John Hancock

JOHN HANCOCK, was born at Quincy, near Boston, and was the son and grandson of an eminent clergyman, but, having early lost his father, was indebted for his liberal education to his uncle, a merchant of great wealth and respectability, who sent him to Harvard university, where he was graduated in 1754. He was then placed in the counting-house of his benefactor, and not long afterwards visited England, where he was present at the coronation of George III, as little prescient as the monarch himself of the part which he was destined to act in relation to the English government. On the sudden demise of his uncle, in 1764, he succeeded to his large fortune and extensive business; both of which he managed with great judgment and munificence. As a member of the provincial legislature, he exerted himself with zeal and resolution against the royal governor and the British ministry, and became so obnoxious to them, in consequence, that in the proclamation issued by general Gage, after the battle of Lexington, and a few days before that of Bunker hill, offering pardon to the rebels, he and Samuel Adams were especially excepted, their offenses being of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment.' This circumstance gave additional celebrity to these two patriots, between whom, however, an unfortunate dissention took place, which produced a temporary schism in the party which they headed, and a long personal estrangement between themselves. In fact, they differed so widely in their modes of living and general dispositions, that their concurrence in political measures may be considered one of the strongest proofs of their patriotism. Hancock was a magnificent liver, lavishly bountiful, and splendidly hospitable Samuel Adams had neither the means nor the inclination for pursuing a similar course. He was studiously simple and frugal, and was of an austere, unbending character.

Hancock was president of the provincial congress of Massachusetts, until he was sent as a delegate from the province to the general congress at Philadelphia, in 1775. Soon after his arrival there, he was chosen to succeed Peyton Randolph as president of that assembly, and was the first to affix his signature to the declaration of independence. He continued to fill the chair until the year 1779, when he was compelled by disease to retire from congress. He was then elected governor of Massachusetts, and was annually chosen from 1780 to 1785. After an interval of two years, during which Mr. Bowdoin occupied the post, he was reelected, and continued in the office until his death, Oct. 8, 1793, at the age of 56 years. In the interval, he acted as president of the convention of the state for the adoption of the federal constitution, for which he finally voted. (An able sketch of his character is contained in Tudor's Lifo of Otis.) The talents of Hancock were rather useful than brilliant. He seldom spoke, but his knowledge of business, and facility in despatching it, together with his keen insight into the characters of men, rendered him peculiarly fit for public life. As the president of a deliberative assembly, he excelled. His voice was sonorous, his apprehension of questions quick; he was well acquainted with parliamentary forms, and inspired respect and confidence by his attention, impartiality and dignity. In his private life, he was eminent for his hospitality and beneficence. He was a complete gentleman of the old school, both in his appearance and manners; dressing richly, ac cording to the fashion of the day, keeping a handsome equipage, and being distinguished for politeness and affability in social intercourse. When Washington consulted the legislature of Massachusetts upon the propriety of bombarding Boston, Hancock advised its being done immediately, if it would benefit the cause, although nearly his whole property consisted in houses and real estate in that town.