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Edited by 

Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, Ph. D. 

Che American Crisis Biograpbtes 

Edited by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, Ph.D. With the 
counsel and advice of Professor John B. McMaster, of 
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N< m 
Abraham Lincoln. By Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer. 
Thomas H. Benton. By Joseph M. Rogers. 
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Jay Cooke. By Ellis Paxson Operhoi.TZER. 




John Brown 


Professor of Sociology, Atlanta University 

Author of " The Suppression of the 
African Slave Trade," " The Philadel- 
phia Negro," " The Souls of Black 
Folk," etc. 



Copyright, 1909, by 

George W. Jacobs & Company 

Published September, 1909 

All rights reserved 
Printed in U. S. A. 

CI. A 
SEP 13 1909 


the memory of 



After the work of Sanborn, Hinton, Connelley, 
and Redpath, the only excuse for another life 
of John Brown is an opportunity to lay new em- 
phasis upon the material which they have so care- 
fully collected, and to treat these facts from a dif- 
ferent point of view. The view-point adopted in 
this book is that of the little known but vastly im- 
portant in ner deve lopment of the Negro American. 
John Brown worked not simply for Black Men — 
he worked with them ; and he was a companion of 
their daily life, knew their faults and virtues, and 
felt, as few white Americans have felt, the bitter 
tragedy of their lot. The story of John Brown, 
then, cannot be complete unless due emphasis is 
given this phase of his activity. Unfortunately, 
however, few written records of these friendships 
and this long continued intimacy exist, so that 
little new material along these lines can be adduced. 
For the most part one must be content with quoting 
the authors mentioned (and I have quoted them 
freely), and other writers like Anderson, Feather - 
stonhaugh, Barry, Hunter, Boteler, Douglass and 
Hamilton. But even in the absence of special ma- 
terial the great broad truths are clear, and this 


book is at once a record of and a tribute to the man 
who of all Americans has perhaps come nearest to 
touching the real souls of black folk. 






Africa and America 



The Making of the Man . 



The Wanderjahre . 



The Shepherd of the Sheep . 



The Vision of the Damned . 



The Call of Kansas 



The Swamp of the Swan . 



The Great Plan 



The Black Phalanx 



The Great Black Way . 

. 273 


The Blow 

. 308 


The Eiddle of the Sphinx 

. 338 


The Legacy of John Brown . 

. 365 

Bibliography .... 

. 397 


. 401 


Boyhood and Youth 

1800— John Brown is born in Torrington, Conn., May 9th. 
Attempted insurrection of slaves under Gabriel in Vir- 
ginia, in September. 

1805— The family migrates to Ohio. 

1812 — John Brown meets a slave boy. 

1816— He joins the church. 

1819— He attends school at Plainfield, Mass. 

The Tanner 
1819-1825— John Brown works as a tanner at Hudson, O. 
1821— He marries Dianthe Lusk, June 21st. 
1822 — Attempted slave insurrection in South Carolina in June. 
1825-1835— He works as a tanner at Randolph, Pa., and is 

1831— Nat Turner's insurrection, in Virginia, August 21st. 
1832— His first wife dies, August 10th. 
1833— He marries Mary Ann Day, July 11th. 
1834— He outlines his plan for Negro education, November 21st. 
1835-1840— He lives in and near Hudson, O., and speculates in 


1837— He loses heavily in the panic. 

1839— He and his family swear blood-feud with slavery. 

1840— He surveys Virginia lands for Oberlin College, and pro- 
poses buying 1,000 acres. 

The Shepherd 
1841— John Brown begins sheep-farming. 


1842 — He goes into bankruptcy. 

1843— He loses four children in September. 

1844 — He forms the firm of " Perkins and Brown, wool-mer- 

1845-51— He is in charge of the Perkins and Brown warehouse, 
Springfield, O. 

1846— Gerrit Smith offers Adirondack farms to Negroes, 
August 1st. 

1847— Frederick Douglass visits Brown and hears his plan for a 
slave raid. 

1849— He goes to Europe to sell wool, and visits France and 
Germany, August and September. 

1849— First removal of his family to North Elba, N. Y. 

1850 — The new Fugitive Slave Law is passed. 

1851-1854 — Winding up of the wool business. 

1851 — He founds the League of Gileadites, January 15th. 

In Kansas 
1854— Kansas and Nebraska Bill becomes a law, May 30th. 
Five sons start for Kansas in October. 

1855 — John Brown at the Syracuse convention of Abolitionists 
in June. He starts for Kansas with a sixth son and his 
son-in-law in September. Two sons tak« part in Big 
Springs convention in September. John Brown arrives 
in Kansas, October 6th. He helps to defend Lawrence 
in December. 

1856— He attends a mass meeting at Osawatomie in April. He 
visits Buford's camp in May. The sacking of Lawrence, 
May 21st. The Pottawatomie murders, May 23-26th. 
Arrest of two sons, May 28th. Battle of Black Jack, 
June 2d. Goes to Iowa with his wounded son- in law 
and joins Lane's army, July and August. Joins in at- 
tacks to rid Lawrence of surrounding forts, August. 
Battle of Osawatomie, August 30th. Missouri's last in- 
vasion of Kansas, September 15th. Geary arrives and 
induces Brown to leave Kansas, September. Brown 
starts for the East with his sons, September 20th. 


The Abolitionist 
1857 — John Brown is in Boston in January. He attends the 
New York meeting of the National Kansas Committee, 
in January. Before the Massachusetts legislature in 
February. Tours New England to raise money, March 
and April. Contracts for 1,000 pikes in Connecticut. 

1857— He starts West, May. He is at Tabor, I., August and 
September. He founds a military school in Iowa, 

1858— John Brown returns to the East, January. He is at 
Frederick Douglass's house, February. He reveals his 
plan to Sanborn in February. He is in Canada, April. 
Forbes' disclosures, May. Chatham convention, May 
8-10th. Hamilton's massacre in Kansas, May 19th. 
Plans postponed, May 20th. John Brown starts West, 
June 3d. He arrives in Kansas, June 25th. He is in 
South Kansas, cooperating with Montgomery, July- 
December. The raid into Missouri for slaves, December 

The Harper's Ferry Raid 
1859— John Brown starts with fugitives for Canada, January 
20th. He arrives in Canada, March 12th. He speaks in 
Cleveland, March 23d. Last visit of John Brown to the 
East, April and May. He starts for Harper's Ferry, 
June. He and three companions arrive at Harper's 
Ferry, July 3d. He gathers twenty-two men and mu- 
nitions, June-October. He starts on the foray, Sunday, 
October 16th at 8 P. M. The town and arsenal are cap- 
tured, Monday, October 17th at 4 A. M. Gathering of 
the militia, Monday, October 17th at 7 A. m. to 12 M. 
Brown's party is hemmed in, Monday, October 17th at 
12 M. He withdraws to the engine-house, Monday, 
October 17th at 12 M. Kagi's party is killed and cap- 
tured, Monday, October 17th at 3 p. M. Lee and 100 
marines arrive, Monday, October 17th at 12 P. M. 
Brown is captured, Tuesday, October 18th at 8 A. M. 

1859 — Preliminary examination, October 25th. Trial at 
Charleston (then Virginia, now West Virginia), October 
27th-November 4th. Forty days in prison, October 
16th-December 2d. Execution of John Brown at 
Charleston, December 2d. Burial of John Brown at 
North Elba, N. Y., December 8th. 




" That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by 
the prophet saying, Out of Egypt have I called My son." 

The mystic spell of Africa is and ever was over 
all America. It has guided her hardest work, in- 
spired her finest literature, and sung her sweetest 
songs. Her greatest destiny — unsensed and despised 
though it be, — is to give back to the first of conti- 
nents the gifts which Africa of old gave to America's 
fathers' fathers. 

Of all inspiration which America owes to Africa, 
however, the greatest by far is the score of heroic, 
men whom the sorrows— of_ these dark children! 
called to unsel fish devo_tjon and heroic s df-realTl 
Ration : Benezet^ Garrison and Harriet"" Sto we ; 
Sumner, Douglass and Lincoln — these and others, 
but above all, John Brown. 

John Brown was a stalwart, rough-hewn man, 
mightily yet tenderly carven. To his making went 
the stern justice of a Cromwellian "Ironside," the 
freedom-loving fire of a Welsh Celt, and the thrift 


of a Dutch housewife. And these very things it 
was — thrift, freedom and justice— that early crossed 
the unknown seas to find asylum in America. Yet 
they came late, for before them came greed, and 
greed brought black slaves from Africa. 

The Negroes came on the heels, if not on the very 
ships of Columbus. They followed De Soto to the 
Mississippi; saw Virginia with D'Ayllon, Mexico 
with Cortez, Peru with Pizarro ; and led the west- 
ern wanderings of Coronado in his search for the 
Seven Cities of Cibola. Something more than a 
decade after the Cavaliers, and a year before the 
Pilgrims, they set lasting foot on the North Ameri- 
can continent. 

These black men came not of their own willing, 
but because the hasty greed of new America selfishly 
and half thoughtlessly sought to revive in the 
New World the dying but unforgotten custom of 
enslaving the world's workers. So with the birth 
of wealth and liberty west of the seas, came slavery, 
and a slavery all the more cruel and hideous be. ' 
cause it gradually built itself on a caste of race 
and color, thus breaking the common bonds of 
human fellowship and weaving artificial barriers 
of birth and appearance. 

The result was evil, as all injustice must be. At 
first the black men writhed and struggled and died 
in their bonds, and their blood reddened the paths 
across the Atlantic and around the beautiful isles of 
the Western Indies. Then as the bonds gripped 
them closer and closer, they succumbed to sullen 


indifference or happy ignorance, with only here and 
there flashes of wild red vengeance. 

For, after all, these black men were but men, 
neither more nor less wonderful than other men. 
In build and stature, they were for the most part 
among the taller nations and sturdily made. In 
their mental equipment and moral poise, they 
showed themselves full brothers to all men — "in- 
tensely human " ; and this too in their very modifi- 
cations and peculiarities — their warm brown and 
bronzed color and crisp curled hair under the heat 
and wet of Africa ; their sensuous enjoyment of the* 
music and color of life ; their instinct for barter and! 
trade ; their strong family life and government, j 
Yet these characteristics were bruised and spoiled 
and misinterpreted in the rude uprooting of the 
slave trade and the sudden transplantation of this 
race to other climes, among other peoples. Their 
color became a badge of servitude, their tropical 
habit was deemed laziness, their worship was 
thought heathenish, their family customs and 
government were ruthlessly overturned and de- 
bauched ; many of their virtues became vices, and 
much of their vice, virtue. 

The price of repression is greater than the cost of 
liberty. The degradation of men costs something 
both to the degraded and those who degrade. While 
the Negro slaves sank to listless docility and vacant 
ignorance, their masters found themselves whirled 
in the eddies of mighty movements : their system 
of slavery was twisting them backwards toward 


darker ages of force and caste and cruelty, while 
forward swirled swift currents of liberty and uplift. 

They still felt the impulse of the wonderful 
awakening of culture from, its barbaric sleep of 
centuries which men call the Renaissance ; they 
were own children of the mighty stirring of Europe's 
conscience which we call the Reformation ; and 
they and their children were to be prime actors in 
laying the foundations of human liberty in a new 
century aud a new land. Already the birth pains 
of the new freedom were felt in that land. Old 
Europe was begetting in the new continent a vast 
longing for spiritual space. So there was builded 
into America the thrift of the searchers of wealth, 
the freedom of the Renaissance and the stem mo- 
rality of the Reformation. 

Three lands typified these three things which 
time planted iu the New World : England sent 
Puritanism, the last white flower of the Lutheran 
revolt ; Holland sent the new vigor and thrift of 
the Renaissance ; while Celtic lands and bits of lands 
like France and Ireland and Wales, sent the pas- 
sionate desire for personal freedom. These three 
elements came, and came more often than not in 
the guise of humble men— an English carpenter on 
the Mayflower, an Amsterdam tailor seeking a new 
ancestral city, and a Welsh wanderer. From three 
such men sprang in the marriage of years, John 

To the unraveling of human tangles we would 
gladly believe that God sends especial men — chosen 


vessels which come to the world's deliverance. And 
what could be more fitting than that the human em- 
bodiments of freedom, Puritanism and trade — the 
great new currents sweeping across the back eddies 
of slavery, should give birth to the man who in 
years to come pointed the way to liberty and realized 
that the cost of liberty was less than the price of 
repression ? So it was. In bleak December, 1620, 
a carpenter and a weaver landed at Plymouth — Peter 
and John Brown. This carpenter Peter came of 
goodly stock, possibly, though not surely, from 
that very John Brown of the early sixteenth century 
whom bluff King Henry VIII of England burned 
for his Puritanism, and whose son was all too near 
the same fate. Thirty years after Peter Brown had 
landed, came the Welshman, John Owen, to 
Windsor, Conn., to help in the building of that 
commonwealth, and near him settled Peter Mills, 
the tailor of Holland. The great-grandson of Peter 
Brown, born in Connecticut in 1700, had for a son 
a Revolutionary soldier, who married one of the 
Welshman's grandchildren and had in turn a son, 
Owen Brown, the father of John Brown, in February 
of 1771. This Owen Brown a neighbor remembers 
"very distinctly, and that he was very much re- 
spected and esteemed by my father. He was an 
earnestly devout and religious man, of the old Con- 
necticut fashion ; and one peculiarity of his im- 
pressed his name and person indelibly upon my 
memory : he was an inveterate and most painful 
stammerer — the first specimen of that infirmity that 


I had ever seen, and, according to my recollection, 
the worst that I had ever known to this day. Conse- 
quently, though we removed from Hudson to another 
settlement early in the summer of 1807, and returned 
to Connecticut in 1812, so that I rarely saw any of 
that family afterward, I have never to this day 
seen a man struggling and half strangled with a 
word stuck to his throat, without remembering good 
Mr. Owen Brown, who could not speak without 
stammering, except in prayer." ' 

In 1800, May 9th, wrote this Owen Brown : 
" John was born, one hundred years after his great- 
grandfather. Nothing else very uncommon." 3 

^edpath, Public Life of Captain John Brown, p. 25. 
3 Autobiography of Owen Brown in Sauborn, Life and Letters 
of John Brown, p. 7. 


"There was a man called of God and his name was John." 
A tall big boy of twelve or fifteen, "barefoot 
and bareheaded, with buckskin breeches suspended 
often with one leather strap over his shoulder" 1 
roamed in the forests of northern Ohio. He re- 
membered the days of his coming to the strange 
wild land — the lowing oxen, the great white wagon 
that wandered from Connecticut to Pennsylvania 
and over the swelling hills and mountains, where 
the wide-eyed urchin of five sat staring at the new 
world of wild beast and the wilder brown men. 
Then came life itself in its realness— the driving of 
cows and the killing of rattlesnakes, and swift free 
rides on great mornings alone with earth and tree 
and sky. He became ' ' a rambler in the wild new 
country, finding birds and squirrels and sometimes 
a wild turkey's nest." At first the Indians filled 
him with strange fear. But his kindly old father 
thought of Indians as neither vermin nor property 
and this fear ' ' soon wore off and he used to hang 
about them quite as much as was consistent with 
good manners." 

J The quotations in this chapter are from John Brown's 
Autobiography, Sanborn, Life and Letters of John Brown, pp. 


The tragedy and comedy of this broad silent life 
turned on things strangely simple and primitive — 
the stealing of "three large brass pins " ; the dis- 
appearance of the wonderful yellow marble which 
an Indian boy had given him ; the love and losing 
of a little bob-tailed squirrel for which he wept and 
hunted the world in vain ; and finally the shadow 
of death which is ever here — the death of a ewe- 
lamb and the death of the boy's own mother. 

All these things happened before he was eight 
and they were his main education. He could dress 
leather and make whip-lashes ; he could herd cattle 
and talk Indian ; but of books and formal schooling 
he had little. 

"John was never quarrelsome, but was excessively 
fond of the hardest and roughest kind of plays, 
and could never get enough of them. Indeed when 
for a short time he was sometimes sent to school, 
the opportunity it afforded to wrestle and snowball 
and run and jump and knock off old seedy wool 
hats, offered to him almost the only compensation 
for the confinements and restraints of school. 

" With such a feeling and but little chance of go- 
ing to school at all, he did not become much of a 
scholar. He would always choose to stay at home 
and work hard rather than be sent to school." 
Consequently, "he learned nothing of grammar, 
nor did he get at school so much knowledge of 
common arithmetic as the four ground rules." 

Almost his only reading at the age of ten was a 
little history to which the open bookcase of an old 


friend tempted him. He knew nothing of games or 
sports ; he had few or no companions, but, " to be 
sent off through the wilderness alone to very con- 
siderable distances was particularly his de- 
light. . . . By the time he was twelve years 
old he was sent off more than a hundred miles with 
companies of cattle." So his soul grew apart and 
alone and yet untrammeled and unconfined, knowing 
all the depths of secret self-abasement, and the 
heights of confident self-will. With others he was 
painfully diffident and bashful, and little sins that 
smaller souls would laugh at and forget loomed 
large and awful to his heart-searching vision. 
John had "a very bad foolish habit. ... I 
mean telling lies, generally to screen himself from 
blame or from punishment," because "he could 
not well endure to be reproached and I now think 
had he been oftener encouraged to be entirely 
frank ... he would not have been so often 
guilty of this fault, nor have been (in after life) 
obliged to struggle so long with so mean a habit." 

Such a nature was in its very essence religious, even 
mystical, but never superstitious nor blindly trustful 
in half-known creeds and formulas. His family 
was not rigidly Puritan in its thought and disci- 
pline but had rather fallen into the mild heathen- 
ism of the hard-working frontier until just before 
John's birth. Then, his father relates in quaint 
Calvinistic patois : "I lived at home in 1782 ; this 
was a memorable year, as there was a great revival 
of religion in the town of Canton. My mother and 


my older sisters and brother John dated their hopes 
of salvation from that summer's revival under the 
ministry of the Rev. Edward Mills. I cannot say 
as I was a subject of the work ; but this I cau say 
that I then began to hear preaching. I can now 
recollect most if not all of those I heard preach, 
and what their texts were. The change in our 
family was great ; family worship set up by 
brother John was ever afterward continued. There 
was a revival of singing in Canton and our family 
became singers. Conference meetings were kept up 
constantly and singing meetings — all of which 
brought our family into a very good association — 
a very great aid of restraining grace." 

Thus this young freeman of the woods was born 
into a religious atmosphere ; not that of stern, in- 
tellectual Puritanism, but of a milder and a more 
sensitive type. Even this, however, the naturally 
skeptical bent of his mind did not receive un- 
questioningly. The doctrines of his day and church 
did not wholly satisfy him and he became only " to 
some extent a convert to Christianity." One 
answer to his questionings did come, however, 
bearing its own wonderful credentials — and creden- 
tials all the more wonderful to the man of few 
books and narrow knowledge of the world of 
thought— the English Bible. He grew to be "a 
firm believer in the divine authenticity of the Bible. 
With this book he became very familiar." He 
read and reread it ; he committed long passages to 
memory ; he copied the simple vigor of its English, 


and wove into the very essence of his being, its 
history, poetry, philosophy and truth. To him the 
cruel grandeur of the Old Testament was as true as 
the love and sacrifice of the New, and both mingled 
to mold his soul. "This will give you some general 
idea of the first fifteen years of his life, during 
which time he became very strong and large of his 
age, and ambitious to perform the full labor of a 
man at almost any kind of hard work." 

Young John Brown's first broad contact with 
life and affairs came with the War of 1812, during 
which Hull's disastrous campaign brought the scene 
of fighting near his western home. His father, a 
simple wandering old soul, thrifty without fore- 
sight, became a beef contractor, and the boy drove 
his herds of cattle and hung about the camp. He 
met men of position, was praised for his prowess 
and let listen to talk that seemed far beyond his 
years. Yet he was not deceived. The war he felt 
was real war and not the war of fame and fairy tale. 
He saw shameful defeat, heard treason broached, and 
knew of cheating and chicanery. Disease and death 
left its slimy trail as it crept homeward through the 
town of Hudson from Detroit: "The effect of 
what he saw during the war went so far to disgust 
him with military affairs that he would neither 
train nor drill." 

But in all these early years of the making of 
this man, one incident stands out as foretaste and 
prophecy — an incident of which we know only the 
indefinite outline, and yet one which unconsciously 


foretold to the boy the life deed of the man. It was 
during the war that a certain landlord welcomed 
John to his home whither the boy had ridden with 
cattle, a hundred miles through the wilderness. He 
praised the big, grave and bashful lad to his guests 
and made much of him. John, however, discovered 
something far more interesting than praise and good 
food in the landlord's parlor, and that was another 
boy in the landlord's yard. Fellow souls were scarce 
with this backwoodsman and his diffidence warmed 
to the kindly welcome of the stranger, especially 
because he was black, half naked and wretched. 
In John's very ears the kind voices of the master 
and his folk turned to harsh abuse with this black 
boy. At night the slave lay in the bitter cold and 
once they beat the wretched thing before John's 
very eyes with an iron shovel, and again and again 
struck him with any weapon that chanced. In 
wide-eyed silence John looked on and questioned, 
Was the boy bad or stupid 1 ? No, he was active, in- 
telligent and with t he great warm sympathy of hi s 
race did the stranger " numerous little acts of kind- 
ness," so that John readily, in his straightforward 
candor, acknowledged him "fully if not more than 
his equal." That the black worked and worked 
hard and steadily was in John's eyes no hardship — 
rather a pleasure. Was not the world work ? But 
that this boy was fatherless and motherless, and that 
all slaves must of necessity be fatherless and mother- 
less with none to protect them or provide for them, 
save at the will or caprice of the master — this was 


to the half-grown nian a thing of fearful portent and 
he asked, "Is God their Father ? " And what he 
asked, a million and a half black bondmen were 
asking through the land. 



" Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers 
fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the begin- 
ning of the creation." 

In 1819 a tall, sedate, dignified young man named 
John Brown was entered among the students of the 
Rev. Moses Hallock at Plainfield, Mass., where men 
were prepared for Amherst College. He was be- 
ginning his years of wandering— spiritual searching 
for the way of life, physical wandering in the wil- 
derness where he must earn his living. In after 
years he wrote to a boy : 

" I wish you to have some definite plan. Many 
seem to have none ; others never stick to any that 
they do form. This was not the case with John. 
He followed up with great tenacity whatever he set 
about as long as it answered his general purpose ; 
hence he rarely failed in some degree to effect the 
things he undertook. This was so much the case 
that he habitually expected to succeed in his under- 
takings." ' In this case he expected to get an edu- 
cation and he came to his task equipped with that 
rare mixture of homely thrift and idealism which 
characterized his whole life. His father could do 

1 John Brown's Autobiography, Sanborn, p. 16. 


little to help him, for the war was followed by the 
" hard times " which are the necessary fruit of fight- 
ing. As the father wrote : ' ' Money became scarce, 
property fell and that which I thought well bought 
would not bring its cost. I had made three or four 
large purchases, in which I was a heavy loser." 

It was therefore as a poor boy ready to work his 
way that John started out at Plain field. The son 
of the principal tells how " he brought with him a 
piece of sole leather about a foot square, which he 
had himself tanned for seven years, to resole his 
boots. He had also a piece of sheepskin which he 
had tanned, and of which he cut some strips about 
an eighth of an inch wide, for other students to pull 
upon. Father took one string, and winding it around 
his finger said with a triumphant turn of the eye 
and mouth, ' I shall snap it.' The very marked, yet 
kind immovableness of the young man's face on see- 
ing father's defeat, father's own look, and the posi- 
tion of the people and the things in the old kitchen 
somehow gave me a fixed recollection of this little 
incident." 1 

But all his thrift and planning here were doomed 
to disappointment. He was, one may well believe, 
no brilliant student, and his only chance of success 
lay in long and steady application. This he was 
prepared to make when inflammation of the eyes 
set in, of so grave a type that all hopes of long study 

1 Heman Hallock, in the New York Journal of Commerce, 
quoted in Sanborn, p. 32. 


must be given up. Several times before he had at- 
tempted regular study, but for the most part these 
excursions to New Eugland schools had been but 
tentative flashes on a background of hard work in 
his father's Hudson tannery : " From fifteen to 
twenty years of age he spent most of his time work- 
ing at the tanner's and currier's trade ; " and yet, 
naturally, ever looking here and there in the world 
to fiud his place. And that place, he came grad- 
ually to decide in his quiet firm way, was to be an 
important one. He felt he could do things ; he 
grew used to guiding and commanding men. He 
kept his own lonely home and was both foreman 
and cook in the tannery. His " close attention to 
business and success in its management, together 
with the way he got aloug with a company of men 
and boys, made him quite a favorite with the serious 
and more intelligent portion of older persons. This 
was so much the case and secured for him so many 
little notices from those he esteemed, that his vanity 
was very much fed by it, and he came forward to 
manhood quite full of self-conceit and self-confi- 
dence, notwithstanding his extreme bashfuluess. 
The habit so early formed of being obeyed rendered 
him in after life too much disposed to speak in an 
imperious or dictating way." 1 Thus he spoke of 
himself, but others saw only that peculiar conscious- 
ness of strength and quiet self-confidence, which 
characterized him later on. 
Just how far his failure to get a college training 
1 John Brown's Autobiography, Sanborn, p. 16. 


was a disappointment to John Brown one is not 
able to say with certainty. It looks, however, as 
if his attempts at higher training were rather the 
obedient following of the conventional path, by a 
spirit which would never have found in those fields 
congenial pasture. One suspects that the final de- 
cision that college was impossible came to this 
strong free spirit with a certain sense of relief — a re- 
lief marred only by the perplexity of knowing what 
ought to be the path for his feet, if the traditional 
way to accomplishment and distinction was closed. 

That he meant to be not simply a tanner was 
disclosed in all his doing and thinking. He under- 
took to study by himself, mastering common arith- 
metic and becomiug in time an expert surveyor. He 
"early in life began to discover a great liking to 
fine cattle, horses, sheep and swine." Meantime, 
however, the practical economic sense of his day 
and occupation pointed first of all to marriage, as 
his father, who had had three wives and sixteen or 
more children, was at pains to impress upon him. 
Nor was John Brown himself disinclined. He was 
he himself quaintly says, ' ' naturally fond of 

aales, and withal extremely diffident." One 
can easily imagine the deep disappointment of this 
grave young man in his first unfortunate love affair, 
when he felt with many another unloved heart, 
this old world through, ' ' a steady, strong desire to 

But youth is stronger even than a first love, 
and the widow who came to keep house for him had 


B grown daughter, a homely, good-hearted and 
simple-minded country lass ; the natural result was 
thai John Brown was married at the age of twenty 
t., Dianthe Lusk, whom he describes as "a remark- 
ably plain, but neat, industrious and economical 
of excellent character, earnest piety and prac- 
tical common sense." ' 
Then ensued a period of life which puzzles the 
! onlooker with its seemingly aimless changing 
character, its wandering restlessness, its planless 
wavering. Be was aow a land surveyor, now a 
tanner and now a lumber dealer; a postmaster, a 
wool grower, a stock-raiser, a shepherd, and a 
farmer. Be lived at Budson, at Franklin and at } 
Beld in ()lii<«: in Pennsylvania, New York, and 
Massachusetts And yet in all this wavering and 
wandering, there were certain great currents of 
growth, purpose and action. First of all he became 
the father of a family: in the eleven years from 
1821 i" 1832, seven children were bom — six sons 
and one girl. The patriarchal ideal of family life 
led down by his fathers, strengthened by his 
own saturation in Bebrew poetry, and by his owa 

_:rw np in his h \ 

son and daughter tell many little inci- 
dents illustrating his family government: "Our 
house, on a lane which connects two main roads, 
was built under father's direction in 1824, and still 
ds much as he buill it with the garden and 
orchard around it which he laid out. In the rear 
'John Brown's Autobiography, Sanborn, pp. lii, 17. 


of the house was then a wood, now gone, on a knoll 
leading down to the brook which supplied the tan- 
pits." ■ 

41 Father used to hold all his children while they 
were little at night and sing his favorite songs," 
says the eldest daughter. " The first recollection I 
have of father was being carried through a piece of 
woods on Sunday to attend a meeting held at a 
neighbor's house. After we had been at the house 
a little while, father and mother stood up and held 
us, while the minister put water on our faces. After 
we sat down father wiped my face with a brown 
silk handkerchief with yellow spots on it in dia- 
mond shape. It seemed beautiful to me and I 
thought how good he was to wipe my face with that 
pretty handkerchief. He showed a great deal of 
tenderness in that and other ways. He sometimes 
seemed very stern and strict with me, yet his tender- 
ness made me forget he was stern. . . . 

"When he would come home at night tired out 
with labor, he would before going to bed, ask some 
of the family to read chapters (as was his usual 
course night and morning) ; and would almost 
always say : ' Eead one of David's Psalms.' . . . 

"Whenever he and I were alone, he never failed 
to give me the best of advice, just such as a true and 
anxious mother would give a daughter. He always 
seemed interested in my work, and would come 
around and look at it when I was sewing or knit- 
ting ; and when I was learning to spin he always 
1 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, p. 34. 


praised me if In- saw that I was improving. He 
used to say: 'Try to do whatever you do in the 
v. r\ best possible manner.' " ' 

•• Father had a rule not to threaten one of his 
children. He commanded and there was obedi- 
ence," writes hiseldesl son. "My first apprentice- 
ship to the tanning business consisted of a three 
years 1 course at grinding bark with a blind horse. 
This, after months ami years, became slightly monot- 
onous. While the other children were out at play 
in the sunshine, where the birds were singing, I 
used to be tempted to let the old horse havearather 
Long rest, especially when father was absent from 
home; ami 1 would then join the others at their 
play. This subjected me to frecpieut admonitions 
and to some eorrections for eye-service as father 
termed it. . . . He finally grew tired of these 
frequent Blight admonitions for my laziness and 
other shortcomings, and concluded to adopt with me 
a sort of book-account something like this : 

•• John, I >!.. 

'• lor disobeying mother — 8 lashes. 
" For unfaithfulness at work — 3 lashes. 
■ For telling a lie — 8 lashes. 

" This account he showed to me from time to time. 
<>ii i certain Sunday morning he invited me to ac- 
company him from the house to the tannery, say- 
ing that he had concluded it was time for a settle- 

1 Both Brown in Sanborn, pp. 37-39. 


merit. We went into the upper or finishing room, 
and after a long and tearful talk over my faults, he 
again showed me my account, which exhibited a 
fearful footing up of debits. I had no credits or off- 
sets and was of course bankrupt. I then paid about 
one third of the debt, reckoned in strokes from a 
nicely prepared blue-beach switch, laid on ' mas- 
terly.' Then to my utter astonishment, father 
stripped off his shirt and seating himself on a block 
gave me the whip and bade me lay it on to his bare 
back. I dared not refuse to obey, but at first I did 
not strike hard. 'Harder,' he said, 'harder, 
harder ! ' until he received the balance of the ac- 
count. Small drops of blood showed on his back 
where the tip end of the tingling beach cut through. 
Thus ended the account and settlement, which was 
also my first practical illustration of the doctrine of 
the atonement." ' 

Even the girls did not escape whipping. "He 
used to whip me often for telling lies," says a 
daughter, " but I can't remember his ever punishing 
me but once when I thought I didn't deserve, and 
then he looked at me so stern that I didn't dare to 
tell the truth. He had such a way of saying, ' Tut, 
tut ! ' if he saw the first sign of a lie in us, that he 
often frightened us childreu. 

"When I first began to go to school," she con- 
tinues, "I found apiece of calico one day behind 
one of the benches — it was not large, but seemed 
quite a treasure to me, and I did not show it to any 
1 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 91-93. 


one until I got home. Father heard me then telling 
about it and said, 'Don't yon know what girl lost 
w r 1 told him I did not ' Well, when you go to 
Bchool to-morrow take it with you and find out if you 
can who Lost it. It is a trifling thing but always re- 
member that if you Bhould lose anything yon valued, 
no matter how small, you would want the per- 
son who found it to give it hack to yon.' " He 
"showed a great deal of tenderness to me," con- 
tinues the daughter, '"and one thing I always noticed 
was my lather's peculiar tenderness and devotion to 
his lather. In cold weather he always tucked the 
bedclothes around grandfather when he went to 
bed, and would get up in the night to ask him if he 
slept warm— always seeming so kind and loving to 
him that his example was beautiful to see." 

Especially were his sympathy and devotion evi- 
dent in sickness ; " When his children were ill 
With scarlet lever, he took care of us himself and 
if he Baw persons coming to the house, would go 
to the gate and meet them, not wishing them to 
come in. for fear of spreading the disease. 1 . . . 

