John Hancock was a prominent American colonist who played a significant role during the American Revolution. He was a wealthy and well-known figure in the American colonies even before the Revolution began. Today, he is often remembered for his unique and large signature on the Declaration of Independence.
John Hancock was born in 1737 in the Massachusetts colony. He hailed from a rich and affluent family. So he inherited a large amount of wealth. Hancock attained education at the Harvard College and he then joined the business of his uncle. Hancock also had an interest in public affairs and politics. He put himself under the mentorship of Samuel Adams in order to learn the ropes of politics.
The Seven Year’s War was fought between Britain and France in the Americas. The British colonists helped the British troops while many Native American tribes helped the French. When the war was over, Britain levied taxes on the colonists in order to recoup was expenses.
The colonists, including John Hancock, deeply resented this. Hancock opposed the Sugar Act of 1764 and other attempts by the British to tax the colonies. In doing so, he also became a popular political figure in Boston, so much so that he was elected as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1766.
As Hancock’s opposition to the British-levied taxes grew, he came in conflict with the British officials. In one of the earlier incidents, the custom officials of the crown tried to search his ship for smuggled goods. When he found that they had no search warrant, Hancock had them physically restrained. Another incident which catapulted Hancock to the public eye was the seizure of his ship Liberty.
The custom officials claimed that the ship was being used to smuggle wine. Without any actual proof and on the basis of a shaky testimony, his ship was seized by the officials and a law suit was filed against him. Although Hancock lost the ship, the charges against him were eventually dropped. The law suit was widely publicized throughout Boston and attracted the attention of the masses.
In 1773, British government passed the Tea Act which regulated tea trade in the Americas. This enraged the colonists who refused to accept the new regulations. In opposing the Act, colonists dressed up as Indians and walked to the British ships docked in Boston, throwing many chests of tea into the sea.
The incident became known as the ‘Boston Tea Party’ although it wasn’t much of a party in the traditional sense. Hancock didn’t physically participate but he encouraged the participants in a previous meeting by saying, ‘Let every man do what is right in his own eyes.’
When the American Revolution began, John Hancock was among the most prominent Patriot colonists who supported the revolutionary cause. He was consequently made the President of the Continental Congress. In this position, Hancock was among the signatories of the famous Declaration of Independence. He would later serve as the Governor of Massachusetts and remained a popular political figure until his death in 1793.