Francis Dana, an American jurist, son of Richard Dana, born in Charlestown, Mass., June 13, 1743, died in Cambridge, April 25, 1811. He graduated at Harvard college in 1762, and was admitted to the bar in 1767. He joined the "Sons of Liberty," and John Adams's diary of January, 1766, speaks of the club in which "Lowell, Dana, Quiney, and other young fellows" were not ill employed in lengthened discussions of the right of taxation. In 1773 he acted in behalf of the Rhode Island patriots in concert with John Adams for the prosecution in the matter of Rome's and Mof-fatt's letters; and in the next year he opposed, though one of the youngest of the bar, the addresses of that body to Gov. Hutchinson on his departure. In September, 1774, he was chosen delegate from Cambridge to the first provincial congress of Massachusetts. In April, 1775, he sailed for England with confidential letters to Dr. Franklin on the critical state of affairs, from Warren, the elder Quiney, Dr. Cooper, and other leaders. In May, 1776, he was chosen by the Massachusetts assembly one of the council, who at that time acted not only as a senate but as the executive of the state; of this body he continued a member till 1780. In the same year he was chosen a delegate from Massachusetts to the congress of 1777, which formed the confederation, and again to the congress of 1778, where he was placed at the head of a committee charged with the entire reorganization of the army and its establishments.
Accompanied by President Reed, Gouverneur Morris, and others of the committee, he passed from January to April of that year in the camp at Valley Forge, concerting with Washington the plan subsequently transmitted by congress, June 4, 1778, to the commander-in-chief, "to be proceeded in with the advice and assistance of Mr. Reed and Mr. Dana, or either of them." On Sept. 29, 1779, he was chosen secretary to Mr. Adams's embassy, to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain, sailed with the minister from Boston Nov. 13, and arrived at Paris Feb. 9, 1780. On March 15, 1781, he received in Paris the congressional appointment of minister to Russia, and in July proceeded to St. Petersburg. His powers extended, besides the making of treaties of amity and commerce, to an accession of the United States to the " armed neutrality" of the north. The results of his two years' residence at the court of St. Petersburg are given in detail in Sparks's "Diplomatic Correspondence of the Revolution," vol. viii.
He returned to Boston in December, 1783, and in February, 1784, was again delegated by the assembly to the general congress, where he took his seat May 24, and on the 29th was selected to represent Massachusetts on the committee of states, which continued in session until Aug. 11. On Jan. 18, 1785, he was appointed by Gov. Hancock a justice of the supreme court of Massachusetts. In 1786 he was chosen delegate to the Annapolis convention, which resulted in the call of the convention which framed the constitution of the United States; and to this latter body he was also appointed a delegate, but his judicial duties and his health, still suffering from his residence at St. Petersburg, prevented his attendance. In the Massachusetts convention for the adoption of the constitution (1788), he took a leading part in its favor. On Nov. 29, 1791, he was appointed chief justice of Massachusetts, and during his 15 years' tenure of that office kept aloof from political life, except that he was a presidential elector in 1792 and in 1800, as well as in 1808. He was appointed by Mr. Adams, June 5, 1797, with Cotesworth Pinckney and John Marshall, special envoy to the French republic; but precarious health compelled him to decline that office.
After retiring from the bench in 1806, Chief Justice Dana took no official part in public affairs. As a judge he was well read and apprehensive of principles, and of an exemplary austerity toward all manner of chicane and indirection; a discerning and assiduous diplomatist, and an influential man in elective and popular assemblies, where his eloquence exhibited a rare union of impassioned feeling with natural dignity. He was one of the founders of the American academy of arts and sciences, and his retirement was enlivened by his interest in enterprises for the benefit of the neighborhood of Boston, and by literary and other cultivated tastes. His house at Cambridge was much visited by his old fellow leaders of the federal party, and by younger men from the university, the Channings, Allston, Buckminster, and others, afterward variously distinguished. He married in early life a daughter of William Ellery of Rhode Island, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and was the father of Richard H. Dana and several other children.