A very rare signature from June or July 1776, looking just like it did when he signed the Declaration of Independence.
In October 1775, the first legislation of the Continental Congress in regard to an American Navy directed the equipment of one vessel of 10 guns and another of 14 guns as national cruisers. At the same time an act was passed establishing a “Marine Committee,” which was chosen by Congress from among...
In October 1775, the first legislation of the Continental Congress in regard to an American Navy directed the equipment of one vessel of 10 guns and another of 14 guns as national cruisers. At the same time an act was passed establishing a “Marine Committee,” which was chosen by Congress from among its own members, and consisted of John Adams, John Langdon, and Silas Deane. It was to be in complete control of naval affairs. It was not until December 13, however, that Congress authorized establishing a 13-ship Navy of the United Colonies, and the next day John Hancock, President of Congress, took over chairmanship of an expanded Marine Committee.
On December 22, the Marine Committee approved 18 men to serve as officers of the fleet being constructed. These men included John Paul Jones and Esek Hopkins, the latter being Commander-in-Chief. However, as late as mid-April 1776, Congress decided that the nominations or appointments of captains or commanders “shall not establish rank.” This was to be “settled by Congress before commissions are granted.” The matter was settled at the end of April. These commanders had the authority to appoint the senior officers to serve under them.
So some time in May or June 1776, a small number of documents were printed for commanders to use to commission the initial naval officers. These, with the commanders commissions, were the first appointment documents issued for the U.S. Navy. The forms then went to the desk of John Hancock, who, though President of the Continental Congress, signed them in blank in his capacity as head of the Marine Board. Document signed, Philadelphia, late June or early July 1776, being a warrant of appointment. The form read: “The Marine Committee appointed by Congress to equip and fit out the Fleet of the United Colonies, having received such recommendations as satisfy them, that you ___ are duly qualified for the office of ___, We have therefore appointed you the said ___ to be ___ on board the ___, hereby giving you full power to execute the office aforesaid, agreeable to the rules and regulations of the Sea Service, and such Orders as you may receive from your superior officers. And for so doing, this shall be your sufficient warrant.” Hancock has signed as “President of the Marine Board”.
The signature looks just like it did when he signed the Declaration of Independence just a month or so later.
We can date the document because the form recites “United Colonies” rather than “United States”, meaning that the Declaration of Independence had not yet been adopted when this was printed post-April 1776. However, a few of the known examples have the word “Colonies” scratched out, and the word “States” substituted. This could only have been done in the days after the Declaration of Independence’s adoption. So taking into account that a few of these were known to have been executed post-July 4, 1776, we speculate that the date Hancock signed this would be in late June 1776, just before adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It is rare to find anything with Hancock’s signature from June or July 1776, and we have had but a few things over the years.
To our knowledge, all of the signed examples of this form that have surfaced over the decades have not been filled in with the name of a specific appointee. Thus, it is probable that in the wake of the Declaration of Independence, it was determined to reprint the form to delete the reference to colonies altogether, and they were never used.
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services