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A short story by Kate Dickinson Sweetser
Dorothy Quincy: The Girl Who Heard First Gun Fired For Independence
Title: Dorothy Quincy: The Girl Who Heard First Gun Fired For Independence
Author: Kate Dickinson Sweetser [More Titles by Sweetser]
A small, shapely foot clad in silken hose and satin slipper of palest gray was thrust from under flowing petticoats of the same pale shade, as Dorothy Quincy stepped daintily out of church on a Sabbath Day in June after attending divine service.
John Hancock, also coming from church, noted the small foot with interest, and his keen eye traveled from the slipper to its owner's lovely face framed in a gray bonnet, in the depths of which nestled a bunch of rosebuds. From that moment Hancock's fate as a man was as surely settled as was his destiny among patriots when the British seized his sloop, the Liberty.
But all that belongs to a later part of our story, and we must first turn back the pages of history and become better acquainted with that young person whose slippered foot so diverted a man's thoughts from the sermon he had heard preached on that Lord's Day in June.
Pretty Dorothy was the youngest daughter of Edmund Quincy, one of a long line of that same name, who were directly descended from Edmund Quincy, pioneer, who came to America in 1628. Seven years later the town of Boston granted him land in the town that was afterward known as Braintree, Massachusetts, where he built the mansion that became the home of succeeding generations of Quincys, from whom the North End of the town was later named.
As his father had been before him, Dorothy's father was a judge, and he spent a part of each year in his home on Summer Street, Boston, pursuing his profession. There in the Summer Street home Dorothy was born on the tenth of May, 1747, the youngest of ten children. Evidently she was sent to school at an early age, and gave promise of a quick mind even then, for in a letter written by Judge Quincy, from Boston to his wife in the country, he writes:
Daughter Dolly looks very Comfortable, and has gone to School, where she seems to be very high in her Mistresses' graces.
But the happiest memories of Dorothy's childhood and early girlhood were not of Boston, but of months spent in the rambling old mansion at Quincy, which, although it had been remodeled by her grandfather, yet retained its quaint charm, and boasted more than one secret passage and cupboard, as well as a "haunted chamber" without which no house of the period was complete.
There we find the child romping across velvety lawns, picking posies in the box-bordered garden, drinking water crystal clear drawn from the old well, and playing many a prank and game in the big, roomy home which housed such a lively flock of young people. Being the baby of the family, it was natural that Dorothy should be a great pet, not only of her brothers and sisters, but of their friends, especially those young men--some of whom were later the principal men of the Province--who were attracted to the old mansion by Judge Quincy's charming daughters. So persistent was little Dolly's interest in her sisters' friends, that it became a jest among them that he who would woo and win fascinating Esther, sparkling Sarah, or the equally lovely Elizabeth or Katherine Quincy, must first gain the good-will of the little girl who was so much in evidence, many times when the adoring swain would have preferred to see his lady love alone. Dorothy used to tell laughingly in later years of the rides she took on the shoulders of Jonathan Sewall, who married Esther Quincy, of the many small gifts and subtle devices used by other would-be suitors as bribes either to enlist the child's sympathies in gaining their end, or as a reward for her absence at some interesting and sentimental crisis.
Mrs. Quincy, who before her marriage was Elizabeth Wendall, of New York, was in full sympathy with her light-hearted, lively family of boys and girls. Although the household had for its deeper inspiration those Christian principles which were the governing factors in family life of the colonists, and prayers were offered morning and night by the assembled family, while the Sabbath was kept strictly as a day for church-going and quiet reflection, yet the atmosphere of the home was one of hospitable welcome. This made it a popular gathering-place not only for the young people of the neighborhood, but also for more than one youth who came from the town of Boston, ten miles away, attracted by the bevy of girls in the old mansion.
Judge Quincy was not only a devout Christian and a respected member of the community, he was also a fine linguist. He was so well informed on many subjects that, while he was by birth and tradition a Conservative, giving absolute loyalty to the mother country, and desirous of obeying her slightest dictate, yet he was so much more broad-minded than many of his party that he welcomed in his home even those admirers of his daughters who were determined to resist what they termed the unjust commands of the English Government. Among these patriots-to-be who came often to the Quincy home was John Adams, in later days the second President of the United States, and who was a boy of old Braintree and a comrade of John Hancock, whose future history was to be closely linked with the new and independent America. Hancock was, at the time of his first visit to the old Quincy mansion, a brilliant young man, drawn to the Judge's home by an overwhelming desire to see more of pretty Dorothy, whose slippered foot stepping from the old meeting-house had roused his interest. Up to the time when he began to come to the house, little Dorothy was still considered a child by her brothers and sisters, her aims and ambitions were laughed at, if she voiced them, and she was treated as the family pet and plaything rather than a girl rapidly blossoming into very beautiful womanhood.
As she saw one after another of her sisters become engaged to the man of her choice, watched the happy bustle of preparation in the household, then took part in the wedding festivities, and saw the bride pass out of the old mansion to become mistress of a home of her own, Dorothy was quick to perceive the important part played by man in a woman's life, and, young as she was, she felt within herself that power of fascination which was to be hers to so great a degree in the coming years. Dorothy had dark eyes which were wells of feeling when she was deeply moved, her hair was velvet smooth, and also dark, and the play of feelings grave and gay which lighted up her mobile face when in conversation was a constant charm to those who knew the vivacious girl. When she first met John Hancock she had won an enviable popularity by reason of her beauty and grace, and was admired and sought after even more than her sisters had been; yet no compliments or admiration spoiled her sweet naturalness or her charm of manner.
In those days girls married when they were very young, but Dorothy withstood all the adoration which was poured at her feet beyond the time when she might naturally have chosen a husband, because her standards were so high that not one of her admirers came near to satisfying them. But in her heart there was an Ideal Man who had come to occupy the first place in her affection.
