Fourth of July -- a flash fiction story by Colin Kelly

A friend of mine was Googling “July 4th” and he found quite a few interesting facts:

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons who were captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners. They were men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walalton, Guinett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the architects of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

They gave those of us who live here a free and independent United States of America.

The history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought the British — our own government!

Some of us who live in the U.S.A. take our liberties for granted, but we shouldn't. So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July, our Independence Day holiday, and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember freedom is never free!

If you have kids, tell them what the 4th of July holiday really means. It’s not fireworks and music and picnics and barbecues. It’s our most important national holiday: Independence Day.

Here's another little known fact from an unknown source that I'll bet you're not aware of:

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th: John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2nd, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

Two of the signers who went on to become President of the United States and both died on July 4th fifty years later.

Here’s another fact that should be considered by all of us:

With all of the noise we hear these days about immigrants and how they are taking our jobs away from us and ruining our country, it pays to remember this:

The population of the United States is about 325.7 million, of which about 5 million are American Indians. Those American Indians are the descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. So, every one of the 320.7 million who aren’t American Indians in the U.S.A. is either an immigrant or their ancestors were immigrants — and to point it out again: these words describe the 100% of us who are not descendants of the original American Indians.

Think about that the next time you see a Tweet from or hear a speech by someone who’s complaining about immigrants. Remind them that they wouldn’t be here — and you wouldn't be here either (unless you’re one of the 5 million American Indian descendants) — if it hadn’t been for immigrants coming to this land and making it their country — our country — and what it is today.