When any of the family were sick he did not often 

trust watchers to care tor the sick one, bul sat up 

himself and was like a lender mother. At one time 

he v;it up every night for two weeks while mother 

was Sick, for tear he would oversleep if he went 
t<> bed, and then the fire would go out and she take 
eohl." • 
The death of one little girl shows how deeply he 
1 Kutii Brown in Sanborn, pp. 93-84. : J bid., p. 104. 


could be moved : "He spared no pains in doing 
all that medical skill could do for her together with 
the tenderest care and nursing. The time that he 
could be at home was mostly spent in caring for her. 
He sat up nights to keep an even temperature in 
the room, and to relieve mother from the constant 
care which she had through the day. He used to 
walk with the child and sing to her so much that 
she soon learned his step. When she heard him 
coming up the steps to the door, she would reach 
out her hands and cry for him to take her. When 
his business at the wool store crowded him so much 
lhat he did not have time to take her, he would 
steal around through the wood-shed into the kitchen 
to eat his dinner, and not go into the dining-room 
wher - she could see or hear him. I used to be 
charMed myself with his singing to her. He no- 
ticed a change in her one morniug and told us he 
thought she would not live through the day, and 
came home several times to see her. A little before 
noon he came home and looked at her and said, 
i She is almost gone.' She heard him speak, opened 
her eyes and put up her little wasted hands with 
such a pleading look for him to take her that he 
lifted her up from the cradle with the pillows she 
was lying on, and carried her until she died. He 
way very calm, closed her eyes, folded her hands 
anj/l laid her in her cradle. When she was buried 
fa/ther broke down completely and sobbed like a 
ciild." 1 

1 Ruth Brown in Sanborn, p. 44. 



Dianthe Lusk, John Brown's first wife, died in 
child-birth, August 10, 1832, having borne him 
sei en children, two of whom died very young. On 
July II, L833, now thirty-three years of age, he 
married Mary Ann Day, a girl of seventeen, only 
five years older than his oldest child. She bore 
him thirteen children, seven of whom died young. 
Thus seven sons and lour daughters grew to maturity 
and his wife, Mary, survived him twenty-five years. 
It was, all told, a marvelous family —large and 
well-disciplined, yet simple almost to poverty, and 
haul working. No sooner were the children grown 
than the wise father ceased to command and simply 
asked or advised. He wrote to his eldest sou when 
first he .started out in life in characteristic style : 

"I think the situation in which you have been 
placed by Providence at this early period o/ your 
life will afford to yourself aud others some little test 
of the sway yon may be expected to exert over 
minds in after life, and I am glad on the whole to 
have yon brought in some measure to the test in 
y<uir youth. W you cannot now go into a disorderly 
country school and gain its confidence aud esteem, 
and reduce it to good order and waken up the ener- 
gies and the very soul of every rational being in it 
-. of every mean, ill-behaved, ill-governed boy 
and ^iil that compose it, and secure the good- win 
<>f the parents, -then how are you to stimulate aspes 
to attempt a passage of the Alps? If you run wi\th 
footmen and they should weary you, how shouM 
you contend with horses! If in the land of peacp 



they have wearied you, then how will you do in the 
swelling of Jordan? Shall I answer the question 
myself? ' If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of 
God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not.' " l 

Not that Brown was altogether satisfied with his 
method of dealing with his children ; he said to his 
wife : "If the large boys do wrong, call them 
alone into your room and expostulate with them 
kindly, and see if you cannot reach them by a kind 
but powerful appeal to their honor. I do not claim 
that such a theory accords very well with my prac- 
tice ; I frankly confess it does not ; but I want your 
face to shine even if my own should be dark and 
cloudy." 3 

The impression which he made on his own family 
was marvelous. A granddaughter writes me of 
him, saying : " The attitude of John Brown's 
family and descendants has always been one of ex- 
ceeding reverence toward him. This speaks for 
something. Stern, unyielding, Puritanic, requiring 
his wife and daughters to dress in sober brown, dis- 
liking show and requesting that mourning colors be 
not worn for him — a custom which still obtains with 
us — laying the rod heavily upon his boys for their 
boyish pranks, he still was wonderfully tender — 
would invariably walk up hill rather than burden 
his horse, loved his family devotedly, and when 
sickness occurred, always installed himself as 

1 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1841, in Sanborn, p. 139. 

2 Letter to his wife, 1844, in Sanborn, p. 61. 


In his personal habits he was austere : severely 
clean, sparing in his food so far as t<> count butter 
an unnecessary luxury; once a moderate user of 
cider and wine — then a strong teetotaler ; a lover 
of horses with harassing scruples as to breeding 
race-horses. All this gave an air of Bedateness and 
maturity to John Brown's earlier manhood which 
belied his years. Having married at twenty, he 
was but twenty-one years older than his eldest sou ; 
and while his many children and his varied occu- 
pations made him seem prematurely aged, he 
was, in fact, during this period, during the years 
from twenty to forty, experiencing the great 
formative development of his spiritual life. 
This development was most interesting and fruit- 

He was not a man of books : he had Rollins' 
Ancient History, Josephus and Plutarch and lives of 
Napoleon and Cromwell. With these went Baxter's 
Saints' Best, Henry On Meekness and Pilgrim' 8 Prog- 
ress. "But above all others the Bible was his 
favorite volume and he had such perfect knowledge 
of it that when any person was reading he would 
correct the least mistake." ' 

Into John Brown's religious life entered two 
strong elements ; the sense of overruling inexorable 
fate, and the mystery and promise of death. He 
pored over the Old Testament until the freer 
religions skepticism of his earlier youth became 
more formal and straight. The brother of his first 
1 Kutli Brown in Sanborn, pp. 38-39. 


wife says, "Browu was an austere fellow," and 
when the young man called on the sister and 
mother Sundays, as his only holiday, Brown said 
to him : " Milton, I wish you would not make 
your visits here on the Sabbath." 

When the panic of 1837 nearly swept Brown from 
his feet, he saw behind it the image of the old 
Hebrew God and wrote his wife: "We all must 
try to trust in Him who is very gracious and full of 
compassion and of almighty power ; for those that 
do will not be made ashamed. Ezra the prophet 
prayed and afflicted himself before God, when him- 
self and the Captivity were in a strait and I have 
no doubt you will join with me uuder similar cir- 
cumstances. Don't get discouraged, any of you, but 
hope in God, and try all to serve Him with a perfect 
heart," l 

When Xapoleon III seized France and Kossuth 
came to America, Brown looked with lofty contempt 
on the u great excitement" which " seems to have 
taken all by surprise." " I have only to say in re- 
gard to those things, I rejoice in them from the full 
belief that God is carrying out His eternal purpose 
in them all." 2 

The gloom and horror of life settled early on 
John Brown. His childhood had had little formal 
pleasure, his young manhood had been serious and 
filled with responsibility, and almost before he 
himself knew the full meaning of life, he was try- 

1 Letter to his wife, 1839, in Sanborn, p. 69. 

2 Letter to bis wife, 1851, in Sanborn, p. 146. 


ing to teach it to his children. The iron of bitter- 
ness entered his soul with the coming of death, 
and a deep religious fear and forebodiug bore him 
down as it took away member after member of his 
family. In 1831 he lost a boy of four and in 1832 
his first wife died insane, and her infant sou was 
buried with her. In 1843 four children varying iu 
ages from one to nine years were swept away. Two 
baby girls went in 1846 and 1859 and an infant boy 
in 1852. The struggle of a strong man to hold his 
faith is found in his words, "God has seen fit to 
visit us with the pestilence and four of our number 
sleep iu the dust ; four of us that are still living 
have been more or less unwell. . . . This has 
been to us all a bitter cup indeed and we have 
drunk deeply ; but still the Lord reigneth and 
blessed be His holy name forever." Again three 
years later he writes his wife from the edge of a new- 
made grave : "I feel assured that notwithstanding 
that God has chastised us often and sore, yet He 
has not entirely withdrawn Himself from us nor 
forsaken us utterly. The sudden and dreadful 
manner in which He has seen fit to call our dear 
little Kitty to take her leave of us, is. I need not 
tell you how much, in my mind. But before Him 
I will bow my head in submission and hold my 
peace. ... I have sailed over a somewhat 
stormy sea for nearly half a century, and have ex- 
perienced enough to teach me thoroughly that I 
may most reasonably buckle up and be prepared 
for the tempest. Mary, let us try to maintain a 


cheerful self-command while we are tossing up and 
down, and let our motto still be action, action, — as 
we have but one life to live." ' 

His soul gropes for light in the great darkness : 
''Sometimes my imagination follows those of my 
family who have passed behind the scenes ; and I 
would almost rejoice to be permitted to make them 
a personal visit. I have outlived nearly half of all 
my numerous family, and I ought to realize that in 
any event a large proportion of my life is traveled 
over." 2 

Then there rose grimly, as life went on in its 
humdrum round of failure and trouble, the thought 
that in some way his own sin and shortcomings 
were bringing upon him the vengeful punishment 
of God. He laments the fact that he has done little 
to help others and the world : "I feel consider- 
able regret by turns that I have lived so many 
years and have in reality done so little to increase 
the amount of human happiness. I often regret 
that my manner is not more kind and affectionate 
to those I really love and esteem. But I trust my 
friends will overlook my harsh rough ways, when 
I cease to be in their way as an occasion of pain and 
unhappiness. " 3 

The death of a friend fills him with self-reproach : 
"You say he expected to die, but do not say how he 
felt in regard to the change as it drew near. I 

1 Letter to his wife, 1846, in Sanborn, p. 142. 

2 Letter to his daughter, 1847, in Sanborn, p. 142. 

3 Letter to his wife, 1844, in Sanborn, pp. 60-61. 


have to confess my unfaithfulness to my friend in 
regard to his most important interest. . . . 
When I think how very Little influence 1 have even 
tried to use with my numerous acquaintances and 

friends in turning their minds toward God aud 
heaven, I feel justly condemned as a most wicked 
and slothful servant ; and the more so as I have 
very seldom had any one refuse to listen when I 
earnestly called him to hear. I sometimes have 
dreadful reflections about having fled to go down to 
Tarshish." l 

Especially did the religious skepticism of his 
children, so like his own earlier wanderings, worry 
and dismay the growing man until it loomed before 
his vision as his great sin, calling for mighty 
atonement. He pleads with his older children con- 
tinually : 

" My attachments to this world have been very 
strong and divine Providence has been cutting me 
loose, one cord after another. Up to the present 
time notwithstanding I have so much to remind me 
that all ties must soon be severed, I am still clinging 
like those who have hardly taken a single lesson. I 
really hope some of my family may understand thai 
this world is not the home of man, and act in accord- 
ance. Why may I not hope this for you ! When I 
look forward as regards the religious prospects of my 
numerous family — the most of them. — 1 am forced 
to say, and feel too, that I have little — very little 
to cheer. That this should be so is. I perfectly well 
1 Letter to his father, 184G, iu Sauhorn, pp. 21, 22. 


understand, the legitimate fruit of my own plant- 
ing ; and that only increases my punishment. Some 
ten or twelve years ago I was cheered with the be- 
lief that my elder children had chosen the Lord to 
be their God and I relied much on their influence 
and example in atoning for my deficiency and bad 
example with the younger children. But where 
are we now ? Several have gone where neither a 
good nor a bad example from me will better their 
condition or prospects or make them worse. I will 
not dwell longer on this distressing subject but only 
say that so far as I have gone it is from no dis- 
position to reflect on any one but myself. I think 
I can clearly discover where I wandered from the 
road. How now to get on it with my family is 
beyond my ability to see or my courage to hope. 
God grant you thorough conversion from sin, and 
full purpose of heart to continue steadfast in His 
way through the very short season you will have to 
pass." x 

And again he writes : " One word in regard to 
the religious belief of yourself and the ideas of 
several of my children. My affections are too deep- 
rooted to be alienated from them ; but ' my gray hairs 
must go down in sorrow to the grave ' unless the 
true God forgive their denial and rejection of Him 
and open their eyes." 

And again : "I would fain hope that the spirit of 
God has not done striving in our hard hearts. I 
sometimes feel encouraged to hope that my sons 
better to his daughter, 1852, in Sanborn, p. 45. 


will give up their miserable delusions and believe 
in God and in His Son, our Saviour." ' 

All this is evidence of a striving soul, of a man to 
whom the world was a terribly earnest thiug. 
Here was neither the smug content of the man 
beyond religious doubt, nor the carelessness of the 
unharassed conscience. To him the world was a 
mighty drama. God was an actor in the play and 
so was John Brown. But just what his part was to 
be his soul in the long agony of years tried to know, 
and ever and again the chilling doubt assailed him 
lest he be unworthy of his place or had missed the 
call. Often the brooding masculine mind which 
demanded " Action ! Action ! " sought to pierce the 
mystic veil. His brother-in-law became a spirit- 
ualist, and he himself hearkened for voices from the 
Other Laud. Once or twice he thought he heard 
them. Did not the spirit of Dianthe Lusk guide 
him again and again in his perplexity ? He once 
said it did. 

And so this saturation in Hebrew prophecy, the 
chastisement of death, the sense of personal sin 
and shortcoming and the voices from nowhere, 
deepened, darkened and broadened his religious 
life. Yet with all this there went a peculiar 
common sense, a spirit of thrift and stiekling for 
detail, a homely shrewd attention to all the little 
facts of daily existence. Sometimes this prosaic 
tinkering with things burdened, buried and sub- 

1 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1852, and to his children, 1853, 
in Sanborn, pp. 151 and 155. 


merged the spiritual life and striving. There was 
nothing left except the commonplace, unstable 
tanner, but ever as one is tempted thus to fix his 
place in the world, there wells up surging spiritual 
life out of great unfathomed depths — the intel- 
lectual longing to see, the moral wistfulness of the 
hesitating groping doer. This was the deeper, 
truer man, although it was not the whole man. 
" Certainly I never felt myself in the presence of a 
stronger religious influence than while in this man's 
house," said Frederick Douglass in 1847. 



"And there were iu the same country shepherds abiding iu 
the held, keeping watch over their dock by uiyht. 

"And, Iu, the augel of the Lord came upon them, and the 
glory of the Lord shone round about them ; and tbey were sore 

The vastest physical fact in the life of John 
Brown was the Alleghany Mountains— that beauti- 
ful mass of hill and crag which guards the sombre 
majesty of the Maine coast, crumples the rivers od 
the rocky soil of New England, and rolls and haps 
down through busy Pennsylvania to the misty 
peaks of Carolina and the red foothills of Georgia. 
In the Alleghanies John Brown was all but born ; 
their forests were his boyhood wonderland ; in their 
villages he married his wives and begot his elan. 
On the sides of the Alleghanies he tended his sheep 
and dreamed his terrible dream. It was the mystic, 
awful voice of the mountains that Lured him to lib- 
erty, death and martyrdom within their wildest 
fastness, and in their bosom he sleeps his last sleep. 

So, too, in the development of the United States 
from the War of 1812 to the Civil War. it was the 
Alleghanies that formed the industrial centre of the 
land and lured young men to their waters and mines, 
valleys and factories, as they lured Johu Brown. 


His life from 1805 to 1854 was almost wholly spent 
on the western slope of the Alleghanies in a small 
area of Ohio and Pennsylvania, beginning eighty 
miles north of Pittsburg and ending twenty -five 
miles southeast of Cleveland. Here in a half-dozen 
small towns, but chiefly in Hudson, O., he worked 
in his young manhood to support his growing family. 
From 1819 to 1825, he was a tanner at Hudson. 
Then he moved seventy miles westward toward the 
crests of the Alleghanies in Pennsylvania, where he 
set up his tannery again and became a man of im- 
portance in the town. John Quincy Adams made 
him postmaster, the village school was held at his 
log house and the new feverish prosperity of the 
post-bellum period began to stir him as it stirred 
this whole western world. Indeed, the economic 
history of the land from the War of 1812 to the 
Civil War covers a period of extraordinary devel- 
opments — so much so that no man's life which fell 
in these years may be written without knowledge 
of and allowance for the battling of gigantic social 
forces and welding of material, out of which the 
present United States was designed. 

Three phases roughly mark these days : First, 
the slough of despond following the war, when Eng- 
land forced her goods upon us at nominal prices 
to kill the new-sprung infant industries ; secondly, 
the new protection from the competition of for- 
eign goods from 1816 to 1857, rising high in the 
prohibitory schedules of 1828, and falling to the 
lower duties of the forties and the free trade of the 


fifties, and stimulating irregularly and spasmod- 
ically but tremendously the cotton, woolen and 
iron manufactories ; and finally, the three whirl- 
winds of 1819, 1837-1839, and 1857, marking fright- 
ful maladjustments in the mushroom growth of our 
industrial life. 

John Brown, coming to full industrial manhood 
in the buoyant prosperity of 1825, soon began to 
sense the new spirit. Alter ten years' work in 
Pennsylvania, be again removed westward, nearer 
the projected transportation lines between East and 
West. He began to invest his surplus in land along 
the new canal routes, became a director in one of 
the rapidly multiplying banks and was currently 
rated to be worth $20,000 in L835. Buthis pros- 
perity, like that of his neighbors, and indeed, of the 
whole country, was partly fictitious, and built on a 
fast expanding credit which was far outstretching 
the rapid industrial development. Jackson's blind 
tinkering with banking precipitated the crisis. The 
storm broke in 1837. Over six hundred banks 
failed, ten thousand employees were thrown out of 
work, money disappeared and juices went down to 
a specie level. John Brown, his tannery and his 
laud speculations, were sucked into the maelstrom. 

The overthrow was no ordinary blow to a man of 
thirty-seven with eight children, who had already 
trod l lie ways of spiritual doubt and unrest. For 
three or four years he seemed to flounder almost 
hopelessly, certainly with no settled plan or out- 
look. 1 Ie bred race-horses till his conscience troubled 


him ; he farmed and did some surveying ; he in- 
quired into the commission business in various 
lines, and still did some tanning. Then gradually 
he began to find himself. He was a lover of ani- 
mals. In 1839 he took a drove of cattle to Con- 
necticut and wrote to his wife : "I have felt dis- 
tressed to get my business done and return ever 
since I left home, but know of no way consistent 
with duty but to make thorough work of it while 
there is any hope. Things now look more favorable 
than they have but I may still be disappointed." l 
His diary shows that he priced certain farms for sale, 
but especially did he inquire carefully into sheep- 
raising and its details, and eventually bought a 
flock of sheep, which he drove home to Ohio. 
This marked the beginning of a new occupation, 
that of shepherd, " being a calling for which in 
early life he had a kind of enthusiastic longing." 
He began sheep-farming near Hudson, keeping his 
own and a rich merchant's sheep and also buying 
wool on commission. 

This industry in the United States had at that 
time passed through many vicissitudes. The change 
from household to factory economy and the intro- 
duction of effective machinery had been slow, and 
one of the chief drawbacks was ever the small quan- 
tity of good wool. Consequently our chief supply 
came from England until the embargo and war cut 
off that supply and stimulated domestic manufac- 
ture. Between 1810 and 1815 the value of the 
1 Letter to his wife, 1839, in Sanborn, p. 68. 


manufacture increased five-fold, but after the war, 
when England sent goods over here below price, 
Americans rightly clamored for tariff protection. 
This they got, but their advantage was nearly up- 
set by the wool farmers who also got protection on 
the commodity, although less on low than on better 
qualities ; and it was the low grades that America 
produced. From 1816 to 1832 the tariff wall against 
wool and woolens rose steadily until it reached al- 
most prohibitive figures, save on the cheapest kind. 
In this way the wool manufacture had by 1S28 re- 
covered its war-time prosperity ; by 1840 the mills 
were sending out twenty and a half million dollars' 
worth of goods yearly, and nearly fifty millions by 
1860 despite the fact that meanwhile the tariff wall 
was weakening. Thus by 1841 when John Brown 
turned his attention to sheep-fanning, there was a 
large and growing demand for wool, especially of 
the better grades, and by the abolitiou of the Eng- 
lish tariff in 1824, there was even a chance of invad- 
ing England. 

Because, then, of his natural liking for the work, 
and the growing prosperity of the wool trade, John 
Brown chose this line of employment. But not for 
this alone. His spirit was longing lor air and space. 
He wanted to think and read ; time was ih ing and 
his life as yet had been little but a mean struggle 
for bread and that, too, only partially successful. 
Already he had had a vision of vast service. Al- 
ready he had broached the matter to friends aud 
family, and at the age of thirty-nine he entered his 


new life distinctly and clearly with "the idea 
that as a business it bid fair to afford him the 
means of carrying out his greatest or principal 
object." 1 

His first idea was to save enough from the wreck of 
his fortune to buy and stock a large sheep farm, and 
in accordance with his already forming plans as to 
Negro emancipation, he wanted this farm in or near 
the South. A chance seemed opening when through 
his father, a trustee of Oberlin College, he learned 
of the Virginia lands lately given that institution 
by Gerrit Smith, whom Brown came to know better. 
Oberlin College was dear to John Brown's heart, 
for it had almost from the beginning taken a strong 
anti-slavery stand. The titles to the Virginia land, 
however, were clouded by the fact of many squatters 
being in possession, which gave ample prospects 
of costly lawsuits. Brown wrote the trustees early 
in 1840, proposing to survey the lands for a uomi- 
nal price, provided he could be allowed to buy ou 
reasonable terms and establish his family there. 
He also spoke of school facilities which he proposed 
for Negroes as well as whites, according to a long 
cherished plan. The college records in April, 1840, 
say : "Communication from Brother John Brown 
of Hudson was presented and read by the secretary, 
containing a proposition to visit, survey and make 
the necessary investigation respecting boundaries, 
etc., of those lands, for one dollar per day and a 
moderate allowance for necessary expenses ; said 
1 Sanborn, p. 58. 


paper frankly expressing also his design of viewing 
the lands as a preliminary step to locating his family 
upon them, should the opening prove a favorable 
one ; whereupon, voted that said proposition be ac- 
ceded to, and that a commission and needful out- 
fit be furnished by the secretary and treasurer." ' 
The treasurer sent John Brown fifty dollars and 
wrote his father, as a trustee of Oberlin, com- 
mending the son's purpose and hoping ''for a fa- 
vorable issue both for him and the institution." He 
added, "Should he succeed in clearing up titles 
without difficulty or lawsuits, it would be easy, as 
it appears to me, to make provision for religious 
and school privileges and by proper efforts with the 
blessing of God, soon see that wilderness bud and 
blossom as the rose." 2 

Thus John Brown first saw Virginia and looked 
upon the rich and heavy land which rolls westward 
to the misty Blue Ridge. That he visited Harper's 
Ferry on this trip is doubtful but possible. The 
lands of Oberlin, however, lay two hundred miles 
westward in the foothills and along the valley of the 
Ohio. He wrote home from Ripley, Va., in April 
(for he had gone immediately) : " 1 like the coun- 
try as well as I expected, and its inhabitants rather 
better ; and I have seen the spot where if it be the 
will of Providence, I hope one day to live with my 
family. . . . Were the inhabitants as resolute 
and industrious as the Northern people and did 

'Records of Oberlin College, quoted in Sanborn, pp. 1.14-135. 
9 Levi Burnell to Owen Brown, 1840, in Sanborn, p. 135. 


they understand how to manage as well, they would 
become rich." ' 

By the summer of 1840 his work was accomplished 
with apparent success. He had about selected his 
dwelling-place, having u found on the right branch 
of Big Battle a valuable spring, good stone-coal, and 
excellent bottoms, good timber, sugar orchard, good 
hill land and beautiful situation for dwelling— all 
right. Course of this branch at the forks is south 
twenty-one degrees west from a beautiful white oak 
on which I marked my initials, 23d April." ' 

The Oberlin trustees in August, "voted, that the 
Prudential Committee be authorized to perfect ne- 
gotiations and convey by deed to Brother John 
Brown of Hudson, one thousand acres of our Vir- 
ginia land on the conditions suggested in the corre- 
spondence which has already transpired between 
him and the committee." 3 

Here, however, negotiations stopped, for the re- 
newal of the panic in 1839 overthrew all business 
calculations until 1842 and later, and forced John 
Brown to take refuge in formal bankruptcy iu 1842. 
This step, his son says, was wholly " owing to his 
purchase of land on credit— including the Hay- 
maker farm at Franklin, which he bought in con- 
nection with Seth Thompson, of Hartford, Trumbull 
County, Ohio, and his individual purchase of three 

1 Letter to his family, 1840, in Sanborn, p. 134. 
' MS. Diary, Boston Public Library. Vol. I. p. 65. 
3 Records of the Board of Trustees, Oberlin College, Aug. 
28, 1840, quoted in Sanborn, p. 135. 


rather large adjoining farms in Hudson. When he 
bought those farms, the rise in value of his place in 
Franklin was such that good judges estimated his 
property worth fully twenty thousand dollars. He 
was then thought to be a man of excellent business 
judgment and was chosen one of the directors of a 
bank at Cayahoga Falls." 1 Probably after the 
ciash of 1837, Brown hoped to extricate enough to 
buy land in Virginia and move there, but things 
went from bad to worse. Through endorsing a note 
for a friend, one of his best pieces of farm prop- 
erty was attached, put up at auction and bought 
by a neighbor. Brown, on legal advice, sought 
to retain possession, but was arrested and placed 
in the Akron jail. The property was lost. Legal 
bankruptcy followed in October, 1842, but Brown 
would not take the full advantage of it. He gave 
the New England Woolen Company of Eockville, 
Conn., a note declaring that " whereas I, John 
Brown, on or about the 15th day of June, A. ix 
1839, received of the New England Company (through 
their agent, George Kellogg, Esq.) the sum of twenty- 
eight hundred dollars for the purchase of wool for 
said company, and imprudently pledged the same 
for my own benefit and could not redeem it ; and 
whereas I have beeu legally discharged from my 
obligations by the laws of the United States — I 
hereby agree (in consideration of the great kind 
aess and tenderness of said company toward me in 
my calamity, and more particularly of the moral 
1 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, p. 87. 


obligation I am under to render to all their due) to 
pay the same and the interest thereon from time to 
time as divine Providence shall enable me to 
do." > 

He wrote Mr. Kellogg at the same time : " I am 
sorry to say that in consequence of the unforeseen 
expense of getting the discharge, the loss of an ox, 
and the destitute condition in which a new sur- 
render of my effects has placed me, with my numer- 
ous family, I fear this year must pass without my 
effecting in the way of payment what I have en- 
couraged you to expect." 2 He was still paying this 
debt when he died and left fifty dollars toward it in 
his will. 

It was a labyrinth of disaster in which the soul 
of John Brown was well-nigh choked and lost. 
We hear him now and then gasping for breath : 
" I have been careful and troubled with so much 
serving that I have in a great measure neglected 
the one thing needful, and pretty much stopped all 
correspondence with heaven." 3 He goes on to tell 
his son : " My worldly business has borne heavily 
and still does ; but we progress some, have our 
sheep sheared, and have done something at our 
haying. Have our tanning business going on in 
about the same proportion — that is, we are pretty 
fairly behind in business and feel that I must nearly 
or quite give up one or the other of the branches 

1 Agreement quoted in Sanborn, pp. 55-56. 

8 Letter to George Kellogg, 1844, in Sanborn, p. 56. 

8 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1843, in Sanborn, p. 58. 


for want of regular troops on whom to depend." 1 
He again tells his sou : "I would send yon some 
money, but I have not yet received a dollar from any 
source siuce you left. I should not be so dry of funds, 
could I but overtake my work ; " - and then follows 
the teeth-gritting word of a man whose grip is slip- 
ping : " But all is well ; all is well." 3 

Gradually matters began to mend. His tannery, 
perhaps never wholly abandoned, was started again 
and his wool interests increased. Early in 1N4-4 ''we 
seem to be overtaking our business in the tannery," 
he says, and " I have lately entered into a co-part- 
nership with Simon Perkins, Jr., of Akron, with a 
view of carrying on the sheep business extensively. 
He is to furnish all the feed and shelter for winter- 
ing, as a set-off against our taking all the care of 
the flock. All other expenses we are to share 
equally, and to divide the property equally." 
John Brown and his family were to move to Akron 
and he says: "I think that is the most comfort- 
able and the most favorable arrangement of my 
worldly concerns that I ever had and calculated to 
afford us more leisure for improvement by day and 
by night than any other. I do hope that God has 
enabled us to make it in merry t<> us. and not that 
He should send leanness into our souls. Our time 
will all be at our own command, except the care of 
the rloek. We have nothing to do with providing 
for them in the winter, excepting harvesting 

1 Letter to John Browu, Jr., 1843, iu Sauborn, pp. 58-59. 
»JKtf., p. 59. i Ibid., p. 59. 


rutabagas and potatoes. This I think will be con- 
sidered no mean alliance for our family and I most 
earnestly hope they will have wisdom given to make 
the most of it. It is certainly endorsing the poor 
bankrupt and his family, three of whom were but 
recently in Akron jail in a manner quite unex- 
pected, aud proves that notwithstanding we have 
been a company of 'belted knights,' our industrious 
and steady endeavors to maintain our integrity and 
our character have not been wholly overlooked." l 

Indeed, the offer seemed to John Brown a flood 
of light : a beloved occupation with space and time 
to think, to study and to dream, to get acquainted 
with himself and the world after the long struggle 
for bread and butter and the deep disappointment 
of failure almost in sight of success. By July, 
1844, Brown was reporting 560 lambs raised and 
2,700 pounds of wool, for which he had been offered 
fifty-six cents a pound, showing it to be of high 
grade. He began closing up his tanning business. 
' ' The general aspect of our worldly affairs is favor- 
able. Hope we do not entirely forget God," 2 he 

His daughter says : "Asa shepherd, he showed 
the same watchful care over his sheep. I remember 
one spring a great many of his sheep had a disease 
called 'grub in the head,' and when the lambs 
came, the ewes would not own them. For two 
weeks he did not go to bed, but sat up or slept an 

1 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1844, in Sanborn, pp. 59-60. 
'Ibid., p. 61. 


hour or two at a time in his chair, aud then would 
take a lantern, go out and catch the ewes, and hold 
them while the lambs sacked. He would very often 
bring in a little dead-looking lamb, and put it in 
warm water and rub it until it showed signs of life, 
and then wrap it in a warm blanket, feed it warm 
milk with a teaspoon, and work over it with such 
tenderness that in a few hours it would be capering 
around the room. Oue Monday morning 1 had just 
got my white clothes in a nice warm suds in the 
wash-tub, when he came in bringing a little dead- 
lookiug lamb. There seemed to be no sigu of life 
about it. Said he, ' Take out your clothes quick, 
and let me put this lamb in the water.' I felt a 
little vexed to be hindered with my washing, and 
told him I didn't believe he could make it live ; but 
in an hour or two he had it running around the 
room, aud calling loudly for its mother. The next 
year he came from the barn and said to me, ' Ruth, 
that lamb I hindered you with when you were 
washing, I have just sold for one hundred dollars.' 
It was a pure-blooded Saxony lamb." l 

By 1845 wealth again seemed all but within the 
grasp of John Brown. The country was entering 
fully upon one of the most remarkable of many note- 
worthy periods of industrial expansion and the 
situation in the wool business was particularly 
favorable. The flock of Saxony sheep owned by 
Perkins and Brown was " said to be the finest and 
most perfect flock in the United States aud worth 
1 Ruth Browu iu JSauborn, p. 95. 


about $20,000." The only apparent clanger to the 
prosperity of the western wool-growers was the 
increasing power of the manufacturers and their 
desire for cheap wool. The tariff on woolen goods 
was lower than formerly, but until war-time, re- 
mained at about twenty to thirty per cent, ad 
valorem, which afforded sufficient protection. The 
tariff on cheap wool decreased until, in 1857, all 
wool costing less than twenty cents a pound came 
in free and in 1854 Canadian wool of all grades 
was admitted without duty. This meant practi- 
cally free trade in wool. The manufacturers of 
hosiery and carpets increased and the demand for 
domestic wool was continually growing. There 
were, however, many difficulties in realizing just 
prices for domestic wool : it was bought up by the 
manufacturer's agents, dealing with isolated, un- 
trained farmers and offering the lowest prices ; it 
was bought in bulk ungraded and as wool differs 
enormously in quality and price, the lowest grade 
often set the price for all. No sooner did John 
Brown grasp the details of the wool business than 
he began to work out plans of amelioration. And 
he conceived of this amelioration not as meas- 
ured simply in personal wealth. To him business 
was a philanthropy. We have not even to-day 
reached this idea, but, urged on by the Social- 
ists, we are faintly perceiving it. Brown proposed 
nothing Quixotic or unpractical, but he did pro- 
pose a more equitable distribution of the returns 
of the whole wool business between the producers of 


the raw material and the manufacturers. He pro- 
ceeded first to arouse and organize the wool-growers. 
He traveled extensively among the farmers of 
Pennsylvania and Ohio. "I am out among the 
wool-growers, with a view to next summer's oper- 
ations," he writes March l>4, 18-46 j " our plan seems 
to meet with general favor." And then thinking 
of greater plans he adds : " Our unexampled success 
in minor affairs might be a lesson to us of what 
unity and perseverance might do in things of some 
importance." ' For what indeed were sheep as 
compared with men, and money weighed with 
liberty I 

The plan outlined by Brown before a convention 
of wool-growers involved the placing of a perma- 
nent selling agent in the East, the grading and 
warehousing of the wool, and a pooling of profits 
according to the quality of the fleece. The final 
result was that in 1846 Perkins and Brown sent 
out a circular, saying : " The undersigned, commis- 
sion wool -merchants, wool-graders, and exporters, 
have completed arrangements for receiving wool of 
growers and holders, and for grading and selling 
the same for cash at its real value, when quality and 
condition are considered." s 

John Brown was put in special charge of this 
business while his son ran the sheep farm in Ohio. 
The idea underlying this movement was excellent 
and it was soon started successfully. John Brown 

1 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1846, in Sanborn, p. 62. 

