Two Years Before the Mast
Richard Henry Dana

Part 8 out of 8

He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.''

The light-hearted boys are now hardened middle-aged men, if the
seas, rocks, fevers, and the deadlier enemies that beset a
sailor's life on shore have spared them; and the then strong men
have bowed themselves, and the earth or sea has covered them.

Even the animals are gone,-- the colony of dogs, the broods of
poultry, the useful horses; but the coyotes bark still in the
woods, for they belong not to man, and are not touched by his

I walked slowly up the hill, finding my way among the few bushes,
for the path was long grown over, and sat down where we used to
rest in carrying our burdens of wood, and to look out for vessels
that might, though so seldom, be coming down from the windward.

To rally myself by calling to mind my own better fortune and
nobler lot, and cherished surroundings at home, was impossible.
Borne down by depression, the day being yet at its noon, and the
sun over the old point,-- it is four miles to the town, the
Presidio,-- I have walked it often, and can do it once more,-- I
passed the familiar objects, and it seemed to me that I remembered
them better than those of any other place I had ever been in;--
the opening to the little cave; the low hills where we cut wood
and killed rattlesnakes, and where our dogs chased the coyotes;
and the black ground where so many of the ship's crew and
beach-combers used to bring up on their return at the end of a
liberty day, and spend the night sub Jove.

The little town of San Diego has undergone no change whatever that
I can see. It certainly has not grown. It is still, like Santa
Barbara, a Mexican town. The four principal houses of the gente de
razon-- of the Bandinis, Estudillos, Argüellos, and Picos-- are
the chief houses now; but all the gentlemen-- and their families,
too, I believe-- are gone. The big vulgar shop-keeper and trader,
Fitch, is long since dead; Tom Wrightington, who kept the rival
pulpería, fell from his horse when drunk, and was found nearly
eaten up by coyotes; and I can scarce find a person whom I
remember. I went into a familiar one-story adobe house, with its
piazza and earthen floor, inhabited by a respectable lower-class
family by the name of Machado, and inquired if any of the family
remained, when a bright-eyed middle-aged woman recognized me, for
she had heard I was on board the steamer, and told me she had
married a shipmate of mine, Jack Stewart, who went out as second
mate the next voyage, but left the ship and married and settled
here. She said he wished very much to see me. In a few minutes he
came in, and his sincere pleasure in meeting me was extremely
grateful. We talked over old times as long as I could afford to. I
was glad to hear that he was sober and doing well. Doña Tomasa
Pico I found and talked with. She was the only person of the old
upper class that remained on the spot, if I rightly recollect. I
found an American family here, with whom I dined,-- Doyle and his
wife, nice young people, Doyle agent for the great line of coaches
to run to the frontier of the old States.

I must complete my acts of pious remembrance, so I take a horse and
make a run out to the old Mission, where Ben Stimson and I went the
first liberty day we had after we left Boston (ante, p. 140). All has
gone to decay. The buildings are unused and ruinous, and the large
gardens show now only wild cactuses, willows, and a few olive-trees.
A fast run brings me back in time to take leave of the few I knew
and who knew me, and to reach the steamer before she sails. A last
look-- yes, last for life-- to the beach, the hills, the low point,
the distant town, as we round Point Loma and the first beams of the
light-house strike out towards the setting sun.

Wednesday, August 24th. At anchor at San Pedro by daylight. But
instead of being roused out of the forecastle to row the long-boat
ashore and bring off a load of hides before breakfast, we were
served with breakfast in the cabin, and again took our drive with
the wild horses to the Pueblo and spent the day; seeing nearly the
same persons as before, and again getting back by dark. We steamed
again for Santa Barbara, where we only lay an hour, and passed
through its canal and round Point Conception, stopping at San Luis
Obispo to land my friend, as I may truly call him after this long
passage together, Captain Wilson, whose most earnest invitation to
stop here and visit him at his rancho I was obliged to decline.

Friday evening, 26th August, we entered the Golden Gate, passed
the light-houses and forts, and clipper ships at anchor, and came
to our dock, with this great city, on its high hills and rising
surfaces, brilliant before us, and full of eager life.

Making San Francisco my head-quarters, I paid visits to various
parts of the State,-- down the Bay to Santa Clara, with its live
oaks and sycamores, and its Jesuit College for boys; and San José,
where is the best girls' school in the State, kept by the Sisters
of Notre Dame,-- a town now famous for a year's session of ``The
legislature of a thousand drinks,''-- and thence to the rich
Almaden quicksilver mines, returning on the Contra Costa side
through the rich agricultural country, with its ranchos and the
vast grants of the Castro and Soto families, where farming and
fruit-raising are done on so large a scale. Another excursion was
up the San Joaquin to Stockton, a town of some ten thousand
inhabitants, a hundred miles from San Francisco, and crossing the
Tuolumne and Stanislaus and Merced, by the little Spanish town of
Hornitos, and Snelling's Tavern, at the ford of the Merced, where
so many fatal fights are had. Thence I went to Mariposa County,
and Colonel Fremont's mines, and made an interesting visit to
``the Colonel,'' as he is called all over the country, and Mrs.
Fremont, a heroine equal to either fortune, the salons of Paris
and the drawing-rooms of New York and Washington, or the roughest
life of the remote and wild mining regions of Mariposa,-- with
their fine family of spirited, clever children. After a rest
there, we went on to Clark's Camp and the Big Trees, where I
measured one tree ninety-seven feet in circumference without its
bark, and the bark is usually eighteen inches thick; and rode
through another which lay on the ground, a shell, with all the
insides out,-- rode through it mounted, and sitting at full height
in the saddle; then to the wonderful Yo Semite Valley,-- itself a
stupendous miracle of nature, with its Dome, its Capitan, its
walls of three thousand feet of perpendicular height,-- but a
valley of streams, of waterfalls, from the torrent to the mere
shimmer of a bridal veil, only enough to reflect a rainbow, with
their plunges of twenty-five hundred feet, or their smaller falls
of eight hundred, with nothing at the base but thick mists, which
form and trickle, and then run and at last plunge into the blue
Merced that flows through the centre of the valley. Back by the
Coulterville trail, the peaks of Sierra Nevada in sight, across
the North Fork of the Merced, by Gentry's Gulch, over hills and
through cañons, to Fremont's again, and thence to Stockton and San
Francisco,-- all this at the end of August, when there has been no
rain for four months, and the air is clear and very hot, and the
ground perfectly dry; windmills, to raise water for artificial
irrigation of small patches, seen all over the landscape, while we
travel through square miles of hot dust, where they tell us, and
truly, that in winter and early spring we should be up to our
knees in flowers; a country, too, where surface gold-digging is so
common and unnoticed that the large, six-horse stage-coach, in
which I travelled from Stockton to Hornitos, turned off in the
high road for a Chinaman, who, with his pan and washer, was
working up a hole which an American had abandoned, but where the
minute and patient industry of the Chinaman averaged a few dollars
a day.

These visits were so full of interest, with grandeurs and humors
of all sorts, that I am strongly tempted to describe them. But I
remember that I am not to write a journal of a visit over the new
California, but to sketch briefly the contrasts with the old spots
of 1835-6, and I forbear.

How strange and eventful has been the brief history of this
marvellous city, San Francisco! In 1835 there was one board
shanty. In 1836, one adobe house on the same spot. In 1847, a
population of four hundred and fifty persons, who organized a town
government. Then came the auri sacra fames, the flocking together
of many of the worst spirits of Christendom; a sudden birth of a
city of canvas and boards, entirely destroyed by fire five times
in eighteen months, with a loss of sixteen millions of dollars,
and as often rebuilt, until it became a solid city of brick and
stone, of nearly one hundred thousand inhabitants, with all the
accompaniments of wealth and culture, and now (in 1859) the most
quiet and well-governed city of its size in the United States. But
it has been through its season of Heaven-defying crime, violence,
and blood, from which it was rescued and handed back to soberness,
morality, and good government, by that peculiar invention of
Anglo-Saxon Republican America, the solemn, awe-inspiring
Vigilance Committee of the most grave and responsible citizens,
the last resort of the thinking and the good, taken to only when
vice, fraud, and ruffianism have intrenched themselves behind the
forms of law, suffrage, and ballot, and there is no hope but in
organized force, whose action must be instant and thorough, or its
state will be worse than before. A history of the passage of this
city through those ordeals, and through its almost incredible
financial extremes, should be written by a pen which not only
accuracy shall govern, but imagination shall inspire.