As she had sat by her father's side, night after night, listening while John Adams spoke with hot enthusiasm of his friend John Hancock, the boy of Braintree, now a rising young citizen of Boston, the resolute advocate of justice for the colonies, who stood unflinchingly against the demands of the mother country, where he thought them unfair,--the conversation had roused her enthusiasm for this unknown hero, until she silently erected an altar within her heart to this ideal of manly virtues.
Then John Hancock came to the old mansion to seek the girl who had attracted his attention on that Sabbath Day in June, little dreaming that in those conversations which Dorothy had heard between her father and John Adams she had pieced together a complete biography of her Hero. She knew that in 1737, when the Reverend John Hancock was minister of the First Church in the North Precinct of Braintree (afterward Quincy), he had made the following entry in the parish register of births:
JOHN HANCOCK, MY SON, JANUARY 16, 1737.Dorothy also knew that there in the simple parsonage the minister's son grew up, and together with his brother and sister enjoyed the usual life of a child in the country. When he was seven years old his father died, leaving very little money for the support of the widow and three children. Thomas Hancock, his uncle, was at that time the richest merchant in Boston, and had also married a daughter of a prosperous bookseller who was heir to no small fortune herself. The couple being childless, at the death of John Hancock's father they adopted the boy, who was at once taken from the simple parsonage to Thomas Hancock's mansion on Beacon Hill, which must have seemed like a fairy palace to the minister's son, as he "climbed the grand steps and entered the paneled hall with its broad staircase, carved balusters, and a chiming clock surmounted with carved figures, gilt with burnished gold." There were also portraits of dignitaries on the walls of the great drawing-room, which were very impressive in their lace ruffles and velvet costumes of the period, and many articles of furniture of which the country boy did not even know the names.
As a matter of course, he was sent to the Boston Public Latin School, and later to Harvard College, from which he graduated on July 17, 1754, when he was seventeen years old--at a time when pretty Dorothy Quincy was a child of seven.
From the time of his adoption of his nephew, Thomas Hancock had determined to have him as his successor in the shipping business he had so successfully built up, and so, fresh from college, the young man entered into the business life of Boston, and as the adopted son of a rich and influential merchant, was sought after by mothers with marriageable daughters, and by the daughters themselves, to whose charms he was strangely indifferent.
For six years he worked faithfully and with a good judgment that pleased his uncle, while at the same time he took part in the amusements of the young people of Boston who belonged to the wealthy class, and who copied their diversions from those in vogue among young folk in London. The brilliant and fine-looking young man was in constant demand for riding, hunting, and skating parties, or often in winter for a sleigh-ride to some country tavern, followed by supper and a dance; or in summer for an excursion down the harbor, a picnic on the islands, or a tea-party in the country and a homeward drive by moonlight. Besides these gaieties there were frequent musters of militia, of which Hancock was a member, and he was very fond of shooting and fishing; so with work and play he was more than busy until he was twenty-three years old. Then his uncle sent him to London to give him the advantages of travel and of mingling with "foreign lords of trade and finance," and also to gain a knowledge of business conditions in England. And so, in 1760, young Hancock arrived in London, where he found "old Europe passing into the modern. Victory had followed the English flag in every quarter of the globe, and a new nation was beginning to evolve out of chaos in the American wilderness, which was at that time England's most valuable dependency."
While he was in London George the Second died, and his grandson succeeded to the throne. The unwonted sight of the pomp and splendor of a royal funeral was no slight event in the life of the young colonist, and the keen eyes of John Hancock lost no detail of the imposing ceremonial. He wrote home:
I am very busy in getting myself mourning upon the Occasion of the Death of his late Majesty King George the 2d, to which every person of any Note here Conforms, even to the deepest Mourning.... Everything here is now very dull. All Plays are stopt and no diversions are going forward, so that I am at a loss how to dispose of myself....
A later letter is of interest as it shows something of the habits of a wealthy young man of the period. "Johnny," as his uncle affectionately calls him, writes:
I observe in your Letter you mention a Circumstance in Regard to my dress. I hope it did not Arise from your hearing I was too Extravagant that way, which I think they cant Tax me with. At same time I am not Remarkable for the Plainness of my Dress, upon proper Occasions I dress as Genteel as anyone, and cant say I am without Lace.... I find money some way or other goes very fast, but I think I can Reflect it has been spent with Satisfaction, and to my own honor.... I endeavor to be in Character in all I do, and in all my Expences which are pretty large I have great Satisfaction in the Reflection of their being incurred in Honorable Company and to my Advantage.
Throughout his life good fortune followed John Hancock in matters small and great, and it was a piece of characteristic good luck that he should have been able to remain to see the new King's coronation. He was also presented at Court, as a representative young colonist of high social standing, and was given a snuff-box by His Majesty as a token of his good-will to one of his subjects from across the sea.
Before leaving for home he learned all he could in regard to the commercial relations between England and her colonies, and after hearing the great orator Pitt make a stirring speech against unjust taxation, he realized how much more daring in word and act were some loyal British subjects than the colonists would have thought possible. Doubtless to Pitt the young patriot-to-be owed his first inspiration to serve the colonies, though it bore no fruit for many months.
October of 1761 found young Hancock again in Boston, and a year later he was taken into partnership with his uncle. This gave him a still greater vogue among the Boston belles who admired him for his strength of character and for his fine appearance, as he was noted for being the best dressed young man in Boston at that time. It is said that "his taste was correct, his judgment of quality unsurpassed, and his knowledge of fashions in London aided by recent residence there." We are told that "a gold-laced coat of broadcloth, red, blue or violet; a white-satin waistcoat embroidered; velvet breeches, green, lilac or blue; white-silk stockings and shoes flashing with buckles of silver or gold; linen trimmed with lace," made the prosperous young merchant outshine others of his position, "and made it appear that by birth at least he belonged to the wealthy and fashionably conservative class."
