Chapter 17


Paul Revere galloped up to what is now known as the Hancock-Clark house in Lexington, on a now famous night in April, 1775, a minuteman who was acting as sentry refused to admit him.

"You mustn’t make any noise," said the sentry; "Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams are asleep in the house."

"Noise!" cried Paul Revere, "noise, d’ ye say? Well! you’ll have noise enough before long, I can tell you. Why, man, the regulars are coming!"



Hancock was on his feet at once. He had recognized the rider’s voice.

"Hello! is that you, Revere? Come in. We’re not afraid of you."

And Revere entered with his news.

It set every one astir. The bells of Lexington, by Hancock’s order, began to ring the alarm. The minutemen flocked to the rendezvous at Buckman’s tavern, and John Hancock, determined to join the farmers in their armed protest, spent the most of the night in cleaning his gun and sword and getting ready for the fight he felt certain would come with the dawn.

There was another interested listener and talker in the Hancock-Clark house that night. She was a Boston girl, and her name was Dorothy Quincy. In fact, it was because of her that John Hancock came so near to being trapped by the British. For Dorothy Quincy was visiting there; and Dorothy Quincy was engaged to marry that successful Boston merchant and uncompromising Massachusetts patriot who, later, affixed his bold signature, as president of the Continental Congress, to the Declaration of Independence.

John Hancock was, at last, persuaded out of the idea of personal opposition to the British aggressors on the green at Lexington.

"You are too important a person just now to risk death or capture," his friends declared; and, as John Hancock always did feel rather important, he yielded to their advice. He slipped from the house just in time to escape capture, and stood on a hilltop beside Sam Adams when that "Father of the Revolution," hear



ing the guns of the Lexington fight, cried enthusiastically to Hancock, "What a glorious morning for America!"

Dorothy Quincy that very morning joined her lover in his flight, and, four months later, on the 28th of August, 1775, the two were married in the town of Fairfield, Connecticut, to which place Hancock came from his duties as president of the congress, for the sole purpose of being married to his "dear Dolly," as he called her.

Whereupon a New York newspaper of the day remarked: "A brave Roman purchased a field in a certain territory near Rome, which Hannibal was besieging, confident of success. Equal to the conduct of that illustrious citizen was the marriage of the Honorable John Hancock, who, with his amiable lady, has paid as great a compliment to American valor, and discovered equal patriotism, by marrying now, while all the colonies areas much convulsed as Rome when Hannibal was at her gates."

Then they went to Philadelphia, where for two years Hancock remained as president of the congress. Mistress Dorothy was considerably younger than her famous husband, but she proved an excellent helpmeet. She saw to it that his dignity was supported in a style befitting the president of the congress—and it must be confessed that John Hancock was most particular about that same dignity. "King Hancock" was what some people nicknamed him, and they used to tell how he appeared in public "with all the panoply and state of an oriental prince; " how he was attended by "four servants dressed in superb livery, mounted on fine horses richly caparisoned, and escorted by fifty horsemen with



drawn sabers, the one half of whom precede and the other follow his carriage."

Perhaps, for a leader of democracy, John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, did think a good deal of himself. But he was an honorable patriot and a hard worker, and Dorothy, his wife, helped him in his congressional work at Philadelphia, as she also helped him in his big Boston mansion.

She acted, sometimes, while he was at Philadelphia, quite as if she were his private secretary and confidential clerk. She would pack up the military commissions that were to be sent to the officers appointed by congress to positions in its army; she would neatly trim off the rough edges of the paper money issued by the congress as continental currency and signed by John Hancock as president; and she would put the packages carefully in place in the saddlebags in which they were borne by swift riders to different points, to meet the bills of the government and pay the wages of the continental troops.

When they were at home again in Boston, in 1778 John Hancock and his wife Dorothy kept open house, in their fine mansion on Beacon Hill, for the friends of the colonies, domestic and foreign, American as well as French.

Indeed, when the French allies came to Boston, the hospitable doors of the big house stood wide open for them, and Mistress Dorothy was kept very busy doing the honors as the wife of one of the chief citizens of Boston, the wealthiest " rebel" in Massachusetts, the man who was to be the first governor of the new Bay



State, and who even hoped to be president of the new American republic.

