Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government
"The Commonwealth Activist Network"
18 Tremont Street #608 * Boston, MA 02108
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*** CLT&G Update ***
Friday, July 4, 1997
Independence Day

Greeting Patriots!

Today’s Boston Herald reported that a May survey of 1,000 adults across the nation found one-third unsure why Americans celebrate the Fourth of July [the date in 1776 when the Continental Congress, gathered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, adopted the Declaration of Independence proclaiming the American colonies’ independence from Great Britain—then the strongest military power in the world]; a third didn’t know where the document was signed; and, two-thirds could not name the document containing the words, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ."

Sure, it’s a day off for fireworks, barbecues, beaches, and you deserve to enjoy this year’s three-day weekend. But for those of us who so often heed the warning of Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, that "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," it is also a day of reflection.

The Declaration contained certain and specific charges against the King of England, George III, a couple of which today echo with a haunting familiarity:

"He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries."

We saw what happened with our payraise repeal petition last year when it went before the state Supreme Judicial Court, and now let us watch for the highest state court’s imminent decision on Term Limits.

"He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."

That all over a Stamp Tax, a small Tea Tax, and "The Intolerable Act"! What would they say if they were to come back and observe what we tolerate today?

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence," the document closes, "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

It was then signed by John Hancock, as president of the Second Continental Congress, "in a hand big enough for John Bull to read it," followed by the other delegates from the thirteen colonies.

". . . our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor" was not an idle pledge, as Garry Hildreth of Erie, Pennsylvania, points out in his following essay:

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The Price They Paid

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 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 were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well educated. But they 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 properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

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

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she 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 his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Morris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These 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: "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 of what happened in the revolutionary war. We didn’t just fight the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government.

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Happy 221st annual Independence Day, folks. Enjoy the weekend and this beautiful summer weather in peace and celebration; you, our members, and your families deserve it. Then, come Monday, the "Eternal vigilance" will begin anew.

Chip Ford