His uncle was indeed such a strong Conservative that he was unwilling to have his adopted son show any leaning to the radical party. But when on the first of August, 1764, Thomas Hancock died of apoplexy, leaving his Beacon Hill mansion and fifty thousand dollars to his widow, Lydia Hancock, and to John his warehouses, ships, and the residue of his estate, in the twinkling of an eye the young man became a prominent factor in the business world of the day, as the sole owner of an extensive export and import trade. But more important to him than the fortune which he had inherited was the knowledge that he was now at liberty to speak and act in accordance with his own feelings in regard to matters about which his views were slowly but surely changing.
He was now twenty-seven years old, and on paying a flying visit to his friend John Adams, in the home of his early childhood, attended divine service in his father's old church, and thrilled at the glimpse he had of Judge Quincy's youngest daughter, Dorothy, demurely leaving the meeting-house. Dolly was then seventeen years of age, and as lovely in her girlish beauty as any rose that ever bloomed, and John Hancock's feeling of interest in her was far too keen to allow that glimpse to be his last.
He and John Adams visited the Quincy homestead, and young Hancock listened respectfully to the Judge's reminiscences of his father; but at the same time he watched pretty Dorothy, who flitted in and out of the room, giving no hint of her emotion at having an opportunity to listen to the deep voice and note the clear-cut features and brilliant eyes of the Hero of her dreams. She only cast her eyes down demurely, glancing from under her long lashes now and again, when a remark was addressed to her. She was quick to see that her father, while as cordial to his visitor as good breeding demanded, yet wished him to feel that he was not in sympathy with the radical views now openly expressed by the young Boston merchant. Judge Quincy, as we have seen, was a broad-minded, patriotic man, yet being by birth a staunch Conservative, he felt it his duty to show the younger generation what real loyalty to the mother country meant, and that it did not include such rebellion against her commands as they were beginning to express. However, he chatted pleasantly with Hancock and his friend Adams, and when they took their leave, Hancock was invited both to call on the family in Boston and to return to the Quincy homestead. Dorothy seconded the invitation with a momentary lifting of her eyes to his, then became demure, but in the glance that passed between them something was given and taken which was to last for all time, and to add its deepest joy to the future life of pretty Dorothy.
It was certainly love at first sight for John Hancock, and to the young girl his love soon became the one worth-while thing in life.
Not many months after that first visit of John Hancock's to Dorothy's home, he paid Judge Quincy a formal visit in Boston and asked for the hand of his youngest daughter in marriage. As a matter of course, the Judge was flattered, for who was a more eligible match than this rich and handsome young Bostonian? On the other hand, he was sorry to include one of England's rebellious subjects in his family, and he declared so plainly. John Hancock was polite but positive, as he was about everything, and let it be clearly understood that no objection to his suit would make any difference in its final outcome. He and Dorothy loved each other--that was all that really mattered. He sincerely hoped that her father would come to approve of the match, for he would ever consider, he said, Dorothy's happiness before his own. But he clearly stated that he should stand by those words and deeds of the radical party which he believed best for the colonies, despite any effort which might be made to change any of his opinions; also he was going to marry Dorothy. Evidently his determination won the Judge's consent, and in giving it he smothered his objections, for there was no further opposition to the match, and no courtship ever gave clearer evidence of an intense devotion on both sides than that of Hancock and Dorothy, who, being ten years younger than her Hero, looked up to him as to some great and superior being worthy of her heart's supreme devotion.
Political events of vital importance to the colonies happened in swift succession, and Dorothy's Hancock quickly took his place in the front rank of those who were to be the backbone in the colonies' struggle for liberty, although at that time his activity against English injustice was largely due to his wish to protect his own business interests. In 1765 the Stamp Act was passed, and John Hancock openly denounced it and declared he would not use the stamps.
"I will not be made a slave without my consent," he said. "Not a man in England, in proportion to estate, pays the tax that I do."
And he stood by that declaration, becoming generally recognized as a man of ability and of great power, on whom public duties and responsibilities could be placed with assurance that they would be successfully carried out. While he was deeply occupied with colonial affairs Dorothy Quincy was busy in her home with those duties and diversions which formed the greater part of a young woman's daily life in those days, but always in spirit she was with her lover, and she thrilled with pride at each new proof of his fearlessness and growing patriotism.
In September, 1768, when it was rumored that troops had been ordered from Halifax, in an attempt of England to quell the spirit of independence rife among her colonists, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, and James Otis waited upon the Governor to ask if the report were true, and to request him to call a special meeting of the Assembly. He declined to do it, and a meeting of protest was held in Faneuil Hall, with representatives from ninety-six towns present, at which meeting it was resolved that "they would peril their lives and their fortunes to defend their rights:" "That money cannot be granted nor a standing army kept up in the province but by their own free consent."
The storm was gathering, and ominous clouds hung low over the town of Boston on a day soon after the meeting in Faneuil Hall, when seven armed vessels from Halifax brought troops up the harbor to a wharf at which they landed, and tramped by the sullen crowd of spectators with colors flying, drums beating--as if entering a conquered city. Naturally the inhabitants of Boston would give them no aid in securing quarters, so they were obliged to camp on the Common, near enough to Dorothy Quincy's home on Summer Street to annoy her by the noise of their morning drills, and to make her realize in what peril her lover's life would be if he became more active in public affairs at this critical period.
If any stimulus to John Hancock's growing patriotism was needed it was given on the tenth of June, when one of his vessels, a new sloop, the Liberty, arrived in port with a cargo of Madeira wine, the duty on which was much larger than on other wines. "The collector of the port was so inquisitive about the cargo, that the crew locked him below while it was swung ashore and a false bill of entry made out, after an evasive manner into which importers had fallen of late. Naturally enough, when the collector was released from the hold, he reported the outrage to the commander of one of the ships which had brought troops from Halifax, and he promptly seized the Liberty and moved it under his ship's guns to prevent its recapture by Bostonians." This was one of the first acts of violence in the days preceding the struggle for Independence in Massachusetts.
