John Hancock Facts
John Hancock - Date of Birth
John Hancock Birthplace
- Braintree, Massachusetts (the part of town that is now Quincy)
- Reverend John Hancock of Braintree, June 1, 1702 - May 7, 1744 (only 42 when he died)
- Mary Hawke Thaxter, October 13, 1711 - 1783
- John and Mary married on December 12, 1733. He was her second husband. She would marry a third time after his death.
- Rev. John Hancock
was a graduate of Harvard in 1719 at the age of 17. He served as
Harvard's librarian from 1723-1726. From 1726 until his death, he served
as pastor of the church of the North Precinct (now called the United
First Parish Church, nicknamed "Church of the Presidents")
in the town of Braintree, Massachusetts (now Quincy). This church is
the burial place of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
- John's father died when he was only 7 years old and he went to live with his grandfather, the Reverend John Hancock
in Lexington, where he lived until 1750. Reverend Hancock had another
son named Thomas who lived in Boston with his wife Lydia. Thomas was the
owner of a wealthy company that imported manufactured goods from
Britain and exported whale oil, fish and rum. He was one of the
wealthiest men in New England and founded a professorship of Oriental
Languages and Hebrew at Harvard and donated generously to Harvard's
- Thomas and Lydia had no children and, consequently,
no heir to take over the business. When John was thirteen, Thomas and
Lydia adopted him. The elder Rev. Hancock intended for John to follow in
his and his father's footsteps and become a minister. When Thomas
adopted him, however, he promised to send John to Harvard, but also
intended to have him take over his business when he was of age. Thomas
became the primary influence in John's life after the adoption.
Number of siblings
John Hancock Facts - Birth order
John Hancock was the 2nd of Rev. John Hancock's 3 children:
- Mary - 1735 - 1779
- John - 1737 - 1793
- Ebenezer - 1741 -1819, Ebenezer served as deputy
paymaster general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War
beginning in June 1776. He graduated from Harvard in 1760. He was also a
Keeper of the Powder House in Boston, Fire Warden, Inspector of the
Massachusetts Mint and Town Selectman in Boston.
John's mother Mary remarried after the Reverend's death and with her new husband also had two
half-siblings to John, a boy and a girl, but they were both stillborn.
Nicknames and Pseudonyms
- King Hancock, for his great wealth
John Hancock Education
- John Hancock
went to Boston Latin School, the oldest educational institution in the
colonies and graduated in 1750 at 13. Then he went to Harvard where he
studied Latin, religion, physics, geometry, astronomy, geology and
arithmetic, receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Classical Studies in 1754. After graduating he went to work for his uncle's firm.
John Hancock Facts - Religious Views
father and grandfather were both Congregationalist ministers and
graduates of Harvard's ministerial school. Had John's father not died
when he was young, he likely would have followed in his father's
footsteps and become a minister, as many sons did at that time. After
his father's death, John went to live with his grandfather until the age
of 13. Hancock's grandfather John was minister of the Congregationalist
church in Lexington for literally decades and was known as the "Bishop"
by area churches.
was a lifelong member of the Brattle Street Congregationalist Church.
His name was inscribed on the cornerstone of the church for the 1,000
pounds he gave when the church was built. He also bought the church's
bell. He also gave a Bible to a church in Lunenberg and
bought another bell for a church in Jamaica Plain.
He made frequent appeals to God in his role as
President of the Continental Congress and Governor of Massachusetts. In
these public positions, he made many statements of praise and thanks to
God for His blessings in the fight for independence, made public
requests for prayer and repentance and asserted that God was in control
of America's destiny. Hancock also advocated state support of religious
Some statements revealing his religious faith from some of his public statements and proclamations include:
- In a letter to the Continental Army in March 1776,
Hancock proclaimed that the same God who had foiled British efforts to
conquer Massachusetts would defeat their "deep-laid scheme" against the
other colonies as well.
- In an appeal to all the colonies in September 1776,
he stated that members of Congress relied "on Heaven for the justice of
- He also said, "I am persuaded under the gracious
smiles of Providence, assisted by our own most strenuous endeavors, we
shall finally succeed."
- From his inaugural address as governor in 1780, Hancock thanked God for "the peaceable and auspicious" adoption of the new state constitution.
- In 1782 Hancock reassured members of the
Massachusetts legislature that "the favor of heaven" would eventually
establish America's righteous claims.
- Hancock's Thanksgiving proclamation the following
year encouraged citizens to express their gratitude for God's numerous
blessings and to recognize that their "entire Dependence" was on "His
Goodness and Bounty."
When Hancock died, the Reverend Dr. Thatcher,
Hancock's pastor at Brattle Street Church, delivered the eulogy. He made
the following comments about Hancock's religious commitment:
- "His reverence for religion was never lost. He was
interested in every thing that related to the house of God. He exceeded
his worthy ancestors in his liberality to this society and proved his
real attachment to our peace and
happiness. It might have been said of him as of the centurion by the
Jews,'He loved our nation and hath built us a synagogue.'"
John Hancock Facts - First Occupation
- John Hancock
went to work for his uncle's firm, the House of Hancock, after
graduating from Harvard. He began to be trained to become a full partner
in the business. Hancock served in this position for many years and
became a full partner in 1763 when his uncle's health began to fail.
Thomas Hancock died in August, 1764 and John inherited the business, the
estate and 22,000 acres of land in Massachusetts, Connecticut and
Maine, making him one of the wealthiest men in the colonies.