2 Circular issued in 1846, quoted in Sanborn, p. 63. 


went to live in Springfield with his family. In 
December, 1846, he writes: "We are getting 
along with our business slowly, but prudently, I 
trust, and as well as we could reasonably expect under 
all the circumstances ; and so far as we can discover, 
we are in favor with this people, and also with the 
many we have had to do business with." ' 

In two weeks during 1847 he has "turned about 
four thousand dollars' worth of wool into cash since 
I returned ; shall probably make it up to seven 
thousand by the 16th." 2 

Yet great as was this initial prosperity, the busi- 
ness eventually failed and was practically given up 
in 1851. Why? It was because of one of those 
strange economic paradoxes which bring great 
moral questions into the economic realm ; — ques- 
tions which we evaded yesterday and are trying to 
evade to-day, but which we must answer to-mor- 
row. Here was a man doing what every one knew 
was for the best interests of a great industry, — 
grading and improving the quality of its raw ma- 
terial and systematizing its sale. His methods 
were absolutely honest, his technical knowledge was 
unsurpassed and his organization efficient. Yet a 
combination of manufacturers forced him out of 
business in a few months. Why 1 The ordinary 
answer of current business ethics would be that 
John Brown was unable to "corner" the wool 
market against the manufacturers. But this he 

1 Letter to Owen Brown, 1846, in Sanborn, p. 22. 

3 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1847, in Sanborn, p. 143. 


never tried to do. Such a policy of financial free- 
booting never occurred to him, and he would have 
repelled it indignantly if it had. He wished to 
force neither buyer nor seller. He was offering 
worthy goods at a fair price and making a just re- 
turn for them. That this system was best for the 
whole trade every one knew, yel it was weak. It 
was weak in the same sense that the merchants of 
the Middle Ages wore weak against the lawless on- 
slaughts of robber barous. Any compact organiza- 
tion of manufacturers could force John Brown to 
take lower prices for his wool — that is, to allow the 
farmer a smaller proportion of the profit of the 
business of clothing human beings. In other 
words, well-organized industrial highwaymen could 
hold up the wool farmer and make him hand over 
some of his earnings. But John Brown knew, as 
did, indeed, the manufacturing gentlemen of the 
road that the farmers were getting only moderate 
returns. It was the millinen who made fortunes. 
Now it was possible to oppose the highwaymen's 
demand by counter organization like the Middle- 
Age Hanse. The difficulty here would be to bring 
all the threatened parties into an organization. 
They could be forced in by killing off or starving 
out the ignorant or recalcitrant. This is the modern 
business method. Its result is arraying two indus- 
trial armies in a battle whose victims are paupers 
and prostitutes, and whose victory comes by com- 
promising, whereby a half-dozen millionaires are 
born to the philanthropic world. 


On the other hand, to offer no opposition to or- 
ganized economic aggression is to depend on the 
simple justice of your cause in an industrial world 
that recognizes no justice. It means industrial 
death and that was what it meant to John Brown. 
The Tariff of 1846 had cut the manufacturers' 
profits. The growing woolen trade would more 
than recoup them in a few years, but they "were 
not in business for their health " ; that is, they rec- 
ognized no higher moral law than money-making 
and therefore determined to keep present profits 
where they were, and add possible future profits to 
them. They continued their past efforts to force 
down the price of wool and got practical free trade 
in wool by 1854. Meantime local New England 
manufacturers began to boycott John Brown. They 
expected him to see his danger and lower his prices 
on the really fine grades he carried. He was ob- 
durate. His prices were right and he thought jus- 
tice counted in the wool business. The manufac- 
turers objected. He was not playing according 
to the rules of the game. He was, as a fellow 
merchant complained, "no trader: he waited until 
his wools were graded and then fixed a price ; if this 
suited the manufacturers they took the fleeces ; if 
not, they bought elsewhere. . . . Yet he was a 
scrupulously honest and upright man — hard and in- 
flexible, but everybody had just what belonged to 
him. Brown was in a position to make a fortune 
and a regular bred merchant would have done so." l 
1 E. C. Leonard in Sanborn, p. 65. 


Thereupon the combination turned the screws a 
little closer. Brown's clerks were bribed, and other 
"competitive" methods resorted to. But Brown 
was indexible and serene. The prospect of great 
wealth did not tempt but rather repelled him. In- 
deed this whole warehouse business, successful aud 
important as it had hitherto been, was drawing him 
away from his plans of larger usefulness. It took 
his time aud thought, and his surroundings more 
and more made it mere money-getting. The manu- 
facturers were after dollars, of course ; his clients 
were waiting simply for returns, and his partner 
was ever anxiously scanning the balance-sheet. 
This whole aspect of things more and more dis- 
quieted Brown. He therefore writes soberly in 
December, 1847 : 

"Our business seems to be going on middling well 
and will not probably be any the worse for the 
pinch in the money concerns. I trust that getting 
or losing money does not entirely engross our atten- 
tion ; but I am sensible that it quite occupies too 
large a share in it. To get a little property together 
to leave, as the world would have done, is really a 
low mark to be firing at through life. 

" ' A nobler toil may I sustain, 
A nobler satisfaction gain.' " l 

The next year, however, came a severe money 
pressure, "one of the severest known for many 
1 Letter to Owen Brown, 1847, in Sanborn, pp. 23-24. 


years. The consequence to us has been, that some 
of those who have contracted for wool of us are as 
yet unable to pay for and take the wool as they 
agreed, aud we are on that account unable to close 
our business." l This brought a fall in the price 
and complaint on all sides : on the part of the wool- 
growers, because their profits were not continuing 
to rise ; and from manufacturers who demurred 
more and more clamorously at the prices demanded 
by Brown. 

He writes early in 1849: "We have been sell- 
ing wool middling fast of late, on contract, at 1847 
prices;" but he adds, sceutiug the coming storm : 
" We have in this part of the country the strongest 
proofs that the great majority have made gold their 
hope, their only hope." 2 

Evideutly a crisis was approachiug. The boycott 
against the firm was more evident and the im- 
patience of wool farmers growing. The latter kept 
calliug for advances on their stored wool. If they 
had been willing to wait quietly, there was still a 
chauce, for Perkins and Brown had undoubtedly 
the best in the American market aud as good as the 
better Euglish grades. But the growers were 
restive and in some cases poor. The result was 
shown in the balance-sheet of 1849. Brown had 
bought 130,000 pounds of wool and paid for it, in- 
cluding freight and commissions, $57,884.48. His 
sales had amounted to $49,902.67, leaving him 

1 Letter to Owen Brown, 1849, in Sanborn, p. 25. 

2 Ibid. 


$7,981.81 short, and 200,000 pounds of wool in the 
warehouse. 1 Perkins afterward thought Brown was 
stubborn. It would have been easily possible for 
them to have betrayed the growers and accepted a 
lower price. Their commissions would have been 
larger, the manufacturers were friendly, and the 
sheepmen too scattered and poor to protest. In- 
deed, low prices and cash pleased them better than 
waiting. But John Brown conceived that a prin- 
ciple was at stake. He knew that his wool was 
worth even more than he asked. He knew that 
English wool of the same grade sold at good prices. 
Why not, then, he argued, take the wool to Eng- 
land and sell it, thus opening up a new market for a 
great American product f Then, too, he had other 
and, to him, better reasons for wishing to see 
Europe. He decided quickly and in August, 1849, 
he took his 200,000 pounds of wool to England. 
He had graded every bit himself, and packed it in 
new sacks : ' ' The bales were firm, round, hard and 
true, almost as if they had been turned out in a 
lathe." 2 

In this English venture John Brown showed one 
weakness of his character : he did not know or rec- 
ognize the subtler twistings of human nature. He 
judged if ever from his own simple, char standpoint 
and so had a sort of prophetic vision of the vaster 
and the eternal aspects of the human soul. But of 

1 Memoranda by John Brown, in Sanborn, p. 65 ; Red path, 
p. 66. 

2 Sanborn, pp. 67-68. 


its kinks and prejudices, its little selfishnesses and 
jealousies aud dishonesties, he knew nothing. They 
always came to him as a sort of surprise, uncal- 
culated for and but partially comprehended. He 
could fight the devil and his angels, and he did, but 
he could not cope with the million misbirths that 
hover between heaven and hell. 

Thus to his surprise he found his calculations all 
at fault in England. His wool was good, his knowl- 
edge of the technique of sorting and grading un- 
surpassed and yet because Englishmen believed it 
was not possible to raise good wool in America, 
they obstinately refused to take the evidence of 
their own senses. They " seemed highly pleased " ; 
they said that they ' ' had never seen superior 
wools" and that they "would see me again" but 
they did not offer decent prices. Then, too, Ameri- 
can woolen men had long arms and they were tipped 
with gold. They fingered busily across the seas 
about this prying Yankee, and English wool- 
growers responded very willingly, so that John 
Brown acknowledged mournfully late in September, 
"I have a great deal of stupid obstinate preju- 
dice to contend with, as well as conflicting inter- 
ests both in this country and from the United 
States." J In the end the wool was sacrificed at 
prices fifty per cent, below its American value and 
some of it actually resold in America. The Ameri- 
can woolen men chuckled audibly : 

"A little incident occurred in 1850. Perkins 
1 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1849, Sanborn, p. 73. 


and Brown's clip had come forward, and it was 
beautiful ; the little compact Saxony fleeces were as 
nice as possible. Mr. Musgrave of the Northampton 
Woolen Mill, who was making shawls and broad- 
cloths, wanted it, and offered Uncle John [Brown] 
sixty cents a pound for it. ' No, I am going to send 
it to London.' Musgrave, who was a Yorkshire 
man, advised Brown not to do it, for American wool 
would not sell in London, — not being thought good. 
He tried hard to buy it, but without avail. . . . 
Some little time after, long enough for the purpose, 
news came that it was sold in London, but the price 
was not stated. Musgrave came into my counting- 
room one forenoon all aglow, and said he wanted 
me to go with him, — he was going to have some 
fun. Then he went to the stairs and called Uncle 
John, and told him he wanted him to go over to the 
Hartford depot and see a lot of wool he had bought. 
So Uncle John put on his coat, and we started. 
When we arrived at the depot, and just as we were 
going into the freight-house, Musgrave says : 'Mr. 
Brune, I want you to tell me what you think of this 
lot of wull that stands me in just fifty-two cents a 
pund.' One glance at the bags was enough. Uncle 
John wheeled, and I can see him now as he ' put 
back ' to the lofts, his brown coat-tails floating be- 
hind him, and the nervous strides fairly devour- 
ing the way. It was his own clip, for which Mus- 
grave, some three months before, had offered him 
sixty cents a pound as it lay in the loft. It had 
been graded, new bagged, shipped by steamer to 


Loudon, sold, and reshipped, and was in Springfield 
at eight cents in the pound less than Musgrave 
offered." 1 

It was a great joke and it made American woolen 
men smile. 

This English venture was s, death-blow to the 
Perkins and Brown wool business. It was not en- 
tirely wound up until four years later, but in 1849 
Brown removed his family from Springfield up to 
the silent forests of the farthest Adirondacks, where 
the great vision of his life unfolded itself. It was, 
however, not easy for him to extricate himself from 
the web wound about him. Two currents set for 
his complete undoing : the wool -growers whom he 
had over-advanced and who did not deliver the 
promised wool ; and certain manufacturers to whom 
the firm had contracted to deliver this wool which 
they could not get. Claims and damages to the 
amount of $40,000 appeared and some of these got 
into court ; while, on the other hand, the scattered 
and defaulting wool-growers were scarcely worth 
suing by the firm. Long drawn-out legal battles 
ensued, intensely distasteful to Brown's straightfor- 
ward nature and seemingly endless. Collections and 
sales continued hard and slow and Perkins began to 
get restless. John Brown sighed for the older and 
simpler life of his young manhood with its love and 
dreams : "I can look back to our log cabin- at the 
centre of Richfield with a supper of porridge and 
johnny cake as a place of far more interest to me 
1 E. C. Leonard, in Sanborn, pp. 67-68. 


than the Massasoit of Springfield." l He says to his 
children on the Ohio sheep farm: "I am much 
pleased with the reflection that you are all three 
once more together, and all engaged in the same 
calling that the old patriarchs followed. I will say 
but one word more on that score, and that is taken 
from their history : ' See that ye fall not out by the 
way ; and all will be exactly right in the end.' I 
should think matters were brightening a little in 
this direction in regard to our claims, but I have 
not yet been able to get any of them to a final issue. 
I think, too, that the prospect for the fine wool 
business rather improves. What burdens me most 
of all is the apprehension that Mr. Perkins expects 
of me in the way of bringing matters to a close, what 
no living man can possibly bring about in a short 
time and that he is getting out of patience and be- 
coming distrustful." 2 

Meantime Brown was racing from court to court 
in Boston, New York, Troy and elsewhere, seeking 
to settle up the business and know where he stood 
financially, and, above all, to keep peace with and 
do justice to his partner. Cases were now settled 
and now appealed and the progress was "miserably 
slow. My journeys back and forth this winter have 
been very tedious." Then, too, his mind was else- 
where. The nation wasin turmoil and so was he. At 
the time Anthony Burns was arrested in Huston he 
was advising with his lawyers al 'Troy. Redpathsays : 

1 Letter to his wife, 1850, in Sanborn, p. 107. 

2 Letter to his children, 1850, in Sanborn, pp. 75-76. 


"The morning after the news of the Burns affair 
reached here, Brown went at his work immediately 
after breakfast ; but in a few minutes started up 
from his chair, walked rapidly across the room several 
times, then suddenly turned to his counsel, aud said, 
1 I am going to Boston. ' ' Goiug to Boston ! ' said the 
astonished lawyer. 'Why do you want to go to 
Boston % ' Old Brown continued walking vigorously, 
and replied, ' Anthony Burns must be released, or I 
will die in the attempt.' The counsel dropped his 
pen in consternation. Then he began to remonstrate ; 
told him the suit had been in progress a long time, 
and a verdict just gained. It was appealed from, 
and that appeal must be answered in so many days, 
or the whole labor would be lost ; and no one was 
sufficiently familiar with the whole case except him- 
self. It took a long earnest talk with old Brown to 
persuade him to remain. His memory and acute- 
ness in that long and tedious lawsuit — not yet ended, 
I am told — often astonished his counsel. While 
here he wore an entire suit of snuff-colored cloth, 
the coat of a decidedly Quakerish cut in collar and 
skirt. He wore no beard, and was a clean-shaven, 
scrupulously neat, well-dressed, quiet old gentleman. 
He was, however, notably resolute in all that he 
did." » 

He spent the time not taken up by his lawsuits at 

Akron, and in the manner of a patriarch of old, 

temporarily brought his family back to Ohio. "I 

wrote you last week that the family is on the road : 

1 Redpath, p. 58. 


the boys are driving on the cattle, and iny wife and 
little girls are at Oneida depot waiting for me to go 
on with them." l He returned to farming again with 
interest, taking prizes for his stock at state fairs 
and raising many sheep, lie had 350 lambs in 1858 
aud Perkins is urging him to continue with him, but 
things changed and on January 25, 1854, he writes : 
"This world is not yet freed from real malice and 
envy. It appears to be well settled now that we go 
back to North Elba in the spring. I have had a 
good-natured talk with Mr. Perkins about going 
away and both families are now preparing to earry 
out that plan." ■ His departure was delayed a year, 
but he was finally able to remove with a little surplus 
on hand. 

Back then to the crests and forests of the Alleghaniea 
came John Brown at the age of fifty-four. "A tall, 
gaunt, dark-complexioned man ... a grave, 
serious man . . . with a marked countenance 
and a natural dignity of manner,— that dignity which 
is unconscious, and comes from a superior habit of 
mind." 5 

'Letter to his son, in Sanborn, p. 145. 

' Letter to Lis children, 1854, in Sanborn, p. 155. 

3 K. H. Dana, in the Atlantic Monthly, 1871. 


" Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them." 

Theee was hell in Hayti in the red waning of the 
eighteenth century, in the days when John Brown 
was born. The dark wave of the French Revolution 
had raised the brilliant sinister Xapoleon to its crest 
Already he had stretched greedy arms toward 
American empire in the rich vale of the Mississippi, 
when in a flash, out of the dirt and sloth and slavery 
of the West Indies, the black inert and heavy cloud 
of African degradation writhed to sudden life and 
lifted up the dark figure of Toussaint. Ten thou- 
sand Frenchmen gasped and died in the fever- 
haunted hills, while the black men in sudden frenzy 
fought like devils for their freedom and won it. 
Napoleon saw his gateway to the ^Mississippi closed ; 
armed Europe was at his back. What was this wild 
and empty America to him, anyway? So he sold 
Louisiana for a song and turned to the shame of 
Trafalgar and the glory of Austerlitz. 

John Brown was born just as the shudder of Hayti 
was running through all the Americas, and from his 
earliest boyhood he saw and felt the price of repres- 
sion — the fearful cost that the western world was 
paying for slavery. From his earliest boyhood he 


had dimly conceived, and the conception grew with 
his growing, that the cost of liberty was less than 
the price of repression. Perhaps he was so near the 
humanistic enthusiasm of the French Revolution 
that he undervalued the cost of liberty. But yet he 
was right, for it was scarce possible to overrate the 
price of repression. True, in these latter days men 
and women of the South, and honest ones, too, have 
striven feverishly to paint Negro slavery in bright 
alluring colors. They have told of childlike devo- 
tion, faithful service and light-hearted irresponsibil- 
ity, in the fine old aristocracy of the plantation. 
Much they have said is true. But when all is said 
and granted, the awful fact remains congealed in law 
and indisputable record that American slavery was 
the foulest and filthiest blot on nineteenth century 
civilization. As a school of brutality and human 
suffering, of female prostitution aud male debauch- 
ery ; as a mockery of marriage and defilement of 
family life ; as a darkening of reason, and spiritual 
death, it had no parallel in its day. It took millions 
upon millions of men — human men and lovable, 
light and liberty-loving children of the sun, and 
threw them with no sparing of brutality into one 
rigid mold: humble, servile, dog-like devotion, sur- 
render of body, mind and soul, and unaspiring ani- 
mal content — toward this ideal the slave might 
strive, and did. Wonderful, even beautiful exam- 
ples of humble service he brought forth and made 
the eternal heritage of men. But beyond this there 
was nothing. All were crushed to this mold and of 


theiu that did not fit, the sullen were cowed, the 
careless brutalized and the rebellious killed. Four 
thiugs make life worthy to most men : to move, to 
know, to love, to aspire. None of these was for 
Negro slaves. A white child could halt a black man 
on the highway and send him slinking to his kennel. 
No black slave could legally learn to read. And 
love ? If a black slave loved a lass, there was not a 
white man from the Potomac to the Eio Graudethat 
could not prostitute her to his lust. Did the proud 
sons of Virginia and Caroliua stoop to such bestial 
tyranny ? Ask the grandmothers of the two million 
mulattoes that dot the states to-day. Ask the suf- 
fering and humiliated wives of the master caste. If 
a Negro married a wife, there was not a master in 
the land that could not take her from him. 

John Brown's father, Owen Brown, saw such a 
power stretched all the way from Virginia to Con- 
necticut. A Southern slaveholding minister, Thom- 
son by name, had brought his slaves North and 
preached in the local church. Then he attempted 
to take the unwilling chattels back South. Of what 
followed, Owen Brown says : "There was some ex- 
citement amongst the people, some in favor and 
some against Mr. Thomson j there was quite a de- 
bate, and large numbers to hear. Mr. Thomson 
said he should carry the woman and children, 
whether he could get the man or not. An old 
man asked him if he would part man and wife, 
contrary to their minds. He said : ' I married 
them myself, and did not enjoin obedience on the 


woman.' " Owen Brown added, "Ever since I have 
been an Abolitionist." ' 

If a slave begat children, there was not a law 
south of the Ohio that could stop their eventual 
sale to any brute with the money. Aspiration in 
a slave was suspicious, dangerous, fatal. For him 
there was no inviting future, no high incentive, no 
decent reward. The highest ambition to which a 
black woman could aspire was momentarily to sup- 
plant the white man's wife as a concubine ; and 
the ambition of black men ended with the carelessly 
tossed largess of a kinglet. To reduce the slave to 
this groveling, what was the price which the 
master paid? Tyranny, brutality, and lawlessness 
reigned and to some extent still reign in the South. 
The sweeter, kindlier feelings were blunted : broth- 
ers sold sisters to serfdom and fathers debauched 
even their own dark daughters. The arrogant, 
strutting bully, who shot his enemy and thrashed 
his dogs and his darkies, became a living, moving 
ideal from the cotton-patch to the United States 
Senate from 1808 onward. No worthy art nor 
literature, nor even the commerce of daily life could 
thrive in this atmosphere. 

Society there was of a certain type — courtly and 
lavish, but quarrelsome ; seductive and lazy ; with a 
half Oriental sheen and languor spread above 
peculiar poverty' of resource ; a fineness and 
delicacy in certain details, coupled with coarseness 
and self-indulgence in others ; a mingling of the 
1 Owen Brown, in Sanborn, pp. 10-11. 


sexes only in play and seldom in work, with its 
concomitant tendency toward seclusion and help- 
lessness among its whiter women. Withal a society 
strong indeed, but wholly without vigor or inven- 

It was not all as dark as it might have been. 
Human life, thank God, is never as bad as it may 
be, but it is too often desperately bad. Nor do 
men easily realize how bad life about them is. The 
full have scant sympathy with the empty, — the rich 
know all the faults of the poor, and the master sees 
the horrors of slavery with unseeing eyes. True, 
there were flashes of light and louging here and 
there — noble sacrifice, eager help, determined 
eraancipatiou. But all this was local, spasmodic 
aud exceptional. The unrelenting dead brutality 
of human bondage to a thousand tyrants, petty 
wills and caprice was the rule from Florida to 
Missouri and from the Mississippi to the sea. Un- 
der it the wretched writhed like some great black 
and stricken beast. The flaming fury of their mad 
attempts at vengeance echoes all down the blood- 
swept path of slavery. In Jamaica they upturned 
the government and harried the land until England 
crept and sued for peace. In the Danish Isles they 
started a whirlwind of slaughter ; in Hayti they 
drove their masters into the sea ; and in South 
Carolina they rose twice like a threatening wave 
against the terror-stricken whites, but were be- 
trayed. Such outbreaks here and there foretold 
the possibility of coordinate action and organic de- 


velopment. To be sure, the successful outbreaks 
were few aud spasmodic ; but the flare of Ilayti 
lighted the night aud made the world remember 
that these, too, were meu. 

Amoug these black meu, changes significant 
aud momeutous, were comiug. The native boru 
Africans were passiug away, with their native 
tougues aud their wild customs. Such were the 
slaves of Johu Brown's father's time. "When I 
was a child four or five years old," writes Owen 
Brown, "one of the nearest neighbors had a slave 
that was brought from Guinea. In the year 1770' 
my father was called into the army at New York, 
and left his work uudone. Iu August, our good 
neighbor, Captain John Fast, of West Simsbury. lei 
my mother have the labor of his slave to plough a 
few days. I used to go out into the field with this 
slave, — called Sam, — and he used to carry me on 
his back, aud I fell iu love with him. He worked 
but a few days, aud went home sick with the pleu- 
risy, and died very suddenly. When told that he 
would die, he said he should go to Guiuea. and 
wanted victuals put up for the journey. As I 
recollect, this was the first funeral I ever attended 
in the days of my youth." 

Such slaves and others went into the Revolution- 
ary army and three thousand of them fought for 
their masters' freedom. After the war, their 
bravery, the upheaval in Hayti, and the new en- 
thusiasm for human rights, led to a wave of eman- 
cipation which started iu Vermont during the 


Bevolution and swept through New England and 
Pennsylvania, ending finally in New York and 
New Jersey early in the nineteenth century. This 
freeing of the Northern slaves led to new complica- 
tions, for in the South, after a hesitating pause, the 
opposite course was pursued and the thumbscrews 
were applied ; the plantations were isolated, the 
roads were guarded, the refractory were whipped 
till they screamed and crawled, and the ringleaders 
were lynched. A long awful process of selection 
chose out the listless, ignorant, sly, and humble 
and sent to heaven the proud, the vengeful and the 
daring. The old African warrior spirit died away 
of violence and a broken heart. 

Thus the great black mass of Southern slaves 
were cowed, but they were not conquered. 
Stretched as they were over wide miles of land, and 
isolated ; guarded in speech and religion ; peaceful 
and ligh t-hearted as was their nature, st ill the fire of 
liberty burned in them. In Louisiana and Tennes- 
see and twice in Virginia they raised the night cry 
of revolt, and once slew fifty Virginians, holding 
the state for weeks at bay there in those same 
Alleghanies which John Brown loved and listened 
to. On the ships of the sea they rebelled and 
murdered ; to Florida they fled and turned like 
beasts on their pursuers till whole armies dislodged 
them and did them to death in the everglades ; and 
again and again over them and through them 
surged and quivered a vast unrest which only the 
eternal vigilance of the masters kept down. Yet 


the fear of that great bound beast was ever there— 
a nameless, haunting dread thai never left the 
South and never ceased, but ever nerved the re- 
morseless cruelty of the master's arm. 

One thing saved the South from the blood-sacri- 
fice of Hayti — not, to be sure, from s<> successful a 
revolt, for the disproportion of races was less, but 
from a desperate and bloody effort — and that was 
the escape of the fugitive. 

Along the Great Black Way stretched swamps and 
rivers, and the forests and crests of the Alleghanies. 
A widening, hurrying stream of fugitives swept to 
the havens of refuge, taking the restless, the 
criminal and the uncouquered — the natural leaders 
of the more timid mass. These men saved slavery 
and killed it. They saved it by leaving it to a false 
seductive dream of peace and the eternal subjugation 
of the laboring class. They destroyed it by present- 
ing themselves before the eyes of the North and the 
world as living specimens of the real meaning of 
slavery. What was the system that could enslave a 
Frederick Douglass? They saved it too by joining 
the free Negroes of the North, and with them organ- 
izing themselves into a great black phalanx that 
worked and schemed and paid anil finally fought 
for the freedom of black men in America. 

Thus it was that John Brown, even as a child, 
saw the puzzling anomalies and contradictions in 
human right and liberty all about him. Ever and 
again he saw this in the North, leading to concerted 
action among the free Negroes, especially in cities 


where they were brought in contact with one an- 
other, and had some chance of asserting their 
nominal freedom. Just at the close of the eight- 
eenth century, first in Philadelphia and then in New 
York, small groups of them withdrew from the 
white churches to escape disgraceful discrimination 
and established churches of their own, which still 
live with millions of adherents. In the year of 
John Brown's birth, 1800, Gabriel planned his 
formidable uprising in Virginia, and the year after 
his marriage, 1821, Denmark Vesey of South Caro- 
lina went grimly to the scaffold, after one of the 
shrewdest Negro plots that ever frightened the South 
into hysterics. Of all this John Brown, the boy and 
young man, knew little. In after years he learned 
of Gabriel and Vesey and Turner, and told of their 
exploits and studied their plans ; but at the time he 
was far off from the world, carrying on his tannery 
and marrying a wife. Perhaps as a lad he heard 
some of the oratory that celebrated the act of 1808, 
stopping the slave trade, as the beginning of the end 
of slavery. Perhaps not, for the act did little good 
until it was reenforced in 1820. All the time, how- 
ever, John Brown's keen eyes were searching for the 
way of life and his tender heart was sensitive to in- 
justice and wrong everywhere. Indeed, it is not un- 
likely that the first black folk to gain his aid and 
sympathies and direct his thoughts to what afterward 
became his life-work, were the fugitive slaves from 
the South. 
Three paths were opened to the slaves : to submit, 


to fight or to run away. Most of thein submitted as 
do most people everywhere to force and fate. To 
fight singly meant death ami to fight together ineant 
plot aud insurrection— a difficult thing but one 
often tried. Easiest of all was to run away, for the 
land was wide and bare and the slaves were many. 
At first, they ran to the swamps and mountains, and 
starved and died. Then they ran to the Indians and 
in Florida founded a nation to overthrow which 
cost the United States $20, 000, 000 and more in slave 
raids known as Seminole " wars." Then gradually, 
after the War of 1812 had used so many black 
sailors to fight for free trade that the Negroes 
learned of the North and Canada as cities of refuge, 
they fled northward. While John Brown was a tan- 
ner at Hudson, he began helping these dark panting 
refugees who flitted by in the night. His eldest son 
says : 

" When I was four or five years old, and prob- 
ably no later than 1825, there came one night a 
fugitive slave and his wife to father's door— sent, 
perhaps, by some townsman who knew John Brown's 
compassion for such wayfarers, then but few. They 
were the first colored people I had seen ; and when 
the woman took me upon her knee and kissed me, I 
ran away as quick as I could, and rubbed my lace 
'to get the black off' ; for I thought she would 
' crock ' me, like mother's kettle. Mother gave the 
poor creatures some supper ; but they thought them- 
selves pursued and were uneasy. Presently father 
heard the trampling of horses crossing a bridge on 


one of the main roads, half a mile off; so he took 
his gnosis out the back door and down into tlio 
swamp near the brook to hide, giving them arms 
to defend themselves, but returning to the house to 
await the event. It proved a false alarm ; the horse 

men were people of the neighborhood going lo 
Hudson village. Father then went out into the dark 
WOOd,— for it was night,— and had some difficulty 
in finding his fugitives ; finally he was guided to 
the spot by the sound of the man's hear! throbbing 
for fear of capture. Ee brought Minn into the house 
again, sheltered them a while, and sent them on their 
way." ' 

The atmosphere in these days was becoming 
more and more charged with the slavery problem. 
That same Louisiana which Toussaint had given 
America, was gradually Idling with settlers until 
the question of admitting parts of it as states laced 
the nation, and led to the Missouri Compromise. 
The discussion of the measure was fierce in .John 

Brown's neighborhood, and it must have strength- 
ened his dislike of slavery and turned his earnest 
mind more and more toward the Negroes. 

In the very year that death first entered his 
family and took a boy of four, andjusl before the 
sombre days when his earnest young wife died 
demented in childbirth and was buried with her 
babe, occurred the Nat Tinner insurrection in Vir- 
ginia, the most successful and bloody of slave up 
risiugs since Hayti. 

1 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, p. 35. 


Squire Hudson, the father of the town where 
John Brown lived and one of the founders of West- 
ern Reserve University, heard the news in stern 
joy ; a neighbor met him " one day in September, 
1831, coming from his post-offiee, and reading a 
newspaper he had just received, which seemed to 
excite him very much as he read. As Mr. Wright 
came within hearing ,the old Calviuist was exclaim- 
ing, ' Thank God for that ! 1 am glad of it ! Thank 
God they have risen at last ! ' Inquiring what the 
news was, Squire Hudson replied, ' Why, the slaves 
have risen down in Virginia, and are fighting for 
their freedom as we did for ours. I pray God that 
they may get it.' " ' 

They did not get freedom but death. And yet 
there on the edge of Dismal Swamp they slaughtered 
fifty whites, held the land in terror for more than 
a month, and set going a tremendous wave of reac- 
tion. In the South, Negro churches and free Negro 
schools were sternly restricted, just at the time 
Great Britain was freeing her West Indian slaves. 
In the North, came two movements : a determined 
anti-slavery campaign, and an opposing movement 
which disfranchised Negroes, burned their churches 
and schools, and robbed them of their friends. The 
Negroes rushed together for counsel and defense, 
and held their first national meeting in Philadelphia, 
where they deliberated earnestly on migration to 
Canada and on schools. But schools for Negroes 
were especially feared North as well as South, and 
1 Sanborn, p. 34. 


in John Brown's native state of Connecticut a white 
woman was shamefully persecuted for attempting to 
teach Negroes. All this arouse l John Brown's an- 
tipathy to slavery and made it more definite and 
purposeful. In November of tho year which wit- 
nessed the burning of Prudence Crandall's school, 
and a year after his second marriage, he wrote to 
his brother : 

" Since you have left me, I have been trying to 
devise some means whereby I might do something 
in a practical way for my poor fellow men who are 
in bondage ; and having fully consulted the feelings 
of my wife and my three boys, we have agreed to 
get at least one Negro boy or youth, and bring him 
up as we do our own, — viz., give him a good English 
education, learn him what we cau about the history 
of the world, about business, about general subjects, 
and, above all, try to teach him the fear of God. 
We think of three ways to obtain one : First, to try 
to get some Christian slaveholder to release one to 
us. Second, to get a free one, if no one will let us 
have one that is a slave. Third, if that does not 
succeed, we have all agreed to submit to considera- 
ble privation in order to buy one. This we are now 
using means in order to effect, in the confident ex- 
pectation that God is about to bring them all out of 
the house of bondage. 

