Almost 30 years ago I first heard this reading in a patriotic musical and it stirred my heart back then. It still does today.
In the years since then, I’ve become more concerned about my other citizenship and the advancement of my King’s agenda. But every time the 4th of July rolls around I still swell with pride at what our forefathers were able to conceive and create.
Philadelphia! 1776! Fifty-six men met together and signed a new document. That parchment was to stand forever as a partnership between the living and the dead, and the yet unborn. We call it the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
There is a price tag on liberty. You will recall the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states: "We must mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor." The fifty-six signatures on the Declaration of Independence were kept secret for one half year because the gallant fifty-six who made that promise knew when they signed that they were risking EVERYTHING! If they won the fight, the best they could expect would be years of hardship in a struggling new nation. And if they lost ... they'd face a hangman's noose as traitors.
Now these were men of means, well educated. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants; nine were farmers and owners of large plantations. But they signed the pledge and they did indeed pay the price.
In the Pennsylvania state house, now called Independence Hall, the best men from each of our colonies sat down together. On June 11th, a committee was formed to draw up a Declaration of Independence. We were going to tell our British fatherland, "no more rule by redcoats."
Thomas Jefferson finished the draft of that declaration in seventeen days. Congress adopted it on July 4, 1776. That much is familiar history.
Now here is the documented fate of the heroic fifty-six who signed the Declaration of Independence:
Of the fifty-six, few were long to survive. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes looted or destroyed by the enemy. Nine of the fifty-six died in the war from its hardships and its bullets. Wealthy planter and trader Carter Braxton of Virginia saw his ships swept from the sea in battle. To pay his debts he sold his home and all his properties. He died in rags.
Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harassed 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 hiding.
Thomas Nelson Jr. raised two million dollars on his own signature to provision our allies, the French Fleet. After the war he wiped out his entire estate paying back the loans. He was never reimbursed by the government. He died bankrupt and was buried in an unmarked grave. Thomas Nelson Jr. pledged his life, his fortune, his sacred honor.
John Hart was driven from his dying wife's bedside. 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 and his property worthless. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.
John Hancock, one of the wealthiest men in New England, stood outside Boston one terrible night of the war and said, "Burn, Boston, burn! Though it makes John Hancock a beggar, burn!" He too lived up to the pledge.
I don't know what impression you had of the men who met that hot summer night in Philadelphia, but I think it's important that we remember this about them: They were not poor men or wild-eyed pirates. They were basically rich men who enjoyed ease and luxury in their personal living. They were not hungry men - they were wealthy and prosperous. But they considered LIBERTY so much more important than security that they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. They fulfilled the pledge ... they paid the price ... and freedom was born!
Adapted from WHAT PRICE FREEDOM by Derric Johnson
I hope that after reading this adaption from this musical you will ask yourself: “How much am I willing to give to keep our country free?”
Finally, let remember to thank God for the men and women who have voluntarily stepped up to the task of serving in our country’s armed services.
Happy 4th of July!!!