Charles J. Ingerson
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Part 1: Men of Conscience and Principles
Have you ever wondered what happened to the men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
Part 2: A Summary of What Happened To These Great Men
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 McKean 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 Dilley, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, 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. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.
- Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They 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 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 you and me a free and independent America. The history books never told you a lot of what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn’t just fight the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government! Some of us take these liberties so much for granted. We shouldn’t. So, take a couple of minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.
These are the men and their families that the next series of poems will be written on (my thanks for William Bryan for passing part of this unto me). He was correct I’ve read and re-read this many times. Each of these men is familiar to me – they are important to me – thus I hope they will not object to my writing about them in form of poetry/prose in which I write.
Part 3: Who Were These Men?
Where Does One Start
Do you start with Cease Rodney
who off his death bed came
to cast a vote one last time?
Or do you look to John Adams
and Edward Rutledge two men
so different yet so the same.
Does the lore of Ben Franklin
lull you to forget about others
such as Dr. Lyman Hall?
Thus we wonder of Roger Sherman
a minister who came late and stayed
to be a signer and then the Constitution.
Forever will be remembered the contributions
of John Hancock who was the President
for this group and signed his name first.
When wavering to start is it Judge James Wilson
who cast the last vote to bring a divided
Pennsylvania to the unanimous vote.
Or better the men who suffered the greatest
in sacrificing all, including life and family
at the hounding of the British hunt.
Who would you chose to write of first
how many of these men do you know
for these are the men who crossed the line.
Thus I ask you ponder all of this and more
as each in turn I’ll address in verse or form
to a little of each you’ll know some more.
So mind not the order simple or complex
each of these men (and their families)
offered up their very lives if need.
For each was branded a traitor with a price
hated beyond any you can imagine
so a new country might be born.
Two became Presidents number two
and three of this great nation once
others died impoverished and alone.
None retracted their sworn honor
to this nation to uphold even the one
who served but did not sign.
John Hancock – MA
He was the first to sign
in big bold letters did he
so King George could see his line
and also he as president the first to be.
He was a Boston merchant rich
in politics he did spend time
where he as a leader did switch
also a militia leader he did shine.
Serve his country he did in deed
while he could have had a life
of leisure instead of bleed
and avoided all of this strife.
Even today his name a symbol
for all who their duty to know
he saw his mission as simple
and thus with his signature show.
Honor, gentlemen honor indeed
for by signing first this treason
his name alone stood seconds in need
for others to fulfill this country’s reason.
John Adams – MA
The fiery thorn of voice
to annoy, cajole, induce
able to ably his cause rejoice
and his enemies appease or reduce.
Yet he was all he said and more
for he served where none dare
in France, at Great Briton’s door
even got loans from the Dutch fair.
He helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris
which ended the American war
while careful in speech never careless
this knack he had of making others sore.
Called to the committee to draft
the Declaration of Independence was he
and was thus equal to this craft
where his skills and knowledge must be.
One of the most interesting of men
hated by friends and all alike
he was zealot with a righteous yen
and would walk alone this narrow pike.
His whole life is marked in service done
for his country he left his histories mark
doing more than duties call than some
he left his soul, his mind and heart.
So judge this man carefully now
for as aggravating as he could be
he was usually the right man somehow
in the right place for you and me.
Samuel Adams – MA
Not apply known as his peers
but this man could reason
and with his words make seers
of those who would understand treason.
He was the drafter of the official papers
which defied and defined the Stamp Act
for all to see and hear the reapers
never once missing an essential fact.
To some he was an embarrassment
for to call him out was a mistake
to think him just incompetent
it was his mind where stood his stake.
The merchants and peers of his day
called him a rabble rouser of a kind
causing more trouble than they could say
but he would all their treachery find.
Quiet when he had to be for others
he defied anyone to cross swords
with his sisters or bothers
his quest was for country not awards.
Josiah Bartlett, Sr. – NH
Here was a man educated well
as both a physician and lawyer
soft and gentle people would tell
but hard as nails in a courts foyer.
He served his nation long and hard
beyond the call of duty tried he
carefully examining each and every card
justice was he known his password to be.
In fairness it needs to be said of him
his whole life was to but serve another
for to him honor was not a sin
but to go forth when called by a brother.
Carter Braxton – VA
Here is a man who lost all
during the war reduced to rags
but he undaunted heard the call
and still packed his flimsy bags.
Thought reduced to poverty’s role
he served his nation until 1791
when his health took its toll
thus he died at age sixty-one.
