When the signers of the Declaration of Independence put their names on the Birth Certificate of our nation, it was with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, and a pledge of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Let’s recall their words;
“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 governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right 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 affect their safety and happiness.”
When we remember 1776, we are like the reader of a book who knows that a story will end with the hero living happily ever after because he has succeeded in defeating his nemesis.
But the men who signed the Declaration had no idea how their stories would end. When Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, otherwise we will most assuredly hang separately,” he was deadly serious. The hangman’s noose was very real and the British fleet was already in New York Harbor.
The men who gathered in that oppressively hot summer in Philadelphia to create and sign the document we celebrate every July 4th knew that they were pitting themselves against the mightiest empire in the world. They knew they didn’t have the money or the arms or the equipment. They knew that no one thought they had any chance of actually winning their insane fight for independence.
They also knew that what they were doing was right. And because they knew it was right, they were willing to pledge everything they had to fight a battle that everyone said they couldn’t win. As it turned out, EVERYONE was wrong, and the men who honored the pledge they made that July day in 1776 gave us the nation we call America.
The British had lists of their names even before the Declaration was published, and began a manhunt designed to prove that anyone who committed treason against the King would die. They were determined to hunt down and punish every signer, and his family.
From New York, FRANCIS LEWIS watched as his home and estates were plundered and destroyed. His wife was captured and so abused by her British captors that she later died. WILLIAM FLOYD escaped to New Jersey with his family where they lived as refugees for seven years. PHILLIP LIVINGSTONE had all of his property confiscated, dying in 1778. And LOUIS MORRIS was barred from his family and his home for seven years after watching as everything he owned was taken or destroyed.
From New Jersey, JOHN HART tried to return home to see his dying wife. The intense manhunt forced him to hide in caves as Hessian mercenaries captured his children and wrecked his home while his wife lay on her death bed. He died in 1779 without ever seeing his family again. Judge RICHARD STOCKTON was captured, beaten, and starved. He died from his injuries before the war ended.
From Pennsylvania, ROBERT MORRIS raised arms and provisions for Washington using his own resources. GEORGE CLYMER lost his property. Dr BENJAMIN RUSH lent his surgical skills to the soldiers of Washington’s Army, braving death daily.
South Carolina delegates EDWARD RUTLEDGE, ARTHUR MIDDLETON, and THOMAS HEYWARD, Jr were captured and carried as prisoners to St Augustine, Florida. They returned at the end of the war to find their homes destroyed.
And THOMAS NELSON of Virginia personally fired the cannons that destroyed his own home during the siege at Yorktown when he learned that the American Army was sparing it out of respect for him. He died, in poverty, at the age of 50.
Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration, 9 died before the war ended, 5 were captured or imprisoned, several lost their wives and children. Two wives were brutalized. Twelve had their homes burned to the ground. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Lives and fortunes they gave in full measure.
Their Honor, however, THEY KEPT. And by none so well as ABRAHAM CLARK of New Jersey. His 2 sons were officers in the Continental Army. They were captured and sent to the British prison ship in New York harbor called “Jersey” where thousands of Americans died. The Clark sons were singled out for special brutality because of their father. One was placed in solitary and starved. At the end of the war, the British, desperate to break at least one of the men who had signed the Declaration, offered ABRAHAM CLARK the life of his son if he would recant and swear allegiance to King and Parliament. Breaking his own heart, CLARK’s response was “NO.”
This is the gift you honor with your presence here today – The gift of Honor, given to us by men who paid the highest price imaginable.
They created this nation. But we must guard it – with uncompromising adherence to the truths they set forth in the Declaration long ago. They gave all so that we would have a nation that begins with the recognition that we are endowed with rights by our Creator. A nation where each of us has the right to create our own destiny. A nation where the government is supposed to be the servant and protector, not the master of its citizens. A nation where our rights to life, liberty, and property are protected realities, not just political rhetoric.
Today in America, we are losing control of our lives, seeing the fortunes of our children squandered, and our own and our nation’s sacred honor trashed by a President and Congress charged with protecting them. But WE THE PEOPLE have the right to demand that they adhere to the founding principles and protect our liberty. And if they fail to listen, the Founding Fathers gave us a Constitutional means by which to institute a new government by electing new Representatives, new Senators, and a new President who will do so.
Ladies and Gentlemen, America’s freedom, and her future, depend on us. Let us not fail those who have entrusted this nation to our care. WE MUST ACT. There are approximately 500,000, national, state, and local offices across this nation that need leaders who believe as we do. If you cannot find a candidate who meets these requirements, than step forward and become that candidate. In 1776, a group of men gave everything they had to create America – what will we give to preserve it?
Thank you so much for coming out here today. I have been truly honored to speak with you. May God bless you and may God continue to bless this great nation.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Citizens - “Guard This Nation”
(JOHNSTOWN, PA) – Republican 12th Congressional district candidate William Russell called on citizens to “Guard this nation” in a speech to a large crowd gathered at Johnstown’s Central Park Wednesday (9/9/09) evening, as part of the National Tea Party Express. Crossing the nation and calling on all Americans to oppose the out-of-control spending, higher taxes, bailouts and growth in the size of government, the Tea Party Express is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the final stop in Washington DC on Saturday. The following is a text of Bill Russell’s speech at the event: