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 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 to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.
As for those who did not run afoul of the British, Samuel Adams created some small suffering of his own – The document was signed on July 2, and then ratified by the assembly on July 4. Adams claimed that the 2nd was the true birthday of the nation, and for the rest of his life he refused to attend any celebrations held on July 4th.
So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.
Remember: freedom is never free! It takes courage to stand up to oppression, and there are consequences to threatening the status quo. Stand up for what you believe, and reach out to others who will work with you.
Just as the American Revolution inspired the French Revolution, know that what you do will influence circumstances beyond what you think it will. Be the change you want to see in the world. Happy Independence Day!
Thanks to Vivian Czarneck for the signers info, and Garrison Keiller for the Sam Adams info.