I cannot pause for the civility of referring to the many kind
attentions I received, and the society of educated men and women
from all parts of the Union I met with; where New England, the
Carolinas, Virginia, and the new West sat side by side with
English, French, and German civilization.

My stay in California was interrupted by an absence of nearly four
months, when I sailed for the Sandwich Islands in the noble Boston
clipper ship Mastiff, which was burned at sea to the water's edge;
we escaping in boats, and carried by a friendly British bark into
Honolulu, whence, after a deeply interesting visit of three months
in that most fascinating group of islands, with its natural and
its moral wonders, I returned to San Francisco in an American
whaler, and found myself again in my quarters on the morning of
Sunday, December 11th, 1859.

My first visit after my return was to Sacramento, a city of about
forty thousand inhabitants, more than a hundred miles inland from
San Francisco, on the Sacramento, where was the capital of the
State, and where were fleets of river steamers, and a large inland
commerce. Here I saw the inauguration of a Governor, Mr. Latham, a
young man from Massachusetts, much my junior; and met a member of
the State Senate, a man who, as a carpenter, repaired my father's
house at home some ten years before; and two more Senators from
southern California, relics of another age,-- Don Andres Pico,
from San Diego; and Don Pablo de la Guerra, whom I have mentioned
as meeting at Santa Barbara. I had a good deal of conversation
with these gentlemen, who stood alone in an assembly of Americans,
who had conquered their country, spared pillars of the past. Don
Andres had fought us at San Pazqual and Sepulveda's rancho, in
1846, and as he fought bravely, not a common thing among the
Mexicans, and, indeed, repulsed Kearney, is always treated with
respect. He had the satisfaction, dear to the proud Spanish heart,
of making a speech before a Senate of Americans, in favor of the
retention in office of an officer of our army who was wounded at
San Pazqual, and whom some wretched caucus was going to displace
to carry out a political job. Don Andres's magnanimity and
indignation carried the day.

My last visit in this part of the country was to a new and rich
farming region, the Napa Valley, the United States Navy Yard at
Mare Island, the river gold workings, and the Geysers, and old Mr.
John Yount's rancho. On board the steamer, found Mr. Edward
Stanley, formerly member of Congress from North Carolina, who
became my companion for the greater part of my trip. I also met--
a revival on the spot of an acquaintance of twenty years ago-- Don
Guadalupe Vallejo; I may say acquaintance, for although I was then
before the mast, he knew my story, and, as he spoke English well,
used to hold many conversations with me, when in the boat or on
shore. He received me with true earnestness, and would not hear of
my passing his estate without visiting him. He reminded me of a
remark I made to him once, when pulling him ashore in the boat,
when he was commandante at the Presidio. I learned that the two
Vallejos, Guadalupe and Salvador, owned, at an early time, nearly
all Napa and Sonoma, having princely estates. But they have not
much left. They were nearly ruined by their bargain with the
State, that they would put up the public buildings if the Capital
should be placed at Vallejo, then a town of some promise. They
spent $100,000, the Capital was moved there, and in two years
removed to San José on another contract. The town fell to pieces,
and the houses, chiefly wooden, were taken down and removed. I
accepted the old gentleman's invitation so far as to stop at
Vallejo to breakfast.

The United States Navy Yard, at Mare Island, near Vallejo, is
large and well placed, with deep fresh water. The old
Independence, and the sloop Decatur, and two steamers were there,
and they were experimenting on building a despatch boat, the
Saginaw, of California timber.

I have no excuse for attempting to describe my visit through the
fertile and beautiful Napa Valley, nor even, what exceeded that in
interest, my visit to old John Yount at his rancho, where I heard
from his own lips some of his most interesting stories of hunting
and trapping and Indian fighting, during an adventurous life of
forty years of such work, between our back settlements in Missouri
and Arkansas, and the mountains of California, trapping the
Colorado and Gila,-- and his celebrated dream, thrice repeated,
which led him to organize a party to go out over the mountains,
that did actually rescue from death by starvation the wretched
remnants of the Donner Party.

I must not pause for the dreary country of the Geysers, the
screaming escapes of steam, the sulphur, the boiling caldrons of
black and yellow and green, and the region of Gehenna, through
which runs a quiet stream of pure water; nor for the park scenery,
and captivating ranchos of the Napa Valley, where farming is done
on so grand a scale,-- where I have seen a man plough a furrow by
little red flags on sticks, to keep his range by, until nearly out
of sight, and where, the wits tell us, he returns the next day on
the back furrow; a region where, at Christmas time, I have seen
old strawberries still on the vines, by the side of vines in full
blossom for the next crop, and grapes in the same stages, and open
windows, and yet a grateful wood fire on the hearth in early
morning; nor for the titanic operations of hydraulic surface
mining, where large mountain streams are diverted from their
ancient beds, and made to do the work, beyond the reach of all
other agents, of washing out valleys and carrying away hills, and
changing the whole surface of the country, to expose the stores of
gold hidden for centuries in the darkness of their earthy depths.

January 10th, 1860. I am again in San Francisco, and my revisit to
California is closed. I have touched too lightly and rapidly for
much impression upon the reader on my last visit into the
interior; but, as I have said, in a mere continuation to a
narrative of a sea-faring life on the coast, I am only to carry
the reader with me on a revisit to those scenes in which the
public has long manifested so gratifying an interest. But it
seemed to me that slight notices of these entirely new parts of
the country would not be out of place, for they serve to put in
strong contrast with the solitudes of 1835-6 the developed
interior, with its mines, and agricultural wealth, and rapidly
filling population, and its large cities, so far from the coast,
with their education, religion, arts, and trade.

On the morning of the 11th January, 1860, I passed, for the eighth
time, through the Golden Gate, on my way across the delightful
Pacific to the Oriental world, with its civilization three
thousand years older than that I was leaving behind. As the shores
of California faded in the distance, and the summits of the Coast
Range sank under the blue horizon, I bade farewell-- yes, I do not
doubt, forever-- to those scenes which, however changed or
unchanged, must always possess an ineffable interest for me.


It is time my fellow-travellers and I should part company. But I
have been requested by a great many persons to give some account
of the subsequent history of the vessels and their crews, with
which I had made them acquainted. I attempt the following sketches
in deference to these suggestions, and not, I trust, with any
undue estimate of the general interest my narrative may have

Something less than a year after my return in the Alert, and when,
my eyes having recovered, I was again in college life, I found one
morning in the newspapers, among the arrivals of the day before,
``The brig Pilgrim, Faucon, from San Diego, California.'' In a few
hours I was down in Ann Street, and on my way to Hackstadt's
boarding-house, where I knew Tom Harris and others would lodge.
Entering the front room, I heard my name called from amid a group
of blue-jackets, and several sunburned, tar-colored men came
forward to speak to me. They were, at first, a little embarrassed
by the dress and style in which they had never seen me, and one of
them was calling me Mr. Dana; but I soon stopped that, and we were
shipmates once more. First, there was Tom Harris, in a
characteristic occupation. I had made him promise to come and see
me when we parted in San Diego; he had got a directory of Boston,
found the street and number of my father's house, and, by a study
of the plan of the city, had laid out his course, and was
committing it to memory. He said he could go straight to the house
without asking a question. And so he could, for I took the book
from him, and he gave his course, naming each street and turn to
right or left, directly to the door.

Tom had been second mate of the Pilgrim, and had laid up no mean
sum of money. True to his resolution, he was going to England to
find his mother, and he entered into the comparative advantages of
taking his money home in gold or in bills,-- a matter of some
moment, as this was in the disastrous financial year of 1837. He
seemed to have his ideas well arranged, but I took him to a
leading banker, whose advice he followed; and, declining my
invitation to go up and show himself to my friends, he was off for
New York that afternoon, to sail the next day for Liverpool. The
last I ever saw of Tom Harris was as he passed down Tremont Street
on the sidewalk, a man dragging a hand-cart in the street by his
side, on which were his voyage-worn chest, his mattress, and a box
of nautical instruments.