- Later, during the Revolutionary War, Hancock would
serve as the President of the Continental Congress and become the first
Governor of the State of Massachusetts
- John Hancock made only one trip away from America in his life. He lived in London
from 1760-1761 while on business for his uncle. John engaged with some
of the leading businessmen in England at the time. While on this trip
John witnessed the coronation of King George III
on September 22, 1761, the king whom he would later refuse to serve and
fight directly against during the Revolutionary War. Another American
was also present and witnessed the coronation - Benjamin Franklin, whom John did not yet know personally.
The Hancock Family
Date of marriage, wife's name
- Dorothy "Dolly" Quincy
- Married August 28, 1775. The couple married at Fairfield, Connecticut
shortly after the American Revolution began while the Second
Continental Congress was on a recess where John oversaw the war effort
in his position as President. Dorothy and Hancock's adoptive Aunt, Lydia Hancock,
were staying temporarily in Fairfield because of the unrest in Boston.
Dorothy was staying with John and Lydia in their mansion on Beacon Hill
and had been engaged to him while there.
Children's names, birth order, occupations
- Lydia Henchman Hancock - October, 1776 - November, 1777. Lydia died in infancy.
- John George Washington Hancock - May 21, 1778 - January 27, 1787. John died at the age of eight as a result of a head injury suffered in an ice skating accident.
- Dorothy Quincy, John Hancock's wife, was a cousin to Elizabeth Quincy Smith, the mother of Abigail Adams, wife of Signer of the Declaration of Independence and President John Adams. Other prominent members of the Quincy family include future President John Quincy Adams, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, last Royal Attorney General of Massachusetts Jonathan Sewell and Revolutionary War soldier Josiah Quincy.
John Hancock Facts - Hancock Coat of Arms
- The Hancock family Coat of Arms consisted of a hand beneath three cocks with a griffin (half lion, half eagle) above all.
John Hancock Homes
- The Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, Massachusetts is the home where John Hancock lived with his grandfather, the Reverend John Hancock, after John's father died. Hancock lived here for six years until he moved to Boston and was adopted by his uncle Thomas. The Reverend Hancock was succeeded by the Reverend Jonas Clarke, who lived in the house and raised twelve children there.
- On the evening of April 18, 1775, the eve before the Revolutionary War began, John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying with Reverend Clarke because it was too dangerous to return to Boston. This is where Paul Revere and William Dawes
arrived separately on horseback to warn the men that the British were
coming, before riding on toward Concord. The house still stands and is
owned by the Lexington Historical Society. Visitors are welcome from
April through October.
- After moving in with his uncle after his father died, John Hancock grew up in Hancock Manor,
his uncle's luxurious estate on Beacon Hill in Boston. The home stood
until the 1860's when efforts to restore it failed. The state capitol
stands on the grounds today. This is a picture of the actual home around
1860. It was torn down in 1863.
Hancock Manor, Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts
- In 1925, Horace Moses constructed the Hancock House in Ticonderoga, New York, an exact replica of Hancock Manor
for the New York State Historical Association, as a museum for
"American Traditions in History and the Fine Arts." The Association used
the house as its headquarters until after World War II. Today it is
owned by the Ticonderoga Historical Society and serves as a regional museum and library. You can visit today and learn more about the John Hancock House here.
John Hancock House Replica Ticonderoga
- A replica of John Hancock's house was built for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The house served as a museum at the fair.
John Hancock House replica,
Chicago World's Fair, 1893
- The Dorothy Quincy House in Quincy, Massachusetts, also known as the Quincy Homestead, is the childhood home of Dorothy Quincy Hancock, wife of John Hancock.
The home served five generations of Quincys and is open to the public.
It is on the National Historic Landmark, owned by the State of
Massachusetts and operated by the National Society of The Colonial Dames
of America in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is open on
Saturdays during the summer. You can learn more about the Dorothy Quincy House here.
The Revolutionary War
How he got involved in the independence effort?
- John Hancock
became involved in the independence effort through the events of
several years' time beginning in 1765 when he was elected to Boston's
Town Council as one of the five Selectmen, a position his rich uncle
held for many years. Shortly after his election, the Stamp Act
was passed by Parliament to tax all legal and contractual transactions
on paper that was to be stamped with an official seal. Many colonists
believed this was an illegal tax because they were not represented in
Parliament. They had always been taxed only by their own elected
representatives in their own legislatures. As the owner of a large
shipping firm, John Hancock was particularly affected by the Stamp Act
with loads of paperwork and heavy taxes. He was very vocal in his
opposition, though at first he believed it should be obeyed until a
repeal could take place. After a few months, Hancock changed his mind
and joined the resistance. He joined in the Boston merchants' boycott of
impacting his own business, though he still disapproved of mob
intimidation and violence toward officials. Many royal officials were
burned in effigy or had their homes ransacked for supporting the Stamp
Act, including the Lieutenant Governor, Thomas Hutchinson. The
Massachusetts House of Assembly called for a meeting of all the colonies
to meet in New York in October, 1765, to discuss a unified response of
the colonies to resist the Stamp Act. The meeting is known as the Stamp Act Congress. John Hancock was one of the Massachusetts representatives chosen to attend the Stamp Act Congress, which produced several statements of the colonists' rights and grievances.
- His participation in the boycott of British goods made him popular in Boston and after the Stamp Act was repealed in March 1766, Hancock was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in May, along with James Otis, Thomas Cushing, and Samuel Adams. Samuel Adams,
one of the most vocal and ardent opposers of British tactics and was
the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The two became close
associates. Many people view them in a mentor/protege light and credit
Adams with engineering Hancock's rise to political prominence. Adams may
have promoted Hancock in order to exploit Hancock's wealth to resist
the British, but he undoubtedly also respected Hancock's own political
In 1767, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts,
a series of Acts designed to increase revenue and decrease smuggling.
