Francis Dana: A Puritan Diplomat at the Court of Catherine the Great

Francis Dana: A Puritan Diplomat at the Court of Catherine the Great

Francis Dana: A Puritan Diplomat at the Court of Catherine the Great

Francis Dana: A Puritan Diplomat at the Court of Catherine the Great

Excerpt

That a man of Francis Dana's importance in the American Revolutionary period should have waited so long for a biographer is due rather to accidental circumstances than to any lack of public appreciation. The significance of the events in which he was a participant would alone justify an attempt to record his experiences and adventures. In a versatile age he was in turn a Continental Congressman, a diplomat, and the Chief Justice of Massachusetts. That he achieved distinction in each of these callings was the evident opinion of his contemporaries. His biography was actually undertaken soon after his death in 1811 by no less eminent a personage than Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons. The task, continued by his son, Richard Henry Dana, the poet, was later resumed by the even more famous Richard, his author grandson. But the fragmentary sketches that resulted from their labors were never concluded or assembled in a single volume. It is probable that these failures were due to the lack of data now available, revealing the diplomatic significance of his mission to the Court of Catherine the Great.

The present study of Francis Dana and his time is based upon notes made for these earlier attempts, and upon documents assembled by his closest friend and immediate descendants more than a century ago. They had in view not a eulogy--but a picture of the man himself. "I think," one of them wrote, "it ought to be allowed to the biographer as well as to the painter to draw a handsome likeness of the original; but it ought not to be too handsome." This extract from a letter written by Wil liam Ellery . . .

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