While John Hancock was so fully occupied with public matters, he yet found time to see his Dolly frequently, and her sorrow was his when in 1769 Mrs. Quincy died, and Dorothy, after having had her protecting love and care for twenty-two years, was left motherless. The young girl was no coward, and her brave acceptance of the sorrow won her lover even more completely than before, while his Aunt Lydia, who had become deeply attached to pretty Dorothy, and was eager to have her adopted son's romance end happily, lavished much care and affection on the girl and insisted that she visit her home on Beacon Hill frequently. Possibly, too, Aunt Lydia may have been uneasy lest Judge Quincy, left without the wise counsels of his wife, might insist that his daughter sever her connection with such a radical as Hancock had become. In any case, after her mother's death, Dorothy spent much of her time with her lover's Aunt Lydia, and Hancock was much envied for the charms of his vivacious bride-to-be. In fact, it has been said that "not to have been attracted to Dorothy Quincy would have argued a heart of steel," of which there are but few. To her lover she was all and more than woman had ever been before, in charm and grace and beauty, and he who among men was noted for his stern resolve and unyielding demeanor was as wax in the hands of the young woman, who ruled him with gentle tyranny.
To Dorothy her lover was handsome and brilliant beyond even the Hero of her girlish dreams; her love was too sacred for expression, even to him who was its rightful possessor. He appealed to her in a hundred ways, she delighted in his "distinguished presence, his inborn courtesy, his scrupulous toilets;" she adored him for "his devotion to those he loved, his unusual generosity to friends and inferiors," and she thrilled at the thought of his patriotism, his rapid advancement. And if, as has been said, crowds were swayed by his magnetism, what wonder that it touched and captivated Dorothy Quincy, the object of his heart's deepest devotion?
On the fifth of March, 1770, British soldiers fired on a crowd in the streets of Boston, and the riot that ensued, in which the killing of six and the injury to a half-dozen more, was dignified by the name of a "Massacre." Blood was now at boiling-point, and the struggle between the mother country and her colonists had commenced. Private meetings were beginning to be held for public action, and John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Josiah Quincy, a nephew of Dorothy's father, and an ardent believer in American liberty, were among the leading spirits who took notice of every infringement of rights on the part of the government and its agents. In the House of Representatives they originated almost every measure for the public good, and the people believed them to be the loyal guardians of their rights and privileges.
John Hancock, who at first had stood out against taxation without representation because of his own business interests, now stood firmly for American Independence for the good of the majority, with little left of the self-seeking spirit which had animated his earlier efforts. Occupied as he now was with the many duties incident on a public life, it is said he was never too busy to redress a wrong, and never unwilling to give lavishly where there was need, and Dorothy Quincy rejoiced as she noted that many measures for the good of the country were stamped with her lover's name.
On the very day of the so-called "Boston Massacre" Great Britain repealed an Act recently passed which had placed a heavy duty on many articles of import. That tax was now lifted from all articles except tea, on which it was retained, to maintain the right of Parliament to tax the colonies, and to show the King's determination to have his way.
"In resistance of this tax the Massachusetts colonists gave up drinking their favorite beverage and drank coffee in its place. The King, angry at this rebellion against the dictates of Parliament, refused to lift the tax, and tea was shipped to America as if there were no feeling against its acceptance. In New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston mass-meetings of the people voted that the agents to whom it had been shipped should be ordered to resign their offices. At Philadelphia the tea-ship was met and sent back to England without being allowed to come to anchor. At Charleston the tea was landed, but as there was no one there to receive it, or pay the duty, it was thrown into a damp cellar and left there to spoil. In Boston things were managed differently. When the Dartmouth, tea-laden, sailed into the harbor, the ship, with two others which soon arrived and anchored near the Dartmouth, was not allowed to dock."
A meeting of citizens was hastily called, and a resolution adopted that "tea on no account should be allowed to land." The tea-ships were guarded by a committee of Boston patriots who refused to give permits for the vessels to return to England with their cargoes. Then came what has been called Boston's "picturesque refusal to pay the tax." As night fell Samuel Adams rose in a mass-meeting and said, "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country." As the words fell from his lips there was a shout in the street and a group of forty men disguised as "Mohawks" darted past the door and down to the wharves, followed by the people. Rushing on board the tea-ships, the disguised citizens set themselves to cleaning the vessels of their cargoes. As one of them afterward related: "We mounted the ships and made tea in a trice. This done, I mounted my team and went home, as an honest man should."
Twilight was gathering when the Indian masqueraders began their work, and it was nearly three hours later when their task was done. Boston Harbor was a great teapot, with the contents of three hundred and forty-two chests broken open and their contents scattered on the quiet water. A sharp watch was kept that none of it should be stolen, but a few grains were shaken out of a shoe, which may be seen to-day in a glass jar in Memorial Hall, Boston. And this was the famous "Boston Tea-Party"!
Men's passions were now aroused to fever heat, and the actions of the patriots were sharply resented by the conservatives who upheld the government, while the radicals were fighting for the rights of the people. In all the acts of overt rebellion with which John Hancock's name was constantly connected he was loyally and proudly upheld by his Dorothy, who, despite her inborn coquetry, daily became better fitted to be the wife of a man such as John Hancock.
But though she stood by him so bravely in all his undertakings, and would not have had him recede one step from the stand he had taken, yet there was much to alarm her. Because of his connection with the Boston Tea-Party, and other acts of rebellion, the soldiers of the crown had distributed royalist hand-bills broadcast, with this heading:
"TO THE SOLDIERS OF HIS MAJESTY'S TROOPS IN BOSTON"There followed a list of the authors of the rebellion, among whom were Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Josiah Quincy. The hand-bill also announced that "it was probable that the King's standard would soon be erected," and continued: "The friends of our king and country and of America hope and expect it from you soldiers the instant rebellion happens, that you will put the above persons immediately to the sword, destroy their houses and plunder their effects. It is just they should be the first victims to the mischiefs they have brought upon us."
Reason enough for Hancock's Dorothy to be apprehensive, beneath her show of bravery!
