How does JOHN HANCOCK measure up against the rest of the Founding Fathers?

All I ever really learned about him was that, on the Declaration of Independence, He signed his name REALLY big so that King George would be sure to see it. Now I figure it’s pretty obnoxious to be writing your name so big if you’re not prepared to play with the big boys. So, I got to wondering how much John Hancock deserved to write his name so big.

Now, this wondering that I have been doing has only been going on for about ten or fifteen minutes. All I’ve managed so far has been to read a couple of online encyclopedia articles. So I don’t have much yet. I come to y’all to fill me in with any interesting tidbits you may have (N.B. I have not been a student for six years, this ain’t a homework question).

So, from my ten minutes of research it seems he was very vocal about seceding from Great Britain, He held various public offices in Massachusetts from which he could voice his protests (including Governor), he also had money and added a lot to funding the revolution, he had ships that he strategically used to undermine the British (was indicted several times for smuggling), and he put George Washington in charge of the Army of the United Colonies.

So, it actually seems he was pretty darn important, but I bet I’m not the only person who had only thought of him as the guy with the big signature. What else should we know about him? How does his importance measure up compared to the rest of the gang?


From Snopes . I have no energy right now to add my own spin. Must. Get. Caffenine.

And how does he measure up against Button Gwinnett?

Well, for one thing, he’s got the biggest building named after him.

And for another, you won’t have half a classroom full of seventh graders tittering subversively if you suddenly announce the name “Washington!” in a croaky voice from the back of the room whenever the teacher turns his back.

Since Hancock died in 1793, he didn’t get to make all that much of an impact after the adoption of the Constitution. He resigned as governor of Massachusetts in 1786 because of ill health.

The American Revolution needed different types of people at different times.

Sam Adams was very important during the Revolution, but he ran for the House of Representatives once and lost.

Patrick Henry turned down a seat in the Senate.

Hancock probably would not be as well known know if it weren’t for his big signature. He’s less important than men like Robert Morris or George Mason or Gouverneur Morris, but those men did more for the United States in the long run.

He was, so I recall from stuff on the American Revolution in years gone by, one of the leading Colonial businessmen – so putting himself on the line in opposition to George III was risking a considerable financial package. The big signature is what he’s remembered for – but the point was that he was willing to take the risk to stand as an example for others.

No big huhu – just that what counts is people from all walks of life being prepared to stand up for what is right. Hancock as a leading businessman (and Revere too) are honored not for being leading politicians, but for being Patriots who were from other walks of life, and risked what they had gained to free America from the Hanover/North/mercantilist thing.

He was the most prominent New England businessman of his time, and one of the richest men in the Colonies. Most of wealthy colonials sided with Great Britain. Most of them would have explained that they favored order and established government over the whims of a few radicals that wanted to run off and start some hippy-style commune of a country in the midst of wilderness.

I don’t have anything against hippies or against solid businessmen, but the circumstances of the moment may make one of them look smart and the other look backward.

Hancock was brave enough and determined enough to have independence that he signed the Declaration with a flourish. It was a calculated act of bravado. Of course, by the time he signed, he’d already gone through the first part of the revolt and had the British hot after him.

Remember that he was from Boston. The British had already landed in Beantown the previous spring (1775) with the intent of arresting Hancock (and Revere). Both of them were highly visible leaders of the “revolutionaries.” The ordinary men of Lexington and Concord, had they lost, would have been admonished and sent back to their farms. Hancock and Revere would have been arraigned for treason.

So in 1776, Hancock was re-affirming his stand, and daring the British to come after him.

He was flamboyant. It’s reported that he went to sleep every night with a bowl of hot rum punch next to his bed.

He was allegedly a member of organized crime.

Hancock was up to his powdered wig in the smuggling business, which is how he got rich, during a period of economic downturn in the Colonies. Britain’s tariffs & trade prohibitions choked off non-English European trade with the Colonies, so smuggling was big business.

My cite–

Today, Hancock would have Tony Soprano on the payroll.

It’s uncharitable to discount Hancock. There’s a quote I once read (which I’m probably getting wrong) from the times…

“John Adam’s writes the letters but John Hancock pays the postage.”

Or something like that. Hancock backed up words with cash to help finance some early efforts towards the revolution. However he came by that money (and smuggling was certainly a big part of it) that’s not a contribution that should be ignored.

A lot of “old money” fortunes came from dubious origins. Writer H. Allen Smith in his novel Rhubarb wrote of the cat-loving New York society dowager whose fortune “… dated all the way back to the slave trade.” Smith was kidding on the square.

I’ve always wondered about Hancock and the line about writing big enough so that George III could read it. Did they ever send a copy to the King? If not, then why would it matter how big he signed? If they did, then was there a second document written and signed? But he does have a cool signature. And he probably has a larger corporation named after him than any other of the Founding Fathers.

I dunno how big these respective corporations are, but Hancock Insurance isn’t the only big business in the Founding Fathers Business of Commerce:

Franklin Templeton Investments has offices in 28 countries. (“Poor Richard” my ass!)

Not to mention a medium/large-sized brewery called Sam Adams. :cool:

“**Chamber ** of Commerce”


See post #2 with the link to Snopes.

I just love the name “Gouverneur Morris”

I want to name my first son Gouverneur.