John Hancock
Painting: by Walter Gilman Page, 1893

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1780-1785, 1787-1793

John Hancock was the wealthiest merchant in New England before becoming affiliated with the revolutionary cause. Encouraged by Samuel Adams, he headed a citizens' committee, which called on Thomas Hutchinson to remove English troops from Boston. He rose to prominence serving as the president of the Massachusetts Provisional Congress (1774-1775) and as president of the First and Second Continental Congresses (1775-1777).

During Hancock's first five years as Governor, Massachusetts' economy suffered from severe inflation. Strict debt laws imprisoned growing numbers of farmers who defaulted on loans. Hancock lived a conspicuously opulent life in his mansion crowning Beacon Hill. The citizenry still had weapons and were accustomed to fighting the taxes of remote governments. Recognizing the stirrings of revolution and suffering from reoccurring gout, Hancock resigned the governorship until the resistance, which took the form of Shay's Rebellion, was put down.

After several years' absence, Hancock won reelection and convened the Massachusetts convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Massachusetts was then the second largest state in population, and Hancock convened the largest state convention. He gathered 364 delegates who openly debated and proposed elements to the U.S. Constitution. In 1788, they recommended the addition of a Bill of Rights to protect individual liberty and state autonomy.

Governor Hancock continued to be reelected annually with victory margins frequently well above eighty percent. He died in office in 1793 and was succeeded by his friend, Lieutenant Governor Samuel Adams.