Richard Henry Dana


Richard Henry Dana Famous memorial

Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 6 Jan 1882 (aged 66)
Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
Burial Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
Memorial ID 5815042 View Source

Author, Politician. He was a 19th century American writer and lawyer, who was best-known in American literature for his popular autobiographical narrative "Two Years Before the Mast", which was based on the diary he kept while at sea and is still in print in the 21st century. First published in 1841, the book describes the hard lives of sailors in the ports and gives attention to the daily life of the peoples of California: Hispanic, Native American, and European. After studying in private schools, one being Ralph Waldo Emerson's school, he attended Harvard University. In his junior year, he contacted measles with the virus settling in his eyes. Leaving school with poor vision, he enlisted as a merchant seaman with the ship leaving Boston Harbor on August 14, 1834. On this adventure, he logged in detail all that he witnessed. He arrived back to Boston Harbor on September 22, 1836. He returned to Harvard, majoring in maritime law, graduating in 1837, and passing the bar in 1840. In 1841 he published "The Seaman's Friend," which contained maritime law for fair treatment of sailors. He opened a law practice in Boston. Dana also was an anti-slavery activist, one of the founders of the Free-Soil party and helped establish the Massachusetts Republican Party in 1855. In 1861 President Abraham Lincoln appointed him as United States Attorney for Massachusetts. In 1863 as United States Attorney for Massachusetts, his case of the "Amy Warwick" was tried before the United States Supreme Court, securing the right of the Union to blockade southern ports without giving the Confederate states an international status as hostiles during the American Civil War. He held the position until 1866. At the end of the war, he was courting with controversary as the special prosecutor who indicted Jefferson Davis for treason, yet prompted the president to end the prosecution. He had financial security from his successful law practice. He suffered through a thirteen-year law case against him, claiming plagiarism in a lawbook, "Elements of International Law," which he had edited for the author, Henry Wheaton. Although he was eventually acquitted, his reputation had been damaged, causing an impact in his political career. In 1868, he was an independent candidate for the United States House of Representatives but lost the election. He was a member of the Massachusetts legislature from 1867 to 1868. In 1876 the United States Senate refused his confirmation when President Ulysses S. Grant named him minister to Great Britain. Other works of his include "To Cuba and Back" in 1859, "Speeches in Stirring Times and Letters to A Son" published posthumously in 1910, and "An Autobiographical Sketch" in 1953. He married Sarah Watson in 1841 and the couple had six children. Upon retiring, he gave the law practice to his son Richard Henry Dana III. He and his wife travel to Paris, and then after his father's death, to Rome to write a law book, but died before it was finished. Many public schools in California are named in his honor. During his life, he fought for the injustices against slaves and sailors.

Bio by: Linda Davis



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Rick Eng
  • Added: 1 Oct 2001
  • Find a Grave Memorial 5815042
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Richard Henry Dana (1 Aug 1815–6 Jan 1882), Find a Grave Memorial ID 5815042, citing Campo Cestio, Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy ; Maintained by Find a Grave .