Colonists were involved in smuggling to avoid paying taxes and to find
more lucrative markets outside the British Empire. The colonists were
outraged at the Acts and Boston merchants, including John Hancock, again boycotted British goods until the Townshend Acts would be repealed. Part of the Townshend Acts
involved much stricter enforcement by customs officials and Hancock was
continually targeted by them
because of his high profile and large shipping business. His ships and
warehouses were the continual target of snooping officials. They may
have suspected him of smuggling or were simply targeting him because of
his high profile. On April 9, 1768, two customs officials boarded his
brig Lydia and demanded to search her goods
below deck. Hancock was called and when he arrived he found that the
officials did not have a writ of assistance (a search warrant) so he
forbade them from searching the ship. Later one of them snuck below deck
and when he was found he was forced out of the hold by Hancock's
employees. Later on, some viewed this as the first act of physical
resistance to the British and credited Hancock with beginning the Revolutionary War.
Some wanted to charge Hancock with resisting the law for barring the
officials from searching his ship, but the charges were dropped by
Massachusetts Attorney General Jonathan Sewell, who
investigated the matter and determined that Hancock had not violated any laws.
The Liberty Incident
- On May 9, 1768, Hancock's sloop Liberty
arrived in Boston with a shipment of Madeira wine. The following day
the ship was inspected by customs officials who accused him of smuggling.
They found only 25 caskets of wine on board, but the ship's capacity was
much greater. They suspected him of removing much of the cargo in the
night. This was never proved however because the two customs employees
on board the ship for the night both said that no such thing happened. A
month later, one of these employees changed his story and said he was
forced to remain quiet while the cargo was removed in the night. On June
10, officials seized the Liberty, which had been filled with new cargo and towed it out to be guarded by the warship HMS Romney
in the harbor. The citizens of Boston were outraged and began to riot.
Several customs officials' homes were destroyed and many of them fled to
the Romney and then to Castle William, a fort on an island in the harbor. Hancock was the victim of two lawsuits as a result. John Adams, the future president and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was Hancock's attorney. The first was filed on June 22, 1768, concluded in August and resulted in the confiscation of the Liberty,
which was put into the customs service. It was burned by angry
colonists in Rhode Island the following year. The second suit began in
October and accused Hancock of illegally unloading 100 caskets of wine
without paying the duty on them. This was a
highly public trial in a vice admiralty court that had no jury and often
barred Hancock from cross examining witnesses. After dragging on for
five months the case was inexplicably dropped, probably for lack of
evidence. Hancock's alleged involvement in smuggling has never
been proven by historians, even though he has the reputation of being a
first rate smuggler. All of the concrete evidence that exists of Boston
merchants involved in smuggling does not contain any references to
Hancock. Of course, smuggling was a clandestine affair for which records
were not kept. Most likely he was peripherally involved in smuggling,
but does not deserve the "King of Colonial Smugglers" title which he has
been given. The Liberty affair cemented Hancock as a martyr and patriot in the eyes of fellow colonists.
- In September, Hancock and other Boston selectmen called for a mass "town meeting" to be held at Faneuil Hall in Boston. He sent a letter to towns across Massachusetts inviting them to send representatives to address the Townshend Acts.
96 towns were represented at the meeting held on September 28th. They
produced a list of grievances and passed several resolutions condemning
the Acts. You can read the text of the circular letter sent by John Hancock
and the other Boston selectmen here. Two days after this meeting,
British soldiers arrived and began their military occupation of Boston.
- Tension between colonists and
British soldiers turned bloody in March 1770 when soldiers fired on a
crowd that was taunting them. This event became known as the Boston Massacre. Afterwards, John Hancock
led a delegation from the city that met with the Governor and the
Colonel in charge of the troops and demanded that they remove the troops
from the city or else 10,000 armed colonists would march on Boston. The
officials knew this was a bluff, but also knew the soldiers presence in
town could incite more violence and so removed the troops to Castle
William in the harbor. Hancock was celebrated as a hero for helping get
the troops out of town and was reelected to the House of Representatives
nearly unanimously in May.
- The Townshend Acts were repealed in 1770 and things quieted down in Boston. In April, 1772, Governor Hutchinson tried to pull John Hancock into his camp by appointing him colonel of the Boston Cadets.
This was a militia unit that was in charge of providing a ceremonial
escort for the governor and General Court. In May, Hutchinson also
approved Hancock's election to the Council, which was the Upper Chamber
of the General Court. The Council was elected by the legislature, but
their choices could be vetoed by the governor. Hancock had been elected
to this position several times before, but the governor had always
vetoed his election. John Hancock declined the position however, not wanting to seem as if he was in the governor's hand.
- In 1773, Hancock was involved in
the public revelation of some of Governor Hutchinson's private letters
which recommended to Parliament that the rights of the colonists to
govern themselves should be taken away in degrees. Benjamin Franklin had sent the letters from England to
patriot leaders in Boston, but asked that they be kept private. Hancock, Samuel Adams and others were involved in getting the letters published in the Boston Gazette in June. Hutchinson was forced out of office as a result of the outcry.
- In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, which placed a tax on imported tea. The colonists were outraged at yet another attempt by Parliament to tax them. John Hancock
was appointed moderator of a Boston Town Meeting on November 5th that
adopted a resolution stating that anyone who supported the Tea Act
was an "Enemy of America." Hancock and others tried to force out the
agents appointed to collect the tax, but were unsuccessful. In December,
three ships with tea arrived in Boston Harbor and Hancock was present
at a meeting where the colonists planned to prevent the unloading of the
tea. He allegedly said at the meeting, "Let every man do what is right
in his own eyes." On the evening of December 16th, disguised colonists
boarded the ships and threw the tea into the harbor. Hancock was not
present at the Boston Tea Party,
but approved of the action, though he was careful not to endorse the
destruction of private property publicly. Once the event was known in
England, Parliament shut down the harbor with a naval blockade called
the Boston Port Act and sent more soldiers to Boston, which helped precipitate the Revolutionary War.