"I will just mention that when this subject was 
first introduced, Jason had gone to bed ; but no 
sooner did he hear the thing hinted, than his warm 
heart kindled, and he turned out to have a part in 


the discussion of a subject of such exceeding interest. 
I have for years been trying to devise some way to 
get a school a-going here for blacks, and 1 think that 
on many accounts it would be a most favorable lo- 
cation. Children here would have no intercourse 
with vicious people of their own kind, nor with 
openly vicious persons of any kind. There would 
be no powerful opposition influence against such a 
thing ; and should there be any, I believe the settle- 
ment might be so effected in future as to have almost 
the whole influence of the place in favor of such a 
school. Write me how you would like to join me, 
and try to get on from Hudson and thereabouts some 
first-rate Abolitionist families with you. I do hon- 
estly believe that our united exertions alone might 
soon, with the good hand of our God upon us, effect 
it all." 1 

Nothing came of this project, except that John 
Brown grew more deeply interested. He was now 
worth 820,000, a man of influence and he felt 
more and more moved toward definite action to 
help the Negroes. They were keeping up their con- 
ventions and the stream of fugitives was augment 
ing. The problem, however, was not simply one of 
slavery. The plight of the free Negro was partic- 
ularly pitiable. He was liable to be seized and sold 
South whether an actual slave or not ; he dis- 
criminated against and despised in all walks. This 
was bad enough in everyday life, but to a straight- 
forward religious soul like John Brown it was sim- 
1 Letter to his brother Frederick, 1834, in Sanborn, pp. 40-41. 


ply intolerable in the church of God. His eldest 
daughter says : 

"One evening after he had been singing to 
me, he asked me how I would like to have 
some poor little black children that were slaves (ex- 
plaining to me the meaning of slaves) come and live 
with us ; and asked me if I would be willing to 
divide my food and clothes with them. He made 
such an impression on my sympathies, that the first 
colored person that I ever saw (it was a man I met 
on the street in Meadville, Pa.) I felt such pity 
for, that I wanted to ask him if he did not want to 
come and live at our house. When I was six or 
seven years old, a little incident took place in the 
church at Franklin, O. (of which all the older part 
of our family were members), which caused quite an 
excitement." * 

His son tells the details of this incident : 
"About 1837, mother, Jason, Owen and I, joined 
the Congregational Church at Franklin, the Eev. 
Mr. Burritt, pastor. Shortly after, the other societies, 
including Methodists and Episcopalians, joined ours 
in an undertaking to hold a protracted meeting un- 
der the special management of an evangelist preacher 
from Cleveland, named Avery. The house of the 
Congregatioualists being the largest, it was chosen 
as the place for this meeting. Invitations were sent 
out to church folks in adjoining towns to ' come up 
to the help of the Lord against the mighty ; ' and 
soon the house was crowded, the assembly occupy- 
1 Ruth Brown, in Sanborn, p. 37. 


ing by invitation the pews of the church generally. 
Preacher Avery gave us in successiOD four Bermons 
from one text, — ' Cast ye up, cast ye up ! Prepare 
ye the way of the Lord ; make His paths straight ! ' 
Soon lukewarm Christians were heated up to a melt- 
ing condition, and there was a bright prospect of a 
good shower of grace. There were at that time in 
Franklin a number of free colored persons and some 
fugitive slaves. These became interested and came 
to the meetings, but were given seats by themselves, 
where the stove had stood, near the door, — not a good 
place for seeing ministers or singers. Father noticed 
this, and when the next meeting (which was at 
evening) had fairly opened, he arose and called at- 
tention to the fact that, in seating the colored por- 
tion of the audience, a discrimination had been 
made, and said that he did not believe God 'is a 
respecter of persons.' He then invited the colored 
people to occupy his slip. The blacks accepted, 
and all of our family took their vacated seats. This 
was a bombshell, and the Holy Spirit in the hearts 
of Pastor Burritt and Deacon Beach at once gave up 
His place to another tenant. The next day father 
received a call from the deacons to admonish him 
and 'labor' with him; but they returned with new 
views of Christian duty. The blacks during the re- 
mainder of that protracted meeting continued to oc- 
cupy our slip, and our family the seats around the 
stove. We soon after moved to Hudson, and though 
living three miles away, became regular attendants 
at the Congregational Church in the centre of the 


town. In about a year we received a letter from 
good Deacon Williams, informing us that our rela- 
tions with the church in Franklin were ended in ac- 
cordance with a rule made by the church since we 
left, that ' any member being absent a year without 
reporting him or herself to that church should be 
cut off.' This was the first intimation we had of the 
existence of the rule. Father, on reading the letter, 
became white with anger. This was my first taste 
of the pro- slavery diabolism that had intrenched it- 
self in the church, and I shed a few uncalled for 
tears over the matter, for instead I should have re- 
joiced in my emancipation. From that day my the- 
ological shackles were a good deal broken, and I 
have not worn them since (to speak of), — not even 
for ornament." ! 

The years of 1837 and 1838 were the years of per- 
secution for the Abolition cause. Lovejoy was 
murdered in Illinois and mobs raged in Massachu- 
setts and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Hall, in 
Philadelphia, was burned, and Marlborough Chapel 
in Boston, where John Brown himself seems to have 
been present fighting back the people, was sacked. 
Indeed, as he afterward said, he had seen some of 
the ' ' principal Abolition mobs. ' ' 

Whatever John Brown may have wished to do 
at this time was frustrated by the panic, which 
swept away his fortune, and left him bankrupt. 
Yet something he must do — he must at least promise 
God that he and his family would eternally oppose 
1 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 52-53. 


slavery. How, he did not know — bo was not sure — 
but somehow he was determined, and bis old idea 
of educating yojith was still uppermost. 

It was in/1839?) wben a Negro preacher named 
Fayette was visiting Brown, and bringing his story 
of persecution and injustice, that this great promise 
was made. Solemnly John Brown arose ; he was 
then a man of nearly forty years, tall, dark and 
clean-sbaveu ; by him sat bis young wile of twenty- 
two and bis oldest boys of eighteen, sixteen and 
fifteen. Six other children slept in the room back 
of the dark preacher. John Brown told them of his 
purpose to make active war on slavery, and bound 
bis family in solemn and secret compact to labor 
for emancipation. And then, instead of standing 
to pray, as was his wont, be fell upon bis knees and 
implored God's blessing on bis enterprise. 

This marks a turning-point in John Brown's life : 
in his boyhood be bad disliked slavery and bis 
antipathy toward it grew with bis years ; yet of ne- 
cessity it occupied but little of a life busy with 
breadwinning. Gradually, however, be saw the 
gathering of the mighty struggle about bim ; the 
news of the skirmish battles of the greatest moral 
war of the century aroused and quickened him, 
and all the more when they struck the tender chords 
of his acquaintanceships and sympathies. He saw 
bis friends hurt and imposed on until at last, grad- 
ually, then suddenly, it dawned upon him that be 
must tight tins monster slavery. He did not now 
plan physical warfare -he was yet a non-resistant. 


hatiug war, and did not dream of Harper's Ferry ; 
but he set his face toward the goal and whitherso- 
ever the Lord led, he was ready to follow. He still, 
too, had his living to earn — his family to care for. 
Slavery was not yet the sole object of his life, but 
as he passed on in his daily duties he was deter- 
mined to seize every opportunity to strike it a blow. 
This, at least it seems to me, is a fair interpreta- 
tion of John Brown's thought and action from the 
evidence at hand. Some have believed that John 
Brown planned Harper's Ferry or something simi- 
lar in 1839 ; others have doubted whether he had 
any plans against slavery before 1850. The truth 
probably lies between these extreme views. Human 
purposes grow slowly and in curious ways ; thought 
by thought they build themselves until in their full 
panoplied vigor and definite outline not even the 
thinker can tell the exact process of the growing, 
or say that here was the beginning or there the end- 
ing. Nor does this slow growth and gathering 
make the end less wonderful or the motive less 
praiseworthy. Few Americans recognized in 1839 
that the great central problem of America was 
slavery ; and of that few, fewer still were willing to 
fight it as they knew it should be fought. Of this 
lesser number, two men stood almost alone, ready to ] 

MS thpirjfr.itii hy nrtinn— \7Jl liam Lloy r J Qfl.rrisnTi j 

and John Brown . 

These men did not then know each other — they 
had in these early days scarcely heard each other's 
names. They never came to be friends or sympa- 


thizers. When John Brown was in Boston he never 
went to The Liberator office, and in after years, now 
and then, he dropped words very like contempt for 

" non-resistants'' ; while Garrison flayed the leader 
of the Harper's Ferry raid. They were alike only 
in their intense hatred of slavery, and spiritually 
tiny crossed each other's paths in curious fashion, 
Garrison drifting from a willingness to fight slavery 
in all ways or in any way to a fateful attitude of 
non-resistance and withdrawal from the contamina- 
tiou of slaveholders ; John Brown drifting from 
non-resistance to the red path of active warfare. 

Nowhere did the imminence of a great struggle 
show itself more clearly than among the Negroes 
themselves. Organized insurrection ceased in the 
South, not because of the increased rigors of the 
slave system, but because the great safety-valve of 
escape northward was opened wider and wider, and 
tin- met hods were gradually coordinated into that 
mysterious system known as the Underground Rail- 
road. The slaves and freedmen started the work 
and to the end bore the brunt of danger and hard- 
ship ; hut gradually they more and more secured the 
cooperation of men like John Brown, and of others 
Less radical but just as sympathetic. Here and 
there the free Negroes in the North began to gain 
economic tooting as servants in cities, as farmers in 
Ohio and even as < ntrepreneurs in the great catering 
biiMnrss of Philadelphia and New York. 

The schools were still for the most part closed to 
them. They made strenuous efforts to counteract 


this and established dozens of schools of their own 
all over the land. At last in 1839 Oberlin was 
founded and certain earnest students of Cincin- 
nati, disgusted with the color line at Lane College, 
seceded to Oberlin and brought the color question 
there. It was fairly met and Negroes were admitted. 
It was the establishment of Oberlin College in 
1839 and the appointment of his father as trustee 
that gave John Brown a new vision of life and use- 
fulness — of a life which would at once combine the 
pursuit of a great moral ideal and the honest earn- 
ing of a good living for a family. Brown proposed 
to survey the Virginia lands of Oberlin, as we have 
shown, locate a large farm for himself and settle 
there with his family. Here be undoubtedly ex- 
pected to carry out the plan previously laid before 
his brother Frederick. He consulted the Oberlin 
authorities concerning ' ' provision for religious and 
school privileges ' ' and they thought it possible to 
have these, although nothing was said specifically 
of Negroes. The position was strategic and John 
Brown knew it : in the non-slaveholding portion of a 
slave state, near the river and not far from the foot- 
hills of mountains, beyond which lay the Great 
Black Way, was formed a highway for the Under- 
ground Bailroad and a place for experiment in the 
uplift of black men. That he would meet opposi- 
tion, and strong opposition, John Brown must have 
known, but probably at this time he counted on 
the prevalence of law and justice and the stern 
principles of his religion rather than on the sword 


of Gideon, which was his later reliance. But it 
was not the " will of Providence" as we have seen, 
that Brown should then settle in Virginia, since 
his increasing financial straits and final bankruptcy 
overthrew all plans of purchasing the one thousand 
acres for which he had already bargained. 

The slough of despond through which John 
Brown passed in the succeeding years, from 1842 to 
1846, was never fully betrayed by this stern, self-re- 
pressing Puritan. Yet the loss of a fortune and the 
shattering of a dream, the bankruptcy and im- 
prisonment, and the death of live children, while 
around him whirled the struggle of the churches 
with slavery and Abolition mobs, all dropped a 
sombre brooding veil of stern inexorable fateover 
his spirit — a veil which never lifted. The dark 
mysterious tragedy of life gripped him with awful 
intensity — the iron entered his soul. He became 
sterner and more silent. He brooded and listened 
for the voice of the avenging God, and girded up 
his loins in readiness. 

"My husband always believed," said his wife in 
after years, "that he was to bo an instrument 
in the hands of Providence, and 1 believed it 
too. . . . Many a night he had lain awake and 
prayed concerning it." 1 

It began to dawn upon him that he had sinned in 
tin- selfish pursuit of petty ends : that he must be 
about his Father's business of giving the death- 
blow to that "sum of all villanies— slavery." He 
1 Redpath, p. 65. 


bad erred in making his great work a side ob- 
ject—a secondary tbing ; it must be bis first and only 
duty, and let God attend to tbe nurture of bis 
family. As bis conception of bis own relation to 
slavery tbus broadened and deepened, so too did 
bis plan of attacking tbe system become clearer and 
more definite and be spent hours discussing the 
matter. In Springfield, " he used to talk much on 
the subject, and had the reputation of being quite 
ultra. His bookkeeper tells me that he and his eld- 
est son used to discuss slavery by tbe hour in bis 
counting-room, and be used to say that it was right 
for slaves to kill their masters and escape, and 
thought slaveholders were guilty of a very great 
wickedness." ' 

He studied the census returns and tbe distribu- 
tion of the Negroes and made maps of fugitive 
slave routes with roads, plantations, and supplies. 
He learned of Isaac, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner 
and tbe Cumberland region insurrections in South 
Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee ; he knew of the 
organized resistance to slave -catchers in Penn- 
sylvania, and tbe history of Hayti and Jamaica. 

It needed, as he soon saw, something more radi- 
cal than schools and moral suasion ; so deep- 
seated and radical a disease demanded ' ' Action ! 
Action!" He welcomed his new and long-loved 
calling of shepherd because of the leisure it gave 
him to study out his great moral problem. He 
sought and gained the acquaintance of Negro leaders 
1 Redpath, pp. 53-54. 


like Garnet, Loguen, Gloucester and McCune Smith. 
Ah his sheep business broadened, he traveled about 
and probably at this time first saw Harper's Ferry 

— the mighty pass where Potomac and Shenandoah, 
hurling aside the mountain masses, rush to their 
singular wedding. 

Thus the distraction of the Springfield wool busi- 
ness came to John Brown almost in the guise of a 
temptation to be shunned. Fora moment about 1845 
he Looked again on the lure of wealth and dreamed 
how useful it would be to what was now his great 
life object But only for a moment, for when he re- 
alized ill.- price he must pay— the time, the chi- 
canery, the petty detail — he turned from it in dis- 
gust. It was at this time that he studied the history 
<»f insnrrectioD and became familiar with the Aboli- 
tion movement ; as early as 1846 his Harper's 
Ferry project began to form itself more or less 
clearly in his mind. 

( me thin-- alone reconciled him to his Springfield 
sojourn ami that Mas the Negroes whom he met 
there, lb' had met black men singly here and there 
all his life, but now he met a group. It was not 
our of the principal Negro groups of the day — 
tln\ were in Philadelphia and New York. Cincin- 
nati ami Boston, and in Canada, working largely 
alone with only imperfect intercommunication, but 
working manfully and effectively for emancipation 
ami lull freedom. The Springfield group was a 
smaller body without conspicuous leadership, and 
on that account more nearly approximated the 


great mass of their enslaved race. He sought them 
in home and church and out on the street, and he 
hired them in his business. He came to them on a 
plane of perfect equality — they sat at his table and 
he at theirs. He neither descended upon them from 
above nor wallowed with their lowest, and the result 
was that as Redpath says, ' ' Captain Brown had a 
higher notion of the capacity of the Negro race than 
most white men. I have often heard him dwell on 
this subject, and mention instances of their fitness 
to take care of themselves, saying, in his quaint 
way, that ' they behaved so much like " folks " that 
he almost thought they were so.' He thought that 
perhaps a forcible separation of the connection be- 
tween master and slave was necessary to educate 
the blacks for self-government ; but this he threw 
out as a suggestion merely." 1 

Nor did this appreciation of the finer qualities 
and capacity of the Negroes blind him to their im- 
perfections. He found them "intensely human," 
but with their human frailties weakened by slavery 
and caste ; and with perfect faith in their ability to 
rise above their faults, he criticized and inspired 
them. In his quaint essay on " Sambo's Mistakes," 
putting himself in the black man's place, he enu- 
merates his errors : His failure to improve his time 
in good reading ; his waste of money in indulgent 
luxuries and societies and consequent lack of cap- 
ital ; his servile occupations ; his-ta4ka.tiy.enes§ and 
inaptitude for organization ; his_sectarian bias. In 
1 Redpath, pp. 59-60. 


part of his arraignment, which will bear thoughtful 
ling to-day by black nam as well as white, he 
makes bis Sambo say : 

•• Another trilling error of iny life has been, that 
I have always expected to secure the favor of the 
whites by tamely submitting to every species of in- 
dignity, contempt, and wrong, instead of nobly re- 
sisting their brutal aggressions from principle and 
taking my place as a man, and assuming therespon- 
■ sibilities of a man, a citizen, a husband, a father, a 
brother, a neighbor, a friend,— as God requires of 
every one (if his neighbor will allow him to do it | ; 
Cuit I find that I get. for all my submission, about 
the same reward that the ►Southern slaveocrats render 
to the dough-faced statesmen of the North, for being 
bribed and browbeat and fooled aud cheated, as 
Whigs and Democrats love to be, and think them- 
selves highly honored if they may be allowed to 
lick up the spittle of a Southerner. I say to get the 
reward. Bui I am uncommon quick-sighted ; Icau 
see in a minute where I missed it." ' 

No one knew better than John Brown how slavery 
h:ul contributed to these faults : for how many slaves 
could read anything, or when had they been taughl 
the ose of money or the A. B. < ). of organization 1 
Not in condemnation but in faith was this excellent 
paper written and delicately worded as from oue 
who has learned his own faults and will uot repeat 
those of others. 

'From "8ambo'8 Mistakes," published iu the Ban's Horn 
ami printed in Sanborn, i». 130. 


Not only did John Brown thus criticize, but he 
led these black folk. As early as 1816 he revealed 
something of his final plans to Thomas Thomas, his 
black porter and friend, with whom he once was 
photographed in mutual friendly embrace, holding 
the sign " S. P. W." — "Subterranean Pass Way" 
of slaves to freedom. 

"How early shall I come to-morrow 1 ?" asked 
Thomas one morning. 

"We begin work at seven," answered John 
Brown. " But I wish you would come around 
earlier so that I can talk with you." Then Brown 
disclosed a pla n of increasing and systematiz iugjlie, 
Wjn:k^JlLtheJ[Jndergj^jni_ p l iiih' ORd by rnni]jng_off_ 
larger bo dies of slaves. This was the firs t forniof- 
his Harpe rs Ferry p lan and it rapidly g-rpsw in 
detail, so that its disclosure to Douglass in 1847 
showed tho,ughlLaiid_ advance . 

The first national Negro leader, Frederick Doug- 
lass, had delivered his wonderful salutatory in New 
Bedford in 1841. After publishing his biography, 
he went to England for safety, but returned in 1847, 
ransomed from slavery and ready to launch his 
paper, The North Star. No sooner had he landed 
than the black Wise Men of New York told him of 
the new Star in the East, whispering of the strange 
determined man of Springfield who flitted silently 
here and there among the groups of black folk and 
whose life was devoted to eternal war upon slavery. 
Both were eager to meet each other — John Brown to 
become acquainted with the greatest leader of the 


race which lie aimed to free ; Frederick Douglass to 
know an intense foe of slavery. The historic meet- 
ing took place in Springfield and is best told in 
Douglass' own words : 

" Aliout the time I began my enterprise [i. c, his 
newspaper] in Rochester, I chanced to spend a night 
and a day under the roof of a man whose character 
aad conversation, and whose objects and aims in 
life, made a very deep impression upon my mind 
and heart. His name had been mentioned to me by 
several prominent colored men ; among whom were 
the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet and J. W. Logueu. 
In speaking of him their voices would drop to a 
whisper, and what they said of him made me very 
eager to see and to know him. Fortunately, I was 
invited to see him at his owu house. At the time 
to which I now refer this man was a respectable 
merchant in a populous and thriving city, and our 
firs! place of meeting was at hi s store^ This was a 
substantial brick building on a prominent, busy 
street A glance at the interior, as well as at the 
massive walls without, gave me the impression that 
the owner must be a man of considerable wealth. 
My welcome was all that I could have asked. 
Every member of the family, young and old, seemed 
glad to see me, and I was made much at home in a 
very little while. I was, however, a little disap- 
pointed with the appearance of the house audits 
loeat ion. After seeing the line store I was prepared 
to see a tine residence in an eligible locality, but this 
conclusion was completely dispelled by actual ob- 


servatiou. In fact, the house was neither commodi- 
ous nor elegant, nor its situation desirable. It was 
a small wooden building on a back street, in a 
neighborhood chiefly occupied by laboring men and ' 
mechanics ; respectable enough, to be sure, but not 
quite the place, I thought, where one would look 
for the residence of a flourishing and successful 

"Plain as was the outside of this man's house, the 
inside was plainer. Its furniture would have 
satisfied a Spartan. It would take longer to tell 
what was not in this house than what was in it. 
There was an air of plainness about it which almost 
suggested destitution. My first meal passed under 
the misnomer of tea, though there was nothing 
about it resembling the usual significance of that 
term. It consisted of beef-soup, cabbage, and pota- 
toes — a meal such as a man might relish after fol- 
lowing the plow all day or performing a forced 
march of a dozen miles over a rough road in frosty 
weather. Innocent of paint, veneering, varnish, or 
table-cloth, the table announced itself unmistakably 
of pine and of the plainest workmanship. There 
was no hired help visible. The mother, daughters, 
and sons did the serving, and did it well. They 
were evidently used to it, and had no thought of 
any impropriety or degradation in being their own 
servants. It is said that a house in some measure 
reflects the character of its occupants ; this one cer- 
tainly did. In it there were no disguises, no illu- 
sions, no make-believes. Everything implied stern 


truth, solid purpose, and rigid economy. I was not 
long in company with the master of this house be- 
fore 1 discovered that he was indeed the master of 

it, and was likely to become mine too if 1 stayed 
Long enough with him. His wife believed in him, 
and his children observed him with reverence. 
VVhenei er he spoke his words commanded earnest at- 
: sntion. His arguments, which 1 ventured at some 
points to oppose, seemed to convince all; his ap- 
peals touched all, and his will impressed all. Cer- 
tainly I n< ver felt myself in the presenee of a 
stronger religions influence than while in this man's 

•• In person lie was lean, strong, and sinewy, of 
the best New England mold, built for times of 
trouble aud fitted to grapple with the flintiest hard- 
ships. Clad in plain Ajnerican woolen, shod in 
boots of cowhide leather, and wearing a cravat of 
the same substantial material, under six feet high, 
than L50 pounds in weight, aged about fifty, he 
ented a figure straight ami symmetrical as a 
m tuntain pine His bearing was singularly im- 
pressive. His head was not large, but compact and 
high. His hair was coarse, strong, slightly gray 
and closely trimmed, and grew low on his forehead. 
His face was smoothly shaved, and revealed a 
g, square mouth, supported by a broad and 
prominenl chin. His eyes were bluish gray, and in 
conversation they were full of light and fire. When 
on the street, In- moved with a Ion--, springing, race- 
horse Btep, absorbed by his own reflections, neither 


seeking nor shunning observation. Such was the 
man whose name I had heard in whispers ; such was 
the spirit of his house and family ; such was the 
house in which he lived ; and such was Captain 
John Brown, whose name has now passed into 
history, as that of one of the most marked 
characters and greatest heroes known to American 

"After the strong meal already described, Cap- 
tain Brown cautiously approached the subject which 
he wished to bring to my attention ; for he seemed 
to apprehend opposition to his views. He de- 
nounced slavery in look and language fierce and 
bitter ; thought that slaveholders had forfeited their 
right to live ; that the slaves had the right to gain 
their liberty in any way they could ; did not believe 
that moral suasion would ever liberate the slave, or 
that political action would abolish the system. He 
said that he had long had a plan which could ac- 
complish this end, and he had invited me to his 
house to lay that plan before me. He said he had 
been for some time looking for colored men to whom 
he could safely reveal his secret, and at times he had 
almost despaired of finding such men ; but that now 
he was encouraged, for he saw heads of such rising 
up in all directions. He had observed my course at 
home and abroad, and he wanted my cooperation. 
His plan as it then lay in his mind had much to 
commend it. It did not, as some suppose, contem- 
plate a general rising among the slaves, and a gen- 
eral slaughter of the slave- masters. An iusurrec- 


tion, he thought, would only defeat the object ; but 
his plan did cont emplate the creating of j jj_ariued 
force which should act in the very heart of the 
South. He was not averse to the shedding of 
blood, and thought the practice of carrying arms 
would be a good one for the colored people to adopt, 
as it would give them a sense of their manhood. 
No people, he said, could have self-respect, or be 
respected, who would not fight for their freedom. 
Be called my attention to a map of the United 
States, and pointed out to me the far-reaching Alle- 
ghanies, which stretch away from the borders of 
New York into the Southern states. 

"'These mountains,' he said, 'are the basis of 
my plan. God has given the strength of the hills to 
freedom ; they were placed here for the emancipa- 
tion of the Negro race; they are full of natural 
forts, where one man for defense will be equal to a 
hundred for attack ; they are full also of good hid- 
ing-places, where large numbers of brave men could 
be concealed, and baflle and elude pursuit for a long 
time. I know these mountains well, and could take 
a body of men into them and keep them there de- 
spite of all efforts of Virginia to dislodge them. 
The true object to be sought is first of all to destroy 
the money value of slavery property ; and that can 
only be done by rendering such property insecure. 
M\ plan, then, is to take at first about twenty-five 
picked men, and begin on a small scale ; supply 
them with arms and ammunition and post them in 
squads of fives on a line of twenty-five miles. The 


most persuasive and judicious of these snail go 
down to the fields from time to time, as opportunity 
offers, and induce the slaves to join them, seeking 
and selecting the most restless and daring.' 

" He saw that in this part of the work the utmost 
care must be used to avoid treachery and disclosure. 
Only the most conscientious and skilful should be sent 
on this perilous duty. With care and enterprise 
he thought he could soon gather a force of one hun- 
dred hardy men, men who would be content to lead 
the free and adventurous life to which he proposed 
to train them ; when these were properly drilled, 
and each man had found the place for which he was 
best suited, they would begin work in earnest ; they 
would run off the slaves in large numbers, retain 
the brave and strong ones in the mountains, and 
send the weak and timid to the North by the Un- 
derground Eailroad. His operations would be en- 
larged with increasing numbers and would not be 
confined to one locality. 

" When I asked him how he would support these 
men, he said emphatically that he would subsist 
them upon the enemy. Slavery was a state of war, 
and the slave had a right to anything necessary to 
his freedom. 'But,' said I, 'suppose you succeed 
in running off a few slaves, and thus impress the 
Virginia slaveholders with a sense of insecurity in 
their slaves further south.' 'That,' he said, 'will 
be what I want first to do ; then I would follow 
them up. If we could drive slavery out of one 
county, it would be a great gain ; it would weaken 


fchesystem throngboul the state.' 'But they would 
eiuploj bloodhounds to hunt you out of the moun- 
tains.' 'Thatthey might attempt,' said he, 'but the 
chances are, we should whip them, and wheu we 
should have whipped one squad, they would be 
careful how they pursued.' 'But you might be 
surrounded and cut off from your provisions or 
means of subsistence.' lit- thought that this could 
not I-- done so thai they could not cut their way 
out; but even if the worst came he could but be 
killed, and he had no better use for his life than to 
lay ii down in the cause of the slave. When I sug- 
gested thai we might convert the slaveholders, he 
became much excited, and said that could never be. 
lie knew their proud hearts and they would never 
be induced to give up their slaves, until they felt a 
big stick aboul their heads. 

•lie observed that I might have noticed the 
simple manner in which he lived, adding that he 
had adopted this method in order to save money to 
carry out his purposes. This was said in no boast- 
ful tone, for he felt that he had delayed already too 
long, and bad do room to boast either his zeal or his 
self-denial. Had some men made such display of 
rigid virtue, I should have rejected it as affected, 
false, and hypocritical, but in John Brown, I felt 
it to be real as iron or granite. From this night 
spent with John Brown in Springfield, Mass., 1M7. 
while 1 continued to write and speak against 
slavery, I became all the same less hopeful of its 
peaceful abolition. My utterances became more 


and more tinged by the color of this man's strong 
impressions." ! 

Tremendously impressed as was Douglass in mind 
and heart with John Brown and his plan, his reason 
was never convinced even up to the last ; and nat- 
urally because here two radically opposite charac- 
ters saw slavery from opposite sides of the shield. 
Both hated it with all their strength, but one knew 
its physical degradation, its tremendous power 
and the strong sympathies and interests that but- 
tressed it the world over ; the other felt its moral 
evil and knowing simply that it was wrong, con- 
cluded that John Brown and God could overthrow 
it. That was all— a plain straightforward path ; 
but to the subtler darker man, more worldly-wise 
and less religious, the arm of the Lord was not re- 
vealed, while the evil of this world had seared his 
vitals. He uncovered himself if not reverently, cer- 
tainly respectfully before the Seer ; he gave him 
much help and information ; he turned almost im- 
perceptibly but surely toward Brown's darker view 
of the blood-sacrifice of slavery, but he could never 
quite believe that John Brown's tremendous plan 
was humanly possible. And this attitude of Doug- 
lass was in various degrees and strides the attitude 
of the leading Negroes of his day. They believed 
in John Brown but not in his plan. They knew he 
was right, but they knew that for any failure in his 
project they, the black men, would probably pay 

1 Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892), 
Chap. 8, Part [I, pp. 337-342. 


the cost. And the horror of that cost none knew 
;ts they. 

If John Brown was to carry out his idea as he 
had now definitely conceived it, he must first find 
the men who could help him. On this point there 
seems to have been deliberation and development 
of plan, particularly as he consulted Douglass and 
the Negro leaders. His earlier scheme probably 
looked toward the use of Negro allies almost ex- 
clusively outside his own family. This was emi- 
nently fitting but impractical, as Douglass and his 
fellows must have urged. White men could move 
where they would in the United States, but to in- 
troduce an armed band exclusively or mainly of 
NYgroes from the North into the South was difficult, 
if not impossible. Nevertheless, some Negroes of 
the right type were needed and to John Brown's 
mind the Underground Railroad was bringing North 
the very material he required. It could not, how- 
ever, be properly trained in cities whither it drifted 
both for economic reasons and for self-protection. 
Brown therefore heard of Gerrit Smith's offer of 
August 1. L846, with great interest. This wealthy 
leader of the New York Abolition group took oc- 
casioD at the celebration of the twelfth anniversary 
of British emancipation to offer free Negroes 100,000 
acres of his lands in the Adirondack region on easy 
terms. Ii was not a well thought-out scheme : the 
climate was bleak for Negroes, the methods of cul- 
ture then suitable, were unknown to them ; while 
the surveyor who laid out these farms cheated them 


as cheerily as though philanthropy had no concern 
with the project. The Gerrit Smith offer was not 
wholly a failure. It turned out some good Negro 
farmers, gave some of its best Negro citizens of to- 
day to northern New York, and trained a bishop 
of the British African Church. But it did far less 
than it might have done if better planned, and much 
if not all of its success was due to John Brown. He 
saw possibilities here both to shelter his family when 
he turned definitely to what was now his single ob- 
ject in life, and to train men to help him. He went 
to Gerrit Smith at Peterboro, N. Y., in April, 1818, 
and said : "I am something of a pioneer ; I grew 
up among the woods and wild Indians of Ohio and 
am used to the climate and the way of life that your 
colony find so trying. I will take one of your farms 
myself, clear it up and plant it, and show my col- 
ored neighbors how such work should be done ; 
will give them work as I have occasion, look after 
them in all needful ways and be a kind of father to 
them." l 

His offer was gladly accepted and he moved his 
family there the following year. It was a wild, 
lonely place. Thomas Went worth Higginson wrote 
once : " The Notch seems beyond the world, North 
Elba and its half-dozen houses are beyond the Notch, 
and there is a wilder little mountain road which 
rises beyond North Elba. But the house we seek 
is not even on that road, but behind it and beyond 
it ; you ride a mile or two, then take down a pair 
1 Sanborn, p. 97. 


of bars; beyond the bars faith takes you across 
a half-cleared field, through the most difficult of 
wood-paths, and after half a mile of forest you come 
out upon a clearing. Then- is a little frame house, 
nnpainted, sel in a girdle of black stumps, and with 
all heaven about it for a wider girdle ; on a high 
hillside, forests on north and west,— tin- glorious 
line of the Adirondacks on the east, and on the 
south one slender road leading off to Westport, a 
load SO straight that you could sight a United States 
marshal for five miles." ' 

To his family John Brown's word was usually not 
merely law but wish. They went to North Elba 
cheerfully and with full knowledge of the import of 
the change, for the father was frank. The daugh- 
ter Ruth writes: "While we were living in Spriug- 
field, our house was plainly furnished, but very 
comfortably, all excepting the parlor. Mother and 

I had often expressed a wish that the parlor might 
be furnished too, and father encouraged us that it 
should be ; but after he made up his mind to go to 
North Elba he began to economize in many ways. 
On.- day h<- called US older ones to him and said : 

I I want to plan with you a little; and 1 want you 
all to express your minds. I have a little money to 
spare ; and now shall we use it to furnish the parlor, 
or spend it to buy clothing for the colored people 
who may need help in North Elba another year?' 
We all said, 'Save the money.' " 2 

It was no paradise, even for the enthusiast. Red- 
1 Kedpatb, p. 61. 2 Ruth Brown, in Sanborn, p. 100. 


path says : " It is too cold to raise corn there ; they 
can scarcely, in the most favorable seasons, obtain 
a few ears for roasting. Stock must be wintered 
there nearly six months in every year. I was there 
on the first of November, the ground was snowy, 
and winter had apparently begun — and it would 
last till the middle of May. They never raise any- 
thing to sell off that farm, except sometimes a few 
fleeces. It was well, they said, if they raised their 
own provisions, and could spin their own wool for 
clothing." l 

Meantime the scattered isolated eddies of the anti- 
slavery battles were swirling to one great current, 
and more and more J ohn Brown was becoming the 
majoofone idea. Impatiently he neglected his 
pressing wool business. Instead of keeping his eye 
on his critical London venture, he hastened across 
Europe perfecting military observations. He re- 
turned to America in time to hear all the feverish 
discussion of the Fugitive Slave Law aud see its 
final passage. In November, 1850, he writes his 
wife from Springfield: "It now seems that the 
Fugitive Slave Law was to be the means of making 
more Abolitionists than all the lectures we have had 
for years. It really looks as if God had His hand on 
this wickedness also. I of course keep encouraging 
my colored friends to ' trust in God and keep their 
powder dry.' I did so to-day at Thanksgiving 
meeting publicly." 2 

• Redpath, p. 62. 