In January, 1775, the patriots made an effort to show that they were still loyal subjects, for they sent a petition from the Continental Congress to the King, wherein they asked "but for peace, liberty and safety," and stated that "your royal authority over us, and our connection with Great Britain, we shall always carefully and zealously endeavor to support and maintain."
Despite this the oppressions increased, and the persistent roughness of the British troops continued unchecked. In March an inhabitant of Billerica, Massachusetts, was tarred and feathered by a party of his majesty's soldiers. A remonstrance was sent to General Gage, the king's chosen representative in the colony, in which was this clause:
"We beg, Your Excellency that the breach, now too wide, between Great Britain and this province may not, by such brutality of the troops, still be increased.... If it continues, we shall hereafter use a different style from that of petition and complaint."
In reply from London came the news that seventy-eight thousand guns and bayonets were on their way to America. Also came a report that orders had gone out to arrest John Hancock, William Otis, and six other head men of Boston. The informant, a friend of Hancock's, added: "My heart aches for Mr. Hancock. Send off expresses immediately to tell him that they intend to seize his estate, and have his fine house for General...."
April of 1775 came, and the Provincial Congress met at Concord, Massachusetts, and took upon itself the power to make and carry out laws. Immediately General Gage issued a proclamation stating that the Congress was "an unlawful assembly, tending to subvert government and to lead directly to sedition, treason, and rebellion.
"And yet even in the face of such an ominous outlook the indefatigable Massachusetts patriots continued to struggle for their ideal of independence. John Adams, himself a patriot of the highest class, asserted that Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and James Otis were the three most important characters of the day, and Great Britain knew it. Certainly all four men were feared in the mother country, and Hancock's independence of the government brought several suits against him." Like those of his co-workers for freedom from tyranny, his nerves were now strung to the highest tension, and he spent many a sleepless night planning how best to achieve his high purposes and grim resolves, while his love for pretty Dorothy was the one green spot in the arid desert of colonial strife.
Boston was no longer a safe place for those who could change it for a more peaceful place of residence. Judge Quincy, who had been keeping a close watch over his own business affairs, now decided to leave for Lancaster, where his married daughter, Mrs. Greenleaf, lived. All homes were completely disorganized, and by the time the Judge decided to leave most of his friends had already gone, taking their household goods with them out of harm's way. All social life was ended, and it was indeed a suitable prelude to a grim period of American history.
When the Judge decided to take refuge in Lancaster, the question was, should Dorothy go, too? Her lover was in Concord, where the Provincial Congress was in session. Knowing the condition of affairs in Boston, he had not returned to his home during the intermissions of the session, finding it more convenient to stay in Concord and spend his Sundays in Lexington, where he and John Adams were warmly welcomed at the home of the Rev. Jonas Clark, a Hancock cousin.
Now, when Hancock heard of Judge Quincy's plan to leave Boston for Lancaster, he wrote immediately to his Aunt Lydia and made an appeal calculated to touch a much more stony heart than hers. Would she take his Dolly under her protection until the state of colonial affairs should become more peaceful? Boston was no place for a woman who could be out of it; but on the other hand, neither was a town as far away as Lancaster a suitable retreat for a girl with a lover who might get only occasional glimpses of her there. Would his dear aunt please call on Judge Quincy, and, after putting the matter squarely before him, try to bring his Dolly away to Lexington with her? The Rev. Mr. Clark would welcome them as warmly as he and Adams had been received, and give them a comfortable home as long as necessary. Would his aunt not do this for him? As a final appeal he added that if General Gage should carry out his intention of seizing Adams and himself, he might have a few more chances to see the girl he loved.
Aunt Lydia was quick in her response. Of course she would do as he wished. It would be far better for the motherless girl to be under her protection at this time than with any one else, and she could understand perfectly her nephew's desire to be under the same roof even for a brief time with his dear Dolly. She would see the Judge immediately.
At once her stately coach was ordered out, and soon it rolled up before the Quincy door to set down Aunt Lydia, intent on achieving her end. And she did. Although the Judge was not altogether pleased with the idea of being separated from Dorothy, he saw the wisdom of the plan and assented to it. Dorothy, with a girl's light-heartedness at the prospect of a change, especially one which meant seeing her lover, hastily packed up enough clothing for use during a brief visit. Then she said an affectionate farewell to her father, little dreaming what an eventful separation it was to be, and rode away by the side of Aunt Lydia, who was delighted that she had been able to so successfully manage the Judge, and that she was to have cheerful Dorothy for a companion during days of dark depression.
To Lexington they went, and as John Hancock had predicted, the Rev. Mr. Clark gave them a cordial welcome. Hancock was there to greet them, and with great satisfaction the elder woman saw the lovers' rapturous meeting, and knew that her diplomacy had brought this joy to them.
When the excitement of the meeting had somewhat subsided, they talked long and earnestly of the critical situation, and Dorothy, with her hand clasped close in her lover's, heard with sudden terror of a rumor that General Gage intended to seize Adams and Hancock at the earliest opportunity. But roses bloomed in her cheeks again as she declared, proudly: "I have no fear! You will be clever enough to evade them. No cause as worthy as yours will have as a reward for its champion such a fate as to be captured!"
Seeing her flashing eyes and courageous thrusting aside of possibilities, that he might not count her a coward, John Hancock loved her better than before, and tenderly raised her hand to his lips with a simple: "God bless you, dear. I hope you may be right!"
And now, in quiet Lexington, Dorothy and Aunt Lydia occupied themselves with such daily tasks as they were able to accomplish in the minister's home, and the girl was bewildering in her varied charms as John Hancock saw them displayed in daily life during their brief but precious meetings. Dorothy enjoyed an occasional letter from a cousin, Helena Bayard, who was still in Boston, and who gave lively accounts of what was happening there.
