This is the Price They Paid (reposted from 2021)

What happened to the signers?

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 McKeam 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 or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, 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. The owner 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. Norris 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.” 

By Michael W Smith

Comment (2021): They knew there would be no forgiveness for them. They knew full well what the Hanoverians had done to the Jacobites 31 years before after the Highlander defeat at Culloden. pl

Comment (2023): Ah those words. Those magnificently chilling and inspiring words where those men mutually pledged to each other their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in the pursuit of the cause of liberty. And those words weren’t just meant to inspire the “little people” back home to do the fighting. Those fifty-six men took those words into their hearts to fight, to suffer and to die shoulder to shoulder with their fellow citizens.

Such a concept seems quaint today. To share in the strife and sacrifices, the sorrows and joys of the pursuit of those ideals with our neighbors and countrymen seems foolish to our nation of self-absorbed and self-described victims. We must rekindle that spirit. We must rekindle that sacred honor.

Comment (2024): Last year I wrote this comment to reinforce my belief that a sense of honor and duty along with the willingness to act on that sense of honor and duty is essential to becoming a good citizen. It’s not just about freedom. It’s about freedom with responsibility and very often sacrifice. I hope my posts of the last few days conveys that message.

One of the old books that came with our 1840s former glebe house was a memorial edition of the loss of the Titanic. It was part of my reading when I was very young. A point that was emphasized and made very clear that all those rich robber baron white men had a sacred duty to go down with the ship rather than take a lifeboat seat from a woman or child. I still remember Isidor and Ida Straus who refused a seats in the lifeboats. John Jacob Astor did the same. There were other rich old white men who chose death over dishonor. They were of a privileged class, who expected their privilege, but retained a sense of duty and honor to allow society to function. On the other hand, there was Joseph Bruce Ismay, who got a seat in a lifeboat and survived. Given the circumstances, the opprobrium he received may not have been fair, but he was branded a spineless coward for the rest of his life. 

I was young and impressionable when I read that book. The absolute necessity of a sense of honor and duty stayed with me. Those without honor or a spine have always been with us and will always be with us. We need a critical mass of honorable, duty bound men and women to function as a society. It is a struggle, maybe even a lost cause, but as we have often said here recently, we shall continue with style.

A happy and thoughtful 4th of July to all.


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14 Responses to This is the Price They Paid (reposted from 2021)

  1. leith says:

    Happy birthday America.

    Ismay was not alone. Duff-Gordon also fled, and reportedly paid the lifeboat helmsman not to to pick up others. Got to wonder, would today’s privileged class act like the Astors & Strausses? Or Ismays and Duff-Gordons?

    • Stephanie says:

      Unfortunately, there were may more Ismays and Duff-Gordons on Titanic itself. We hear a lot about Astor and the Strauses because there weren’t that many tales of noblesse oblige to tell.

      To your question, I think we know the answer, don’t we? Today’s rich are building bunkers:

      “Tall tales about the compound and its owner run rampant on the local rumor mill—known colloquially as the “coconut wireless.” One person heard that Zuckerberg was building a vast underground city. Many people speculate that the site will become some sort of postapocalyptic bunker in case of civilization collapse. What’s being built doesn’t live up to the coconut wireless chatter, but it’s close. Detailed planning documents obtained by WIRED through a series of public record requests show the makings of an opulent techno-Xanadu, complete with underground shelter and what appears to be a blast-resistant door.”

      I have a feeling that if Zuckerberg had been on Titanic it would have been a case of “Women, children, and Zuck first.”

      Happy Independence Day, all. We had a nice firework display in our neighborhood.

  2. F&L says:

    Happy fourth of July.

    Now for a show of hands — how many think they just fell out of a coconut tree?
    (Vice President Kamala Harris wants to know – see 12 second video clip at link below for the full effect).

  3. Peter Hug says:

    There are some who would likely refuse a seat. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett come to mind. OTOH, there are others with a different approach to life…

  4. scott s. says:

    Having resided in Annapolis at one time, Charles Carroll was a big deal. Reputed to be the wealthiest man in America at the time, was also the last signer to pass, in 1832. As the only Catholic signatory, he suffered discrimination (his cousin John Carroll would be the first Catholic bishop in America).

    The family estate in Annapolis was given to the Catholic Redemptorist order in 1852 and now is site of St Mary’s Church and High School forming an important part of historical Annapolis (which in view of the historical religious situation is dominated by St Anne’s Episcopal (established) Church).

  5. F&L says:

    Off topic with apologies but it’s worth it I think.
    Two links to two recent articles on the present critical dilemmas of the Israeli state. The Haaretz piece seems to be free of charge for some reason.

