2018 | Week of July 2 | #1262
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.”
You likely recognize what I just quoted, but do you know what document it’s from? I hope most of you correctly said the Declaration of Independence signed by members of the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. This unique document declares our freedom and our right to self-government. It is so fundamental to what our country represents that you would think every citizen of America would know it well. But, recent polls and surveys tell us otherwise, with too many Americans having no concept of what happened in 1776 in general and certainly no recognition of why we celebrate July 4th, let alone knowing the specifics of what the Declaration of Independence actually says.
Here are some other significant portions of this grand document. “ We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” And, from the conclusion of this remarkable Declaration, “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States . . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Those words are so rich. References to the “Supreme Judge of the Universe” and “divine Providence,” remind us there was a time when leaders wanted to and willingly did acknowledge God in the most public of documents. And then these heart-smiting words, “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Those words mean something different to us 242 years after they were written than they meant to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. For them, they meant that they became enemy number one with the British. They were hounded and made to suffer, though these men were not soldiers or wild-eyed troublemakers. They were men of means, successful, well educated. In reality, they put everything on the line by signing the declaration, and each one had a lot to lose.
And lose most of them did. Five signers were tortured by the British before they executed them. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost sons during the Revolutionary War. Another had two sons captured. Nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of that War.
Carter Braxton, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships destroyed by the British Navy. He sold all his possessions to pay his debts and died in rags.
Vandals and soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge and Middleton.
Francis Lewis had his home and property destroyed. The British jailed his wife, who 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 gristmill were destroyed. He was on the run for more than a year. When he returned, he found his wife dead, his children vanished, and his property destroyed. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
Truly, freedom is never free. Each generation must pay in some way to keep us free. One payment we must make is to educate one another and especially our children about America’s founding. If we want to remain a free nation, we ourselves must practice selfless sacrifice. This week may we thank God for our freedom and for these 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Let us not forget, and let’s make sure the next generation is aware that freedom is never free.
This is Julaine Appling with Wisconsin Family Council, reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”