Not as well known where others meet
he was wealthy a man of means
but the British sank his fleet
his honor never wavered it seems.
He eventually had to sell his home
to pay off his debts incurred to some
who understood not the loan
and the hardship war had become.
The world then is not like today
where one incurs a debt
with never any intention to pay
thus it is in a different light set.
Charles Carroll of Carrolton – MD
He outlived them all with his heart
at the age of 95 he finally had to go
knowing of what he was part
was on a good course but ok for show.
All his life in public service for all
his profession to be a lawyer good
he added greatly to our knowledge of law
as each of his friends knew he would.
Samuel Chase – MD
Probably the first man
to say, ‘Show me,’
thus he went to see men stand
and fire on a flock of geese;
He knew we could shoot
now that we needed to arm
and help these men to boot
thus he sent up his alarm.
Maryland was a state not sure
of which way the country should
go and retain still England to be pure
but then he saw we freedom achieve could;
He came back to the meeting hall
proclaiming lets get the lead out
to everyone who would listen this call
every ear would hear this lofty shout.
Samuel Chase was forever in the light
serving as an associate justice too
of the Supreme Court until night
and his mortal end did come true;
Accused and acquitted by others
who power they wanted without price
but defended by his brothers
remembered his contributions nice.
For some to give all to their
country beloved then have men
try to take away or be unfair
credit to take and away send;
Seems like the one flaw
left as an open sore even today
in the genius of our law
and the price of freedom to pay.
Abraham Clark – NJ
This is the man to say thank you
one and all must recognize these lights
it is he to be indebted forever too
as he fought for the Bill of Rights.
Now today we know they are under fire
to be used as willy-nilly as can be
by those in power or corruption’s ire
these we must protect you can see.
This farmer, surveyor, lawyer three
saw not only the need but fought
and served his country for thee
that these rights forever be taught.
He was known as Congress Abraham
having served his life till the end
knowing one and all for his stand
calling none enemy and all friend.
George Clymer – PA
One who lost all during the war
he was both a signer here
and of the Constitution also wore
his signature for all to cheer.
Though his home and properties looted
he continued to serve in all ways
never to have his horn tooted
he is one forgotten in the history of today’s.
He was a financial wizard of skill
and in addition to all else he did
the organization of the commissary will
in Washington’s army he was bid.
With a self-sacrificing labor and time
he made sure the army was fed
and that every man in line
never to an empty plate was led.
William Ellery – RI
Another whose home was burned
yet he remained with honor to the cause
and served with naval decoration earned
never once looking back or taking pause.
He believed in states rights and fought
for these in the at every level he knew
especially as a Justice and taught
that service to ones state one must be true.
Thus in his career he turned down
the Supreme Court of the United States
as Rhode Island need him in Congas now
his history is one of devotion to duty relates.
William Floyd – NY
Serving with distinction
he too had his home and lands
burned and raped in recognition
by the British of his signature’s hands.
Thus this wealthy landowner and man
served as a soldier and then a pioneer
to settle Western NY and its land
forever holding to his honor dear.
He too like most of the others
never neglected his country to serve
his life was there for sisters and brothers
much more than honor does he deserve.
You see in the debates NY tied
the thoughts and votes of those
they sent to represent though they vied
but in the end it was to vote they chose.
Benjamin Franklin – PA
What can be said now
that hasn’t already been
yet you must know somehow
he understood this awakening then?
He could temper with humor
both Adams and Rutledge
no easy task with today’s rumor
taking them both regularly to the edge.
His son was a traitor siding with the Brits
but he knew his duty and stayed with it
even though some say his health was in the pits
he showed daily for every important bit.
Now little known but long to remember
he held Pennsylvania’s vote to the end
this a point of law to which he was the dissenter
for both his voting colleagues to offend.
Dickerson’s vote would be a ‘no’
yet by polling their vote at the end
Franklin countered with a yes ho
now the pressure was on Dickerson’s friend.
Judge James Wilson of some report
wanted nothing to do with any of this
thus his vote would be of most import
for he could pass or defeat with his.
He looked around as Franklin knew
James would do just now confused
then he voted yes so as not slew
to be not known as the one who refused.
Thus with all the roles in his life
maybe this little knowledge of another
gave life or the chance for strife
for the freedoms of a sister or brother.
Eldridge Gerry – MA
Here is a man we all should be proud
an exporter and importer his trade
division with England would his life shroud
but he was a friend of Samuel Adams unafraid.
