The Declaration of Independence: John Hancock’s Legacy

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John Hancock: From Signature to Legacy

Who has the larger signature, John Hancock or President Trump? Not surprisingly, the answer is President Trump. But John Hancock’s signature was bigger than the rest of them on the Declaration of Independence for a very different reason, though. Some legends say the extra large and largely famous signature on the Declaration of Independence was because John Hancock wanted to brag about it in reference to King George and his poor eyesight.

But actually, the real reason was that his signature was the first and only signature on the document for two whole years. Hancock’s bravery and willingness to lose everything for the liberty of a land that he had four generations of history in is represented in that beautiful script. He was a trendsetter and goal-getter and deserves to be remembered as much more than just the biggest signature on one of the most important documents in the history of our nation.

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Hancock was born January 12th, 1737 (according to the calendar in use at the time) to his father, a minister named John Hancock, and his mother, Mary Hawke, in a town called Braintree, Massachusetts. At the age of seven, his father passed away, so he was adopted by his aunt and uncle, who were childless and very wealthy. In 1750, they sent him to Harvard University, and by 1763 they made him a full partner in their family company named “The House of Hancock. Once his uncle passed away in 1764, he inherited the company and continued to do well for himself, being labeled as one of the richest men in Massachusetts at only 27 years old. Well respected and loved for his empathy for people, he employed about one thousand people at his company and became a pillar in the community.

Hancock’s Defiance: Influential Voice in Colonial Struggles

Although he was favored by employees and friends, he was targeted by British law enforcers for his patriotic mentality. This is one of the reasons that he began having issues with Great Britain passing laws like the Stamp Act in 1766. He was a businessman, and having such high taxes on goods was affecting his business. He was ornate, vocal, and powerful in his own right, and he used his power of persuasion and influence to fight the Stamp Act. He fought to have it repealed, and he and many others thought that the battle was won. Little did they know this was only the beginning.

He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served there until 1772. Unfortunately, in 1767 because he did not support their tax hikes and was boycotting British goods, they seized one of his ships called the “Liberty” and accused him of smuggling in goods without paying taxes. This move of the British government only made the colonial public more upset, and they became even more united against their rule. Like a Domino effect, the Boston Massacre in 1770 was the final straw. John Hancock demanded that the troops be removed to Castle Williams, and because he was successful, he was elected to the General Court.

Throughout all of the nonsense with the British Government, he still managed to fall in love with a woman named Dorothy Quincy. They ended up having two children who sadly both passed away young. John Hancock was willing to take action, ruffling enough feathers to make a difference even if it cost him everything. His popularity and knack for influencing the public helped to bring everyone together.

But the pre-war political battles with the British caused a lot of strife for him, his colleagues, and friends. Publications and announcements were used to counteract the moves of the British government, but it was ultimately his skill with words and way with people that brought his intentions to fruition. To Hancock, it was important the movement not include violence as Samuel Adam was suggesting, and because Hancock had the money to support the movement and Samuel did not, he was able to have more control.

Hancock’s Bold Signature: Symbol of Sacrifice and Courage

I believe the reason that John Hancock’s “John Hancock” was so big is because he was the first one to sign it, and there was almost half a page of blank space. It was not to be arrogant or to make a statement such as President Trump likely does. He was the first and the only one to sign the Declaration for two whole years, and he was willing to risk life and limb for it. Signing that day was a possible death sentence.

It was considered treason, and I am sure that the other men were probably thankful that they had to get approval from their home bases before signing because they would not have to be self-proclaimed traitors in the public eye. It was very brave and gutsy, to say the least. He signed because he believed that he could make a difference. I think he saw the British taking advantage of the colonies and knew that he had to be the one to do something about it. And I, for one, am so glad that he did!


  1. Flexner, J. T. (1968). John Hancock: His Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
  2. Middlekauff, R. (2005). The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. Oxford University Press.
  3. Miller, J. C. (2012). John Hancock: Merchant King and American Patriot. Wiley.
  4. Fischer, D. H. (1994). Paul Revere’s Ride. Oxford University Press.
  5. Ferling, J. E. (2007). A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. Oxford University Press.
  6. Maier, P. (1997). American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. Vintage.
  7. Chernow, R. (2004). Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Books.
  8. Ellis, J. J. (2002). Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. Vintage.

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The Declaration of Independence: John Hancock's Legacy. (2023, Aug 15). Retrieved from

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