Tomorrow, 4 July, is Independence Day in the United States. I am proud to say that I have a family connection to the events it celebrates.
My eighth great grandfather Richard Dana, born in England – quite possibly in Manchester – in 1617, crossed the Atlantic about 1640 and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Around 1648 he married an American girl named Anne Bullard (1626 – 1711), who was born in Massachusetts. Between 1649 and 1670 they had eleven children. I am descended from Richard’s son Daniel (1663 – 1749) and grandson Richard (1700 – 1772).
My sixth great grandfather Richard Dana appears to have been the first of the family to graduate from a university – Harvard. He became a notable lawyer and politician, a magistrate, and a leading figure in the agitation against British imperial government. He was a founding member the Sons of Liberty, and led Massachusetts opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765.
I have written several times about Richard’s oldest son, my 5th great grandfather Edmund Dana (1739 – 1823). As a young man he travelled to Edinburgh to study. He married in Edinburgh in 1765 and became a clergyman in England with the support of his wife’s family. He did not return to America
On July 4, 1776, the 13 American colonies claimed independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on Independence Day, the fourth of July, Americans celebrate this historic event.
Edmund Dana’s brother Francis (1743-1811) has a prominent place in this period of American history. In 1773 he married Elizabeth (1751 – 1807), daughter of William Ellery, who became one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Francis Dana became a leading lawyer and a close associate of George Washington. In 1775 the Continental Congress sent Francis Dana to England in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the differences leading to the Revolutionary War. He returned the following year and reported to General Washington that a friendly settlement of the dispute was impossible. Dana’s opinion helped influence the adoption of the 1776 Declaration of Independence. He was elected a delegate to the Second Continental Congress on 10 December 1776, where he signed the Articles of Confederation in 1778. He was sent as Ambassador to Russia in 1780. The future President John Quincy Adams served as his secretary. Again a member of Congress in 1784 and a leader of the Federalist Party, Francis Dana later joined the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, where he served as Chief Justice from 1791 to 1806.
with apologies to Spike Milligan
- Dana, Elizabeth Ellery (1956). The Dana Family in America. Wright & Potter Printing Company, 32 Derne Street, Boston