His whole life with the advent of the revolution
ended in service to his state and country somehow
even up to the very end as Vice President to Madison
he never wavered – his honor proved now.
History doesn’t always say about such men
but we must understand that those who teach
don’t always come across with all the truth then
when they have bones to pick and ideals to reach.
Button Gwinnett – GA
One of several who died
from wounds during the war
his inflicted in a duel tried
with L. McIntosh whose shot tore.
He served with honor now
yet he saw his lands trashed
like others yet he somehow
he lead in Georgia unabashed.
Vandals, soldiers and duels
we are talking of building
yet even so evil drools
watching the wanton killing.
Lyman Hall – GA
A minister and physician both
and then founded Sunbury, Georgia
yet Dr. Hall grew up in the North
knowing well the revolutionary furor.
He soft spoken went to represent
not swayed by the Carolina’s at all
their pressure he seemed to resent
he sought to do what was his call.
As others his lands and property
destroyed by soldiers or vagrants
yet he always acted properly
doing his best the decisions enhance.
He died after serving well
his adopted state and time
history his story still to tell
his honor never crossed the line.
Benjamin Harrison – VA
This man was among the great
he was the father to one President
and Grand-father to a second Head of state
yet he to was a patriot of Virginia to represent.
He was the one who declared the thirteen
colonies to be independent of Great Britain too
while his whole life was spent in the political scene
he was with his honor and word always true.
Right up to his final breath of life
he was in the meetings to start
a new nation in spite of its strife
part of his blood and all of his heart.
John Hart – NJ
How do you write of such
a man in this life in words simple
who gave in honor so much
his life one of extreme example?
Hounded by the British to flee
even his wife’s dying side
with 13 children to not see
when he returned she had died.
His whole life in destruction
for given his sacred honor to us
do we but understand his instruction
to be worthy for this man’s love thus.
Dying of a broken and devastated heart
he served until his end this new nation
holding leadership positions or part
while his family now in depravation.
Can’t we understand what he gave
was not a selfish act of the rich
but that you and I can have to save
to honor is more important than to bitch?
Where are men like this today
or women or children or teens
when all we want is more to say
and less to do or so it seems.
Oh I get so mad sometimes
when I can’t seem to make understand
of why this nations blood so shines
or of how to be a person next to stand.
John Hart was but one of many
who gave all he had to give
now we just have plenty
willing to surrender all to live.
May you rest John Hart knowing
there will be a day of reckoning
when the yellow or blue will be showing
and your family will be beckoning.
Joseph Hewes – NC
This is the man who gave
us the Navy with a tradition
for our nation to save
when we were in a grave condition.
He accepted the call to maritime
committee as its chairman
appointing John Paul Jones to the line
to take the Navy to make the British stand.
Thus we had command given
with the responsibility delegated
to make this a country driven
no longer to be regulated.
His courage was supreme
to encourage and enable
us to cross with ships abeam
and for a change them disable.
Thomas Heyward, Jr. – SC
At thirty years old one of the younger
members of this elite group of men
he also served with freedom’s hunger
from this bondage of Great Britain to end.
He was not the spokesman as was another
but he and Rutledge were firm in their stand
supporting each other much as a brother
willing to lend the helping hand.
For one year of the war
he was a POW possibly unknown
for surely he would have been tore
limb by limb as an example shown.
Maybe it was his age that blinded
the British to his role and blood
but his escape from death ended
he then gave service as a flood.
Never turning his back to answer a call
for most of his life in our service in deed
he did far and above for most of us all
to private life he went with honor and need.
William Hooper – NC
He reserved the honor to
be disbarred for one year
by the British this is true
from the law practice to fear.
Here was a lawyer and orator
who was convinced of freedom
the dreams of a nation’s creator
no longer a domain for a kingdom.
Young also at 34 he was learned
and respected for his view
thus he also led NC concerned
that he advocated union too.
Again he too after the peace
returned to a private life
his mind at this with ease
keeping his honor through the strife.
Francis Hopkinson – NJ
Here was the nation’s first
Renaissance Man – musician and writer
(1st American secular song), artist
and said the first US flag designer.
He was multi-talented and learned
thus he brought a wealth of knowledge
forth with him to those concerned
foregoing those of whom he had privilege.
With this background he filled roles
to numerous to mention in so short
a poem as these today for the bell tolls
for many and not just one to report.