As Mrs. Bayard lived in a boarding-house, she saw many persons who knew nothing of her relatives, and one day, after returning from a visit, she found the parlor full of boarders, who eagerly asked her if she had heard the news. She said she had not, and in a letter to Dorothy later, she gives this spicy account of what she heard:
I was told that Linsee was coming, and ten thousand troops, which was glorious news for the Congress. Mr. Hancock was next brought on the carpet, and as the company did not suspect I had the least acquaintance with him, I can't think they meant to affront me.
Dorothy's eyes flashed as she read this, and laying it down she exclaimed: "We will see whether the British come off victorious or not! If I mistake not, there is more ability in the finger-tip of John Hancock than in those of all the generals in the English army. You will be taken the greatest care of, indeed--We shall see what we shall see!" with which sage remark pretty Dolly, head held high, walked out of the room and gave vent to her feelings in vigorous exercise.
The issue was to be confronted sooner than they knew, and it was peaceful Lexington where the first alarm of war sounded.
According to advice, a messenger had been sent to Concord to warn Hancock of his possible danger, but neither he nor Adams attached much importance to the report, after their first alarm was over, and they were enjoying the quiet village life of Lexington with the two women guests at the parsonage, when on the eighteenth of April, General Gage really did order a force to march on Concord, not so much to seize the few military supplies stored there, as to capture the rebellious enemies of the crown.
Just how a small group of men in Boston, calling themselves the "Sons of Liberty," who had constituted themselves a volunteer committee to watch over the movements of the enemy, knew of the plan of the British to march to Concord, and on the way to arrest Hancock and Samuel Adams, will never be known. It is enough to know that they had received the information, and knew that the British were determined not to have a report of the march reach the enemy until it had been successfully accomplished. The question was how to carry the news to Lexington and Concord ahead of the British troops. There was no time to waste in lengthy discussions, and in a very short time Paul Revere was ready for his historic ride. The signals agreed on before affairs had reached this climax were: if the British went out by water, two lanterns would be swung in the North Church steeple; if they went by land, one would be shown, and a friend of Paul Revere's had been chosen as the man to set the signal.
Now, on the night of the eighteenth of April, 1775, two lanterns swung high in the historic steeple, and off started Paul Revere on the most famous ride in American history. As Longfellow has so vividly expressed it:
"The Regulars are coming!"
Then on clattered horse and rider, scattering stones and dirt, as the horse's hoofs tore into the ground and his flanks were flecked with foam. Midnight had struck when the dripping steed and his breathless rider drew up before the parsonage where unsuspecting Dorothy and Aunt Lydia were sheltered, as well as the two patriots. The house was guarded by eight men when Paul Revere dashed up to the door, and they cautioned him not to make a noise.
"Noise!" exclaimed Revere. "You'll have noise enough before long. The Regulars are coming out!"
John Hancock, ever on the alert for any unwonted sounds, heard the commotion and recognizing Revere's voice opened a window and said:
"Courier Revere, we are not afraid of you!"
Revere repeated his startling news.
"Ring the Bell!" commanded Hancock. In a few moments the church bell began to peal, according to pre-arranged signal, to call men of the town together. All night the tones of the clanging bell rang out on the clear air and before daylight one hundred and fifty men had mustered for defense, strong in their desire for resistance and confident of the justice of it.
John Hancock was determined to fight with the men who had come together so hurriedly and were so poorly equipped for the combat. With a firm hand he cleaned his gun and sword and put his accoutrements in order, refusing to listen to the plea of Adams that it was not their duty to fight, that theirs it was, rather, to safeguard their lives for the sake of that cause to which they were so important at this critical time. Hancock was deaf to all appeals, until Dorothy grasped his hands in hers and forced him to look into her eyes:--
"I have lost my mother," she said; "to lose you, too, would be more than I could bear, unless I were giving you for my country's good. But you can serve best by living rather than by courting danger. You must go, and go now!"
And Hancock went.
Meanwhile a British officer had been sent in advance of the troops to inquire for "Clark's parsonage." By mistake he asked for Clark's tavern, which news was brought to Hancock as he was debating whether to take Dorothy's advice or not. He waited no longer. With Adams he immediately took refuge in a thickly wooded hill back of the parsonage. An hour later Paul Revere returned to the house to report that after he left there, with two others, he had been captured by British officers. Having answered their questions evasively about the whereabouts of the patriots, he finally said: "Gentlemen, you have missed your aim; the bell's ringing, the town's alarmed. You are all dead men!" This so terrified the officers that, not one hundred yards further on, one of them mounted Revere's horse and rode off at top speed to give warning to the on-coming troops, while Revere went back to report to Hancock and Adams.
It was evidently unsafe for them to remain so near the scene of the struggle, and at daylight they were ready to start for the home of the Rev. Mr. Marrett in Woburn. Dorothy and Aunt Lydia were to remain in Lexington, and although they had kept well in the background through all the excitement of the fateful night, Aunt Lydia now went down to the door, not only to see the last of her beloved nephew, but to try to speak to some one who could give her more definite news of the seven hundred British soldiers who had arrived in town and were drawn up in formidable array against the motley company of colonists. The British officers at once commanded the colonists to lay down their arms and disperse. Not a single man obeyed. All stood in silent defiance of the order. Then the British regulars poured into the "minute-men" a fatal volley of shots; and about that time Aunt Lydia descended to the parsonage door, and excited Dorothy threw open her window that she might wave to her lover until he was out of sight. As she drew back, she saw something whiz through the air past her aunt's head, striking the barn door beyond, and heard her aunt exclaim:
"What was that?"
It was a British bullet, and no mistake! As Dorothy told later: "The next thing I knew, two men were being brought into the house, one, whose head had been grazed by a bullet, insisted that he was dead; but the other, who was shot in the arm, behaved better."
Dorothy Quincy had seen the first shot fired for independence!
Never was there a more gallant resistance of a large and well-disciplined enemy force than that shown by the minute-men on that day at Lexington, and when at last the British retreated under a hot fire from the provincials at whom they had sneered, they had lost two hundred and seventy-three, killed, wounded, and missing, while the American force had lost only ninety-three.
