DescriptionJohn Hancock Partly Printed Ship's Bill of Lading Filled out Entirely in His Hand, Including his Name, "John Hancock". One disbound page, 9" x 4.25", Boston, October 31, 1767. Here we offer a partly printed bill of lading for one of John Hancock's ships, destined for London. It reads in part: "Shipped by the Grace of God, in good Order and well Condition'd, by John Hancock in and upon the good ship called the Charming Polly, whereof is Master, under God, for this present Voyage, James Smith, and now riding at Anchor in the Harbor of Boston . . . and by God's Grace bound for London, to say, Three Hundred and eighty four Casks of oyle . . . to be deliver'd in the like good Order, and well Condition'd, and the aforesaid Port of London (the Danger of the Seas only excepted) unto George Haley Esqr . . . paying Freight for the said Goods Forty shillings Sterling."
Upon the death of his uncle Thomas, a wealthy Boston merchant, John Hancock inherited a profitable shipping business with important import-export contracts with the British Empire. Following the issuance of the Stamp Act in 1765, Hancock's dissatisfaction with British rule grew, and he soon began using his money and influence to defy the Crown. With the issuance of oppressive duties through the Townsend Acts in 1767, Hancock joined other Bostonians in calling for a boycott of British imports until the duties were repealed. This did not, however, stop Hancock from exporting items to the British Isles.
Customs officials targeted and harassed Hancock for his defiance of British import duties, eventually accusing him of smuggling. Six months after this bill of lading was issued, two British customs officials boarded Hancock's brig Lydia in Boston harbor but were refused admittance below decks to inspect the ship's holds. Later, one of the British officials was able to sneak below, but Hancock's men forced the man back on deck. Customs officials wanted to file charges, but the case was dropped when Massachusetts Attorney General Jonathan Sewell ruled that Hancock had broken no laws. Later, Hancock's admirers would call this incident the first act of physical resistance to British authority in the colonies, and credit Hancock with initiating the American Revolution. Document is moderately age toned with a rough left edge, but is quite attractive and in very fine condition. An outstanding document marking the earliest beginnings of the Revolution!
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