HMS Liberty (1768)

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

HMS Liberty was a British sloop that was burned in 1769 by American colonists in Newport, Rhode Island as one of the first acts of open defiance against the British crown.


Full-length portrait of a young man seated at a table. He wears a finely tailored dark suit, knee breeches with white stockings, and a wig in the style of an English gentleman. He holds a quill pen in his right hand, and is turning the pages of a large book with the other hand.
John Hancock, original owner of the 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 the Liberty, and it was towed away by HMS Halifax. Charges against Hancock were eventually dropped, but the 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 the 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 in Newport harbor as one of the first overt American acts of defiance against the British government.[3][4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "NMM, vessel ID 370092" (PDF). Warship Histories, vol ii. National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "The seizure of Liberty". The American Revolution. Alpha History. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Warships of the world to 1900, Volume 799, Ships of the World Series: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

This article includes data released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported UK: England & Wales License, by the National Maritime Museum, as part of the Warship Histories project