The signers were religious men, all being Protestant except Charles Carroll, who was Roman Catholic. Over half expressed their religious faith as being Episcopalian. Others were Congregational, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Baptist. Two of the signers would become presidents of the United States—Thomas Jefferson, the author of the declaration, and John Adams. Two—John Adams and Benjamin Harrison—would be fathers of future presidents.
At least nine of them died as a result of the war or its hardships on them. The first of the signers to die was John Morton of Pennsylvania. Another to pay with his life was Caesar Rodney. Suffering facial cancer, he left his sickbed at midnight and rode all night by horseback through a severe storm. He arrived just in time to cast the deciding vote for his delegation in favor of independence.
When the British came to Trenton, they settled near the home of John Hart, one of the five signers from New Jersey. While his wife was on her deathbed, Hessian soldiers descended on Hart’s property. They destroyed his mills, ravaged his property, and scattered his thirteen children. Hart became a hunted fugitive. When he finally returned to his land, he was broken in health, his farmland was scourged, his wife had died, and his children were all scattered. He died three years after signing the declaration.
Yes, the signers also pledged their fortunes, and at least fifteen saw the realization of that pledge. Twelve had their homes ransacked or ruined. Six literally gave their fortunes to further the cause. When the four New York delegates signed the declaration, they signed away their property. William Floyd was exiled from his home for seven years and was practically ruined financially. Francis Lewis had his home plundered and burned, and his wife was carried away prisoner. She suffered great brutality and never regained her health; she died within two years.
Robert Morris had his property destroyed and, like Floyd, was denied his home for seven years. Phillip Livingston never saw his home again, for his estate became a British naval hospital. He sold all of his remaining property to finance the revolution.
Robert Morris, lost 150 ships, which were sunk during the war. Three of the four signers from South Carolina—Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge—were taken prisoner by the British and imprisoned for ten months. Thomas Nelson, Jr., of Virginia died in poverty at age fifty-one. When Patrick Henry declared his immortal words, “. . . give me liberty or give me death,” he was not speaking idly.
We also need to keep before us the truth that people who do not master themselves and their appetites will soon be mastered by government.
I wonder if we are not rearing a generation that seemingly does not understand this fundamental principle. Yet this is the principle that separates our country from all others. The central issue before the people today is the same issue that inflamed the hearts of our Founding Fathers in 1776 to strike out for independence.
The loss of our liberties might easily come about, not through the ballot box, but through the abandonment of the fundamental teachings from God and this basic principle upon which our country was founded. Such a condition is usually brought about by a series of little steps which, at the time, seem justified by a variety of reasons.