Our freedom was hard-won, with sacrifice and love of liberty

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2000

L’Observateur / July 1, 2000

DEAR EDITOR: It might be interesting to consider the fate of the Founding Fathers of our country. Here is a short reflection upon our American heritage just beforeenjoying our upcoming holiday.

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? 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 werefarmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well-educated. Butthey 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 propertiesto 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, andhis family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, andpoverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heywrd, Ruttledge and Middleton.

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that the Britishgeneral Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters.

He quietly urged Gen. George Washington to open fire. His home wasdestroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed hiswife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid towaste. For more than a year, he lived in forests and caves, returning hometo find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he diedfrom exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. Thesewere not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken menof means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more.Standing tall, straight and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” They gave you and me a free and independent America.The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn’t fight just the British. we were Britishsubjects at th etime and we fought our own government! Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your Fourth of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.Remember, freedom is never free! Steven F. Griffith Sr.Destrehan

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