The Fate of Those Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Many of us know at least a small portion of the history of the founding of our great nation.  We all know the stories of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.  A few of us know the stories of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Richard Henry Lee, but what about the others?  What fate, or destiny befell the men who put everything on the line to break free from the tyranny of the British Crowne?

“For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

When the 56 Representatives of Colonial America approved the Declaration of Independence and then affixed their signatures to the document, each of them knew that he was committing treason against the British Crowne.  If any of them were caught and captured, each risked death. But death would not be swift. It would be by hanging to the point of unconsciousness, then being revived, disemboweled, their body parts boiled in oil and their ashes scattered into the wind. Our Founding Fathers valued freedom, for themselves and their posterity, to the extent that they found this fate worth the risk. The burning desire for Religious Liberty, Economic Liberty, and Political Liberty (Self-Governance) could not be stopped, even when facing the potential annihilation at the hands of the British Empire; the world’s greatest economic, political, and military power at that time.

I compiled the information below from a number of different sources.  Hopefully, this will provide an overview and help to tell the story of what happened to the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

 Five signers were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors.

Nine fought in the War for Independence and died from wounds or from hardships they suffered.

Two lost their sons in the Continental Army.

Another two had sons captured.

At least a dozen of the fifty-six had their homes pillaged and burned.

So what kind of men were the Founders?

Twenty-five were lawyers or jurists.

Eleven were merchants.

Nine were farmers or large plantation owners.

One was a teacherone a musician, and one a printer.

These were men of means and education, and most were loyal British Citizens up until the siege of Boston and the attacks on Lexington and Concord.  Yet these men signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty would mean death if they were captured.

In the face of the advancing British Army, the Continental Congress fled from Philadelphia to Baltimore on December 12, 1776. It was an especially anxious time for John Hancock, a merchant and shipping company owner, and the President of the Continental Congress, as his wife had just given birth to a baby girl. Due to the complications stemming from the trip to Baltimore, the child lived only a few months.

William Ellery, a Rhode Island Lawyer and Merchant, signed at the risk of his fortune.  This risk proved only too realistic. In December 1776, during three days of British occupation of Newport, Rhode Island, Ellery’s house was burned, and all his property destroyed.

Richard Stockton, a New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice, had rushed back to his estate near Princeton after signing the Declaration of Independence to find that his wife and children were living like refugees with friends. They had been betrayed by a Tory sympathizer who also revealed Stockton’s own whereabouts. British troops pulled him from his bed one night, beat him and threw him in jail where he almost starved to death. When he was finally released, he went home to find his estate had been looted, his possessions burned, and his horses stolen. Judge Stockton had been so badly treated in prison that his health was ruined, and he died before the war’s end. His surviving family had to live the remainder of their lives off charity.

Carter Braxton was a wealthy planter and trader from Virginia. One by one his ships were captured by the British Navy. He loaned a large sum of money to the American cause; it was never paid back. He was forced to sell his plantations and mortgage his other properties to pay his debts.

Thomas McKean, a Lawyer from Delaware, was so hounded by the British that he had to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Continental Congress without pay and kept his family in hiding.

Vandals or soldiers or both looted the properties of George Clymer (Pennsylvania Merchant), Lyman Hall (Physician and Minister from Georgia), Benjamin Harrison (Plantation Owner from Virginia), Francis Hopkinson (Lawyer and Musician from New Jersey), and Philip Livingston (Merchant from New York).

All told, Seventeen of the signers lost everything they owned.

Thomas Heyward, Jr., Edward Rutledge and Arthur Middleton, all of South Carolina, were captured by the British during the Charleston Campaign in 1780. All three were kept in the dungeons at the St. Augustine Prison until exchanged a year later.

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. (Plantation Owner from Virginia) noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over Nelson’s family home use as Cornwallis’ military headquarters. Nelson urged General George Washington to open fire on his own home. This was done, and the home was destroyed. Nelson later died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis (Merchant from New York) also had his home and properties destroyed. The British jailed his wife for two months, and that and other hardships from the war so affected her health that she died only two years later.

“Honest John” Hart, a New Jersey farmer, was driven from his wife’s bedside when she was near death. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. Hart’s fields and his grist mill were laid waste. For over a year he eluded capture by hiding in nearby forests. He never knew where his bed would be the next night and often slept in caves. When he finally returned home, he found that his wife had died, his children disappeared, and his farm and stock were completely destroyed. Hart himself died in 1779 without ever seeing any of his family again.

These are the stories and the sacrifices that were typical of those who risked everything to sign the Declaration of Independence. These men were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged their Lives, Liberty, and Sacred Honor to secure the freedoms that we take for granted today.

So, I ask you all to join me.  At some point today, take just a moment to salute these 56 men and pay them all the honor and respect that they are due.  Say a prayer and thank God for Divine Providence and the courage of the Founding Fathers.

Where do I find God?

