In 1777, a group of ten sailors and Marines boldly stood up against serious misconduct by Esek Hopkins, the commander in chief of the Continental Navy. In a revolutionary act of justice, their complaints were heard and endorsed by stalwarts like Samuel Adams who advocated for the ‘common law Constitution’ that protected the right to expose government wrongdoings. In response, the Continental Congress passed possibly the world’s first whistleblower law on July 30, 1778.
This legislation extended beyond mere written rights. It brought the whistleblowers’ words into action, sanctioning the release of all documents provided by the whistleblowers, even if they could embarrass the U.S. government. It went a step further to finance top-tier legal representation for the whistleblowers, defending them against retaliatory criminal libel suits filed by Hopkins. They emerged victorious, and Hopkins was relieved of his duties.
Fast forward to 2013, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the first Whistleblower Appreciation Day resolution, an annual tradition since. Recognizing the critical role of whistleblowers, several federal agencies, public servants, and political officials have actively endorsed this celebration, delivering speeches in support and conducting in-house training.
However, to bring about a significant cultural shift, the President must permanently implement the Senate resolution, thereby honoring National Whistleblower Day annually. Only then can we ensure whistleblowers across the federal government are appreciated and protected, rather than being misunderstood or penalized.
This account harkens back to a time when whistleblowers risked their lives and reputations for the sake of justice and the greater good. Today, we see their invaluable contributions in saving lives, recovering billions of fraudulent dollars, protecting the environment, and halting global corruption. Click here to delve into this riveting story of the birth of whistleblowing and its relevance in our contemporary world.