Posts Tagged ‘United States Declaration of Independence’
“Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor”
It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the Southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.
Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren’t nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.
The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that “the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them.” All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.
On the wall at the back, facing the president’s desk, was a panoply — consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it “in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!”
Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. “Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York.”
Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase “by a self-assumed power.” “Climb” was replaced by “must read,” then “must” was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called “their depredations.” “Inherent and inalienable rights” came out “certain unalienable rights,” and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.
A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.
Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: “I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American.” But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.
Much To Lose
What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?
I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.
Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half – 24 – were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.
With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.
Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.”
Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.”
These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.
It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be US Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)
Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: “Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.
“The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.
“If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.”
Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.
William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers’ faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, “but in no face was he able to discern real fear.” Stephan Hopkins, Ellery’s colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”
“Most Glorious Service”
Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.
· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered — and his estates in what is now Harlem — completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.
· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.
· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.
· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.
· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.
· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.
· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton’s parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause.
He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.
· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington’s appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.
· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.
· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.
· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: “Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country.”
· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.
· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.
· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson’s palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, “Why do you spare my home?”
They replied, “Sir, out of respect to you.” Nelson cried, “Give me the cannon!” and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson’s sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson’s property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.
Lives, Fortunes, Honor
Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.
And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.
He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons’ lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man’s heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: “No.”
The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. “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.”
-Rush H. Limbaugh Jr
Michelle Bachmann is taking heat from the ObamaMedia because she said that the founding fathers of this country “worked tirelessly” to end slavery. She’s been pretty much under attack for that statement for the past four or five days.
As we begin this discussion on slavery, the founding fathers and our Constitution — know this. Most liberals — and by most we mean close to 100% of the progs you would find in and around any major college or university campus, and pretty much the same percentage living and working in Washington DC — absolutely and completely despise our Constitution. They want it gone. The want it out of the way, invalidated and ignored. I guess you could say that liberals want the Constitution to be declared unconstitutional.
The Constitution is in the way … always in the way of the leftist agenda. The Tenth Amendment, though largely ignored, looms as a threat to the liberal dream of an all-powerful centralized government – that antiquated document written by white men. All it would take is one or two new Supreme Court justices who believe the 10th Amendment actually means what it says to turn the liberal big-government agenda on its head and return the bulk of American governance to the states, where it belongs.
To progs the Second Amendment conjures images of armed patriots determined to preserve their personal liberty by force, if necessary. When your entire political philosophy is focused on centralized government power, the idea of the great unwashed actually being able to protect themselves from tyranny can be, shall we say, a little unsettling.
The liberal statist agenda is, therefore, to denigrate the Constitution to the point that the dumb masses – who sadly make up the bulk of the American electorate, look upon it as a horribly flawed document, badly in need of revision at best, and a complete rewrite at worse. You will grow old looking for a liberal to sing the praises of the Constitution – a document that set in motion and created the framework for the greatest exercise in self-government this world has ever seen.
But how to really demonize the Constitution and the men who wrote it? Easy … do what liberals have been doing so very well for decades. Play the race card. Tie our Constitution and our founders to slavery. If they’re connected in any way to slavery, then any works they do – no matter how good – are suspect and simply must be thrown in history’s garbage can. Liberals believe that if they manage to tie slavery to the Constitution, then the Constitution will lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people. You can almost hear the argument now. “The Constitution? You support the Constitution? So I guess that means you support slavery too, right? You’re a racist, and anyone who believes in the Constitution is a racist!” I can almost hear the words coming out of the mouth of some prog like Al Sharpton, Dick Durbin James Clyburn, Shelia Jackson-Lee or Maxine Waters (chose your own loon) now!
So … was Michelle Bachman right? Did our founding fathers work tirelessly to end slavery? Well, some did — others not so much. But that’s not the real point here. A thorough reading of history leaves no doubt that the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to Slavery, and determined to end it. Here, though, is where the progs screw up the narrative. Being strenuously opposed to slavery is one thing. Developing a working plan to end slavery is another. For instance — do you just want to end slavery in just the Northern colonies or states? Or do you want to see it ended in all of the 13 states. If your ultimate goal is to end slavery in the South as well, then it would certainly behoove you to make sure that the southern colonies were part of the battle for independence and then the newly formed United States of America.
The founding fathers that liberals just love to denigrate knew that if they insisted on an immediate end of slavery, the southern colonies would take a hike. With those colonies not being a part of the union, the anti-slavery forces from the North would lose all leverage over them. Historian H.A. Ohline (now pontificating at William & Mary) wrote: “It would have been impossible to establish a national government in the 18th Century without recognizing slavery in some way.” So it really looked like the choice was a United States of the north without slavery, a United States of the south with slavery — or some middle ground is sought that would allow for the fight for independence and the founding of our nation while leaving the slavery battle for another day.
Even before the Declaration of Independence our founders were on record as opposing slavery. The General Articles of Association were adopted in 1774, and in that document the importation or purchase of slaves was forbidden after January 1, 1775. One year later the Declaration of Independence was originally written to include a section denouncing slavery. This portion was eventually removed because the document needed a unanimous vote for approval, and at the time Georgia and South Carolina refused to vote for the Declaration of Independence with the following paragraph included:
“…he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. [determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold,] he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them, thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another…”
This paragraph appeared in the original version of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. When it came time to draft the Constitution of the United States, the theory is that the Founding Fathers were willing to compromise on the issue of slavery because A) They knew that Georgia and South Carolina would never give in, considering their economies relied on the institution and B) Those opposed to slavery thought that they would have more influence over the Southern states by having them as a part of the union and therefore be able to better influence them over the coming years to give up the institution of slavery.
