8 October marks the death of Revolutionary American Patriot, John Hancock in 1793. Hancock, a prominent Boston merchant, and one of the wealthiest men in the thirteen colonies, was a generous benefactor to those advocating independence from England. At one point, the British impounded his ship Liberty and charged him with smuggling. Hancock was not deterred.
Later, with the war going badly, the British government offered to grant a general amnesty should the rebellion cease, making it plain that all those who took part would be free from prosecution by the Crown, with the exception of two men, Sam Adams and John Hancock, both of whom would be subject to hanging.
It wasn’t long after Hancock’s death that John Adams noticed that little was being done to honor or preserve his memory, stating in 1809 that both Hancock and Sam Adams appeared to have been “buried in Oblivion”. Some historians have suggested that the wealthy elite of Massachusetts were not comfortable in promoting the legacy of a wealthy man who pledged his fortune for the purpose of revolution.
Hancock’s name forever became linked with his prominent signature, which was the first to be applied to the Declaration of Independence, as legend had it – ‘so large that King George could read it without his spectacles’. To this day, in the United States, the phrase, “Give me your ‘John Hancock’” is recognized as a request for a signature.