Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

July 4, 2001, Page 20

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Good Old Days


The Declaration of Independence

In Congress, July 4, 1776


The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America


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 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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.  Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.  The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these states.  To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.  (The above article is the opening declaration of the Constitution.)


Following are those who signed the Declaration of Independence:


Names                                                 Where Born


Adams, John                                                   Braintree, Mass.

Adams, Samuel                                              Boston, Mass.

Bartlett, Josiah                                                           Amesbury, Mass.

Braxton, Carter                                               Newington, VA

Carroll, Charles                                              Annapolis, MD

Chase, Samuel                                                            Somerset County, MD

Clark, Abraham                                              Elizabethtown, NY

Clymer, George                                              Philadelphia, PA

Ellery, William                                              Newport, RI

Floyd, William                                               Suffolk County, NY

Franklin, Benjamin                                        Boston, Mass.

Gerry, Elbridge                                               Marblehead, Mass.

Gwinnett, Button                                            England

Hall, Lyman                                                    Connecticut

Hancock, John                                                            Braintree, Mass.

Harrison, Benjamin                                        Berkely, VA

Hart, John                                                       Hopewell, NJ

Heyward, Thomas, Jr.                                    St. Luke’s, SC

Hewes, Joseph                                                            Kinston, NJ

Hooper, William                                            Boston, Mass.

Hopkins, Stephen                                           Scituate, RI

Hopkinson, Francis                                        Philadelphia, PA

Huntington, Samuel                                       Windham, Conn.

Jefferson, Thomas                                          Shadwell, VA

Lee, Francis Lightfoot                                                Stratford, VA

Lee, Richard Henry                                        Stratford, VA

Lewis, Francis                                                            Lindaff, Wales

Livingston, Philip                                           Albany, NY

Lynch, Thomas, Jr.                                         St. George’s, SC

McKean, Thomas                                           Chester County, PA

Middleton, Arthur                                          Middleton Place, SC

Morris, Lewis                                                             Morrisania, NY

Morris, Robert                                                            Lancashire, England

Morton, John                                                  Ridley, PA

Nelson, Thomas, Jr.                                        York, VA

Paca, William                                                 Wye Hill, MD

Paine, Robert Treat                                        Boston, Mass.

Penn, John                                                      Caroline County, VA

Read, George                                                  Cecil County, MD

Rodney, Caesar                                               Dover, Del.

Ross, George                                                  New Castle, Del.

Rush, Benjamin, M.D.                                    Byberry, PA

Rutledge, Edward                                           Charleston, SC

Sherman, Roger                                              Newton, Mass.

Smith, James                                                  Ireland

Stockton, Richard                                           Princeton, NJ

Stone, Thomas                                                            Charles County, MD

Taylor, George                                               Ireland

Thornton, Matthew                                         Ireland

Walton, George                                              Frederick County, VA

Whipple, William                                          Kittery, ME

Williams, William                                         Lebanon, Conn.

Wilson, James                                                            Scotland

Witherspoon, John                                         Scotland

Wolcott, Oliver                                              Windsor, Conn.

Wythe, George                                               Elizabeth City County, VA


Some Stories of the Signing


In the days of the Continental Congress the delegates used to travel to the capital, at the beginning of each session, from their several homes. They usually traveled on horseback; fording streams, sleeping at miserable country inns, sometimes weather-bound for days.  Sometimes they had to make circuits to avoid threatened dangers, sometimes accomplishing forced marches to reach Philadelphia in time for some special vote.  As one of those men stated, “There lie before me, the unpublished papers as one of the signers of the great Declaration and these papers comprise the diaries of several such journeys.”


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.


“John Adams,” said Jefferson long afterward to Webster and Ticknor “was our Colossus on the floor.  He was not graceful, nor elegant, nor remarkably fluent, but he came out occasionally with a power of thought and expression that moved us from our seats.”


John Adams made a prediction of the Fourth of July, that day which has been accepted by Americans as “the most memorable epocha.”  It was the vote of July 4 that changed the thirteen colonies into independent States; the Declaration of Independence only promulgated the fact and assigned its reasons.  Had this great document proclamation turned out to be a confused or ill-written document, it would never have eclipsed in fame the original resolution, which certainly had no such weak side.  But this danger was well averted, for the Declaration was to be drawn up by Jefferson, unsurpassed in his time of power of expression.  He accordingly framed: Franklin and Adams suggested a few verbal amendments; Sherman and Livingston had none to offer; and the document stood ready to be reported to the Congress.


The document was written in a new brick house, at the southwest corner of Market and Seventh Streets, less than a quarter of a mile from Independence Square.  Jefferson had there rented a parlor and bedroom, ready furnished, on the second floor, for 35 shillings a week. There, in that parlor, he wrote the Declaration.  In that modest room we may fancy Franklin and Adams listening critically, Sherman and Livingston approvingly, to what was for them simply the report of a committee.  Jefferson had written it, we are told, without the aid of a systematic form, a series of points long familiar.  Parton may be right in the opinion that the writer was no conscious of any very strenuous exercise of his faculties, or of any very eminent service done.


During three days, July 2, 3 and 4, the Declaration was debated in Congress.  The amended document was finally adopted by the vote of twelve colonies, New York abstaining.


Dickinson rose on the first July day and said, “I value the love of my country as I ought, but I value my country more; and I desire this illustrious assembly to witness the integrity, if not the policy, of my conduct.  The first campaign will be decisive of the controversy; The Declaration will not strengthen us by one man, or by the least supply, while it exposes our soldiers to additional cruelties and outrages.  Without some preclusive trials of our strength, we ought not to commit our country upon an alternative, where to recede would be infamy and to persist might be destruction.”


Dickinson’s mother had often said to him, “Johnny, you will be hanged; your estate will be forfeited or confiscated; you will leave your excellent wife a widow,” and so on.


Heroes of Independence Day


Written by Colonel (Dr.) Jim Hayes, WSAF ret.:


Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?


Of the members who took part in that silent drama of 1776, some came to greatness in consequence, becoming Presidents, Vice Presidents, Governors, Chief Justices or Judges, others came in equally direct consequence, to poverty, flight or imprisonment.


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 serving 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, 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 McKean 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 looted the properties of Ellery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge 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.  He 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 thirteen 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.  Morris 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, 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.”


They gave you and me a free and independent America.  The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn’t fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government!  Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t.  So, take a few minutes and silently thank these patriots.  It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.


Remember: freedom is never free!!


(When was the last time you read the words of the Declaration of Independence?  The last time I read it was probably while a student in high school when it was required for a social studies class assignment.  Reading that message now and learning of the names and sacrifices of those who authored it brings a sobering realization.  It serves as a reminder of our taken-for-granted freedoms, freedoms those patriots gave up their possessions, families and lives for. D. Z.)



This circa 1900 photo was taken during a Fourth of July parade in the village of Merrillan at which time that was a celebration high-light of the year.  The floats and marching bands was a great part of Independence Day recognition.



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