Hancock, John(American, 1737-1793)
John Hancock was a Massachusetts merchant 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, but is most famous for his prominent signature on the United States Declaration of Independence.
At first only a financier of the growing rebellion, John Hancock later became a public critic of British rule. On March 5, 1774, the fourth anniversary of the Boston Massacre, he gave a speech strongly condemning the British. In the same year, he was unanimously elected president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and presided over its Committee of Safety. Under Hancock, Massachusetts was able to raise bands of "minutemen"—soldiers who pledged to be ready for battle on short notice—and his boycott of tea imported by the British East India Company eventually led to the Boston Tea Party.
In April 1775 as the British intent became apparent, Hancock and Samuel Adams slipped away from Boston to elude capture, staying in the Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington, Massachusetts (which can still be seen to this day). There Paul Revere supposedly roused them about midnight before the British troops arrived at dawn for the Battle of Lexington and Concord, but Prescott was the one who actually informed Hancock and Adams. At this time, General Thomas Gage ordered Hancock and Adams arrested for treason.
Following the battle, a proclamation was issued granting a general pardon to all who would demonstrate loyalty to the crown—with the exceptions of Hancock and Adams.
On May 24, 1775, he was elected President of the Second Continental Congress, succeeding Peyton Randolph after Henry Middleton declined the nomination. The president's authority was limited to that of a presiding officer. Hancock would serve through some of the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, including Washington's defeats in New York and New Jersey as well as Great Britain's occupation of Philadelphia, until resigning his office in York, Pennsylvania on October 30, 1777. Hancock's vanity had offended many members of Congress, particularly his fellow Massachusetts delegates, and when Congress voted to thank Hancock for his service, the other Massachusetts delegates voted against the resolution. He was succeeded by Henry Laurens.
Hancock is best-remembered for his large, flamboyant signature on the Declaration of Independence, so much so that "John Hancock" became, in the United States, an informal synonym for "signature.”

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