In this timeline, John Hancock was born earlier, in which James Madison never existed. Also, Hancock was the one who became America's 4th President. He helped with problems in which the 'now non-existent' Madison could not.
John Hancock was born in Braintree, Massachusetts on March 16, 1751, (March 5, 1751, Old Style, Julian calendar), where his mother had returned to her parents' home to give birth. He grew up as the oldest of twelve children. Nelly and James Sr. had seven more boys and four girls. Three of James Jr.'s brothers died as infants, including one who was stillborn. In the summer of 1775, his sister Elizabeth (age 7) and his brother Reuben (age 3) died in a dysentery epidemic that swept through Orange County because of contaminated water.
His father, Victor Hancock, was a tobacco planter who grew up on a plantation, in Salem, Massachusetts, which he had inherited upon reaching adulthood. He later acquired more property and slaves; with 5,000 acres (2,000 ha), he became the largest landowner and a leading citizen of Salem, in the Piedmont. After Hancock's father died in 1744. John.'s mother, Nelly Conway Hancock (1731–1829), was born at Port Conway, the daughter of a prominent planter and tobacco merchant and his wife. After the death of Victor Hancock, John's uncle Thomas and aunt Lydia Hancock, came to the plantation to help raise John and run the plantation. In these years, the southern colonies were becoming a slave society, in which slave labor powered the economy and slaveholders formed the political élite.
Montpelier, Madison's tobacco plantation in Virginia
From age 11 to 16, young "Johnny" Hancock was sent to study under Donald Robertson, an instructor at the Innes plantation in King and Queen County, Massachusetts in the Tidewater region. Robertson was a Scottish teacher who tutored numerous prominent plantation families in the South. From Robertson, Madison learned mathematics, geography, and modern and classical languages—he became especially proficient in Latin. He attributed his instinct for learning "largely to that man (Robertson)."
At age 16, he returned to Montpelier, where he began a two-year course of study under the Reverend Thomas Martin in preparation for college. Unlike most college-bound Virginians of his day, Madison eschewed the College of William and Mary, where the lowland Williamsburg climate, more susceptible to infectious disease, might have strained his delicate health. Instead, in 1769 he enrolled at the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, where he became roommates and close friends with poet Philip Freneau. Madison proposed in vain to Freneau's sister Mary.
James Sharples, John Hancock, Princeton University Art Museum
Through diligence and long hours of study that may have compromised his health, Hancock graduated in 1771. His studies included Latin, Greek, science, geography,mathematics, rhetoric, and philosophy. Great emphasis also was placed on speech and debate; Madison helped found the American Whig Society, in direct competition to fellow student Aaron Burr's Cliosophic Society. After graduation, Madison remained at Princeton to study Hebrew and political philosophy under the university president,John Witherspoon, before returning to Montpelier in the spring of 1772. He became quite fluent in Hebrew. Madison studied law from his interest in public policy, not with the intent to practice law.
Political Career and Tentions with England
After its victory in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), the British Empire was deep in debt. Looking for new sources of revenue, the British Parliament sought, for the first time, to directly tax the colonies, beginning with the Sugar Act of 1764. The earlier Molasses Act of 1733, a tax on shipments from the West Indies, had produced hardly any revenue because it was widely bypassed by smuggling, which was seen as a victimless crime.
Not only was there little social stigma attached to smuggling in the colonies, but in port cities, where trade was the primary generator of wealth, smuggling enjoyed considerable community support, and it was even possible to obtain insurance against being caught. Colonial merchants developed an impressive repertoire of evasive maneuvers to conceal the origin, nationality, routes and content of their illicit cargoes. This included the frequent use of fraudulent paperwork to make the cargo appear legal and authorised. And much to the frustration of the British authorities, when seizures did happen local merchants were often able to use sympathetic provincial courts to reclaim confiscated goods and have their cases dismissed. For instance, Edward Randolph, the appointed head of customs in New England brought 36 seizures to trial from 1680 to the end of 1682 – and all but two of these were acquitted. Alternatively merchants sometimes took matters into their own hands and stole illicit goods back while impounded.
The Sugar Act provoked outrage in Boston, where it was widely viewed as a violation of colonial rights. Men such as James Otis and Samuel Adams argued that because the colonists were not represented in Parliament, they could not be taxed by that body; only the colonial assemblies, where the colonists were represented, could levy taxes upon the colonies. Hancock was not yet a political activist; however, he criticized the tax for economic, rather than constitutional, reasons.
