Happy 4th of July to the free and the brave

Published 4:21 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2007

“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.

“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,” Thomas Jefferson wrote and Congress unanimously declared on July 4, 1776.

Fifty-six men signed this document, fully aware it could mean their death. To some, freedom was most costly. Those that believed in this fledgling republic, who wanted to live by law and not by the whim of a king, committed their life and their resources for this thing called freedom.

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Here are the brief stories of some of the lesser known men who signed the Declaration.

Richard Stockton was born near Princeton, New Jersey. He was highly educated and was a Supreme Court Justice. His home colony was overrun by the British Army and he was captured, but fortunately he was able to get his family to safety. Unfortunately, he was treated badly in prison. When released several years later, he had lost all of his property and his extensive library of writings. He died a pauper in 1781.

Edward Rutledge was 27 when he attended the Congress. He took leave of Congress to help defend South Carolina. USHistory.org states, “He was a member of the Charleston Battalion of Artillery, engaged in several important battles, and attained the rank of Captain. The colonial legislature sent him back to Congress in 1779 to fill a vacancy. He took his leave again in 1780 when the British conducted a third invasion of South Carolina. He resumed his post as Captain in the defense of Charleston, was captured and held prisoner until July of 1781.”

Thomas Lynch, Jr. was born in South Carolina, and was educated in England, graduating from Cambridge. When he returned home in 1772, he was a commissioned officer in his colony’s regiment and was subsequently elected to a seat in the Congress. After he signed the Declaration, he and his wife sailed for the West Indies, but their ship disappeared. He was never heard from again.

Carter Braxton was born in Virginia. He was selected to the Continental Congress because of the death of Peyton Randolph. He believed so completely in independence that he loaned £10,000 sterling to the war effort. Through that and other losses from which he never recovered, he had to move from his country estate to more simple quarters. He died at the age of 61.

These are just a few stories of the 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence. Visit USHistory.org on the Internet for more.