Biography of Hancock, John - Archontology
Hancock, John

John Hancock

b. 12/23 Jan 1737, Braintree (now Quincy), Norfolk County, Massachusetts [1]
d. 8 Oct 1793, Quincy, Norfolk County, Massachusetts

Title: President of Congress
Term: 24 May 1775 - 29 Oct 1777
Chronology: 24 May 1775, elected to the office of the President of Congress, session of Congress, State House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [2]
29 Oct 1777, ceased to exercise the duties of office upon the passing of resolution granting a leave of absence, session of the Congress, Court House, York, Pennsylvania [3][4]
  23 Nov 1785, elected to the office of the President of Congress, session of Congress, City Hall, New York City [5]
5 Jun 1786, letter of resignation (dated 29 May 1786) communicated to the Congress, acknowledged; session of the Congress, City Hall, New York City [6]
Graduated from Harvard University; worked for a mercantile house in Boston owned by his uncle; elected a member of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts (1766-1775); served as Chairman (7 Oct 1774 - 11 Oct 1774) and President of the Provincial Congress (11 Oct 1774 - 10 Dec 1774, 1 Feb 1775 - 29 May 1775); was elected a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress (1775-1781) and served as its president (24 May 1775 - 29 Oct 1777); presided at the session when the Declaration of Independence was approved (4 Jul 1776) and was the first signer of the Declaration; moved along with the Congress to Baltimore, Maryland (20 Dec 1776 - 4 Mar 1777), but after the successes of General George Washington against the British in New Jersey returned to Philadelphia on 12 Mar 1777; elected a member of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts (1777-1779), served as its Speaker in 1779; during the Revolutionary War, he served as senior major general of Massachusetts Militia and a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention (1780); served as the first Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (25 Oct 1780 - 18 Feb 1785); was elected to the Continental Congress (1785), but could not attend the session of Congress due to his illness; elected the President of Congress in absentia (23 Nov 1785); he never took office and presidential duties were performed by the two chairmen - David Ramsay (23 Nov 1785 - 12 May 1786) and Nathaniel Gorham (15 May 1786 - 5 Jun 1786); being unable to write himself, he had his letter of resignation written (29 May 1786) and submitted to the Congress (5 Jun 1786); was nine times elected Governor of Massachusetts serving several consecutive terms from 1 Jun 1787 until his death on 8 Oct 1793.
Biographical sources: "John Hancock: Merchant King and American Patriot", by Harlow G. Unger (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (2005), p. 1188; The Boston Gazette and the Country Journal, Monday, October 14, 1793, No. 2037, p. 3 (obituary); American Apollo, Friday, October 11, 1793, N° 2 of vol. III, Whole N° 93, p. 3 (obituary).

[1] "Records of the Town of Braintree : 1640 to 1793", ed. by Samuel A. Bates (Randolph, Mass.: Daniel H. Huxford, 1886, web site), p. 774: "[205] <...> John Hancock, the son of the Rev.d. Mr. John Hancock & Mary his wife born the 12th. day of January 1736/7 Gub. Mass. in Repub."; "A History of Old Braintree and Quincy : with a sketch of Randolph and Holbrook", by William S. Pattee, M.D. (Quincy: Green & Frescott, 1878, web site), pp. 218-219: "Mr. Hancock preached here until his death, which occurred on the 7th of May, 1744, in the forty-second year of his age. He is buried in the same tomb with Mr. Fisk and Mr. Marsh. He married the widow of Mr. Samuel Thaxter of Hingham. Her maiden name was Mary Hawke. By her he had three children, whose baptisms are thus recorded by his own hand: "Mary Hancock, my first-born, April 13th, 1735; John Hancock, my son, Jan. 16th, 1736-7; Ebenezer Hancock, my son, Nov. 22d, 1741. Mary was born April 8th, 1735; John, Jan. 12th, 1736-7; Ebenezer, Nov. 15th, 1741." The above births are taken from the Braintree Church Records, Book I."
[2] Journals of the Continental Congress, 2:59.
[3] Journals of the Continental Congress, 9:846, 852-853.
[4] The term of presidency was not fixed at election; Hancock requested a leave of absence (29 Oct 1777) for two months; Congress granted his request and ruled that a secretary (Charles Thomson) will "officiate as president until a new choice is made."
[5] Journals of the Continental Congress, 29:883.
[6] Journals of the Continental Congress, 30:328.
Image: portrait by John Singleton Copley (1765).