Paul Harvey: Declaration of Independence Signers ‘Learned That Liberty Is So Much More Important Than Security’
In a commentary written on July 4, 1974 by radio personality Paul Harvey, the high price paid by the men who signed the Declaration of Independence – even death for some – was explained as a lesson in the cost of liberty.
“They had learned that liberty is so much more important than security, that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor,” Harvey wrote.
“Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few were long to survive, 5 were captured by the British and tortured before they died, 12 had their homes – from Rhode Island to Charleston – sacked and looted, occupied by the enemy or burned,” Harvey wrote.
“Two of them lost their sons in the Army; one had two sons captured,” Harvey wrote. “Nine of the 56 died in the War from its hardships or from its more merciful bullets.
“I don't know what impression you'd had of these men who met that hot summer in Philadelphia, but I think it's important this July 4, that we remember this about them: they were not poor men, they were not wild-eyed pirates; these were men of means, these were rich men, most of them, who enjoyed much ease and luxury in personal living,” Harvey wrote. “Not hungry men, prosperous men, wealthy land owners, substantially secure in their prosperity.
“But they considered liberty – this is as much I shall say of it – they had learned that liberty is so much more important than security, that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor,” Harvey wrote. “And they fulfilled their pledge – they paid the price, and freedom was born.”
Harvey detailed the sacrifices of those men, who signed the document on July 4, 1776, declaring their independence from the British and establishing foundation for a nation where each citizen is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Signer Carter Braxton of Virginia lost his property and fortune and “died in rags,” Harvey wrote.
Thomas McKean of Delaware was “so harassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five times in five months,” Harvey wrote. “He served in Congress without pay, his family in poverty and in hiding.”
“John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside while she was dying; their thirteen children fled in all directions for their lives,” Harvey wrote. “His fields and gristmill were laid waste.
“For more than a year he lived in forests and caves and returned home after the war to find his wife dead, his children gone, his properties gone,” Harvey wrote. “He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.”
"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 Honour,” the line above the 56 signatures read.