THE LIZ LIBRARY PRESENTS:
This child, a founding father of America and childhood friend of John Adams, was born in 1737 in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. His father and grandfather were clergymen. When he was only 5, his father died, leaving his mother and his three siblings destitute.
Instead of offering direct help, a paternal uncle who had no children himself told her to send the boy to him to live. So she had no choice but to send the child away. While these circumstances may have seemed tragic at the time, the uncle also was one of the wealthiest merchants in the colonies. Thus the child received the finest of educations, later attending Harvard College to study law. He graduated at age 17.
When he was a young man, his uncle died and he inherited a ship-building business and his uncle's massive fortune, making him the wealthiest man in New England. He rose to high prominence in the colonies and held a number of government posts. He married a woman who was an ancestral relative of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and they had two children together. Sadly, neither one survived childhood.
As the colonial rebellions increased, because of his great investments in shipping and trading, he became more and more involved in the resistance to British rule. Ultimately, the British declared him guilty of treason, and placed a bounty on his head, which was never lifted. Thus, his stake in the success of revolution was not only that of protecting his fortune, but literally a continuing matter of life and death.
As a financier of the war, he spent more of his personal wealth to supply the Continental Army and support the Revolutionary War than did any other single individual.
After the war, he was the first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the president of the first United States Congress under the Articles of Confederation.
He was sickly throughout most of his later adult life, and so did not participate in the drafting or signing of the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps because of this, the details of his life are not always as well-remembered or celebrated as are those of other founders of the United States.
But we do remember his name. One of the most prominent life insurance companies in America is named after him. Ten states have counties named after him. Several towns are named after him. Numerous buildings and schools have been named after him. And six U.S. naval vessels have been named after him.
By the time he died at age 55, he was already famous for his name alone. In large part, it was attributable to his signature on a certain document, prepared when he had been president of the Continental Congress -- the United States Declaration of Independence.
John Hancock, a boy from a
* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.
"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson
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