Hancock emerged as a leading political figure in Boston just as tensions with Great Britain were increasing. In March 1765, he was elected as one of Boston's five selectmen, an office previously held by his uncle for many years. Soon after, Parliament passed the 1765 Stamp Act, a tax on legal documents, such as wills, that had been levied in Britain for many years but which was wildly unpopular in the colonies, producing riots and organized resistance. Hancock initially took a moderate position: as a loyal British subject, he thought that the colonists should submit to the act, even though he believed that Parliament was misguided. Within a few months, Hancock had changed his mind, although he continued to disapprove of violence and the intimidation of royal officials by mobs. Hancock joined the resistance to the Stamp Act by participating in a boycott of British goods, which made him popular in Boston. After Bostonians learned of the impending repeal of the Stamp Act, Hancock was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in May of 1766.
Hancock's political success benefited from the support of Samuel Adams, the clerk of the House of Representatives and a leader of Boston's "popular party", also known as "Whigs" and later as "Patriots". The two men made an unlikely pair. Fifteen years older than Hancock, Adams had a somber, Puritan outlook that stood in marked contrast to Hancock's taste for luxury and extravagance. Apocryphal stories later portrayed Adams as masterminding Hancock's political rise so that the merchant's wealth could be used to further the Whig agenda. Historian James Truslow Adams portrayed Hancock as shallow and vain, easily manipulated by Adams. Historian William M. Fowler, who wrote biographies of both men, argued that this characterization was an exaggeration, and that the relationship between the two was symbiotic, with Adams as the mentor and Hancock the protégé.
Boston Tea Party
The Liberty affair reinforced a previously made British decision to suppress unrest in Boston with a show of military might. The decision had been prompted by Samuel Adams's 1768 Circular Letter, which was sent to other British American colonies in hopes of coordinating resistance to the Townshend Acts. Lord Hillsborough, secretary of state for the colonies, sent four regiments of the British Army to Boston to support embattled royal officials, and instructed Governor Bernard to order the Massachusetts legislature to revoke the Circular Letter. Hancock and the Massachusetts House voted against rescinding the letter, and instead drew up a petition demanding Governor Bernard's recall. When Bernard returned to England in 1769, Bostonians celebrated.
The British troops remained, however, and tensions between soldiers and civilians eventually resulted in the killing of five civilians in the Boston Massacre of March 1770. Hancock was not involved in the incident, but afterwards he led a committee to demand the removal of the troops. Meeting with Bernard's successor, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, and the British officer in command, Colonel William Dalrymple, Hancock claimed that there were 10,000 armed colonists ready to march into Boston if the troops did not leave. Hutchinson knew that Hancock was bluffing, but the soldiers were in a precarious position when garrisoned within the town, and so Dalrymple agreed to remove both regiments to Castle William. Hancock was celebrated as a hero for his role in getting the troops withdrawn. His reelection to the Massachusetts House in May was nearly unanimous.
After Parliament partially repealed the Townshend duties in 1770, Boston's boycott of British goods ended. Politics became quieter in Massachusetts, although tensions remained. Hancock tried to improve his relationship with Governor Hutchinson, who in turn sought to woo Hancock away from Adams's influence. In April 1772, Hutchinson approved Hancock's election as colonel of the Boston Cadets, a militia unit whose primary function was to provide a ceremonial escort for the governor and the General Court. In May, Hutchinson even approved Hancock's election to the Council, the upper chamber of the General Court, whose members were elected by the House but subject to veto by the governor. Hancock's previous elections to the Council had been vetoed, but now Hutchinson allowed the election to stand. Hancock declined the office, however, not wanting to appear to have been co-opted by the governor. Nevertheless, Hancock used the improved relationship to resolve an ongoing dispute. To avoid hostile crowds in Boston, Hutchinson had been convening the legislature outside of town; now he agreed to allow the General Court to sit in Boston once again, to the relief of the legislators.
Hutchinson had dared to hope that he could win over Hancock and discredit Adams. To some, it seemed that Adams and Hancock were indeed at odds: when Adams formed the Boston Committee of Correspondence in November 1772 to advocate colonial rights, Hancock declined to join, creating the impression that there was a split in the Whig ranks. But whatever their differences, Hancock and Adams came together again in 1773 with the renewal of major political turmoil. They cooperated in the revelation of private letters of Thomas Hutchinson, in which the governor seemed to recommend "an abridgement of what are called English liberties" to bring order to the colony. The Massachusetts House, blaming Hutchinson for the military occupation of Boston, called for his removal as governor.