So taxed was Mrs. Dorothy’s hospitality, indeed, that her poor cook was quite worn out with dinner-getting. At least three fat turkeys had to be killed every night for the guests of the next day, and a flock of one hundred and fifty of these "Thanksgiving birds" was shut up in the big coach house at night and turned out to feed, in the daytime, in the great pasture lot where now ‘stands the Boston Statehouse with its gilded dome.

But if Dorothy Hancock’s cook was overtaxed by the open-handed hospitality of" rosy John," as some undignified neighbors had a way of referring to him, so, too, was Mrs. Dorothy herself sometimes put to her wits’ end to keep up with her husband’s abounding welcome.

But she was a shrewd and level-headed young woman, and did not permit herself to become confused or "put out," whatever happened.

One day, in 1778, John Hancock told his wife that he had invited the Count d’ Estaing and thirty officers of the French fleet to breakfast with them next day. Now, the Count d’ Estaing was a gentleman who took the will for the deed, and then, in all courtesy, tacked on the deed itself. He read Mr. Hancock’s invitation to include all his officers, and the midshipmen as well.

So, next morning, the breakfast guests all came streaming up from the wharfs, off which the French fleet lay at anchor. They counted nearly two hundred in all, and were in such fine feathers that, as Mistress Dorothy said herself, in telling the story some years after, all Boston Common was "bedizened with lace."


But, before they reached the Hancock house, up came a messenger from the Honorable John, to tell Mrs. Dorothy of the "enlargement" of the invitation, and begging her to prepare breakfast for one hundred and twenty more than the original plan.

She does not tell us what she said; but she does tell us what she did. Evidently she was determined to maintain her own and her husband’s reputation as to their ability to keep "open house."

Even while the guests were in sight she set her servants at work. They spread twelve pounds of butter on generous slices of the Hancock bread, while one of them hurried down to the officer of the guard on the



Common with Mrs. Hancock’s compliments, and would lie be so kind as to bid his men milk all the cows that were grazing on the Common, and send the milk at once to Mrs. Hancock.

The guard complied, the milk was secured, Mrs. Dorothy begged all procurable cake from her neighbors, stripped her garden of fruit, and the breakfast for two hundred was ready in time.

The French officers evidently enjoyed the hasty, homemade banquet, for Mistress Dorothy herself is authority for the statement that one Frenchman alone drank seventeen cups of tea.

As for those young scamps of midshipmen, they made a raid on the cake, captured it from the servants who were bringing it through the hall, and would have eaten it all had not Mistress Dorothy put them to rout, recaptured the cake, and, hiding it in napkin-covered buckets, saved it, with the fruit, as dessert at the breakfast.

Mrs. Dorothy Hancock was as clever as she was capable, and she had her revenge. For when the polite Count d’Estaing, desiring to return her hospitality, invited her to visit his fleet " with her friends," she appeared on the wharfs with a party of five hundred "to visit the count"

But he was as cool as she, and fully equal to the joke. He transported "Mrs. Hancock and friends" to the fleet and entertained them there all day. Honors were about even, just then, in Boston.

Mistress Dorothy had many opportunities, after this experience, to keep open house in the big mansion on



the hill—a noble old colonial house which stood on Beacon Street far into the memory of the Massachusetts of to-day; for, in 1780, the colony of Massachusetts Bay, which had claimed the right to be called a "free and independent state," became one in fact, with a constitution and a governor, and that first governor of Massachusetts was John Hancock.

Massachusetts was proud of "King Hancock," despite his pomposity and love of show. For, underneath it all, he was true metal. When other men of means and station had deserted the people, he had stood firm, even to loss of property and risk of life itself. He was genial even if he was conceited, charitable even if peculiar, a true American even if an aristocrat, and level-headed even if a bit peppery of temper and overweighted with a sense of his own importance. John Adams once got angry with him and called him "an empty barrel ;" but John Adams, despite his greatness and his patriotism, had a sharp tongue, and often made unpleasant personal remarks. After all, even great men are but human, notwithstanding their loftiness of purpose and grandeur of soul.

For ten years John Hancock served his state as governor of Massachusetts, and served it well—from 1780 to 1784, and again from T787 to 1793, when, on the third day of October, he died, Governor Hancock still.

