Forward thinking: The signers and their sacrifices

The Founding Fathers…

It is a phrase that we have affectionately adopted over the decades to refer to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

With even a casual familiarity with our nation’s early history, I am assuming that you recognize and can recall the names of at least a few of them. Even a short list would undoubted include the likes of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, James Madison, Thomas Pain and John Jay – to name a small number of them.

However, what you might not know is that all of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence did so at a substantial sacrifice to themselves and their families. Yet that is exactly what our Founding Fathers did.

Sacrifice is an idea or concept we seldom hear about today. We discuss it even less. Yet, it’s a major reason why the United States of America became a free, prosperous and powerful nation. America was founded on sacrifice by men and women not unlike you and me.

When I speak of “sacrifice,” I’m talking about “surrendering something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable or preventing some evil.” In other words, sometimes we must put aside our own desires and comforts in the present moment in order to gain something more valuable down the road.

Furthermore, sacrifice involves risk. Sometimes those who sacrifice never regain what they gave up. Some don’t see the results that later generations see, enjoy or experience. And the risk might include the ultimate sacrifice – giving one’s life for the cause.

Yet, that’s exactly what our Founding Fathers did. Many Americans don’t realize the extent of our Founders’ sacrifice. The Revolutionary War was more than a passing inconvenience – many of the Founders lost everything they owned, including their lives.

All of the 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence made sacrifices. Allow me to share some examples:

• CARTER BRAXTON of Virginia was a prosperous planner and trader. His ships were destroyed by the British Navy. He lost his home to pay off the debts and died in poverty.

• THOMAS LYNCH, JR. was an aristocratic rice plantation owner in South Carolina who risked his substantial fortune by signing the Declaration. His health rapidly declined and his ship was lost at sea on his way to Europe to recover. No one knows what happened to him.

• THOMAS MCKEAN of Delaware was harassed mercilessly. His family went into hiding during the war, moving multiple times. He served in Congress without pay and died in poverty.

• THOMAS NELSON, JR. of Virginia put his own home up as collateral to raise $2 million for the French allies. The struggling French government was unable to pay back the loans and Nelson’s entire estate was wiped out.

• FRANCIS HOPKINS of New Jersey and WILLIAM FLOYD of New York both had their homes confiscated and used as housing by the British.

• FRANCIS LEWIS of New York had his wife imprisoned by the British where she died. He also lost his home and everything in it.

• JUDGE RICHARD STOCKTON was taken from his bed in the middle of the night and beaten by British Soldiers, followed by jail and starvation. His home and all of his possession were destroyed, forcing him and his family to live off of charity.

• JOHN HART had to leave his dying wife’s bedside and his thirteen children ran off in various directions to flee the British. For more than a year, he lived in caves and forests. He returned home to find his wife dead, his children missing and all of his property gone. He died shortly after of physical and mental exhaustion and a broken heart.

• LEWIS MORRIS and PHILLIP LIVINGSTON died of similar circumstances to Hart’s.

Five of the 56 were captured by the British and tortured. Twelve lost their homes through looting, confiscation or burning to the ground. Seventeen lost their fortunes. Two lost sons in the military while another two sons were captured. And nine lost their lives.

The sacrifice that was made by these 56 men and countless others to both establish and maintain our liberty has given us the privilege of living in freedom since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

However, in recent years, I fear we have forgotten the price that has been paid and the requirements necessary to maintain our freedom have been lost due to our unawareness of our history.

In 2018, I would encourage each of you to invest regular time to refresh your memory by reading and studying your nation’s history which teaches these guidelines. We will then be better to return to the freedom that our forefathers sacrificed so greatly for us to have.

In the Wisdom of the Ages, Jesus reminds us that greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Dare I suggest, as one American to another, our hearts must be willing to make relevant sacrifices for others that help preserve, protect and defend our nation.

What sacrifices are you willing to make?

Until next time…

Loren (1)–By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is also a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.

  1. Thank you for this piece. Our Founding Fathers were intelligent and yes, forward thinking. We are so blessed to have them set forth this Constitution for us and we cannot change it or let anything happen to it!

  2. This is more relevant today than the day it was written. This was the best search result I could have hoped for to prove a point.

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