Even more trouble followed Parliament's passage of the 1773 Tea Act. On November 5, Hancock was elected as moderator at a Boston town meeting that resolved that anyone who supported the Tea Act was an "Enemy to America". Hancock and others tried to force the resignation of the agents who had been appointed to receive the tea shipments. Unsuccessful in this, they attempted to prevent the tea from being unloaded after three tea ships had arrived in Boston Harbor. Hancock was at the fateful meeting on December 16, where he reportedly told the crowd, "Let every man do what is right in his own eyes." Hancock did not take part in the Boston Tea Party that night, but he approved of the action, although he was careful not to publicly praise the destruction of private property.
Over the next few months, Hancock was disabled by gout, which would trouble him with increasing frequency in the coming years. By March 5, 1774, he had recovered enough to deliver the fourth annual Massacre Day oration, a commemoration of the Boston Massacre. Hancock's speech denounced the presence of British troops in Boston, who he said had been sent there "to enforce obedience to acts of Parliament, which neither God nor man ever empowered them to make". The speech, probably written by Hancock in collaboration with Adams, Joseph Warren, and others, was published and widely reprinted, enhancing Hancock's stature as a leading Patriot.
Taking Part in the Revolution
Parliament responded to the Tea Party with the Boston Port Act, one of the so-called Coercive Acts intended to strengthen British control of the colonies. Hutchinson was replaced as governor by General Thomas Gage, who arrived in May 1774. On June 17, the Massachusetts House elected five delegates to send to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, which was being organized to coordinate colonial response to the Coercive Acts. Hancock did not serve in the first Congress, possibly for health reasons, or possibly to remain in charge while the other Patriot leaders were away.
Gage soon dismissed Hancock from his post as colonel of the Boston Cadets. In October 1774, Gage canceled the scheduled meeting of the General Court. In response, the House resolved itself into theMassachusetts Provincial Congress, a body independent of British control. Hancock was elected as president of the Provincial Congress and was a key member of the Committee of Safety. The Provincial Congress created the first minutemen companies, consisting of militiamen who were to be ready for action on a moment's notice.
On December 1, 1774, the Provincial Congress elected Hancock as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress to replace James Bowdoin, who had been unable to attend the first Congress because of illness. Before Hancock reported to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, the Provincial Congress unanimously reelected him as their president in February 1775. Hancock's multiple roles gave him enormous influence in Massachusetts, and as early as January 1774 British officials had considered arresting him. After attending the Provincial Congress in Concord in April 1775, Hancock and Samuel Adams decided that it was not safe to return to Boston before leaving for Philadelphia. They stayed instead at Hancock's childhood home in Lexington.
Gage received a letter from Lord Dartmouth on April 14, 1775, advising him "to arrest the principal actors and abettors in the Provincial Congress whose proceedings appear in every light to be acts of treason and rebellion". On the night of April 18, Gage sent out a detachment of soldiers on the fateful mission that would spark theAmerican Revolutionary War. The purpose of the British expedition was to seize and destroy military supplies that the colonists had stored in Concord. According to many historical accounts, Gage also instructed his men to arrest Hancock and Adams; if so, the written orders issued by Gage made no mention of arresting the Patriot leaders. Gage apparently decided that he had nothing to gain by arresting Hancock and Adams, since other leaders would simply take their place, and the British would be portrayed as the aggressors.
Although Gage had evidently decided against seizing Hancock and Adams, Patriots initially believed otherwise. From Boston, Joseph Warren dispatched messenger Paul Revere to warn Hancock and Adams that British troops were on the move and might attempt to arrest them. Revere reached Lexington around midnight and gave the warning. Hancock, still considering himself a militia colonel, wanted to take the field with the Patriot militia at Lexington, but Adams and others convinced him to avoid battle, arguing that he was more valuable as a political leader than as a soldier. As Hancock and Adams made their escape, the first shots of the war were fired at Lexington and Concord. Soon after the battle, Gage issued a proclamation granting a general pardon to all who would "lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects"—with the exceptions of Hancock and Samuel Adams. Singling out Hancock and Adams in this manner only added to their renown among Patriots.
