On July 4, 1776, King George III wrote in his diary, "Nothing of importance this day."
Ironically, a few thousand miles across the ocean, America's colonies were in the very process of declaring their independence. According to the LIFEPAC® and Switched-On Schoolhouse® Civics homeschool electives from Alpha Omega Publications®, the ties to England were strong, making the founding fathers' choice for this declaration far from easy. In fact, the life-changing decision to sign America's most important document was only made after the early colonists had exhausted every effort to maintain or restore a relationship with the tax-controlling king of England. Pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence.
What happened to the 56 men who risked the wrath of Britain by signing 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 serving in the Revolutionary Army, and another had two sons captured.
• Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships during the Revolutionary War.
What kind of men were they?
• Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.
• Eleven were merchants.
• Nine were farmers and large plantation owners, who were well-educated men of means.
Signing the Declaration of Independence, they knew 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 he died in rags.
• Thomas McKean was hounded by the British so much 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 William Ellery, Lyman Hall, George Clymer, George Walton, Button Gwinnett, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Edward Rutledge (the youngest signer at age 26), and Arthur 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 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.
• Robert Morris and Philip Livingston suffered similar fates.
Such are the historical stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. Having security, education, and means, these godly, freedom-loving men valued liberty more than life and pledged, "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Although many of us take our liberties for granted each Independence Day, we shouldn't. More than fireworks, parades, and celebrations, the Fourth of July holiday is a time to remember and silently thank these patriots who gave up so much to be free.
What can you do to help your homeschooler value the freedoms he enjoys?
Put history into action with these fun-filled learning activities:
• Challenge your child to learn more. Pick one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and research the man's political party and role, state, personal background, and reasons for being involved in supporting this document.
• Watch an exciting Drive Thru History DVD with humorous host Dave Stotts to make learning about America's Declaration of Independence fun and unforgettable.
• Read the Declaration of Independence and pick out key phrases like "unalienable rights," "consent of the governed," "just powers," "sent hither swarms," and others. Ask your homeschooler to describe what these phrases mean based on their context.
• Visit historical websites and spend time reading books to learn more details about America's most important national treasure.
• Plan a special homeschooling vacation with the entire family and visit the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in Washington, D.C. Experience the awe-inspiring opportunity to see our country's original Declaration of Independence!
• Join the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Visit the National Archives website, have your child select a "quill" to add his name, and print a colorful copy of America's most important document, so he can always remember that freedom has a price!