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John Hancock

(1737-1793)

John Hancock (1737-1793), President of the Second Continental Congress and of the Congress of the Confederation; first Governor of Massachusetts; and the first person to sign the United States Declaration of Independence.

Hancock was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, a part which is today the separate town of Quincy. His father died when he was young, and he was taken in by his uncle, an affluent merchant. John attended Boston Latin School, the oldest educational institute in the American colonies, and later Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1754. In 1764, his uncle died, making Hancock the wealthiest man in New England.

As a businessman, Hancock strongly opposed to Britain's taxation of the colonies, and he played an important role in financing resistance to British rule within Massachusetts. In the years before the war, Hancock played a logistical role, raising and funding bands of minutmen. He also organized the American boycott of British tea, which culminated in the Boston Tea Party. After the beginning of the war, Hancock was elected the third president of the Second Continental Congress, and in this capacity, he would appoint Geroge Washington commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. On July 4, 1776, Hancock became the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. He is apocryphally known for signing his name in very large and clear handwriting, in order to be sure that King George III could read it without his spectacles. However, other examples show that Hancock always wrote his signature this way. Hancock also played an important role in supplying the Continental Army throughout the war.

John Hancock was elected governor of Massachusetts nine times, before, after and during the war.

See: John Singleton Copley. John Hancock.
 
 

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