2 Years before the Mast Essay

2 Years before the Mast Essay

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History 140


Richard Henry Dana came from a prominent Brahmin family. He attended Harvard college but was forced to drop out his junior year due to a measles attack which temporarily affected his eyesight. Dana wanted to tour Europe but was unable to afford it. Instead, he decided to sign on as a seaman at nineteen years old, and sailed around Cape Horn to California. When trying to recall his motives for becoming a seaman he wasn't sure if it was his "desire to cure my eyes, my love of adventure and the attraction of the novelty of a life before the mast, or anxiety to escape from the depressing situation of inactivity and dependence at home" (vi).

The first place they come to is the island of Juan Fernandez. Here ."..all the people, except the soldiers and a few officers, were convicts sent from Valparaiso" (48). Because of the mass population of convicts, knives were forbidden, and all weapons were to be kept away from them. Dana and the crew concluded that the island belonged to Chili and was used by the government as a Botany Bay.

After 150 days at sea they finally arrived in the bay of Santa Barbara. This bay was very large, formed by the main land on one side, and three islands opposite it. Here they found out that the thermometer never fell before zero and that there were little changes in weather during the different seasons. They heard of the mission and town of Santa Barbara that lies near to the beach and is a collection of one story buildings built of brown clay. In the center of town is a large building, the presidio.

Monterey bay is wide at the entrance, but narrows as you approach the town. It has well wooded shores and everything was very green. The...

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...249). This is because of its great climate, abundance of wood and water, its fertility, and good anchoring grounds. On the other hand Dana thought of San Pedro as being " the hell of California", and thought it was designed for wear and tear of sailors.

I think his opinions reflect a collision between Anglo and Latin cultures. He does not seem to be racist against the Indians but does make a point to let us know how much he hates their language. He never bad mouthed them the way he did to the Spanish of California. However, he does see the people of California as lazy and a little stupid. I think his opinions changed after the U.S acquisition of the territory. The people were now a little more civilized and orderly, and the land a little more advanced. Since they are under new acquisition they now are under different rule and are more advanced and thrifty.

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