1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dana, Francis

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DANA, FRANCIS (1743–1811), American jurist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on the 13th of June 1743. He was the son of Richard Dana (1699–1772), a leader of the Massachusetts provincial bar, and a vigorous advocate of colonial rights in the pre-revolutionary period. Francis Dana graduated at Harvard in 1762, was admitted to the bar in 1767, and, being an opponent of the British colonial policy, became a leader of the Sons of Liberty, and in 1774 was a member of the first provincial congress of Massachusetts. During a two years’ visit to England he sought earnestly to gain friends to his colony’s cause, but returned to Boston in April 1776 convinced that a friendly settlement of the dispute was impossible. He was a member of the Massachusetts executive council from 1776 to 1780, and a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1778. As a member of the latter body he became chairman in January 1778 of the committee appointed to visit Washington at Valley Forge, and confer with him concerning the reorganization of the army. This committee spent about three months in camp, and assisted Washington in preparing the plan of reorganization which Congress in the main adopted. In this year he was also a member of a committee to consider Lord North’s offer of conciliation, which he vigorously opposed. In the autumn of 1779 he was appointed secretary to John Adams, who had been selected as minister plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties of peace and commerce with Great Britain, and in December 1780 he was appointed diplomatic representative to the Russian government. He remained at St Petersburg from 1781 to 1783, but was never formally received by the empress Catherine. In February 1784 he was again chosen a delegate to Congress, and in January 1785 he became a justice of the Massachusetts supreme court. He was chief justice of this court from 1791 to 1806, and presided with ability and rare distinction. He was an earnest advocate of the adoption of the Federal constitution, was a member of the Massachusetts convention which ratified that instrument, and was one of the most influential advisers of the leaders of the Federalist party. His tastes were scholarly, and he was one of the founders of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He died at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the 25th of April 1811.

His son, Richard Henry Dana (1787–1879), was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the 15th of November 1787. He was educated at Harvard in the class of 1808. Subsequently he studied law and in 1811 was admitted to practice. But all other interests were early subordinated to his love of literature, to which the greater part of his long life was devoted. He became in 1814 a member of a literary society in Cambridge, known as the Anthology Club. This club began the publication of a monthly magazine, The Monthly Anthology, which gave way in 1815 to The North American Review. In the editorial control of this periodical he was associated with Jared Sparks and Edward T. Channing (1790–1856) until 1821, contributing essays and criticisms which attracted wide attention. In 1821–1822 he edited in New York a short-lived literary magazine, The Idle Man. He published his first volume of Poems in 1827, and in 1833 appeared his Poems and Prose Writings, republished in 1850 in two volumes, in which were included practically all of his poems and of his prose contributions to periodical literature. Although the bulk of his published writings was not large, his influence on American literature during the first half of the 19th century was surpassed by that of few of his contemporaries.

Richard Henry Dana (1815–1882), son of the last-mentioned, 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 manœuvring 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 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, but 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 favoured the congressional plan rather than that of President Johnson, and on this account resigned the district-attorneyship. In 1867–1868 he was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and in 1867 was retained with William M. Evarts to prosecute Jefferson Davis, whose admission to bail he counselled. In 1877 he was one of the counsel for the United States before the commission which in accordance with the treaty of Washington met at Halifax, N.S., 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 9th of January 1882.

See Charles Francis Adams, Richard Henry Dana: a Biography (2 vols., Boston, Mass., 1891).