John Hancock

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Born January 23rd in Braintree,
1754 Graduated from Harvard College
1765 Selectman of Boston
1766-74 Member of the Massachusetts legislature
President of the Provincial Congress of
1775-77 President of the Continental Congress
1776 Signed the Declaration of Independence
1777-80 Member of the Continental Congress
1780-85 Governor of Massachusetts
1785-86 Member of the Congress of Confederation
1787-93 Governor of Massachusetts
President of the Massachusetts Ratification
1793 Died October 8th in Quincy, Massachusetts


As President of the Continental Congress and first founding father to sign the Declaration of Independence, did John Hancock publicly extol Almighty God, prayer and the Bible?

John Hancock’s ORATION delivered March 5, 1774, at the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston: To Commemorate the Bloody TRAGEDY of the Fifth of March, 1770, proves that the President of the Continental Congress, and Governor of Massachusetts extolled Almighty God, prayer and the Bible, stating that “the Lord’s Day was hallowed, and set apart by God Himself for His peculiar worship;” that “all America should join together in one common Prayer to Heaven;” and that Americans should “pray and act for the prosperity of their Jerusalem;” quoting passages from Scripture, such as “Although the Fig-Tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail; and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet we will rejoice in the LORD, we will joy in the God of our Salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17,18. Following is his Oration, excerpted:

Men, Brethren, Fathers and Fellow Countrymen!

“The attentive gravity, the venerable appearance of this crowded audience, the dignity which I behold in the countenances of so many in this great Assembly, the solemnity of the occasion upon which we have met together, joined to a consideration of the part I am to take in the important business of this day, fill me with an awe hitherto unknown; and heighten the sense which I have ever had, of my unworthiness to fill this sacred desk; but, allured by the call of some of my respected fellow-citizens, with whose request it is always my greatest pleasure to comply, I almost forgot my want of ability to perform what they required…
I have always from my earliest youth, rejoiced in the felicity of my Fellow-men, and have ever considered it as the indispensable duty of every member of society to promote, as far as in him lies, the prosperity of every individual, but more especially of the community to which he belongs; and also, as a faithful subject of the State, to use his utmost endeavours to detect, and having detected, strenuously to oppose every traitorous plot which its enemies may devise for its destruction. Security to the persons and properties of the governed, is so obviously the design and end of civil government, that to attempt a logical proof of it, would be like burning tapers at noon-day, to assist the sun in enlightening the world; and it cannot be either virtuous or honorable, to attempt to support a government of which this is not the great and principal basis; and it is to the last degree vicious and infamous to attempt to support a government which manifestly tends to render the persons and properties of the governed insecure.
Some boast of being friends to government; I am a friend to righteous government, to a government founded upon the principles of reason and justice; but I glory in publickly avowing my eternal enmity to tyranny…
It was easy to foresee the consequences which so naturally followed upon sending troops into America, to enforce obedience to acts of the British parliament, which neither God nor man ever empowered them to make…
The troops upon their first arrival took possession of our Senate House, and pointed their cannon against the Judgment-hall, and even continued them there whilst the Supreme Court of Judicature for this Province was actually sitting to decide upon the lives and fortunes of the King’s subjects. – Our streets nightly resounded with the noise of riot and debauchery; our peaceful citizens were hourly exposed to shameful insults, and often felt the effects of their violence and outrage. But this was not all: As though they thought it not enough to violate our civil rights, they endeavoured to deprive us of the enjoyment of our religious privileges, to viciate our morals, and thereby render us deserving of destruction. Hence the rude din of arms which broke in upon your solemn devotions in your temples, on that day hallowed by Heaven, and set apart by God Himself for His peculiar worship…Hence, impious oaths and blasphemies so often tortured your unaccustomed ear…Did not a reverence for religion sensibly decay?…
Let all America join in one common prayer to Heaven, that, the inhuman, unprovoked murders of the Fifth of March, 1770, planned by Hillsborough, and a knot of treacherous knaves in Boston, and executed by the cruel hand of Preston, and his sanguinary coadjutors, may ever stand on history without a parallel…And you, however you may have screened yourselves from human eyes, must be arraigned, must lift your hands, red with the blood of those whose death you have procured, at the tremendous bar of God…
GREAT expectations were also formed from the artful scheme of allowing the East India Company to export Tea to America upon their own account. This certainly, had it succeeded, would have affected the purpose of the contrivers, and gratified the most sanguine wishes of our adversaries. We soon should have found our trade in the hands of foreigners, and taxes imposed on everything which we consumed; nor would it have been strange, if in a few years a company in London should have purchased an exclusive right of trading to America. – But their plot was soon discovered. – The people soon were aware of the poison which, with so much craft and subtilty, had been concealed: Loss and disgrace ensued: and perhaps this long-concerted, masterpiece of policy, may issue in the total disuse of TEA in this country, which will eventually be the saving of lives and the estates of thousands…
SURELY you never will tamely suffer this country to be a den of thieves. Remember, my friends, from whom you sprang – Let not a meanness of spirit, unknown to those whom you boast of as your fathers, excite a thought to the dishonor of your mothers. I conjure you by all that is dear, by all that is honourable, by all that is sacred, not only that ye pray, but that you act; that, if necessary, ye fight, and even die for the prosperity of our Jerusalem. Break in sunder, with noble disdain, the bonds with which the Philistines have bound you. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed by the soft area of luxury and effeminacy, into the pit digged for your destruction. Despise the glare of wealth, That people who pay greater respect to a wealthy villain, than to an honest, upright man in poverty, almost deserve to be enslaved; they plainly show that wealth, however it may be acquired, is in their esteem, to be preferred to virtue…
But I thank GOD, that America abounds in men who are superior to all temptation, whom nothing can divert from a steady pursuit of the interest of their country; who are at once its ornament and safe-guard. And sure I am, I should not incur your displeasure, if I paid a respect so justly due to their much honoured characters in this public place; but when I name an ADAMS, such a numerous host of Fellow-patriots rush upon my mind, that I fear it would take up too much of your time, should I attempt to call over the illustrious roll: But your grateful hearts will point you to the men; and their revered names, in all succeeding times, shall grace the annals of America. From them, let us, my friends, take example; from them let us catch the Divine enthusiasm; and feel, each for himself, the God-like pleasure of diffusing happiness on all around us; of delivering the oppressed from their iron grasp of tyranny; of changing the hoarse complaints and bitter moans of wretched slaves, into those cheerful songs, which freedom and contentment must inspire…
I have the most animating confidence that the present noble struggle for liberty, will terminate gloriously for America. And let us play the man for our God, and for the cities of our God; while we are using the means in our power, let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the universe, who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity.* – And having secured the approbation of our hearts, by a faithful and unwearied discharge of our duty to our country, let us joyfully leave her important concerns in the hands of HIM who raiseth up and putteth down the empires and kingdoms of the world as He pleases;** and with cheerful submission to His sovereign will, devoutly say,

‘Although the Fig-Tree shall not Blossom, neither shall Fruit be in the Vines; The Labour of the Olive shall fail, and the Fields shall yield no Meat; the Flock shall be cut off from the Fold, and there shall be no Herd in the Stalls: Yet we will rejoice in the LORD, we will joy in the GOD of our Salvation.’”*** 1

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* Hebrews 1:9
** Jeremiah 18:7, 9
*** Habakkuk 3:17,18


Hancock, John, the Honorable, Esq. An Oration delivered March 5, 1774 at the Request of the Inhabitants of the Town of Boston: To Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770. Library of Congress, Rare Book Collection.

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