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John Hancock Resignation Letter
as President of Congress

John Hancock by John Singleton Copley

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John Hancock

In this John Hancock Resignation Letter, submitted in October 1778, John Hancock resigns his position as President of the Continental Congress, a position he held for two years and five months. He saw Congress through its darkest times and its greatest moments, such as the Declaration of Independence, the adoption of the Articles of Confederation and the defeat of General Burgoyne at Saratoga. Hancock's health was suffering and he needed to rest. He intended to only take a leave of absence for two months, but Congress appointed Henry Laurens of South Carolina to take his place and he never returned to the office.

John Hancock Resignation Letter
as President of Congress


Friday last completed two years & five months since you did me the honor of electing me to fill this chair. As I could never flatter myself your choice proceeded from any idea of my abilities, but rather from a partial opinion of my attachment to the liberties of America, I felt myself under the strongest obligations to discharge the duties of the office, and I accepted the appointment with the firmest resolutions to go through the business annexed to it in the best manner I was able. Every argument conspired to make me exert myself, and I endeavored by industry and attention to make up for every other deficiency.

As to my conduct both in & out of Congress, in the execution of your business, it is improper for me to say anything. You are the best judges. But I think I shall be forgiven if I say I have spared no expense, or labor, to gratify Your wishes, and to accomplish the views of Congress. My health being much impaired I find some relaxation absolutely necessary after such constant application. I must therefore request Your Indulgence for leave of absence for two months. But I cannot take my departure, gentlemen, without expressing my thanks for the civility & politeness I have experienced from you. It is impossible to maintain this without a heartfelt pleasure. If any expressions have dropped from my lips which have given offence to any member during the long period that I have had the honor to fill this chair, I hope they will be passed over, for they were prompted by no unkind motive.

May every happiness, gentlemen, attend you, both as members of this house and as individuals, and I pray Heaven that unanimity & perseverance may go hand in hand in this house, and that everything which may tend to distract or divide your councils be forever banished.

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