The Declaration of Independence (1911) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • John Hancock, one of the most ardent of American patriots, had more to lose than had practically any of his associates in the revolution against George the Third. A millionaire at the time when a man with $10,000 was regarded as wealthy, the revolution absolutely beggared him, as he had predicted it would, but from start to finish he did all he could to win freedom for his country. To Samuel Adams is accorded much of the credit of winning the handsome young millionaire to the side of the patriots, but his sweetheart, Dolly Quincy, afterward his wife, also had much to do with the stand he took. For she was an ardent American. Hancock was an active figure in the famous "Boston Tea Party," when the tea ships form England were attacked, and the wares thrown overboard. He did not, like some of the others, try to avoid recognition by disguising himself as an Indian, but was present with the crowd on the ship, trying to preserve order, seeing that nothing except the tea was disturbed. Hancock was really the cause of the first fighting, that of Lexington, when the British regulars were repulsed by the farmers and minute men. Gage dispatched troops to seize munitions of war at Concord, but on the way they were ordered to stop at Lexington, where Hancock and Adams were, and arrest both men as traitors, Gage planning to send them to England for trial and execution. But the plan was foiled by Paul Revere, who learning of the expedition in time made his historical ride and, besides arousing the countryside, gave Hancock and Adams the warning that enabled them to make their escape. Hancock was a member of the Continental Congress and his election as President came about in a dramatic way. The patriots were in session, when an official message came from Gage, offering pardons to "all rebels" except Hancock and Adams, who it was declared "would receive condign punishment." The answer was the prompt election of Hancock as President, and when Benjamin Harrison introduced him to the assemblage as its presiding officer, he remarked grimly: "We will show Britain how much we value her proscriptions." As presiding officer, it was Hancock's privilege to first sign the Declaration of Independence, which he did in large, bold characters, saying, "I write so that George the Third may read without his spectacles." And at the time he signed there were many among the patriots who believed that Hancock had signed his death warrant. Hancock gained his nickname, "The Cavalier of American Liberty," because of his elaborate costumes. Even in these days he would be called a dandy. His garb was particularly remarked upon at a time when Americans, particularly in New England where he lived, were plainly dressed.


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