Dana, Richard Henry, 1815-1882

Alternative names
Birth 1815-08-01
Death 1882-01-06

Biographical notes:

Lawyer and author.

From the description of Richard Henry Dana correspondence, 1843-1876. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79449368

Author and lawyer Richard Henry Dana was the privileged son of an aristocratic Massachusetts family. Taking time from Harvard because of medical problems, he went to sea, where his experiences as a sailor inspired him to write Two Years Before the Mast. A sea story that was part memoir and part social commentary, the novel proved to be popular with audiences and critics alike and was considered the most realistic sea story of its day. Dana was unable to repeat the success, but channelled his energies into a legal career and social activism.

From the description of Richard Henry Dana letters, 1847-1859. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 56937445

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

From the description of Richard Henry Dana letter : Boston, Mass., to L. Robinson, 1850 Oct. 19. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 761929739

American lawyer and author.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Boston, to Lucy Ann Pope, 1866 Nov. 19. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 729274797

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [Boston?], to Mr. Chamberlain, 1857 Feb. 6. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270515202

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Boston, to an unidentified recipient, 1848 Feb. 28. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270515911

From the description of Autograph note on card : Cambridge, 1865 Feb. 22. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270534004

Epithet: junior; American writer

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000131.0x0000fa

Richard Henry Dana, Jr.; American sailor, author and lawyer.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Union Club, Boston, to William M. Evarts, 1872 Aug. 12. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270870625

Epithet: son of Richard Henry Dana

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000131.0x0000fb

Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882) was born in Cambridge, Mass., on 1 August 1815, the son of Richard Henry Dana (1787-1879), an essayist and poet. Richard, Jr. entered Harvard College in 1831, but he left in 1834 and went to sea. His experiences became the subject of his book _Two Years Before the Mast_, published in 1840. Dana re-entered Harvard in 1836, and graduated in 1837. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1840. His book _The Seaman's Friend_ (1841) was a manual of general and legal advice for sailors. In 1841 Dana married Sarah Watson (1814-1907) of Hartford, Conn. and they had six children.

Dana first entered into practice in 1842 with his brother "Ned," Edward Trowbridge Dana (1818-1869). In 1848, this partnership was dissolved and Dana next entered into partnership with Francis E. Parker (1821-1886). The majority of Dana's cases involved maritime disputes, and Dana frequently represented seamen who had been mistreated or deprived of their wages. He handled a wide variety of other legal work, however, including cases involving insurance claims, divorces, and occasional criminal trials. In 1851 Dana defended several men accused of participating in the rescue of Shadrach Minkins ( -1875), a fugitive slave. Dana unsuccessfully argued for the release of Anthony Burns (1834-1862), another fugitive slave, in 1854.

Dana and Parker practiced law together until 1861, when Dana was appointed United States District Attorney for Massachusetts. Dana held this post from 1861 to 1866 and handled many cases arising from the Civil War, including several dealing with the assignment of prizes for captured Southern ships.

Dana returned to private practice in 1866, although he had carried on a few private cases during the war. In the same year, he was elected a representative in the Massachusetts legislature, where he served until 1868. In 1866 he also published a new edition of Henry Wheaton's _Elements of International Law_; he was subsequently sued for plagiarism by a previous editor of the work, William Beach Lawrence (1800-1881). Dana ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress in 1868. He retired from legal practice in 1878, and died in Rome on 6 January 1882.

From the description of Legal papers, 1844-1878. (American Antiquarian Society). WorldCat record id: 191259284


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Ocean travel--19th century
  • Slavery
  • Antislavery movements
  • Voyages and travels
  • Authors, American
  • Fur trade
  • Seafaring life
  • Fairs--History--19th century
  • Lawyers
  • Voyages to the Pacific coast
  • International law--Study and teaching
  • Voyages and travels--19th century
  • Public prosecutors
  • Authors, American--19th century--Correspondence
  • Merchant mariners
  • Maritime law--Cases


  • Authors
  • Lawyers


  • Horn, Cape (Chile) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • London, England (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Massachusetts--Boston (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Adirondack Mountains (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Harpers Ferry (W. Va.) (as recorded)
  • Sunderland, Durham (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • China, Asia (as recorded)
  • Dewsbury, West Riding of Yorkshire (as recorded)
  • Massachusetts (as recorded)
  • Massachusetts--Boston (as recorded)
  • Boston (Mass.) (as recorded)
  • Haddington, E. Lothian (as recorded)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs |y 19th century (as recorded)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) (as recorded)