- Parliament passed a series of acts known as the Intolerable Acts
to gain better control of Boston. The acts took away the right of the
colonists to elect people to most public offices and gave the right to
the Royal Governor instead, forced colonists to house British troops
on their own property, severely limited the colonists from holding town
meetings and gave the governor the right to send trials of royal
officials to other colonies or even back to England if he thought they
couldn't get a fair trial in Massachusetts. These acts caused great
alarm in all the British colonies, which feared that England would try
to take away their rights as well.
- On March 5, 1774, John Hancock was chosen to give the annual address at a public commemoration to those who died in the Boston Massacre.
He delivered a scathing attack on the British government that cemented
his popularity in the eyes of the people. The speech was reprinted in
newspapers around the colonies. Read the John Hancock Boston Massacre Oration here.
- Later that year, Governor Hutchinson was replaced with a new governor, General Thomas
Gage, who arrived to enforce the Intolerable Acts. Gage removed Hancock from his position as colonel of the Boston Cadets.
In October, Gage cancelled the regular meeting of the Massachusetts
Colonial Legislature. In response, the House of Representatives met on
their own independently as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, completely free of all British rule. John Hancock was elected President of the Provincial Congress and to its powerful Committee of Safety.
The Provincial Congress created the minutemen divisions that were to be
ready to respond to a call to arms at a minute's notice. John Hancock helped finance them.
The Revolutionary War begins!
- On December 1, 1774, the Provincial Congress elected John Hancock as a representative to the Second Continental Congress,
which was to meet in Philadelphia in May, 1775 to coordinate colonial
protests against Britain and defense of colonial rights. In February,
1775, Hancock was reelected President of the Provincial Congress.
Hancock attended the Provincial Congress in Concord in April. When it
was over, believing it was too dangerous to go back to Boston, he and Samuel Adams
decided to stay in Lexington before leaving to attend the Continental
Congress in Philadelphia. On the night of April 18th, General Gage sent a
detachment of troops to Concord to confiscate the colonists' supplies
of arms and ammunition held there. They would have to pass through
Lexington on the way. Gage had received a letter from Lord Dartmouth
instructing him "to arrest the principal actors and abettors in the
Provincial Congress whose
proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion."
General Gage's order that night instructed the soldiers to capture the
patriots' arms, but did not specifically mention capturing Hancock and
Adams. The patriot's however believed they were in imminent danger and Joseph Warren dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes
to warn Hancock and Adams that the British were coming for them and to
warn the towns of Lexington and Concord to prepare for battle. Revere
and Dawes arrived in Lexington around midnight with the warning. Hancock
immediately began preparing his gun and dispatched someone to start
ringing the bell at the local meeting house which rung all night,
arousing the sleeping citizens and calling them to arms. It took some
time for Reverend Clark, with whom they were staying, and Samuel Adams
to persuade Hancock that it was not in the best interest of
someone in his position to be caught fighting the enemy, but that he
would be more useful in governing. Hancock's aunt Lydia was also there,
as well as Dorothy Quincy, Hancock's future wife and a cousin of Lydia's, who had been staying with the Hancocks on Beacon
Hill. Hancock and Adams escaped town and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at dawn on Lexington Green.
- Hancock made his way to Philadelphia where he was elected President of the Second Continental Congress, where he oversaw the war efforts of the entire colonies.
- After the events at Lexington and
Concord, General Gage issued a pardon to everyone that would "lay down
their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects..." - EXCEPT
for Samuel Adams and John Hancock! Read General Gage's Proclamation here.
- ... and THAT is how John Hancock got involved in the War of Independence!
Did he see military action during the war?
- John Hancock
was appointed Senior Major general of the Massachusetts militia in
1776, but was away most of the time in his duties as President of the Continental Congress.
In the summer of 1778, he got his chance for military action however.
The French fleet had just come to help the Americans and General Washington ordered an attack on the British troops at Newport, Rhode Island. General John Sullivan led the American troops. John Hancock
returned to Boston to lead 6,000 militiamen into the Newport campaign,
although he let the more seasoned soldiers do all the planning.
Thousands of Americans marched to Newport, but the Battle of Rhode Island was a disaster for the Americans
when the French Admiral D'Estaing
pulled out and did not land his troops after a bad storm damaged his
fleet. Much of Hancock's militia deserted. He and the other generals
involved were criticized for the failed operation. D'Estaing's fleet
went to Boston for repairs, but the citizens of Boston were angry with
them for the failed mission. John Hancock
quickly went back to Boston to try to relieve tensions between the two
groups. A riot ensued the day the French landed in Boston and animosity
was high between the French soldiers and Boston's patriots. Hancock
reached out to the French, inviting 40 officers a day to dine at his
house and throwing a ball for 500 soldiers. The effort helped calm the
French soldiers, but Hancock still referred to them as "Philistines" in
this private letter when they came to his house - John Hancock letter to Henry Quincy, August 30, 1778.
Some commentators credit Hancock's intervention with the continuing
participation of France in the war. The French were so angry with the
Americans' disgust with their pulling out of Rhode Island that they came
near to pulling out altogether. Hancock's diplomacy may have changed
their minds and ensured their involvement, which would be crucial to
winning the war in the days ahead.
John Hancock Facts - Accomplishments during the war
- On June 17th, 1775 Congress appointed George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. In his role as President of Congress, John Hancock signed George Washington's commission.
- On July 9, 1778, John Hancock signed the Articles of Confederation.
