Note, this is part 3 in the History series.
"I answered that the die was now cast; I had passed the Rubicon.Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination."--
John Adams Source: Mr. Adams, describing a conversation with Jonathan Sewall in 1774
"We celebrate the principles that are timeless, tenets first declared by men of property and wealth..."
Barack Obama, 4th of July, 2010
To understand that our Country as of the time of our founding fathers was truly a nation in which relied upon God and recognized the need to seek His wisdom, we need to understand what kind of men they were, those who signed the Declaration of Independence. We have all heard the revised versions of these men. Great men such as Jefferson, Franklin, Adams. To believe the modern humanist version of history, these men were Deists at best, and believed that religion had no place in the public square, and especially not in our government. To hear modern scholars speak of the Founders, they were all wealthy, white and owned plantations. Who were they really?
Because of the number of men who signed the Declaration, I can't give whole biographies here. I have, however, provided a link if anyone is interested in learning more about these men.
Fifty-six men from each of the original 13 colonies participated in the Second Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. Pennsylvania sent nine delegates to the congress, Virginia sent seven and Massachusetts and New Jersey all sent five. Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and South Carolina each sent four delegates. Delaware, Georgia, New Hampshire, and North Carolina each sent three. Rhode Island sent two delegates as it was the smallest of the colonies.
On the whole most of the signers were less wealthy than the Loyalists, although some were quite wealthy. They all had strong educational backgrounds. Some, like Franklin, were largely self-taught or learned through apprenticeship. Others gained their education from private tutors or at academies. About half of the men had attended or graduated from college in the colonies or Britain. Some of the men went on to get their medical degrees or studied advanced theology. Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Forty-two of the men had served in their own legislatures. Twenty-two were lawyers nine were judges. One man, Stephen Hopkins had been Governor of Rhode Island.Although two others had been in the clergy, John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend. Almost all were Protestant. Most were either Episcopalian (Anglican) or Presbyterian and one Roman Catholic.
Seventeen of the signers served during the American Revolution, fighting at the Battle of Yorktown, Saratoga and New York among others. Five of the signers were captured by the British during the war. Captains Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton (South Carolina) were all captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780; Colonel George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his imprisonment and died in 1781.
Colonel Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote to John Adams, saying that he was "hunted like a fox," by the enemy. He was forced to "move my family five times in a few months, and at last fixed them in a little log house on the banks of the Susquehanna . . . and they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians."
Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war. The son of John Witherspoon, a major in the New Jersey Brigade, was killed at the Battle of Germantown.
Vandals or soldiers or both looted the properties of some. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Francis Lewis's home was destroyed and his wife was taken prisoner. John Hart's farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey and he died while escaping instead of being captured. Carter Braxton and Thomas Nelson gave large amounts of their personal fortunes to support the war, and were never repaid. At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. told that the British General Cornwallis had taken over his family home for his headquarters. Nelson urged General George Washington to open fire on his own home. This was done, and the home was destroyed. Nelson later died bankrupt. Others also suffered serious financial reverses that left them in or near bankruptcy.
Most of the men continued on in public service, mostly to the new government they had helped to create. They weren't war mongers, but these men clearly knew they were taking a huge chance in signing the Declaration. They even 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 knew their Declaration would mean war and possibly death.
They remained strong in their reliance on God.
Patrick Henry declared during his famous speech given to the House of Burgesses in Virginia, "There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."
"We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die: Our won Country's Honor, all call upon us for vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions." George Washington, General Orders, July 2, 1776.
Often times we can get a glimpse of a person by the thoughts by others. In closing, a few more quotes by and about some of the men who, were faithful to God and to the Nation they wished to create- one of liberty and freedom, with limited government. One in which they were willing to fight to the death, so the people could be free.
"Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war let it begin here." Captain John Parker, commander of the militiamen at Lexington, Massachusetts, on siting British Troops (attributed), April 19, 1775
"It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not." John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Nathan Hale, before being hanged by the British, September 22, 1776
We know the Race is not to the swift nor the Battle to the Strong. Do you not think an Angel rides in the Whirlwind and directs this Storm?" John Page, letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 20, 1776
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, December 19, 1776
“ He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all… Our forefathers opened the Bible to all.”- "American Independence," August 1, 1776. Speech delivered at the State House in Philadelphia, John Quincy Adams
"There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away. There is a time to fight, and that time has now come."
Peter Muhlenberg, from a Lutheran sermon read at Woodstock, Virginia, Jan, 1776
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it."
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 4, September 11, 1777
I hope some future day will bring me the happiness of seeing my family again collected under our own roof, happy in ourselves and blessed in each other."
Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams, March 15, 1784
"Every person seems to acknowledge his greatness. He blends together the profound politician with the scholar." William Pierce, on James Madison, 1787
"An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish! I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood; but, if this War should continue, I wish to have the most active part in it." John Paul Jones, letter to Governor Morris, Sept 2, 1782
First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private charter gave effulgence to his public virtues. Such was the man for whom our nation morns. " John Marshall, official eulogy of George Washington, delivered by Richard Henry Lee, December 26, 1799
"[He] will live in the memory and gratitude of the wise & good, as a luminary of Science, as a votary of liberty, as a model of patriotism, and as a benefactor of human kind." James Madison, on Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Nicholas P. Trist, July 6, 1826
Next up, The Federalist Papers.