Who signed it?
56 delegates from the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence. Many, but not all, of these men were lawyers. There were several doctors, plantation owners, business men, preachers, even farmers!
Several religious denominations were represented by this group of men as well, yet God remained at the forefront of these delegates minds when creating the Declaration of Independence, as one can clearly see from its text (emphasis added):
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
When did the delegates really sign it?
Did you know that many of these men were not even present on the day of July 4, 1776? The process of drafting the document began on June 7th with a plea from Richard Henry Lee, known as Richard Henry Lee’s Independence Resolution, after which the Declaration of Independence was penned primarily by Thomas Jefferson. Congress declared Independence from Britain on July 2, 1776 and began distributing the Declaration to the public on July 4, 1776. The document was not made official until July 19th and many (though not all) signatures were penned on August 2, 1776.
What did it cost those men?
When each of these 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence they were solemnly aware that they, potentially, were signing their own death warrant as traitors of Britain. They did not all suffer in the same way, however the freedom of our nation did come at great cost to them as well as their families.
During the remainder of the Revolutionary War, and the years that followed, some of the delegates survived the war but had their properties ransacked, their riches stolen, and suffered physical hardship that led to their deaths. Others were imprisoned or forced into hiding, even in the wintery woods – often leading to poor health from which they would not recover.
Their suffering was not limited to their own bodies, unfortunately. Often their families would be brutally “run off their land” by the British and in some cases imprisoned or killed.
While I am not an expert of the Revolutionary War and there is a lot of debate about the exact details behind the Declaration’s signing and the fates of these brave men, I tried to provide as accurate of a summary as possible. These men did not take this document lightly as they knew it would play in important role in the founding, and future, of our country. It’s important that we remember the sacrifices these men suffered for our benefit and find some way to show our gratitude. How will you?