His last triumph, as Governor, was to send a special message to the Legislature, informing that body that “a company of Aliens and Foreigners have entered the State, and the Metropolis of Government, and under advertisements insulting to all Good Men and Ladies have been pleased to invite them to attend certain Stage-Plays, Interludes and Theatrical Entertainments under the Style and Appellation of Moral Lectures.... All of which must be put a stop to to once and the Rogues and Varlots punished.”
A few days after this, “the Aliens and Foreigners” gave a presentation of Sheridan’s “School for Scandal.” In the midst of the performance the sheriff and a posse made a rush upon the stage and bagged all the offenders.
When their trial came on, the next day, the “varlots and vagroms” had secured high legal talent to defend them, one of which counsel was Harrison Gray Otis. The actors were discharged on the slim technicality that the warrants of arrest had not been properly verified.
However, the theater was closed, but the “Common People” made such an unseemly howl about “rights” and all that, that the Legislature made haste to repeal the law which provided that play-actors should be flogged.
Hancock defaulted in his stewardship as Treasurer of Harvard College, and only escaped arrest for embezzlement through the fact that he was Governor of the State, and no process could be served upon him. After his death his estate paid nine years’ simple interest on his deficit, and ten years thereafter, the principal was paid.
His widow married Captain Scott, who was long in Hancock’s employ as master of a brig; and we find the worthy captain proudly exclaiming, “I have embarked on the sea of Matrimony, and am now at the helm of the Hancock mansion!”
No biography of Governor Hancock has ever been written. The record of his life flutters only in newspaper paragraphs, letters, and chance mention in various diaries.
Hancock did not live to see John Adams President. Worn by worry, and grown old before his time, he died at the early age of fifty-six, of a combination of gout and that unplebeian complaint we now term Bright’s Disease.
Thirty-three years after, hale old John Adams down at Quincy spoke of him as “a clever fellow, a bit spoiled by a legacy, whom I used to know in my younger days.”
He left no descendants, and his heirs were too intent on being in at the death to care for his memory. They neither preserved the data of his life, nor over his grave placed a headstone. The monument that now marks his resting-place was recently erected by the State of Massachusetts. He was buried in the Old Granary Burying-Ground, on Tremont Street, and only a step from his grave sleeps his friend Samuel Adams.