About John Hancock – gossip, truth, opinion?
John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head when he signed the Declaration of Independence as President of the Continental Congress He signed as he always did, not one speck larger than normal. This was the culmination of three days of wrangling and 86 alterations made to the original draft. These men who signed were heroes, alike in their dedication to the cause, but vastly unalike in their personal lives.
John Hancock was no exception, we are all familiar with his story, the history books recount the facts, and there are the myths as well. But what of the man himself?
From the distaff viewpoint: Abigail Adams did not always sing his praises – she referred to him as the ‘tinkeling cymbal’ in discussing his popularity in the 1780 election for Governor of Massachusetts; and in a November letter to her dear husband notes that “Last week his Excellency gave a very Grand Ball, to introduce our republican form of government properly upon the Stage.” In earlier letters she mentions “a military company under Mr. Hancock that is much talked about here”. (For John Hancock, wealthy merchant, yearned for military command, and would have willingly taken the place of George Washington).
But from Mercy Otis Warren, the historian: Mr. Hancock was a young gentleman of fortune, of more external accomplishments than of real abilities. He was polite in manners, easy in address, affable, civil and liberal. With these accomplishments he was capricious, sanguine and implacable. Naturally generous he was profuse in expense; he scattered largesses without discretion, and purchased favors by the waste of wealth until he reached the culmination of his wishes which centered in the focus of popular applause. He enlisted early in the cause of his country, at the instigation of some gentlemen of penetration, who thought his ample fortune might give consideration, while his fickleness could not injure so long as he was under the influence of men of superior judgment.
Opinion - from two very perceptive women who were “on the scene”, and knew the participants.