Sam seemed to have got funny again, and he and John the Swede learned
that Captain Thompson had several months before sailed in command of
a ship for the coast of Sumatra, and that their chance of proceedings
against him at law was hopeless. Sam was afterwards lost in a brig
off the coast of Brazil, when all hands went down. Of John and the
rest of the men I have never heard. The Marblehead boy, Sam, turned
out badly; and, although he had influential friends, never allowed
them to improve his condition. The old carpenter, the Fin, of whom
the cook stood in such awe (ante, p. 47), had fallen sick and died
in Santa Barbara, and was buried ashore. Jim Hall, from the Kennebec,
who sailed with us before the mast, and was made second mate in
Foster's place, came home chief mate of the Pilgrim. I have often
seen him since. His lot has been prosperous, as he well deserved it
should be. He has commanded the largest ships, and, when I last saw
him, was going to the Pacific coast of South America, to take charge
of a line of mail steamers. Poor, luckless Foster I have twice seen.
He came into my rooms in Boston, after I had become a barrister and
my narrative had been published, and told me he was chief mate of a
big ship; that he had heard I had said some things unfavorable of him
in my book; that he had just bought it, and was going to read it that
night, and if I had said anything unfair of him, he would punish me
if he found me in State Street. I surveyed him from head to foot, and
said to him, ``Foster, you were not a formidable man when I last
knew you, and I don't believe you are now.'' Either he was of my
opinion, or thought I had spoken of him well enough, for the next
(and last) time I met him he was civil and pleasant.

I believe I omitted to state that Mr. Andrew B. Amerzene, the
chief mate of the Pilgrim, an estimable, kind, and trustworthy
man, had a difficulty with Captain Faucon, who thought him slack,
was turned off duty, and sent home with us in the Alert. Captain
Thompson, instead of giving him the place of a mate off duty, put
him into the narrow between-decks, where a space, not over four
feet high, had been left out among the hides, and there compelled
him to live the whole wearisome voyage, through trades and
tropics, and round Cape Horn, with nothing to do,-- not allowed to
converse or walk with the officers, and obliged to get his grub
himself from the galley, in the tin pot and kid of a common
sailor. I used to talk with him as much as I had opportunity to,
but his lot was wretched, and in every way wounding to his
feelings. After our arrival, Captain Thompson was obliged to make
him compensation for this treatment. It happens that I have never
heard of him since.

Henry Mellus, who had been in a counting-house in Boston, and left
the forecastle, on the coast, to be agent's clerk, and whom I met,
a married man, at Los Angeles in 1859, died at that place a few
years ago, not having been successful in commercial life. Ben
Stimson left the sea for the fresh water and prairies, settled in
Detroit as a merchant, and when I visited that city, in 1863, I
was rejoiced to find him a prosperous and respected man, and the
same generous-hearted shipmate as ever.

This ends the catalogue of the Pilgrim's original crew, except her
first master, Captain Thompson. He was not employed by the same
firm again, and got up a voyage to the coast of Sumatra for
pepper. A cousin and classmate of mine, Mr. Channing, went as
supercargo, not having consulted me as to the captain. First,
Captain Thompson got into difficulties with another American
vessel on the coast, which charged him with having taken some
advantage of her in getting pepper; and then with the natives, who
accused him of having obtained too much pepper for his weights.
The natives seized him, one afternoon, as he landed in his boat,
and demanded of him to sign an order on the supercargo for the
Spanish dollars that they said were due them, on pain of being
imprisoned on shore. He never failed in pluck, and now ordered his
boat aboard, leaving him ashore, the officer to tell the
supercargo to obey no direction except under his hand. For several
successive days and nights, his ship, the Alciope, lay in the
burning sun, with rain-squalls and thunder-clouds coming over the
high mountains, waiting for a word from him. Toward evening of the
fourth or fifth day he was seen on the beach, hailing for the
boat. The natives, finding they could not force more money from
him, were afraid to hold him longer, and had let him go. He sprang
into the boat, urged her off with the utmost eagerness, leaped on
board the ship like a tiger, his eyes flashing and his face full
of blood, ordered the anchor aweigh, and the topsails set, the
four guns, two on a side, loaded with all sorts of devilish stuff,
and wore her round, and, keeping as close into the bamboo village
as he could, gave them both broadsides, slam-bang into the midst
of the houses and people, and stood out to sea! As his excitement
passed off, headache, languor, fever, set in,-- the deadly
coast-fever, contracted from the water and night-dews on shore and
his maddened temper. He ordered the ship to Penang, and never saw
the deck again. He died on the passage, and was buried at sea. Mr.
Channing, who took care of him in his sickness and delirium,
caught the fever from him, but, as we gratefully remember, did not
die until the ship made port, and he was under the kindly roof of
a hospitable family in Penang. The chief mate, also, took the
fever, and the second mate and crew deserted; and, although the
chief mate recovered and took the ship to Europe and home, the
voyage was a melancholy disaster. In a tour I made round the world
in 1859-1860, of which my revisit to California was the beginning,
I went to Penang. In that fairy-like scene of sea and sky and
shore, as beautiful as material earth can be, with its fruits and
flowers of a perpetual summer,-- somewhere in which still lurks
the deadly fever,-- I found the tomb of my kinsman, classmate, and
friend. Standing beside his grave, I tried not to think that his
life had been sacrificed to the faults and violence of another; I
tried not to think too hardly of that other, who at least had
suffered in death.

The dear old Pilgrim herself! She was sold, at the end of this
voyage, to a merchant in New Hampshire, who employed her on short
voyages, and, after a few years, I read of her total loss at sea,
by fire, off the coast of North Carolina.

Captain Faucon, who took out the Alert, and brought home the
Pilgrim, spent many years in command of vessels in the Indian and
Chinese seas, and was in our volunteer navy during the late war,
commanding several large vessels in succession, on the blockade of
the Carolinas, with the rank of lieutenant. He has now given up
the sea, but still keeps it under his eye, from the piazza of his
house on the most beautiful hill in the environs of Boston. I have
the pleasure of meeting him often. Once, in speaking of the
Alert's crew, in a company of gentlemen, I heard him say that that
crew was exceptional; that he had passed all his life at sea, but
whether before the mast or abaft, whether officer or master, he
had never met such a crew, and never should expect to; and that
the two officers of the Alert, long ago shipmasters, agreed with
him that, for intelligence, knowledge of duty and willingness to
perform it, pride in the ship, her appearance and sailing, and in
absolute reliableness, they never had seen their equal. Especially
he spoke of his favorite seaman, French John. John, after a few
more years at sea, became a boatman, and kept his neat boat at the
end of Granite Wharf, and was ready to take all, but delighted to
take any of us of the old Alert's crew, to sail down the harbor.
One day Captain Faucon went to the end of the wharf to board a
vessel in the stream, and hailed for John. There was no response,
and his boat was not there. He inquired, of a boatman near, where
John was. The time had come that comes to all! There was no loyal
voice to respond to the familiar call, the hatches had closed over
him, his boat was sold to another, and he had left not a trace
behind. We could not find out even where he was buried.

Mr. Richard Brown, of Marblehead, our chief mate in the Alert,
commanded many of our noblest ships in the European trade, a
general favorite. A few years ago, while stepping on board his
ship from the wharf, he fell from the plank into the hold and was
killed. If he did not actually die at sea, at least he died as a
sailor,-- he died on board ship.

Our second mate, Evans, no one liked or cared for, and I know
nothing of him, except that I once saw him in court, on trial for
some alleged petty tyranny towards his men,-- still a subaltern

The third mate, Mr. Hatch, a nephew of one of the owners, though
only a lad on board the ship, went out chief mate the next voyage,
and rose soon to command some of the finest clippers in the
California and India trade, under the new order of things,-- a man
of character, good judgment, and no little cultivation.

