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Francis Dana - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Thursday, December 24, 2020

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Birth: June 13, 1743
Death: April 25, 1811 (age 67)
Colony: Massachusetts
Occupation: Lawyer, Politician
Significance: Signed The Articles of Confederation (at the age of 34); served in the Continental Congress (Congress of the Confederation) (1777-1779, 1784-1785); served as First United States Minister to the Russian Empire (1780-1783); served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts (1791-1806)

Francis Dana Portrait

Francis Dana was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Born in Massachusetts, Dana attended Harvard and become a lawyer just like his father. Following his graduation from Harvard in 1762, Dana passed the Bar and traveled to England before he returned to America and started a successful legal practice in Boston. Dana married Ann Remington, who was the daughter of William Ellery, another Founding Father and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

While living in Boston, the hotbed of the American Revolution, Dana became politically active. Like many other Founding Fathers from Boston, Dana joined the Sons of Liberty. In 1775, Dana was among those selected by the Continental Congress to travel to London and attempt to peacefully resolve the issue that had led to the first battles of the American Revolution outside of Boston. Although these attempts ultimately proved futile and full-scale war with Britain could not be avoided, the trip provided valuable diplomatic experience to Dana.

Dana returned to Boston and in 1777, Dana was elected to serve in the Second Continental Congress. Dana traveled to Philadelphia to serve in the Continental Congress, he and was among the first signers of the Articles of Confederation on July 9, 1778 after the Articles were ratified by his Colony of Massachusetts. 

Dana remained in the Continental Congress after signing the Articles of Confederation, and in January of 1778, he was elected the Chairman of a newly formed committee that was to travel to Valley Forge to meet with General George Washington and discuss upcoming plans for the Continental Army once Winter had subsided. Dana returned to Philadelphia in April of 1778 where the plans he devised with Washington were approved by the Continental Congress. 

In late 1779, Dana left the Continental Congress once again after he had been appointed to join John Adams on his trip to Paris in order to begin negotiating an end to the Revolutionary War with the British. However, after arriving in Paris, Dana received word that he had been appointed the first Minister to the Russian Empire by the Continental Congress. Dana traveled to St. Petersburg, and he remained there until 1783. Upon his return to Massachusetts in 1784, Dana was again elected to the Continental Congress (Congress of the Confederation).

Dana served in Congress while they met in Trenton, New Jersey and New York City before he returned home to Massachusetts upon being appointed to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in 1785. Dana served on the Supreme Court of Massachusetts for over 20 years, becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1791, and holding the job until retiring in 1806. Five years later, Dana died in 1811 at the age of 67.

Francis Dana in Philadelphia

Francis Dana came to Philadelphia in 1778 as a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress. While serving as a member of the Second Continental Congress, Dana worked at Independence Hall, where he signed The Articles of Confederation. Dana also traveled to nearby Valley Forge while serving in Congress.

Today, Independence Hall is a stop visited along The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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