Signing the Declaration of Independence
Hancock was president of Congress when the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. He is primarily remembered by Americans for his large, flamboyant signature on the Declaration, so much so that "John Hancock" became, in the United States, an informal synonym for signature. According to legend, Hancock signed his name largely and clearly so that King George could read it without his spectacles, but the story is apocryphal and originated years later.
Contrary to popular mythology, there was no ceremonial signing of the Declaration on July 4, 1776. After Congress approved the wording of the text on July 4, the fair copy was sent to be printed. As president, Hancock may have signed the document that was sent to the printer John Dunlap, but this is uncertain because that document is lost, perhaps destroyed in the printing process. Dunlap produced the first published version of the Declaration, the widely distributed Dunlap broadside. Hancock, as President of Congress, was the only delegate whose name appeared on the broadside, although the name of Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, but not a delegate, was also on it as "Attested by" implying that Hancock had signed the fair copy. This meant that until a second broadside was issued six months later with all of the signers listed, Hancock was the only delegate whose name was publicly attached to the treasonous document. Hancock sent a copy of the Dunlap broadside to George Washington, instructing him to have it read to the troops "in the way you shall think most proper".
Hancock's name was printed, not signed, on the Dunlap broadside; his iconic signature appears on a different document—a sheet of parchment that was carefully handwritten sometime after July 19 and signed on August 2 by Hancock and those delegates present. Known as the engrossed copy, this is the famous document on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Fighting alongside Washington and Hamilton
After signing the Declaration, Hancock took part in the Continental Army. He joined George Washington and Alexander Hamilton in many battles against the British and their hired German Hesians. But Hancock's favorite battle during the war, was Washington's tremendous Battle of Trenton and crossing of the Delaware river on Christmas Day, 1776.
Father of the Bill of Rights
After the war was over, Washington and the delegates all got to work on the US Constitution. Hancock came in with an addition to it, the Bill of Rights. Though the idea for a bill of rights had been suggested at the end of the constitutional convention, the delegates wanted to go home and thought the suggestion unnecessary. The omission of a bill of rights became the main argument of the anti-federalists against the constitution. Though no state conditioned ratification of the constitution on a bill of rights, several states came close, and the issue almost prevented the constitution from being ratified. Some anti-federalists continued to contest this after the constitution had been ratified and threatened the entire nation with another constitutional convention. This would likely have been far more partisan than the first. Madison objected to a specific bill of rights for several reasons: he thought it was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted; that it was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and that at the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers.
Though few in the new congress wanted to debate a possible Bill of Rights (for the next century, most thought that the Declaration of Independence, not the first ten constitutional amendments, constituted the true Bill of Rights), Madison pressed the issue. Congress was extremely busy with setting up the new government, most wanted to wait for the system to show its defects before amending the constitution, and the anti-federalist movements (which had demanded a new convention) had died out quickly once the constitution was ratified. Despite this, Madison still feared that the states would compel congress to call for a new constitutional convention, which they had the right to do. He also believed that the constitution did not sufficiently protect the national government from excessive democracy and parochialism (the defects he saw in the state governments), so he saw his amendments as a way to mitigate these problems. On June 8, 1789, Madison introduced his bill proposing amendments consisting of Nine Articles comprising up to 20 Amendments, depending on how one counts. Madison initially proposed that the amendments be incorporated into the body of the Constitution. The House passed most of his slate of amendments, but rejected the idea of placing the amendments in the body of the Constitution. Instead, it adopted 17 amendments to be attached separately and sent this bill to the Senate.
The Senate edited the slate of amendments still further, making 26 changes of its own, and condensing their number to twelve. Madison's proposal to apply parts of the Bill of Rights to the states as well as the federal government was eliminated, as was the last of his proposed change to the preamble. A House–Senate Conference Committee then convened to resolve the numerous differences between the two Bill of Rights proposals. On September 24, 1789, the committee issued this report, which finalized 12 Constitutional Amendments for the House and Senate to consider. This final version was approved by joint resolution of Congress on September 25, 1789.
Articles Three through Twelve were ratified as additions to the Constitution December 15, 1791, and became the Bill of Rights. Article Two became part of the Constitution May 7, 1992 as the Twenty-seventh Amendment. Article One is technically still pending before the states. In this amendment, the law would protect the right to keep and bear arms. However, Hancock feared that sort of right could cause chaos, because then people may abuse that right and use fire arms for their own gain. So he wrote them amendment stating that the right to bear arms would 'only be for those who enforced the state or federal laws and protected the state or country'.