Here is one to do a study of grand breath
to lengthen ones stride to just to know
but so for today we’ll leave it beneath
until another takes the quest him to show.
Stephen Hopkins – RI
One of the older members to join
he’d led a full life and this was his last
to once again watch a birth coin
to lead himself here from the past.
As an editor, and Colonial Governor
of some renown he could relax
yet with a quick wit not ignore
to edge on even Adams or Ben with the ax.
Thus he’d sit back towards a corner
no one sure whether awake or asleep
until a comment caught his former
mind to remember and have a thought deep.
This if any was both intelligence and wit
to keep conversation going when hot
and get reconciliation when things would split
also knowing when to keep quiet when not.
Samuel Huntington – CT
A cooper by trade
and a lawyer for profession
this man is self-made
adding the idea of concessions.
He had already served his
countrymen well in providing
among his peers he this
opportunity for participating.
As an attorney to the Crown
he knew well the English law
thus he was on firm ground
to help correct a seeming flaw.
Select men like this are hard to find
yet he was but one of many to be
available for this important task to mind
the writing so important for all to see.
Thomas Jefferson – VA
A long lean red-head
we’ve all had to study
memorizing things before bed
nothing to make him a buddy.
Yet he has more slander
written to degrade the greatness
of what he alone set the standard
in establishing steadfastness.
To the degree he was willing
of giving up a way of life
who others found quite chilling
and caused almost defeating strife.
Thus line by line he labored with care
before the congress he took a draft
will all of the others first to share
a master at work in his craft.
When first it was read it was silent
then as each of these great men
absorbed collectively its intent
the argument did some away send.
But compromise by youth and old
prevailed among the set and firm
for in this room were only the bold
with a new nation the main concern.
In the end no matter what we think
or others can come up to say
not one could hold a quill to ink
as the writings of Jefferson even today.
Francis Lightfoot Lee – VA
One of two brothers to sign
this great document this day
his persistence was divine
for when others had their say;
to him would they listen
while he would speak
eyes would actually glisten
not even a chair would creak.
A patriot of some renown
his family one of histories best
to know him best was sound
for his advice was above the rest;
though younger than his brother
he was an expert in the law
and wrote many a brief for another
cause for relief which others saw.
Richard Henry Lee – VA
Now here is a brother you’d count
to have as your own of the two
he’d leap upon his mighty mount
and the task would be done true.
Massachusetts couldn’t introduce a bill
the measure to create a new nation
and thus it had to come from another hill
that is where Richard delivered oration.
He rode to Virginia and explained the need
they listened and with him agreed
then he returned to Philadelphia his deed
with all do haste and with great speed.
Even South Carolina had to agree
it was one of their own who asked
so they their embarrassment could see
if they now shirked from what was tasked.
History records the rest
for us to read and even these
exhaustive short poems test
what has proven to all to please.
The Lee family is one of the greats
in the history of the United States
to have two brothers to sign it states
there can be little argument or debates.
Francis Lewis – NY
Now we have a man who knew war
not that the others didn’t as well
but it from his family him tore
in the French and Indian war we tell;
of how he fought, was in prison
in France, released and granted land
to then be accused of treason
having all he owned destroyed by hand.
His wife taken to prison instead of him
to die in the harshness there alone
leaving forever an emptiness within
no way but to achieve success to atone;
he used all his skills to help defeat
the English at every turn or twist
never learning the word retreat
just the mightiness of the fist.
In this elite group of men
he upheld the eternal flame
that only can be understood when
it is freedom that war to them came;
what wisdom was there here
for prison is a great teacher
that there is nothing else to fear
than the shackles of the grim reaper.
Philip Livingston – NY
A merchant and teacher
most of the convention
his hands were tied
by the indecision of New York
to take a stand on anything.
Yet when the final vote came
and he too would sign his name
thus forfeiting all he had
his family, his home and his name
as in York he died within two years.
Some say it was the war and stress
others it was of a broken spirit
and heart for his family’s death
yet it was with honor still
for his name now shows red.
He served well and long
but it is better to remember
the honor as the others
for which he stood
behind the tears of love.
Thomas Lynch, Jr. – SC
Lost at sea on a ship to France
is the end of this man’s life
serving as an officer with lance
came an end to his strife.
He was a lawyer and planter
a provider and only twenty-six
while at the convention center
he died at thirty on this ship.
Yet he was among his peers
who some were twice or three times
his age it didn’t matter it appears
for ability didn’t know any lines.