Of the other men before the mast in the Alert, I know nothing of
peculiar interest. When visiting, with a party of ladies and
gentlemen, one of our largest line-of-battle ships, we were escorted
about the decks by a midshipman, who was explaining various matters
on board, when one of the party came to me and told me that there
was an old sailor there with a whistle round his neck, who looked at
me and said of the officer, ``he can't show him anything aboard a
ship.'' I found him out, and, looking into his sunburnt face, covered
with hair, and his little eyes drawn up into the smallest passages
for light,-- like a man who had peered into hundreds of
northeasters,-- there was old ``Sails'' of the Alert, clothed in all
the honors of boatswain's-mate. We stood aside, out of the cun of the
officers, and had a good talk over old times. I remember the contempt
with which he turned on his heel to conceal his face, when the
midshipman (who was a grown youth) could not tell the ladies the
length of a fathom, and said it depended on circumstances.
Notwithstanding his advice and consolation to ``Chips,'' in the
steerage of the Alert, and his story of his runaway wife and the
flag-bottomed chairs (ante, p. 318), he confessed to me that he had
tried marriage again, and had a little tenement just outside the
gate of the yard.

Harry Bennett, the man who had the palsy, and was unfeelingly left
on shore when the Alert sailed, came home in the Pilgrim, and I
had the pleasure of helping to get him into the Massachusetts
General Hospital. When he had been there about a week, I went to
see him in his ward, and asked him how he got along. ``Oh!
first-rate usage, sir; not a hand's turn to do, and all your grub
brought to you, sir.'' This is a sailor's paradise,-- not a hand's
turn to do, and all your grub brought to you. But an earthly
paradise may pall. Bennett got tired of in-doors and stillness,
and was soon out again, and set up a stall, covered with canvas,
at the end of one of the bridges, where he could see all the
passers-by, and turn a penny by cakes and ale. The stall in time
disappeared, and I could learn nothing of his last end, if it has

Of the lads who, beside myself, composed the gig's crew, I know
something of all but one. Our bright-eyed, quick-witted little
cockswain, from the Boston public schools, Harry May, or Harry
Bluff, as he was called, with all his songs and gibes, went the
road to ruin as fast as the usual means could carry him. Nat, the
``bucket-maker,'' grave and sober, left the seas, and, I believe,
is a hack-driver in his native town, although I have not had the
luck to see him since the Alert hauled into her berth at the North

One cold winter evening, a pull at the bell, and a woman in distress
wished to see me. Her poor son George,-- George Somerby,-- ``you
remember him, sir; he was a boy in the Alert; he always talks of
you,-- he is dying in my poor house.'' I went with her, and in a
small room, with the most scanty furniture, upon a mattress on the
floor,-- emaciated, ashy pale, with hollow voice and sunken eyes,--
lay the boy George, whom we took out a small, bright boy of fourteen
from a Boston public school, who fought himself into a position on
board ship (ante, p. 295), and whom we brought home a tall, athletic
youth, that might have been the pride and support of his widowed
mother. There he lay, not over nineteen years of age, ruined by every
vice a sailor's life absorbs. He took my hand in his wasted feeble
fingers, and talked a little with his hollow, death-smitten voice.
I was to leave town the next day for a fortnight's absence, and whom
had they to see to them? The mother named her landlord,-- she knew no
one else able to do much for them. It was the name of a physician
of wealth and high social position, well known in the city as the
owner of many small tenements, and of whom hard things had been
said as to his strictness in collecting what he thought his dues.
Be that as it may, my memory associates him only with ready and
active beneficence. His name has since been known the civilized
world over, from his having been the victim of one of the most
painful tragedies in the records of the criminal law.[3] I tried the
experiment of calling upon him; and, having drawn him away from
the cheerful fire, sofa, and curtains of a luxurious parlor, I
told him this simple tale of woe, of one of his tenants, unknown
to him even by name. He did not hesitate; and I well remember how,
in that biting, eager air, and at a late hour, he drew his cloak
about his thin and bent form, and walked off with me across the
Common, and to the South End, nearly two miles of an exposed walk,
to the scene of misery. He gave his full share, and more, of
kindness and material aid; and, as George's mother told me, on my
return, had with medical aid and stores, and a clergyman, made the
boy's end as comfortable and hopeful as possible.

The Alert made two more voyages to the coast of California,
successful, and without a mishap, as usual, and was sold by
Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis, in 1843, to Mr. Thomas W. Williams, a
merchant of New London, Connecticut, who employed her in the
whale-trade in the Pacific. She was as lucky and prosperous there
as in the merchant service. When I was at the Sandwich Islands in
1860, a man was introduced to me as having commanded the Alert on
two cruises, and his friends told me that he was as proud of it as
if he had commanded a frigate.

I am permitted to publish the following letter from the owner of
the Alert, giving her later record and her historic end,--
captured and burned by the rebel Alabama:--

New London, March 17, 1868.

Richard H. Dana, Esq.:

Dear Sir,-- I am happy to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of
the 14th inst., and to answer your inquiries about the good ship
Alert. I bought her of Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis, in the year
1843, for my firm of Williams and Haven, for a whaler, in which
business she was successful until captured by the rebel steamer
Alabama, September, 1862, making a period of more than nineteen
years, during which she took and delivered at New London upwards
of twenty-five thousand barrels of whale and sperm oil. She sailed
last from this port, August 30, 1862, for Hurd's Island (the newly
discovered land south of Kerguelen's), commanded by Edwin Church,
and was captured and burned on the 9th of September following,
only ten days out, near or close to the Azores, with thirty
barrels of sperm oil on board, and while her boats were off in
pursuit of whales.

The Alert was a favorite ship with all owners, officers, and men
who had anything to do with her; and I may add almost all who
heard her name asked if that was the ship the man went in who
wrote the book called ``Two Years before the Mast''; and thus we
feel, with you, no doubt, a sort of sympathy at her loss, and
that, too, in such a manner, and by wicked acts of our own

My partner, Mr. Haven, sends me a note from the office this P.M.,
saying that he had just found the last log-book, and would send up
this evening a copy of the last entry on it; and if there should
be anything of importance I will enclose it to you, and if you
have any further inquiries to put, I will, with great pleasure,
endeavor to answer them.

Remaining very respectfully and truly yours,

Thomas W. Williams.

P.S.-- Since writing the above I have received the extract from
the log-book, and enclose the same.

The last Entry in the Log-Book of the Alert.

``September 9, 1862.

``Shortly after the ship came to the wind, with the main yard
aback, we went alongside and were hoisted up, when we found we
were prisoners of war, and our ship a prize to the Confederate
steamer Alabama. We were then ordered to give up all nautical
instruments and letters appertaining to any of us. Afterwards we
were offered the privilege, as they called it, of joining the
steamer or signing a parole of honor not to serve in the army or
navy of the United States. Thank God no one accepted the former of
these offers. We were all then ordered to get our things ready in
haste, to go on shore,-- the ship running off shore all the time.
We were allowed four boats to go on shore in, and when we had got
what things we could take in them, were ordered to get into the
boats and pull for the shore,-- the nearest land being about
fourteen miles off,-- which we reached in safety, and, shortly
after, saw the ship in flames.

``So end all our bright prospects, blasted by a gang of
miscreants, who certainly can have no regard for humanity so long
as they continue to foster their so-called peculiar institution,
which is now destroying our country.''

I love to think that our noble ship, with her long record of good
service and uniform success, attractive and beloved in her life,
should have passed, at her death, into the lofty regions of
international jurisprudence and debate, forming a part of the body
of the ``Alabama Claims'';-- that, like a true ship, committed to
her element once for all at her launching, she perished at sea,
and, without an extreme use of language, we may say, a victim in
the cause of her country.

R.H.D., Jr.

Boston, May 6, 1869.

[1] Pronounced Leese.

[2] This journal was of 1859 before Colonel Robert E. Lee became the
celebrated General Lee in command of the Confederate forces in the
Civil War.

[3] [Dr. George Parkman.]


