Independence Day and the Cost of Freedom

We often parrot the phrase “freedom isn’t free” yet most of us know little of what our freedom truly cost those who made it possible.

On the morning of July 4th, 1776, what we now know as the Revolutionary war had been going over a year already. No one knows for sure who was really in the majority, the Patriots or the Loyalists, that hot humid morning in July when 56 men sat down in the Pennsylvania State house to hear the reading of the Declaration, which Thomas Jefferson had spent the last 17 days drafting.

Before and since, almost all revolutionaries had nothing to lose and everything to gain, but not so for these men. They were men of means, wealthy men, educated men, not wild eyed pirates. 24 were lawyers, 9 owned huge plantations, more were merchants and business men. They had everything to lose and only one thing to gain, liberty. They knew at best that they would face years of struggling, building and rebuilding the nation from scratch. They don’t tell you in the history books that for all intents and purposes, the war left them with no economy, no money and destruction everywhere they turned.

In the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence are the words, “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.” The signers knew what that meant. The names of those men were kept secret for 6 months, because they knew if they lost the revolution, they would face the hangman. The Declaration was a covenant between the living, the dead and yet unborn. The signers of the Declaration of Independence paid the price for our freedom.


Declaration of Independence signers

Nine of those 56 died during the war, 5 more were captured and tortured, 12 lost their homes and fortunes, 2 lost sons, six lost their entire families, one had two sons captured, tortured and left to die. Thomas Nelson raised 2 million dollars to provision and equip the French Fleet, he was never repaid by his government, he died in rags, but he paid back every dime himself. Carter Braxton saw his entire fleet of ships swept from the oceans, he too lost everything and died in poverty and debt. Joseph Warren, the firebrand Doctor who organized the minutemen, received a musket ball to the head at Bunker Hill. Benjamin Franklin’s son William, the Governor of Pennsylvania swore to hang his traitor father, the two never spoke again. Salem Poor, the slave who bought his freedom for 23 Pounds, is remembered for his battle cry “if they want to see blood, let us show them their own”, but the war cost him his family his holdings and he died of alcohol poisoning shortly after the war. George Washington spent his later years haunted by the sea of dying men under his command at Valley Forge. They died of malnutrition, and disease, not battle.

In the years during and immediately after the revolution, food was scarce, clothing hard to come by and everyday our founders rose to find more had succumbed to starvation and exposure. Our founders indeed lived up to that pledge. They traded their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor and gave us liberty.

The next time you want to post something about grabbing our guns and shooting up the tyrannical government, you might want to think about you saying. You are saying you are willing to give up that comfy house, your wives and kids, cars and healthcare, to defeat that tyrannical government. You are saying you are willing to be directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of your countrymen, before during and after the war of independence. You are saying you will place your lives your fortunes and your sacred honor on the table of sacrifice. There can be no stopping, no retreat. Our founders knew when they signed that most sacred of American documents, that was what they were doing. Are you prepared to fill their shoes?


Editors Note: The purpose of this article is not to discourage the reader from exercising their right to fight back against tyranny and oppression. The purpose of this article is to inform the reader of the realities of what a violent revolution shall cost those involved, and to understand that the ammunition box is the last resort only after exhausting their soap box and ballot box.  



Bill Manton

Bill Manton is a retired Heavy Equipment Mechanic and former elected official. A published historian, he holds advanced degrees in history from UT Austin and SLU. His academically reviewed research paper “The Unconditional Conspiracy” has been incorporated into the history curriculum of 17 universities.

His interest in the American Revolution has a personal connotation. Bill is the great, great, great, great grandson of Joseph Manton and great nephew of John Manton , the famous 19th century gunmakers. It was John Manton who made the rifled musket that John Buckman fired the first shot of the revolution with.

He currently guest lectures on the “Rise of the Patriots” 1735-1800 and the American World wars 1918-1950, as well as mentoring PhD candidates.

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