The Declaration of Independence

Did you know …

 

John Hancock was the only delegate who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  

As president of the Continental Congress, it was his duty and privilege to sign the Declaration the day it was formally accepted. After he signed with big, bold letters, he told the others in the room that John Bull (a nickname for England) could read his name without putting on spectacles (glasses).

It took great courage for John Hancock and the others to sign the Declaration. Putting their names on this important paper made them a target in the Revolutionary War. The British soldiers wanted to capture them and put them in prison.

Signing the Declaration didn’t start the war. By the time that this document was signed, General George Washington had been fighting a war with England for over a year.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” This is the last sentence of the Declaration. It sounds confusing, but it’s a fancy way of saying that these men trusted God for protection and supported the fight for freedom with their lives and their money.

They also pledged their sacred honor. People don’t talk like this anymore, so it’s a little hard to understand. Something that is sacred is dedicated to God. Honor is living as a person who means what he says, and other people trust him. So they were promising to fight for freedom with everything they had.

These men knew they risked death. If the colonies lost the war, they would probably be sentenced to death. Some of the signers were very wealthy at the beginning of the war. Several of them purchased supplies, weapons, and ammunition for General Washington’s army. Some traded their own gold and silver for Confederate money that soon lost its value to help the economy.  Others had their homes burned and their property destroyed. Some were put in prison. Others had family members that were captured and placed in prison, where the horrible living conditions made them sick.   

Many were forced to run from the soldiers with their families, sometimes staying away from their homes for years. Some were captured when neighbors still loyal to King George III told the British soldiers where they were hiding. It was a very dangerous time.

Almost all of them battled illness at one time or another, worn down by all their hard work to fight for freedom and set up a new government.

We can be proud of the brave men who stood up for freedom 235 years ago. They promised to fight for independence whatever it cost. Most of them paid a very high price for their courage.

Their sacrifices gave us our freedom.

 

– Sandra M. Hart

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