisania during the war. He served as a brigadier general in Westchester County during 1776. Three of his sons served under George Washington.
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, and Abraham Clark represented New Jersey.
Richard Stockton was a lawyer and early supporter of independence. When the British invaded New Jersey in late 1776 Stockton hurried home . Local loyalist informed the British of his whereabouts and he was captured. He was treated very badly and was eventually released but he never recovered his health. His estate was destroyed and due to the treatment during captivity he died in 1781.
John Witherspoon was a minister and was president of the Presbyterian College of New Jersey ( now Princeton University - so ivy league professors were always radicals ) His son James was killed at the Battle of Germantown during the war. The college was wrecked by the British during the war and he spent the years after the war rebuilding the school.
Francis Hopkinson was a lawyer and a judge. He was known for his poems, drawings and songs. He is considered on of the first homegrown American writers and composers.
John Hart owned farms and mills. when the British invaded New Jersey in 1776, they destroyed his farms and mills. He escaped into hiding in he local hills. When he returned home, he found his wife who had been ill during the invasion died. He became ill shortly after and died in 1779.
Abraham Clark was a surveyor and farmer.During the war, he served in the Continental Congress. Two of his sons were captured during the war and held prisoner on the notorious prison ship, Jersey.
Pennsylvania was represented by Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush , Bejamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, And George Ross.
Robert Morris was one of only two Founding Fathers to sign all three major founding documents.Robert Morris was a very wealthy Philadelphia merchant who became the chief importer of arms and ammunition during the war. Without his efforts, George Washington would have never succeeded. Robert Morris died bankrupt and spent several years in debtor prison at the end of his life.
Benjamin Rush was a doctor. He signed the declaration at age 30. He was surgeon general in Washington's army. He became a strong advocate for for prison reform, the mentally ill and teaching the Bible in public schools to promote virtue after the war.
Benjamin Franklin was the oldest member to sign both the Declaration and the Constitution. He was a printer, author, philosopher, scientist, and inventor.He created the first public library and fire station.He became a diplomat to Europe and his last public act was to sign a memoranda to Congress recommending the abolition of slavery.
John Morton was a surveyor, farmer and politician.He served 18 years n the Pennsylvania colonial and state senate. He became a county justice of the peace, a county sheriff and a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.One of Morton's most important votes was changing form no to yes on July 2,1776 in support of the Declaration. Ensuring Pennsylvania's vote for independence.
George Clymer was orphaned ant a young age. He was raised by a wealthy uncle who taught him business. He became a wealthy merchant. It was his knowledge of finances that helped the Continental Congress in its financial affairs.His family hid in nearby woods while the British army ransacked his house during the Revolution.
James Smith was a not so successful lawyer- so he became a politician ( not unlike today). He was elected to the Continental Congress after July 2,1776 but arrived in time to sign the document on August 2,1776.
George Taylor came to America from Ireland as an indentured servant. He worked in the iron forges and married the widow of the owner of Coventry Forge where he worked. He became a prosperous iron seller.He supplied iron equipment and ammunition during the war.
James Wilson studied law under fellow signer John Dickerson. he was a successful lawyer. At first he did not support independene. During the war a mob ttacked his home because he did not support some parts of the Pennsylvania patriots' ideas. Several people died before the city militia put an end to it.
George Ross was the son of an Angelican clergyman.He had a successful law practise. He had loyalist leanings but decided to go with the revolutionists. He was not yet elected by the vote on July2,1776 but was in place by the signing of the parchment on August 2.
Willaim Hooper, James Hewes, and John Penn were there from North Carolina.
William Hooper's father was a loyalist who disowned him for supporting the Revolution.William Hooper was once dragged through the streets for supporting North Carolina's colonial governor.
Joseph Hewes was a wealthy merchant. He created the U.S. Navy. He appointed John Paul Jones. He never married after his fiance died. He died from over exertion during the war.
John Penn was a self -taught lawyer. During the war he kept North Carolina militia supplied. His efforts helped the continental army drive back Lord Cornwallis's army in retreat in 1780.
South Carolina sent Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr. and Arthur Middleton.
Edward Rutledge was the youngest signer at age 26. He strongly opposed independence, but ultimately encouraged the other representatives from South Carolina to vote for independence on July 2,1776 for the sake of unity with their colonial brothers.
Thomas Heyward Jr.was the son of a rich planter. He was 30 when he signed the Declaration.He was captured by the British during the battle of Charleston. He spent a year in a prison camp in St. Augustine ,Florida before the war ended.
Thomas Lych Jr. was the captain of the South Carolina militia when the Revolutionary War started. He contracted swamp fever that left him sickly for the rest of his life. During the middle of the war he and his wife left for France in hopes the weather there would be better for his health. They were never seen or heard of again and were presumed to have been lost at sea.
Artur Middleton was a very wealthy planter in Charleston. His father, Henry,was the first president of the Continental Congress.Despite knowingtheir wealth would be in jeopardy if they supported revolution, they both put freedom ahead of their own personal prosperity. Their plantation was reansacked during the Battle of Charleston and both spent nearly a year in prison camps.
And lastly Georgia sent Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton.
Button Gwinnett was he first governor of Georgia.He was killed in duel a year after signing the Declaration.
Lyman Hall was a doctor. He was from a fiercely anti- British area of Georgia. During the war he supplied food and medicine for the Continental Army.
George Walton was 26 when he signed the Declaration.He was appointed a Colonel in the Continental Army. He was seriously wounded and captured by the British during the Battle for Savanah.
So these are the men we owe our gratitude for this country. These are the men who risked their fortunes and lives for us. So while you grill those burgers and dogs -take a moment to think of them. They were young and old. They were ardent believers in independence and some who just went along to maintain harmony. But ultimately they all believed in freedom. They believed in us- yes you and me. They believed we would preserve this freedom , that we would appreciate their sacrifice and we would keep this freedom. These men believed out rights were given by God and no man, no government ,no country can take them away. We may be foolish enough to give them away but they are ours to keep. So this 4th of July - please think of these men and say a prayer of thanks. It was a miracle they were all here on this earth at the same time ,in the same place,and we are the benefincairies of God's grace. If you are ever in doubt - read more about these brave and brilliant men and you will know - really know - God has blessed America.
Happy 4th of July.