For the duration of the voyage to the elusive California coast, Richard Henry Dana was nineteen years old, working as a sailor aboard the Pilgram, engaged in the hide and tallow trade. Dana was an elite member of the upper class. As a student at Harvard, he became infected with a case of the measles that left him with a painful eye condition. Dana then began his career at sea as a sailor and set off from Boston around Cape Horn to the coast of California. Throughout his voyage, Dana kept a journal of his sixteen month adventure.
In 1840, Dana's Two Years Before the Mast was published, based on his diaries. It contains an in depth account of life on the California coast, territory of the Mexican government, a decade before the Gold Rush had struck. Dana documents stops at the ports of Monterey, San Pedro, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Clara.
He describes the sailor life at the ports, at the beaches where they cured hides, and the cruelty on the ship. Furthermore, he describes the daily life of the diverse Californians of Hispanic, Native American and European descent and the land itself. Two Years Before the Mast depicts a multicultural society living in an environment of natural beauty and ideal climate, a paradise somehow yearning to be improved by American ingenuity. Dana's Two Years Before the Mast became a world-wide bestseller in 1849, when the discovery of gold hit California. Dana's book described California, the country that appealed to the entire world. Two Years Before the Mast was an important element in the process of reform and the beginning of the Manifest Destiny.
Manifest Destiny is a phrase that describes the belief in which the United States had a "divine right" to the westward expansion...