Had the Revolutionary War been a flop, the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence might have found themselves on the colonial equivalent of “America’s Most Wanted.”
The fear was that British troops would do their best to round up the signers and bring them to justice – at the end of a rope.
The 56 men did indeed “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” in the Declaration’s last sentence.
Historians believe the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate July 4 was actually signed Aug. 2, 1776.
Many people are aware that Thomas Jefferson wrote the bulk of the Declaration, assisted by drafting committee members John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston.
Many also recall from history classes that John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, signed with the largest, most flourishing signature. However, had only a few patriots signed the document, it would not have had the intended effect. The droves of congressional delegates who stepped up and signed their names made the argument for independence more compelling.
Let’s remember and honor the signers, state by state:
• New Hampshire – Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple and Matthew Thornton;
• Massachusetts – Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine and Elbridge Gerry;
• Rhode Island – Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery;
• Connecticut – Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams and Oliver Wolcott;
• New York – William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis and Lewis Morris;
• New Jersey – Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart and Abraham Clark;
• Pennsylvania – Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson and George Ross;
• Delaware – George Read, Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean;
• Maryland – Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone and Charles Carroll;
• Virginia – George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee and Carter Braxton;
• North Carolina – William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and John Penn;
• South Carolina – Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr. and Arthur Middleton;
• Georgia – Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton.
Those 56 men signed on for a perilous struggle against the powerful British empire that could have ended much differently.
The Declaration inspired the creation of a government, “deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed,” dedicated to protecting “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence stands as one of world history’s important documents.
We are its direct beneficiaries.
On Independence Day, remember to give the signers their due.