Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Happy Independence Day!

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned.  When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

On Independence Day it seems fitting that we should honor the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Delaware George Read Caesar Rodney
Thomas McKean
Pennsylvania George Clymer Benjamin Franklin
Robert Morris John Morton
Benjamin Rush George Ross
James Smith James Wilson
George Taylor
Massachusetts John Adams Samuel Adams
John Hancock Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
New Hampshire Josiah Bartlett William Whipple
Matthew Thornton
Rhode Island Stephen Hopkins William Ellery
New York Lewis Morris Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis William Floyd
Georgia Button Gwinnett Lyman Hall
George Walton
Virginia Richard Henry Lee Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Jefferson George Wythe
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
North Carolina William Hooper John Penn
Joseph Hewes
South Carolina Edward Rutledge Arthur Middleton
Thomas Lynch, Jr. Thomas Heyward, Jr.
New Jersey Abraham Clark John Hart
Francis Hopkinson Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Connecticut Samuel Huntington Roger Sherman
William Williams Oliver Wolcott
Maryland Charles Carroll Samuel Chase
Thomas Stone William Paca

Today, we enjoy the blessings of liberty because of the brave actions of America’s Founding Fathers and of those patriots who were willing to risk everything to fight in the Continental Army.   Looking back, from our vantage point in the comfortable present, at the events which culminated in the birth of a new nation called The United States of America, it’s easy to think that the result was a foregone conclusion.  It was not.

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.

The concept of pledging their lives, fortunes and sacred honor were not mere words.  Yet, despite the risks involved, and odds for failure being very high, the signers were willing to put their names down on parchment for all the world to read.  At the time of the American Revolution, Great Britain was arguably the most powerful nation on the planet, with the most powerful navy.  What these men were doing, transformed them from British subjects, to rebels, and finally into American Patriots.  The last step in this evolution would only take place if the American colonies were successful in overthrowing the British yoke.  Had the revolution been unsuccessful, all of these men would have forfeited their lives.  In essence, in signing the Declaration, they were potentially signing their own death warrants.  They were guilty of High Treason in the eyes of the British Government.1 And what was the penalty for High Treason?2

  1. That the offender be drawn to the gallows, and not be carried or walk: though usually (by connivance length ripened by humanity into law) a sledge or hurdle is allowed, to preserve the offender from the extreme torment of being dragged on the ground or pavement
  2. That he be hanged by the neck and then cut down alive
  3. That his entrails be taken out and burned, while he is yet alive
  4. That his head be cut off
  5. That his body be divided in four parts
  6. That his head and quarters be at the king’s disposal

However, the treasonous party wasn’t the only one to suffer punishment.  The same law also stipulates that the guilty party is also subject to “forfeiture” and “corruption of blood.”  Forfeiture means that all of the persons property goes to the state.  Corruption of blood prevents the person’s heirs and immediate family from owning property or businesses.  The family of a person convicted of treason is ruined.

This is what the signatories of the Declarations of Independence were risking.

While winning the war was definitely preferable to losing it, signing the Declaration was only the beginning of a risky endeavor for many of these men.

Five were captured by the British, eighteen had their homes looted or burned by the enemy, and some lost everything they owned.  The signers were not unique in this regard, many, less famous patriots suffered these things as well.  However, by placing themselves at the forefront as they did, they were the ones most likely to be made an example.  For instance, the British sought to send John Hancock and Samuel Adams to Britain for trial for treason, even prior to the Continental Congress.

Signing the Declaration of Independence marked a turning point in the struggle.  Doing so indicated that a complete break with Britain was now the only option.  The corruption of the British government was no longer to be perceived as confined to Parliament, but included  the monarchy itself.  The Declaration of Independence ushered in a new form of government that derived its powers from the consent of the governed. This was and remains a radical undertaking. Throughout history it has been the nature of governments to increase their powers at the expense of the governed. Our task is to prevent that from happening. On this day when we commemorate what the Founders did, is a good time to remember that.

1. “If a man do levy war against our lord the king in his realm”  Blackstone, Wm., Knight. Chase, George, ed. Chase’s Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co., 1936, p890.

2. Blackstone, Wm., Knight. Chase, George, ed. Chase’s Blackstone Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co., 1936, p891.

22 comments

1 Christopher-Conservative Perspective { 07.04.11 at 6:12 am }

Happy 235th Independence Day !

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EcoPlastican Reply:

Isn’t it 236?

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2 James D. Best { 07.04.11 at 7:59 am }

Great post. They were a rare breed. Happy Independence Day

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3 Jeff Edelman { 07.04.11 at 9:21 am }

America. America. God shed thy grace on thee.

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Jeff Edelman Reply:

I didn’t write above comment. If I were to write something it would be this: The SCOTUS decision this Thursday past provoke me to thinking about the thoughts of the Patriot that died at Lexington, or Saratoga, or Camden, or Trenton, or Breed,s Hill, or Cowpens, or Yorktown, or the one that left his bloody footprints in the snow on the way to Trenton. Was he thinking, “Why did I have to stop loving my wife?” “Why come I had to stop being with my children?” “What the hell did I die for?” “I could have had the same Robert’s rationalizing and not done the right thing!”