By the Author's Son

In the preceding chapter, my father contrasted the solitary bay of
San Francisco in 1835, its one, or at most, two vessels and one
board hut on shore, with the city of San Francisco in 1859 of
nearly one hundred thousand inhabitants and a fleet of large
clipper ships and sail of all kind in the harbor, which he saw on
his arrival in the steamer Golden Gate bringing the
``fortnightly'' ``mails and passengers from the Atlantic world.''
The contrast from 1859 to 1911 is hardly less striking. San
Francisco has now grown to over four hundred thousand inhabitants,
has twelve daily trains bringing mails and passengers from across
the continent and beyond, and steamers six to ten times the size
of the Golden Gate. In visiting San Pedro in 1859 he speaks of the
landing at the head of a creek where boats discharged and took off
cargoes from a mole or wharf, and of how ``a tug ran to take off
passengers from the steamer to the wharf, for the trade of Los
Angeles is sufficient to support such a vessel.'' From this
landing, a stage-coach went daily to Los Angeles, a town of about
twenty thousand inhabitants. Now there is a fine harbor at which
large steamers themselves can land at San Pedro and a four-track
electric road leading to Los Angeles, now a city of three hundred
thousand inhabitants. Trains on this road go at the rate of sixty
miles an hour. The picturesqueness, the Aladdin lamp character of
the change, would not perhaps be heightened, but certainly the
contrast is greater, if the days of 1835 be compared with 1911
instead of 1859, while the startling growth from 1859 to the
present makes one pause to ask what will be the progress and the
changes in the next fifty-two years.

Of the fate of the vessels since my father wrote ``Twenty-four
Years After,'' little has come to our knowledge. Of the brig
Pilgrim, he says, ``I read of her total loss at sea by fire off
the coast of North Carolina.'' On the records of the United States
Custom House at Boston is this epitaph, ``Brig Pilgrim, owner, R.
Haley, surrender of transfer 30 June 1856, broken up at Key
West.'' Is it not romantic and appropriate that this vessel, so
associated with the then Mexican-Spanish coast of California,
should have left her bones on the coast of the once Spanish colony
of Florida?

A schoolmate of mine dwelling at Yokohama tells us of the fate of
the ship Lagoda. This is the vessel that Captain Thompson of the
Pilgrim came aboard and ``brought his brig with him'' (page 137), and
to which poor Foster fled (page 154), in fear of being flogged. The
Lagoda was under three hundred and forty tons, built at Scituate,
Mass., in 1826, of oak with ``bluff bows and square stern.'' Later
she was sold to a New Bedford owner, converted into a bark and
turned into a whaler. In 1890, she came to Yokohama much damaged,
was officially surveyed and pronounced not worth repair, was sold
at auction and bought as a coal hulk for the Canadian Pacific
Company's steamers at that port, and in 1899 was sold to the
Japanese, burned and broken up at Kanagawa. The fate of these
vessels, with that of the Alert burned at sea by the Alabama,
illustrates how vessels, as Ernest Thompson Seton says of wild
animals, seldom fail to have a hard, if not a tragic, ending.

It may be interesting to state that the Ayacucho (pronounced
I-ah-coo-tsho) was named after the battle fought December 9, 1824,
in Peru, South America, in which the Spaniards were defeated by
the armies of Columbia and Peru, which battle ended the Spanish
rule in America. What became of her after she was sold to the
Chilian government as a vessel of war, we do not know.

The Loriotte, we learn, was built at Plymouth, Mass., in 1828, was
ninety-two tons, originally a schooner and later changed into an
hermaphrodite brig. Gorham H. Nye, her captain and part owner, was
born in Nantucket, Mass.

As to persons, there is little to add about Captain Thompson.
Captain Faucon gave it as his opinion that Thompson was not a good
navigator and that Thompson knew his sailors knew it, and to this
cause he attributed in some measure Thompson's hard treatment of
the men. His navigation of the Alert some twelve or fifteen
hundred miles westward of the usual course around Cape Horn on the
return passage was an instance. It was much criticised by his
sailors and officers. It not only greatly lengthened the total
distance but brought the vessel into currents that were more
antarctic and more frequented with ice than those currents nearer
the southwest coast of South America, usually taken advantage of
on the trip west to east. In 1880, on my visit to the scenes of
``Two Years Before the Mast,'' I met a nephew of Captain Thompson
at Santa Barbara. He was then the proprietor of the hotel at which
I stayed. He invited me to walk with him Sunday afternoon. When we
started out together I noticed he had a large, thick cane, while I
had none. Could it be he was to wreak vengeance on the son of the
man who had exposed his uncle? I was strong and athletic after a
year as stroke of the Freshman crew and three years as stroke of
the University crew at Harvard. I kept my weather eye open and
took care to be a little behind rather than ahead of my companion.
At last he began on my father's story, ``Two Years Before the
Mast,'' and his uncle. Now it is coming, thought I, but to my
surprise and relief he detailed a family trouble in which the
uncle had tried to get into his own possession land which belonged
in part to his brothers and of which he, the captain, had been
placed in charge, and my friend, for so I could then think of him,
wound up with saying my father had done his uncle perfect justice.
The year of Captain Thompson's death was 1837.

The chief mate of the Pilgrim on her outward voyage, Mr. Andrew B.
Amerzeen, was born at Epsom, N.H., June 7, 1806. After returning
in the Alert in 1836, as described by my father, his mother
prevailed on him to give up long voyages, owing to the fact that
his father, a ship owner and master, had been lost at sea with his
ship a year or two before. Mr. Amerzeen then made several short
voyages to the West Indies and in the fall of 1838 his ship was
dismasted in a storm somewhere below Cape Hatteras. He was ill
with yellow fever and confined to his stateroom at the time. The
ship was worked into one of the southern ports, Savannah I am
told, and there Mr. Amerzeen died September 27, 1838, from this

``Jim Hall,'' the sailor who was made second mate of the Pilgrim
in Foster's place, after several years' successful career as
Captain and Manager of the Pacific Steamship Navigation Company on
the west coast of South America with the title of Commodore,
returned to this country, having saved a competence, and settled
at East Braintree, Massachusetts. He called on me at my office
some ten years after my father's death. He was six feet tall, a
handsome man of striking appearance, with blue eyes, nearly white
hair, a ruddy countenance, and a very straight figure for one of
nearly eighty years of age. He was born at Pittston, Maine, July
4, 1813. He is said to have commanded twenty-seven different
vessels, steam and sail, and never to have had an accident,
``never cost the underwriters a dollar.'' He died April 22, 1904.
His wife (Mary Ann Kimball of Hookset, N.H.) survived him.

Of George P. Marsh, the new hand shipped at San Pedro October 22,
1835, the Englishman with a strange career, we have heard in a
letter from Mr. Samuel C. Clarke of Chicago, passenger with
Captain Low on the ship Cabot when she took Marsh from the Pelew
Islands. Mr. Clarke kept a journal at the time, which confirms in
almost every detail the story as told by Marsh, with one or two
very minor exceptions but one important difference. He told them
when first rescued that he was ``a native of Providence, Rhode
Island'' in America, while to his shipmates in California he
always said he was a native of England and brought up on a
smuggler. By a letter from his nephew, Edward W. Boyd, we learn
that his real name was George Walker Marsh, that he was the eldest
son of a retired English army officer and his wife, and was born
in St. Malo, France, hence his knowledge of the French language.
He went to sea against their will but communicated with them
several times afterwards. After he left to join the Ayacucho in
Chili, all trace of him was lost at Valparaiso.

Captain Edward Horatio Faucon, who took out the Alert and brought
back the Pilgrim, continued, after my father's last chapter, to
live at Milton Hill where he still kept ``the sea under his eye
from the piazza of his house.'' He was occasionally employed by
Boston marine underwriters on salvage cases, going to many places,
from St. Thomas, W.I., and the Bermudas, to Nova Scotia in the
north. He was a constant reader, chiefly interested in history,
political economy and sociology. He made visits, annually or
oftener, on my mother until his death on May 22, 1894. We all
remember his keen eye, erect figure, quiet reserve, and old-time
courtesy of manner, and his personal interest in those who come
and go in ships, and more particularly in those of the Alert, his
favorite ship. He was born in Boston, November 21, 1806. His
father, Nicolas Michael Faucon, was a Frenchman of Rouen, who
fought in the Napoleonic wars with distinction as Captain of the
Second Regiment of the Hussars, and came to this country, where he
married Miss Catherine Waters at Trinity Church, Boston. He was
instructor in French at Harvard, 1806-1816. Our Captain Faucon
left a widow and daughter, and a promising son, Gorham Palfrey
Faucon, a Harvard graduate, a well-trained civil engineer in the
employ of large railroads, and, like his father, interested in
literature and public problems. He died in 1897, in the early
prime of life.