Likewise, when it came to writing the Constitution our founders opted to form the union first and deal with the slavery issue later. That’s why the Constitution included Article 1, Section 9 granting to the Congress the power to regulate or to ban slavery as of January 1, 1808. That segment reads:
“The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”
Why were the southern states so adamant about slavery? You might be surprised to learn that Georgia was the first of the 13 colonies to abolish slavery. Georgia soon found out, however, that it could not compete agriculturally with the other southern colonies without slaves — so the prohibition was rescinded. The southern states simply felt they could not compete economically without slavery; certainly not for many years. I’m not presenting that as an excuse – just as a reason.
Here’s something else you need to know about slavery. The institution of slavery was born in Africa (and pretty much only exists in Africa today. Ironic, isn’t it?) Slaves were the spoils of African tribal conflict and warfare. In the 15th century slavery was virtually wiped out in Europe by the emergence of a Christian society. It was the Portugese who, in the mid 1940s, rediscovered slavery, so to speak, in their explorations along the western coast of Africa. Slavery (generally in support of the sugar industry) then started to make its way across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean. From the islands of the Caribbean slavery was then introduced into the southern colonies.
Look; I’m getting a bit carried away with my own narrative here. Let’s cut to the chase: The simple truth is that if our founding fathers made up their mind in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, or in 1787 with our Constitution, that slavery was going to be illegal in the United States, and that all people held in slavery were going to be freed at that point — the southern colonies or states would have simply said “no way in hell” and gone their own way. Without the southern colonies in the Revolutionary War, independence would not have been achieved and we would be throwing flowers and Prince William and Princess Kate later this week when they’re though with Canada. This was truly one of those “we must all hang together or we will most assuredly hang separately” situations. The more pragmatic move was to forge ahead with the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and the creation of a new nation; with a stated determination to address and correct the slavery issue later.
To say that the Founding Fathers were proponents for slavery completely ignores their incredible achievements on the issue. During their lifetimes, the Founding Fathers were able to accomplish many things in accordance with their anti-slavery beliefs.
- They limited and eventually outlawed the importation of slaves.
- They outlawed slavery in the majority of the states within their lifetime.
- They outlawed the expansion of slavery into areas where it currently did not exist.
- They passed or influenced legislatures to pass laws making slavery more humane.
- Many individual slave owners, largely through the efforts of the founders, voluntarily freed their slaves.
Like many of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson pushed for the abolition of slavery. In his home state of Virginia, Jefferson proposed the abolition of slavery in 1778 and 1796. Along with Jefferson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Wilson and countless others were opposed to the institution of slavery and organized to end the practice. None were more outspoken than Benjamin Franklin, who founded the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1789. Others like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay signed a petition to the New York State legislature in 1786 to end the slave trade. This widely circulated petition was the foundation for the establishment of the “New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves and Protecting Such of Them as Have been or may be liberated.” Also, Hamilton and Washington, along with General Nathaniel Greene made a concerted effort to recruit blacks into the Continental Army. They thought this would be a key step in bringing about emancipation. Alexander Hamilton wrote a letter to John Jay (President of the Congress at the time) about recruiting blacks from South Carolina to serve in the Continental Army:
“An essential part of the plan is to give them their freedom with their swords. This will secure their fidelity, animate their courage, and, I believe, will have a good influence upon those who remain, by opening a door to their emancipation. This circumstance, I confess, has no small weight in inducing me to wish the success of the project; for the dictates of humanity, and true policy, equally interest me in favor of this unfortunate class of men….”
On the eve of the creation of our Constitution, John Jay himself wrote about the hypocrisy of American ideals if we were not to abolish the institution of slavery:
“It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honor of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused.”
Before we move on — a word about the Three-fifth’s compromise. This is the section of our Constitution that many race whores like to use to illustrate the racist leanings of our founding fathers. How many times have you heard that our Constitution says that blacks are only three-fifths human. Well — whoever told you that is an idiot (at best) or a malicious liar (at worst). It’s not there. The Constitution says no such thing. Just click here to read my notes on “Race Baiting and the Constitution.” Welcome to clarity of thought.
History is clear. Our founders wrote on many occasions about their desire to end the institution of slavery and history demonstrates their efforts to do so. You can read some more of those quotes here, but the point is that liberals would like you to believe that our Constitution was founded by a bunch of pro-slavery racists because this is a way of diminishing the value of our Constitution. Remember that the Constitution is just a roadblock for many Democrats who seek to increase their power over you. – Neal Boortz
People often associate democracy with freedom. We hear this word used all the time by our politicians, by our neighbors, even sometimes by our educators. But the fact is we are not a democracy. We are a republic. Our Founding Fathers deemed this an important distinction to make and discussed the matter quite a bit. In the end, our Founding Fathers claimed that a democracy was both extreme and dangerous for a country as it would most assuredly result in the oppression of the minority by the majority. Take this one example from Founding Father, Elbridge Gerry: “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.” And Thomas Jefferson said that democracy should never be practiced outside the limits of a town. Our Founders were very wary of power no matter who had it and thus limited it as much as possible — this is why we have such a unique system of checks and balances.