The Declaration of Independence
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.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new
Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its
powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their
Safety and Happiness.


They Paid the Price
By Paul Harvey, News and Commentary
July 4, 1974
Americans, you know the 56 men who signed our
Declaration of Independence that first 4 of July--you know
they were risking everything, don't you?--'cause if they won their war with the British,
there'd be years of hardship and a struggling nation. If they lost they'd face
a hangman's noose. And yet there where it says, "We herewith pledge, our lives,
our fortunes, and our sacred honor," they did sign. But did you know that
they paid the price? When Carter Braxton of Virginia, signed the
Declaration of Independence, he was a wealthy planter and trader; but
thereafter he saw his ships swept from the seas and to pay his debts,
he lost his home and all of his property and he died in rags. Thomas Lynch, Jr.,
who signed that pledge, was a third generation rice grower and
aristocrat--a large plantation owner--but after he signed his health failed.
With his wife he set out for Franceto regain his failing health. Their ship never
got to France; he was never heard from again. Thomas McKean of Delaware
was so harrassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five
times in five months. He served in Congress without pay, his family in
poverty and in hiding. Vandals looted the properties of Ellery and
Clymer and Hall and Gwinett and Walton and Heyward and Rutledge
and Middleton. And Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia raised two million dollars
on his own signature to provision our allies, the French fleet. After the War,
personally he paid back the loans, wiped out his entire estate; he was never
reimbursed by his government. And in the final battle for Yorktown, he,
Nelson, urged General Washington to fire on his, Nelson's own home, then
occupied by Cornwallis. And he died bankrupt. Thomas Nelson, Jr.
had pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor. The Hessians seized the
home of Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey. Francis Lewis had his home
and everything destroyed, his wife imprisoned--she died within a few months.
Richard Stockton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, pledging his
life and his fortune, was captured and mistreated, and his health broken to
the extent that he died at 51. And his estate was pillaged. And Thomas Heyward, Jr.
was captured when Charleston fell. John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside
while she was dying; their thirteen children fled in all directions for their lives.
His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in
forests and caves and returned home after the War to find his wife dead,
his children gone, his properties gone. He died a few weeks later of
exhaustion and a broken heart. Lewis Morris saw his land destroyed,
his family scattered. Philip Livingston died within a few months of
hardships of the War. John Hancock, history remembers best, due to a
quirk of fate--that great sweeping signature attesting to his vanity, towers
over the others--one of the wealthiest men in New England, he stood outside
Boston one terrible night of the War and said, "Burn Boston, 'though it
makes John Hancock a beggar, if the public good requires it." He, too,
lived up to the pledge. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few were long
to survive, 5 were captured by the British and tortured before they died,
12 had their homes--from Rhode Island to Charleston--sacked and looted,
occupied by the enemy or burned. Two of them lost their sons in the Army;
one had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 died in the War from its
hardships or from its more merciful bullets. I don't know what impression
you'd had of these men who met that hot summer in Philadelphia, but I
think it's important this July 4, that we remember this about them: they were
not poor men, they were not wild-eyed pirates; these were men of means,
these were rich men, most of them, who enjoyed much ease and luxury
in personal living. Not hungry men, prosperous men, wealthy land owners,
substantially secure in their prosperity. But they considered liberty--this is as
much I shall say of it--they had learned that liberty is so much more
important than security, that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and
their sacred honor. And they fulfilled their pledge--they paid the price,
and freedom was born. Paul Harvey, good day.

The Declaration of Independence

Links Photo of the Declaration of Independance
Biographies of the Signers
Signers of the Declaration of Independence