He took his sick father’s place
and in his honor signed his name
but with the recognition of face
it was still considered the same.
Now burning low in somewhere
is a history of this but yet a lad
for this is the life of someone to share
who had the creditability of his dad.
Thomas McKean – DE
A man of two states alternatively
who owned homes in both PA and DE
and held office simultaneously
within either at a give time all aware.
An attorney who understood the spoils
of war and lost all he had to avoid capture
yet managed to survive these toils
and some of his wealth re-capture.
He served in congress without pay
his family impoverished until wars end
thus he survived to live another day
settling in PA as its Governor and friend.
Arthur Middleton – SC
This is an adventurous man
who a month an a half
prior to signing his name
was stealing guns on the war’s behalf.
He was one of five
who took part in this raid
to get rifles to divide
without waiting for them to be paid.
Then he too was a prisoner of war
captured during siege of Charleston
this in 1780 but he was free once more
to serve in the state senate in 1781.
His property was also destroyed
by vandals and/or soldiers done
still in service he remained employed
but by 1787 his life’s blood had run.
Lewis Morris – NY
Fourteen years an Admiralty Judge
appointed by the crown trained him
for the task at hand and not be-grudge
he knew the law and he was grim.
The British destroyed his home
but never his spirits or humor
in spite of New York’s leaving him alone
he never caused a ripple or a rumor.
His service to his country and state
continued until his death in 1798
a farmer more gifted in mind than estate
he lived long, served well and died at 68.
Robert Morris – PA
The banker of the war
who more than anyone could
and did sacrifice to finance more
so we might have the chance we should.
He was founder of the Nation’s first bank
yet ironically because of land fears
bankruptcy was declared and he sank
into a debtor’s prison for three years.
His service to the nation now neglected
to come to his aid in time of need
after all he had done respected
none would offer him a deed.
How times have changed when now
a criminal with political connections
always avoids the law somehow
then we wonder about new corruptions.
The strangeness of it all is men
who gave their lives and wealth true
to give this country a God-send
did not even receive a thank you.
You see honor and service and toil
was expected to be the norm back then
while today it is to watch others spoil
by cheating, lying, stealing till the end.
John Morton – PA
A surveyor who served well
as a justice of the peace
and in the colonial congress swell
his knowledge he did increase.
He served in courts as a judge
while doing others duties too
understanding the public’s grudge
while to principle was always true.
Dying before the dream
could be realized in life
it was a visualization seen
to end this revolutionary plight.
But he too did his part
giving all to his honor code
including all within his heart
which values could never be sold.
Thomas Nelson, Jr. – VA
Finally another fire-eaters
a friend of Patrick Henry’s too
one of those tavern feeders
this man was always true.
At Yorktown knowing the British
had set up headquarters in his home
urged Washington to blast the English
thus it is said he died poor and alone.
I don’t think this is entirely true
as in service to his country still
till his end and his son did too
serving two presidents with a will.
You see to be broke then and now
are two different things indeed
for families took you in somehow
and never left you in need.
His son Hugh would never have
deserted him or family true
for this would against honor grave
and this is nothing any would ever do.
William Paca – MD
Another financier of the war
and advocate long before
he did work hard at the door
thus his state his mark bore.
Active in many ways to find
easier methods to define the law
as a lawyer and a chief judge fine
he imparted the wisdom he saw.
Gone were any illusions of greatness
just the need to get the job done
not to worry about its neatness
until the end and clean-up begun.
Of course with utmost requirements
he supported the constitution too
but he recommended 28 amendments
to give it a little more tune is true.
It would be interesting to find
those amendments now somewhere
to see how closely they are in kind
with the ones we’ve added there.
Robert Treat Payne – MA
One of the few who signed
both the “Olive Branch Petition”
and the Declaration designed
he was a man of no great contradiction.
He could have been or had many
political appointments by skill
it took being twice asked for any
to the Supreme Court of MA a seat to fill.
In addition to politics and law
he loved the sciences too
and started with vision he saw
the American Arts and Sciences for you.
His talents at the end of his life
mostly into privacy because of hearing
filled with much peace and strife
yet another to the end honor bearing.
John Penn – NC
At age 35 another of the young
we forget what burden to serve
while thinking this a country sung
the death song of the old with nerve.
Think now how the youth who were
that signed this document plenty
before we start to judge please defer
this is a country of the many.
Don’t look back and just see
the Franklin’s and Rodney’s
they were important to be
but they didn’t hold all of the keys.
