John Hancock in Baltimore

John Hancock in Baltimore

By Will Noel

In 1776, the Continental Congress moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore under pressure from the British. And it was from Baltimore that the President of the Congress, John Hancock wrote this letter to the Honorable Assembly of the State of Delaware on January 31, 1777. 

Copy of Declaration of Independence, 1777. Straus Autograph Collection (C0077), Box 1, Folder 39.


As there is not a more distinguished event in the history of America than the Declaration of her Independence – nor any, that, in all probability, will so much excite the attention of future ages, it is highly proper that the memory of that transaction, together with the causes that gave rise to it, should be preserved in the most careful manner that can be devised. 

I am therefore commanded by Congress to transmit you the enclosed copy of the Act of Independence, with the list of the several Members of Congress subscribed thereto – and to request that you will cause the same to be put upon record, that it may henceforth for a part of the archives of your state, and remain a lasting testimony of your approbation of that necessary and important measure. 

I have the Honour to be, Gentlemen, 

Your most obedient and very humble Servant 


A professionally inscribed copy of the Declaration was enclosed. 

Gabriel Swift found this letter in our autograph collection while preparing for a class he will be co-teaching with Professor Michael Blaackman on Princeton and the American Revolution.  Together with their students, they will be curating an exhibition on this subject to coincide in the 250th anniversary of the Republic on 2026.  I hope this document makes it into the show.