Monday, July 4, 2011

A Price For Freedom

Happy Independence Day! Today, families celebrate freedom with comfortable summer traditions - cooking out, boating, swimming, and fireworks. We play and laugh with carefree hearts, thankful for the blessings of America.
Two-hundred-and-eleven years ago, the freedom celebration may have been a little different. There were fireworks. There was laughter. There was gratitude. But was there doubt, as well? While faces smiled and words rang with pride and victory over the colonies' declared Independence, some hearts may have trembled. As soon as the Declaration of Independence was signed, every American's future was uncertain. But the lives of the fifty-six men who signed were especially endangered.
By signing the Declaration of Independence, the signers were committing treason - a crime which demanded death by hanging as punishment.
Each of them were fully aware of the risk they took - not only for themselves, but their families. They weren't concerned with temporary security or comfort. These men were willing to pay a price for a future of freedom, and that price was high.
For many, severe persecution was soon to come.
Francis Lewis of New York saw his property demolished by the British. Far worse, his wife was captured. For several months she was confined in prison without a bed or change of clothes. Two years after her release, she died of ruined health.
In an effort to see his dying wife, John Hart of New Jersey returned home from his duties, only to be chased by Hessian soldiers. Even as Mrs. Hart lay dying, the soldiers destroyed their home and property. John Hart was forced into hiding, living in caves and forests. When he finally returned home, he discovered that his wife had died and each of his thirteen children had been taken away. He died in 1779, never seeing his children again.
(Many more stories of the signers can be found here. I encourage you to read this brief account.)
As we celebrate and enjoy our freedom today, we should remember that it was not easy to obtain. The freedom we experience every single day was inexpressibly costly. Would you be willing to pay the price?
The men who signed their lives away in 1776 deserved to be remembered.

From New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Matthew Thornton

From Massachusetts:
John Hancock
John Adams
Samuel Adams
Robert Treat Paine

From Rhode Island:
Elbridge Gerry
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

From Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

From New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

From New Jersy:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

From Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

From Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

From Maryland:
Samuel Chase
Thomas Stone
William Paca
Charles Carroll

From Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

From North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

From South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

From Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton