John Hancock

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hancockJohn Hancock: The Man Behind the Signature

By Donald N. Moran

John Hancock was the President of the Second Continental Congress and the first delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence,. He did so in such a way that in America his name has become a synonym for the word 'signature'.

But who was John Hancock?

He was born on January 23rd, 1737 in the small Massachusetts town of Braintree, the son of a clergy man of Puritan background. He died when John was only seven years old. John was sent to live with his uncle, Thomas Hancock, a wealthy Boston merchant who lived in Lexington. Thomas proved to be a good uncle and took a strong interest in his nephew. He saw to it that he received a good education. John graduated from Harvard in 1754, and immediately went to work for his uncle in Boston.

Thomas sent his nephew to England on business and to further his education. John returned in 1764 shortly before his uncle died. Thomas left his entire fortune to his nephew. At age 27, John was one of the wealthiest merchants in all of New England.

He became interested in the local government and was elected a Selectman of Boston. Samuel Adams was quoted by his cousin John Adams ". . . that the citizens of Boston had done a wise thing as they had made John Hancock's personal fortune, their own".

In 1772 John accepted an appointment by Massachusetts' Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson as Colonel in Charge of Boston's the Company of Cadets. This military unit acted as the Governor's honor guard. This was John's first exposure to the military and he quickly learned the British Army's way of thinking - - knowledge he was to benefit from in the future.

In 1774 Hancock was elected President of the Massachusetts's Provincial Congress and as such he was the head of the unofficial government. He was very much involved in the deteriorating of relations between Massachusetts and the British crown. He was at Lexington the night of April...
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