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Francis Dana

Francis Dana
United States Ambassador to Russia
In office
December 19, 1780 – September 1783
Succeeded by William Short
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
In office
Preceded by Jedediah Foster
Succeeded by Thomas Dawes
Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
In office
Preceded by Nathaniel Peaslee Sargent
Succeeded by Theophilus Parsons
Personal details
Born (1743-06-13)June 13, 1743
Charlestown, Massachusetts
Died April 25, 1811(1811-04-25) (aged 67)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Resting place Old Burying Ground, Cambridge
Nationality American
Residence United States
Alma mater Harvard University;

Francis Dana (June 13, 1743 – April 25, 1811) was an American lawyer, jurist, and statesman from Massachusetts. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777–1778 and 1784. He signed the Articles of Confederation. His wife Elizabeth was a daughter of Ann Remington and William Ellery, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also the father-in-law of Washington Allston, a noted painter and poet.


  • Biography 1
  • Bibliography 2
  • Notes 3
  • External links 4


Dana family plot in Old Burying Ground, Cambridge, Ma.

Francis was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of lawyer Richard Dana. He was educated at Harvard where he graduated in 1762, then read law and was admitted to the bar, after which he built a successful legal practice in Boston.

Being an opponent of the British colonial policy, he became a leader of the Sons of Liberty, and was first elected to Massachusetts’s provincial (revolutionary) Congress in 1774. In 1775 the Continental Congress dispatched him to Lord North's offer of conciliation, which he vigorously opposed.

Dana left the Congress to accompany John Adams to Paris as a secretary to the diplomatic delegation.[1] In 1780 he was named as American minister to the Russian Empire, and while he never gained official recognition from Catherine II, he remained in St. Petersburg until 1783. After his return, he was again elected to the national congress in 1784. In 1785 Dana was appointed to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, and served there until 1806, as the Chief Justice after 1791. An earnest advocate of the adoption of the Federal constitution, he was a member of the state convention which ratified it in 1788, and was one of the most influential advisers of the leaders of the Federalist Party, specifically its Essex Junto.

In 1792, a company was formed to build a bridge to Cambridgeport over the Charles River.[2] This became the West Boston Bridge, later the site of the Longfellow Bridge that exists today. Along with Dana, some of the original stockholders included Mungo Mackay, Oliver Wendell, James Sullivan, Henry Jackson, William Wetmore, Harrison Gray Otis, Perez Morton, Samuel Parkman, Charles Bulfinch, Joseph Blake, Henry Prentiss, John Derby, Caleb Davis, John Winthrop and Jon Austin. The bridge was opened in November 1793.

Dana generally retired from public life in 1806. He was a charter member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780,[3] and actively supported the growth of Harvard University. His son, Richard Henry Dana, Sr., was an important poet and literary critic as well as a lawyer. His grandson, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (1815–1882) was a noted lawyer and author who served as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts and wrote the classic Two Years Before the Mast.

Dana died in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is buried in Cambridge's Old Burying Ground.[4]


  • William Penn Cresson. Francis Dana, a Puritan diplomat at the court of Catherine the Great. New York: L. MacVeagh, The Dial Press. ; Toronto: Longmans, Green & co, 1930


  1. ^ Adams had been selected as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain.
  2. ^ Oliver, Frederick L. The Bridges of the Charles. Boston. The Proceedings of the Bostonian Society. 1952
  3. ^ "Charter of Incorporation". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Francis Dana at Find a Grave

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Jedediah Foster
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Thomas Dawes
Preceded by
Nathaniel Peaslee Sargent
Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Theophilus Parsons


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