(Sch : t. 72; l. 60'; b. 20'; cpl. 70; a. 6 4-pdr.)
John Hancock was born 12 January 1737 in Braintree, Mass., graduated from Harvard College in 1754, and became the wealthiest merchant in Boston. He was president of the Massachusetts provincial Congress and served as president of the Continental Congress from 24 May 1775 to 29 October 1777. As holder of this office, Hancock was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
John Hancock served the Continental Congress until he became Governor of Massachusetts in 1780. He presided over the State's Constitutional Convention held in that year. He also presided over the Massachusetts Convention of 1788 which ratified the Federal Constitution. With the exception of a term in the Confederate Congress, 1785-86, Hancock was Governor of Massachusetts until his death 8 October 1793. His body was interred in the Old Granary Burying Ground, Boston.
The first Hancock, was the former schooner Speedwell, hired from Mr. Thomas Grant of Marblehead, Mass., in October 1775 as one of a small fleet fitting out to prey upon British supply ships and support General Washington's siege of Boston. This fleet, the first under Continental pay and control, came to be called "George Washington's Navy."
In October 1775, Hancock and Franklin were ordered to intercept two brigs as they arrived in the St. Lawrence from England. But the two schooners instead sought easier quarry off Cape Canso where five prizes of dubious legality were taken. They also raided Charlottetown settlement without regard to orders to respect Canadian property. The story of their illegal actions reached General Washington who dismissed both ship commanders and returned their prizes to Canadian owners with apologies.
On 1 January 1776, Captain John Manley, Continental Army, was appointed Commodore of the Fleet and hoisted his flag in Hancock. She captured two enemy transports 25 January 1776, fending off an eight-gun British schooner in a brisk engagement while prize crews took the captured ships into Plymouth Harbor.
On 30 January 1776 Hancock was intercepted off Plymouth by the 14-gun British Brig Hope who had sailed from Boston for the express purpose of capturing Hancock. The American schooner ran ashore and grounded where it became impossible for Hope, with her deeper draft, to draw close aboard. The little sloop refloated and captured several more prizes in joint operations with the squadron by April 1776 when Captain Samuel Tucker took command of Hancock. He relieved Commodore John Manley who was taken into the Continental Navy to command Continental Frigate Hancock.
Hancock captured two brigs off Boston 7 May 1776. She continued to cruise under Tucker until declared unfit for service late in 1776. She returned to her owner early the following year.