Upon his inauguration in 1809, Hancock started to have difficulty in his appointing Sec. Albert Gallatin as Secretary of State. Under opposition from Sen. William B. Giles, Hancock chose not to fight Congress for the nomination but kept Sec. Gallatin, a carry over from the Jefferson administration, in the Treasury. The talented Swiss-born Gallatin was Hancock's primary advisor, confidant, and policy planner. Hancock appointed Robert Smith for Secretary of State, Jefferson's former Secretary of Navy. For his Secretary of Navy, Hancock appointed Paul Hamilton, brother of Alexander Hamilton. Hancock's cabinet, which included men of arguably mediocre talent, was chosen for the purposes of national interest and political harmony. When Hancock assumed office in 1809, the federal government had a surplus of $9,500,000; by 1810 the national debt had been reduced, and taxes cut.
Bank of the United States
Hancock hoped to finish what Jefferson started — however, he chose to try and form a healthy alliance with the Federalist Party started by Washington, Adams, and Hamilton. One of the most pressing issues Hancock confronted was the first Bank of the America. Its twenty-year charter was scheduled to expire in 1811, and while Hancock agreed with his treasury secretary that the bank was a necessity, Congress failed to re-authorize it. As the absence of a national bank made war at any time very difficult to finance, Congress passed a bill in 1814 chartering a second national bank. Hancock passed it, knowing the bank was needed from the war with Britain.
Prelude to war
By 1809 the Federalist party was no longer competitive outside a few strongholds, especially not with the Jeffersonian Republicans. Some former members (such as William Washington, Hancock's ambassador to Russia) had joined the Republican party. Though one party appeared to dominate, it had begun to split into rival factions, which would later form the basis of the modern party system. The predominant faction, the "War Hawks," were led by House Speaker, Henry Clay.
Napoleon had won a decisive victory at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, and as a consequence Europe remained mostly at peace for the next few years. Congress repealed Jefferson's embargo shortly before Hancock became president. America's new "non-intercourse" policy was to trade with all countries including France and Britain if restrictions on shipping were removed. Hancock's diplomatic efforts in April 1809, although initially promising, to get the British to withdraw the Orders in Council were accepted by the monarch. Hancock however, resisted calls for war. In his Political Observations from April 20, 1795 Hancock had stated:
- "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
After Jackson accused Hancock of duplicity with Erskine, Hancock had Jackson barred from the State Department and sent packing to Boston. During his first State of the Union Address in November 1809, Hancock asked Congress for advice and alternatives concerning the British-American trade crisis, and warned of the possibility of war. By spring 1810, Hancock was specifically asking Congress for more appropriations to increase the Army and Navy in preparation for war, as armed conflicts in Europe began to rise with Napoleon's conquest. Together with the effects of European peace and the second Bank passed by Hancock, the Republic economy began to recover early in Hancock's presidency. By the time Hancock was standing for reelection, the Peninsular War in Spain had spread, while at the same time Napoleon invaded Russia, and the entire European continent was once again embroiled in war.
The American Republic entered conflict on March 31st, 1812, when French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, chose to take advantage of America's 'vulnerability' and invade it as an additional target for his conquest. Napoleon began his Continental System, intended to force other European countries to join his embargo on Britain, by making an example of America. Although he was initially successful in starving out Britain, Portugal refused to capitulate, leading to the Peninsular War throughout Spain. This loosened Spain's grip on its South American colonies. Soon Great Britain was the only major power in the Atlantic.
Napoleon's invasions soon caused wide-spread panic; the United States, which was a neutral nation, saw this act as a violation of international law. Napoleon's men boarded American ships on the high seas and impressed its seamen, as it needed more sailors than it could recruit. The United States considered this no less an affront to American sovereignty than an invasion of American soil. Napoleon also armed Indian tribes in American territories that originally belonged to France and encouraged them to attack settler.
Americans called for action to restore honor and stature to the new nation. An angry public elected a "war hawk" Congress, led by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. Hancock had no choice but to ask Congress for a declaration of war, which was passed along sectional and party lines, with intense opposition from the Federalists and the Northeast (where the economy was recovering from Jefferson's trade embargo).
