When I said earlier that Roger Sherman was the only minister and cobbler to sign The Declaration of Independence that was true but many signers were the sons of ministers. The signers included some well-known shakers and movers such as Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin but for the most part they were multi-tasking, God-fearing, dedicated Patriots of everyday backgrounds and job description.
They signed at the risk and almost promise of hanging and losing all social status for the mere hope of freedom for future generations. This was when America was coming of age and greatness. These men saw themselves, wives, and sons imprisoned and their homes burned or fired upon with cannons, but none were hanged. There was a bachelor and one had 18 kids. They came from all walks of life.
Benjamin Rush was a physician. Like most doctors, he was recognized as a smart guy but at times it was almost his demise. He was well-known for his writings on “blood- letting, “diseases of the mind,” “yellow fever” and other medical journals. It was Rush who later wrote letters of reconciliation to Jefferson and Adams to bring them back together. Meriwether Lewis visited Rush to obtain some of his famous “Thunderbolt” calming pills for his big hike out West with Clark.
This great mind was the youngest signer (30) and from Pennsylvania but like a lot of young guys he sometimes said too much. It was Rush who wrote a letter to Governor Patrick Hewry after Washington’s defeat at Brandywine.
In this annoymous letter, it is suggested that Horatio Gates, Thomas Conway, or Charles would be better choices as leaders of The Continental Army. This letter soon fell into Washington’s hands and he recognized the handwriting. This ended a short military career for Rush. It might be said that Rush got the last laugh. He was later made Treasurer of the U.S mint through the help of his buddy, John Adams and it was one of his disciples of blood-letting who was Washington’s attending physician at his deathbed where leeches were used to relieve George of 5 – 9 pints of blood.
Rush is credited with lending Thomas Paine the idea of “Common Sense”as title for his writings. Of all the things written by Rush, in my estimation, some of the best are these (of The Revolution), “All will end well.” and (of himself) “He aimed well.”
There have been many who would have us to believe that something special (buried treasure) was written on the back of The Declaration. This would not be likely because it traveled with a courier in a satchel and rolled. It was identified on the outside because it was with other safe-guarded documents and making the rounds all through The Colonies. As it was unrolled and signed the back became the front. Sorry, but apparently there appears to be nothing appearing on the back.
This document has been stored over the years in abandoned gristmills, private homes and Fort Knox, over the years. In 1952, it was placed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C and placed in a helium filled case for preservation.
By 2001, the case had deteriorated and the new design is a titanium frame with gold plating. It has a sandwiched, non-reflective pane of polyvinyl Butyral between two glass panes. The inside is kept at 67 degrees and filled with Argon. This is to prevent its destruction by age, oxygen, bullets, bombs, or hurricanes. Maybe this is a fitting end to a document who’s signers could have been “signing their lives away.”
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.