The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, July 04, 2003

The Price They Paid

Spring, the Kidlets and I went to a friend's house for the 4th. Throughout the house my friend had the following taped up on the walls:

THE PRICE THEY PAID

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the 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 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; 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, Walton, Gwinnett, 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 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 talk 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 you and me a free and independent 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 our own government!

Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July Holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: Freedom is never free!

I hope you will show your support by please sending this to as many people as you can. It's time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball games.

Quite a stirring tale there. But like all things found on the Internet (where my friend found this) I wondered if there wasn't more to this. And the one place I know that regularly discredits discusses such Internet tales is Snopes. Poked around some and:

The main point of this glurge is to impress upon us that the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were relatively well-educated and wealthy men who were also well aware they had much to lose by putting their names to that document, yet after much careful consideration and thought they signed it anyway, “knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured” (although the article omits mentioning that support for independence was far from unanimous, that some of the colonies voted against adopting the Declaration of Independence, and some of the delegates didn't affix their signatures to the document until several years later). The signers were courageous men who risked everything in the service of what they perceived to be a common good, and for that they are genuinely worthy of honor, respect, and admiration. Unfortunately, this article attempts to commemorate them with a train of glurge that jumps the track of truth at the very beginning and finally pulls into station bearing a simplified version of history in which all the incongruities that get in the way of a good story are glossed over. (We're still puzzling over exactly which history books “never told us a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War,” and if any history books failed to stress the obvious point that “we were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government,” it was probably because they reasonably assumed their readers could infer as much from the constant repetition of words such as “revolution” and “independence.”)

Glurge Gallery—Would July to Me?


Blow Stuff Up

Spring, the Kidlets and I were invited to my friend C's house for Fourth of July celebrations. The Kidlets spent the time swimming, Spring spent the time attempting to catch a nap, and I spent the time hanging with friends, some of whom I haven't seen in several years.

The highlight of the day's festivities were the fireworks! C had obtained several boxes of the “slightly questionable” mortar-type fireworks—the type that go up several hundred feet and explode in a shower of colors. Once it got dark, it was time to set up. Mark (also a friend of C's and who caught a ride there with us) helped set up the lanching platform for the mortars.

[Big Bad Shells] [Mark on the Launch Pad] [Various mortaresque fireworks] [Slightly larger fireworks]

Things started out calmly enough—one mortar at a time. Pretty soon confidence was gained to attempt the simultaneous launch of two, three, four mortars at a time, showering the area with fireworks. But as Spring said, “I've never done fireworks that there hasn't been at least one dud.”

And boy, was the dud spectacular.

[Launch pad after normal firing—note the number of tubes] [BOOM!] [Launch pad after The Incident—note the missing tube]

No one is quite sure what exactly happened, but at attempt was made to light six mortars at the same time (ah, gotta love blowing stuff up!). All six fuses were lighted. A couple of seconds of anticipation go by. Hilarity ensues as one of the mortars is either stuck in the tube, was put in upsidedown by mistake, or didn't have enough ooomph for launch. Once it became apparent that it wasn't going to explode a few hundred feet above our heads but right in the middle of the street, people start scrambling for cover as we are caught within the blast radius of a live, “slightly questionable” firework.

It wasn't quite as bad as the picture makes it out to be (digression: I had set the digital camera for long exposures, on the order of a second or more, so having a live firework go off aproximately 50′ away basically overexposed the image—still, it's darned impressive) and luckily, given the circumstances, no one was hurt. And since the Kidlets where there, this is something we can bring up the next time they get “fireworks fevor” (the Younger is especially vulnerable to this infliction).

[FIRE!] [Another firing of fireworks]

The show continued on, and afterwards, we cleaned up the spent fireworks, tore down the launch pad, said our goodbyes and went home happy that we were able to celebrate our freedom by blowing stuff up!

[Firework I] [Fireworks II] [Fireworks III] [Fireworks IV] [Fireworks V]

Obligatory Picture

[It's the most wonderful time of the year!]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

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