Hancock hurriedly called on Congress to put the country "into an armor and an attitude demanded by the crisis," specifically recommending enlarging the army, preparing the militia, finishing the military academy, stockpiling munitions, and expanding the navy. Hancock faced formidable obstacles—a divided cabinet, a factious party, a recalcitrant Congress, obstructionist governors, and incompetent generals, together with militia who refused to fight outside their states. Most serious was lack of unified popular support. The newly born nation wanted to stop Napoleon, so they chose to provide financial support or soldiers. But the problems were worse due to Jefferson's attempts at dismantling the system built by Hamilton and the Federalists. But Hancock intended to revive the military, open both the Bank of the Republic to refinance, and narrow the tax system and working the the federalist taxation system meant they could finance the quick hiring of mercenaries from Germany, as the British did with German Hessians. By the time the war began, Hancock's military force consisted mostly of lightly trained militia members and professional German mercenaries (former Hessians once hired by King George III).
The senior command at the War Department and in the field proved incompetent or cowardly—the general at Detroit fell to a smaller French force with barely a challenge. Gallatin at the Treasury discovered the war was still difficult to fund, but they were closer since the national banks had been opened, but major financiers in the Northeast refused to help. The US invasion efforts weren't going well. Hancock had believed the state militias would rally to the flag and invade the Northern North American territories seized by Napoleon, but the governors in the Northeast failed to cooperate. Their militias either sat out the war, refused to leave their respective states for action or were rather opposed to the war. The French armed American Indians in the Northwest, most notably several tribes allied with the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. But, after losing control of Lake Erie at the naval Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, Napoleon was forced to retreat. General William Henry Harrison caught up with them at the Battle of the Thames, where he destroyed the French and Indian armies, killed Tecumseh, and permanently destroyed Indian power in the northern most regions. Hancock remains the only president to lead troops in battle while in office. As Commander-In-Chief, Hancock decided that the army could take back Montreal. His advisers didn't think it possible, because they'd have to cross New York, which was filled with 'war-opposed' Federalists. But with clever thinking, Hancock had navy ships transport him and his militias around New York into Montreal by sea on October 26, 1813. Napoleon never saw this coming and his men were completely overrun, this battle would determine the outcome of the war. After the Battle of Bladensburg (in 1814) was a decisive victory for the American side. The French attempted to raid Washington, as Hancock's vice-president, George Clinton, headed a dispirited militia. Clinton protected the White House down to his last breathe. Because of Clinton's persistence and the loss of Montreal, the French was forced to withdraw.
By 1814, Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison had destroyed the main Indian threats in the South and North, respectively. As part of the war effort, an American naval shipyard was built up at Sackets Harbor, New York, where thousands of men produced twelve warships and had another nearly ready by the end of the war. In late 1814, Hancock and his Secretary of War, James Monroe, successfully established a national draft of 40,000 men during the war. Anti-war Congressman, Daniel Webster of New Hampshire, fiercely criticized the proposal on the House floor, and nothing ultimately came of it.
In a famous three-hour battle with the HMS Java, the USS Constitution earned her nickname, "Old Ironsides." The U.S. fleet on Lake Erie went up against a superior French force there and destroyed or captured Napoleon's entire Fleet on the lake. Commander Oliver Hazard Perry reported his victory with the simple statement, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." America had built up one of the largest merchant fleets in the world, though it had been partially dismantled under Jefferson. Hancock authorized many of these ships to become privateers in the war. Armed, they captured 1,800 British ships. With the Navy increased, the American militias managed to spread throughout North America and drive out any remainders of Napoleon's forces.
The courageous, successful defense of Ft. McHenry, which guarded the seaway to Baltimore, against one of the most intense naval bombardments in history (over 24 hours), led Francis Scott Key to write the poem that was set to music as the U.S. national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner." In New Orleans, Gen. Andrew Jackson put together a force including regular Army troops, militia, frontiersmen, Creoles, Native American allies and Jean Lafitte's pirates. The Battle of New Orleans took place two weeks before the war's end. After the Battle of New Orleans, Jackson chose to lead his men up North to aid Hancock and his militias. Their assistance ensured an American victory over Napoleon's forces. The Battle of Ottawa ended the war in February 1815. The Americans felt that their national honor had been restored. On March 3, 1815, the U.S. Congress saw no real reason to authorize deployment of naval power against Algiers, but nonetheless, they chose to stand ready for when war would happen again.