And many of these so youthful
also died very young too
the strain was hard and full
John Penn died at 46, tis true.
George Read – DE
The most influential man
from the state of Delaware
with the stature to stand
any place and any where.
He was the person you’d hope
next to you in a good fight
or to be tossing you a rope
on a storm tossed sea at night.
His service never seemed to start
he was always where needed
full of life and desire of heart
all of his advice was heeded.
When other states had disputes
his name would head the list
of those to be the recruits
fixing fences and friends enlist.
This I think of all I have known
was the one I’ve liked the best
not to pick of one shown
he was just a head above the rest.
Caesar Rodney – DE
During the convention
he was a very sick man
and the conditions to mention
were hot and humid for him to stand.
He often went home to rest
and conserve his energy to burn
yet when the question was to test
with George Read’s help him return.
His wisdom was wise to all to hear
for experience vast in judgeships
and he voice quiet was clear
in spite of the hardships.
This was a country being born
and it required his vote he knew
his honor and duty he’d sworn
so this convention he’d see through.
These again are the men
and their families fine
to allow them to spend
these large amounts of time.
Where in the world do we see
another country like ours
can you answer please to me
none which have no watch towers.
It is the Caesar Rodney’s and others
who I’m proud to be able to call
my loving older sisters and brothers
not just one of them but them all.
George Ross – PA
A toss up here as to who
we see that he really was
for his mission was split in two
and the only answer is because.
He was first a Troy known
and then a Whig to be
but not to worry it was shown
when the chips were down he would see.
His vote was a resounding yes
and he did sign like all the rest
sometimes we wonder who to bless
for bringing together all of the best.
Benjamin Rush – PA
Here we have a physician
and science pioneer
a reformer who was a clinician
who advocated causes dear.
Holding many positions in war
he ended up caring for the mint
of the United States and more
still upholding his eyes of flint.
He hated slavery and opposed it
but also knew in time there is a cure
yet this was always a bitter pit
you can be very, very sure.
Edward Rutledge – SC
Now here is a youngster to see
yet is was even better to him hear
for at 27 years old ideal led him to be
at first violently opposed to here.
Yet when compromise was reached
he led the Carolina’s in this search
and the slavery issue was preached
not breached from his lofty perch.
History portrays him in many lights
but it is nice to romances sometimes
of what could have been on certain nights
he did not cross quite that many lines.
He served in the war with distinction
and the valor of a soldier one
with the savvy of good condition
but was captured in Charleston.
Thus surviving the war
he too continued to serve others
between parties he was tore
never failing sisters or brothers.
He turned down an appointment
to the Supreme Court too
it is interesting on this commitment
how many refused what they could do.
For these are the men who knew best
what the intent of the new nation was thrust
yet left to others the interpretation lest
their knowledge be mistaken to abuse a trust.
Roger Sherman – CT
A shoemaker, surveyor and lawyer
is this what makes the story of a man
or is there more we do see out in the foyer
for surely these items do not this man understand.
Here is the only man to sign all four
of the great documents of a new nation
yet in reality he helped draft more
and many would have liked to be a relation.
John Adam’s said of him this tribute,
‘An old puritan, as honest as an angel
and firm to the cause of America.’ none dispute
there were none who with Adams on this would tangle.
At age fifty-five one of the elders there
at the meeting and signers who were bold
but he treated all men equally fair
and wanted all men to have rights to hold.
He lived until age 72 while still to serve
his country, our country, the common man
with the convictions that every one did deserve
the rights as another who were willing to work and stand.
James Smith – PA
This Irish lad who came
early to this new land
to build a home and remain
lending others an open hand.
He worked hard and made a name
for himself and his kin to grow
but his desire for freedom the same
thus he was a patriot for all to know.
With clean clothes he did not mind
to set about to help fight this war
he organized the Pennsylvania Militia find
and the rank of Brigadier General he wore.
He lived to the age of ninety-three
and saw many changes in his life
but most to see America to be free
was worth all his fury and life’s strife.
Can we emulate him now instead
of some we see wanting just to receive
and get a handout of milk and bread
or politician who just try to deceive?
What is wrong with and honest day’s work
or to fight to keep what is right and free
getting rid of those their duties shirk
trying to take the rights which make us flee.
Would men like this blame another
for a blatant deed done and planned
to gain political favor or other
gift or greed or freedom reprimanded?
Think carefully of this Irish lad
who came to this land to help it grow
I think with the politics now he would be sad
and would not sit by but let his anger show.
