On this day in 1713, a future signer of the Declaration of Independence is born. Francis Lewis is perhaps best known for his signature on a single document. Yet he would pay dearly for that simple signature.
How odd is it that he sacrificed so much, yet most modern Americans have never heard his name?
Soon after Lewis signed the Declaration of Independence, his wife was seized by the British in retaliation for what he’d done. She was treated pretty inhumanely while she was in captivity. Her health was ruined, and she would pass away by 1779.
In the meantime, Lewis’s daughter had fallen in love with a British naval officer. She married him without her parents’ approval and moved to England. Father and daughter were estranged and never reconciled.
For those of you who have daughters (especially the dads!): Think of what just happened to Lewis there. He was working hard to do the right thing. His daughter must have seemed terribly unconcerned with what was happening to her parents—or her country. She chose an officer from the enemy camp instead.
But that wasn’t the end of the sacrifices that Lewis would make. Perhaps his house felt like nothing in comparison to his wife and daughter. Nevertheless, mere months after Lewis signed the Declaration, the British attacked his home on Long Island. They destroyed it.
Throughout these events, Lewis continued to work for and support the Patriot cause. He didn’t do anything glamorous. There is no story of him pounding on a desk or moving an audience with inspiring oratory. He simply served in the Continental Congress. In the face of hardship and loss, he continued to work for American freedom. He did some of the grunt work to build a navy. He helped the army to get supplies, clothing, and ammunition.
Each task was necessary. None of it came with too much public acclaim.
After the war, Lewis would have lived in relative poverty, but for his sons. He’d been a merchant before the Revolution, but he’d since lost much of what he’d had. He passed away in 1802.
Men like Lewis go mostly unmentioned in history books. Yet, without such men and their sacrifices, our country would not be what it is today.
Benson John Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (1866)
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (Francis Lewis)
Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (1832)
Dennis Brindell Fradin, The Signers: The 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence (2003)
Encyclopedia of New York State (Peter Eisenstadt et al. eds., 2005)
Harry Clinton Green & Mary Wolcott Green, The Pioneer Mothers of America; a record of the more notable women of the early days of the country (1912)
Sanderson’s biography of the signers to the Declaration of Independence (Robert T. Conrad ed. 1865)