Readers’ Views | Opinion | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | July 3, 2016 5:00 pm
Last Updated: June 29, 2016 at 11:08 am
Why we celebrate the Fourth of July
While you are cooking on the grill this 4th of July, take a minute and try to comprehend the miracle that God gave America during the summer of 1776 in Philadelphia. Fifty-six men — some merchants, some lawyers, some farmers, some plantation owners and all men of means and a good education — signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing they were putting themselves and their families in extreme danger. Many of these signers did, indeed, suffer tragedies in their lives at the hands of the British. Here are a few:
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 or both looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge and Middleton.
Francis Lewis’s Long Island home was looted and gutted, his home and properties destroyed. His wife was thrown into a damp dark prison cell without a bed. Health ruined, Mrs. Lewis soon died from the effects of the confinement. Lewis’ son would later die in British captivity also.
“Honest John” Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying when British and Hessian troops invaded New Jersey just months after he signed the Declaration. Hart lived in forests and caves, finally returning home to find his wife dead, his children vanished and his farm destroyed. Rebuilding proved too be too great a task. By the spring of 1779, John Hart was dead from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
New Jersey’s Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying a broken man in 1781.
William Ellery of Rhode Island, who marveled that he had seen only “undaunted resolution” in the faces of his co-signers, also had his home burned.
Only days after Lewis Morris of New York signed the Declaration, British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris’ sons fought the British.
When the British seized the New York houses of the wealthy Philip Livingston, he sold off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.
Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolina. In the British invasion of the South, Heyward was wounded and all three were captured. As he rotted on a prison ship in St. Augustine, Heyward’s plantation was raided, buildings burned and his wife, who witnessed it all, died.
Here were men who believed in a cause far beyond themselves. They had a vision and they risked their all and paid the price to achieve that dream. We now must be the protectors of their legacy, by telling our children and grandchildren this story, and praying God will continue to bless America. America has paid the price for her freedom and in the process freed millions of people around the world. We have a proud history, without equal in history, and no one or no group should be allowed to distort it or destroy it.
God bless my friends and God bless America!