John Hancock

John Hancock “Distinguishing White from Black” Land Inventory

John Hancock “Distinguishing White from Black” Land Inventory

JOHN HANCOCK, Printed Document Signed in Type, “An ACT for obtaining a just and accurate Account of the Quantity of Land within this Commonwealth, granted to or surveyed for any Person, the Number of Buildings thereon, and of its Inhabitants, pursuant to a Resolve of Congress, passed the Seventeenth Day of February, one Thousand seven Hundred and Eighty-Three,” July 2, 1784. Also signed in type by Samuel A. Otis, Speaker of the House, and Samuel Adams, President of the Senate. 1 p., 11" x 15.5" (visible), framed to 23" x 27". Some loss on folds affecting two words.

“Be it enacted...That the Assessors of the several towns, districts and plantations in this Commonwealth on or before the first day of November next, shall transmit to the office of the Secretary of this Commonwealth, a just and accurate account of the quantity of land in their respective towns, districts and plantations, granted to or surveyed for any person, the number of buildings thereon, distinguishing dwelling-houses from other buildings; and the number of inhabitants of all ages and sexes, distinguishing white from black, which were within the same on the first day of September, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three....”

“Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the Secretary be, and he is hereby directed, to make out a just and accurate account of all lands lying within this Commonwealth, granted to, or surveyed for any person, and not being within the limits of any town, district or plantation where Assessors are appointed.”

Historical Background
The American Revolution produced a strong sense among Americans that taxes and representation should go together. Under the Articles of Confederation, the thirteen states were to contribute to the common government according to their real estate, but this approach proved unworkable because of the difficulties of valuation. On February 17, 1783, Congress, during a debate on the collection of funds from the states to pay for the expenses of the war, called for a fuller census. Congress requested that each state submit its returns by March 1, 1784.

As this document makes clear, Massachusetts did not take action on the request until July 1784, well past the deadline established by Congress, and called for a census to be made by November 1784. Several states took no action at all. It soon became evident that a census, if it was to be effective and consistent, would need to be conducted by the national government, which led to the first national census under the new federal government in 1790.

On April 18, 1783, the Confederation Congress also proposed an amendment to levy quotas of revenue among the states according to the number of their inhabitants, counting three-fifths of the number of slaves for this purpose. By 1787, eleven states had ratified the amendment. Although it required unanimous approval by all thirteen states under the Articles of Confederation, the idea of raising revenue proportional to population rather than property played an important role as the Constitutional Convention gathered at Philadelphia in 1787.

The poor response by the states to the Confederation Congress’s call for a census of population and property in 1783, reflected in this document, contributed to the Constitutional Convention’s decision to make population the basis for representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Electoral College, and also in contributions by the states to the finances of the federal government. To ensure that such an apportionment would be accurate, the new federal government would also conduct a nationwide census every ten years.

John Hancock (1737-1793) was a Boston merchant and leader of the colonial resistance movement. Born in Braintree, his paternal uncle, Thomas Hancock, adopted John after his father died in 1742. John Hancock graduated from Harvard College in 1754 and went to work for his uncle, from whom he learned the mercantile trade. The Hancock family engaged in smuggling with the French West Indies in defiance of the Molasses Act. When his uncle died childless in 1764, John Hancock inherited the lucrative mercantile business and became one of the wealthiest men in New England. Named a Boston selectman in 1765, Hancock opposed the Stamp Act, and upon passage of the Townshend Duties in 1767, he resolved to prohibit British customs officials from setting foot on his ships. Hancock served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and, in 1774, he was elected president of the revolutionary Provincial Congress. He and Samuel Adams were the targets of General Gage’s projected campaign against Lexington and Concord in April 1775. During the war, Hancock served as President of the Continental Congress, 1775-1777, and in that capacity signed the Declaration of Independence in bold script on July 4, 1776. After Shays’ Rebellion embroiled Massachusetts in civil unrest in 1786 and 1787, Hancock’s support of the new Constitution was probably responsible for its ratification, by a narrow margin, by Massachusetts. Under a new Massachusetts constitution, he was overwhelmingly elected governor in 1780 and served until his resignation in January 1785. After Shays’ Rebellion confounded his successor James Bowdoin, Hancock returned to office as governor in 1787 and pardoned the rebels. He won reelection annually for the rest of his life.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Item: 67775

Price: $2,500.00
John HancockJohn Hancock
John Hancock
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