The third mate, James Byers Hatch, whom Captain Faucon in a letter
to us called ``one of the best of men,'' continued to command
large sailing vessels on deep sea voyages with some mishaps and
narrow escapes. While in California on one of these voyages he
found James Hall on board another ship at the same wharf, and in a
letter to Captain Faucon written June, 1893, says, ``I persuaded
him to take the first officer's berth, and what an officer he
was!! Everything went on like clockwork. I do not think I ever
found the least fault with him during the whole time he was with
me.'' Captain Hatch lost his only son, a lad of seven, on a voyage
to Calcutta. ``The boy,'' said he, ``fell from the top of the
house on the poop deck and died in about a week.'' His wife and
married daughter both died in 1881. He himself settled in
Springfield, Mass., his birthplace, and lost almost all he had
saved in some unsuccessful business venture in that city, and
lived a rather lonely and sad life. In the above letter he said,
``I am now ready and anxious to leave this earth and take my
chance in the next.'' He died at Springfield soon after 1894.

Benjamin Godfrey Stimson, the young sailor about my father's age,
was born in Dedham, Mass., March 19, 1816. It came naturally to
him to go to sea, for his great-uncle Benjamin Stimson commanded
the colonial despatch vessel under Pepperell, in the siege of
Louisburg. After settling in Detroit in 1837, he married a
Canadian lady (Miss Ives), owned many lake vessels, including the
H. P. Baldwin, the largest bark of her day on the great lakes, and
was Controller of that city from 1868 to 1870, during which time
the city hall was built by him at less than estimated cost. He
died December 13, 1871, leaving a widow and two sons, Edward I.
and Arthur K. Stimson. The agent Alfred Robinson died in 1895.

Jack Stewart I met in San Diego on my visit there in 1881, as I
have stated in the Introduction. He was quite a character in the
``old'' town and made a good deal of his being one of the crew of
the Alert. He died January 2, 1892, leaving children and
grandchildren. Henry Mellus, who went out before the mast and left
the Pilgrim to be agent's clerk ashore, and whom my father met at
Los Angeles in 1859, was made mayor of that city the very next

Last, but not least, from the point of view of friendship, was my
father's ``dear Kanaka'' (Hope), whose life my father saved (by
getting ship's medicines from the mate, after Captain Thompson had
refused to give them), and for whom he had so much real affection.
The last mention we have of Hope is found in my father's journal
under date of May 24, 1842.

``Horatio E. Hale called. Been away four years as Philologist to
the Exploring Expedition. Was in San Francisco three months ago
and saw the Alert there collecting hides. Also saw `Hope' the
Kanaka mentioned in my `Two Years.' Hope desired his Aikane to me--
Remembered me well. Hale said his face lighted up as soon as my
name was mentioned to him.''

As to all the rest of the officers and crews, they have doubtless
all handed in their last account and taken passage across the
Unknown Sea to the other world.

Of the ``fascinating'' Doña Angustias dela Guerra, whose graceful
dancing with Don Juan Bandini in Santa Barbara during the ceremonies
attending the marriage of her sister, Doña Anita with Mr. Robinson,
the Agent, in January, 1836, my father describes (pages 300-305),
something more is to be said.

On my visit to Santa Barbara in 1880, I had the privilege of
seeing her. I was much impressed with her graceful carriage, her
face still handsome, though she was then sixty-five years of age,
with her dignity, calm self-possession, and above all with her
true gentility of manner and evidently high character and purpose,
together with a delightful humor, which shone in her eyes. General
Sherman, in a letter as late as 1888, says of her, she ``was the
finest woman it has been my good fortune to know,'' and Bayard
Taylor in El Dorado (Putnam's edition of 1884, page 141) writes,
``she is a woman whose nobility of character, native vigor and
activity of intellect, and above all, whose instinctive
refinement,'' etc.

In 1847, when our officers took possession of California, she, a
Mexican, of the first Mexican family of California, took care of
the first United States officer who died in Monterey, Lieutenant
Colville J. Minor, an enemy to her country, for which service she
received a letter of thanks from the First Military Governor,
dated August 21, 1848.

She died January 21, 1890, at the age of seventy-five. The name of
her first husband was Don Manuel Jimeno and of her second Dr. Ord.
Caroline Jimeno was the daughter ``as beautiful as her mother''
that Mr. Dana met in 1859, then a young lady of seventeen. Her
daughter by the second marriage, Rebecca R. Ord, an ``infant in
arms'' when my father saw her in 1859, married Lieutenant John H.
H. Peshine of the United States Army, who in 1893 was made First
Military Attaché to the Court of Madrid.

The dela Guerra family of California, I am told, is dying out in
the male line and will soon leave no representative.

As to Richard Henry Dana, Jr.,[1] the author of the book, the reader
may wish to know something. He came back from his two years' trip
in 1836 ``in a state of intellectual famine, to books and study
and intercourse with educated men.'' He had left his class at
Harvard at the end of the sophomore year (1833), on account of the
trouble with his eyes and sailed about a year later. When he
returned, September, 1836, his class had graduated in the summer
of 1835, but with a little study he passed the examinations for
the then senior class, which he entered late in the autumn of
1836. On graduation in 1837 he not only stood first, but ``had the
highest marks that were given out in every branch of study.'' He
took the Bowdoin prize for English prose composition and the first
Boylston prize in elocution. He then entered the Law School and
became instructor in elocution under Professor Edward T. Channing,
and during this period wrote the ``Two Years Before the Mast.'' In
February, 1840, he went into the office of Charles G. Loring and
in the following September opened his own office and began the
active practice of law. He was born August 1, 1815, at Cambridge,
Mass., with a line of ancestors reaching back to the early days of
the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with several colonial governors in
the maternal lines. His great grandfather, Richard Dana, was one
of the early patriots, a ``Son of Liberty,'' who frequently
presided at the meetings at Faneuil Hall at which Otis, Adams and
others spoke. This man's son, my father's grandfather, Francis
Dana, was several times member of the State Colonial Legislature
and of the Continental Congress. He was one of the signers of the
Articles of Confederation and married Elizabeth Ellery, the
daughter of William Ellery, one of the signers of the Declaration
of Independence. Francis Dana had been sent abroad on a special
mission to England in 1774 before the breaking out of the
Revolutionary War, to sound English public opinion, for which he
had unusual advantages. He returned in the late spring of 1776
advising independence, and soon after this the Declaration of
Independence was signed. Francis Dana was also appointed on a
special mission to Paris and Holland with John Adams, later was
made Minister to Russia, and after the peace with Great Britain
was made Chief Justice of Massachusetts. Mr. Dana's own father,
Richard Henry Dana, Senior, was a poet and literary critic and a
founder of the ``North American Review.'' Young Richard was
brought up in very moderate circumstances. His grandfather, who
had accumulated a good deal of property, lost the larger part of
it through unfortunate investments in canals by a relation, in
which he had himself become more deeply involved than he supposed.
I remember my father's saying that his spending money for one
whole term consisted of twenty-five cents, which he carried in his
pocket in cases of emergencies. He walked to and from Boston to
save omnibus fares, had no carpet on his college room and had no
chore-man to black his boots and fetch his water and fuel. This,
however, was the usual custom in his day with all but the rich
collegian. The necessities of life did not then demand so high a
rate of ``living wage'' as to-day.

