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Definition: Hancock, John from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


American revolutionary and political leader

Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, he graduated from Harvard and became a merchant in Boston. He opposed the Stamp Act (1765), and in 1768 his sloop Liberty was seized by the British for smuggling. As president (1775-77) of the Continental Congress, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, writing his name in a bold hand. He remained in the Congress until 1780, when he was elected governor of Massachusetts.

Summary Article: Hancock, John
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

1737–93, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Braintree, Mass. From an uncle he inherited Boston's leading mercantile firm, and naturally he opposed the Stamp Act (1765) and other British trade restrictions. In 1768 his ship Liberty was seized as a smuggler and confiscated by the crown. A riot ensued, and later the ship was burned. Hancock was hailed as a martyr and elected (1766) to the legislature, where he joined Samuel Adams in advocating resistance to England. In 1775, Gen. Thomas Gage issued a warrant for their arrest, but they escaped. Hancock was a member (1775–80, 1785–86) and president (1775–77, 1785–86) of the Continental Congress. His name appears first (and largest) on the Declaration of Independence, and the term “John Hancock” is often used to mean a signature. He was governor of Massachusetts (1780–85, 1787–93).

  • See biographies by L. Sears (1912, repr. 1972), W. T. Baxter (1945), H. S. Allan (1948), and F. Wagner (1964).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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