Hauenstein Center presents historian to discuss Founding Father John Hancock

Head shot of historian Brooke Barbier

John Hancock’s influence on the foundation of the United States extends far beyond his iconic signature at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. Amidst the tumultuous atmosphere of revolution, it was Hancock's moderate viewpoints that provided a stabilizing force for his fellow Founding Fathers.

The Hauenstein Center will host author and historian Brooke Barbier for a discussion on her book, “King Hancock: The Radical Influence of a Moderate Founding Father,” on March 14 at the DeVos Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, starting at 6 p.m.

“The book talks about the American revolution and how John Hancock, one of the most popular men in the colony, navigated this time of social and political upheaval,” Barbier said. “How did this man of moderate and often shifting political views deal with the radical times?”

The radical times, Barbier writes, called for leaders with measured approaches to the rising fervor of revolution. 

Hancock, already a prominent and respected politician in New England, provided a steady, guiding presence as the president of the Second Continental Congress. Barbier noted that Hancock played a crucial role in bridging divides between the northern and southern states, as well as between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. 

“I hope that Thursday’s audience members will appreciate the messy and uncertain politics of the American Revolution because when we decline to see the outcome as inevitable, the story becomes more interesting,” Barbier said. “We see people thrust into a very uncertain time, needing to engage and make difficult choices that deeply impact their place in the community, their livelihoods and how they will be ruled.”

Barbier’s presentation marks another installment in the Hauenstein Center’s ongoing series on empowered citizenship . Throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, the Hauenstein Center is hosting authors, lecturers and scholars who will explore the responsibilities facing citizens on national and global scales.

For more information on the event, visit the Hauenstein Center webpage .


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