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During Revolutionary War which followed, burden of financing war and supplying troops with necessities fell largely on Hancock. He did not fail to deliver. As if that were not enough, in 1780, with a few years remaining in war, Hancock was elected as first governor of Massachusetts - a post he held until his death in 1793.
With victory and Treaty of Paris, you might think that things would slow down for Hancock, but that was hardly case. He was called upon time and again. He represented Massachusetts under Articles of Confederation and was seventh President of United States in Congress. With demise of Articles, as governor of Massachusetts, he became a major voice for ratification of U.S. Constitution. In new United States, he pushed for creation of a powerful navy - a move which proved to be critical to new nation's survival in War of 1812.
For most of his life, John Hancock expended an enormous amount of energy for cause of liberty and for American independence. While no one can challenge Washington for title of "Father of our Country", Hancock would be a strong contender for title of "Grandfather of our Country".
What does life of John Hancock mean for us today? So long as there are people who want to take away freedoms of other people, we should not forget John Hancock.
His response – his disobedience to governmental forces which oppressed him and other colonists – is not universally applicable. As Declaration argues, governments should not be overthrown or disobeyed for trivial reasons. But sometimes governments should, indeed, must be disobeyed.
Take, for example, story of a handful of Texas families in late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. For various and diverse reasons, they had exercised their liberty to teach their children at home rather than in public schools or in a private academy.
They were on solid legal ground to do so. As anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Texas history knew, Texas compulsory attendance law enacted in 1916 did not preclude education at home. More than a few Texans were doing just that when law was passed. After all, there were not that many private or public schools in state at that time, certainly not enough to accommodate all Texas children. It was simply understood that many Texas children were taught at home before, during and after passage of compulsory attendance law. It never occurred to anyone that compulsory attendance outlawed learning at home.
That is, until 1981 when a bright staff attorney for Texas Education Agency suddenly announced that homeschooling was not one of exceptions to compulsory attendance. Shortly after that, an assistant general counsel – not to be outdone in zeal to curtail freedom -- announced even more bluntly: “The compulsory student attendance laws of State of Texas do not permit students to be taught at home.”
Never mind history and traditional freedoms which Texans had always enjoyed. “There is a new sheriff in town,” was flavor of Texas Education Agency’s argument.
Sound familiar? “The history of present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
After announcement of this novel interpretation of a six decade-old statute, State of Texas actually began prosecuting disobedient, noncompliant parents – those stubborn parents who refused to bow their knee to dictates of State. In all, some 150 prosecutions were initiated, and about 80 of them were actually tried. And some were convicted. By 1984, teaching your own children at home in Texas had become a criminal offense!
Enter plaintiffs in Leeper v. Texas Education Association. Some of them had already been criminally prosecuted for their refusal to obey State; some of them had been threatened with prosecution. Some of them had been financially harmed by Texas’ criminalization of homeschooling. But they all had this in common: like John Hancock, they did not regard recent pronouncements from a crazed King, er, State agency demonstrating willful ignorance of history as being final word on matter. They were not willing to let their freedom, freedom of others and freedom of next generation to be squandered simply because they couldn’t stomach a bit of a fight. Rather, they geared up for battle. Though they had few resources, in their hearts they knew they were right and “red coats” were wrong.
The case took about a decade to end. But final shot was fired by Texas Supreme Court in 1995 when it unanimously announced that from that point on (just as before) Texas compulsory attendance law could no longer be used to make criminals out of parents who teach their children at home. The conflict was obviously not bloody, unlike American Revolution. But stakes were high.
If they had acquiesced, that freedom would have been lost. What is next freedom we would lose?
If we value freedom, then from time to time, we need John Hancocks. We need people to continue to import goods or educate their children or refuse to move to back of bus– even if State tells them otherwise.
Only through occasional active disobedience and confrontation will our historic freedoms be protected. Let’s hope that whenever next big deprivation of freedom occurs, there are some John Hancocks among us who will be willing to disobey and fight.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
Rebellion is also personal and when a tyrannical force is oppressing your life – when you are weighted down by anxiety, fear, bordeom, lack of confidence, meaning and vision, it is time to strike back, and strike back violently. Make a list of your shortcomings – your enemies – and systematically eliminate them from your life.
Mark Cole is an attorney, husband and homeschool father in Texas. To learn more about men like John Hancock and to see how they can inspire you, visit his website at http://www.conversationsfromthepast.com.