July 3, 2008

Dear Friends,

As we prepare to celebrate our Country’s birthday this 4th of July, I think about the brave men who gave us that first birthday in 1776 – the patriots who willingly risked everything they had for independence and freedom. Who were these men who demonstrated the courage to defy the most powerful monarchy in the world and sign the Declaration of Independence? When asked this question, most people think about Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These statesmen, politicians and lawyers have been written about extensively. Since business is literally the Department’s middle name, I began to wonder how many of those heroes were businessmen, much like the business people we work with every day.

I began to do some research and learned that there were several signers who made their living through businesses that are similar to those we license today. Most of us have heard the saying “put your John Hancock here,” which means “sign here.” This saying came from the fact that Hancock’s signature is the most prominent on the Declaration of Independence, and there is a lot of myth surrounding that signature. Some say that he signed it first, others say it so large because Hancock wanted to make sure King George saw his name. After all, he was one of the revolutionary figures named in King George’s decree that offered a reward for his capture.

Hancock was a very successful merchant who conducted business with the richest companies in England and took over his uncle’s shipbuilding business. Who knows – maybe if he lived in Florida today he would have been one of the Department’s yacht and ship broker licensees.

One of Hancock’s strong allies at the time and fellow signer was another merchant by the name of Samuel Adams. That’s probably a very familiar name to most of you, and you’ve probably seen “Samuel Adams” beer in establishments that are licensed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. Adams was a successful malt brewer who was sometimes referred to as the “malt master.” Adams was a major player in the early days of the revolution, with a leading role in the Boston Tea Party and a member of the First Continental Congress. Later, Adams became involved in politics and served as the Governor of Massachusetts until he retired in 1797.

While Hancock and Adams succeeded at business and politics, some of the businessmen who signed the Declaration of Independence paid dearly for it. Francis Lewis and Robert Morris both enjoyed tremendous wealth prior to the Revolution, yet died in absolute poverty. Morris was actually the founder of the Bank of North America and later was appointed to the Secretary of the Treasury, yet he died a poor man. Lewis lost his wife shortly after she was imprisoned by British Troops in 1776 – she never recovered from the incident and died shortly after her release.

These are just a few stories of the courageous 56 patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence, risking their fortunes, families and freedom to give us the United States of America. I hope that as we gather with our friends and family to celebrate this great holiday, we will remember the sacrifices made by these courageous men who, like many of you, were American business people.

Happy Independence Day!


Chuck Drago's Signature

Chuck Drago
Interim Secretary

Department of Business and
Professional Regulation
1940 North Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
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Four signers of the Declaration of Independence


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