This was the first governing document for the new states. Delegates
from seven states signed the document, but the other states were not yet
ready to accept the new form of government so the Articles would not be
ratified until 1781. The Articles of Confederation
featured a very weak central government that was not strong enough to
sustain itself. Consequently, the Articles were done away with and the United States Constitution took its place.
- In October of 1780 the new Massachusetts Constitution went into effect. John Hancock
was elected the first Governor of Massachusetts, a position he was
continually reelected to for the rest of his life, with the exception of
a period from 1785 to 1787 when he resigned, saying
he was too sick to run again. His resignation was a probably a result of
the increased tumult in the countryside that became known as Shay's
rebellion. There were great economic difficulties during this period and
the farmers in the countryside were blaming the government. Hancock's
policies as governor may have contributed to the economic problems and,
as Governor of Massachusetts, he was an easy target. Once the conflict
was over and dealt with by his successor, Governor James Bowdoin, Hancock ran again and was reelected continuously until his death.
- While he was President of Congress, John Hancock oversaw - the appointment of George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army; the Declaration of Independence; and the defeat of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, a major turning point in the war.
Offices Hancock Held
John Hancock Facts - Which government offices did he hold?
- Selectman, Town Council of Boston 1765 - 1774
- Massachusetts Representative to the Stamp Act Congress - October, 1765
- Under Royal Government, Representative to Massachusetts House of Representatives, May 1766 - 1774
- Overseer and Colonel of Boston Cadets, the Royal Governor's personal guard, April, 1772 - 1774
- Massachusetts General Court, this is the upper house of the Legislature, an advisory position to the Royal Governor - May 1772 - 1774
- Treasurer of Harvard University, 1773
- Elected President of Massachusetts Provincial Congress - 1774 - 1775
- Massachusetts delegate to Second Continental Congress, December 1774 - 1780
- President of Second Continental Congresses, May 24, 1775 - October, 1777
- Sat on the Marine Committee in the Continental Congress, helping create a fleet of thirteen frigates for the colonists, including the USS John Hancock.
- First Major General of the Massachusetts Militia, February 8, 1776 -
- President of Massachusetts State Convention to accept Articles of Confederation, January, 1778
- President of Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, 1780
- Governor of Massachusetts, 1780 - 1785 and 1786 - 1793
- Massachusetts representative to Confederation Congress, 1785 - 1786
- Again elected President of the Continental Congress on November 23, 1785, but resigned May 29, 1786, not having served due to illness
- President of Massachusetts Convention to ratify the US Constitution, January 1788
Did he hold any office under the Royal government?
- Representative to Massachusetts House of Representatives, May 1766 - 1774
- Overseer and Colonel of Boston Cadets, the Royal Governor's personal guard, April, 1772 - 1774
- Massachusetts General Court, this is the upper house of the Legislature, an advisory position to the Royal Governor - May 1772 - 1774
John Hancock Facts - Which party was he in?
- John Hancock
was believed to be an anti-Federalist at the beginning of the
Constitutional question. He believed the new Constitution gave the
federal government too much power at the expense of the states and that
it did not protect the people's rights. During the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention,
of which he was elected President, he was approached by Federalists who
supported the Constitution. They persuaded him to put his support
behind the Constitution if a Bill of Rights
was added that specifically listed the protected rights of the people
that could not be infringed upon by the government. The Federalists may
have also hinted to Hancock that they would support his election as the
first President of the United States if he supported them. Hancock put
his support behind the Constitution if it had a Bill of Rights.
He addressed the Ratification Convention and encouraged their support,
stating that their concerns about the rights of the people would be
protected by a Bill of Rights. Enough
of them were persuaded to ratify the Constitution by a narrow margin.
The Constitution would probably not have been ratified by Massachusetts
if it had not been for Hancock's support. After the ratification, the
Federalists were thrilled with Hancock and continued to vote for him and
support his political career, electing
him as Governor of Massachusetts every year until his death.
Interesting Personal Information
- John Hancock was a boyhood acquaintance of young John Adams,
who would become another Revolutionary War patriot and the 2nd
President of the United States. They grew up in the same town and
Hancock was about a year and a half older than Adams.
- John Hancock
was only 27 years old when his uncle Thomas died and left him his
business, the House of Hancock, making John one of the wealthiest men in
- Hancock inherited what was thought
to be the most valuable tract of land in New England at his uncle's
death, most of it was inhabited, however, by Loyalists. John also did
most of his business dealings with Loyalists, who were in positions of
influence and authority. This did not stop him from supporting the
patriot cause however. John Hancock was known for his populism and support of the common man.
- In 1772, John Hancock
commissioned the famous Boston portrait painter John Singleton Copley
to paint portraits of Samuel Adams and of himself. Copley was Hancock's
neighbor on Beacon Hill. The painting of his political mentor Samuel
Adams, is the most famous painting of Adams. The two portraits hung in John Hancock's
mansion for 50 years. Then they were moved to Faneuil Hall. Today the
originals are housed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
- When John Hancock was elected President of the Continental Congress, he was chosen by a unanimous vote.
- Hancock was sometimes criticized for his lavish
style and luxurious tastes. Of course, he was used to a life of opulence
because he was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies, having
inherited his uncle's wealthy import/export business, the House of
Hancock. Hancock was known for his extravagant clothing and while
serving as President of the Second Continental Congress he rode in a
fancy chariot escorted by fifty armed horsemen plus servants!
- In 1774, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress issued a proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving to God. John Hancock
was president and the proclamation was signed by him. It was the first
proclamation issued in the colonies with no mention of King George III.
Other John Hancock Facts
- John Hancock was known as Johnny when he was a boy.
