Ozarks Viewpoints

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The price

Independence, as Americans know it today, didn't come in an inexpensive manner. In fact, our freedoms might well be the most costly element of our lives. Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence right through the time as we get ready to observe July Fourth this year people have made sacrifices that are above and beyond what many might realize .

Those signers of the Declaration of Independence, to those who receive telegrams concerning injury or death of service people anywhere in the world, share the true meaning of giving their all for the country they loved.

The men who took pen in hand and made it clear we were going to be independent from England share the dedication of those in the military who have become casualties in real and trumped-up wars for the past 237 years .

Signers' fate

Here's what happened to those men who signed the document creating our nation.

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 the hardships of the war.

They were...

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 document 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.

Home destroyed

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr ., noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner quietly urged General George Washington to open fire, which was done. 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 grist mill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home after the war to find his wife dead, his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and with a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

A few sacrifices

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. These 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 a 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 us an independent America. Can we keep it?

The answer

Hopefully, the answer to that question will never become a necessity. The thoughts of those who originally gave us our independence and those who have held it over all these years, each time the country was either challenged or chose to enter a conflict in a country across the broad waters, will surely cement Americans sufficiently to overcome even the most trying of times.

So, this July Fourth, it would be only fitting that sacrifices over more than 200 years by Americans who stand tall in our nation be remembered.

Although few of our history books care to tell much of the stories of those who have given extensively so that generations of Americans can live a good life without fear of their liberties being taken away from them, the facts are there to view for all who care about the country.

America can be only as strong as her people will permit. Those who choose to work against the independence that has come at such a high price are doing nothing but a disservice to both themselves and the nation.

Independence Day, July 4, 2013, could well be a turn- around for those who are on the wrong route toward keeping our cherished freedoms. What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that delicate balance between freedom "to" and freedom "from."