Slavish Shore: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr. (Hardback)
  • Slavish Shore: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr. (Hardback)
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Slavish Shore: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr. (Hardback)

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£35.95
Hardback 400 Pages
Published: 01/08/2015
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In 1834 Harvard dropout Richard Henry Dana Jr. sailed to California as a common seaman. His account of the voyage, Two Years Before the Mast, quickly became an American classic. But literary acclaim could not erase the young lawyer’s memory of the brutal floggings he had witnessed aboard ship or undermine the vow he had made to combat injustice. In Slavish Shore, Jeffrey Amestoy tells the story of Dana’s unflagging determination to keep that vow in the face of nineteenth-century America’s most exclusive establishment: the Boston society in which he had been born and bred.

The drama of Dana’s life arises from the unresolved tension between the Brahmin he was expected to be on shore and the man he had become at sea. Dana’s sense of justice made him a lawyer who championed sailors and slaves, and his extraordinary advocacy put him at the center of some of the most consequential cases in American history: defending fugitive slave Anthony Burns, justifying President Lincoln’s war powers before the Supreme Court, and prosecuting Confederate president Jefferson Davis for treason. Yet Dana’s own promising political career remained unfulfilled as he struggled to reconcile his rigorous conscience with his restless spirit in public controversy and private life.

The first full-length biography of Dana in more than half a century, Slavish Shore reintroduces readers to one of America’s most zealous defenders of freedom and human dignity.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674088191
Number of pages: 400
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

Slavish Shore is the first new biography of Richard Henry Dana in over fifty years, and rigorous attention to Dana is long overdue. Amestoy is an excellent writer who takes us gracefully through Dana’s fascinating life, providing much new insight into his defense of fugitive slaves and his work on the treason case against Jefferson Davis. It is an important story, very well told. - Steven Lubet, author of Fugitive Justice: Runaways, Rescuers, and Slavery on Trial

Both a richly detailed biography of Richard Henry Dana and a snapshot of American life at the end of the age of sail, Amestoy’s Slavish Shore is the perfect companion volume for anyone who has been captivated by Two Years Before the Mast. Amestoy’s book follows Dana as he carries home the lessons he learned at sea and shocks the hidebound world of upper-crust Boston by standing up for the rights of seamen and fugitive slaves. But Slavish Shore also gives us the story of a private man caught in the sometimes suffocating atmosphere of family life, charting a haphazard course between independence and duty, ambition and disappointment. - Wes Davis, editor of An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry

The strongest element of Amestoy’s treatment in Slavish Shore is his dramatization of the intricacies and personalities of the growing Abolitionist fervor of Boston in the years of Dana’s flourishing…A fine new biography. - Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

Excellently reveals how Dana wrested from the text of the U.S. Constitution the acknowledgment that the African-American slave, a kind of property as far as the traditional reading went, also had rights. - Carol Bundy, Wall Street Journal

[Slavish Shore] is a meticulous, engaging, and informative study of Dana’s life, which unequivocally defends its portrait of this significant American man of letters as an equally significant man of the law that will be of particular interest to both literary scholars and historians concerned with the intersections of maritime law, slavery, and aristocratic New England culture in the turbulent decades leading up to the Civil War. - Dan Walden, American Literary History

Slavish Shore, Jeffrey Amestoy’s superb new biography of Dana—the first in more than 50 years—should make many more people familiar with him…Slavish Shore presents an insightful portrait of Dana as a man as well as a lawyer…An excellent book—never tedious and often gripping—and Dana deserves our renewed attention. - Henry Cohen, Federal Lawyer

Amestoy’s biography is excellent: well written, comprehensive, empathetic, and well researched…Amestoy is at his best, better than any other biographer, when narrating Dana’s role in several of America’s crucial cases in which human rights were at risk and a moral compass was needed. - Rick Kennedy, New England Quarterly

How appropriate that the year 2015, the bicentennial of Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s birth, ushered in the publication of what will be considered for quite some time the definitive biography of the famed sailor, author, lawyer, and activist. - Brian Rouleau, Journal of the Early Republic

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