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Biography of John Hancock


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Hancock, John (1737-1793), an American merchant and statesman. He was born at Braintree, Massachusetts, always lived in that state, and died at Quincy. Hancock was graduated at Harvard in 1754. He learned the business of an importing merchant in the counting house of an uncle, who left him money with which to carry on the business. Samuel Adams was without a dollar. Hancock was the wealthiest merchant in the city. It is difficult to say which was the more determined opponent of Great Britain. Both were members of the Massachusetts General Court. Both sat in the Provincial Congress. Both were honored by General Gage as the two rebels "whose offenses are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration but that of condign punishment." Both were expressly omitted by name from an act of general amnesty with which the British government sought to conciliate the colonies in 1775. From the beginning, Hancock was in the thick of the contest. He owned the sloop Liberty, whose seizure brought on the riot of 1768. He demanded the removal of troops after the so-called Boston massacre. Hancock delivered a fiery address at the funeral of the victims of that affair. He was president of the Continental Congress, and his bold signature appeared prominently on the Declaration of Independence. He was the first governor of the state of Massachusetts. Hancock had faults enough, no doubt, vanity and jealousy, it is said, but none doubted his patriotism and strong common sense. His wealth, education, social standing, determined character, and reputation for strict integrity were of incalculable service to the American cause.