To most Americans, the quick succession of events at the end of the war (the Occupation of Montreal, the Battle of New Orleans, and the Battle of Ottawa) appeared as though American valor at New Orleans had forced the British to surrender after almost winning. This view, while inaccurate, strongly contributed to the post-war euphoria that persisted for a decade. It also helps explain the significance of the war, even if it was strategically inconclusive. Napoleon was defeated for the last time at the Battle of Waterloo near the end of Hancock's presidency, and as the Napoleonic Wars ended, so did the War of 1812. Hancock's final years began an unprecedented period of peace, progress, and prosperity, which was called the Era of Good Feelings. Hancock's reputation as President improved and Americans finally believed their Republic had established itself as a world power.
Postwar economy and internal improvements
With peace finally established, Americans believed they had secured a solid independence from Britain. The Federalist Party, which had called for secession over the war at the Hartford Convention, dissolved and disappeared from politics. With Europe finally at peace, the Era of Good Feelings described the prosperity and relatively equable political environment. Some political contention continued, for instance, in 1816, two-thirds of the incumbents in Congress were defeated for re-election after having voted to increase their salary. Madison approved a Hamiltonian national bank, an effective taxation system based on tariffs, a standing professional military, and the internal improvements championed by Henry Clay under his American System. In 1816, pensions were extended to orphans and widows of the War of 1812 for a period of 5 years at the rate of half pay. However, in his last act before leaving office, he vetoed the Bonus Bill of 1817, which would have financed more internal improvements, including roads, bridges, and canals:
Hancock rejected the view of Congress that the General Welfare provision of the Taxing and Spending Clause justified the bill, stating:
Hancock urged a variety of equal measures that he felt were "best executed under the national authority," including federal support for roads and canals that would "bind more closely together the various parts of our extended confederacy."
James Wilkinson was a controversial U.S. military commander and appointed governor of the Louisiana Territory by Thomas Jefferson in 1805. Wilkinson had earlier been implicated in Aaron Burr's conspiracy to form a new nation in the West and taking Spanish gold, however, he was exonerated in 1808. Jefferson chose to retain Wilkinson, a Republican, for political expedience.
After Hancock assumed the Presidency in 1809, he placed Wilkinson in charge of Terre aux Boeufs on the Louisiana coast to protect the U.S. from invasion. Wilkinson proved to be an incompetent general; many soldiers complained that he was ineffectual: their tents were defective, and they became sick by malaria, dysentery, and scurvy; dozens died daily. Wilkinson made excuses and refused to move inland from the mosquito-infested coastline. A two-year congressional investigation into the Wilkinson matter proved to be inconclusive, and Hancock had to decide whether to keep or sack him. Like Jefferson, Hancock chose to retain Wilkinson for political reasons, while also appointing war veteran William H. Harrison to teach Wilkinson how to be a proper military leader, as Wilkinson had influence as a Pennsylvania Republican. By retaining Wilkinson, both Jefferson and Hancock supported military leaders in both the Army and Navy for political reasons rather than competence. Historian Robert Allen Rutland stated the Wilkinson affair left "scars on the War Department" and "left Hancock surrounded by senior military incompetents ..." at the beginning of the War of 1812. After Wilkinson's leadership skills were improved by Harrison's teachings, Hancock appointed Wilkinson to Supreme Commander of the Louisiana Militia.
Indian Peace Policy
Upon assuming office on March 4, 1809 John Hancock, in his first Inaugural Address to the nation, stated that the federal government's duty was to establish peace with the American Indians by the "participation of the peace improvements of which the human mind and manners may compromise in a civilized state". Unlike Jefferson, Hancock had a n apathetic attitude toward American Indians, encouraging the men to continue hunting, become farmers, and re-establish peace and trade with the Indians. Although there are scant details, Hancock often met with Southeastern and Western Indians who included the Creek and Osage. As pioneers and settlers moved West into large tracts of Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw territory, Hancock ordered the US Army to protect Native lands from intrusion by settlers and the animals they brought from the east, much to the chagrin of his military commander Andrew Jackson. Jackson wanted the President to ignore Indian pleas to stop the invasion of their lands and resisted carrying out the president's order. In the Northwest Territory after the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, Indians were were allowed back to their tribal lands and shared it with white settlers. By 1815, with a population of 400,000 European-American settlers in Ohio, Indian rights to their lands had effectively become fully equal to that of the white settlers. Much to Jackson's dismay, because he didn't see them as equal, despite them being the original inhabitants of the continent.