    An Annihilation Discourse Has Taken Over Israel – Israel News –

    Ilan Pappe on the ongoing disintegration of the Israeli state:

    • LeaNder says:

      F&L, theHaaretz link results in a for me new error code combination 503 & 54113. Maybe since the article is no longer free? Cache empty? …

      But interesting. Ultimately Morris contra Pappe? Or Adam Raz’ contra Morris & Netanyahu? His book may be interesting:

      That’s a topic our poet in residence may want to discuss in more detail, with a little help from Eric? 😉

  6. F&L says:

    Miscellaneous section.

    Proportions of American flag: 10 to 19
    Proportions of Russian flag: 2 to 3
    Proportions of USSR flag: 1 to 2
    Proportions of PRC flag: 2 to 3

    Will George Stephanopoulos be asking Joe Biden about this tonight? Stay tuned.

    • F&L says:

      More miscellany but more interesting.

      Ten minutes ago my TikTok app (on iphone) just lost its translation option on comments on the menu of choices which appears when you press down on a comment text body.
      “Translation” used to appear between “Add to favorites” and “Report,” but as of 10 minutes ago it’s not visible on my display. Are they persecuting me in particular or everyone? I already asked an old friend to check on his phone but he may not understand. Are the powers that be cutting off international communications for us? If so it’s interesting and possibly alarming and indicative of no good. The McCarthyite nuts in our psycho government will never go away. Anyway I’m piss*d.

  7. babelthuap says:

    There are still a lot of people, maybe not sacrificing their lives but absolutely their livelihoods like this guy talking about the “shitification” of media, specifically platforms like FB, Google and Amazon which to me is the apex of our current problems. He’s not the most stoic or manly guy but he’s putting himself out there bashing these monopoly IT companies that have wrecked our free enterprise system worse than the old tycoons could have ever done:

    • F&L says:

      Is it the tech companies or is it governments acting thru them? (See my comment above the disappeared TikTok translation feature). For example see Matt Taibbi’s work on massive Twitter censorship. Facebook appointed a high ranking UK politician of the Cameron era to its political division in charge of censorship – the FBI is deeply involved too with these companies. Either way it’s no good.

  8. English Outsider says:

    The evacuation was poorly conducted. The crew not correctly trained for the work beforehand though they did pretty well even so. Not enough lifeboats, though enough to satisfy the then regulations, and some lifeboats were launched without a full complement aboard. Probably because it was expected that the ship would sink rapidly.

    Ismay did not jump into the first lifeboat he saw. He stood back while the women and children were taken on. At the last minute, just before the lifeboat was launched, he saw there still some places left empty. There were no more woman and children nearby to take them. So he took one himself. He did not deprive others of a place. He took one that would otherwise have been left empty.

    There must, however, have been other passengers on deck. Presumably the proper course of action would have been to tell the men launching the lifeboat to wait, to run across to the other passengers, and grab some women and children to take the empty seats.

    Whether circumstances would have allowed him to do that is not known. In any case that was not the course of action he adopted and the shame of taking that empty place remained with him for the rest of his life. It would not have been his courage that failed him. More his presence of mind.

    On the sinking, I looked out some recent naval engineers’ reports. I did so because I was always under the impression that the disaster was due to poor design or use of inferior materials. Apparently not so. It was a stoutly built ship by the standards of the time. The rivets were those generally used though not up to modern standards. The plates also to the standards and thickness of the time. A sister ship stood up well in subsequent service though subjected to hard use and some serious accidents. The event that sank the Titanic was a freak accident that other ships of the period would have been even less likely to have survived.

    Criticism may be levelled at the Captain, ordering full speed through an ice field. Or at whoever didn’t ensure binoculars could be got at easily. Or at the radio operator. Maybe also at the officer on watch, though he had very little time to assess the situation and respond differently. Not, however, at the designers or at the shipbuilding yard.

    A tragic accident at sea. There are many such. Few, however, give rise to such speculation and surmise as surround this one. Every year the US Coastguard and the International Ice Patrol (The latter, I believe, eventually formed as a result of that accident) lay a wreath at the site.,Titanic%20disaster%20on%2015%20April.

  9. Mark Logan says:

    I suspect that’s the reason we have had a run of certainly-not-out-best-and-brightest POTUS candidates recently. The process one must subject oneself and one’s family to has become a genuinely cringe-worthy ordeal to contemplate. Need some folks to step up.

  10. Stephanie says:

    There are some good younger politicians in both parties who would be eager to go for the big prize. Unfortunately, the old folks won’t get the hell out of the way. Both parties saw this double trainwreck coming. There was no institutional capability on either side to deal with it.

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