As soon as the troops were marching on their way to Concord, a messenger brought Dorothy a penciled note from Hancock: "Would she and his aunt come to their hiding-place for dinner, and would they bring with them the fine salmon which was to have been cooked for dinner at the parsonage?" Of course they would--only too eagerly did they make ready and allow the messenger to guide them to the patriot's place of concealment. There, while the lovers enjoyed a tete-a-tete, Adams and Aunt Lydia made the feast ready, and they were all about to enjoy it, when a man rushed in crying out wildly:
"The British are coming! The British are coming! My wife's in eternity now."
This was grim news, and there was no more thought of feasting. Hurriedly Mr. Marrett made ready and took the patriots to a safer hiding-place, in Amos Wyman's house in Billerica. There, later in the day, they satisfied their appetites as best they could with cold pork and potatoes in place of the princely salmon, while Dorothy and Aunt Lydia, after eating what they had heart to consume of the feast, returned to Parson Clark's home, where they waited as quietly as possible until the retreat of the British troops. Then Dorothy had the joy of being again clasped in her lover's arms--and as he looked questioningly into her dear eyes, he could see lines of suffering and of new womanliness carved on her face by the anxiety she had experienced during the last twenty-four hours. Then, at a moment when both were seemingly happiest at being together, came their first lovers' quarrel.
When she had somewhat recovered from the fear of not seeing Hancock again, Dorothy announced that she was going to Boston on the following day--that she was worried about her father, who had not yet been able to leave the city, that she must see him. Hancock listened with set lips and grim determination:
"No, madam," he said, "you shall not return as long as there is a British bayonet in Boston."
Quick came the characteristic reply: "Recollect, Mr. Hancock, I am not under your control yet! I shall go to my father to-morrow."
Her determination matched his own, and Hancock saw no way to achieve his end, yet he had not thought of yielding. As usual, he turned to Aunt Lydia for advice. She wisely suggested retiring, without settling the mooted question, as they were all too tired for sensible reflection on any subject. Then, after defiant Dorothy had gone to her room, the older woman stole to the girl's bedside, not to advise,--oh no!--merely to suggest that there was more than one girl waiting to step into Dorothy's place should she flout the handsome young patriot. Also, she suggested, how terrible it would be if Hancock should be killed, or even captured while the girl he worshiped was away from his side! There was no reply, and the older woman stole from the room without any evidence that she had succeeded in her mission. But she smiled to herself the next morning when Dorothy announced that she had never had any real intention of leaving for Boston, and gracefully acknowledged to an entranced lover that he had been right, after all!
The next question was, where should the women take refuge until the cloud of war should have passed over sufficiently to make it safe for them to return to their homes? Hancock advised Fairfield, Connecticut, a beautiful town where there would be small chance of any danger or discomfort. His suggestion met with approval, and Mrs. Hancock and her pretty ward at once set off for the Connecticut town, while Adams and Hancock journeyed cautiously toward Worcester, where they were to meet and go with other delegates to the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. They were detained at Worcester three days, which gave Hancock a chance to see his Dorothy again on her way to the new place of refuge. Theirs was a rapturous though a brief visit together; then the patriots went on toward New York, and Dorothy and Aunt Lydia proceeded to Fairfield, where they were received in the home of Mr. Thaddeus Burr, an intimate friend of the Hancocks, and a leading citizen, whose fine colonial house was a landmark in the village.
Judge Quincy, meanwhile, had at last been able to take flight from Boston, and after a long, uncomfortable trip, had arrived at his daughter's home in Lancaster, where he heard that "Daughter Dolly and Hancock had taken dinner ten days before, having driven over from Shirley for the purpose." He writes to his son Henry of this, and adds, "As I hear, she proceeded with Mrs. Hancock to Fairfield; I don't expect to see her till peaceable times are restored."
The two patriots reached New York safely, and Hancock at once wrote to Dorothy:
NEW YORK, Sabbath Even'g, May 7, 1775.
One can fancy the flutter of pride in Dorothy's heart at the reading of such honors to her lover, and she settled down to await the turn of events with a lighter heart, while Hancock and Adams, with the other delegates, went on toward Philadelphia, their trip being a triumphal progress from start to finish.
On the ninth of May they arrived at their destination, and on the following day the Continental Congress met, when John Hancock was unanimously elected President of the Congress.
While her lover was occupied with matters of such vital importance, he always found time to pour out his hopes and fears and doings in bulky letters which reached his lady love by coach, every fortnight, and which--"shortened absence" to her impatient desire for the one man in the world who meant all to her. But even where Dorothy's heart was so seriously engaged, she could no more help showering coquettish smiles and pretty speeches on those residents of Fairfield whom she came to know, than she could help bewitching them by her charm and beauty. The more sober-minded men of the town were delighted by her conversation, which was sparkling, and by her keen comment on public affairs--comment far beyond the capability of most of her sex and age, while it became the fashion to pay court to vivacious Dorothy, but the moment an adorer attempted to express his sentimental feelings he found himself checkmated by a haughty reserve that commanded admiration, but forced an understanding that Mistress Dolly wished no such attentions.
Of this John Hancock knew nothing, as Dolly was the most tantalizingly discreet of correspondents, and poor Hancock looked and longed in vain for written evidence of her devotion, despite which, however, he continued to write long letters to her:
In one, written on June 10, 1775, he says pathetically:
I am almost prevailed on to think that my letters to my aunt and you are not read, for I cannot obtain a reply. I have asked a million questions and not an answer to one.... I really take it extremely unkind. Pray, my dear, use not so much ceremony and reservedness.... I want long letters.... I beg my dear Dolly, you will write me often and long letters. I will forgive the past if you will mend in future. Do ask my aunt to make me up and send me a watch-string, and do you make up another. I want something of your doing....
