“[T]hanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27] . . . principally, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner . . . to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God.'
From John Hart’s last will and testament, attested April 16, 1779
The last line of the Declaration of Independence:
“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
All fifty-six delegates signed knowing their lives and the safety of their families and property are now at an extremely high risk. Freedom is not free and is not for the armchair revolutionary.
“Honest John” Hart was one of many who suffered dearly during the war. The British targeted every signer and when marching through areas where the signers lived the British hunted them down.
After signing the Declaration of Independence, he returned to New Jersey and elected to the New Jersey General Assembly. He later became Treasurer of the Council of Safety. He was also President of the Joint Meetings of the New Jersey Congress and Commissioner of the State Loan Office. He personally signed all the continental money issued by New Jersey
December 1776, the British and their mercenary allies the Hessians invaded New Jersey chasing the retreating General Washington and the Continual Army. Mr. Hart’s family had advance warning and was able to flee before harm could come to them. The British and Hessians ravaged his farm. They destroyed his timber and they butchered all his cattle and stock for use by the British army. During most of December the British hunted john Hart like a noxious beast and he not daring to stay more than two nights at any place he was hiding. This was during one of coldest winters and he stayed in the woods and caves where he could find shelter.
After the success of General Washington’s defeat of the Hessians on December 26, 1776, the British retreated, and then did John Hart and his family return to his home. He was able to carry on his duties with the General Assembly and his position as Treasurer for a few years.
In June 1778, just prior to the Battle of Monmouth, John Hart opened his farm to General Washington and his 12,000 man Continental Army.
Unfortunately, the exposure he experienced that December of 1776 left him in a chronic condition that he never fully recovered. He died May 11, 1779 during the gloomiest period of the Revolutionary War and did not live to see the sunlight of Peace and Independence gladden the face of his country.
He certainly did “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”