Slavish Shore: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr.

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In 1834, Richard Henry Dana Jr. sailed to California as a common seaman while taking a convalescence break from Harvard.

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. Dana’s 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.

Jeffrey Amestoy was the 38th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont. He was elected Attorney General of Vermont in 1984 and was re-elected six times. In five of those elections he was the nominee of the Republican and Democratic parties. In 1997 he was appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Howard Dean. In 1999 Amestoy was author of the Vermont Supreme Court's opinion in Baker v. State which held that same-sex couples were constitutionally entitled to the rights and benefits of marriage.