Return to DANFS IndexImage of an anchorReturn to Naval Historical Center homepage
flag banner
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships banner
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

John Hancock


John Hancock, born Braintree, Mass., 12 January 1737, graduated from Harvard in 1754. Ten years later he became Boston's wealthiest merchant through inheriting his uncle's flourishing business. His outspoken criticism of the Stamp Act in 1765 incurred the displeasure of sympathizers of the Crown but enabled him to be elected to the General Court and to win several terms as selectman from Boston.


His sloop Liberty, seized for allegedly smuggling wine 10 June 1768, was condemned and converted into a coast guard. A band of patriots burned the ship at Newport, R.I., in an act of direct defiance of Royal authority.


Hancock was president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and was elected to the First and Second Continental Congresses. He presided over the latter body from 24 May 1775 through 29 October 1777, thereby becoming the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.


He remained in Congress until he became Governor of Massachusetts after presiding over the State's Constitutional Convention in 1780. With the exception of a term in the Confederation Congress, 1785 to 1786, he served as Governor continuously until his death 8 October 1793. His last great service was rendered in 1788 when he presided over the Massachusetts convention which ratified the Constitution of the United States.


(ScStr: t. 230; l. 113'; b. 22'; dr. 10'6"; s. 7 k.; cpl. 20; a. 1 6-pdr.)


John Hancock was launched by Boston Navy Yard 26 October 1850 for service as a steam tug and water tank in that yard. However, she was soon manned by a temporary crew and dispatched to New Bedford, Mass., to aid in quelling riots. When order had been restored, she returned to Boston, where she served until summer 1851 when she steamed to Annapolis, Md., for duty as a practice ship at the Naval Academy. At the end of the summer's midshipmen cruises, she sailed to New York, where she commissioned 6 September, Lt. J. W. Livingston in command.


Three days later, John Hancock departed New York for Havana, Cuba, to assist in suppressing the last filibustering expedition led by Narciso Lopez which had been launched from the United States in violation of American neutrality laws. She arrived Havana 29 September, but her duty there terminated 4 days later when extremely stormy weather damaged the vessel causing her to return to Boston via Charleston and New York.


She was placed in ordinary at the Boston Navy Yard and rebuilt almost entirely. The vessel received a new bow and stern increasing her length to 165'6" and her weight to 382 tons but not affecting her beam or draft. John Hancock was relaunched 24 February 1853 and commissioned 19 March 1853, Lt. John Rodgers in command.


She stood out of New York Harbor 3 May and joined Comdr. Cadwalader Ringgold's Northern Pacific Survey Expedition at Hampton Roads 3 days later. Secretary of the Navy James C. Dobbin visited the ship at Norfolk 2 June, 9 days before the squadron sailed for the Pacific. After stopping at Funchal, Madeira Islands; Porto Praya; and Simonstown, False Bay; the expedition arrived Batavia, Java, 12 December.


Five months were now devoted to surveying the waters surrounding the large islands off the coast of Southeast Asia. Early in May 1854, John Hancock departed for Hong Kong, where she arrived 24 May. The squadron operated from that port as its base throughout the summer, surveying nearby coast, islands, and rivers. At this time China was plagued by rebellion and pirates endangering foreigners and threatening their property. The American ships were a source of stability and order protecting American citizens and interests. While steaming up the Canton River, two armed boats from John Hancock were fired upon by rebel batteries which their own cannon promptly silenced.


Serious illness compelled Comdr. Ringgold to relinquish command of the expedition leaving Lt. Rodgers in charge 11 August. Lt. Henry K. Stevens then took command of John Hancock. She departed Hong Kong 9 September sailing north along the coast of China surveying as she went. She arrived Shanghai 27 November and remained there under repair until 28 January when she resumed surveying operations which took her north along the eastern coast of Asia to the Bering Sea before turning south along the western coast of North America. Besides greatly increasing knowledge of the western and northern Pacific, stimulating commerce, and easing navigation in previously unknown seas, the operations helped to establish friendly relations between the United States and several nations of the Orient.


John Hancock arrived San Francisco 19 October. After repairs at Mare Island Navy Yard, she stood out of San Francisco Bay 20 March 1856 for Puget Sound to help suppress Indian uprisings which threatened to wipe out white settlements and Army outposts established in the early 1850's. She arrived Seattle 28 March and operated from that port as a base until 4 August when she stood down the sound. She arrived San Francisco 17 August.


John Hancock decommissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard 23 August and remained there in ordinary until sold at auction 17 August 1865.