Posted by: Democratic Thinker | July 2, 2010

Signers of the Declaration: Why Was it a Very Great Thing?

Weekly Story

The representative of the colonies meet to consider the words of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence.


IT may seem strange to some young people that the memories of the fifty-six signers of that wonderful paper should be so honored in this country. Said a bright boy recently, “Why was it any very great thing to sign a paper of that kind? I think the man who wrote it was great, but don’t see why the others were.”

The reason they were great was that they were both patriotic and brave. They believed that it was not right for this country to be subject to and taxed by Great Britain while having no voice in the government. A committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia; John Adams, of Massachusetts; Benjamin Franklin, of Pennsylvania; Roger Sherman, of Connecticut, and Robert R. Livingstone, of New York, was appointed to write out a declaration to this effect. Thomas Jefferson, tho at this time but thirty-three years of age, was one of the best classically educated men in public life, and composed the Declaration, which, without his other public services, would have made his name famous.

The American colonies were represented by fifty-six members in the assemblage which met on July 4, 1776, and decided to adopt the Declaration of Independence. As a matter of fact, only the president of the assembly, John Hancock, signed the paper on that day. On August 2d. it was signed by all but one of the fifty-six—Matthew Thornton, of New Hampshire—who signed in November.

As to the reason why it was brave: The thirteen colonies were subject to England. In declaring that they would be “absolved from all allegiance to the British The crown.” they placed themselves in rebellion, and if they failed in the struggle that must follow, the signers of that paper would be regarded as traitors and treated accordingly. John Hancock, as the paper was being signed, said, “We must all hang together.” “Ay,” answered Benjamin Franklin, “We must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately.”

Someone suggested to Charles Carroll that as there were a great many men of that name, if the cause should fail, the English would not know which one to arrest. “Yes, they will,” he said, and immediately wrote “of Carrollton” after his name.

They all understood fully the danger, but were proud to meet it, and deserve the greatest honor from each succeeding generation.

They were, as a whole, comparatively young men, for the average age of all was only forty-three years and ten months. Edward Rutledge, of South Carolina, was the youngest, being but twenty-seven, and Benjamin Franklin, the oldest, was seventy. Five were physicians, thirty lawyers, seven farmers, eight merchants, and two mechanics; John Witherspoon, of New Jersey, was a clergyman, Abraham Clark, of New Jersey, a surveyor, Roger Sherman, of Connecticut, a shoemaker, and Franklin, a printer.

Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, deserves special mention, as he started the movement by presenting to the assembly on June 7, 1776, this resolution:

Resolved: That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be dissolved.”

As the mover of this resolution, when a committee was appointed he would naturally have been made chairman, but was called away by illness in his family, and Mr. Jefferson was chosen. He served later in several congresses and was the first senator from Virginia.

A rather remarkable coincidence is that Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and John Adams, one of the signers and its great supporter, both afterward President of the United States, died on the same day, and that Independence Day, 1826. On June 30th of that year someone asked John Adams, who was then very ill, for a toast to be given in his name on the Fourth of July. He replied, “Independence forever!” When the day came, hearing the noise of bells and cannon, he asked the cause, and, on being told, he murmured, “Independence forever!” and before evening was dead.—Christian Advocate. New York.


The Fifty-Six Heroes.


Delaware  George Read  Caesar Rodney 
  Thomas McKean   
Pennsylvania  George Clymer  Benjamin Franklin 
  Robert Morris  John Morton 
  Benjamin Rush  George Ross 
  James Smith  James Wilson 
  George Taylor   
Massachusetts  John Adams  Samuel Adams 
  John Hancock  Robert Treat Paine 
  Elbridge Gerry   
New Hampshire  Josiah Bartlett  William Whipple 
  Matthew Thornton   
Rhode Island  Stephen Hopkins  William Ellery 
New York  Lewis Morris  Philip Livingston 
  Francis Lewis  William Floyd 
Georgia  Button Gwinnett  Lyman Hall 
  George Walton   
Virginia  Richard Henry Lee  Francis Lightfoot Lee 
  Carter Braxton  Benjamin Harrison 
  Thomas Jefferson  George Wythe 
  Thomas Nelson, Jr.   
North Carolina  William Hooper  John Penn 
  Joseph Hewes   
South Carolina  Edward Rutledge  Arthur Middleton 
  Thomas Lynch, Jr.  Thomas Heyward, Jr. 
New Jersey  Abraham Clark  John Hart 
  Francis Hopkinson  Richard Stockton 
  John Witherspoon   
Connecticut  Samuel Huntington  Roger Sherman 
  William Williams  Oliver Wolcott 
Maryland  Charles Carroll  Samuel Chase 
  Thomas Stone  William Paca