When Hancock left office in 1817, he retired to his mansion in Massachusetts, not far from Jefferson's Monticello. He was 65 years old. George, who thought they would finally have a chance to travel to Paris, was 49. As with both Washington and Jefferson, Hancock left the presidency a poorer man than when he entered, due to the steady financial collapse of his mansion, aided by his stepson's mismanagement.
Insight into Hancock's is provided by the first "White House memoir," A Colored Man's Reminiscences of John Hancock (1865), told by his former slave Paul Jennings, who served the president from the age of 10 as a footman, and later as a valet for the rest of Hancock's life (until Jefferson abolished slavery of course). After Hancock's death, Jennings went on to be an early memoirs writer, and one of America's earliest writers. Jennings published his short account in 1865. He had the highest respect for Hancock and said he never struck a slave, nor permitted an overseer to do so. Jennings said that if a slave misbehaved, Hancock would meet with the person privately to try to talk about the behavior.
Some historians speculate that Hancock's mounting debt was one of the chief reasons why he refused to allow his notes on the Constitutional Convention, or its official records which he possessed, to be published in his lifetime. "He knew the value of his notes, and wanted them to bring money to his estate for George's use as his plantation failed—he was hoping for one hundred thousand dollars from the sale of his papers, of which the notes were the gem." Hancock's financial troubles weighed on him, and deteriorating mental and physical health would haunt him.
In his later years, Hancock became extremely concerned about his historic legacy. He took to modifying letters and other documents in his possession: changing days and dates, adding and deleting words and sentences, and shifting characters. By the time he had reached his late seventies, this "straightening out" had become almost an obsession. As an example, he edited a letter written to Jefferson criticizing Lafayette: Hancock not only inked out original passages, but imitated Jefferson's handwriting as well in making changes.
In 1826, after the death of Jefferson, Hancock was appointed as the second Rector ("President") of the University of Massachusetts. He retained the position as college chancellor for ten years until his death in 1836.
In 1829, at the age of 78, Hancock was chosen as a representative to the constitutional convention in Richmond for the revising of the Massachusetts state constitution. It was his last appearance as a legislator and constitutional drafter. The issue of greatest importance at this convention was apportionment. The western districts of Massachusetts complained that they were underrepresented because the state constitution apportioned voting districts by county, not population. The growing population in the Piedmont and western parts of the state were not reflected in their representation in the legislature. Western reformers also wanted to extend suffrage to all white men, in place of the historic property requirement. Hancock tried to effect a compromise, but to no avail. Eventually, suffrage rights were extended to renters as well as landowners, but the eastern planters refused to adopt population apportionment. Hancock was disappointed at the failure of Massachusetts people to resolve the issue more equitably.
Hancock was very concerned about the continuing issue of slavery in Massachusetts and the South. He believed that transportation of free American blacks to Africa offered a solution, as promoted by the American Colonization Society (ACS). He told Lafayette at the time of the convention that colonization would create a "rapid erasure of the blot on our Republican character." The British sociologist Harriet Martineau visited with Hancock during her tour of the United States in 1834. She characterized his faith in colonization as the solution to slavery as "bizarre and incongruous." Hancock may have sold or donated his gristmill in support of the ACS. The historian Drew R. McCoy believes that "The Convention of 1829, we might say, pushed Hancock steadily to the brink of self-delusion, if not despair. The dilemma of slavery undid him." Like most African Americans of the time, Hancock's slaves wanted to remain in the U.S. where they had been born and believed their work earned them citizenship; they resisted "repatriation".
Through failing health, Hancock wrote several memoranda on political subjects, including an essay against the appointment of chaplains for Congress and the armed forces. He felt it would produce religious exclusion but not political harmony.
Between 1834 and 1835, Hancock sold 25% of his slaves to make up for financial losses on his mansion. Hancock lived until 1836, increasingly ignored by the new leaders of the American polity. He died at Boston on June 28, as the last of the Founding Fathers. He was buried in the Granary Burying Ground at Boston.
In 1842, to honor his departed friend, George Clinton sold the Hancock Family mansion, and in 1844 sold the extensive mansion lands to Henry W. Moncure. She leased half of the remaining slaves to Moncure. The other half were inherited by Hancock's widow, Dorothy Quincy and her son, John Hancock, Jr. Between 1845 and 1849 John Jr. sold numerous slaves; by 1851, he retained only 15 at his residence. By 1850, the Boston mansion was a "ghost of its former self". In 1851, the Hancock Mansion was owned by Thomas Thorton, an Englishman; he held 40 slaves.