- Around the time John Hancock
arrived in Philadelphia to attend the Continental Congress, where he
was chosen its President, his home back in Boston had been taken over
and was being lived in by General Henry Clinton, commander of the
British forces occupying Boston. Soldiers would camp out in his yard and
cut the fence down for firewood.
- When John Hancock
went to London for business at 23, he traveled with Governor Thomas
Pownall, former governor of Massachusetts, whom John's uncle Thomas had
enlisted to escort the boy.
- Shortly before the Battles of Lexington and Concord, British soldiers tarred and feathered a local citizen. John Hancock
was part of a committee that investigated the matter. He was targeted
by angry British soldiers who hacked up the fence around his house with
swords and entered his grounds where they threatened that his house and
stable would soon be in their hands.
- On June 15, 1775, the Continental
Congress, including the other Massachusetts delegates, nominated George
Washington to be the Commander of the Continental Army. John Adams wrote many years later that John Hancock
was very disappointed that he had not been named to the position
himself. Adams said Hancock was visibly upset when he first found out,
but from then on he did not show his disappointment and supported
Washington in every way he could.
- In late 1775, when the Continental
Army was surrounding Boston, it was proposed that the Army bombard
Boston and destroy the entire town. John Hancock
would have lost everything, but he agreed to the plan anyway, believing
the cause to be more important than his personal wealth.
- Hancock received an enormous amount of wealth and a
thriving business when his uncle Thomas died, but Hancock was not the
best manager. Hancock closed the House of Hancock permanently in 1775.
Business was becoming harder and harder to operate with pressure from
the British government and due to colonial boycotts of British goods.
Hancock also made some unwise business decisions, all of which
contributed to his declining business. The closing of his business may
have also been the reason he became so heavily involved in politics.
- When the British cordoned off Boston in 1775, many leading citizens and patriots fled the city until calmer times prevailed. Lydia Hancock, John Hancock's aunt and Dorothy Quincy, his fiance, went to Fairfield, Connecticut where they stayed in the home of Thaddeus Burr, an old family friend. Thaddeus Burr was a local politician and wealthy landowner. His brother, Aaron Burr, Sr. was a minister and co-founder of Princeton. Aaron's wife Esther was the daughter of the famous Great Awakening minister Jonathan Edwards. Aaron and Esther were the parents of Aaron Burr, Jr., who became a Revolutionary War hero, future Senator from New York and Vice President under Thomas Jefferson. Later, Aaron was famously involved in a duel with Alexander Hamilton in which Hamilton
- During the time Lydia and Dorothy
were staying with Thaddeus Burr, the young Aaron Burr came to live with
him for a time. Aaron had been raised by his uncle, Timothy Edwards, in New Jersey after his parents' death, but he was attending law school in Litchfield, Connecticut, not far from Thaddeus Burr's home in Fairfield, when the war broke out. Aaron was a
very handsome and charming young man that many young women had their eye
on. Dorothy Quincy was one of the most eligible young women in Boston and even though she was engaged to John Hancock, she expressed interest in Aaron Burr in private letters. Lydia Hancock
was aware that John might be left behind if a flame was kindled between
Dorothy and Aaron and she refused to let them spend even one moment
- Soon Aaron was called into military service, where he became a Revolutionary War hero at the Battles of Quebec and Manhattan. John Hancock returned to Fairfield during a congressional break in the summer of 1775 and he and Dorothy were married at Thaddeus Burr's
home on August 28. Dorothy then moved to Philadelphia with John, where
she stayed at the same inn where many of the congressional
representatives were staying... one woman with 100 men, according to
John Adams, who wrote about Dorothy's polite manners in a letter to his
- Lydia Hancock
was preparing to go back to Boston in April 1776 after the British army
finally left the town. She died of a stroke on April 15 just before her
planned departure. She was buried in Fairfield under a gravestone
erected by Thaddeus Burr.
- In 1779, Fairfield was invaded by the British and many homes were destroyed, including the home of Thaddeus Burr. Eunice Burr,
Thaddeus' wife was at home when the army invaded. Many leading citizens
had fled the town, but she stayed in hopes that her presence would
prevent the soldiers from entering her home. She pleaded with Governor Tryon,
a long time family friend, to prevent the soldiers from destroying
their belongings, but the home was destroyed and the soldiers stole the
ring off her finger and the silver buckles off her shoes.
- Shortly afterwards, John Hancock surveyed the destroyed home with Thaddeus Burr and they talked about rebuilding. John told Thaddeus that if he would build himself a replica of Hancock's Beacon Hill
home, he would pay for the windows for the entire house. Thaddeus took
him up on the offer and built an exact replica of Hancock Manor. The
home still stands today on Old Post Road in Fairfield. The home looks
somewhat different now than it did originally because it was remodeled
in the 1840's. The dormers were removed and a large veranda
and columns were added to the front. The home is now owned by the City
of Fairfield and can be rented out for events.
Read on for more John Hancock Facts
- In 1767, John gave 1,098 books to Harvard's library. Here is a list of the books in John Hancock's personal library upon his death.
- As governor, John Hancock
encouraged passage of a law that required towns with at least 200
people to employ school teachers who could teach their students Greek
and Latin. Smaller towns had to have teachers who were proficient in
- In 1822, former President John Adams
deeded property to the city of Quincy, Massachusetts to be used for a
church and a boys school. Part of the property he gave was the site of
the home John Hancock was born in and that was later home to Josiah Quincy Sr. and Josiah Quincy, Jr. That house burned down in 1760. Adams specified that the boys school be built on the site of Hancock's home. The Adams Academy opened in 1872 and functioned until 1908. Today the building is owned by the Quincy Historical Society and contains a museum about the history of Quincy from Indian times until today. Visit the Quincy Historical Society website here.
