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Benjamin Williams Crowninshield

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1823 – March 3, 1831
Preceded by Gideon Barstow
Succeeded by Rufus Choate

In office
January 16, 1815 – September 30, 1818
President James Madison
James Monroe
Preceded by William Jones
Succeeded by Smith Thompson

Born December 27, 1772
Salem, Massachusetts
Died February 3, 1851 (aged 78)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Federalist
National Republican
Occupation Merchant

Benjamin Williams Crowninshield (December 27, 1772 – February 3, 1851) served as the United States Secretary of the Navy between 1815 and 1818, during the administrations of Presidents James Madison and James Monroe.


Crowninshield was born in Salem, Massachusetts the son of a sea captain and merchant of the Boston Brahmin Crowninshield family. He worked in the family shipping business, Geo. Crowninshield & Sons, served at sea, and was also active in politics. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1811 and the state Senate in 1812.

Crowninshield became Secretary of the Navy in January 1815, a position almost held by his brother Jacob Crowninshield ten years earlier, at the end of the War of 1812 and managed the transition to a peacetime force. This included implementation of the new Board of Commissioners administrative system and the building of several ships of the line, the backbone of a much enhanced Navy. He also oversaw strategy and naval policy for the war with Algiers in 1815.

After leaving Navy office in 1818, Crowninshield returned to business and political affairs in Massachusetts, prospering in both. In addition to serving two more terms in the Massachusetts House, he was also elected to four terms the United States Congress from 1823 to 1831.

On his passing in 1851, Benjamin Williams Crowninshield was interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Crowninshield was the great-great-grandfather of Charles Francis Adams III, also Secretary of the Navy from 1929 to 1933.


The destroyer USS Crowninshield (DD-134) was named in his honor.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Naval History & Heritage Command.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Gideon Barstow
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1823 – March 3, 1831
Succeeded by
Rufus Choate
Military offices
Preceded by
William Jones
United States Secretary of the Navy
January 16, 1815 – September 30, 1818
Succeeded by
Smith Thompson


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