The Untold Story Of The Whistleblowers of 1777 - The Origins of National Whistleblower Day

Published on June 13, 2011

Please, share this page
The Whistleblowers of 1777 – The Origins of National Whistleblower Day

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, first discovered the importance of this date to whistleblowers.  Fifteen years ago, while conducting research for an amicus brief filed by the NWC supporting the constitutionality of the False Claims Act, Kohn discovered a resolution passed by the Continental Congress. The resolution, enacted on July 30, 1778, can be considered the world’s first whistleblower law.  Kohn then carefully researched why our Founding Fathers enacted the resolution, and learned the details of America’s first whistleblower case.  He reviewed the letters the whistleblowers wrote in jail pleading their case to the revolutionary Congress.  He obtained from the National Archives a copy of the check the Continental Congress wrote to Sam Adams, honoring Congress’ agreement to pay the costs of the whistleblowers’ defense. 

Stephen Kohn first retold this history in his book, (3rd Ed. 2013, Lyons Press). He has also recited this history before various groups and he most recently spoke about it on National Whistleblower Appreciation Day 2014 during the Whistleblower Summit Luncheon in Washington, D.C. You can see his TED talk about this historical moment below:

Original Documents from Continental Congress

New York Times Op-Ed “The Whistle-Blowers of 1777” by Stephen M. Kohn (June 13, 2011)

Letter from the Warren Sailors February 1777 –  The letter from sailors discloses misconduct by the commander of the US Navy

Appeal Letter (July 23, 1778) – Whistleblowers Marven and Shaw ask for Congress’ help after being retaliated against by the former commander of US Navy

Continental Congress Journal (July 30, 1778)  – America’s First whistleblower protection law passed unanimously by the Continental Congress

Continental Congress Journal (May 22, 1779) – Congress honors its promise and pays the attorneys fees and costs incurred in the successful defense of Marven and Shaw

For the full story, read The Whistleblower’s Handbook

More Information about National Whistleblower Day: 

Report Fraud Now