5 Letter to bis wife, 1850, in Sanborn, pp. 106-107. 


J lis Springfield meetings led to the formation of 
his "League of Gileadites," the first of his steps 
toward the armed organization of Negroes. Forty- 
four Negroes signed the following agreement : 

"As citizens of the United States of America, 
trusting in a just and merciful God, whose spirit and 
all-powerful aid we humbly implore, we will ever be 
true to the flag of our beloved country, always act- 
ing under it. We, whose names are hereunto af- 
fixed, do constitute ourselves a branch of the United 
Slates League of Gileadites. That we will provide 
ourselves at once with suitable implements, and will 
aid those who do not possess the means, if any such 
are disposed to join us. We invite every colored 
person whose heart is engaged in the performance 
of our business, whether male or female, old or 
young. The duty of the aged, infirm, and young 
members of the League shall be to give instant no- 
tice to all members in case of an attack upon any of 
our people. We agree to have no officers except a 
treasurer ami secretary pro tern., until after some 
trial of courage and talent of able-bodied members 
shall enable us to elect officers from those who shall 
have rendered the most important services. Noth- 
ing but wisdom and undaunted courage, efficiency, 
and general good conduct shall in any way influence 
us in electing officers.' 1 ' 

To this was added exhortation and advice by John 
Lrow q. 

■Lett.i ol instructions, agreement and resolutions, as given in 
Sanborn, pp. 124-127. 


' ' N othin g so charmstke. Ameilfianjpeople as per- 
sonal" bravery," lie wrote. "Witness the case of 
Crnques, of everlasting memory, on board the 
Amistad. The trial for life of one bold and to some 
extent successful man, for defending his rights in 
good earnest, would arouse more sympathy through- 
out the nation than the accumulated wrongs and 
sufferings of more than three millions of our sub- 
missive colored population. We need not mention 
the Greeks struggling against the oppressive Turks, 
the Poles against Russia, nor the Hungarians against 
Austria and Russia combined, to prove this. No 
jury cau be found in the Northern states that would 
convict a man for defending his rights to the last 
extremity. This is well understood by Southern 
congressmen, who insisted that the right of trial by 
jury should not be granted to the fugitive. Colored 
people have ten times the number of fast friends 
among the whites than they suppose, and would 
have ten times the number they have now were they 
but half as much in earnest to secure their dearest 
rights as they are to ape the follies and extrava- 
gances of their white neighbors, and to indulge in 
idle show, in ease and luxury. Just think of the 
money expended by individuals in your behalf for 
the last twenty years ! Think of the number who 
have been mobbed and imprisoned on your account ! 
Have any of you seen the branded hand ? Do you 
remember the names of Lovejoy and Torrey ? " l 

1 Letter of instructions, agreement and resolutions, as given 
in Sanborn, pp. 124-127. 


He then gives definite advice as to procedure 
in case the arrest and the deportation of a fugitive 
slave were attempted : 

" Should one of your number be arrested, you 
must collect together as quickly as possible, so as to 
outnumber your adversaries, who are taking an 
active pari against you. Let no able-bodied man 
appear on the ground unequipped, or with his 
weapons exposed to view : let that be understood 
beforehand. Your plans must be known only to 
yourself, and with the understanding that all trai- 
tors must die, wherever caught and proven to be 
guilty. ' Whosoever is fearful or afraid, let him 
return and depart early from Mount Gilead' (Judges 
7:3; Deut. 20 : 8). Give all cowards an opportu- 
nity to show it on condition of holding their peace. 
Do not delay one moment after you are ready ; you 
will lose all your resolution if you do. Let the first 
blow be the signal for all to engage ; and when en- 
gaged do not do your work in halves, but make 
clean work with your enemies, — and be sure you 
meddle qoI with any others. By going about your 
business quietly, you will get the job disposed of 
before the number that an uproar would bring to- 
gether can collect ; and you will have the advantage 
of those who come out against you. tor they will be 
wholly unprepared with either equipments or ma- 
tured plans; all with them will be confusion and 
terror. Four enemies will he slow to attack you 
after you have done up the work nicely ; ami if they 
should, they will have to encounter your white 


friends as well as you ; for you may safely calculate 
on a division of the whites, and may by that means 
get to an honorable parley. 

" Be firm, determine d , and cool ; but let it be 
understood that you are not to be driven to despera- 
tion without making it an awful dear job to others 
as well as to you. Give them to know distinctly 
that those who live in wooden houses should not 
throw fire, and that you are just as able to suffer as 
your white neighbors. After effecting a rescue, if 
you are assailed, go into the houses of your most 
prominent and influential white friends with your 
wives ; and that will effectually fasten upon them 
the suspicion of being' connected with you, and will 
compel them to make a common cause with you, 
whether they would otherwise live up to their pro- 
fession or not. This would leave them no choice in 
the matter. 

"Some would doubtless prove themselves true of 
their own choice ; others would flinch. That would 
be taking them at their own words. You may make 
a tumult in the court room where a trial is going on 
by burning gunpowder freely in paper packages, if 
you cannot think of any better way to create a 
momentary alarm, and might possibly give one or 
more of your enemies a hoist. But in such case the 
prisoner will need to take the hint at once, and bestir 
himself ; and so should his friends improve the op- 
portunity for a general rush. A lasso might pos- 
sibly be applied to a slave-catcher for once with 
good effect. Hold on to your weapons, and never 


be persuaded to leave them, part with them, or have 
tin ia far away from you. Stand by one another 
and by your friends, while a drop of blood remains ; 
ami be hanged if you must, but tell no tales out of 
school. .Make no confession. Union is strength. 
Without some well digested arrangements, nothing 
to any good purpose is likely to be done, let the de- 
mand be never so great. Witness t he ease of Hamlel 
and Long in New York, when there was no well de- 
lined plan of operations or suitable preparation be- 
forehand. The desired end may be effectually 
secured by the means proposed ; namely, the enjoy- 
ment of our inalienable rights.'* ' 

There is evidence that this league did effective 
rescue work, as did other groups of Negroes in 
Boston. Philadelphia, Albany, Xew York and else- 
where. In this service the Negroes could not act 
alone — it would have meant mob-violence on purely 
racial lines ; — but given a few determined white men 
to join in, they could and did bear the brunt of the 

John Brown himself was active in such rescue 
work. He helped in the release of "Jerry" in 
Syracuse, and writes in 1851 from Springfield : 
" Sine- the sending off to slavery of Long from New 
York, I have improved my leisure hours quite 
busily with colored people here, in advising them 
how to act, and in giving them all the encourage 
incut in my power. They very much need eucour- 

L Letter <>f Lnstrnotions, agreement and resolutions, as given 
in Sanborn, pp. li*4-lx. > 7. 


agernent and advice ; and some of them are so 
alarmed that they tell me they cannot sleep on ac- 
count of either themselves or their wives and chil- 
dren. I can only say I think I have been able to do 
something to revive their broken spirits. I want 
all my family to imagine themselves in the same 
dreadful condition. My only spare time being 
taken up (often till late hours at night) in the 
way I speak of, has prevented me from the 
gloomy homesick feelings which had before so 
much oppressed me : not that I forget my family 
at all." ■ 

His hateful lawsuits hung like a weight about John 
Brown's neck, and a feverish impatience was seizing 
him : ''Father did not close up his wool business in 
Springfield when he went to North Elba, and had to 
make several journeys back and forth in 1849-50. 
He was at Springfield in January, 1851, soon after 
the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, and went 
around among his colored friends there, who had 
been fugitives, urging them to resist the law, no 
matter by what authority it should be enforced. He 
told them to arm themselves with revolvers, men 
and women, and not to be taken alive. When he 
got to North Elba, he told us about the Fugitive 
Slave Law, and bade us resist any attempt that 
might be made to take any fugitive from our town, 
regardless of fine or imprisonment. Our faithful 
boy Cyrus was one of that class ; and our feelings 
were so aroused that we would all have defended 

1 Sanborn, p. 132. 


him, though the women folks had resorted to hot 
water. Father at this time said, 'Their cup of 
iniquity is almost full.' One evening as I wassing- 
ing, • The Slave Father Mourning for his Children,' 
containing these words, — 

" ' Ye're gone from me, my gentle ones, 
With all your shouts of mirth ; 

A silence is within my walls, 
A darkness round my hearth,' — 

father got up and walked the floor, and before I 
could finish the song, he said, 'O Euth ! Don't 
sing any more ; it is too sad ! ' " l 

At the same time his thrifty careful attention to 
minutiae did not desert him. He keeps his eye on 
North Elba even after his wife and part of the 
family returned to Akron and writes: "The 
colored families appear to be doing well, and to feel 
encouraged. They all send much love to you. 
They have constant preaching on the Sabbath ; and 
intelligence, morality and religion appear to be all 
on the advance." 2 

His daughter says : "He did ool lose interest iu 
the colored people of North Elba, and grieved over 
the sad fate of one of them. Mr. Henderson, who 
was losl in the woods in the winter of 1852 and 
perished with the cold. Mr. Henderson was an in- 

1 Ruth Brown, iu Sanborn, )>)>. 131 132. 
I btei to his wife, 1852, in Sanborn, pp. 108-109. 


telligent and good man, and was very industrious 
and lather thought much of him." 1 

Once we find him saying : "If you find it difficult 
for you to pay for Douglass' paper, I wish you would 
let me know, as I know I took liberty in ordering 
it continued. You have been very kind in helping 
me and I do not mean to make myself a burden." 
And again he writes : "lam much rejoiced at the 
news of a religious kind in Kuth's letter and would 
be still more rejoiced to learn that all the sects who 
bear the Christian name would have no more to do with 
that mother of all abominations — man- stealing." 2 

And the sects were thinking. All men were 
thinking. A great unrest was on the land. It was 
not merely moral leadership from above — it was the 
push of physical and mental pain from beueath ; — 
not simply the cry of the Abolitionist but the up- 
stretching of the slave. The vision of the damned 
was stirring the western world and stirring black 
men as well as white. Something was forcing the 
issue— call it what you will, the Spirit of God or the 
spell of Africa. It came like some great grinding 
ground swell,— vast, indefinite, immeasurable but 
mighty, like the dark low whispering of some infi- 
nite disembodied voice — a riddle of the Sphinx. It 
tore men's souls and wrecked their faith. Women 
cried out as cried once that tall black sibyl, 
Sojourner Truth : 

'Ruth Brown, in Sanborn, p. 104. 

2 Letters to bis children, 1852-1853, in Sanborn, pp. 110 and 


" Frederick, is God dead ! " 

•No," thundered the Douglass, towering above 
his Salem audience. " No, and because God is not 
dead, slavery can only end in blood." 



' ' Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, aud 
6hew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob 
their sins. ' ' 

Just three hundred years before John Brown 
pledged his family to warfare against slavery, a 
black man stood on the plains of t he Southw est look- 
ing toward Kansas. It was thg 1|egro Steven^jonce 
slave of Dorantes, now leader and interpreter of the 
Fray Marcos explorers, and the first man of the Old 
World to look upon the great Sunt Invest, if not upon 
Kansas itself. "Whiter ineri havelsince ignored and 
ridiculed his work, sensualists have charged him 
with sensuality, lords of greed have called him 
greedy, and yet withal the plain truth remains : he 
led the expedition that foreran Coronado, reported 
back the truth of what he saw and then returned to 
lay down his life among the savages. 1 

The land he looked upon in those young years of 
the sixteenth century was big with the tragic fate of 
his people. Planted far to the eastward a century 
later, their dark faces traveled fast westward until 
slavery was secure in the valley of the Mississippi 

1 Compare the American Anthropologist, Vol. 4, No. 2, April - 
June, 1902. 


and in the lower Southwest. Theu the slave 
barons looked behind them, and saw to their own 
dismay that there could be do backward step. The 
slavery of the new Cotton Kingdom in the nine- 
teenth century must either die or conquer a nation 
— it could not hesitate or pause, it was an indus- 
trial system built on ignorance, force and the cotton 
plant The slaves must be curbed with an iron 
hand. A moment of relaxation and lo ! they would 
be rising either in revenge or ambition. And 
slavery had math- revenge and ambition one. Such 
a system could not compete with intelligence, nor 
with individual freedom, nor with miscellaneous 
and care-demanding crops. It could not divide 
territory with these things; — to do so meant 
economic death and the sudden, perhaps revolu- 
tionary upheaval of a whole social system. This 
the South saw as it looked backward in the years 
from 1820 to 1840. Then its bolder vision pressed 
the gloom ahead, and dreamed a dazzling dream of 
empire. It saw the slave system triumphant iu 
the great Southwest — in Mexico, in Central America 
and tin- islands of the sea. Its softer souls, timid 
with a fear prophetic of failure, still held half- 
heartedly back, but bolder Leaders like Davis, 
Toombs and Floyd went relentlessly, ruthlessly on. 
Three steps they and their forerunners took in that 
great western wilderness, and other steps were 
planned. Three steps — that cost uncounted treas- 
ure in gold and blood : the first in 1820, when they 
set foot beyond the Mississippi into Missouri ; the 


second and bolder when they set their seal on the 
spoils of raped Mexico and made it possible slave 
soil ; and the third and boldest, when on the soil of 
Kansas they fought to enslave all territory of the 

That these steps would cost much the leaders 
knew, but they did not rightly reckon how much. 
They risked the upheaval of parties, the enmity of 
sections and the angry agitation of visionaries. If 
worse came to worst, they held the trump-card of 
disrupting the nation and founding a mighty slave 
aristocracy to stretch from the Ohio to Venezuela 
and from Cuba to Texas. One thing alone they did 
not count upon and that was armed force. 

The three steps did raise tremendous opposition. 
The enslaving of Missouri gave birth to the early 
Abolitionists — the conscience of the nation awak- 
ened to find slavery not dead or dying but growing 
and aggressive ; and in these days John Brown, 
typifying one phase of that terrible conscience, 
swore blood-feud with this "sum of all villanies." 
Thus the first step cost. 

The second step went some ways awry since Cali- 
fornia was lost to slavery, but a new law to catch 
runaways brought compensation and brought too 
redoubled cost, for it raised in opposition to the 
whole slave system not only Abolitionists, but Free 
Soilers — those who hated not slavery but slaves. 
This was a costlier move, for the sneers that checked 
philanthropy were powerless against democracy, 
and when the echoes of this step reached the ears of 


Jo] in Brown, lie laid aside all and became the man 
of one idea, and that idea the extinction of slavery 
in the United States. 

But it was the third step that was costliest — the 
step that sought to impose slavery by law and blood 
on free labor lands despite the lands' wish. Of all 
the steps it was the wildest and most foolish, for it 
arrayed against slavery not only philanthropy and 
democracy, but all the world-old forces of plain 
justice. It compelled those who loved the right to 
meet law and force by force and lawlessness, and 
one man that led that lawless fight on the plains of 
Kansas and struck its bloodiest blow, was John 

John Brown's decision to go to Kansas was sud- 
den. Unexpectedly the centre of the slavery battle 
had swung westward. A shrewd bidder for the 
presidency offered the South the unawaited bribe of 
Kansas territory for their votes and they eagerly 
sprang at the offer. Stephen Douglas drove the 
bill through Congress, and Kansas stood ready for 
its slave population. But not only for slaves — also 
for freemen as Eli Thayer quickly saw, and the rep- 
resentations of him and his associates aroused the 
sons of John Brown. 

John Brown himself looked on with interest, but 
he had other plans. He wrote to his son John : 
"If you or any of my family are disposed to go 
to Kansas or Nebraska with a view to help defeat 
Satan and his legions in that direction, I have not 
a word to say j but I feel committed to operate in 


another part of the field. If I were not so com- 
mitted, I would be on my way this fall." l 

John Brown's plans were in the Alleghanies. At 
North Elba lay his northern stronghold, and at 
Harper's Ferry lay the gates to the Great Black 
Way. Here he was convinced was the keystone of 
the slavery arch and here he must strike. So in 
former years Gabriel and Turner believed ; so in 
after years others believed ; but it was not till 
Grant floated down this path in a sea of blood that 
slavery finally fell. 

The sons of John Brown were, however, greatly 
attracted by the new western lands. His eldest sou 
writes : 

"During the years of 1853 and 1854, most of the 
leading Northern newspapers were not only full of 
glowing accouuts of the extraordinary fertility, 
healthfulness, and beauty of the territory of Kansas, 
theu newly opened for settlement, but of urgent 
appeals to all lovers of freedom who desired homes 
in a new region to go there as settlers, and by their 
votes save Kansas from the curse of slavery. In- 
fluenced by these considerations, in the month of 
October, 1854, five of the sons of John Brown,— 
John, Jr., Jason, Owen, Frederick, and Salmon, — 
then residents of the state of Ohio, made their ar- 
rangements to emigrate to Kansas. Their combined 
property consisted chiefly of eleven head of cattle, 
mostly young, and three horses. Ten of this number 
were valuable on account of the breed. Thinking 
1 Letter to Johu Brown, Jr., 1854, in Sanborn, p. 191. 


these especially desirable in a new country, Owen, 
Frederick, and Salmon took thein by way of the 
lakes to Chicago, tbence to Meridosia, 111., where 
they were wintered; and in the following spring 
drove them into Kansas to a place selected by these 
brothers for settlement, about eight miles west of the 
town of Osawatoniie. My brother Jason and his 
family, and 1 with my family followed at the open- 
ing of navigation in the spring of 1855, going by 
way of Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to St. Louis. 
There we purchased two small tents, a plough, and 
some smaller farming tools, and a hand-mill for 
grinding corn. At this period there were no rail- 
roads west of St. Louis ; our journey must be con- 
tinued by boat on the Missouri at a time of extremely 
low water, or by stage at great expense. We chose 
the river route, taking passage on the steamer New 
Lucy which too late we found crowded with pas- 
sengers, mostly men from the South bound for 
Kansas. That they were from the South was plainly 
indicated by their language and dress ; while their 
drinking, profanity, and display of revolvers and 
bowie-knives— openly worn as an essential part of 
their make up— clearly showed the class to which 
they belonged, and that their mission was to aid in 
establishing slavery in Kansas. 

" A box of fruit trees and grape- vines which my 
brother Jason had brought from Ohio, our plough, 
and the few agricultural implements we had on the 
deck of that steamer looked lonesome ; for these 
were all we could see which were adapted to the oc- 


cupation of peace. Then for the first time arose in 
our minds the query : Must the fertile prairies of 
Kansas, through a struggle at arms, be first secured 
to freedom before freemen can sow and reap ? If so, 
how poorly we were prepared for such work will be 
seen when I say that for arms five of us brothers 
had only two small squirrel rifles and one revolver. 
But before we reached our destination, other matters 
claimed our attention. Cholera, which then pre- 
vailed to some extent at St. Louis, broke out among 
our passengers, a number of whom died. Among 
these brother Jason's son, Austin, aged four years, 
the elder of his two children, fell a victim to this 
scourge ; and while our boat lay by for repair of a 
broken rudder at Waverly, Mo., we buried him at 
night near the panic-stricken town, our lonely way 
illumined only by the lightning of a furious thunder- 
storm. True to his spirit of hatred of Northern 
people, our captain, without warning to us on shore, 
cast off his lines and left us to make our way by 
stage to Kansas City to which place we had already 
paid our fare by boat. Before we reached there, 
however, we became very hungry, and endeavored 
to buy food at various farmhouses on the way ; but 
the occupants, judging from our speech that we were 
not from the South, always denied us, saying, ' We 
have nothing for you.' The only exception to this 
answer was at the stage house at Independence, Mo. 
" Arrived in Kansas, her lovely prairies and 
wooded streams seemed to us indeed like a haven 
of rest. Here in prospect we saw our cattle increased 


to hundreds and possibly to thousands, fields of 
corn, orchards and vineyards. At once we set about 
the work through which only our visions of pros- 
perity could be realized. Our tents would suffice to 
shelter until wo could plough our land, plant corn 
and other crops, fruit trees, and vines, cut and se- 
cure as hay enough of the waving grass to supply our 
stock the coming winter. These cheering prospects 
beguiled our labors through the late spring until 
midsummer, by which time nearly all of our number 
were prostrated by fever and ague that would not 
stay cured ; the grass cut for hay mouldered in the 
wet for the want of the care we could not bestow, 
and our crop, of corn wasted by cattle we could not 
restrain. If these minor ills and misfortunes were 
all, they could be easily borne; but now began to 
gather the dark clouds of war. 

"An election for a first territorial legislature had 
been held on the 30th of March of this year. On 
that day the residents of Missouri along the borders 
came into Kansas by thousands, and took forcible 
possession of the polls. In the words of Horace 
Greeley, 'There was no disguise, no pretense of legal- 
ity, no regard for decency. On the evening before 
and the day of the election, nearly a thousand Mis- 
sonrians arrived at Lawrence in wagons and on 
horseback, well armed with rifles, pistols and bowie- 
knives, and two pieces of cannon loaded with mus- 
ket balls. Although but 831 legal electors in the 
Territory voted, there were do less than 6,320 votes 
polled. They elected all the members of the legis- 


lature, with a single exception in either house, — the 
two Free Soilers being chosen from a remote district 
which the Missourians overlooked or did not care 
to reach.' 

"Early in the spring and summer of this year the 
actual settlers at their convention repudiated this 
fraudulently chosen legislature, and refused to obey 
its enactments. Upon this, the border papers of 
Missouri in flaming appeals urged the ruffian horde 
that had previously invaded Kansas to arm, and 
otherwise prepare to march again into the territory 
when called upon, as they soon would be, to 'aid in 
enforcing laws.' War of some magnitude, at least, 
now appeared to us brothers to be inevitable ; and I 
wrote to our father, whose home was in North Elba, 
N. Y., asking him to procure and send us, if he 
could, arms and ammunition, so that we could be 
better prepared to defend ourselves and our neigh- 
bors." l 

John Brown hesitated. His fighting blood was 
stirred and yet there was the plan of years yet un- 
realized. Then a new vision dawned in his mind. 
Perhaps this was the call of the Lord and the path 
to Virginia might lie through Kansas. He hur- 
riedly consulted his friends — Douglass, McCune 
Smith, the cultured Negro physician of New York, 
and Gerrit Smith, and in November, 1854, wrote 
home : "I feel still pretty much determined to go 
back to North Elba ; but expect Owen and Frederick 
will set out for Kansas on Monday next, with cattle 
1 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 188-190. 


belonging to John, Jason and themselves, intending 
to winter somewhere in Illinois. . . . Gerrit 
►Smith wishes me to go back to North Elba ;' from 
Don-lass and Dr. McCune Smith I have not yet 
heard." ' 

His business delayed him in Ohio and he still 
wrote of his going to North Elba. Then followed 
the Syracuse convention of Abolitionists and a new 
revelation to John Brown. For the first time he 
came into contact with the great Abolition move- 
ment. He found that money was forthcoming. 
Here were men willing to pay if others would work. 
It was the call of God and he answered : "Here 
am I." 

Eedpath says: "When in session John Brown 
appeared in that convention and made a very fiery 
speech, during which he said he had four sons in 
Kansas, and had three others who were desirous of 
going there, to aid in fighting the battles of free- 
dom. He could not consent to go unless he could 
go armed, and he would like to arm all his sons; 
but his poverty prevented him from doing so. 
Funds were contributed on the spot ; principally by 
Gerril Smith." 2 

He writes joyfully home : 

"Dear wife and children,— I reached here on the 
first day of the convention, and I have reason to 
bless God that 1 came; for I have met with a most 
warm reception from all, so far as I know, and ex- 

1 Lett* i to bis children, 1854, in Sauboru, pp. 110-111. 
Redpath, p Bl. 


cept by a few sincere, honest, peace friends, a most 
hearty approval of my intention of arming my sons 
and other friends in Kansas. I received to-day 
donations amounting to a little over sixty dollars, — 
twenty from Gerrit Smith, five from an old British 
officer ; others giving smaller sums with such earnest 
and affectionate expression of their good wishes as 
did me more good than money even. John's two 
letters were introduced, and read with such effect 
by Gerrit Smith as to draw tears from numerous 
eyes in the great collection of people present. The 
convention has been one of the most interesting 
meetings I ever attended in my life ; and I made a 
great addition to the number of warm-hearted and 
honest friends." 1 

The die was cast and John Brown left for Kansas. 
Instead of sending the money and arms, says his 
son John, " he came on with them himself, accom- 
panied by his brother-in-law, Henry Thompson, and 
my brother Oliver. In Iowa he bought a horse and 
covered wagon ; concealing the arms in this and con- 
spicuously displaying his surveying implements, he 
crossed into Missouri near Waverly, and at that 
place disinterred the body of his grandson, and 
brought all safely through to our settlement, arriv- 
ing there about the 6th of October, 1855." 2 

His daughter says: "On leaving us finally to 
go to Kansas that summer, he said, ' If it is so pain- 
ful for us to part with the hope of meeting again, 

1 Letter to his wife, 1855, in Sanborn, pp. 193-194. 

2 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 190-191. 


how dreadful must be the feelings of hundreds of 
pool- slaves who are separated for life.' " ' 

So John Brown reached Kansas to strike the blow 
for freedom. Not that he was the central figure of 
Kansas territorial history so far as casual eyes could 
see, or the acknowledged leader of men and meas- 
ures ; rather he seemed and was but a humble co- 
worker, appearing and disappearing here and there, 
— now startling men with the grim decision of his 
act i<ms, now lust and hidden from public view. But 
it is not always the apparent leaders who do the 
world's work. More often those who sit in high 
places, whom men see and hear, do but represent 
or mask public opinion and the social conscience, 
while down in the blood and dust of battle stoop 
those who delivered the master-stroke — the makers 
of the thoughts of men. So in Kansas Robinson, 
Lane, Atchison and Geary were the conspicuous 
public leaders : Robinson, the canny Yankee, 
whose astute reading of the signs of the times 
proved in the end wise and correct but left him al- 
ways the opportunist and politician ; Lane, whose 
impetuous daring and rough devotion led thousands 
of immigrants out of the North and drove hundreds 
of slaveholders back to Missouri ; Atchison, who 
led the determination and ruffianism of the South ; 
and Geary, who voiced the saner nation. And yet 
one cannol read Kansas history without feeling that 
the man who in all this bewildering broil was least 
the puppet of circumstances — the man who most 

1 Ruth Thoiupsou, in Saulwrn, p. 105. 


clearly saw the real crux of the conflict, most defi- 
nitely knew his own convictions and was readiest 
at the crisis for decisive action, was a man whose 
leadership lay not in his office, wealth or influence, but 
in the white flame of his utter devotion to an ideal. 
To comprehend this, one must pick from the con- 
fused tangle of Kansas territorial history the main 
thread of its unraveling and then show how Brown's 
life twined with it. And this is no easy task. Some 
time before or after 1850 Southern leaders had tacitly 
fixed the westward extension of the Compromise line 
of 1820 at the northern line of Missouri. When, 
then, the bill for organizing this western territory 
appeared innocently in Congress, it was hustled 
back to committee, and appeared finally as the cele- 
brated Kansas Nebraska Bill which formed two ter- 
ritories, Kansas and Nebraska. It was the secret 
understanding of the promoters of the bill that 
Kansas would become slave territory and Nebraska 
free, and this tacit compact was expressed in the 
formula that the people of each territory should 
have the right " to form and regulate their domestic 
institutions in their own way, subject only to the 
Constitution of the United States." But the game 
was so easy, and the price so cheap that the South- 
ern leaders and their office-hunting Northern tools 
were not satisfied, even with the gain of territory, 
and so juggled the bill as virtually to leave all ter- 
ritory open to slavery even against the will of its 
people, while eventually they fortified their daring 
by a Supreme Court decision. 


The North, on the other hand, angry enough at 
even the necessity of disputing slavery north of the 
loug established line, nevertheless began in good 
faith to prepare to vote slavery out of Kansas by 
pouring in free settlers. 

Thereupon ensued one of the strangest duels of 
modern times— a political battle between two eco- 
nomic systems : On the one side were all the ma- 
chinery of government, close proximity to the 
battle-field and a deep-seated social ideal which did 
not propose to abide by the rules of the game ; on 
the other hand were strong moral conviction, press- 
ing economic necessity and capacity for organiza- 
tion. It took four years to fight the battle — from 
the middle of 1854, when the Kansas-Nebraska Bill 
was passed and the Indians were hustled out of their 
rights, until 1858, when the pro-slavery constitution 
was definitely buried under free state votes. 

In the beginning, the fall of 1S54, the fatal mis- 
understanding of the two sections was clear: The 
New England Emigrant Aid Society assumed that 
the contest was simply a matter of votes, and that if 
i hey hurried settlers to Kansas from the North a 
majority for freedom was reasonably certain. Mis- 
souri and the South, on the other hand, assumed 
t hat Kansas was already of right a slave state and re- 
sented as an impertinence the attempt to make it free 
by any nuans. Thus at Lawrence, on August 1st, 
the bewildered and unarmed Northern settlers and 
their immediate successors, snch as John Brown's 
son-, literally pounced upon by the furious 


Missouriaus, who crossed the border like an invad- 
ing army. "To those who have qualms of con- 
science as to violating laws, state or national, the 
time has come when such impositions must be 
disregarded, as your rights and property are in 
danger, ' ' cried Stringfello w of Missouri. Thereupon 
5,000 Missouriaus proceeded to elect a pro-slavery 
legislature and Congressional delegate ; and led by 
what Sumner called "hirelings, picked from the 
drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization," 
flourished their pistols aud bowie-knives, driving 
some of the free state immigrants back home and 
the rest into apprehensive inaction aud silence. 

Snatching thus the whip-hand, with pro-slavery 
governor, judges, marshal and legislature, theytheu 
proceeded in 1855 to deliver blow upon blow to the 
free state cause until it seemed inevitable that 
Kansas should become a slave state, with a code of 
laws which made even an assertion against the right 
of slaveholding a felony punishable with imprison- 

The free state settlers hesitatingly began to take 
serious counsel. They found themselves in three 
parties : a few who hated slavery, more who hated 
Negroes, and many who hated slaves. Easily the 
political finesse, afterward unsuccessfully attempted, 
might now have pitted the parties against one an- 
other in such irreconcilable difference as would slip 
even slavery through. But unblushing force and 
fraud united them to au appeal for justice at Big 
Springs in the fall of 1855— where John Brown's 


sons were present and active — and a declaration of 
passive, with a threat of active, resistance to the 
"bogus" legislature. A peace program was laid 
down : they would ignore the patent fraud, organize 
a state and appeal to Congress and the nation. 
This they did in October and November, 1855, 
making Topeka their nominal and Lawrence their 
real capital. 

The pro-slavery party, however, was quick to see 
the weakness of this program and they took the 
first opportunity to force the free state men into 
collision with the authorities. A characteristic oc- 
casion soon arose : a peaceful free state settler was 
brutally killed and instead of arresting the murderer, 
the pro-slavery sheriff arrested the chief witness 
against him. A few of the bolder free state neigh- 
bors released the prisoner and took him to Lawrence. 
Immediately the sheriff gathered an army of 1,500 
deputies from Missouri, and surrounded 500 free 
state men in Lawrence just after John Brown arrived 
in Kansas. Things looked serious enough even to 
the drunken governor, and with the aid of some 
artifice, liqnor and stormy weather, the threatened 
clash was temporarily averted. The wild and ice- 
bound winter that fell on Kansas gave a moment's 
pause, but with the opening spring the pro slavery 
forces withered themselves for a last crushing blow. 
Armed bands came out of the South with flying ban- 
ners, the Missouri Liver was blockaded to Northern 
immigrants, and the border ruffians rode unhindered 
over t he Missouri line. The free state men, alarmed, 


appealed to the East and immigrants were hurried 
forward; but slavery "with the chief justice, the 
tamed and domesticated chief justice who waited on 
him like a familiar spirit," declared the passive re- 
sistance movement "constructive treason" and the 
pro-slavery marshal arrested the free state leaders 
from the governor down, and clapped them into 
prison. Two thousand Missourians then surrounded 
Lawrence and while the hesitating free state men 
were striving to keep the peace, sacked and half 
burned the town on the day before Brooks broke 
Simmer's head in the Senate chamber, for telling 
the truth about Kansas. 

