Happy Birthday America

July 4, 2017
By

It has been 240 years since our Founding Fathers declared independence from England.

High School History books like to portray these men as exceptional. In many cases, they were. Benjamin Franklin was one of the smartest men of his time. You would have been hard-pressed to find a more eloquent writer than Thomas Jefferson.

Don’t get me wrong: the more notable founders were truly intellectual behemoths. But the Second Continental Congress was predominantly a gathering of relatively average people. The Continental Congress had tradesmen, businessmen, doctors, a former-indentured servant, musicians, and yes, some politicians.

As we celebrate today the 240th Anniversary of our country’s Declaration of Independence, I want to focus not on the icons we all know, but on the average people not featured in history textbooks, who put everything on the line to have a chance at freedom.

Cesar Rodney

The history-buffs will know who Cesar Rodney was, but most people are probably reading this and saying who’s that?

Ask anyone who the most important person to ride his horse during the revolutionary period and the answer will always be Paul Revere. As you’ll see, Cesar Rodney’s ride, while it might not have poems written about it, was equally as important.

Cesar Rodney was a representative to the Continental Congress from Delaware. However, he left the Congress early to tend to matters at home, thinking that his vote wouldn’t be needed.

There turned out to be deadlock in the Delaware delegation. Delaware’s Thomas McKean had voted for his colony to declare independence but the other member of the delegation, George Read, voted to remain a part of England.

Knowing a Declaration of Independence would be impossible without the support of all 13 colonies, Cesar Rodney dropped everything he was doing and hopped on his horse.

He rode 70 miles from Delaware to Philadelphia through a blistering thunderstorm. He arrived in Philadelphia still soggy from the rain just in time for the vote on July 2nd.  It was remarked that he had so little time to spare, he voted in his boots and spurs for fear of missing the vote while changing.

Cesar Rodney is an excellent example of a relatively ordinary person doing something extraordinary for his country. He rode a horse through a thunderstorm, which is definitely not advisable and risked exposure to the elements in the hope that his country could know freedom.

He went above and beyond, and he does not get nearly enough recognition for it.

Francis Hopkinson

If you ask the average American to tell you who designed the American Flag, most people would answer Betsy Ross. And they would be wrong.

Francis Hopkinson was a writer, musical composer, delegate to the 2nd Continental Congress for the New Jersey Colony. But he was also the designer of the first American Flag. Unlike the flag that Betsy Ross made which had the stars for the colonies in a circle, Francis Hopkinson’s flag had the stars offset, similar to the way our current US flag is designed.

When it came time to ask for payment for his services, Hopkinson drafted a half-hearted, comical letter to Congress and asked that he be compensated with a quarter cask of wine.

What began as a humorous request to be paid in alcohol devolved into a legitimate fight over an invoice. After multiple requests, denials, and appeals, the government ultimately declined paying Hopkinson since he was already paid as a member of Congress when he designed the flag.

This proves that even back then, the government would use every bureaucratic loophole to get out of paying someone.

George Taylor

Born in Ireland, George Taylor came to the United States when he was 20-years old. Because he didn’t have enough money for the journey, he became an indentured servant to an ironworker when he arrived in the colonies.

He started in this country with nothing. He worked his way up in the trades and ultimately, after being freed from indentured servitude, became an ironmaster himself.

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, George Taylor secured a contract to supply cannon balls to the Continental Army. He delivered 258 cannon balls to the Continental Army on August 25, 1775.

When the Loyalists in the Pennsylvania delegation resigned, George Taylor was brought on as a replacement delegate to the Continental Congress. His first action in Congress was signing the Declaration of Independence. He was one of just eight signers of foreign birth, the only former indentured servant to sign, and the only one to hold the position of ironmaster. He isn’t studied in our history textbooks, but his story of rags-to-riches, indentured servant-to-Declaration of Independence signer is one that can only happen in America.

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Today’s school textbooks focus on just 5 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. We here at Conservative Daily wanted to highlight another three. But there are still almost fifty others deserving of praise and study.

Everyone knows that the signers put it all on the line to declare independence, but few have ever heard Thomas Heyward Jr’s name, let alone the fact that he was captured by the British and held in captivity. We all know the stories of Declaration signers having to flee for their lives, but the textbooks rarely tell the story of Lyman Hall and how he had to flee with his family after the British burned his house to the ground.

On this 4th of July, the focus will inevitably be on the well know Founding Fathers like Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and Adams. These men were truly exceptional individuals.

But I ask you to remember the lesser-known signers of the Declaration; The ones that the history books have decided to gloss-over in favor of brevity.

We would not have a country without intellectuals like Jefferson and Franklin. But we also wouldn’t have a country without people like Rodney, Hopkinson, and Taylor.

And that is what made America great.

Also:

Do you know what happened to the 56 men who signed 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; 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, 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 looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, 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 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. Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: freedom is never free!