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Liberty was a sloop owned by John Hancock, an American merchant. Seized by customs officials in Boston in 1768, it was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Liberty, and was burned the next year by American colonists in Newport, Rhode Island in one of the first acts of open defiance against the British crown by American colonists.

Great Britain
Name: Liberty
Owner: John Hancock
Captured: June 1768
Royal Navy EnsignGreat Britain
Name: Liberty
Acquired: June 1768[1]
Fate: Scuttled and burned, Newport, Rhode Island, July 1769
General characteristics
Class and type: Sloop[2]


John Hancock, original owner of Liberty

The ship was originally owned by John Hancock. In 1768, British officials alleged that Bostonians locked a customs official in the Liberty's cabin while the cargo of Madeira wine was unloaded in an effort to evade the Townshend Acts.[2] In retaliation, the British government confiscated Liberty, and it was towed away by HMS Halifax. Charges against Hancock were eventually dropped, but Liberty remained confiscated.

The ship was refitted in Rhode Island to serve as a Royal Navy ship named HMS Liberty[1] and then used to patrol off Rhode Island for customs violations. On 19 July 1769, the crew of Liberty under Captain William Reid accosted Joseph Packwood, a New London captain, and seized and towed two Connecticut ships into Newport. In retribution, Packwood and a mob of Rhode Islanders confronted Reid, then boarded, scuttled, and later burned the ship on the north end of Goat Island (although a small monument to the event,located in Equality Park on Broadway, states the sloop was dragged to the site of the park and burned there) in Newport harbor as one of the first overt American acts of defiance against the British government.[3][4][5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "NMM, vessel ID 370092" (PDF). Warship Histories, vol ii. National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 11 March 2014.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b "The seizure of Liberty". The American Revolution. Alpha History. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  3. ^ Ships of the World Series, Vol. 799: Warships of the World to 1900, Lincoln P. Paine (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000) pg. 95 [1]
  4. ^ Millar, Early American Ships
  5. ^ Sherman, An Accounting of His Majesty's Armed Sloop Liberty

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