To the last his hospitality was boundless, while Mrs. Dorothy Hancock was just suited to her high position as "the governor’s lady," and met her duties with dignity, ability, and ease.

It was while Governor John Hancock was chief magis



trate of the Bay State that Maine, so long a part of Massachusetts, sought to break away from the parent colony, and set up for a commonwealth "on her own hook."

Piece by piece had Massachusetts been shorn of her extended territory. When, after her long fight with kings and parliaments for territorial rights and chartered privileges, the colony of Massachusetts Bay lost, in 1691, its old-time independence and became an appendage to the crown of England under the title of the "Province of Massachusetts Bay," it was granted, as a salve to the wound made by the loss of its charter, additional and extensive territory; for into it were merged the provinces of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Maine, Sagadahoc, and Acadia,—a region stretching from Long Island Sound to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, from Rhode Island to Newfoundland. New Hampshire, too, was a part of the Massachusetts Bay jurisdiction, as one might say, "off and on." For that land of the granite hills was attached to and detached from Massachusetts so often that a Portsmouth man could scarcely tell to which colony he owed allegiance. Massachusetts, indeed, claimed the entire .territory of New Hampshire under an old charter, and again and again, for a period of a hundred years, the matters of ownership or boundaries were unsettled, and New Hampshire was either a part or a protégé of the Bay colony.

Acadia, or what we know as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, was wrested from the French by New England, largely by Massachusetts fighters, in 1710, although it had been made part of Massachusetts by



royal proclamation in 1691. It was even harder than it is now for the two races—French and English—to live as comrades and neighbors under one flag. The Acadians were unruly and quarrelsome; they impeded the progress of English ideas and methods; and finally, as a military and political necessity, seemingly harsh but really imperative under the peculiar life of those days, the Acadians were removed from their lands in 1755, and scattered among the English colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia. Mr. Longfellow’s, poem of "Evangeline" is beautiful and pathetic, but you must read the real story of the removal of the Acadians before you accept his fine hexameters as history, and say "how dreadful" or " how cruel."

But the years brought losses to Massachusetts, and, piece by piece, she was shorn of her territories. First, Acadia was torn away and made a crown colony; then New Hampshire, in 1740, set up for herself; and when the Revolution had brought independence to the colonies, Maine chafed under restraint and sought separation from Massachusetts.

Separation did not come just then, however. For years the people were divided over the matter, and not until another war with Great Britain had been waged and won, and Maine, at the cost of a great slice of her territory yielded up to the British, established the right to settle her own affairs, was separation from Massachusetts finally arranged in 1820, and the last dismemberment of the old provincial territory of the Bay State made for the sake of others and the strengthening of the republic. And the move toward this final dismember-



ment began while Governor John Hancock was in office.

Now, as "King Hancock" did not bear with ease anything that detracted from his dignity and importance, he did not look with favor upon anything that lessened the dignity and importance of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. So lie objected to Maine’s move toward a separate state making, just as he objected to a lowering of his independence in a certain interview that has become historic.

For it was while Governor Hancock was in office that George Washington came to Boston, in the course of his Northern tour. It was the fall of 1789.

He came as President of the United States. All people, high and low, turned out to welcome him—all except Governor Hancock. For this occasion only his famous hospitality failed.

It was a question of dignity. John Hancock was a believer in what is called the doctrine of States’ rights. He held that Massachusetts was a sovereign State; he claimed that the governor of Massachusetts was the equal in dignity and importance of the President of the United States, and that it was the President’s duty to call upon him first. But George Washington was a Federalist. He held that the Union was paramount, and that it was the duty of a governor to visit and welcome the President first.

It is needless to say that the President did not visit the governor first. George Washington was always right as to both theory and practice. But there was a delay that exasperated the loyal citizens of Boston—


federalists and anti-federalists alike. Governor Hancock speedily saw he was wrong, and, at last, he "made hi manners" to the President, pleading his convenient am frequently present gout as his excuse for his one apparent lack of hospitality—the only one on record.

At once Washington returned the governor’s visit and, so Mrs. Dorothy declares, was "very sociable an’ pleasant during the whole visit." As for dignified Mrs. Dorothy, you may be sure that with graciousness and ease she did the honors of Hancock house to her distinguished guest.