- John Hancock
suffered from gout for most of his life, which is a debilitating joint
disease. This is the reason why he left public office a few times and
was often not able to serve.
- On the day John Hancock
resigned as President of Congress due to ill health, Congress drew up a
letter of thanks for his service. Several members, including Samuel Adams,
blocked the letter though, because they thought it was inappropriate to
express thanks to a President of Congress. Hancock was offended by
Adams' sleight and their relationship was never the same again. Both had
differing views and fell into different factions as the new nation was
formed. Their earlier political partnership ended as the new republic
- John Hancock's
finances suffered tremendously during the war, but he remained popular
and was known for his philanthropy, helping widows and orphans, loaning
money to those in need, assisting people who lost businesses and homes
in Boston's many fires and helping to rebuild the city after the Revolutionary War.
- John Hancock was 39 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence.
- John Hancock's fortune diminished considerably during the Revolutionary War. In 1781 he wrote Robert Morris,
a financier of the Revolution, asking if Congress would reimburse him
for his expenses when he was President of Congress. He estimated that
would not be enough to cover all his expenses. There is no record
showing that he was ever paid for his service.
- One of John Hancock's
most important contributions to the Revolutionary War was to accept the
Continental currency for payment from his debtors. This was money
printed by Congress to pay its debts. Many people doubted its worth and
would not accept it as payment. Hancock, however, accepted it, in an
effort to increase the nation's faith in the fledgling government.
More Interesting John Hancock Facts
- John Hancock received 4 electoral votes to become the first President of the United States in 1789, but of course George Washington was the victor. Hancock's fellow Boston politician John Adams received the second highest number of votes and thus became Vice President.
- In the first election for governor of the new State of Massachusetts in 1780, John Hancock received 11,000 out of 12,281 votes, showing his huge popularity there.
- John Hancock was elected nine times as Governor of Massachusetts, frequently with more than 80% of the vote.
- John Hancock
was elected President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress that
ratified the Massachusetts Constitution. This Constitution abolished
slavery in the new state.
- As governor of Massachusetts, John Hancock encouraged and supported the passage of a law that banned all recreation on Sunday and encouraged people to go to church.
- After John Hancock's
death, his wife, Dorothy, married Captain James Scott, a long time ship
captain who had worked for her husband. She dined with the Marquis de
Lafayette during his famous tour of the United States in 1825 and
reminisced about the events of fifty years before. She died in 1830,
thirtyseven years after John Hancock.
- The US Constitution was narrowly accepted by the Massachusetts ratifying convention. John Hancock served as President of the Convention and gave a last minute speech urging acceptance if the new Congress promised to pass a Bill of Rights.
Many credit this speech with the Convention's approval of the Constitution.
- Most biographers acknowledge that John Hancock
was very lavish and ostentatious and may have been overly interested in
public praise and appearances. They also, however, acknowledge that
Hancock's patriotism moved him to risk losing all the grandeur, pomp and
prestige that his wealth afforded him, by choosing to take a strong
stand against Britain, in order to obtain his greater love - liberty.
- John Hancock
was considered for President in 1789 when George Washington was
elected. He was also considered strongly for vice president, especially
in the South. He was again talked about for President in 1785 by the
- Ten states have a Hancock County named for John Hancock. Hancock, Massachusetts; Hancock, New York; Mount Hancock, New Hampshire; and Hancock, Michigan are also named after him.
- The John Hancock Insurance Company
was founded in Boston in 1862, but it has no personal connection to
Hancock or his business. The John Hancock Tower in Boston and the John
Hancock Center in Chicago take their names from this company.
- John Hancock was the Treasurer of Harvard from
1773 to 1777. He was serving as President of Congress at this time, was
outside Massachusetts most of the time and was overseeing the war. He
neglected to take care of matters back at Harvard and was eventually
accused of mismanaging funds. Harvard appointed another treasurer in his
place. Hancock probably didn't take the funds himself, but some money
disappeared in the neglect. Hancock was embarrassed by the incident and
paid $22,000 back to Harvard. In 1785, Hancock admitted he still owed
$1,500 to Harvard, which wasn't paid until after his death from his
- The US Navy has had six ships named after John Hancock. The USS Hancock,
below, was a World War II aircraft carrier that saw action in the
Philippines and Japan. It suffered a kamikaze attack during the war, but
was repaired. The ship continued in service through the Vietnam era and
was involved in the South Vietnamese evacuation of Saigon and finally
retired permanently in 1976 and sold for scrap.
- The USS John Hancock
was a destroyer launched in 1977. It was involved in the Persian Gulf
War, but never saw any other major action. It was decommissioned in 2000
and scrapped in 2007.
John Hancock Facts - Works and Quotes
Selected works by and about John Hancock
- Thomas Hancock letter, May 21, 1760
- This letter was written from Thomas Hancock, John's adoptive uncle,
to his business partners in London, when he sent John there on business,
instructing them to take care of John when he arrives.
- John Hancock letter to Dorothy Hancock, May 7, 1775
- John Hancock wrote this letter to his wife after escaping from
Massachusetts and arriving in New York safely to attend the Continental
- John Hancock Wedding Announcement, September 4, 1775 - This wedding announcement appeared in the New York Gazette seven days after he married Dorothy Quincy.
- John Hancock Letter to George Washington, July 6, 1776
- Hancock sent this letter to George Washington with a copy of the
brand new Declaration of Independence, asking him to read it to the
- John Hancock letter to New Jersey Convention, July 16, 1776
- John Hancock wrote this letter asking for the New Jersey Convention
to send troops to New York as quickly as possible. It gives a good sense
of the urgency of the times.
- John Hancock letter to Dorothy Hancock, March 10, 1777
- This letter shows the frustration and loneliness Hancock was facing
during the war. John had returned to Philadelphia alone while Dorothy
and their daughter were in Baltimore, where Congress had fled during the
occupation of Philadelphia.
