John Hancock Is Born

January 12 marks the birth of John Hancock (1737-93), often remembered for his bold signature to the Declaration of Independence.

President of the Second Continental Congress, Hancock was the first to sign the document.

A Boston selectman and representative to the Massachusetts General Court, Hancock financed much of his region's resistance to British authority. In addition, he presided over insurgent groups including the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts (1774) and its Committee of Safety. On June 19, 1775, President of the Continental Congress Hancock commissioned George Washington commander-in-chief of the Army of the United Colonies.

John Hancock (January 23, 1737 – October 8, 1793) was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is remembered for his large and stylish signature on the United States Declaration of Independence, so much so that "John Hancock" became, in the United States, a synonym for signature.

Before the American Revolution, Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the Thirteen Colonies, having inherited a profitable shipping business from his uncle. Hancock began his political career in Boston as a protégé of Samuel Adams, an influential local politician, though the two men would later become estranged. As tensions between colonists and Great Britain increased in the 1760s, Hancock used his wealth to support the colonial cause. He became very popular in Massachusetts, especially after British officials seized his sloop Liberty in 1768 and charged him with smuggling. Although the charges against Hancock were eventually dropped, he has often been described as a smuggler in historical accounts, but the accuracy of this characterization has been questioned.

I should not trouble your Excellency, with such reiterated applications on the score of supplies, if any objects less than the safety of these Posts on this River, and indeed the existance of the Army, were at stake. By the enclosed Extracts of a Letter, of Yesterday, from Major Genl. Heath, you will see our present situation, and future prospects. If therefore the supply of Beef Cattle demanded by the requisitions of Congress from Your State, is not regularly forwarded to the Army, I cannot consider myself as responsible for the maintenance of the Garrisons below [West Point, New York], or the continuance of a single Regiment in the Field.”

— George Washington To John Hancock