Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
- For other men with the same name, see: Richard Henry Dana.
|Richard Henry Dana, Jr.|
Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family who gained renown as the author of the American classic, the memoir Two Years Before the Mast. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves.
Dana was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 1, 1815 into a family that had settled in colonial America in 1640, counting Anne Bradstreet among its ancestors. His father was the poet and critic Richard Henry Dana, Sr. As a boy, Dana studied in Cambridgeport under a strict schoolmaster named Samuel Barrett, alongside fellow Cambridge native and future writer James Russell Lowell. Barrett was infamous as a disciplinarian who punished his students for any infraction by flogging. He also often pulled students by their ears and, on one such occasion, nearly pulled Dana's ear off, causing the boy's father to protest enough that the practice was abolished.
In 1825, Dana enrolled in a private school overseen by Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom Dana later mildly praised as "a very pleasant instructor", though he lacked a "system or discipline enough to insure regular and vigorous study." In July 1831, Dana enrolled at Harvard College, where in his freshman year his support of a student protest cost him a six-month suspension. In his junior year, he contracted measles, which in his case led to ophthalmia.
Fatefully, the worsening vision inspired him to take a sea voyage. But rather than going on a fashionable Grand Tour of Europe, he decided to enlist as a merchant seaman, despite his high-class birth. On August 14, 1834 he departed Boston aboard the brig Pilgrim bound for Alta California, at that time still a part of Mexico. This voyage would bring Dana to a number of settlements in California (including Monterey, San Pedro, San Juan Capistrano, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and San Francisco). After witnessing a flogging on board the ship, he vowed that he would try to help improve the lot of the common seaman. The Pilgrim collected hides for shipment to Boston, and Dana spent much of his time in California curing hides and loading them onto the ship. To return home sooner, he was reassigned by the ship's owners to a different ship, the Alert, and on September 22, 1836, Dana arrived back in Massachusetts.
He thereupon enrolled at Harvard Law School. He graduated from there in 1837 and was admitted to the bar in 1840. He went on to specialize in maritime law. In the October 1839 issue of a magazine, he took a local judge, one of his own instructors in law school, to task for letting off a ship's captain and mate with a slap on the wrist for murdering the ship's cook, beating him to death for not "laying hold" of a piece of equipment. The judge had sentenced the captain to ninety days in jail and the mate to thirty days.
In 1841 he published The Seaman's Friend, which became a standard reference on the legal rights and responsibilities of sailors, He defended many common seamen in court.
During his voyages he had kept a diary, and in 1840 (coinciding with his admission to the bar) he published a memoir, Two Years Before the Mast. The term, "before the mast" refers to sailors' quarters, which were located in the forecastle (the ship's bow), officers' quarters being near the stern. His writing evidences his later sympathy for the oppressed. With the California Gold Rush later in the decade, Two Years Before the Mast would become highly sought after as one of the few sources of information on California.
In 1859, while the U.S. Senate was considering whether the United States should try to annex the Spanish possession of Cuba, Dana traveled there and visited Havana, a sugar plantation, a bullfight, and various churches, hospitals, schools, and prisons, a trip documented in his book To Cuba and Back.
During the American Civil War, Dana served as a United States Attorney, and successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the United States Government could rightfully blockade Confederate ports. During 1867–1868 Dana was a member of the Massachusetts legislature and also served as a U.S. counsel in the trial of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
In 1877, Dana was one of the counsel for the Government of the United States, appearing before the Halifax Fisheries Commission, appointed under the Treaty of Washington (1871) to resolve outstanding issues, including fishing rights. The Commission gave an award directing the United States to pay $5,500,000 to the British Government.
In 1876, his nomination as ambassador to Great Britain was defeated in the Senate by political enemies, partly because of a lawsuit for plagiarism brought against him for a legal textbook he had edited, Henry Wheaton's Elements of International Law (8th ed., 1866). Immediately after the book's publication, Dana had been charged by the editor of two earlier editions, William Beach Lawrence, with infringing his copyright, and was involved in litigation which continued for thirteen years. In such minor matters as arrangement of notes and verification of citations the court found against Dana, but in the main Dana's notes were vastly different from Lawrence's.
- The point and city of Dana Point, California, located on the Pacific coast about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, are named for him, and a reproduction of the brig "Pilgrim" was sailed around Cape Horn and permanently placed on display there for the Ocean Institute.
- Several schools are named in his honor:
- Richard Henry Dana Elementary School (Dana Point, California), in Dana Point, California.
- Richard Henry Dana Middle School, in Arcadia, California.
- Dana Middle School in the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, California.
- Richard Henry Dana Middle School (Hawthorne, California)
- Dana Middle School (San Pedro)
Selected works by Richard Henry Dana 
- 1840. Two Years Before the Mast. Revised 1869 by the author; revised 1911 by his son.
- 1841. The Seaman's Friend: Containing a Treatise on Practical Seamanship, with Plates; A Dictionary of Sea Terms; Customs and Usages of the Merchant Service; Laws Relating to the Practical Duties of Master and Mariners. 1st edition; 6th edition, 1851
- 1839. Cruelty to seamen: being the case of Nichols & Couch. American Jurist and Law Magazine, October 1839, 22:92-107. This magazine was published in two volumes per year. Dana's article was republished in 1937 under the same title at Berkeley, California: The hand press of Wilder and Ellen Bentley. The original source is often miscited with the truncated name, American Jurist.
- ca. 1842. An autobiographical sketch.
- 1859. To Cuba and back.
- 1859-1860. Journal of a Voyage Round the World.
- 1869. Twenty-Four Years After. Now included in subsequent editions of Two Years Before the Mast
- 1968. The journal. Robert F. Lucid, editor. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Notes and references 
- Nelson 1981, p. 45.
- Sullivan, 1972, pages 98
- Duberman 1966, p. 15.
- Sullivan 1972, p. 100.
- Sullivan 1972, p. 101.
- Sullivan 1972, p. 102.
- Sullivan 1972, pp. 104-5.
- Glenn 1984, pp. 99-100.
- Levine, p. 282.
- Morton 1853, pp. 222-232.
- 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article on Francis Dana
- Nelson 1981, p. 63.
- Website of Dana Middle School in Hawthorne
- Website of Dana Middle School in San Pedro
- Duberman, Martin. 1966. James Russell Lowell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Glenn, Myra C. 1984. Campaigns against corporal punishment: prisoners, sailors, women, and children in antebellum America. Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. SUNY series in American social history.
- Levine, Robert S. 1989. Conspiracy and Romance: Studies in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville. Cambridge University Press.
- Morton, William T.G. 1853. Statements, Supported by Evidence, of Wm. T.G. Morton on His Claim to the Discovery of the Anaesthetic Properties of Ether Submitted to the Honorable the Select Committee Appointed by the Senate of the United States: 32d Congress, 2d Session. Washington, D.C., January 21, 1853.
- Nelson, Randy F. 1981. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc. ISBN 0-86576-008-X
- Sullivan, Wilson. 1972. New England Men of Letters; entry on Dana, Jr. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-788680-8
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Richard Henry Dana, Jr.|
- Works by Richard Henry Dana at Project Gutenberg
- Works by Richard Henry Dana at Internet Archive
- American Justice and Law Magazine. Vol. XIX, April and July 1838. A volume from the year before the volume that published Dana's essay.
- Papers, 1822-1956. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Charles L. Woodbury
|United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts
George Stillman Hillard