Mayor Jim Brainard addresses the crowd at CarmelFest 2023


Editor’s note: Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard addressed the crowd at CarmelFest 2023Tuesday evening about the significance of Independence Day. Here are his remarks.

Thank you and welcome to Carmelfest.  

This evening I want to pause for a moment and talk briefly about the significance of this day in our country’s history.  

Two hundred and fortyseven years ago today, 56 brave men signed a declaration stating the reasons they wanted to independently govern themselves and leave the British Empire and the tyranny of a king.  

They signed the Declaration of Independence to tell the world why they believed average people could govern better than any monarch.  This idea was revolutionary.  An elected representative government had not been in place in the world for almost two thousand years and most people across the globe believed that an elected representative government simply would not work.  The signers knew representative government would be hard, had not worked well throughout history but still believed that with civility and compromise ordinary people could govern themselves better than any king or autocrat.

Today, as we observe the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence it is fitting and proper that we take a moment and remember what happened to the 56 courageous men who signed the Declaration of Independence. These 56 men of vision and courage, supported by their families, risked everything they had in this world for an idea—a vision of self-governance by average people. They knew what they were about to do was considered treason and that the British, the strongest empire on the globe, would do everything within their power to destroy them.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.  Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.  

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

What kind of men were they?  Twenty-four were lawyers and judges.  Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; 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.  They weren’t perfect but they promoted an idea…the idea of self government and the equality of opportunithy that would grow over time and be the envy of the world.

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

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

British soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.  

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted from a distance that the British General Cornwallis had taken over his home for his headquarters, because he believed it would not be targeted. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire.  Washington won that battle but the home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed.  The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

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

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians.  They were soft-spoken young men of means and education.  They had security, but they valued liberty and independence more.  Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

Against all odds, they gave you and me and our children a free and independent America.  They gave those yet to arrive to this land a common set of principles and values and beliefs that bring us together and that have guided us for almost two and a half centuries.  

These men recognized that everyone was not free but set a standard that allowed for freedom to grow over the decades. They set an example for other freedom loving people across the globe that with courage and fortitude tyrants could be overthrown.  

We dare not forget the sacrifices of those men and women who established the liberty we know today.  Since our country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to preserve our freedoms.  The graves of those men and women who answered that call surround the globe.

Today, it could be easy to forget the sacrifices of those patriots who created our Republic and have kept it free for almost two and a half centuries.

As I reflect on the challenges our country isexperiencing today, I thought of the story of when Ben Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention before anyone besides the delegates knew what had been agreed on.  Franklin was approached by a citizen as he left the building and stepped into the street who asked “what sort of government are we getting.”  Benjamin Franklin’s answered:“A Republic, if you can keep it.”  Franklin knew then as we do today that representative government is difficult; it requires constant compromise and civility from many people of different backgrounds.  Representative government is much harder than simply turning government over to an autocrat or dictator.  Representative government, though, as hard and as chaotic as it is though, is far far better than any other alternative. Everyone one of us has a duty to participate.


We must honor and cherish the memory of those brave patriots that risked their lives to give us this set of freedoms. We honor and cherish their dreams of freedom and equality by making our country work for the benefit of everyone. We honor and cherish their dreams of freedom and equality by having civil and respectful discussions to build a better country for all of our citizens. We honor and cherish their dreams of freedom and equality by making representative government work.

As we build this wonderful new city here in Carmel with its beautiful boulevards, green parks and trails, great public schools, with its beautiful libraries, and venues for the arts and we need to remember it is because of the sacrifices of those who 247 years ago today risked everything for the freedom we enjoy.

There is one more thing we must do to honor and cherish the memory of those brave patriots. That challenge is to teach our children and grandchildren the stories of those patriots.  We must teach them that freedom can only be earned by sacrifice, diligence and courage.  It is that sacrifice, diligence and courage of those 56 men and their families that we celebrate today.  

Have a wonderful 4th of July.