Forgive me for making you read this a full 10 days after our celebration of Independence Day. This year, though, I cannot help but to continue to reflect on the state of our great country and the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Fifty–six men signed the document penned by Thomas Jefferson. When they added their name to the bottom of the Declaration, they knew they could be endangering their property, their families and their own lives. Nonetheless, the idea “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” was a truth that was bigger than themselves and worth fighting for.
Though the stories about the fate of some of the signers may have grown with the telling, the urban legends do not diminish the fact that the signers were, indeed, committing an act of treason against their country at the time, England. They knew that they may be sought after, imprisoned, and hung.
Hence is told the famous story of the only Catholic signer of the treacherous paper, Charles Carroll. Carroll was the wealthiest of the signers; thus, he had the most to lose. His name, however, was a common one, unlike, say, Button Gwinnett. His father was Charles Carroll, as was his son and other relatives. So, after he affixed his name to the document, a fellow signer remarked that at least the king would not know which Charles Carroll. Thereupon, Carroll added to his signature “of Carrollton.”
Indeed, four men were captured and imprisoned while fighting the British – George Walton in the Battle of Savannah, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge all during the siege of Charleston. Richard Stockton was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night by local Tories and handed over to the British. He was imprisoned in New York City’s Provost Jail.
Abraham Clark’s two sons were captured and incarcerated upon the prison ship, The Jersey. Francis Lewis’ wife was taken prisoner and held for several months until she and other prisoners were swapped for some wives of British officers.
Thomas McKean wrote to his friend, John Adams, in 1777 that he had to move his family five times in three months in order to escape the British.
Many, including William Ellery, Edward Rutledge, Lyman Hall, George Clymer, George Walton, Button Gwinnett, and Arthur Middleton, had their homes, farms and property occupied, ransacked and looted by the British. Lewis Morris’ home was used as barracks for British soldiers, then burned. When the British came upon and looted John Hart’s farm, he escaped harm by hiding for weeks in the woods.
Thomas Nelson, Jr. lost his home in Yorktown to General Cornwallis, who used it as his headquarters. Rumor has it that he urged General Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette to bombard his home in order to rid it of its current occupants.
Carter Braxton, whose wealth came from the shipping industry, saw his ships appropriated, sunk or captured by the British, thus losing his livelihood. Moreover, he had to sell off much of his property to pay back the incurred debt.
Philip Livingston sold much of his property to support the war cause.
But perhaps the one who gave the most was James Witherspoon whose son John was killed in battle. In imitation of the Heavenly Father, this father gave his son so that we might be free.
The question I pose to you today is what are we willing to give in order to preserve the precious gift of freedom? We must remain free in order to be able to do what we ought to do. The worship of God is our foremost responsibility, from which flows our love and service of others.
There very well may be a price to pay for the millions of babies whose inalienable right to life is violently taken away. God may hold us responsible for the degradation of His wonderful gift of sex through contraception, fornication and homosexual acts. I do not think He wants us to just sit by as religious freedom is eroded in the name of tolerance or universal healthcare.
What price will we pay? More importantly, what can we do now?
We can write our government officials. Get down on our knees and pray for them. Praying the rosary for our country is a powerful weapon we possess.
We are not yet called to give up our livelihood or property, but we can, perhaps, give up a fast food meal, fancy coffee, snack or even a meal. Praise God we do not have to lose a child to the cause; still, for the cause of the unborn, could we sacrifice some time in order to spend it playing a board game with our child or some other such thing? Local pregnancy centers are always in need of volunteers and supplies to help at-risk families. We have our wonderful homes, but there are some who do not. Can we help them some way today? Does the local shelter or food pantry lack food, blankets or even stuffed animals to comfort the homeless? Little sacrifices are never too little when presented with love to an almighty God.
This is a call to arms – or at least folded hands. There is a battle going on, though we may not be able to see it. We cannot be onlookers but must be active participants. God has given us the spiritual arsenal needed to win this battle. It is time to use it!
What can I do as a soldier of Christ for my country?
Copyright 2014 Kelly Guest