The deed was done. Kansas was a slave terri- 
tory. The free state program had been repudiated 
by the United States government and had broken 
like a reed before the assaults of the pro-slavery 
party. There were mutteriugs in the East but the 
cause of freedom was at its lowest ebb. Then sud- 
denly there came the flash of an awful stroke — a deed 
of retaliation from the free state side so bloody, 
relentless and cruel that it sent a shudder through 
all Kansas and Missouri, and aroused the nation. 
In one black night, John Brown, four of his sons, a 
son-in-law and two others, the chosen executors of 
the boldest free state leaders, seized and killed five 
of the worst of the border ruffians who were harry- 
ing the free state settlers, and practically swept out 
of existence the "Dutch Henry" pro-slavery set- 
tlement in the Swamp of the Swan. The rank and 
file of the free state men themselves recoiled at 


first iu consternation and loudly, then faintly, dis- 
claimed the deed. Suddenly they saw and laid the 
lit- aside, and seized their Sharps riiles. There 
was war in Kansas— a quick sweeping change from 
the passive appeal to law and justice which did not 
respond, to the appeal to force and blood. The 
deed did not make Kansas free — no one, least of all 
John Brown, dreamed that it would. But it brought 
to the fore in free state councils the men who were 
determined to tight for freedom, and it meant the 
end of passive resistance. The carnival of crime 
and rapine that ensued was a disgrace to civilization 
but it was the cost of freedom, and it was less than 
the price of repression. There were pitched battles, 
the building and besieging of forts, the burning of 
homes, stealing of property, raping of women and 
murder of men, until the scared governor signed a 
truce, exchanged prisoners and fled for his life. The 
wildest pro-slavery elements, now loosed from all re- 
straint. planned a last desperate blow. Nearly 
3,000 men were mustered in Missouri. The new 
governor, whose cortege barely escaped highway 
robbery, found "desolation and ruin" on every 
hand; "homes and firesides were deserted; the 
smoke of burning dwellings darkened the atmos- 
phere : women and children, driven from their habi- 
tations, wandered over the prairies and among the 
woodlands, or sought refuge and protection even 
among the Indian tribes; the highways were in- 
fested with numerous predatory bands, and the 
towns were fortified and garrisoned by armies of 


conflicting partisans, each excited almost to frenzy, 
and determined upon mutual extermination." Not 
only that, but the territorial " treasury was bank- 
rupt, there were no pecuniary resources within her- 
self to meet the exigencies of the time ; the Congres- 
sional appropriations intended to defray the ex- 
penses of a year, were insufficient to meet the de- 
mands of a fortnight ; the laws were null, the courts 
virtually suspended and the civil arm of the govern- 
ment almost entirely powerless." 1 

Governor Geary came in the nick of time and he 
came with peremptory orders from the frightened 
government at Washington, who saw that they 
must either check the whirlwind they had raised, 
or lose the presidential election of 1856. For not 
only was there "hell in Kansas" but the North 
was aflame — the very thing which John Brown and 
Lane and their fellows designed. A great conven- 
tion met at Buffalo and mass-meetings were held 
everywhere. Clothes, money, arms, and men began 
to pour out of the North. It was no longer a pro- 
gram of peaceful voting ; it was fight. The Southern 
party was certain to be swamped by an army of men, 
who, though most of them had few convictions as to 
slavery, did not propose to settle among slaves. 
The wilder pro -slavery men did not heed. When 
Shannon ran away and before Geary came, they 
planned to strike their blow at the free state forces. 
An army of nearly three thousand was collected ; 

1 Farewell address of Governor Geary, Transactions of the 
Kansas State Historical Society, Vol. IV, p. 739. 


one wing sacked Osawatomie and the main body 
was to capture and destroy Lawrence. No sooner 
was this done than the force of the United States 
army was to be called in to keep the conquered 
down. The success of the plan at this juncture 
might have precipitated Civil War in 1856 instead 
of 1861, and Geary hurried breathlessly to ward off 
the mad blow. He succeeded, and by strenuous ex- 
ertions he was able with some truth to report in 
Washington before election time: "Peace now 
reigns in Kansas." 

The news, though it helped to elect Buchanan, 
was received but coldly in Washington, for the 
Southerners knew how high a price Geary had paid. 
So evidently was the governor out of favor that be- 
fore the spring of 1857, the third governor fled in 
mad haste from his post because of the enmity of 
his own supporters. It was clear to Washington 
t hat ( Jiary's recognition of the free state cause, with 
the heavy immigration, had already destroyed the 
possibility of making Kansas a slave state. There 
were still, however, certain possibilities for Jinesse 
and political maneuvering. Slaves were already in 
Kansas and the Dred Scott Decision on March 6, 
1857, legalized them there. Moreover, southeast 
Kansas, thanks to one of the most brutal raids in 
its history, in the fall of 1856, was still strongly 
pro-slavery. The constitutional convention was 
also in that party's hands. By gracefully yield- 
ing the legislature therefore to the patent free state 
majority, it seemed possible that political manipu- 


laticm might legalize the slaves already in the 
state. Once this was conceded, there was still a 
chance to make Kansas a slave state. The pro- 
slavery men, however, trained in the upheaval of 
1856, were poor material to follow and support the 
astute Governor Walker. They itched for the law 
of the club, and made but bungling work of the 
Lecompton constitution. Then too the more de- 
termined spirits in the Territory, together with 
many naturally lawless elements, saw the pro- 
slavery danger in southeast Kansas, and proceeded 
to wage guerrilla warfare against the squatters on 
claims whence free state men had been driven. It 
was a cruel relentless battle on both sides with 
murder and rapine — the last expiring flame of the 
four years' war dying down to sullen peace in the 
fall of 1858, after the English bill with its bribe of 
land for slaves had been killed in the spring. 

So Kansas was free. In vain did the sullen Sen- 
ate in Washington fume and threaten and keep the 
young state knocking for admission ; the game 
had been played and lost and Kansas was free. 
Free because the slave barons played for an im- 
perial stake in defiance of modern humanity and 
economic development. Free because strong men 
had suffered and fought not against slavery but 
against slaves in Kansas. Above all, free because 
one man hated slavery and on a terrible night rode 
down with his sons among the shadows of the 
Swamp of the Swan — that long, low-winding and 
sombre stream " fringed everywhere with woods" 


and dark with bloody memory. Forty-eight hours 
they lingered there, and then of a pale May morn- 
ing rode up to the world again. Behind them lay 
five twisted, red and man-led corpses. Behind them 
rose the stilled wailing of widows and Little chil- 
dren. Behiud them the fearful driver gazed and 
shuddered. But before them rode a man, tall, dark, 
grim-faced and awful. His hands were red and 
his name Mas Johu Browu. JSueh was the cost of 



" And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save 
the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel : for into 
his hands hath God delivered Midiau, and all the host." 

"Did you go out under the auspices of the Emi- 
grant Aid Society % " asked the Inquisition of John 
Brown in after years. He answered grimly : " No, 
sir, I went out under the auspices of John Brown." 
In broad outline the story of his coming to Kansas 
has been told in the last chapter, but the picture 
needs now to be filled in with the details of his per- 
sonal fortunes, and a more careful study of the de- 
velopment of his personal character in this critical 
period of his career. The place of his coming was 
storied and romantic. French-fathered Indians 
wheeling onward in their swift canoes saw stately 
birds in the reedy lowlands of eastern Kansas and 
called the marsh the Swamp of the Swan. Up from 
the dark sluggish rivers rose rolling goodly lands 
over which John Brown's brother Edward had 
passed to California in 1849, and on which his 
brother-in-law had settled as early as 1854. Here, 
too, naturally had followed the five pioneering sons 
in April, 1855. They came hating slavery and yet 
peacefully, unarmed, and in all good faith, with 
cattle and horses and trees and vines to settle in a 


free land. In Missouri they met hatred and inhos- 
pitality, and in Kansas sickness and freezing 
weather. Nevertheless they were stout-hearted and 
hopeful, and went bravely to work until the polit- 
ical storm broke, when they wrote home hastily for 
arms to defend themselves. John Brown, as we 
have seen, brought the arms himself, taking his son 
Oliver and his son-in-law Henry with him. u We 
reached the place where the boys are located one 
week ago, late at night." he wrote October 13, 1855. 
''We had between us all, sixty cents in cash when 
we arrived. We found our folks in a most uncom- 
fortable situation, with no houses to shelter one of 
them, no hay or corn fodder of any account se- 
cured, shivering over their little fires, all exposed 
to the dreadful cutting winds, morning, evening 
and stormy days." All went to work to build cabins 
and secure fodder, keeping at the same time a care- 
ful eye on the political developments. On free state 
election day, October 9th, " hearing that there was a 
prospect of difficulty, we all turned out most thor- 
oughly armed," but "no enemy appeared" and 
Brown was encouraged to think that the prospect 
of Kansas becoming free "is brightening every 

By November the settlers, he wrote, "have made 
but little progress, but we have made a little. We 
have got a shanty three logs high, chinked and 
nradded, and roofed with our tent, and a chimney 
s<> tar advanced that w»- can keep a fire in it for 
Jason. John has his shanty a little better fixed 


than it was, but miserable enough now ; and we 
have got their little crop of beans secured, which 
together with johnny-cake, mush and milk, pump- 
kins and squashes, constitute our fare." And he 
adds, " After all God's tender mercies are not taken 
from us. ... I feel more and more confident 
that slavery will soon die out here— and to God be 
the praise ! " 

On November 23d he writes : " We have got 
both families so sheltered that they need not suffer 
hereafter ; have got part of the hay (which had been 
in cocks) secured ; made some progress in prepara- 
tion to build a house for John and Owen ; and Sal- 
mon has caught a prairie wolf in a steel trap. We 
continue to have a good deal of stormy weather — 
rains with severe winds, and forming into ice as 
they fall, together with cold nights that freeze 
the ground considerably. Still God has not for- 
saken us ! " ' 

It was thus that John Brown came to Kansas and 
stood ready to fight for freedom. No sooner had he 
stepped on Kansas soil, however, than it was plain 
to him and to others that the cause for which he 
was fighting was far different from that for which 
most of the settlers were willing to risk life aud 
property. The difference came out at the first 
meeting of settlers in the little Osawatomie town- 
ship. Redpath says : ' ' The politicians of the neigh- 
borhood were carefully pruning resolutions so as to 
suit every variety of anti-slavery extensionists ; and 

1 Letters to his family, 1855, in Sanborn, pp. 201 and 205. 


more especially that class of persons whose opposi- 
tion bo slavery was founded on expediency — the 
selfishness of race, and caste, and interest: men who 
were desirous that Kansas should be consecrated to 
free white Labor only, not to freedom for all and above 
all. The resolution which aroused the old man's 
anger declared that Kansas should be a free white 
state thereby favoring the exclusion of Negroes and 
mulattoes, whether slave or free. He rose to speak, 
and soon alarmed and disgusted the politicians by 
asserting the manhood of the Negro race, and ex- 
pressing his earnest, anti-slavery convictions with a 
force and vehemence little likely to suit the hy- 
brids." ■ 

Nothing daunted by the cold reception of his 
radical ideas here, Brown strove to extend them 
when a larger opportunity came at the first be- 
leaguering of Lawrence. It was in December, 1855, 
when rumors of the surrounding of Lawrence by tin 
governor and his pro-slavery followers came to the 
Browns. The old man wrote home: " These re- 
ports appeared to be well authenticated, but we 
could gel uo further accounts of the matters ; and I 
left this for the place where the boys are settled, at 
evening, intending to go to Lawrence to learn the 
facts the next day. John was. however, started on 
horseback ; but before he had gone many rods, word 
came that our help was immediately wanted. On 
getting this last news, it was at once agreed to break 
up at John's camp, and take Wealthy and Johnnie 
1 Redpath, pp. 103-104. 


to Jason's camp (some two miles off), and that all 
the men but Henry, Jason, and Oliver should at 
once set off for Lawrence under arms ; those three 
being wholly unfit for duty. We then set about 
providing a little corn bread and meat, blankets, 
and cooking utensils, running bullets and loading 
all our guns, pistols, etc. The five set off in the 
afternoon, and after a short rest in the night (which 
was quite dark), continued our march until after 
daylight ; next morning, when we got our breakfast, 
started again, and reached Lawrence in the fore- 
noon, all of us more or less lamed by our tramp." l 

The band approached the town at sunset, looming 
strangely on the horizon : an old horse, a homely 
wagon and seven stalwart men armed with pikes, 
swords, pistols and guns. John Brown was im- 
mediately put in command of a company. He 
found that already " negotiations had commenced 
between Governor Shannon (having a force of some 
fifteen or sixteen hundred men) and the principal 
leaders of the free state men, they having a force 
of some five hundred men at that time. These 
were busy, night and day, fortifying the town with 
embankments and circular earthworks, up to the 
time of the treaty with the governor, as an attack 
was constantly looked for, notwithstanding the 
negotiations then pending. This state of things 
continued from Friday until Sunday evening," * 
when Governor Shannon was induced to enter the 

1 Letter to his family, 1855, in Sanborn, pp. 217-221. 

2 Letter to hia wife, 1855, in Sanborn, pp. 217-221. 


town and after some parley a treaty was announced. 
I in mid iatcly Brown's suspicious were aroused. He 
surmised that the governor's party had not thus 
lightly given up the light for slavery, and he feared 
that the leading free state politicians had sacrificed 
the principles for which he was fighting for the 
sake of the temporary truce. Already the drunken 
governor was making conciliatory remarks to the 
crowd in front of the free state hotel, the free state 
Governor Kobinsou replying, when John Brown, 
mounting a piece of timber at the corner of the house, 
begau a fiery speech. "He said that the people of 
Missouri had come to Kansas to destroy Lawrence ; 
that they had beleaguered the towu for two weeks, 
threatening its destruction; that they came for 
blood; that he believed, 'without the shedding of 
blood there is no remission ' ; and asked for volun- 
teers to go under his command, and attack the pro- 
slavery cam]) stationed near Franklin, some four 
miles from Lawrence. ... He demanded to 
know what the terms were. If he understood 
Governor Shannon's speech, something had been 
conceded, and he conveyed the idea that the terri- 
torial laws were to be observed. Those laws he de- 
nounced and spit upon, and would never obey — 
uo ! The crowd was fired by his earnestness and 
a greal echoing shout arose: 'No! No! Down 
with the bogus laws. Lead us out to fight first ! ' 
For a moment matters looked serious to the free 
state leaders who had so ingeniously engineered the 
compromise, and they hastened to assure Brown 


that be was mistaken ; that there had been no sur- 
rendering of principles on their side." J The real 
terms of the treaty were kept secret, but Brown 
with his usual loyalty accepted their word as true 
and wrote exultingly home : "So ended this last 
Kansas invasion, — the Missourians returning with 
flying colors, after incurring heavy expenses, suf- 
fering great exposure, hardships, and privations, 
not having fought any battles, burned or destroyed 
any infant towns or Abolition presses ; leaving the 
free state men organized and armed, and in full 
possession of the Territory ; not having fulfilled any 
of all their dreadful threatenings, except to murder 
one unarmed man, and to commit some robberies 
and waste of property upon the defenseless families, 
unfortunately within their power. We learn by 
their papers that they boast of a great victory 
over the Abolitionists ; and well they may. Free 
state men have only hereafter to retain the footing 
they have gained, and Kansas is free." 2 

The Wakarusa "treaty," however, was but a 
winter's truce as John Brown soon saw ; his dis- 
trust of the compromisers and politicians grew, and 
he tried to get his owu channels of news from the 
seat of government at Washington. " We are very 
anxious to know what Congress is doing. We hear 
that Frank Pierce means to crush the men of 
Kansas. I do not know how well he may succeed, 

l G. W. Brown, Reminiscences of Old John Brown, p. 8; 
Phillips, History of Kansas, quoted in Red path. p. 90. 
2 Letter to his family, 1855, in Sanborn, pp. 217-221. 


l.ut I think ho may find his hands full before it is 
all over." 1 And Joshua E. Giddings assures him 
that the President " never will dare to employ the 
troops of the United States to shoot the citizens of 
Kansas." 1 Yet the President did dare. Not only 
were regular troops put into the hands of the Kansas 
slave power, but armed bauds from the South ap- 
peared, and one in particular from Georgia encamped 
Oil the Swamp of the Swan near the Brown settle- 
ment. John Brown's procedure was characteristic. 
With his surveying instruments in hand one May 
in' nning, he sauntered into their camp. He was 
immediately taken for a government surveyor and 
consequently "sound on the goose," for "every 
governor sent here, every secretary, every judge, 
every Indian agent, every land surveyor, every 
clerk in every ofliee. believed in making Kansas a 
slave state. All the money sent here by the 
national government was disbursed by pro-slavery 
officials to pro-slavery menials." 3 Brown took 
with him, his son says, "four of my brothers, — 
Owen. Frederick, Salmon, and Oliver.— as chain 
carriers, axman, and marker, and found a section 
line which, on following, led through the camp of 
these men. The Georgians indulged in the utmost 
freedom of expression. One of them, who appeared 
to be the Leader <>f the company, said: 'We've 

1 Letter to his family, 1856, in Sanborn, j>. 223. 
• l etter <>f Giddings to John Brown, 1856, in Sanborn, p. 2-24. 
i>. W. Wilder, in the Transactions of the Kansas State His- 
Sooiety, Vol. 6, p. 337. 


come here to stay. We won't make no war on 
them as minds their own business ; but all the 
Abolitionists, such as them damned Browns over 
there, we're going to whip, drive out, or kill, — any 
way to get shut of them, by God ! ' " x 

Many of the intended victims were openly 
mentioned, and every word said was calmly written 
down in John Brown's surveyor's book. Soon this 
information was corroborated by the Southern 
camp being moved nearer the Brown settlement. 
Secret marauding and stealing began. Brown 
warned the intended victims, and, at a night meet- 
ing, it seems to have been decided that at the first 
sign of a move on the part of the " border ruffians " 
the ringleaders should be seized and lynched. Not 
only was this the opinion at Osawatomie, but 
secret councils throughout the state were beginning 
to lose faith in conciliation and compromise, and 
to listen to more radical advice. From Lawrence, 
too, there came encouragement to John Brown to 
take the lead in this darker forward movement. 
There was little open talk or explicit declaration, 
but it was generally understood that the next 
aggressive move in the Swamp of the Swan meant 
retaliation and that John Brown would strike the 

While, however, the free state leaders were will- 
ing to let this radical hater of slavery thus defend 
the frontiers of their cause, they themselves deemed 
it wise still to stick to the policy of passive resist- 
1 E. A. Coleman, in Sanborn, p. 260. 


ance, and their wisdom cost them dear. On the 
21st of May the pro-slavery forces swooped ou 
Lawrence, and burned and sacked it, while its 
citizens stood trembling by and raised no hand in 
its defense. John Brown knew nothing of this un- 
til it was too late to help. Notwithstanding, he 
hurried to the scene, and sat down by the smolder- 
ing ashes in grim anger. He was "indignant that 
there had been no resistance ; that Lawrence Mas 
not defended ; and denounced the members of the 
committee and leading free state men as cowards, 
or worse." It seemed to Brown nothing less than a 
crime for men thus to lie down and be kicked by 
ruffians. " Caution, caution, sir ! " he burst out at a 
discreet old gentleman, "I am eternally tired of 
hearing that word caution — it is nothing but the 
word of cowardice." * Yet there seemed nothing to 
do then, and he was about to break camp when a 
boy came up riding swiftly. The ruffians at Dutch 
Henry's crossing, he said, had been warning the 
defenseless women in the Brown settlement that the 
free state families must leave by Saturday or Sun- 
day, else they would be driven out. The Brown 
women, hastily gathering up their children and 
valuables, had fled by ox-cart to the house of a 
kinsman farther away. Two houses and a store in 
the German settlement had been burned. 

John Brown arose. "I will attend to those fel- 
lows," he said grimly. " Something must be done to 

1 Jann-s San way, in liiutou, John Brown and His Men, p. 


show these barbarians that we too have rights I" 1 
He called four of his sous, Watson, Frederick, Owen 
aud Oliver, his son-in-law, Henry Thompson, and a 
German, whose home lay in ashes. A neighbor 
with wagon and horses offered to carry the band, 
and the cutlasses were carefully sharpened. An 
uneasy feeling crept through the onlookers. They 
knew that John Brown was going to strike a blow 
for freedom in Kansas, but they did not understand 
just what that blow would be. There were hesita- 
tion and whispering, and one at least ventured a 
mild remonstrance, but Brown shook him off in dis- 
gust. As the wagon moved off, a cheer arose from 
the company left behind. 

It was two o'clock on Friday afternoon that the 
eight men started toward the Swamp of the Swan. 
Arriving in the neighborhood they spent Saturday 
in quietly and secretly investigating the situation, 
and in gathering evidence of the intentions of the 
''border ruffians." Although the exact facts have 
never all been told, it seems clear that a meeting of 
the intended victims was secured at which John 
Brown himself presided. Probably it was then de- 
cided that the seven ringleaders of the projected 
deviltry must be killed, and John Brown was ap- 
pointed to see that the deed was done. The men 
condemned were among the worst of their kind. 
One was a liquor dealer in whose disreputable dive 
the United States court was held. His brother, a 

1 Bondi in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 
Vol. 8, p. 279 ; Spring, Kansas, p. 143. 


giant of six feet four, was a thief and a bully whose 
pastime was insulting free state women. The third 
was the postmaster, who managed to avoid direct 
complicity iu the crime, hut shared the spoils. 
Next came the probate judge, who harried the free 
stale meu with warrants of all sorts; and lastly, 
three miserable drunken tools, formerly slave- 
chasers who had come to Kansas with their blood- 
hounds and were ready lor any kind of evil. 

These were not the leaders of the pro-slavery 
party in Kansas, but rather the dogs which were to 
worry the I'm- state men to death. The ringleaders 
sat securely hedged back of Uuited States bayonets 
and the Missouri militia, but their tools depended 
for their safety on terrorizing the localities wherein 
they lived. Here then, said John Brown, was the 
spot to strike and, once sentence of death had been 
formally passed, the band hurried to its task. The 
saloou lay on the creek where the great highway 
from Leavenworth in the northeastern part of the 
state crossed on its way to Fort Scott. Around it 
within an hour's walk were the cabins of the others. 
In all eases the proceeding was similar : a silent ap- 
proach and a quick sharp knocking in the night. 
The inmates leapt startled from their beds, for mid- 
night rappings were ominous there. They hesitated 
t<> open the door, but the demand was peremptory 
and the door was frail. Then the dark room was 
filled with shadowy figures, the man dressed quickly, 
the woman whimpered and listened, but the foot- 
steps died away and all was still. Three homes 


were visited thus ; two of the number could not be 
found, but five men went out into the darkness with 
their captors and never returned. They were led 
quickly into the woods and surrounded. John 
Brown raised his hand and at the signal the vic- 
tims were hacked to death with broadswords. 

The deed inflamed Kansas. The timid rushed to 
disavow the deed. The free state people were silent 
and the pro-slavery party was roused to fury. 
Even the silent co-conspirators of Pottawatomie 
rushed to pledge themselves " individually and col- 
lectively, to prevent a recurrence of a similar 
tragedy, and to ferret out and hand over to the 
criminal authorities the perpetrators for punish- 
ment." But they took no steps to lay hands on 
John Brown and as he said, their cowardice did 
not protect them. Four times in four years the 
wrath of the avengers flamed in the Swamp of the 
Swan, and swept the land in fire and blood, and the 
last red breath of the expiring war in Kansas glowed 
in these dark ravines. 

To this day men differ as to the effect of John 
Brown's blow. Some say it freed Kansas, while 
others say it plunged the land back into civil war. 
Truth lies in both statements. The blow freed 
Kansas by plunging it into civil war, and compel- 
ling men to fight for freedom which they had vainly 
hoped to gain by political diplomacy. At first it 
was hard to see this, and even those sons of John 
Brown whom he had not taken with him, recoiled 
at the news. One son says : "On the afternoon of 


Monday, May 26th, a man came to us at Liberty 
Hill, . • • liis horse reeking with sweat, and 
said, ' Five men have been killed on the Pottawat- 
omie, horribly cut aud mangled ; and they say old 
John Brown did it.' Hearing this, I was afraid it 
was true, and it was the most terrible shock that 
ever happened to my feelings in my life ; but 
brother John took a different view. The next day 
as we were on the east side of Middle Creek, I asked 
father, ' Did you have any hand in the killing ! ' 
He said, 'I did not, but I stood by and saw it.' I 
did not ask further for fear I should hear something 
I did not wish to hear. Frederick said, ' I could 
not feel as if it was right ; ' but another of the party 
said it was justifiable as a means of self-defense and 
the defense of others. What I said against it 
seemed to hurt father very much ; but all he said 
was, ' God is my judge, — we were justified under 
the circumstances.' " 1 

This was as much as John Brown usually said of 
the matter, although in later years a friend relates : 
"I finally said, 'Captain Brown, I want to ask you 
one question, and you can answer it or not as you 
please, and I shall not be offended.' He stopped 
his pacing, looked me square in the face, and 
said, 'What is it!' Said I, 'Captain Brown, did 
you kill those five men on the Pottawatomie, or did 
you not 1 ' He replied, ' I did not ; but I do not 
pretend to say that they were not killed by my 
order ; and in doing so I believe I was doing God's 
1 Jason Brow ii, in Sanborn, p. 273. 


service.' My wife spoke and said, ' Then, captain, 
yon think that God uses you as an instrument in 
His hands to kill men f ' Brown replied, ' I thiuk 
He has used me as an instrument to kill men ; and 
if I live, I think He will use me as an instrument to 
kill a good many more ! ' " 1 

No sooner was the deed known than John Brown 
became a hunted outlaw. Two of his sons who had 
not been with him at the murders were arrested on 
Lecompte's " constructive treason" warrants be- 
cause they had affiliated with the free state move- 
ment. Horror at his father's deed and the cruelty 
of his captors drove the eldest son temporarily in- 
sane, while the life of the other was saved only by 
a scrap of paper which said, " I am aware that you 
hold my two sons, John and Jason, prisoners — John 
Brown."* The old man never wavered. He wrote 
home: "Jason started to go and place himself un- 
der the protection of the government troops ; but on 
his way he was taken prisoner by the bogus men, 
and is yet a prisoner, I suppose. John tried to 
hide for several days ; but from feelings of the un- 
grateful conduct of those who ought to have stood 
by him, excessive fatigue, anxiety, and constant loss 
of sleep, he became quite insane, and in that situa- 
tion gave up, or, as we are told, was betrayed at 
Osawatomie into the hands of the bogus men. We 
do not know all the truth about this affair. He has 
since, we are told, been kept in irons, and brought 

1 E. A. Coleman, in Sanborn, p. 259. 
9 John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, p. 278. 


to a trial before bogus court, the result of which we 
have uot yet learued. We have great anxiety both 
for him and Jason, and numerous other prisoners 
with the enemy (who have all the while had the 
government troops to sustain them). We can only 
commend them to God." ' 

Withdrawing to the forests, John Brown now be- 
gan to organize his followers. Thirty-five of them 
adopted this covenant in the summer of 1856 : 

' ' We whose names are found on these and the 
next following pages, do hereby enlist ourselves to 
serve in the free state cause under John Brown as 
commander, during the full period of time affixed to 
our names respectively and we severally pledge our 
word and our sacred honor to said commander, and 
to each other, that during the time for which we 
have enlisted, we will faithfully and punctually per- 
form our duty (in such capacity or place as may be 
assigned to us by a majority of all the votes of those 
associated with us, or of the companies to which we 
may belong as the case may be) as a regular volun- 
teer force for the maintenance of the rights and lib- 
erties of the free state citizens of Kansas : and we 
further agree ; that as individuals we will conform to 
the by-laws of this organization and that we will insist 
on their regular and punctual enforcement as a first 
and a last duty : and, in short, that we will observe 
and maintain a strict and thorough military disci- 
pline at all times until our term of service expires." * 

'Letter to his family, 1856, in Sauboru, pp. 236-241. 
' Sanborn, pp. 287-288. 


A score of by-laws were added, providing for 
electing officers, trial by jury, disposal of captured 
property, etc. Then follow these articles : 

"Art. XIV. All uncivil, ungentlemanly, profane, 
vulgar talk or conversation shall be discountenanced. 

" Art. XV. All acts of petty theft, needless waste 
of property of the members or of citizens are hereby 
declared disorderly ; together with all uncivil, or un- 
kind treatment of citizens or of prisoners. 

"Art. XX. No person after having first sur- 
rendered himself a prisoner shall be put to death, 
or subjected to corporeal punishment, without first 
having had the benefit of an impartial trial. 

"Art. XXI. The ordinary use or introduction 
into the camp of any intoxicating liquor, as a bev- 
erage, is hereby declared disorderly." ' 

Nor was this ideal of discipline merely on paper. 
The reporter of the New York Tribune stumbled on 
the camp which the authorities did not dare to 

' ' I shall not soon forget the scene that here opened 
to my view. Near the edge of the creek a dozen 
horses were tied, all ready saddled for a ride for life, 
or a hunt after Southern invaders. A dozen rifles 
and sabres were stacked against the trees. In an 
open space, amid the shady and lofty woods, there 
was a great blazing fire with a pot on it ; a woman, 
bareheaded, with an honest sunburnt face, was pick- 
ing blackberries from the bushes ; three or four 
armed men were lying on red and blue blankets on 
'Sanborn, pp. 288-290. 


the grass ; and two fine-looking youths were stand- 
ing, leaning on their arms, on guard near by. One 
of them was the youngest son of old Brown, and the 
other was 'Charley,' the brave Hungarian, who 
was subsequently murdered at Osawatomie. Old 
Brown himself stood near the fire, with his shirt 
sleeves rolled up, and a large piece of pork in his 
hand. He was cooking a pig. He was poorly clad, 
and his toes protruded from his boots. The old 
man received me with great cordiality, and the little 
baud gathered about me. But it was a moment 
only ; for the captain ordered them to renew their 
work. He respectfully but firmly forbade conver- 
sation on the Pottawatomie affair ; and said that, if 
I desired any information from the company in re- 
lation to their conduct or intentions, he, as their 
captain, would answer for them whatever it was 
proper to communicate. 

u In this camp no manner of profane language 
was permitted ; no man of immoral character was 
allowed to stay, excepting as a prisoner of war. He 
made prayers in which all the company united, every 
morning and evening; and no food was ever tasted 
by his men until the divine blessing had hem asked 
on it. After every meal, thanks Mere returned to 
the Bountiful Giver. Often, I was told, the old man 
would retire to the densest solitudes, to wrestle with 
his God in secret prayer. One of his company sub- 
sequently informed me that, after these retirings, he 
would say that the Lord had directed him in visions 
what to do ; that for himself he did not love warfare, 


but peace, — only acting in obedience to the will of 
the Lord, and fighting God's battles for His chil- 
dren's sake. 

"It was at this time that the old man said to me : 
1 1 would rather have the smallpox, yellow fever, 
and cholera all together in my camp, than a man 
without principles. It's a mistake, sir,' he contin- 
ued, i that our people make, when they think that 
bullies are the best fighters, or that they are the men 
fit to oppose those Southerners. Give me men of 
good principles ; God-fearing men ; men who respect 
themselves; and, with a dozen of them, I will oppose 
any hundred such men as these Buford ruffians.' 

1 ' I remained in the camp about an hour. Never 
before had I met such a baud of men. They were 
not earnest but earnestness incarnate." x 

A member of the band says : 

11 We stayed here up to the morning of Sunday, 
the first of June, and during these few days I fully 
succeeded in understanding the exalted character of 
my old friend. He exhibited at all times the most 
affectionate care for each of us. He also attended 
to cooking. We had two meals daily, consisting of 
bread made of flour, baked in skillets ; this was 
washed down with creek water, mixed with a little 
ginger and a spoon of molasses to each pint. Never- 
theless we kept in excellent spirits ; we considered 
ourselves as one family, allied to one another by the 
consciousness that it was our duty to undergo all 
these privations to further the good cause ; had de- 
^edpath, pp. 112-114. 


bermined to share any danger with one another, that 
victory or death might find us together. We were 
united as a band of brothers by the love and affec- 
tion toward the man who with tender words and 
wise counsel, in the depth of the wilderness of 
Ottawa Creek, prepared a handful of young men 
for the work of laying the foundation of a free com- 
monwealth. His words have ever remained firmly 
engraved in my mind. Many and various were the 
instructions he gave during the days of our compul- 
sory leisure in this camp. He expressed himself 
to us that we should never allow ourselves to be 
tempted by any consideration to acknowledge laws 
and institutions to exist as of right, if our conscience 
and reason condemned them. He admonished us 
not to care whether a majority, no matter how 
large, opposed our principles and opinions. The 
largest majorities were sometimes only organized 
mobs, whose howlings never changed black into 
white, or night into day. A minority conscious of 
its rights, based on moral principles, would, under 
a republican government, sooner or later become 
the majority. Regarding the curse and crimes of 
the institution of slavery, he declared that the out- 
rages committed in Kansas to further its extension 
bad directed the attention of all intelligent citizens 
of tlif United States and of the world to the neces- 
sity of its abolishment, as a stumbling-block in the 
l>:ith '>!' nineteenth century civilization ; that while 
it was true that the pro-slavery people and their 
aiders and abettors had the upper hand at present, 


and the free state organization dwindled to a hand- 
ful hid in the brush, nevertheless, we ought to be 
of good cheer, and start the ball to rolling at the 
first opportunity, no matter whether its starting 
motion would even crush us to death. We were 
under a protection of a wise Providence, which 
might use our feeble efforts. 

