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Famous Adoptees or Adopters

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John Hancock, political leader in the American Revolution (1737–1793)

John Hancock was born in Braintree, Mass., to Rev. John Hancock and Mary Hawke. After his father's death in 1742, John was adopted by his paternal uncle, Thomas Hancock, a successful businessman.

Hancock inherited Boston's leading mercantile firm, and naturally opposed the Stamp Act (1765) and other British trade restrictions. In 1768, his ship Liberty was seized as a smuggler and confiscated by the crown. A riot ensued, and later the ship was burned. Hancock was hailed as a martyr and elected (1766) to the legislature, where he joined Samuel Adams in advocating resistance to England. In 1775, Gen. Thomas Gage issued a warrant for their arrest, but they escaped. Hancock was a member (1775-80, 1785-86) and president (1775-77, 1785-86) of the Continental Congress. He was governor of Massachusetts (1780-85, 1787-93). Excerpted from Columbia Encyclopedia.

Fun Fact: His name appears first (and largest) on the Declaration of Independence. The term "John Hancock" is synonymous with signature.

Photo source: John Singleton Copley

Next: Jesse Jackson, African-American political leader, clergyman, and civil-rights activist (b. 1941)

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