Updated:
Original:
Year
1775

John Hancock becomes president of Congress

On this day in 1775, John Hancock is elected president of the Second Continental Congress.

John Hancock is best known for his large signature on the Declaration of Independence, which he jested the British could read without spectacles. He was serving as president of Congress upon the declaration’s adoption on July 4, 1776, and, as such, was the first member of the Congress to sign the historic document.

John Hancock graduated from Harvard University in 1754 at age 17 and, with the help of a large inherited fortune, established himself as Boston’s leading merchant. The British customs raid on one of Hancock’s ships, the sloop Liberty, in 1768 incited riots so severe that the British army fled the city of Boston to its barracks in Boston Harbor. Boston merchants promptly agreed to a non-importation agreement to protest the British action. Two years later, it was a scuffle between Patriot protestors and British soldiers on Hancock’s wharf that set the stage for the Boston Massacre.

Hancock’s involvement with Samuel Adams and his radical group, the Sons of Liberty, won the wealthy merchant the dubious distinction of being one of only two Patriots—the other being Sam Adams—that the Redcoats marching to Lexington in April 1775 to confiscate Patriot arms were ordered to arrest. When British General Thomas Gage offered amnesty to the colonists holding Boston under siege, he excluded the same two men from his offer.

While Hancock served as president of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Samuel Adams’ cousin John Adams convinced Congress to place Virginian George Washington in command of the rebel army. In 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain. The next year, John Hancock returned home to Massachusetts, where he served as a major general in the militia and sat in the Massachusetts constitutional convention that adopted the world’s first and most enduring constitution in 1780. Having helped to create the new state government, Hancock proceeded to serve as the state’s first governor, a position he held on and off until his death in 1793.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Brooklyn Bridge opens

After 14 years, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River is opened, connecting the great cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. As many as 20 workers were killed during the bridge’s construction. Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island ...read more

MLB holds first night game

The Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 on this night in 1935 in Major League Baseball’s first-ever night game, played courtesy of recently installed lights at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. The first-ever night game in professional baseball took place May 2, 1930, ...read more

Lori Ann Auker disappears from a parking lot

Lori Ann Auker, a 19-year-old pet shop worker, disappears from Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. After failing to show up for work, her car was found the next day in the parking lot of the Susquehanna Mall where The Pet Place was located. Police had no clues as to what had ...read more

British naval convoy system introduced

On this day in 1917, driven by the spectacular success of the German U-boat submarines and their attacks on Allied and neutral ships at sea, the British Royal Navy introduces a newly created convoy system, whereby all merchant ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean would travel in ...read more