To the Fairfield mansion, where Dolly and her aunt were staying, had come a visitor, young Aaron Burr, a relative of Thaddeus Burr, a brilliant and fascinating young man, whose cleverness and charming personality made him very acceptable to the young girl, whose presence in the house added much zest to his visit, and to whom he paid instant and marked attention. This roused Aunt Lydia to alarm and apprehension, for she knew Dorothy's firmness when she made up her mind on any subject, and feared that the tide of her affection might turn to this fascinating youth, for Dorothy made no secret of her enjoyment of his attentions. This should not be, Aunt Lydia decided.
With determination, thinly veiled by courtesy, she walked and talked and drove and sat with the pair, never leaving them alone together for one moment, which strict chaperonage Dolly resented, and complained of to a friend with as much of petulancy as she ever showed, tossing her pretty head with an air of defiance as she told of Aunt Lydia's foolishness, and spoke of her new friend as a "handsome young man with a pretty property."
The more devoted young Burr became to her charming ward, the more determined became Aunt Lydia that John Hancock should not lose what was dearer to him than his own life. With the clever diplomacy of which she was evidently past mistress, she managed to so mold affairs to her liking that Aaron Burr's visit at Fairfield came to an unexpectedly speedy end, and, although John Hancock's letters to his aunt show no trace that he knew of a dangerous rival, yet he seems to have suddenly decided that if he were to wed the fair Dolly it were well to do it quickly. And evidently he was still the one enshrined in her heart, for in the recess of Congress between August first and September fifth, John Hancock dropped the affairs of the colony momentarily, and journeyed to Fairfield, never again to be separated from her who was ever his ideal of womanhood.
On the 28th day of August, 1775, Dorothy Quincy and the patriot, John Hancock, were married, as was chronicled in the New York Gazette of September 4th:
This evening was married at the seat of Thaddeus Burr, at Fairfield, Conn., by the Reverend Mr. Eliot, the Hon. John Hancock, Esq., President of the Continental Congress, to Miss Dorothy Quincy, daughter of Edmund Quincy, Esq., of Boston. Florus informs us that "in the second Punic War when Hannibal besieged Rome and was very near making himself master of it, a field upon which part of his army lay, was offered for sale, and was immediately purchased by a Roman, in a strong assurance that the Roman valor and courage would soon raise the siege." Equal to the conduct of that illustrious citizen was the marriage of the Honorable John Hancock, Esq., who, with his amiable lady, has paid as great a compliment to American valor by marrying now while all the colonies are as much convulsed as Rome was when Hannibal was at her gates.
The New York Post also gave a detailed account of the wedding, and of the brilliant gathering of the "blue blood" of the aristocratic old town as well as of the colonies. Had the ceremony taken place in the old Quincy home, as had originally been intended, in a room which had been specially paneled with flowers and cupids for the auspicious event, it would doubtless have been a more homelike affair, especially to the bride, but it would have lacked the dignified elegance to which the stately Burr mansion lent itself so admirably.
Pretty Dorothy a bride! Mrs. John Hancock at her gallant husband's side, receiving congratulations, with joy shining in her dark eyes, which were lifted now and again to her husband, only to be answered by a responsive glance of love and loyalty. They were a handsome and a happy pair, to whom for a few hours the strife of the colonies had become a dream--to whom, despite the turbulent struggle in which Hancock must soon again play such a prominent part, the future looked rose color, because now nothing but death could part them.
* * * * *
Vivacious Dorothy had not only now become Mrs. John Hancock, but she was also called Madam Hancock! Oh, the bliss of the dignified title to its youthful owner! She read with girlish satisfaction the item in a New York paper of September 4th, which reported, "Saturday last, the Honorable John Hancock and his Lady arrived here, and immediately set out for Philadelphia." With still greater pleasure a few days later she set herself to the establishing of a home in that city which was to be her first residence as a married woman. And well did she carry out her design to make John Hancock a worthy comrade, for besides accomplishing all the necessary duties of a housekeeper, she quickly acquired the dignity and reserve needed for the wife of a man filling such a prominent position in the colonies during the war for Independence. There was much lavish living and extravagant elegance of dressing, with which she was obliged to vie, even in the town where the Quakers were so much in evidence; and meeting, as she did, many persons of social and political importance, it was impossible for pretty Dorothy to be as care-free and merry now as she had been in the days when no heavy responsibilities rested on her shoulders.
So well did she fill her position as Madam Hancock that she won golden opinions from the many distinguished men and women who came together under Hancock's hospitable roof-tree; her husband noting with ever increasing pride that his Dolly was more deeply and truly an American woman in her flowering than ever he could have dreamed she would become when he fell in love with her on that Sunday in June. And loyally did he give to her credit for such inspiration as helped to mold him into the man who received the greatest honors in the power of the colonists to bestow.
With the later life of Dorothy Hancock we are not concerned; our rose had bloomed. It matters not to us that Madam Hancock was one of the most notable women of the Revolution, who had known and talked with George Washington, that she and Martha Washington had actually discussed their husbands together. To Dorothy's great pride Mrs. Washington had spoken enthusiastically of Hancock's high position, while at that time her husband was but a general. Then, too, pretty Madam Hancock had known the noble Lafayette--had met in intimate surroundings all those great and patriotic men who had devoted their best endeavors to the establishment of a free and independent America. All that is no concern of ours in this brief story of the girl, Dorothy, nor is it ours to mourn with the mother over the death or her two children, nor ours to wonder why, three years after the death of her beloved husband, a man who had made his mark in the history of his country, she should have married again.
Ours only it is to admire Hancock's Dolly as we see her in her girlish beauty, as we follow her through the black days of fear and of tension preceding the outbreak of that war in which her lover played such a prominent part; ours to enjoy her charming manner and sparkling wit, and to respect with deep admiring a brave girl of the Massachusetts colony who watched a great nation in its birth-throes, and whose name is written in history not alone as Madam Hancock, but as Dorothy Quincy, the girl who saw the first gun fired for Independence.
An inspiration and an example for the girls of to-day, at a time when all good Americans are united in a firm determination to make the world safe for democracy.
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