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MERCHANT, REVOLUTIONARY, AND STATESMAN: A RE-APPRAISAL OF THE LIFE AND PUBLIC SERVICES OF JOHN HANCOCK, 1737-1793
This study argues that John Hancock (1737-1793) has never received a proper historical evaluation and as a result his career remains largely misunderstood. Furthermore, in most studies of this period, Hancock is negatively portrayed as a vain, weakwilled, ambitious egotist, lacking ability, insight and purpose. This view is dangerously one sided and fails to give Hancock proper credit for his substantive contributions, especially for his important role in the pre-revolutionary war struggle with Parliament, his evolutionary role in the establishment of the American Presidency, his unheralded services on behalf of the Continental Congress, and his crucial part in securing Massachusetts' ratification of the Federal Constitution. I have sought also to fill in some other important gaps in our understanding of Hancock's life; specifically the sources of his adroit political skills which enabled him to dominate Massachusetts politics for almost two decades; the history of his bitter and continuous rivalry with Samuel Adams; the basis of his political beliefs; and finally some insight into his ambition for popular applause rather than real power. The first three chapters, therefore, explore Hancock's family background, his formal education, and his apprenticeship as a merchant in his uncle Thomas Hancock's counting room. Chapter four examines Hancock's short lived career as a merchant, tracing his attempt to corner the supply of whale oil shipped to England. The failure of this scheme soured him on trade and made possible his transformation from merchant to politician. Chapters five and six examine his rapid emergence as a skilled politician; one whose unerring sense of the public's mind and mood propels him into the forefront of the resistance movement against Parliament's enactments. The "Liberty Affair" adds to his patriotic public image while also broadening the base of his support. In Chapter seven Hancock's activities during the brief lull that existed prior to the tea crisis is examined with particular emphasis placed on his bitter struggle with Sam Adams for leadership of the popular party. His flirtation with the Tories is also examined and interpreted as an attempt on Hancock's part to become the mediator in Massachusetts' highly partisan political arena. In Chapter eight we see him forced to abandon this role as the political struggle gives way to open hostilities. Chapter nine examines Hancock's long unheralded contributions and services on behalf of the Continental Congress. Although he has never received any credit for his part, the energy he invested in his office as President of Congress, began the slow evolutionary process of transforming that office into what eventually emerged as the Executive branch of government under the Federal Constitution. Meanwhile his feud with Sam Adams continued to fester and deepen. Chapter ten explores Hancock's role in Massachusetts politics following his resignation as President of Congress. With great skill he used the controversy over a new state constitution to construct a political following which propelled him into the Governor's seat in a landslide election victory. His hold on the Governorship remained secure until his death. Chapter eleven concludes this study with an examination of Hancock's final public service, his part in securing Massachusetts' ratification of the Federal Constitution. Ironically, soon after his death in 1793, many, if not most of his contributions to his state and country, were quickly forgotten and only his faults as well as his signature on the Declaration of Independence were remembered. Hancock suffered the unfortunate fate of having his enemies and political foes write the subsequent history of his life. They were both unfair and unkind to his memory.
FINKELSTEIN, ROBERT ZEUS, "MERCHANT, REVOLUTIONARY, AND STATESMAN: A RE-APPRAISAL OF THE LIFE AND PUBLIC SERVICES OF JOHN HANCOCK, 1737-1793" (1981). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8110326.