He entered on this sea experience with his eyes open. He had the
opportunity of going on a long voyage as a passenger, but he
refused it, and resolutely took the harder way of accomplishing
his purpose of toughening himself. A little incident of his
boyhood gives a hint of his pluck. His schoolmaster, angry at what
he chose to call ``disobedience'' on the excuse of a ``pretended''
illness, told the boy to put out his left hand. ``Upon this
hand,'' wrote Dana years afterward, ``he inflicted six blows with
all his strength, and then six upon the right hand. I was in such
a frenzy of indignation at his injustice and his insulting
insinuation, that I could not have uttered a word for my life. I
was too small and slender to resist, and could show my spirit only
by fortitude. He called for my right hand again, and gave six more
blows in the same manner, and then six more upon the left. My
hands were swollen and in acute pain, but I did not flinch nor
show a sign of suffering. He was determined to conquer, and gave
six more blows upon each hand, with full force. Still there was no
sign from me of pain or submission. I could have gone to the stake
for what I considered my honor. The school was in an uproar of
hissing and scraping and groaning, and the master turned his
attention to the other boys and let me alone. He said not another
word to me through the day. If he had I could not have answered,
for my whole soul was in my throat and not a word could get out. .
. . I went in the afternoon to the trustees of the school, stated
my case, produced my evidence, and had an examination made. The
next morning but four boys went to school, and the day following
the career of Mr. W. ended.''

That Dana had a keen sense of injustice not merely when he himself
was concerned, but whenever he was brought face to face with
injustice, the reader of this book has discovered for himself, and
that a high sense of honor and right was a controlling passion of
his life will appear when one knows his career after he returned
from his long voyage. It rendered his attitude toward his
profession, that of a lawyer, very different from that of a man
merely seeking a livelihood.

Beside his work for the sailors to which I refer later there was
another class of peculiarly helpless sufferers to make even
stronger demand upon his sense of justice. By his social relations
and by his strong antipathy to violence of every kind, Dana would
naturally have found his place amongst the men who in politics
prefer orderly and regular and especially respectable
associations. He came into active life when a small band of
earnest men and women were agitating for the abolition of slavery.
Some among them were also attacking the church, and proposing all
sorts of changes in society. But Dana was a man of strong
religious principles and feelings, and he had little faith in any
violent change in the social order. His diaries and letters of the
period show that he was annoyed by the temper of the
Abolitionists. They were not his kind. Nevertheless he was not a
man to steer between two parties. In a great moral crisis he was
sure to take sides. He took sides now and came out as a member of
the Free Soil party. He made a distinction, which was a clear one,
between the Free Soil party and the uncompromising Abolitionists.
But in the rising heat of political feeling, other people did not
make a like distinction, and Dana, a young lawyer, married now,
and with a family growing up about him, found himself put out into
the cold by the well-to-do, the successful, and the respectable.

Dana had a keen scent for politics, and he looked with the
strongest interest upon the great political movement which was
stirring the country; but he did not espouse the cause of free
soil because he expected to profit by it politically. On the
contrary, he knew that he was shutting himself out from political
preferment by such a course, and at the same time was imperilling
his professional success. It was the act of a man who stood up for
the cause of righteousness, without counting the cost. In like
manner he now had the opportunity of illustrating afresh his
attitude toward the law, for he held that law was for the
accomplishment of justice, and that it was most glorious when its
strong arm protected and defended the weak and downtrodden. By a
natural course, therefore, he became a prominent counsel for those
unfortunate negroes who, at this time, in Boston, were held as
fugitive slaves. While the ingenuity of some was expended in
putting the law on the side of the strong and the rich, Dana, who
was convinced in his mind that the law of the state was honestly
to be invoked in defence of the fugitive slave, gave himself heart
and soul to the work of applying the law, and received no
remuneration for his services in any fugitive slave case. Instead,
he received at the close of one of the most important cases, a
blow from a blackguard which narrowly missed maiming him for life.
It is worth while to read what Dana wrote after rendering all the
aid he could in the defence of Anthony Burns: ``The labors of a
lawyer are ordinarily devoted to questions of property between man
and man. He is to be congratulated if, though but for once, in any
signal cause he can devote them to the vindication of any of the
great primal rights affecting the highest interests of man.'' He
was a member of the noted Free Soil Convention at Buffalo of 1848,
and presided at the first meeting of the Republican party in

It may be a source of wonder to some that Dana, who achieved a
great literary success in the book which he wrote when a young
man, did not pursue literature as an avocation, if not as a
vocation. He published but one other book, a narrative of a trip
to Cuba made in 1859, and he wrote a few magazine articles. The
explanation must be found in the temperament and character of the
man. His ``Two Years Before the Mast'' is a vivid representation
of what he saw and experienced at a most impressionable age. He
put his young life into it; he was not thinking of literature when
he wrote it, and thus the book takes rank with those books which
are bits of life rather than products of art. Afterward he was
immersed in his law practice, and he was a prodigious worker. He
saw with great clearness the points in the cases he took up, and
he was untiring in his industry to cover the whole case. He did
all the work himself; he did not lay the details on others, and
avail himself of their diligence. His time, moreover, as we have
shown, was very much at the disposal of those who could pay him
little or nothing for his services, and he gave months of labor to
the unremunerative defence of the fugitive slave. Moreover, his
deep religious conviction and his high sense of legal honor often
stood in the way of his profit. So it was that his life was one of
hard work and little more than support of his family. There was
scant time for any wandering into fields of literature.

Yet he left behind him some other writings which show well that
the hand which penned the ``Two Years'' never lost its cunning. He
made an interesting visit to Europe, and, later in life, in
1859-60, made a journey round the world. The record which he kept
on these journeys has been drawn upon largely in the biography[2]
prepared by Charles Francis Adams, who was in his early days a
student in Dana's office, and there one finds page after page of
delightfully animated description and narrative. He wrote for his
own pleasure and for that of his family, and his writing was like
brilliant talk, the outflow of a generous mind not easily saved
for more common use. He published notes to Wheaton's
``International Law,'' several of which are quoted in all new works
on the subject to this day.

The journey which he took round the world was for the purpose of
restoring his health, which had been greatly impaired. He came
back in improved condition, and entered upon the excited period of
the war, when he held the office of United States District
Attorney. During this time he argued the famous prize causes
before the United States Supreme Court, and his argument was the
one that turned the Court, which was democratic in its politics,
to take the unanimous view that the United States Government had a
right to establish blockade and take prizes of foreign vessels
that were breaking this blockade. Had it not been for this
decision, so largely influenced, as the Court itself generously
states, by Mr. Dana's argument, the Civil War would have been
greatly prolonged, with possibly another, or at least a doubtful
issue. He afterward served in the Massachusetts legislature, and
there made several noted speeches, among others his argument on
the repeal of the usury laws, a bill for which was unexpectedly
carried in that body as the result of this speech which has been
reprinted for use before legislatures of other states.

He accepted a nomination to Congress, chiefly as a protest against
the nomination of B. F. Butler, who was running on a paper money
and repudiation platform against the principles of his own party,
but Mr. Dana was defeated. In 1876 he was nominated by President
Grant minister to England, but his nomination was not confirmed by
the Senate, for his nomination had been made without consulting
the Senatorial cabal and also he had bitter enemies, who carried
on a warfare against him upon terms which he was too honorable to

A selection of Mr. Dana's speeches, the most interesting
historically or those of most present value, have been published,
together with a biographical sketch,[3] supplementing the Life
written by Charles Francis Adams.

Two years later, broken now in health, but with his mind vigorous,
he resolved to give up the practice of law and devote himself to
writing a work on international law. For this purpose, and as a
measure of economy, he went to Europe, and for two years applied
himself diligently to his plan for a book which he believed would
give some fundamentally new views on international law. He had
made many notes and had begun to write the first few chapters when
he died, after a short illness, from pneumonia, in Rome, January
6, 1882. He was buried in the beautiful Protestant cemetery of
that city.

