John Hancock, a merchant who used his wealth to help finance the American Revolutionary War, was the president of the Second Continental Congress and the first governor of Massachusetts. He was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence.Continue Reading
John Hancock inherited a shipping business from his uncle. Although he maintained a lavish lifestyle, he was also generous in sharing his wealth in the cause of American independence and received a reputation among the British as an agitator. Hancock helped organize protests after the Townshend Acts of 1767, the Boston Massacre of 1770 and the Tea Act of 1773.
In 1774, he became the Massachusetts delegate to the Second Continental Congress and was elected president of the Congress. When George Washington became commander in chief of the Continental Army, Hancock helped finance the war effort. In 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence with a large, iconic signature, and his name became a synonym for the word "signature."
In 1777, Hancock left the Continental Congress. In 1780, he was elected the first governor of Massachusetts and helped write the Massachusetts state constitution. In 1788, he was influential in the Massachusetts vote in favor of ratification of the U.S. Constitution. In 1789, although he appeared on the ballot for the first president of the United States, he received few votes.Learn more about US History