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John Hancock Helps Build Washington’s Army and Appoints a Captain
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Available as part of The Alexander Hamilton Collection

The Continental Congress had appointed George Washington as Commander in Chief of the newly-formed Continental Army on June 15, only two weeks before this document. Hancock, as president of the Continental Congress, began raising troops and officers for the war effort. Here, he appoints Stephen Kimball at the rank of Captain in the 14th Regiment of the Continental Army. The 14th, commanded by Col. Daniel Hitchcock, was part of the Rhode Island militia. The unit, which included some African American soldiers, went to Boston to fight under General Nathanael Greene. Later, incorporated into the Continental Army, it saw action in the Battle of Long Island and at White Plains.

JOHN HANCOCK. Partially Printed Document Signed as President of the Continental Congress. [Philadelphia, PA] July 1, 1775. Counter-signed by Charles Thomson. 1 p., folio.

Inventory #24001      



The Delegates of the United Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania the Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, and South-Carolina, to Stephen Kimball Esquire

We reposing especial Trust and Confidence in your patriotism, valour, conduct and fidelity DO by these presents, constitute and appoint you to be Captain of a company in the 14th Regiment, commanded by Col. Hitchcock

in the Army of the United Colonies, raised for the Defence of American Liberty, and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof. You are therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of Captain by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And we do strictly charge and require all officers and soldiers under your command, to be obedient to your orders, as Captain. And you are to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time, as you shall receive from this or a future Congress of the United Colonies, or Committee of Congress, for that purpose appointed, or Commander in Chief for the time being of the army of the United Colonies, or any other your superior officer, according to the Rules and discipline of war, in pursuance of the trust reposed in you. This commission to continue in force until revoked by this or a future Congress.

            July 1st 1775

                                    By order of the Congress,

                                                John Hancock President


Chas Thomson Secy

Docketed on verso: Stephen Kimbal Esq/ Captain

Historical Background

On May 24, 1775, John Hancock was elected the third President of the Second Continental Congress, succeeding Peyton Randolph. He served until October 30, 1777, when he was succeeded by Henry Laurens. On June 14, 1775, Congress voted to create the Continental Army out of the militia units around Boston and quickly appointed George Washington of Virginia as commanding general. On July 6, 1775 Congress approved “A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, now met in Congress at Philadelphia, setting forth the causes and necessity of their taking up Arms.”

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 on July 4, 1776. He was later a popular governor of Massachusetts (1780-1785, 1787-1793).


Fine, with an exceptionally bold example of Hancock’s signature, with his trademark flourish.

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