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Freedom’s price high but truly priceless

As one of the founding fathers of this great country we call home, Benjamin Franklin was never short of words or wit.

His wisdom still has relevance more than 200 years after his death as he was among those who laid the foundation for the liberties we enjoy.

“Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature,” Franklin said, a fitting thought on this holiday weekend.

Freedom certainly isn’t free. It is bought and maintained with sacrifice, hard work, vigilance and determination.

These are given by our soldiers and also by our citizens as we fight to uphold our freedoms we enjoy and should reflect on this Independence Day.

A chain e-mail circulating in cyberspace, forwarded to me by a reader and also incorporated into a column by local pastor Hoyt Allen, drove that thought home in a powerful way.

It asked very simply: “Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?”

Here is an edited history lesson courtesy of this e-mail, which appears to be accurate.

“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.”

But the lesson goes on to explain exactly who these men were and all they stood to lose by standing up for freedom, a selfless act that we benefit from each and every morning we wake up as free Americans.

“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.

“Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall and Clymer.

“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 Gen. George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

“John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his 13 children vanished.

These are just a few of the stories of the patriots that allow us this holiday we are celebrating this weekend.

So in between the baseball games, barbecues and fireworks, take a minute to reflect on what it means to be free, what it means to be an American and what it means to be patriotic.

We owe it to those 56 men and all those who have made sacrifices since to find our own answers to those important questions.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.