Richard Stockton, Sr. – NJ
The father of a great family to be,
he was captured and mistreated
for a month by Tories you see
then they led him go free and retreated.
His estate pillaged and his health poor
still he stood to the challenge of honor
and helped with his abilities to fight the war
never of him will you hear an ill rumor.
At 46 he was a signer proud
of this document for a nation new
but all its fruits would hid by a shroud
for at 51 he died not seeing the end to review.
Where are we when thinking of him
to risk it all with a signature and his word
do we have the gratitude of heart within
giving honor to our name and our word?
Thomas Stone – MD
At the age of thirty-three
he saw what his duty was to be
and thus he helped to make us free
of the bondage to the world to see.
At the age of forty-four
he was dead and almost poor
for this nation’s independence war
but again his vision was sore.
He was a lawyer young and fine;
his future bright within the line,
with a nature to be to others kind:
men like him were hard to find.
But in the mortal end
he left to most a friend
his works no need to defend
he was honest with no pretend.
George Taylor – PA
A late signer to the document
one of the many from Pennsylvania
who was against the Declaration
he eventually signed on the
2nd day of August 1776.
He did not like politics
but as an avocation
and was much more moderate
with the desire to be left alone
when it came down to it.
Yet he did what was needed
to secure the rights
and liberties of his fellow-man
instead of what in his own mind
mattered not to him to be involved.
One thing he did do of importance
and this was probably of some ire
for he was on the committee
that wrote what the congress
could or could not do (smile).
Matthew Thornton – NH
He too signed the Declaration
late in the year of 1776
and not in July like some others.
Due to pressing state business
and his medical practice
this was not as unusual as it appears.
Active for over 30 years in local
and state affairs he stayed involved
till his health forced him to retire.
Another of the several Irish
from birth who came to this new land
in the early 1700’s to contribute greatly.
George Walton – GA
Again among a younger one
we see an avid active man
at 35(25 ) a patriot born in 1741(50 )
who was not afraid to stand.
Captured during the war
his home and belongings burned
he instead let his valor soar
and stayed active till his death.
He was Georgia’s leading statesman
and held this position and stature
for the years till he was unable to stand
thus once again to return to nature.
William Whipple – NH
Went to the sea as a young man
and was a ship’s master by 24
his cargo dealt in slaves understand
then he had a change of heart out pour.
Setting all of his slaves free
he entered into other things to do
leaving forever it appeared the sea
starting with a merchant store to.
During the war he alternately served
with the state militia and in congress
held the rank of Brigadier General deserved
much in the hope of this nation’s progress.
Though his service was short
our nation him owes the freedom
he in 1785 gave a final report
and left for another kingdom.
William Williams – CT
Another who gave of what he had
to help finance the war
even though recently married
he was already a veteran
of the French and Indian Wars.
Once involved he stayed the course
the rest of his life to live
in the service of his country
and his state his time, and life
he did freely give in service.
Thus in all he gave over sixty years
of service to help build this small
nation from a melting pot
into a place to come and be free
from oppression if one has the git up and go.
James Wilson – PA
Late to America 1766 via Scotland
he was one of the most brilliant men
to see the ramifications of law and land
wrote a pamphlet limiting the British then.
His vision exceeded most others
in the matters at hand so disliked
in speculation critics had their druthers
but all their plans he with acumen spiked.
The romance is of his final vote of yes
which is probably fictional at best
this separation from England he did bless
but who’s to say so we’ll let it rest.
He served his adopted nation well
and that in the long run is the measure
serving on the Supreme Court to tell
constitutionality of what he created true.
John Witherspoon – NJ
Another who came from bonny Scotland
in 1768 – to immediately have an affect
on the political bells throughout the land
and in specific to get New Jersey in the trek.
A college president and patriot too
with ideas fresh to have his say
his words still today will ring true
for good ideas know no age or day.
So like others once immersed in this experiment
he stayed on to assist and repair and compare
much to the need of a nation born in a moment
with the desire to follow the right path fully aware.
Oliver Wolcott – CT
Becoming sick in June 1776
sent him home from the convention
where upon William Williams
was able to take his place and sign.
Upon his return to Connecticut
he carried with him the lead
from the statute of King George
for the ladies to make bullets.
Regaining his health he was able
to return and sign the Declaration
and also serve in numerous positions
until the end of the war.
He retired to private life for a while
but was called again to serve his state
first as Lt. Governor and then Governor
until his death – two uneventful years later.