' ' Occasionally Captain Brown also gave us direc- 
tions for our conduct during a fight, for attack and 
retreat. Time and again he entreated us never 
to follow the example of the border ruffians, who 
took a delight in destruction ; never to burn houses 
or fences, so often done by the enemy. Free state 
people could use them to advantage. Eepeatedly 
he admonished us not to take human life except 
when absolutely necessary. Plunder taken from 
the enemy should be common property, to be used 
for continuance of the struggle ; horses to go to 
recruits, cattle and provision to poor free state 
people." ' 

To this band of men the surrounding country, 
which was already feeling the first retaliatory 
blows of the pro-slavery party, now looked for aid, 
and Brown stood ever ready. His men, however, 
could form but the nucleus of a spirited defense and 
for a time the settlers hesitated to join the band 
until Brown threatened to withdraw. " Why did 
you send Carpenter after us ? I am not willing to 
sacrifice my men without having some hope of ac- 

l Bondiin the Transactions of the Kansas State Historical 
Society, Vol. 8, pp. 282-284. 


complishiug something," ' he demanded of a hesi- 
tating emissary, and turning to his men he said: 
■ It the cowardice and indifference of the free state 
people compel us to leave Kansas, what do you say, 
men, if we start south, for instance to Louisiana, 
and get up a Negro insurrection, and thereby compel 
them to let go their grip on Kansas, and so bring 
relief to our friends here?" Frederick Brown 
jumped up and said : "lam ready." - 

The petty outrages of the Georgia guerrillas now 
so increased in boldness and in frequency that a 
company was hastily formed which called Brown's 
men to the defense of a neighboring village. " We 
will be with you," cried Brown, and thus he told 
the story of what followed to the folks at home : 

"The cowardly mean conduct of Osawatomie 
and vicinity did not save them; for the ruffians 
came on them, made numerous prisoners, fired their 
buildings, and robbed them. After this a picked 
party of the bogus men went to Brown's Station, 
burned John's and Jason's houses, and their con- 
tents to ashes; in which burning we have all suf- 
fered more or less. Orson and boy have been pris- 
oners, but we soon set them at liberty. They are 
well, and have not been seriously injured. Owen 
and I have just come here for the first time to look 
at the ruins. All looks desolate and forsaken,— the 
grass and weeds fast covering up the signs that 

' Bondi in tho Transactions of the Kansas State Historical So- 
ciety, Vol. 8, p. 285. 
* 7&irf., p. 284. 


these 15] aces were lately the abodes of quiet families. 
After burning the houses, this self-same party of 
picked men, some forty in number, set out as they 
supposed, and as was the fact, on the track of my 
little company, boasting with awful profanity, that 
they would have our scalps. They, however, passed 
the place where we hid, and robbed a little town 
some four or five miles beyond our camp in the 
timber. I had omitted to say that some murders had 
been committed at the time Lawrence was sacked. 

" On learning that this party was in pursuit of 
us, my little company, now increased to ten in all, 
started after them in company of a Captain Shore, 
with eighteen men, he included (June 1st). We were 
all mounted as we traveled. We did not meet them 
on that day, but took five prisoners, four of whom 
were of their scouts, and well armed. We were out 
all night, but could find nothing of them until 
about six o'clock next morning, when we prepared 
to attack them at once, on foot, leaving Frederick 
and one of Captain Shore's men to guard the horses. 
As I was much older than Captain Shore, the prin- 
cipal direction of the fight devolved on me. We 
got to within about a mile of their camp before 
being discovered by their scouts, and then moved 
at a brisk pace, Captain Shore and men forming 
our left, and my company the right. When within 
about sixty rods of the enemy, Captain Shore's 
men halted by mistake in a very exposed situa- 
tion, and continued the fire, both his men and the 
enemy being armed with Sharps rifles. My com- 


pany had no long shooters. "SVe (my company) 
did not lire a gun until we gained the rear of a 
bank, about fifteen or twenty rods to the right of 
the enemy, where we commenced, and soon com- 
pelled them to hide in a ravine. Captain Shore, 
alter getting one man wounded, and exhausting his 
ammunition, came with part of his men to the 
right of my position, much discouraged. The 
balance of his men, including the one wounded, 
had left the ground. Five of Captain Shore's men 
came boldly down and joined my company, and all 
but one man, wounded, helped to maintain the 
fighl until it was over. I was obliged to give my 
consent that he should go after more help, when 
all his men left but eight, four of whom I persuaded 
to remain in a secure position, and there busied 
t hem in the horses and mules of the enemy, which 
served for a show of fight. After the firing had 
continued for some two to three hours, Captain 
Pate with twenty-three men, two badly wounded, 
laid down their arms to nine men, myself included, 
— four of Captain Shore's men and four of my own. 
One of my men (Henry Thompson) was badly 
wounded, and after continuing his fire for an hour 
longer, was obliged to quit the ground. Three 
others of my company (but not of my family) had 
gone off. Salmon was dreadfully wounded by acci- 
dent, soon after the tight; but both he and Henry 
are fast recovering. 

" A day or two after the fight, Colonel Sumner 
of the United States army came suddenly upon us, 


while fortifying our camp and guarding our prison- 
ers (which, by the way, it had been agreed mutually 
should be exchanged for as many free state men, 
John and Jason included), and compelled us to let 
go our prisoners without being exchanged, and to 
give up their horses and arms. They did not go 
more than two or three miles before they began to 
rob and injure free state people. We consider this 
in good keeping with the cruel and unjust course 
of the administration and its tools throughout this 
whole Kansas difficulty. Colonel Sumner also 
compelled us to disband ; and we, being only a 
handful, were obliged to submit. 

" Since then we have, like David of old, had our 
dwellings with the serpents of the rocks and wild 
beasts of the wilderness, being obliged to hide 
away from our enemies. We are not disheartened, 
though nearly destitute of food, clothing, and 
money. God, who has not given us over to the 
will of our enemies, but has moreover delivered 
them into our hand, will, we humbly trust, still 
keep and deliver us. We feel assured that He who 
sees not as men see, does not lay the guilt of innocent 
blood to our charge." 1 

It was John Brown's hope that the courage en- 
gendered by the striking success of the fight at 
Black Jack, would spread the spirit of resistance 
to the whole free state party. Lawrence, then the 

1 Bondi in the Transactions of tbe Kansas State Historical 
Society, Vol. 8, p. 286; John Brown to his family, 1856, in 
Sanborn, pp. 236-241. 


capital, was still surrounded by a chain of forts 
held by bands of pro-slavery marauders : one at 
Franklin just east of the city; another just south 
and known as Fort Saunders ; and a third between 
Lawrence and the pro-slavery capital, Leconiptou, 
known as Fort Titus. When it was rumored that 
the United States troops would disperse the free 
state legislature about to meet at Topeka, John 
Brown hurried thither, hoping that resistance would 
begin here and sweep the Territory. One of the 
free state leaders met him at Lawrence and jour- 
neyed with him toward Topeka. Brown and he 
took the main road as far as Big Springs, he says, 
and continues : 

" There we left the road, going in a southwesterly 
direction for a mile, when we halted on a hill, and 
the horses were stripped of their saddles, and pick- 
eted out to graze. The grass was wet with dew. 
The men ate of what provision they had with them, 
and I received a portion from the captain, — dry 
beef (which was not so bad), and bread made from 
corn bruised between stones, then rolled in balls 
and cooked in the ashes of the camp-fire. Captain 
Brown observed that I nibbled it very gingerly, 
and said. ! 1 am afraid you will be hardly able to 
eat a soldier's harsh fare.' 

"We next placed our two saddles together, so 
that om luads lay only a few feet apart. Brown 
spread his blanket on the wet grass, and when we 
lay together upon it, mine was spread over us. It 
was past eleven o'clock, and we lay there until two 


in the morning, but we slept none. He seemed to 
be as little disposed to sleep as I was, and we 
talked ; or rather he did, for I said little. I found 
that he was a thorough astronomer ; he pointed out 
the different constellations and their movements. 
' Now,' he said, ' it is midnight,' as he pointed to 
the finger-marks of his great clock in the sky. The 
whispering of the wind on the prairie was full of 
voices to him, and the stars as they shone in the 
firmament of God seemed to inspire him. ' How 
admirable is the symmetry of the heaven ; how 
grand and beautiful ! Everything moves in sublime 
harmony in the government of God. Not so with 
us poor creatures. If one star is more brilliant 
than others, it is continually shooting in some 
erratic way into space.' 

"He criticized both parties in Kansas. Of the 
pro-slavery men he said that slavery besotted every- 
thing, and made men more brutal and coarse — nor 
did the free state men escape his sharp censure. 
He said that we had many noble and true men, but 
too many broken-down politicians from the older 
states, who would rather pass resolutions than act, 
and who criticized all who did real work. A pro- 
fessional politician, he went on, you never could 
trust ; for even if he had convictions, he was always 
ready to sacrifice his principles for his advantage. 
One of the most interesting things in his conver- 
sation that night, and one that marked him as 
a theorist, was his treatment of our forms of social 
and political life. He thought that society ought 


to be organized on a less selfish basis ; for "while 
material interests gained something by the dedi- 
cation of pure selfishness, men and women lost much 
by it. He said that all great reforms, like the 
Christian religion, were based on broad, generous, 
self-sacrificing principles. He condemned the sale 
of laud as a chattel, and thought that there was 
an indefinite number of wrongs to right before 
society would be what it should be, but that in our 
country slavery was the ' sum of all villanies,' and 
its abolition the first essential work. If the Ameri- 
can people did not take courage and end it speedily, 
human freedom and republican liberty would soon 
be empty names in these United States." 

Early next morning the party pressed on until 
they came in sight of the town. Brown would not 
enter but sent a messenger ahead, and the narrator 
continues : 

" As he wrung my hand at parting, he urged that 
we should have the legislature meet, resist all who 
should interfere with it, and fight, if necessary, 
even the United States troops. He had told me the 
night before of his visit to many of the fortifications 
in Europe, and criticized them sharply, holding 
that modem warfare did away with them, and that 
a well-armed brave soldier was the best fortification. 
He criticized all the arms then in use, and showed 
me a fine repeating-rifle which he said would carry 
eight hundred yards ; but he added, ' The way to 
fight is to press to close quarters.' '" 

1 W. A. Phillips, iu Sauboru, pp. 306-308. 


The Topeka journey was in vain. The legisla- 
ture quietly dispersed at the command of Colonel 
Sumner, and John Brown saw that his only hope 
of stirring up effective resistance lay in Lane's 
''army" of immigrants, then approaching the 
northern boundaries of Kansas, with whom was 
his son-in-law's brother. Taking, therefore, his 
wounded son-in-law and leaving his band, he pressed 
forward alone on a dangerous and wearisome way 
of one hundred and fifty miles through the enemy's 
country. Hinton saw him as he rode into one of the 
camps and says : 

" f Have you a man in your camp named William 
Thompson'? You are from Massachusetts, young 
man, I believe, and Mr. Thompson joined you at 
Buffalo.' These words were addressed to me by 
an elderly man, riding a worn-looking, gaunt gray 
horse. It was on a late July day, and in its hottest 
hours. I had been idly watching a wagon and one 
horse, toiling slowly northward across the prairie, 
along the emigrant trail that had been marked out 
by free state men under command of ' Sam ' Walker 
and Aaron D. Stevens, who was then known as 
'Colonel Whipple.' John Brown, whose name the 
young and ardent had begun to conjure with and 
swear by, had been described to me. So, as I 
heard the question, I looked up and met the full 
strong gaze of a pair of luminous, questioning eyes 
Somehow I instinctively knew this was John Brown 
and with that name I replied, saying that Thomp 
son was in our company. It was a long, rugged 


featured face I saw. A tall, sinewy figure, too 
(he bad dismounted), five feet eleven, I estimated, 
with square shoulders, narrow flank, sinewy and 
deep-chested. A frame full of nervous power, but 
not impressing one especially with muscular vigor. 
The impression left by the pose and the figure was 
that of reserve, endurance, and quiet strength. 
The questioning voiee-toues were mellow, magnetic, 
and grave. On the weather-worn face was a stubby, 
short, gray beard, evidently of recent growth. . . . 
This figure, — unarmed, poorly clad, with coarse 
linen trousers tueked into high, heavy cowhide 
boots, with heavy spurs on their heels, a cotton 
shirt opened at the throat, a long torn linen duster, 
and a bewrayed chip straw hat he held in his hand 
as he waited for Thompson to reach us, made up 
the outward garb and appearance of John Brown 
when I first met him. In ten minutes his mounted 
figure disappeared over the north horizon." ' 

Pushing on northward, Brown found asylum for 
his wounded follower at Tabor, la. Returning, he 
joined the main body of Lane's men at Nebraska 
City. Here again arose divided counsels. Radical 
leaders like Lane and Brown were proscribed men, 
and United States troops stood on the borders of 
Iowa to prevent the entrance of armed bodies. It 
was decided, therefore, that Lane must not enter 
with the immigrants, and a letter to this effect was 
brought to him by Samuel Walker, a free state 
leader. Walker says : 

1 Hinton, pp. 201-204. 


" After reading it he sat for a long time with his 
head bowed and the tears running down his cheeks. 
Finally he looked up and said : ' Walker, if you 
say the people of Kansas don't want me, it's all 
right, and I'll blow my brains out. I can never go 
back to the states, and look the people in the face, 
and tell them that as soon as I got these Kansas 
friends of mine fairly into danger I had to abandon 
them. I can't do it. No matter what I say in 
my own defense, no one will believe it. I'll blow 
my brains out and end the thing right here.' 
'General,' said I, 'the people of Kansas would 
rather have you than all the party at Nebraska 
City. I have got fifteen good boys that are my 
own. If you will put yourself under my orders 
I'll take you through all right.' » ' 

Thus Walker, Lane, and John Brown with a 
party of thirty stole into Kansas and started anew 
the flame of civil war. 

Brown's old company, organized early in 1858, 
was mounted and brought to the front, and a sys- 
tematic effort was made by Lane to free Lawrence 
from its beleaguering forts. The first attack was 
directed against Franklin on the night of August 
12th, and as ex-Senator Atchison of Missouri in- 
dignantly reported : ' ' Three hundred Abolitionists, 
under this same Brown, attacked the town of 
Franklin, robbed, plundered and burned, took all 
the arms in town, broke open and destroyed the 

1 Samuel Walker in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical 
Society, Vol. 6, p. 267. 


post-office, captured the old cannon 'Sacramento,' 
which our gallant Missourians captured in Mexico, 
and are now turning its mouth against onr friends." 1 
Two days later the little army turned southward to 
Fort Saunders. Lane deployed his forces before it 
with John Brown's cavalry on his right wing. A 
charge was ordered and the garrison fled to the 
woods, leaving an untasted dinner and large stores 
of goods. On August 10th, Fort Titus on the road 
to Lecompton was besieged with cannon, and finally 
fired by a load of hay ; Colonel Titus, a Georgian, 
was captured and John Brown and other leaders 
wanted to hang him, for he was one of the most 
brutal of the border-ruffian commanders. Sam 
Walker, however, saved his neck. 

So furious had been this short campaign that the 
pro-slavery party sued for a truce. Walker tells 
how "on the following day Governor Shannon and 
Major Sedgwick came to Lawrence to negotiate 
an exchange of prisoners. They held about thirty 
of our men and we forty of theirs. It was agreed 
to 'swap even,' we surrendering all their men, in- 
cluding Titus; they to hand over all our men and 
cannon they had captured at the sacking of 
Lawrence. I insisted very strongly on this last 
point of the contract, for when the gun was 
taken I swore I would have it back within six 
mouths. I had the pleasure of escorting our pris- 
oners to Sedgwick's camp, and receiving the cau- 

1 Appeal to the citizens of Lafayette County. Mo., Sauborn, p. 


non and the prisoners held by the enemy there, in 
exchange." 1 

The whirlwind of guerrilla warfare now swept 
back to the dark ravines of the Swamp of the Swan. 
After the murders of May came the first counter 
attack of early June, culminating in the battle of 
Black Jack. This check quelled the pro-slavery 
party a while and they began manning the forts 
around Lawrence. On August 5th the free state 
men struck a retaliating blow while John Brown 
was absent in Nebraska, although he was credited 
with being present by the Missouri newspapers. 
Similar skirmishes followed, and the advantage was 
now so completely with the free state forces, that a 
final crushing blow was planned by the slave party 
of Missouri. Manifestoes swept the state, and 
"No quarter" was the motto. The Missourians 
responded with alacrity and a great mass crossed 
the border divided into two wings. The lesser at- 
tacked Osawatomie and a newspaper in Missouri 
said : 

"The attack on Osawatomie was by part of an 
army of eleven hundred and fifty men, of whom 
Atchison was major-general. General Beid with 
two hundred and fifty men and one piece of artil- 
lery, moved on to attack Osawatomie ; he arrived 
near that place and was attacked by two hundred 
Abolitionists under the command of the notorious 
John Brown, who commenced firing upon Eeid from 

'Samuel Walker in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical 
Society, Vol. 6, pp. 272-273. 


a thick chaparral four hundred yards off. General 
Beid made a successful charge, killing thirty-one, 
and taking seven prisoners. Among the killed was 
Frederick Brown. The notorious John Brown was 
also killed, by a pro-slavery man named White, in 
attempting to cross the Marais des Cygnes. The 
pro-slavery party have five wounded. On the same 
day Captain Hays, with forty meu, attacked the 
house of the notorious Ottawa Jones, burned it, and 
killed two Abolitionists. Jones fled to the cornfield, 
was shot by Hays, and is believed to be dead." l 

But John Brown was not dead and was ever after 
known as " Osawatomie" Brown. He wrote 
home September 7th saying : 

" I have one moment to write to you, to say that I 
am yet alive, that Jason and family were well yes- 
terday ; John and family, I hear, are well (he being 
yet a prisoner). On the morning of the 30th of 
August an attack was made by the ruffians on 
Osawatomie, numbering some four hundred, by 
whose scouts our dear Frederick was shot dead 
without warning, — he supposing them to be free 
state men, as near as we can learn. One other 
man, a cousin of Mr. Adair, was murdered by them 
about the same time that Frederick was killed, 
and one badly wounded at the same time. At this 
time I was about three miles oft", where I had some 
fourteen or fifteen men over night that I had just 
enlisted to serve under me as regulars. These I 
collected as well as I could, with some twelve or 
1 Quoted iu Sanborn, p. 321. 


fifteen more; and in about three-quarters of an 
hour I attacked them from a wood with thick un- 
dergrowth. With this force we threw them into 
confusion for about fifteen or twenty minutes, dur- 
ing which time we killed or wounded from seventy 
to eighty of the enemy,— as they say, — and then we 
escaped as well as we could, with one killed while 
escaping, two or three wounded, and as many more 
missing. Four or five free state men were butchered 
during the day in all. Jason fought bravely by 
my side during the fight, and escaped with me, he 
being unhurt. I was struck by a partly-spent 
grape, canister, or rifle shot, which bruised me 
some, but did not injure me seriously. Hitherto 
the Lord has helped me." l 

A cheer went up from all free Kansas over this 
vigorous defense, and for once there was unanimity 
among the leaders of the free state cause. Eobinson, 
the wariest of them, wrote : "I cheerfully accord 
to you my heartfelt thanks for your prompt, effi- 
cient, and timely action against the invaders of our 
rights and the murderers of our citizens. History 
will give your name a proud place on her pages, and 
posterity will pay homage to your heroism in the 
cause of God and humanity." 2 

Meantime the Missourians, after their hard-won 
victory, hastened back to join the larger wing of 
the invaders, and so disconcerting was their report, 

1 John Brown to his family, 1856, Sanborn, pp. 317-318. 

2 Charles Robinson to John Brown, 1856, in Sanborn, pp. 


that when Lane made a feint against them, they 
started to retreat. Governor Woodson's call for 
the "territorial militia," however, heartened them 
and gave them legal standing. By September L5th 
they were threatening Kansas again with nearly 
3,000 men. The nation, however, was now aroused 
and the new governor, Geary, with orders to make 
peace at all costs, was hurrying forward. Among 
the first whom he summoned to secret conference 
was John Brown. Brown came to Lawrence and 
was leaving, satisfied with Geary's promises, when 
the invading army of Missourians suddenly ap- 
peared before the city. He immediately returned 
to the town, where there were only 200 fighting 
men. He was asked to take command of the de- 
fense but declined, preferring to act with his usual 
independence. About five o'clock Monday, the 
15th, he mounted a dry-goods box on Main Street 
opposite the post-office and spoke to the people : 

"Gentlemen, — it is said that there are twenty- 
five hundred Missourians down at Franklin, and 
that they will be here in two hours. You can 
sec for yourselves the smoke they are making 
by setting fire to the houses in that town. Now is 
probably the last opportunity you will have of see- 
ing a fight, so that you had better do your best. If 
they should come up and attack us, don't yell and 
make a greal noise, but remain perfectly silent and 
still. Wait until they get within twenty-five yards 
of you ; gel a good object; be sure you see the 
hind sight of your gun, — then fire. A great deal of 


powder and lead and very precious time is wasted 
by shooting too high. You had better aim at their 
legs than at their heads. In either case, be sure of 
the hind sights of your guns. It is from this reason 
that I myself have so many times escaped ; for if all 
the bullets which have ever been aimed at me had hit 
me, I would have been as full of holes as a riddle." l 

It was a desperate situation. The free state 
forces were scattered, leaving but a handful to face 
an army. But in that handful was John Brown, 
and the invaders knew it, and advanced cautiously. 
Eedpath who was with Brown says : " About five 
o'clock in the afternoon, their advance-guard, con- 
sisting of four hundred horsemen, crossed the 
Wakarusa, and presented themselves in sight of the 
town, about two miles off, when they halted, and 
arrayed themselves for battle, fearing, perhaps, to 
come within too close range of Sharps rifle balls. 
Brown's movement now was a little on the offen- 
sive order ; for he ordered out all the Sharps 
riflemen from every part of the town, — in all not 
more than forty or fifty, —marched them a half 
mile into the prairie, and arranged them three 
paces apart, in a line parallel with that of the 
enemy ; and then they lay down upon their faces in 
the grass, awaiting the order to fire." 2 

The invaders hesitated, halted and then retired. 
John Brown says : 

" I know of no possible reason why they did not 

1 Speech of John Brown, Redpath, pp. 163-164. 

2 Redpath, pp. 164-165. 


attack and burn that place except that about one 
hundred free state men volunteered to go out on the 
open plain before the town and there give them the 
offer of a fight, which they declined after getting 
some few scattering shots from our men, and then 
retreated back toward Franklin. I saw that whole 
tiling. The government troops at this time were 
with Governor Geary at Lecompton, a distance of 
twelve miles only from Lawrence, and, notwith- 
standing several runners had been to advise him in 
good time of the approach, or of the setting out of the 
enemy, who had to march some forty miles to reach 
Lawrence, he did not on that memorable occasion 
get a single soldier on the ground until after the 
enemy had retreated back to Franklin, and had 
been gone for about five hours. He did get the 
troops there about midnight afterward ; and that 
is the way he saved Lawrence, as he boasts of doing 
in his message to the bogus legislature ! 

" This was just the kind of protection the admin- 
istration and its tools have afforded the free state 
settlers of Kansas from the first. It has cost the 
United States more than a half million, for a year 
past, to harass poor free state settlers in Kansas, 
and to violate all law, and all right, moral and con- 
stitutional, for the sole and only purpose of forcing 
slavery upon that territory. I challenge this whole 
nation to prove before God or mankind the con- 
trary. Who paid this money to enslave the settlers 
of K:iiisas and worry lliein out! I say nothing in 
this estimate of the money wasted by Congress in 


the management of this horrible, tyrannical, and 
damnable affair." ' 

The withdrawal, however, was but temporary and 
it seems hardly possible that Lawrence could have 
escaped a second capture and burning had not Geary 
thrown himself into the breach with great earnest- 
ness. As he reported: "Fully appreciating the 
awful calamities that were impending, I hastened 
with all possible dispatch to the encampment, as- 
sembled the officers of the militia, and in the name 
of the President of the United States demanded a 
suspension of hostilities. I had sent, in advance, 
the secretary and adjutant- general of the Territory, 
with orders to carry out the letter and spirit of my 
proclamations ; but up to the time of my arrival, 
these orders had been unheeded, and I discovered 
but little disposition to obey them. I addressed the 
officers in command at considerable length, setting 
forth the disastrous consequences of such a demon- 
stration as was contemplated, and the absolute ne- 
cessity of more lawful and conciliatory measures to 
restore peace, tranquillity, and prosperity to the 
country. I read my instructions from the Presi- 
dent, and convinced them that my whole course of 
procedure was in accordance therewith, and called 
upon them to aid me in my efforts, not only to carry 
out these instructions, but to support and enforce 
the laws and the Constitution of the United States." 2 

1 Paper by John Brown, Sanborn, pp. 332-333. 

2 Executive minutes of Governor Geary in Transactions of the 
Kansas State Historical Society, Vol. 4, p. 537. 


Without doubt Geary especially emphasized the 
fact that another sacking of Lawrence would pos- 
sibly defeat Buchanan and elect Fremont. What 
chance would there be then for the pro-slavery 
party 1 

The Missourians were thus induced to retreat, 
partly by Geary's logic, partly perhaps by John 
Brown's resolute handling of his patently inade- 
quate but nevertheless efficient force. They marched 
back home, leaving a trail of flame and ashes — the 
last and largest Missouri invasion of Kansas, the 
culmination and failure of the pro-slavery policy of 

Geary now began successfully to cope with the 
Kansas situation. His most puzzling problem was 
John Brown and his ilk. His experience soon led 
him to see the righteousness of the free state cause, 
but he had to insist on law and order even under 
the "bogus" laws, promising equitable treatment 
in the future. Immediately the free state party 
split into its old divisions : the small body of irrec- 
oncilables like John Brown, who were fighting 
slavery in Kansas and everywhere ; and the far 
larger mass of compromisers like Robinson, whose 
only object was to make a free state of Kansas, and 
who were willing to concede all else. Under such 
circumstances the best move was to get rid of John 
Brown. To have sought to arrest him would have 
precipitated civil war again. Could he not bein- 
duced quietly to leave on promise of immunity.' 
Accordingly, Geary issued a warrant against Brown, 


but gave it into fch<3 hands of the friendly Samuel 
Walker whom he had previously asked to warn the 
old man. Brown was not loath. His work in 
Kansas, so far as he could then see, was done. The 
state was bound to be free and further than that 
few Kansans cared. They had no enmity toward 
slavery as such which called them to a crusade ; far 
from regarding Negroes as brothers, they disliked 
them and were willing to disfranchise them and 
crowd them from the state. 

Among such folk there was no place for John 
Brown. His greater mission called him. Kansas 
had been an interlude only, although for a time he 
hoped to make it the chief battle-ground. Now he 
knew better and again the Alleghanies beckoned. 
To be sure, he owed Kansas much. Here he had 
passed through his baptism of fire, and had offered 
the sacrifice of blood to his God. He was sterner 
stuff now, ready to go whithersoever the Master 
called ; and he heard Him calling. Not only had 
he learned a method of warfare in Kansas — he had 
learned to know a band of simple honest young fel- 
lows, hot with the wine of youth, hero- worshipers 
ready to do and dare in a great cause. Thus the 
worst difficulties of the past disappeared and the 
way lay clear. Only one thing oppressed him — he 
was old and sick, a tired, toil -racked man. Could 
he live and do the Lord's will f 

His company of regulators was formally disbanded 
but left spiritually intact, and he started north late 
in September, 1856, taking with him his four sons, 


Johu, Jr., who had at last been released, Jason, 
Salmon, and Oliver, and also, true to his cause, a 
fugitive slave whom he had chanced upon. As he 
moved northward the United States troops, unaware 
of Geary's diplomacy, shadowed and all but cap- 
tured him. Yet he passed safely through their very 
midst with his old wagon and cow and the hidden 
slave, displaying his surveyor's instruments. Thus 
silently John Brown disappeared from Kansas, and 
for a year nothing was heard of him in his former 
haunts. Only his near friends knew that he had 
gone eastward, and a few of them hinted at his great 
mission. Matters moved swiftly in Kansas. There 
was more and more evident a free state majority. 
But would the pro- slavery administration let it be 
counted'? The new governor was trying to save 
something for his masters, but the irreconcilables 
of the Lane and John Brown type doubted it. 

" I bless God," wrote Brown in April, " that He 
has not left the free state men of Kansas to pol- 
lute themselves by the foul and loathsome embrace. 
. . . I have been trembling all along lest they 
might ' back down ' from the high and holy ground 
they had taken. T say in view of the wisdom, firm- 
ness and patience of my friends and fellow sufferers 
in the cause of humanity, let the Lord's name be 
eternally praised!" 1 Notwithstanding this atti- 
tude of many of the free state party, they were pre- 
vailed upon to vote in the state election of October, 
1867. As a concession, however, Lane was ap- 

1 Letter to Augustus Wattles, 1857, in Sanborn, p. 391. 


pointed to guard the ballot-boxes and, hearing that 
John Brown was back again in Iowa, he sent for 
him in hot haste. His messengers found the old 
man sick and disappointed among his staunch 
Quaker friends at Tabor. Brown offered to come 
if supplied with "three good teams, with well-cov- 
ered wagons, and ten really ingenious, industrious 
(not gassy) men, with about one hundred and fifty 
dollars in cash." ' These demands were not met 
until too late, so that Brown returned the money 
and did not appear in Kansas until the election was 
over, and the free state forces had triumphed. This 
had now but passing interest for him. He had 
other objects in Kansas and flitted noiselessly about 
among the picked men who had promised their aid. 
Then he disappeared again. Eight months passed 
away, when suddenly another Kansas outrage 
startled the nation. It was the last vengeful echo 
of that first night of murder in the Swamp of the 
Swan. In 1856 Linn and Bourbon counties, some 
miles below the original Brown settlement, had been 
cleared of free state settlers. In 1857 these settlers 
ventured to return and found the pro- slavery forces 
centred at Fort Scott, waiting for Congress to pass 
the Lecompton constitution. Thus in 1857 and 1858 
the expiring horror of Kansas guerrilla warfare cen- 
tred in southeast Kansas. The pro-slavery forces 
saw the state slipping from them, but they deter- 
mined by desperate blows to plant slavery so deeply 
in the counties next Missouri that no free state ma- 
1 Correspondence of Lane and Brown, in Sanborn, pp. 401-402. 


jority could possibly uproot it. To accomplish tliis 
it was necessary again to drive off the free state 
settlers. The sett Ins objected aud led by James 
Bi< 'lit gomery, there ensued a series of bloody re- 
prisals culminating iu May, 1858, two years after 
the first May massacre. A Georgian with a rem- 
nant of Buford'a band agaiu rode down amid the 
calm sileut beauty of the Swamp of the Swau. They 
gathered eleven unarmed farmers from their fields 
and homes and marched them to a gloomy ravine 
near Snyder s blacksmith shop ; there the party 
killed four and badly wouuded six others, leaving 
them all for dead. 

The echoes of this last desperate blow had scarcely 
died before John Brown appeared ou the sceue and 
attempted to buy and fortify the very blacksmith 
shop where the murders were done. He writes to 
Eastern friends : 

"lam here with about ten of my men, located on 
the same quarter-section where the terrible murders 
of the 19th of May were committed, called the Hani 
iltou or trading-post murders. Deserted farms and 
dwellings lie in all directions for some miles along 
the line, and the remaining inhabitants watch every 
appearance of persons moving about, with anxious 
jealousy and vigilance. Four of the persons 
wounded or attacked on that occasion are staying 
with me. The blacksmith Snyder, who fought the 
murderers, with his brother and son are of the num- 
ber. Old Mr. Hairgrove, who was terribly wounded 

The blacksmith re- 


turned here with me arid intends to bring back his 
family on to his claim within two or three days. A 
constant fear of new trouble seems to prevail on both 
sides of the line, and on both sides are companies 
of armed men. Any little affair may open the 
quarrel afresh. Two murders and cases of robbery 
are reported of late. I have also a man with me 
who fled from his family aud farm in Missouri but 
a day or two since, his life being threatened on ac- 
count of being accused of informing Kansas men of 
the whereabouts of one of the murderers, who was 
lately taken and brought to this side. I have con- 
cealed the fact of my presence pretty much, lest it 
should tend to create excitement ; but it is getting 
leaked out, and will soon be known to all. As I 
am not here to seek or secure revenge, I do not 
mean to be the first to reopen the quarrel. How 
soon it may be raised against me, I cannot say ; nor 
am I over-anxious." * 

He quickly had fifteen of his former companions in 
arms organized as "Shubel Morgan's Company" 
under the old regulations, and he eagerly sought 
out and cooperated with Captain Montgomery. 
The vigil was long and wearisome. "I had lain 
every night without shelter," he writes, " suffering 
from cold rains and heavy dews, together with the 
oppressive heat of the days. ' ' 2 Hinton met Brown 
at this time and found him not only unwell but 

1 Letter to F. B. Sanborn and others, 1858, in Sanborn, 
pp. 474-477. 
8 Ibid. 


"somewhat more impatient and nervous in his 
manner than I had ever before observed. Soon 
after my arrival, he remarked again in conversation 
as to the various public men in the Territory. Cap- 
tain Montgomery's name was introduced, and I in- 
quired how Mr. Brown liked him. The captain 
was quite enthusiastic in praise of him, avowing a 
most perfect confidence in his integrity and pur- 
poses. 'Captain Montgomery,' he said, 'is the 
only soldier I have met among the prominent 
Kansas men. He understands my system of war- 
fare exactly. He is a natural chieftain, and knows 
how to lead.' 