His wife, who was Sarah Watson of Hartford, Conn., survived him,
and he left five daughters and a son. There are now nine of his
grandchildren living (four of them Dana grandsons), and also four

Finally, what did Mr. Dana accomplish for sailors? In the preface
to the first edition (1840) he said, ``If it shall . . . call more
attention to the welfare of seamen, or give any information as to
their real condition which may serve to raise them in the rank of
beings, and to promote in any measure their religious and moral
improvement, and diminish the hardships of their daily life, the
end of its publication will be answered.'' And after the flogging
at San Pedro, there was his vow (page 1252), ``that, if God should
ever give me the means, I would do something to redress the
grievances and relieve the sufferings of that class of beings with
whom my lot had so long been cast.'' For redressing individual
grievances he took the part of the sailor in many a lawsuit where
his remuneration was often next to nothing, and by which action he
incurred the ill will of possible future rich and influential
clients. In his journal December 14, 1847, he says, ``I often have
a good deal to contend with in the slurs or open opposition of
masters and owners of vessels whose seamen I undertake to defend or
look after,'' though he adds there were honorable exceptions. These
cases he fought hard and bravely, and into them he put his whole
mind, heart and soul. He could not have done better in them if he
had been paid the highest fees known to the Bar. He settled as many
of these cases out of court as he could. He believed any reasonable
settlement better for the sailor than a legal contest, though his
own fees would be less. Beside taking the part of the individual
seamen, he published the ``Seamen's Friend,'' a book giving the full
legal rights of sailors as well as their duties, a set of definitions
of sea terms, which to this day is quoted in all the dictionaries,
and much information for the use of beginners. He drew up a petition
and prepared an accompanying leaflet addressed to Congress for
``The More Speedy Trial of Seamen.'' He wrote numerous articles
for the press and delivered many addresses on behalf of seamen, or
for institutions for their benefit such as ``Father'' Taylor's
Bethel and for a more cordial reception of sailors in the church.
He wrote the introduction of Leech's ``A Voice from the Main
Deck,'' but above all it was the indirect influence of his ``Two
Years Before the Mast'' which did the most to relieve their

While on a trip in Europe in 1875-76, I spent some weeks in London
and visited Parliament frequently to study the proceedings and see
and hear its leading men. By a strange coincidence at my very
first visit, made at the invitation of the late Sir William Vernon
Harcourt, after I had sent in my card and was ushered into the
inner lobby, I saw a man, evidently a member, rushing out into
this lobby, and, to quote from my journal written at the time,
``in a wild state of excitement, throwing about his arms and
shaking his fists, with short ejaculations such as `I'll expose
the villains, all of them,' and I heard the words `Cheats!' and I
think `Liars!''' This was a strange introduction to the then
decorous British House of Commons, for this was before the active
days of Parnell. I saw poor, blind Henry Fawcett[4] and others
trying to calm the man. The lobby was immediately cleared of
strangers, so I saw no more just then, but I was later admitted
into the House and learned that this man was the famous Plimsoll
(1824-1898). He had become enraged because his Merchants' Shipping
Bill had just been thrown out by Disraeli, then Prime Minister, on
this day of the so-called ``Slaughter of the Innocents,'' that is,
the day when the Government abandoned all bills which they were
not to carry out that session. Justin McCarthy, in his ``History
of Our Own Times'' (Vol. IV, page 24, et seq.), gives a full
account of this scene. Plimsoll's Bill was a measure for the
protection of seamen against the danger of being sent to sea in
vessels unfit for the voyage. To understand the whole situation of
the sailor in civilized countries, one must know that the only way
allowed by law or custom for him to get employment is to sign
articles sometimes without even knowing the name of the vessel,
and almost always without an opportunity to examine or even see
her. Once having signed these papers, sailors are by law compelled
to keep their contracts and can be imprisoned and sent aboard if
they try to escape. Every other person in every other kind of
employment, since the abolition of slavery, signing similar papers
has a right to refuse to carry out his agreement, with no other
penalty than a suit for damages. He cannot be forced to carry out
the contract in person. If this were not so, there would be a sort
of contract peonage or slavery endorsed by the law. It is
otherwise, however, with the sailors. The United States Supreme
Court in the case of Robertson v. Baldwin (165 U.S. 275, 1896)
decided, Judge Harlan dissenting, that notwithstanding the
thirteenth amendment to the Constitution which, it was supposed,
had prohibited involuntary servitude except as punishment for
crime, sailors could be forced on board of vessels, and the facts
that the vessel was unfit for living, the food bad, and the master
brutal were no defences. The headnote of the case says, ``The
contract of a sailor has always been treated as an exceptional one
involving to a certain extent the surrender of his personal
liberty during the life of his contract.'' Mr. Plimsoll was
rightly convinced that unseaworthy vessels left port for the sake
of insurance money on valued policies, that the lives of the
seamen were thereby imperilled, and that the poor sailor had no
redress before the law. The bill that had just been thrown out by
Disraeli provided that if one-quarter of the seamen appealed on
the ground of unseaworthiness a survey would be ordered, the
vessel detained till the survey was made, and if she were
unseaworthy or improperly provisioned the sailors would be
relieved from their contract unless those defects were cured. It
also had other minor provisions for the benefit of the sailors. In
Parliament that night, it was thought that Plimsoll's wild conduct
had destroyed his reputation as a sane man and had ruined the
chances of ever passing his bill, but outside of Parliament the
effect was just the reverse. The public was aroused to a full
understanding of the essential merits of his bill and the
government was forced to put it on the calendar and carry it
through that session in its substantial features, and the
following year (1876) a more complete and perfected act covering
the same points was passed.

In the United States, a most interesting character, Andrew
Furuseth, a Norwegian, himself a sailor, and without much
education but a man of wonderful force, has succeeded, largely by
the aid of labor unions, in forcing through Congress bills by
which no American seaman can any longer be forced against his will
into this servitude nor any foreign seaman on domestic voyages.
Another evil tending to degrade and enslave the sailor was the
allowance made by law of three months' advance wages on beginning
a voyage. This apparently harmless and, to the credulous and
inexperienced legislator, beneficial provision gave a chance to
the sailors' boarding-house keeper and runner, or ``crimp,'' as he
or she is called, to ``shanghai'' seamen and put them aboard drunk
or drugged, with little or no clothing but what they had on their
backs and rob them of this advance money. The ``crimps''' share of
this money in San Francisco alone has been calculated at one
million dollars a year, or equal to eighty per cent of the
seamen's entire wages. Part of this had to be shared with corrupt
police and politicians and some of it has been traced to sources
``higher up.'' So common was this practice that vessels sailing
from San Francisco and New York had so few sober sailors aboard,
that it was customary to take longshoremen to set sail, heave
anchor and get the ship under way, and then send them back by tug.
This is precisely what happened on the well-equipped and new ship
on which I sailed from New York in 1879 for California, and the
same situation is described by Captain Arthur H. Clark in his
account of seamen in his ``Clipper Ship Era.'' These poor sailors,
without proper clothing, had to draw on the ship's ``slop chest''
for necessary oilskins, thick jackets, mittens and the like, and
used up almost all the rest of their wages. The small balance was
wasted or stolen, or both, at the port of arrival, and off they
were shipped again by the ``crimp'' with no chance to save or
improve their condition. After years of agitation by the friends
of sailors the advance pay is now wholly abolished in the
coastwise trade in America and the three months' advance cut down
to one in the foreign trade, immensely to the benefit of the
sailor and the discouragement of the ``crimp.'' The argument that
without this system of bondage and ``crimpage'' it would be
impossible to secure crews is fully answered by the experience of
Great Britain since the passage of the Plimsoll Acts and in the
United States since the recent acts of Congress. On the contrary,
these measures tend to secure a better class of sailors and compel
improvement of the conditions under which they do their work. I
was told when in England that Plimsoll, who himself was not a
sailor, was influenced among other things by my father's book
``Two Years Before the Mast.''


[1] He was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., when he wrote his book, and
continued to be called so through life, for his father, a poet and
littérateur, lived to the age of ninety-two, and died but three
years before his son.

[2] Richard Henry Dana, Jr. A Biography. By Charles Francis Adams.
In two volumes. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin Company.

[3] Speeches in Stirring Times and Letters to a Son. Richard H.
Dana, Jr. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin Company, 1910.

[4] The political economist and M.P.


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