Check Out Our Genealogy Blog »

Declaration of Independence - 56 Signers

56 menWhat happened to some of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Disclaimer: The following is just a general overview, more research for fully accurate details would be necessary.

They had signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. One was a teacher, one a musician, and one a printer.
Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers, 
and the rest large plantation owners; these 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.  Not all suffered due to their signing the Declaration of Independence.  

Listing of all 56 signers.

Any surnames look familiar in your family tree?

A few of the Signers, their wives and their families:

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

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

The Signers such as Lyman Hall of Georgia, Ben Harrison of Virginia, Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey and Button Gwinnett of Georgia, suffered loses when vandals or soldiers looted their properties.

George Walton was captured by the British.

George Clymer of Pennsylvania, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine Battles.

Thomas Lynch of South Carolina was arrested in 1780 and held on board a British prison ship for a year. During his imprisonment, his plantation was sacked and his slaves (more than 130) were taken and believed sold to sugar plantations in Jamaica.

Thomas Heyward Jr. of South Carolina, when the British invaded the South in 1780, Heyward was wounded and two others signers who lived nearby, Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge were all captured. As Heyward rotted on a prison ship in St. Augustine, Heyward’s plantation was raided, buildings burned, and his wife, who witnessed it all, died.

Thomas Nelson Jr., his home was destroyed, at the Battle of Yorktown and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home on Long Island and properties destroyed. The British jailed his wife under horrible conditions, and she died a couple years later. Francis’ son was also captured and he died.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside in New Jersey by the British as she was dying. Hart’s 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year, even during winter season, Hart lived in forests and caves returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, in May 1779 he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Richard Stockton from New Jersey, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying in 1781 a broken man.

William Ellery of Rhode Island, had his home burned.

Lewis Morris of New York just days after signing the Declaration, the British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris’ sons fought against the British.

Philip Livingston‘s property and homes in New York were seized by the British. He managed to sell off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.

William Floyd, from New York was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home, they found a devastated ruin.


< Return To Blog