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John Hancock Transmits a Conservation Measure to a Fellow Governor in New Hampshire (SOLD)
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Representing an excellent example of interstate cooperation under the Articles of Confederation, Massachusetts Governor John Hancock transmits an early river conservation measure concerning anadromous fish (fish that travel from the ocean up rivers to spawn) to his New Hampshire counterpart Meshech Weare. The law, An Act to Regulate the Catching of Salmon, Shad and Alewives, and to Remove and Prevent Obstructions in Merrimack River, and in the Other Rivers and Streams Running into the Same, within this Commonwealth, and for the Repealing Several Acts Heretofore Made for that Purpose recognizes the great benefits of maintaining common resources and retaining fish stocks for the benefit of residents of both states.

At the time this letter was written under the Articles of Confederation, each state operated much as an independent nation, thus requiring considerable cooperation between the individual states to accomplish any goal. Another effect was that the Governor of New Hampshire was referred to here as “His Excellency President Weare.”

JOHN HANCOCK. Autograph Letter Signed as Governor of Massachusetts, to Meshech Weare. Boston, Mass., October 31, 1783. 1 p., 7¼ x 9 in.

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“In Compliance with the Request of the Two Branches of the General Court, I enclose to you Two Acts of this Government making provision to prevent the Destruction of Fish by Mill-Dams, &c in [the] Merrimack River. As the Design’d Utility of this Bill will much Depend on the Measures that shall be Adopted by the Legislature of your State, I am to request that your Excellency will be plesaed to lay those Acts before them, and cannot but flatter myseld that they will Tale such effectual Steps as will ensure the good Effects which our General Court had in View in passing the Bill.”

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. Under his uncle, he learned the mercantile trade and was groomed for partnership. The Hancock family engaged in smuggling with the French West Indies in defiance of the Molasses Act. 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. He was later a popular governor of Massachusetts (1780-1785, 1787-1793).