- John Hancock resignation letter as President of Congress, October 1777 - Hancock asked for a leave of absence for two months in this letter due to his health, but he did not return to the office.
- George Washington letter to John Hancock, October 22, 1777
- Washington wrote this letter to John Hancock after Hancock informed
him he would be taking a leave of absence from his role as President of
Congress. Hancock intended to resume his duties in a few months, but
never returned to the position.
- Boston town meeting resolution regarding the return of Tories, August, 1778 - This resolution was passed by the town meeting of Boston after receiving a report from a committee chaired by John Hancock refusing the request of Tories to return to Boston.
Quotes by John Hancock
- "Let every man do what is right in his own eyes." - An alleged quote from Hancock at a meeting to plan the Boston Tea Party.
- John Hancock
made his last public appearance on September 18, 1793, when he appeared
before the Massachusetts Legislature. He told the legislators that he
was so ill that they wouldn't be able to hear him if he spoke, so he sat
by as the Secretary of State read his address.
At the end of the address, Hancock made the following remarks, "I rely
upon your candor to pardon this mode of addressing you. I feel the seeds
of mortality growing fast within me. But I think I have, in this case,
done no more than my duty, as a servant of the people. I never did and I
never will deceive them while I have life and strength to act in their
- Hancock died three weeks later on October 3, 1793.
Quotes about John Hancock
- "It having pleased the Supreme
Being, since your last meeting, in his holy Providence to remove from
this transitory life our late excellent Governor Hancock, the multitude
of his surviving fellow-citizens, who have often given strong
testimonials of their approbation of his important services, while they
drop a tear, may certainly profit by the recollection of his virtuous
and patriotic example." - Opening remarks of
acting Governor of Massachusetts, Samuel Adams, in the first legislative
session to meet after John Hancock's death, January, 1794
- "Washington was in the minds of so
many of the stanchest members that nothing could be done short of
conceding to them. Mr. Hancock himself had an ambition to be appointed
commander-in-chief. Whether he thought an election a compliment due him,
and intended to have the honor of declining it, or whether he would
have accepted it, I know not. To the compliment he had some pretensions,
for at that time his exertions, sacrifices, and general merits in the
cause of his country had been incomparably greater than those of Colonel
Washington. But the delicacy of his health, and his entire want of
experience in actual service, though an excellent militia officer, were
decisive objections to him in my mind." - John Adams speaking about the selection of George Washington as Commander of the Continental Army rather than John Hancock
- "The two young men whom I have
known to enter the stage of life with the most luminous, unclouded
prospects, and the best founded hopes, were James Otis and John Hancock.
They were both essential to the Revolution, and both fell sacrifices to
it... They were
the first movers, the most constant, steady, persevering springs,
agents, and most disinterested sufferers, and firmest pillars, of the
whole Revolution." - John Adams letter to Judge Tudor, June 5, 1813
- "Of Mr. Hancock's life, character,
generous nature, great and distinguished sacrifices and important
services, if I had forces, I should be glad to write a volume. But this I
hope will be done by some younger and abler hand." - John Adams letter to Jedidiah Morse, 1818.
- In 1894, the government of Massachusetts decided to erect a monument over Hancock's grave. At the dedication service in 1896, Governor Roger Wolcott made the following statement about Hancock:
"As we look back upon that period
of the revolution, to the events that led up to it, there is one figure,
among others, that stands with peculiar significance to the public
mind. That figure is John Hancock. A
man of dignity of presence, fond of elaborate ceremonial, elegant in his
attire, courtly in his manner, a man of education and great wealth for
that time, and a man who threw himself heart and soul into the patriotic
duties of the hour. I think we especially connect his name and memory
with three acts. In the first place, we remember that in the
proclamation of amnesty there were two names excepted; one was that of John Hancock, the other that of Samuel Adams. We remember that when Paul Revere rode out into Middlesex County to warn the farmers of the approach of British troops, John Hancock and Samuel Adams
were slumbering quietly in the little village of Lexington, and that
their capture was accounted as important to the British cause as the
capture or destruction of the ammunition which they were sent out to
We especially remember John Hancock
again as president of the Continental Congress, and as the first to
sign, in his bold, fine signature, his name to that immortal
declaration, in which those who signed it pledged their lives, their
fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of liberty."
John Hancock Facts - The end of his life
Date and age of retirement
- John Hancock
continued to serve as the Governor of Massachusetts right up until his
death, although in the last several years he was practically a
figurehead because of his poor health.
Death of John Hancock
- John Hancock
died on October 8, 1793 at 56 years of age. He died in bed with his
wife at his side. Acting Governor Samuel Adams declared the day of his
funeral a state holiday. Hancock's funeral was attended by thousands who
came from all over Massachusetts. The funeral procession stretched a
mile and a half long and included judges, members of Congress, Vice
President John Adams, former Councillors and Senators, the President,
Board and professors of Harvard and numerous other officials.
Where was John Hancock buried?
- John Hancock
is buried in the Old Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts.
This is Boston's third oldest cemetery and is named for the granary
building that once stood next door. The memorial was erected over
Hancock's grave by the State of Massachusetts in 1895. Other
Revolutionary War figures buried in the cemetery include Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, James Otis, Robert Treat Paine, the parents of Benjamin Franklin and the five people killed in the Boston Massacre.
John Hancock Grave
Epitaph on gravestone
- This memorial erected A.D. MDCCCXCV by the commonwealth of Massachusetts to mark the grave of John Hancock.
If you enjoyed reading these John Hancock Facts, you will also like to read the following Revolutionary War Facts:
Revolutionary War Facts
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