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Richard Henry Dana

Richard Henry DanaAKA Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

Born: 1-Aug-1815
Birthplace: Cambridge, MA
Died: 6-Jan-1882
Location of death: Rome, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Campo Cestio, Rome, Italy

Gender: Male
Religion: Protestant
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Author

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Two Years Before the Mast

The American author and attorney Richard Henry Dana was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the 1st of August 1815. He entered Harvard in the class of 1835, but at the beginning of his junior year an illness affecting his sight necessitated a suspension of his college work, and in August 1834 he shipped before the mast for California, returning in September 1836. The rough experience of this voyage did more than endow him with renewed health; it changed him from a dreamy, sensitive boy, hereditarily disinclined to any sort of active career, into a self-reliant, energetic man, with broad interests and keen sympathies. He re-entered Harvard in December 1836 and graduated in June 1837. He was a student at the Harvard law school from 1837 to 1840, and from January 1839 to February 1840 he was also an instructor in elocution in the college. In 1840 the notes of his sea-trip were published under the title Two Years Before the Mast. The book attained an almost unprecedented popularity both in America and in Europe, where it was translated into several languages; and it came to be considered a classic. Immediately after the appearance of this book Dana began the practice of law, which brought him a large number of maritime cases. In 1841 he published The Seaman's Friend, republished in England as The Seaman's Manual, which was long the highest authority on the legal rights and duties of seamen. After gaining recognition as one of the most prominent members of the Suffolk bar, he became associated in 1848 with the Free Soil movement, and took a prominent part in the Buffalo convention of that year. This step, which caused him to be ostracized for a time from the Boston circles in which he had been reared, brought him the cases of the fugitive slaves, Shadrach, Sims and Burns, and of the rescuers of Shadrach. On the night following the surrender of Burns (May 1854) Dana was brutally assaulted on the Boston streets. In 1853 he took a prominent part in the state constitutional convention. He allied himself with the Republican party on its organization, but his inborn dislike for political manoeuvring prevented his ever becoming prominent in its councils. In 1857 he became a regular attendant at the meetings of the famous Boston Saturday Club, to the members of which he dedicated his account of a vacation trip, To Cuba and Back (1857). He returned to America from a trip round the world in time to participate in the presidential campaign of 1860, and after Abraham Lincoln's inauguration he was appointed United States district attorney for Massachusetts. In this office in 1863 he won before the Supreme Court of the United States the famous prize case of the "Amy Warwick", on the decision in which depended the right of the government to blockade the Confederate ports, without giving the Confederate States an international status as belligerents. He brought out in 1865 an edition of Wheaton's International Law, his notes constituting a most learned and valuable authority on international law and its bearings on American history and diplomacy; but immediately after its publication Dana was charged by the editor of two earlier editions, William Beach Lawrence, with infringing his copyright, and was involved in litigation which was continued for thirteen years. In such minor matters as arrangement of notes and verification of citations the court found against Dana, butg in the main Dana's notes were vastly different from Lawrence's. In 1865 Dana declined an appointment as a United States district judge. During the Reconstruction period he favored the congressional plan rather than that of President Andrew Johnson, and on this account resigned the district-attorneyship. In 1867-8 he was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and in 1867 was retained with William M. Evarts to prosecute Jefferson Davis, whose admision to bail he counselled. In 1877 he was one of the counsel for the United States before the commission which in accordance wtih the treaty of Washington met at Halifax, Nova Scotia, to arbitrate the fisheries question between the United States and Great Britain. In 1878 he gave up his law practice and devoted the rest of his life to study and travel. He died in Rome, Italy, on the 6th of January 1882.

Father: Richard Henry Dana (essayist, founder of North American Review, b. 1787, d. 1879)

    University: Harvard University (dropout in 1834, re-entered in 1840)

    US Attorney 1861 for Massachusetts
    Boston Saturday Club

Is the subject of books:
Richard Henry Dana, A Biography, 1891, BY: Charles Francis Adams (2 vols.)

Author of books:
Two Years Before the Mast (1840, memoir)
The Seaman's Friend (1841, nonfiction)
To Cuba and Back (1859, nonfiction)
Speeches in Stirring Times (1910, posthumous)
An Autobiographical Sketch (memoir, posthumous)

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