Biography of John Hancock
Written by: Ammon, Harry Posted on: 03/18/2003
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
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
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,
USED BY PERMISSION, granted January 9, 1988
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