Richard’s first encounter with injustice occurred when an angry schoolmaster pulled him up and down the room by his ear, partially separating it from him. His father complained, and the school no longer used the punishment of pulling ears. Thus began a long life of seeking triumph over tyranny.
After measles weakened his eyesight at 19 years-old, he quit Harvard to go sailing on a merchantman bound for California. The labors he endured, beauty he encountered in an untouched California, and injustice at the hands of the captain are all recorded in his famous book Two Years Before the Mast, which was one of the most read books in English in its day.
As a lawyer in Boston and Cambridge, he defended Anthony Burns, the fugitive slave extradited to Virginia, William Morton, supposed discoverer of ether as an anesthetic, and countless sailors bringing suits of abuse against their captains, many of which were cases he lost. He died of the flu in Rome in 1882, still a famous man for his book.