The Cost of Signing the Declaration of Independence

May 11th marks over 230 years since the death of John Hart, signer of the Declaration from New Jersey and one of the many noted Christians among the Founding Fathers. (WallBuilders recently posted some of our legal documents signed by John Hart. Significantly, many colonial oaths were not merely taken on the Bible, but specifically on “the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God” [1] — that is on the Bible, including specifically its Christian part. This legal oath is evident on these newly posted documents.)

Born somewhere in the span from 1711 to 1715, [2] not much is known of his family, except that his father helped raise a volunteer army, named “The Jersey Blues,” to assist in the French and Indian War. [3] John became a farmer and had 13 children, [4] and his reputation as “Honest John Hart” [5] earned him the trust of those around him. As such, he helped select New Jersey’s delegates to the early Stamp Act Congress that convened in New York in 1765. [6]

John Hart was himself elected to the Continental Congress [7] where, somewhere near the age of 60, he voted for the Declaration of Independence with “unusual zeal.” [8] He fully understood the personal cost entailed by affixing his name to the Declaration of Independence, and quickly became a target of the British for signing that document.
[9]
Chased from his dying wife’s bedside [10] and hunted by the enemy, he wandered about the countryside to avoid discovery by the British, rarely sleeping in the same place two nights in a row. [11] In fact, he even had to sleep in the “resting place of a large dog” [12] to avoid detection by a nearby British patrol. Several times, he was forced to flee as fast as he could to “save his neck” [13] as it had been “marked for vengeance” by the British. [14]

John was finally able to return to his destroyed home in 1777 and gathered his children together. [15] He began to rebuild his farm and property, but never fully recovered his health from the physical hardships of being forced from his home and being exposed to the cold and living outdoors for the year. The “sorrow, humiliation, and suffering, wearing out of his bodily strength, hasten[ed] the approach of decrepitude and death.” [16]

John did not see the fulfillment of his wish of freedom and independence for Americans, for he died before the end of the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, he is remembered for having dedicated years of service to his Christian faith, his family, and his country. [17] He died on May 11, 1779, [18] and “was always known as a sincere, but unostentatious [humble] Christian.” [19]


[1] See for example, Samuel Nevill, The Acts of the General Province of New Jersey (Woodbridge, N.J.: James Parker, 1761), p. 135, “An Act for the Raising and Maintaining One Hundred and Twenty Effective Men, for the Defense of the Frontiers of the Colony of New Jersey,” passed June 3, 1757, Oliver H. Prince, A Digest of the Laws of the State of Georgia (Milledgeville: Grantland & Orme, 1822), p. 3, “An Act for the case of Dissenting Protestants, within this province, who may be scrupulous of taking an oath, in respect to the manner and form of administering the same,” passed December 13, 1756, John Haywood, A Manual of the Laws of North Carolina (Raleigh: J. Gales, 1814), p. 34, “Oaths and Affirmations. 1777,” Joseph Brevard, An Alphabetical Digest of the Public Statue Law of South Carolina (Charleston: John Hoff, 1814), Vol. II, p. 86, “Oaths-Affirmations,” 1731.
[2] B.J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (New York: George F. Cooledge and Brother, 1848), p. 87. See also,John HartThe Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (December 11, 2011), L. Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and of Washington and Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, and Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1839), p. 189, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (New York: January 1890), Vol. XXI, No. 1, p. 36, Dr. John R. Stevenson, “John Hart ‘The Signer’“.
[3] B.J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (New York: George F. Cooledge and Brother, 1848), p. 87. See also; John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 94; L. Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and of Washington and Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, and Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1839), p. 189, “Hart, John,” Biographical Directory of the United States of Congress (accessed May 2, 2013).
[4] John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 99.
[5] John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 99. See also, Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: Thomas Mather, 1836), p. 228.
[6] B.J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (New York: George F. Cooledge and Brother, 1848), p. 88.
[7] N. Dwight, The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1852), p. 140. See also, B.J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (New York: George F. Cooledge and Brother, 1848), p. 88.
[8] , Robert W. Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the Untied States; with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: William W. Reed, 1833), p. 360. See also, Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: Thomas Mather, 1836), p. 228.

 

[9] Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: Thomas Mather, 1836), p 229.
[10] John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 112. See also, Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: Thomas Mather, 1836), p 229.
[11] John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 113. See also,N. Dwight, The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1852), p. 142.
[12] Robert W. Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the Untied States; with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: William W. Reed., 1833), p. 360. See also, John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 113.
[13] L. Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and of Washington and Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, and Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1839), p. 191.
[14] B.J. Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (New York: George F. Cooledge and Brother, 1848), pp. 88.
[15] John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 113. See also, Robert W. Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the Untied States; with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: N. Watson & Co., 1836), p. 361.
[16] John Sanderson, Sanderson’s Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Robert T. Conrad, editor (Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1848), p. 255. See also, Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: Thomas Mather, 1836), p 229.
[17] Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: Thomas Mather, 1836), p 229. see also;L. Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and of Washington and Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, and Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1839), p. 191 and N. Dwight, The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1852), p. 143.
[18]John HartThe Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (December 11, 2011). See also, Hart, John,”  Biographical Directory of the United States of Congress (accessed May 2, 2013).
[19] John Sanderson, Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, (Philadelphia: TR.W. Pomeroy, 1827), vol. 9, p. 115. See also, Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (New York: Thomas Mather, 1836), p 229; L. Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and of Washington and Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: J. Dobson, and Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1839), p. 191.
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By |2017-04-07T10:45:58+00:00January 4th, 2017|Categories: Updates|0 Comments