Autograph Letter Signed, initials, one page legal folio, Council Chamber, Boston, February 18, 1783. As governor of Massachusetts, to the Gentlemen of the Senate & Gentlemen of the House of Representatives.
“I am exceedingly Sorry that a Bill upon so important a matter as the Sitting of the Supreme Judicial Court of the County of Suffolk should be postpon’d (if an Act was necessary) [on the] very Day before the Time Determin’d in the Bill for the Sitting [of] said Supreme Judicial Court was to take place, & upon necessity of which Bill’s passing, I had sent a Decent Message to the Two Branches of the General Court, requesting to be inform’d of the Principles upon which the Bill was founded, for I was at a loss to know how to Act without that information, and considering that it was of Importance that the said Court should Sit, I was perfectly Dispos’d to Sign the Bill, after I could Receive the Desir’d Information, tho’ it had not been before me Twenty four hours, when the Constitution allows me five Days for the Consideration of all Bills & Resolves; notwithstanding which, I find by your Message just now Rec’d that there is a Diversity of Sentiment upon the mode of obtaining Information; I feel myself dispos’d at present to avoid Altercation and in the present instance (as the Community at large is Interested) I will waive my Right (but by no means to be brought into Precedent) for I do not consider myself Accountable for any Consequences, even if the Supreme Judicial Court should not Sit, and [sh]all Defer any further Observations for the present, & rather [tha]n the Publick should suffer Injury, I will Sign the Bill must Take Leave to Say, that in future important [conc]erns, that I may Act with understanding, I must avail [my]self of the principles of the Constitution.”
While John Hancock strongly pushes the signing of a bill on the sitting of the Supreme Judicial Court in the present letter, his leadership qualities as governor of Massachusetts (he served nine terms from 1780 to 1785, and from 1787 to 1793) were characterized as laissez-faire. In all this time “he never really led. Although he stood head and shoulders over his opposition and was immensely popular with the masses, he never used his strength to deal with the critical issues confronting the commonwealth. Instead, he became a master at escaping from tight situations. When a difficult issue arose and there seemed no way around it, his favorite tactic was the use of a diversion. Aside from his [poor] health, there was an even more cogent reason why Hancock ducked leadership. He had no need to lead. His popularity was so overwhelming that in many ways he was above politics” [William M. Fowler, Jr., The Baron of Beacon Hill: A Biographyof John Hancock].
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- American Revolution