Here was a brilliant man who led his class
four consecutive years at Yale
and majoring in medicine, while yet
being learned in law and diplomacy.
He knew the enemy and its redoubts
having helped to supply them
for General Gage and others prior
to his coming the Congress.
In addition he helped defend
leading 300-400 volunteers
in battle and organizing shore
defenses against Tyron’s raids.
During all of this he held his honor
like all of the rest to live or die
defending what he believed to be
the most correct of all principles.
George Wythe – VA
What a privilege to know
such a man as this George Wythe:
can you understand the whole
story of a man who wrongs righteth.
He was the teacher to John Marshall
Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe
and I’m sure this is not nearly all
those who numbered him are a long roll.
This was a man who not only taught
but listened when he did with concern
enough to take direct action bought
to free all of his slaves to help them learn.
Not only did he consider their education
but that they needed a means to live
so he broke with the normal tradition
then with sustenance to get started he did give.
The nation owes so much to men like this
who don’t just talk but also miles will walk
to change this nation back to people is a risk
with morals in decline people now just talk.
The Best for Last – John Dickinson
A man of strong beliefs
felt that we should resolve
differences with reconciliation
not war or rebellion or treason.
He voted against the Declaration
yet then went and enlisted to fight
one of two congressmen to do so
achieving the rank of Brigadier General.
During the war moving from Pennsylvania
to Delaware he became a leader in politics
there as well as he once been in before
he was a delegate from both states in the Congress.
He held various offices in both states
at varying times and served as president
of both in the 1780’s while serving
also in the military until the end of the war.
The value of this man and his steadfastness
to his principles is both amazing and outstanding
when you think of those today who don’t
get what they want they bring a lawsuit.
John Dickinson went with his convictions
yet served his country with distinction
never once compromising his beliefs
and in the end signed the Constitution.
He fought in that convention as well
and was instrumental in the two houses
of Congress – one based on population
the other on equity of two per state, appointed.
Of course in history today the reason
for this is long forgotten as to be elected
you need both money and time
and to curry the political tail of power.
While to be a Senator was to be appointed
and not elected which required no funds
from others to gain favor or compromise
of values in the end to get to power.
The 1934 Congress did away with this
and also many others things of greatness
put forth by this man of principles
with the others of greatness who agreed.
Great men, great events
marvelous the intervention
of hands which can move mountains
separate waters to bring to pass
the enlightenment to a world
which was dwelling in darkness.
How can one explain the coming together
of all of these events, men, wisdom
at one time and in one place
in any other manner or way?
This was not random chance of rolling dice
this was the best of the best from the world
brought together in a sequence and area
where the greatest experiment of man
could be allowed to take place and succeed.
Think of it statistically, we are erroneously called
a nation of old men and old thoughts and old ways
yet let see if that is really true or liberal rhetoric:
of the signers of the Declaration of Independence
- 2 were in their 20’s
- 17 were in their 30’s
- 19 were in their 40’s
- 9 were in their 50’s
- 6 were in their 60’s
- 1 (Benjamin Franklin was 70)
- Thirty-three of the fifty-six died before 1800
- 4 lived till 1820, 1 till 1821, 2 till 1826 and 1 till 1832
This is a nation of the young
with ideas fresh and fertile
to last to the millennium
for this is a nation under God
and even with the corruption
which now abounds;
good women and men
are trying to right these wrongs.
When given a choice of anywhere
in the world to live for those
who have traveled and know;
it is better to be poor in the U.S.
than to have substance anywhere
else in the entire world today.
Think what you may of guns
and of criminal laws
the corruption we’ve allowed
men and women to get away with;
because morally it isn’t our right.
Sometime in the near future
we will wake up and their
will no longer be a sunrise
or a sunset for any to see;
but it will be holocaust
of the proportion unknown
to anyone’s wildest imagination.
All of the debts will be collected
and all will pay for what they owe;
the dance card will be empty
then the party will be over.
Ignorance of the law will not stand
or of the words of Prophets
spoken so women and men alike
could understand will come forth
to ask why we did not obey;
or better why we destroyed
the best thing God had ever
given man to use to help others?
These men I’m sure have had days
when windows were open
and they could see through forever;
thus their wisdom wasn’t blind
or even a lucky guess or chance
but the vision of visionary men
to see the opportunity to take a stand
within this land to proclaim freedom
with accountability and responsibility.
©Copyright July 3, 1999 by Charles J. Ingerson