Here, at anchor [at the Yerba Buena anchorage in San Francisco Bay] and the only vessel, was a brig with Russian colors, from Asitka, in Russian America...
Though no larger than the Pilgrim, she had five or six officers, and a crew of between twenty and thirty; and such a stupid and greasy-looking set, I certainly never saw before.... They had brutish faces, looked like the antipodes of sailors, and apparently dealt in nothing but grease. They lived upon grease; ate it, drank it, slept in the midst of it, and their clothes were covered with it. To a Russian, grease is the greatest luxury. They looked with greedy eyes upon the tallow-bags as they were taken in to the vessel, and, no doubt, would have eaten one up whole, had not the officer kept watch over it. The grease seemed actually coming through their pores, and out in their hair, and on their faces. It seems as if it were this saturation which makes them stand cold and rain so well. If they were to go into a warm climate, they would all die of scurvy.
Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before the Mast, Chapter XXVI
Dana was a man of liberal sentiments and a friend to the oppressed. He published the notes of his voyage (Two Years Before the Mast) in 1840, hoping that this personal narrative would help to better the condition of seamen. The book immediately gained international celebrity, and is still highly esteemed by persons of discernment.
In his later life Dana defended men apprehended under the Fugitive Slave Act, and became an active Republican. Following Lincoln's innauguration he was appointed U.S. district attorney for Massachusetts. In this capacity he argued and won the celebrated prize case of the Amy Warwick, which established the right of the federal government to blockade Confederate ports without giving the Confederate States international status as belligerents.
All this should show that Dana's remarks about Russians cannot be attributed to xenophobia or bigotry, but rather, to honest disgust at their revolting appearance and habits.
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