bloodshed caused when the colonists tried to prevent the British soldiers from
seizing their munitions stored in
Lexington, the Continental
Congress sensed that there would be a war of separation. It named George
Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
delegates to the Congress had the wisdom to recognize that in time of war the
critical decisions they faced would have to be made in private. There were
many factions in the Congress with conflicting views about the war and the
leadership and the special causes of the various colonies. They knew that
during the negotiations, if the different factions publicized their views on
the issues and stirred up public passions against one side or the other, it
would be virtually impossible to reach the necessary compromises for effective
decisions. They, therefore, enacted a resolution of secrecy.
That every member of this Congress considers himself under the ties of virtue,
honor and love of his country, not to divulge, directly or indirectly any
matter or thing agitated or debated in this Congress…. And that if any member
should violate this agreement, he shall be expelled from this Congress, and
deemed an enemy to the liberties of
violated the promise of secrecy. Protected by this shield of privacy, The
Congress was able to devise and enact the Declaration of Independence. The
signing of that document by the fifty-six delegates was one of the truly
heroic acts of history. Their declaration was an act of treason against one
of the most powerful and unforgiving nations of the world. It took place in a
land already occupied by large numbers of highly-trained and well-equipped
British troops, against whom the colonies could only mount a force of
partially-trained volunteers from widely scattered colonies.
signers who publicly acknowledged their role in declaring war on The
Motherland put themselves in great jeopardy. They had pledged their lives,
their fortunes and their sacred honor, which for them meant a pledge before
God, in support of the Declaration. In his book, Greatness to Spare,
T.R. Fehrenbach tells what happened to those men. What follows is drawn from
his concluding summary of the book.
signers died of wounds or hardships during the Revolutionary War.
captured or imprisoned, in some cases with brutal treatment.
sons and daughters of others were killed, mistreated, persecuted or left
of twelve signers were burned to the ground. Seventeen lost everything they
offered immunity, freedom, rewards, their property or their lives and release
of loved ones to break their pledged word or to take the king’s protection.
Their fortunes were forfeit, but their honor was not. No signer defected or
changed his stand throughout the darkest hours. Their honor, like the nation,
generations of Americans have not been introduced to the drama and the courage
and the wisdom and the heroic sacrifices made by the men and women who
breathed life into the
Republic. There is a
grandeur in this history which is cause for patriotic pride and thanksgiving
on Independence Day.
questions or any further information, please contact Larry Jacobs,
vice-president of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, at
815-964-5819, 1-800-461-3113, or e-mail at
mailing address is:
North Main Street
Rockford, IL 61103