Declaration Of Independence

What happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? 

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Four of the signers were captured as prisoners of war after actively engaged in military operations against the British. One signer was dragged from his bed by night after he had evacuated his family safely, being imprisoned in New York City's infamously harsh Provost Jail. Many had their homes ransacked, looted, vandalized and even burned during the war. Abraham Clark of New Jersey saw two of his sons captured by the British and incarcerated on the prison ship Jersey. John Witherspoon saw his eldest son killed in the Battle of Germantown.

Nine of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence died during the course of the Revolutionary War. They signed the document and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, knowing that they could very easily lose part or all of what they had; even their lives. What kind of men were they?

Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, 27 were trained as Christian ministers; most of them men of means and well educated. But they all signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty of such action would be death if they were captured by the British.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships appropriated, sunk or captured by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts.

Carter Braxton

Thomas McKean was forced to move his family repeatedly due to his military participation in the war. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family had to be kept in hiding.

Thomas McKean

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Ellery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, 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 his commander to open fire upon his own dwelling, partially destroying his home.

Thomas Nelson Jr.

Francis Lewis from New York had his Long Island home raided by the British and properties destroyed shortly after signing the Declaration of Independence. The British jailed his wife and held her in prison for several months, finally releasing her due to severe illness which she would eventually die from.

Francis Lewis

John Hart's house was looted and his fields and gristmill were laid to waste. He was forced to live on the run following the raid, hiding in forests and caves.

John Hart

Lewis Morris saw his home appropriated by the British, and Philip Livingston lost several properties to the British occupation of New York, selling off others for money before his sudden death in 1778.

Lewis Morris

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the designers and participants of the American Revolution. The signers of the Declaration of Independence took a huge risk in daring to put their names on a document that repudiated their government. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. Many had security and happy, stable lives, but they valued liberty more and many gave those lives for the country that would follow.

It begs to ask the question, how much would we be willing to give up, to ensure that the freedom these brave men, and the thousands that fought after them, will remain and never be taken away?

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