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EcoPlastican Reply:

Perfect!

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Martin Reply:

Hi Jeff, I pulled this particular post forward from last year because people started commenting on it this year. After reading it again, I decided to up the date to bring it forward on the site. Note the date of the comment above. :-)

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Jeff Edelman Reply:

Oh. My mistake.

Martin Reply:

No worries, I usually don’t pull things forward to repost, but FoxNews.com featured this post!

4 Leona Salazar { 07.07.11 at 10:15 am }

Thank you for this wonderful article. I referenced in when I wrote about Independence Day at http://www.idontgetit.us/2011/07/independence-day/ As I read your article, I couldn’t help but contrast those brave men who were willing to identify themselves by signing their names with many of our citizenry today who will anonymously say anything and hide behind the safety of their computers suffering no consequences for their sniveling, vile rantings against those with whom they disagree. I doubt any of these whimpering faceless, nameless cowards would have had the courage to speak their mind had they lived 235 years ago.

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5 LibsAreCommies { 07.03.12 at 11:56 am }

This is one heck of an indictment against the Lib/ Dem/ Progressive/ Commie domestic enemies we’re dealing with today.

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6 Mike88 { 07.04.12 at 8:31 am }

And yet today, we face similar despotic treatment by our own government as our forefathers did from the British Crown because the people of our nation today fear the reprisal of speaking out just like they feared the reprisal of speaking out against the King 230 years ago, because we still get the same results of being, Ignored, and a refusal of our own government today to address the Right for a Redress of Our Grievances, recreating the same insult and injury to We The People as our forefathers endured.

Has our Forefathers fight for our Independence gone in vain? Has our Government learned nothing about our yearning to be Free Sovereign people? What will it take for our Government to learn about the desire and will of the people to be free Sovereign Independent people once again?

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7 `John Carey { 07.04.12 at 11:29 am }

We owe these men so much Martin. They risked it all to be free from a despotic form of government. How I wish we had that same spirit today. Great post and have a great 4th of July!

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Martin Reply:

Thanks John. These men were willing to risk it all. They were able to recognize their moment and seize it, regardless of the risk.

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8 True Blue { 07.04.12 at 1:14 pm }

The founders of this country pledged their ‘Lives, fortunes and sacred honor’ to build a Nation. How can we allow it to be led by people unwilling to put the very same on the line?
We need an ammendment that gives the People a special ballot every time a politician leaves office.
A ballot with only two choices.
A) Give Politician X his or her paycheck and the thanks of a grateful populace.
or
B) Give Politician X a prison term equal to his or her time in office and strip them and their heirs of Every asset they own.

This, and only this will ensure that Only politicians who are confident that they are obeying We the People’s will would ever even think of running for an office. Corruptocrats, unionistas and ‘community organizers’ would never take the risk.
As I see it, this is the only way to preserve Liberty; and the Only thing the Founders truly overlooked.

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Martin Reply:

Interesting idea. I kind of like it.

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9 madmemere { 07.05.12 at 2:13 am }

True Blue-If you were to ask for a vote, I vote “yea”! So say we all? Yea, so say we all! This entire administration, that currently inhabits OUR White House should face military tribunals- -the majority (being citizens), for treason; the presidential impostor should face charges of espionage (as in spy) and many other crimes. I suggest military tribunal for they are all “domestic terrorists”!

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10 Don G. Dinsdale { 07.05.12 at 6:51 am }

I watch a 7 part HBO program last evening, John Adams, it was a very good history lesson, while being entertaining…

I have asked the question many times over the last 3 years, “What Would Our Current Leaders Do Back Then???

I also don’t think many of today’s citizens would be “Up-In-Arms” either, this generation is more interested in ‘American Idle’ than America…

Let us hope “We the People” will regain our sense’s come November…

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Martin Reply:

Don, it was a great series, although I felt that it avoided (conspicuously) some aspects of Adams’ religious philosophy and background. But then, there is only so much you can do in a mini-series.

The question that always baffles me is how they knew it was the right time to take such a step? Revolution and revolt is a pretty risky venture. How did they figure out that it was no longer possible to work within the system. Such choices are not for the faint of heart.

Thanks for stopping by!

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11 Ann Herzer { 07.04.13 at 10:49 am }

Thank you! What a great tribute to those who gave so much. I have eight proven Revolutionary Patriots of whom I’m very proud. One was at Valley Forge and it was difficult for me to prove, but he appeared on the muster roll of Jan. 1778 and I finally located it. Your post on Grover Cleveland was equally as wonderful. AH

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Martin Reply:

Thanks. I’m glad you liked them.

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12 Jeff Edelman { 07.04.15 at 9:27 am }

Three years ago on this site I made reference to a liberty-killing scotus ruling. Now, within in the past couple of weeks, another. My heart is broken on this Fourth of July for my country. Perhaps you’ve all seen the recent video of the guy asking people why we celebrate this day. Only one person answered correctly! He was visiting from Italy. Tonight people will mindlessly make noise; not stopping for a second to consider the uniqueness of this nation at its birth. And now, what it will take to return it to that greatness. Tonight, send up a prayer for this country.

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