John Hancock, 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
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).