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Biography of John Hancock

Written by: Ammon, Harry    Posted on: 03/18/2003

Category: Biographies

Source: CCN

    Hancock, John

John Hancock, b. Jan. 23, 1737, d. Oct. 8, 1793, was an American Revolutionary statesman and the first signer of the Declaration of Independence. Born in Braintree (now Quincy), Mass., he was educated at Harvard and trained for business in London.

Inheriting his uncle's firm, Thomas Hancock & Co., he became the wealthiest merchant in Boston. He joined the protest against the Stamp Act and other British regulatory measures. In 1768, when customs agents seized his sloop Liberty, popular sympathy led to public demonstrations in his behalf; he was defended by John Adams, and the charges were finally dropped.

Groomed by Samuel Adams, who saw the value of affiliating a prominent merchant with the cause of independence, Hancock emerged as a leading figure in the revolutionary movement, and in 1774 was chosen president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Elected to the Second Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence and was chosen president of Congress. He resigned in 1777 in disappointment over the failure of Congress to make him commander- -in-chief of the Continental Army, but he continued to be active in Massa- chusetts politics, serving as governor for nine terms between 1780 and 1793. Unwilling to face the disturbances that resulted in Shays's Rebellion, he resigned from the governorship in 1785 and returned to office only when the uprising had been suppressed.

At first critical of the federal Constitution, Hancock was won over to support ratification by the promise of nomination for the presidency should George Washington decline. Though seemingly in the vanguard of the revolutionaries, he was not considered an independent figure but a tool of Samuel Adams, who played on Hancock's ambition, vanity, and inordinate love of popularity.



Allan, Herbert S. - JOHN HANCOCK (1948)

Baxter, William T. - HOUSE OF HANCOCK: BUSINESS IN BOSTON 1724-1775 (1945; repr. 1965)

Sears, Lorenzo - JOHN HANCOCK: THE PICTURESQUE PATRIOT, ed. by George Billias (1912; repr. 1972).

'Copyright 1987, Grolier Inc, Academic American Encyclopedia, Electronic Version'

USED BY PERMISSION, granted January 9, 1988

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