From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

When I wrote about Rochester’s 10th anniversary of the ending of the Revolutionary War, I listed the many toasts made by the dignitaries at Ruggles Tavern, which was located in front of the house shown in the picture. Of the many toasts listed, numbers 5 and 6 were to the governor and lieutenant governor serving in 1793. I was curious as to who were the men holding those positions. After a little research, I discovered that John Hancock was the Governor and Samuel Adams was the Lieutenant Governor. Both men were prominent Patriots in the lead up to the Revolutionary War and also during the war. They were both influential in the creation of the new nation.

            Hancock was the first of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, and he did so with such a flourish that his signature has become famous. Besides being fancy, it was also large, and he has been quoted as saying that he wrote it that way so King George could read it without his spectacles.

            Both men, due to their public denouncing of the King and of England’s treatment of the colonies, were wanted men who would most likely have been hanged for treason if they had fallen into British hands. When the British soldiers marched on Concord and Lexington on April 18, 1775, part of their mission was to capture Adams and Hancock who were in Lexington. Fortunately, they were warned and escaped to Philadelphia.

            Our own Abraham Holmes was acquainted with both men due to his time spent in Boston as a representative of Rochester. In his Memoirs, he writes that Sam Adams was “a full- blooded Republican” (remember our founding fathers created the Republic of the United States of America) and the most accurate planner in Massachusetts and perhaps in North America.

            Holmes was even more fulsome in his praise of John Hancock. While he says that in some respects Hancock’s abilities came second to Adams, he writes that Hancock was “as zealous an asserter of American rights as any colony could boast of.” Unlike Adams who was a prickly sort of person, Hancock was well liked. He was the first Governor under the new Constitution of Massachusetts. Holmes goes on to say that Hancock, a wealthy merchant, was generous to the poor and to public institutions and was perhaps the most popular politician in Massachusetts at that time. Not surprisingly, his popularity caused some in the state’s political community to resent him. This group banded together in 1789 to attempt to unseat him. They put forward articles against him in public newspapers.

            At this time Abraham Holmes was a member of the General Court and a strong believer in Hancock, so he wrote a series of essays supporting Hancock and countering the negative articles. He signed them with pseudonyms: Junius and Marcus. John Hancock wanted to know who this supporter was so much that he paid the printer $30.00 for the author’s real name. At this point in his memoirs, Holmes says in essence that since they would be read only by his family, he could brag that when Hancock learned his identity, it placed him in Hancock’s “honest affection” throughout his life and gave our Abraham an “influence which few others possessed” in the political sphere of Massachusetts.

            John Hancock died in October of 1793, and Samuel Adams finished out his term as Governor and was then elected Governor in his own right.

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