“The whole meaning of history is in the proof that there have lived people before the present time whom it is important to meet” (Eugene Rosenstock Huessey, Speech and Reality, p. 167).
The forefathers of our nation are among them…
(January 23, 1737-October 8, 1793)
For John Hancock, it was the last straw.
The Stamp Act of 1765 was bad enough, requiring printed materials in America to carry a special stamp, and the obligatory fees sent to England. In the 160-year history of the colonies, Americans had only paid taxes to their colonial governments.
And although the Stamp Act had been repealed, it was replaced with a more detrimental decree: The Declaratory Act of 1766, which proclaimed Britain’s absolute authority over the American colonies.
Then came the Townshend Revenue Acts of 1767, taxing the colonists further.
No wonder they took up the cry, “No taxation without representation.”
Now it was 1768. Customs officials had just confiscated John Hancock’s sloop, Liberty, in the Boston Harbor. They claimed it was being used to transport contraband goods.
And that was the last straw. Hancock had reached the end of his tolerance for sovereign British rule. He and politician, Samuel Adams began orchestrating demonstrations and rallies. They also spread the ideal of liberty to other locales.
Meanwhile, British reinforcements were sent to Boston—an occupation that would last eight years.
In 1770, British soldiers shot into an unarmed crowd, killing five Bostonians and wounding others. The horrific event became known as the Boston Massacre.
For a number of years, that day, March 5, was memorialized in the city. Hancock was asked to speak in 1774. In his speech he said:
“Let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the Universe (Psalm 37:5), who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity (Hebrews 1:9)…Let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him Who raiseth up and pulleth down the empires and kingdoms of the world as He pleases (Daniel 2:21).”
Then he quoted Habakkuk 3:17-18, reminding Bostonians that no matter what happened as the conflict continued, or how desperate circumstances might become, “yet we will rejoice in the Lord” (1).
So many scriptures brought together in one brief paragraph give indication of the strong Christian faith John Hancock embraced.
Also in the early 1770s, Hancock, Adams, and several dozen others “hosted” the Boston Tea Party. They dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor rather than pay import duties to Britain.
In 1774, Hancock and Adams were elected to the Provincial Congress at Concord, Massachusetts. John was elected president and presided over the Committee of Safety. He and others organized the minutemen, colonial militia who could be ready in a minute to oppose the British.
April 19, 1775, seven hundred British soldiers were sent to Concord to confiscate military supplies and capture Hancock and Adams. Thanks to the warning of Paul Revere, the two men were able to escape.
At nearby Lexington, British soldiers and minutemen engaged in a skirmish, and the Revolutionary War began with the “shot heard round the world.”
Just four days before, John Hancock had written:
“All confidence must be withheld from the means we use; and reposed only on that GOD who rules in the armies of heaven, and without whose blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness—and all created power vanity (2)”.
Hancock knew that all their efforts toward freedom were in vain if God was not on their side.
That summer he represented Massachusetts at the Continental Congress held in Philadelphia, to discuss ways of restoring harmony with Britain, yet establish rights and liberties for the colonists. Independence wasn’t on the table – yet.
But 1776 brought Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet, “Common Sense.” American patriotism grew strong, and Congress passed a resolution calling on “the aid of God in the moral cause for independence.” They encouraged fasting and prayer throughout the colonies, and “through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness” (3).
That’s how deep and wide the Christian faith permeated American society.
Of course, the most important resolution of the Continental Congress, under Hancock’s presidency, was the Declaration of Independence, severing all ties to Britain. And, as most U.S. history students know, he was the first to sign in his distinctive script.
For almost two and a half years, Hancock tirelessly presided over the Congress, as the war escalated, and the delegates hammered out the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation.
At least four times they had to flee for their lives to other colonies in order to continue their work. In addition, long debates and political rifts took their toll on the delegates, including John Hancock. He also suffered from gout.
When Congress had completed the Articles, Hancock resigned the presidency, but continued public service in Massachusetts, assisting in the formation of the state constitution (4). He and other delegates included this requirement:
“Any person chosen governor, lieutenant governor, counselor, senator, or representative…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration: ‘I, ______________, do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have a firm persuasion of its truth” (5).
I wonder what our institutions of government would look like today if that affirmation were still required.
John Hancock, first governor of Massachusetts, became one of the first to sign that statement of faith. He served eleven years before his death in 1793, at age fifty-five.
Revisionists want to remove from the historical record any mention of God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible. But Hancock and many other founding fathers knew: “Without God’s blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness.”
We had better know that, too.
Citations and Notes:
- The Founders’ Bible, p. 1374
- The only constitution in the world still in use today and older than the U. S. Constitution
- The Founders’ Bible, p. 2097
- The Founders’ Bible
Art & photo credits: www.wikipedia.org; http://www.allthingsliberty.com; http://www.paintingandframe.com; http://www.history.com; http://www.plannersweb.com.
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