Almost every week, I make the long, and very lonely drive from my home in La Quinta, to the City of El Centro so that I can teach adult students in Business, Marketing, and Leadership.  Over the past few years, I have marveled at the beauty of the desert and of the Salton Sea.  I have wondered if this was the type of landscape that awaited the ancient Hebrews in their exodus from Egypt.  Is this a similar landscape to that which our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Apostles walked, during the first century A.D.  Certainly, as the sun is setting, and you look out over the Salton Sea, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of God’s creation.

But you also can’t help the comparison to the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. All around, you find Palms, Dates, Figs, and Citrus of every type.  Grapes for both the table and for fermenting into wine grow in abundance.  The sea itself, is a source of food (all varieties of Saltwater Fish), recreation, and healing.  The environment, although harsh, provides everything necessary for the sustenance and propagation of human life.

So let me ask all of you the obvious question, Should the Salton Sea be protected as a symbol of Judeo/Christian history?  The Salton Sea has existed for millennia.  It originally was a part of what we now call the Gulf of California.  Then, for the past 1000 years or so, known as Lake Cahuilla after the Colorado River dredged out enough material to create a sand bar between the ocean and the inland sea.  The Salton Sea, as we now know it, is dying.  A symbol of the neglect and inefficiency of the Federal, State, and local governments to decide how to protect this incredible resource.

I have a plan, but it is a plan that needs the backing of the local residents, as well as the residents of much of Southern California.  A plan to restore the Salton Sea, to provide clean energy, and to ensure a sustainable water supply to millions.  If you would like to hear my plan, please let me know.

This post was inspired by an article by Susanna Spencer in the National Catholic Register.

Kevin

Leaving a Leadership Legacy

As I get older, I am reminded that my “legacy” is that which I leave behind for others to share, to build upon, and to enjoy.  For your heirs, the need to leave behind something goes far beyond a financial legacy.  You want to leave the story, the roadmap of how you got here, what decisions you made, and most importantly, what worked, and what didn’t.

I recently re-read a blog post by Jim Rohn from 2017.  In this post, Jim reminds us that it is the tangible things that have the most value and the most benefit to others. Photographs (including descriptions), your personal library, and most importantly, your personal journal.  As I was reading the post, I was reminded why we know so much about the founding of our great nation.  The founders and the framers, especially John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, were incredible writers.  Their writings in the form of letters, newspaper articles, and personal journals tell a wondrous story of the founding of the United States, and left a legacy of Liberty, Democracy, and Personal Responsibility for all of us to share.  How sad it would be if we could not study the history of our nation without being able to refer to the original writings of the men and women who were there.

A word of caution to those who believe that keeping a journal is just too “old fashioned.”  After all, we now have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, WordPress, and a whole host of digital media to share our thoughts, ideas, and to leave a legacy.  While I agree that social media and other electronic forms are a good way to disseminate information, understand that you do not own, or control anything you post on these platforms.  Should Twitter (or any of the others) go out of business, or suffer a serious outage, all of your information may be lost.  Even if you keep electronic copies on your local hard drive, you are only one power surge or fried hard-drive away from losing everything.  Only paper and ink have withstood the test of time.  Not just for centuries, but for millennia.

Leadership in Action 003

An acquaintance on another platform (Twitter) asked why I was always posting quotes from others, rather than posting some of the things that I teach in my own classroom.  I honestly had to think about it for a few minutes.  Then it dawned on me, I wasn’t using my own quotes, my own education, and my own experiences, because I didn’t want to appear arrogant.  Yet, at the same time, I have studied and applied leadership theory for over 20 years in my personal life, and I have taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership for the past decade.  Certainly, I must have something to say on the subject?  After some further thought, I realized, yes… the reason that I started studying leadership was because of my personal belief in a lack of real leadership in our nation, and in the past 20 years I have been able to apply what I have learned both in the classroom, and in the business world, to challenge old, tired ideas and to advance a vision of a better world for all of us.

Charles Krauthammer; 1950-2018

Charles Krauthammer was arguably one of the greatest intellects in Washington, D.C.  His columns and commentary were read and listened to by millions of people on a daily basis.  His voice, always strong; his beliefs, always out front.  He wrote columns and appeared on News shows beginning during the Reagan Administration and ending with the early Trump Administration.  His praise was not limited to Republicans, nor was his scorn limited to Democrats. Charles’ opinion were his own and were always well thought out and found their basis in the facts of the day.

Krauthammer overcame many challenges in his life, including the swimming accident during his first year of Medical School which confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Sadly, Charles could not overcome this final challenge with an aggressive form of cancer that took his life today, June 21, 2018.

The loss of Charles Krauthammer is not just a great blow to journalism and media, but also to all of us who value intellectual discourse, journalistic integrity, and the willingness to speak out, even when the subject is unpopular.  He will be greatly missed.

Leadership in Action 001

The ability to develop long-term, beneficial relationships is key to any leader who hopes to achieve his/her vision.  Good leaders understand that “1 is too small a number to achieve lasting success.”  As leaders, we must surround ourselves with people of good quality.  Then lean on those whose expertise exceeds our own.  To be successful, you must develop a core team of trusted friends, with a shared vision, then execute that vision with the full support of your team.