J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

“Marks of respect paid to the memory of our deceased Governour”

Here are some additional details from Gov. John Hancock’s funeral on 14 Oct 1793.

First, the 21 October Columbian Gazetteer of New York reported on the response of the new acting governor:
A correspondent who cast his eye at the present Commander in Chief, the venerable SAMUEL ADAMS, was sensibly affected with the appearance of this hoary Patriot. His feelings were too mighty for the infirm state of his health. He was in reality a sincere mourner.—

It was scarcely possible for the aids who accompanied him, to support his debilitated frame, till he reached Perez Morton’s, Esquire.
Adams was seventy-one years old, born fifteen years before Hancock. The funeral procession started at Hancock’s house, near where the Massachusetts State House now stands, went south along the Common, turned east at Frog Lane (Boylston Street), turned north onto the main street through town (now Washington Street), went up to the Old State House, then west on Court Street, and finally south again to the Granary Burying Ground.

Adams made it nearly all the way. Perez Morton lived in the house his wife Sarah had inherited from her Apthorp ancestors at the end of Court Street where the land starts to rise toward Beacon Hill.

Adams ran for the governor’s seat himself in 1794 and held it until he retired in 1797. During the last years of his life, his essential tremor worsened so that he couldn’t write—ironic given that his political activism was based on writing. Adams outlived Hancock by ten years, dying in October 1803.

The Haverhill Guardian of Freedom newspaper I quoted yesterday included this remark:
Among the individual marks of respect paid to the memory of our deceased Governour, that of Mr. Duggan, near the market, arrested the attention of our correspondent. The finely finished sign of his excellency which is suspended from his house, was covered with a mourning crape; and exhibited a very decent tribute of regard and gratitude.
John and Mary Duggan had opened the Hancock Tavern on Corn Court in 1790. Mary Duggan had inherited the house from her family, the Keefes or Keiths. She deeded the property to her husband in early 1796 and died soon afterwards. He then married another woman named Mary (there were a lot of those, to be fair), had three children with her, and died in 1802.

Another tribute to Hancock was created shortly before his death. In the 10 October Columbian Gazetteer Daniel Bowen advertised a display of waxworks in New York that included:
The late and venerable American Statesman and Philosopher, Dr. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, sitting at a Table, with an Electrical Apparatus. JOHN HANCOCK, Esq. Present Governor of Massachusetts, and ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Esq. Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, at a Table, and the Figures of Peace and Plenty advancing to crown them with wreaths of Laurel.
It’s striking that of all the politicians living in America at that time, Hancock and Hamilton were the two featured in this display. But Bowen rotated figures to bring customers back; he’d already advertised President Washington earlier in the year. In addition, he was in the process of moving his operations from New York to Boston, and Hancock would be a big draw in his new home.

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