Object of the Month

John Hancock

John Hancock signature:
Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
John Hancock, Governor.
Military appointment to John Sale, Jr.,
25 September 1792.
Manuscript Collection, MHS.

The First Gubernatorial Election in Massachusetts

The "ringing of bells" and the "firing of cannon" ushered in the day of the first gubernatorial election in Massachusetts on October 25, 1780. The new state constitution, ratified in June of that year, had just gone into effect, and the citizens and politicians of Massachusetts were anxious to choose the first leader of the Commonwealth. The vote count, completed on the 25th, showed that the contest between the leading candidates was not even close. "An account of the proceedings at Boston yesterday is not yet come to hand. Mr. Hancock is chosen Governor by a very large majority of votes," announced The Massachusetts Spy, a Worcester newspaper, on October 26.

"Mr. Hancock," was, of course, John Hancock, the well-known Boston merchant and former president of the Continental Congress. With over 90 percent of the votes in his tally, Hancock soundly trumped the second candidate, James Bowdoin. Once the election results became certain on October 25, Hancock addressed a crowd of Bostonians from the balcony of the Old State House, the same place from which the Declaration of Independence had first been read in Boston, a little over four years before. "The Joy diffused thro' the Countenances of the Citizens upon this Occasion afforded a most agreeable Indication of their entire Satisfaction in the Choice," reported the Boston Gazette on October 30.

After Bostonians had celebrated even more with cannons and bells, the governor and others attended a church service and then proceeded to Faneuil Hall, where "an elegant Entertainment was provided, and a large Number of respectable Gentlemen of all Orders assembled." The first of the 13 toasts drunk that night honored "The Independence of the United States of America."

Hancock served as governor from 1780 to 1785 and again from 1787 to 1793. Although he had many political enemies, Hancock remained popular with the people and easily won reelection each time he ran. He died in office on October 8, 1793.

About John Hancock


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