" Of his own early treatment at the hands of am- 
bitious ' leaders,' to which I alluded in bitter terms, 
he said : 

" 'They acted up to their instincts, as politicians. 
They thought every man wanted to lead, and there- 
fore supposed I might be in the way of their schemes. 
While they had this feeling, of course they op- 
posed me. Many men did not like the manner in 
which I couducted warfare, and they too opposed 
me. Committees and councils could not control my 
movements ; therefore they did not like me. But 
politicians and leaders soon found that I had differ- 
ent purposes and forgot their jealousy. They have 
all been kind to me since.' 

" Further conversation ensued relative to the free 
state struggle, in which I, criticizing the manage- 
ment of it from an anti-slavery point of view, pro- 
nounced it, 'an abortion.' Captain Brown looked 


at me with a peculiar expression in the eyes, as if 
struck by the word and in a musing maimer re- 
marked, 'Abortion ! — yes, that's the word ! ' 

"'For twenty years,' he said, 'I have never 
made any business arrangement which would pre- 
vent me at any time answering the call of the Lord. 
I have kept my business in such a condition, that 
in two weeks I could always wind up my affairs, 
and be ready to obey the call. I have permitted 
nothing to be in the way of my duty, neither my 
wife, children, nor worldly goods. Whenever the 
occasion offered, I was ready. The hour is very 
near at hand, and all who are willing to act should 
be ready.' " 1 

During the fall John Brown cooperated with 
Montgomery in his guerrilla warfare, and laid out 
miniature fortifications with his men. While he 
himself was not personally present in Montgomery's 
fights, he usually helped plan them and sent his 
men along. Meantime winter set in and John 
Brown knew that hostilities would cease. Once 
again he turned to his long and exasperatingly in- 
terrupted life-work. Just after the famous raid on 
Fort Scott, he had a chance not only to begin his 
greater work but to strike a blow at slavery right 
in Kansas. Hinton says: "On the Sunday fol- 
lowing the expedition of Fort Scott, as I was scout- 
ing down the line, I ran across a colored man, 
whose ostensible purpose was the selling of brooms. 
He soon solved the problem as to the propriety of 
'Hinton in Redpatb, pp. 199-206. 


making a confidant of me, and I found that bis 
name was Jim Daniels; that bis wife, self, and 
babies belonged to an estate, and were to be sold at 
administrator's sale in the immediate future. His 
present business -was not selling of brooms par- 
ticularly, but to find belp to get himself, family, 
and a few friends in the vicinity away from these 
threatened conditions. Daniels was a fine-looking 
mulatto. I immediately hunted up Brown, and it 
was soon arranged to go the following night and 
give what assistance we could. I am sure that 
Brown, in his mind, was just waiting for something 
to turn up ; or, in his way of thinking, was expect- 
ing or hoping that God would provide him a basis 
of action. When this came, he hailed it as heaven- 
sent." ' 

John Brown himself told the story in the New 
York Tribune : 

"Not one year ago eleven quiet citizens of this 
neighborhood, — William Bobertson, William Col- 
petzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, 
Asa Snyder, Thomas Stillwell, William Hairgrove, 
Asa Hairgrove, Patrick Boss, and B. L. Beed, — 
were gathered up from their work and their homes 
by an armed force under one Hamilton, and with- 
out trial or opportunity to speak in their own de- 
fense were formed into line, and all but one shot, — 
five killed and five wounded. One fell unharmed, 
pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. The 
only crime charged against them was that of being 
1 George 13. Gill in Hiutoii, p. 218. 


free state men. Now, I inquire what action has 
ever, since the occurrence in May last, been taken 
by either the President of the United States, the 
governor of Missouri, the governor of Kansas, or 
any of their tools, or by any pro-slavery or adminis- 
tration man, to ferret out and punish the perpetra- 
tors of this crime. 

"Now for the other parallel. On Sunday, De- 
cember 19th, a Negro man called Jim came over to 
Osage settlement, from Missouri, and stated that 
he, together with his wife, two children, and 
another Negro man, was to be sold within a day or 
two, and begged for help to get away. On Monday 
(the following) night, two small companies were 
made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate the 
five slaves, together with other slaves. One of these 
companies I assumed to direct. We proceeded to 
the place, surrounding the buildings, liberated the 
slaves, and also took certain property supposed to 
belong to the estate. We, however, learned before 
leaving that a portion of the articles we had be- 
longed to a man living on the plantation as a 
tenant, and who was supposed to have no interest 
in the estate. We promptly returned to him all we 
had taken. We then went to another plantation, 
where we found five more slaves, took some 
property and two white men. We all moved 
slowly away into the Territory for some distance, 
and then sent the white men back, telling them to 
follow us as soou as they chose to do so. The other 
company freed one female slave, took some 


property, and, as I am informed, killed one white 
man (the master), who fought against the liberation. 

"Now for comparison. Eleven persons are for- 
cibly restored to their natural and inalienable 
rights, with but one man killed, and all 'hell is 
stirred from beneath.' It is currently reported that 
the governor of Missouri has made a requisition 
upon the governor of Kansas for the delivery of all 
such as were concerned in the last named ' dreadful 
outrage.' The marshal of Kansas is said to be col- 
lecting a posse of Missouri (not Kansas) men at 
West Point, in Missouri, a little towu about ten 
miles distant, to 'enforce the laws.' All pro-slav- 
ery, conservative, free state, and dough-face men and 
administration tools are filled with holy horror." ' 

One of the slaves, Samuel Harper, afterward told 
of this wonderful katabasis of a thousand miles in 
the teeth of the elements and in defiance of the law : 

"It was mighty slow traveling. You see there 
were several different parties amongst our band, 
and our masters had people looking all over for us. 
We would ride all night, and then maybe, we would 
have to stay several days in one house to keep from 
getting caught. In a month we had only got to a 
place Dear Topeka, which was about forty miles 
from where we started. There was twelve of us at 
the one house of a man named Doyle, besides the 
captain and his men, when there came along a gang 
of slave-hunters. One of Captain Brown's men, 
Si evens, he went down to them and said : — ' Gentle- 
1 Sanborn, pp. 481-483. 


men, you look as if you were looking for somebody 
or something.' 'Aye, yes!' says the leader, 'we 
think as how you have some of our slaves up yon- 
der in that there house.' 'Is that so?' says 
Stevens. ' Well, come on right along with me, and 
you can look them over and see.' 

" We were watching this here conversation all the 
time, and when we see Stevens coming up to the 
house with that there man, we just didn't know what 
to make of it. We began to get scared that Stevens 
was going to give us to them slave -hunters. But 
the looks of things changed when Stevens got up to 
the house. He just opened the door long enough 
for to grab a double-barreled gun. He pointed 
it at the slave-hunter, and says : ' You want to 
see your slaves, does you? Well, just look up 
them barrels and see if you can find them. ' That 
man just went all to pieces. He dropped his gun, 
his legs went trembling, and the tears most started 
from his eyes. Stevens took and locked him up in 
the house. When the rest of his crowd seen him 
captured, they ran away as fast as they could go. 

"Captain Brown went to see the prisoner, and 
says to him, ' I'll show you what it is to look after 
slaves, my man.' That frightened the prisoner 
awful. He was a kind of old fellow and when he 
heard what the captain said, I suppose he thought 
he was going to be killed. He began to cry and 
beg to be let go. The captain he only smiled a 
little bit, and talked some more to him, and the 
next day he was let go. 


"A few days afterward, the United States 
marshal came up with another gang to capture us. 
There was about seven ty-five-of them, and they sur- 
rounded the house, and we was all afraid we was go- 
ing to be took for sure. But the captain he just said, 
' Get ready, boys, and we'll whip them all.' There 
was only fourteen of us altogether, but the captain 
was a terror to them, and when he stepped out of the 
house and went for them the whole seventy-five of 
them started running. Captain Brown and Kagi 
and some others chased them, and captured five 
prisoners. There was a doctor and lawyer amongst 
them. They all had nice horses. The captain 
made them get down. Then he told five of us 
slaves to mount the beasts and we rode them while 
the white men had to walk. It was early in the 
spring, and the mud on the roads was away over 
their ankles. I just tell you it was mighty tough 
walking, and you can believe those fellows had 
enough of slave-hunting. The next day the captain 
let them all go. 

' ' Our masters kept spies watching till we crossed 
the border. When we got to Springdale, la., a 
man came to see Captain Brown, and told him there 
\\; is a lot of friends down in a town in Kansas that 
wanted to see him. The captain said he did not 
care to go down, but as soon as the man started 
back, Captain Brown followed him. When he 
came back, he said there was a whole crowd com- 
ing np i<> capture us. We all went up to the school- 
house and got ourselves ready to fight. 


"The crowd canie and hung around the school- 
house a few days, but they didn't try to capture us. 
The governor of Kansas, he telegraphed to the 
United States marshal at Springdale : ' Capture 
John Brown, dead or alive. ' The marshal he 
answered: 'If I try to capture John Brown it'll 
be dead, and I'll be the one that'll be dead.' Finally 
those Kansas people went home, and then that 
same marshal put us in a car and sent us to 
Chicago. It took us over three months to get to 
Canada. . . . What kind of a man was Cap- 
tain Brown 1 He was a great big man, over six 
feet tall, with great big shoulders, and long hair, 
white as snow. He was a very quiet man, awful 
quiet. He never even laughed. After we was free 
we was wild of course, and we used to cut up all 
kinds of foolishness. But the captain would always 
look as solemn as a graveyard. Sometimes he just 
let out the tiniest bit of a smile, and says : ' You'd 
better quit your fooling and take up your book.' " l 

On the 12th of March, 1859, nearly three months 
after the starting, John Brown landed his fugitives 
safely in Canada " under the lion's paw." The old 
man lifted his hands and said : " Lord, permit Thy 
servant to die in peace ; for mine eyes have seen 
Thy salvation ! I could not brook the thought that 
any ill should befall you,— least of all, that you 
should be taken back to slavery. The arm of 
Jehovah protected us." 2 

1 Hamilton, John Brown in Canada, pp. 4-5. 
3 Sanborn, p. 491. 



"la not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the 
bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the 
oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke ? " 

" Sir, the augel of the Lord will camp round 
about me," said John Brown with stern eyes when 
the timid foretold his doom. 1 With a steadfast 
almost superstitious faith in his divine mission, the 
old man had walked unscathed out of Kansas in the 
fall of 1856, two years and a half before the slave 
raid into Missouri related in the last chapter. In 
his mind lay a definitely matured plan for attack- 
ing slavery in the United States in such a way as 
would shake its very foundations. The plan had 
been long forming, and changing in shape from 
1828, when he proposed a Negro school in Hudson, 
until 185!) when he finally fixed on Harper's Ferry. 
At first he thought to educate Negroes in the North 
and let them leaven the lump of slaves. Then, 
moving forward a step, he determined to settle in 
a border state and educate slaves openly or clandes- 
tinely and send them out as emissaries. As grad- 
ually he became acquainted with the great work and 
wide ramifications of the Underground Railroad, he 
1 Kedpath, p. 48. 


conceived the idea of central depots for running off 
slaves in the inaccessible portions of the South, and 
he began studying Southern geography with this 
in view. He noted the rivers, swamps and moun- 
tains, and more especially, the great struggling 
heights of the Alleghanies, which swept from his 
Pennsylvania home down to the swamps of Virginia, 
Carolina and Georgia. His Kansas experiences 
suggested for a time the southwest pathway to 
Louisiana by the swamps of the Eed and Ar- 
kansas Eivers, but this was but a passing thought ; 
he soon reverted to the great spur of the Alle- 

" I never shall forget," writes Thomas Wentworth 
Higginson, "the quiet way in which he once told 
me that ' God had established the Alleghany Moun- 
tains from the foundation of the world that they 
might one day be a refuge for fugitive slaves. ' I 
did not know then that his own home was among 
the Adirondacks." * 

More and more, as he thought and worked, did his 
great plan present itself to him clearly and definitely 
until finally it stood in 1858 as Kagi told it to 
Hinton : 

"The mountains of Virginia were named as 
the place of refuge, and as a country admirably 
adapted in which to carry on guerrilla warfare. In 
the course of the conversation, Harper's Ferry was 
mentioned as a point to be seized, but not held, — 
on account of the arsenal. The white members of 
1 Redpath, p. 71. 


the company were to act as officers of different 
guerrilla bands, which, under the general command 
of John Brown, were to be composed of Canadian 
refugees, and the Virginia slaves who would join 
them. A different time of the year was mentioned 
for the commencement of the warfare from that 
which had lately been chosen. It was not anticipated 
that the hist movement would have any other ap- 
pearance to the masters than a slave stampede, or 
local insurrection, at most. The planters would 
pursue their chattels and be defeated. The militia 
would then be called out, and would also be de- 
feated. It was not intended that the movement 
should appear to be of large dimension, but that, 
gradually increasing in magnitude, it should, as it 
opened, strike terror into the heart of the slave 
stales by the amount of the organization it would 
exhibit, and the strength it gathered. They an- 
ticipated, after the first blow had been struck, that, by 
the aid of the free and Canadian Negroes who would 
j<»in them, they could inspire confidence in the 
slaves, and induce them to rally. Xo intention was 
expressed of gathering a large body of slaves, and 
removing them to Canada. On the contrary, Kagi 
clearly stated, in answer to my inquiries, that the 
design was to make the fight in the mountains of 
Virginia, extending it to North Carolina, and 
Tennessee, and also to the swamps of South 
Carolina if possible. Their purpose was not the 
extradition of one or a thousand slaves, but their 
liberation in the states wherein they were born, and 


were now held in bondage. ' The mountains and 
swamps of the South were intended by the Al- 
mighty,' said John Brown to me afterward, 'for a 
refuge for the slave, and a defense against the op- 
pressor. > Kagi spoke of having marked out a chain 
of counties extending continuously through South 
Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. He 
had traveled over a large portion of the region in- 
dicated, and from his own personal knowledge, and 
with the assistance of Canadian Negroes who had 
escaped from those states, they had arranged a gen- 
eral plan of attack. 

"The counties he named were those which con- 
tained the largest proportion of slaves, and would, 
therefore, be the best in which to strike. The blow 
struck at Harper's Ferry was to be in the spring, 
when the planters were busy, and the slaves most 
needed. The arms in the arsenal were to be taken 
to the mountains, with such slaves that joined. 
The telegraph wires were to be cut, and the railroad 
tracks torn up in all directions. As fast as possible 
other bands besides the original ones were to be 
formed, and a continuous chain of posts established 
in the mountains. They were to be supported by 
provisions taken from the farms of the oppressors. 
They expected to be speedily and constantly re- 
enforced ; first, by the arrival of those men, who, 
in Canada, were anxiously looking and praying for 
the time of deliverance, and then by the slaves 
themselves. The intention was to hold the egress 
to the free states as long as possible, in order 


to retreat when that was advisable. Kagi, how- 
ever, expected to retreat southward, not in the 
contrary direction. The slaves were to be armed 
with pikes, scythes, muskets, shotguns, and other 
simple instruments of defense; the officers, white 
or black, and such of the men as were skilled aud 
trustworthy, to have the use of the Sharps rifles 
and revolvers. They anticipated procuring pro- 
visions enough for subsistence by forage, as also 
arms, horses, and ammunition. Kagi said one of 
the reasons that induced him to go into the enter- 
prise was a full conviction that at no very distant 
day forcible efforts for freedom would break out 
among the slaves, and that slavery might be more 
speedily abolished by such efforts, than by any 
other means. He knew by observation in the 
South, that in no point was the system so vulnerable 
as in its fear of slave-rising. Believing that such a 
blow would soon be struck, he wanted to organize 
it so as to make it more effectual, and also, by 
directing and controlling the Negroes, to prevent 
some of the atrocities that would necessarily arise 
from the sudden upheaval of such a mass as the 
Southern slaves." ' 

The knowledge of the country was obtained by 
personal inspection. Kagi and others of Brown's 
lieutenants went out on trips ; the old man him- 
Belf had been in western, northern and southern 
Virginia, and his Negro friends especially knew 
these places and routes. One of Brown's men writes : 
1 Hinton in Kedpath, pp. 203-205. 


" My object in wishing to see Mr. Keynolds, who 
was a colored man (very little colored, however), 
was in regard to a military organization which, I had 
understood, was in existence among the colored peo- 
ple. He assured me that such was the fact, and that 
its ramifications extended through most, or nearly 
all, of the slave states. He, himself, I think, had 
been through many of the slave states visiting and 
organizing. He referred me to many references in 
the Southern papers, telling of this and that favorite 
slave being killed or found dead. These, he as- 
serted, must be taken care of, being the most dan- 
gerous element they had to contend with. He also 
asserted that they were only waiting for Brown, or 
some one else to make a successful initiative move 
when their forces would be put in motion. None 
but colored persons could be admitted to member- 
ship, and, in part to corroborate his assertions, he 
took me to the room in which they held their meet- 
ings and used as their arsenal. He showed me a 
fine collection of arms. He gave me this under the 
pledge of secrecy which we gave to each other at 
the Chatham Convention. 

" On my return to Cleveland he passed me through 
the organization, first to J. J. Pierce, colored, at 
Milan, who paid my bill over night at the Eagle 
Hotel, and gave me some money, and a note to E. 
Moore, at Norwalk, who in turn paid my hotel bill 
and purchased a railroad ticket through to Cleveland 
for me." ' 

1 Reminiscences of George B. Gill, Hinton, pp. 732-733. 


Speaking of this league, Hintou also says : 
" As one may naturally understand, luukiug at 
conditions then existing, there existed somethiug of 
an organization to assist fugitives and for resistance 
to their masters. It was found all along the bor- 
ders from Syracuse, New York, to Detroit, Michi- 
gan. As none but colored men were admitted iuto 
direct and active membership with this 4 League of 
Freedom,' it is quite difficult to trace its workings 
or know how far its ramifications extended. One 
of the most interesting phases of slave life, so far as 
the whites were enabled to see or impinge upon it, 
was the extent and rapidity of communication 
among them. Four geographical lines seem to 
have been chiefly followed. One was that of the 
coast south of the Potomac, whose almost con- 
tinuous line of swamps from the vicinity of Nor- 
folk, Va., to the northern border of Florida afforded 
a refuge for many who could not escape and 
became 'marooned' in their depths, while giv- 
ing facility to the more enduring to work their 
way out to the North Star Land. The great 
Appalachian range and its abutting mountains were 
long a rugged, lonely, but comparatively sale route 
to freedom. It was used, too, for many years. 
1 toubtless a knowledge of that fact, for John Brown 
was always an active Underground Railroad man, 
had very much to do. apart from its immediate use 
strategically considered, with the captain's decision 
to begin operations therein. Harriet Tubman, whom 
John Brown met for the first time at St. Catherines 


in March or April, 1858, was a constant user of the 
Appalachian route." ! 

The trained leadership John Brown found in his 
Kansas experience, and his wide acquaintance with 
colored men ; the organization of the Negroes cul- 
minated in a convention at Chatham, Canada. The 
raising of money for this work, as time went on, 
was more and more the object of his various occupa- 
tions and commercial ventures. These visions of 
personal wealth to be expended for great deeds failed 
because the pressure of work for the ideal overcame 
the pressure of work for funds to finance it. When 
once he discovered at Syracuse men of means, ready 
to pay the expenses of men of deeds, he dropped all 
further thought of his physical necessities, gave 
himself to the cause and called on them for money. 
In his earlier calls he regards this not as charity but 
as wages. He said once : " From about the 20th of 
May of last year hundreds of men like ourselves lost 
their whole time, and entirely failed of securing any 
kind of crop whatever. I believe it safe to say that 
five hundred free state men lost each one hundred 
and twenty-five days, at $1.50 per day, which would 
be, to say nothing of attendant losses, $90,000. I 
saw the ruins of many free state men's houses at dif- 
ferent places in the Territory, together with stacks of 
grain wasted and burning, to the amount of, say 
$50,000 ; making, in lost time and destruction of 
property, more than $150,000." 2 

1 Hinton, pp. 171-172. 

8 Notes by John Brown, in Sanborn, p. 244. 


And again : "John Brown has devoted the serv- 
ice of himself and two minor sons to the free state 
cause for more than a year ; suffered by the fire 
before named and by robbery; has gone at his own 
cost for that period, except that he and his company 
together have received forty dollars in cash, two 
sacks of flour, thirty-five pounds bacon, thirty -five 
do. sugar, and twenty pounds rice. 

' * I propose to serve hereafter in the free state 
cause (provided my needful expenses can be met), 
should that be desired ; and to raise a small regular 
force to serve on the same condition. My own 
means are so far exhausted that I can no longer con- 
tinue in the service at present without the means 
of defraying my expenses are furnished me." ' 

Finally, however, he had to appeal more directly 
to philanthropy. He was especially encouraged by 
the Kansas committees. These committees had 
sprung up in various ways and places in 1S54, but 
had nearly all united in Thayer's New England 
Emigrant Aid Company in 1855. This compauy 
proposed to aid free state emigration as an invest- 
ment, but it failed in this respect because of the 
political troubles, and the panic of 1857. It did, 
however, amuse great interest throughout the nation. 
The National Kansas Committee, formed after the 
sacking of Lawrence, was more belligerent than phil- 
anthropic in its projects, while the Boston Belief 
Committee was distinctly radical. John Brown had 
some connection with Thayer's company, but his 
1 Paper by John Browu, iu Sauboru, pp. 241-242. 


hopes were especially built on the National Kansas 
Committee, which Lane had done so much to bring 
into being, and to which Gerrit Smith contributed 
many thousands of dollars. 

Leaving Kansas secretly in October, 1856, John 
Brown hastened to the Chicago headquarters of this 
National Kansas Committee with a proposal that 
they equip a company for him. The Chicago com- 
mittee referred this proposal to a full meeting of the 
members to be held in New York in January. 
John Brown immediately started East, clad in new 
clothes which the committee furnished and aimed 
with letters from the governors of Kansas and Ohio. 
Gerrit Smith welcomed him and said : "Captain 
John Brown, — you did not need to show me letters 
from Governor Chase and Governor Robinson to let 
me know who and what you are. I have known 
you for many years, and have highly esteemed you 
as long as I have known you. I know your un- 
shrinking bravery, your self-sacrificing benevo- 
lence, your devotion to the cause of freedom, and 
have long known them. May Heaven preserve 
your life and health, and prosper your noble pur- 
pose ! " 1 

But his half-brother in Ohio wrote : 

" Since the trouble growing out of the settlement 
of the Kansas Territory, I have observed a marked 
change in brother John. Previous to this, he de- 
voted himself entirely to business ; but since these 
troubles he has abandoned all business, and has be- 
1 Letter from Gerrit Smith to John Brown, in Sanborn, p. 364. 


come wholly absorbed by the subject of slavery. 
He had property left him by his father, ami of 
which I had the agency. He has never taken a 
dollar of it for the benefit of his family, but has 
called for a portion of it to be expended in what 
he called the Service. After his return to Kansas 
he called on me, and I urged him to go home to his 
family and attend to his private affairs; that I 
feared his course would prove his destruction and 
that of his boys. ... He replied that he was 
sorry that I did not sympathize with him ; that he 
knew that he was in the line of his duty, and he 
m nst pursue it, though it should destroy him and 
his family. He stated to me that he was satisfied 
that he was a chosen instrument in the hands of 
( iod to war against slavery. From his manner and 
from his conversation at this time, I had no doubt 
he had become insane upon the subject of slavery, 
and gave him to understand that this was my opin- 
ion of him ! " ' 

Mrs. George L. Stearns, the wife of the Massachu- 
setts anti-slavery leader, writes: 

"At this juncture, Mr. Stearns wrote to John 
Brown, that if he would come to Boston and con- 
sult with the friends of freedom, he would pay his 
expenses. They had never met, but 'Osawatomie 
Brown ' had become a cherished household name 
during the anxious summer of 1856. Arriving in 
Boston they were introduced to each other in the 
street by a Kansas man, who chanced to be with 
1 Jeremiah Brown iu Red path, pp. 174-175. 


Mr. Stearns on his way to the committee rooms in 
Nilis's Block, School Street. Captain Brown made 
a profound impression on all who came within the 
sphere of his moral magnetism. Emerson called 
him ' the most ideal of men, for he wanted to put 
all his ideas into action.' His absolute superiority 
to all selfish aims and narrowing pride of opinion 
touched an answering chord in the self-devotion 
of Mr. Stearns. A little anecdote illustrates the 
modest estimate of the work he had in hand. After 
several efforts to bring together certain friends to 
meet Captain Brown at his home, in Medford, he 
found that Sunday was the only day that would 
serve their several conveniences, and being a little 
uncertain how it might strike his ideas of religious 
propriety, he prefaced his invitation with something 
like an apology. With characteristic promptness 
came the reply : ' Mr. Stearns, I have a little 
ewe-lamb that I want to pull out of the ditch, 
and the Sabbath will be as good a day as any to do 

" It may not be out of place to describe the im- 
pression he made upon the writer on this first visit. 
When I entered the parlor, he was sitting near the 
hearth, where glowed a bright, open fire. He rose 
to greet me, stepping forward with such an erect, 
military bearing, such fine courtesy of demeanor 
and grave earnestness, that he seemed to my in- 
stant thought some old Cromwellian hero suddenly 
dropped down before me ; a suggestion which was 
presently strengthened by his saying (proceeding 


with the conversation my entrance had interrupted), 
• ( imtlemen, I consider the Golden Rule and the Dec- 
laration of Independence one and inseparable ; and 
it is better that a whole generation of men, women, 
children should be swept away than that this crime 
of slavery should exist one day longer.' These 
words were uttered like rifle balls ; in such em- 
phatic tones and manner that our little Carl, not 
three years old, remembered it in manhood as one 
of his earliest recollections. The child stood per- 
fectly still, in the middle of the room, gazing with 
his beautiful eyes on this new sort of a man, until 
his absorption arrested the attention of Captain 
Brown, who soon coaxed him to his knee, though 
the look and childlike wonder remained. His 
dress was of some dark brown stuff, quite coarse, 
but its exactness and neatness produced a singu- 
lar air of refinement. At dinner, he declined all 
dainties, saying that he was unaccustomed to lux- 
uries, even to partaking of butter. 

"The 'friends of freedom,' with whom Mr. 
Stearns had invited John Brown to consult, were 
profoundly impressed with his sagacity, integrity, 
and devotion ; notably among these were R. W. Em- 
erson, Theodore Parker, H. D. Thoreau, A. Bron- 
BOn Almtt, E. B. Sanborn, Dr. S. G. Howe, Col. 
T. \V. Higginsou, Governor Andrew, and others." ' 

Sanborn says : 

" He came to me with a note of introduction from 

1 Reminiscences of Mrs. Mary E. Stearns, in Hintou, pp. 719- 


George "Walker of Springfield — both of us being 
Kansas committee men, working to maintain the 
freedom of that Territory, and Brown had been one 
of the fighting men there in the summer of 1856, 
just before. His theory required fighting in 
Kansas ; it was the only sure way, he thought, to 
keep that region free from the curse of slavery. 
His mission now was to levy war on it, and for 
that to raise and equip a company of a hundred 
well-armed men who should resist aggression in 
Kansas, or occasionally carry the war into Missouri. 
Behind that purpose, but not yet disclosed, was his 
intention to use the men thus put into the field for 
incursions into Virginia or other slave states. Our 
State Kansas Committee, of which I was secretary, 
had a stock of arms that Brown wished to use for 
this company, and these we voted to him. They 
had been put in the custody of the National Com- 
mittee at Chicago, and it was needful to follow up 
our vote by similar action in the National Com- 
mittee. For this purpose I was sent to a meeting 
of that committee at the Astor House, in New York, 
as the proxy of Dr. Howe and Dr. Samuel Cabot — 
both members of the National Committee. I met 
Brown there, and aided him in obtaining from the 
meeting an appropriation of $5,000 for his work in 
Kansas, of which, however, he received only $500. 
The committee also voted to restore the custody of 
two hundred rifles to the Massachusetts committee 
which bought them, well knowing that we should 
turn them over to John Brown, as we did. He 


found them at Tabor, la., in the following Sep- 
tember, and took possession ; it was with part of 
these rifles that he entered Virginia two years 

"At this Astor House meeting Brown was 
closely questioned by some of the National Com- 
mittee, particularly by Mr. Hurd of Chicago, as to 
what he would do with money and arms. He re- 
fused to pledge himself to use them solely in Kansas, 
and declared that his past record ought to be a 
sufficient guarantee that he should employ them 
judiciously. If we chose to trust him, well and 
good, but he would neither make pledges nor dis- 
close his plans. Mr. Hurd had some inkling that 
Brown would not confine his warfare to Kansas, 
but the rest of us were willing to trust Brown, and 
the money was voted." ' 

John Brown immediately made a careful estimate 
of the cost of the necessary equipment which with 
"two weeks of provisions for men and horses" 
amounted to si, 774. The funds of the commit- 
tee, however, were low and the officers suspicious ; 
in April they informed Brown: " The committee 
an- at present out of money, and compelled to de- 
cline sending you the five hundred dollars you 
speak of. They are sorry this has become the 
case, but it was unavoidable. I need not state to 
you all the reasons why. The country has stopped 
Bending us contributions, and we have no means of 
replenishing our treasury. We shall need to have 

1 Sanboru, John Brown and his Friends, p. 8. 


aid from some quarter to enable us to meet our 
present engagements." 1 

Immediately Brown set out to raise his own funds 
and for three months worked fervently. Just be- 
fore the Dred Scott Decision he spoke to the Massa- 
chusetts legislature from which his friends hoped to 
secure an appropriation for Kansas. This failed, 
and Brown started on a tour in New England. He 
spoke at his old home and made a contract for 
securing one thousand pikes near there. He showed 
a Kansas bowie-knife and said : " Such a blade as 
this, mounted upon a strong shaft, or handle, would 
make a cheap and effective weapon. Our friends 
in Kansas are without arms or money to get them ; 
and if I could put such weapons into their hands, 
they could make them very useful. A resolute 
woman, with such a pike, could defend her cabin 
door against man or beast." 2 

In Hartford he spoke and said : 

" I am trying to raise from twenty to twenty-five 
thousand dollars in the free states to enable me to 
continue my efforts in the cause of freedom. Will 
the people of Connecticut, my native state, afford 
me some aid in this undertaking ? Will the gentle- 
men and ladies of Hartford, where I make my ap- 
peal in this state, set the example of an earnest 
effort % Will some gentleman or lady take hold and 
try what can be done by small contributions from 

1 Letter of H. B. Hurd to John Brown, 1857, in Sanborn, 
p. 367. 
"Sanborn, pp. 375-376. 


counties, cities, towns, societies, or churches, or in 
some other way ? I tliiuk the little beggar children 
iu the street are sufficiently interested to warrant 
their contributing, if there was any need of it, to 
secure the object. 

" I was told that the newspapers in a certain city 
were dressed in mourning on hearing that I was 
killed and scalped in Kansas, but I did not know 
of it until I reached the place. Much good it did 
me. In the same place I met a more cool reception 
than in any other place where I have stopped. If 
my friends will hold up my hands while I live, I 
will freely absolve them from any expense over me 
when I am dead. I do not ask for pay, but shall 
be most grateful for all the assistance I can get." ' 

On the day that Buchanan was inaugurated and 
two days before the Dred Scott Decision, he pub- 
lished a similar appeal in the New York Tribune 
" with no little sacrifice of personal feeling." Once 
lie writes : "I am advised that one of Uncle Sam's 
hounds is on my track, and I have kept myself hid 
for a few days to let my track get cold. I have no 
idea of being taken, and intend (if God will) to go 
back with irons in, rather than upon, my hands." ' 

Dr. Wayland met him in Worcester where a 
Frederick Douglass meeting was being arranged 
just after Taney's decision and says : " I called at 
the house of Eli Thayer, afterward member of Con- 
gress from that district, to ask him to sit on the 

1 Bpeeofa of John Brown, Sanborn, p. 379. 

5 Letter to Eli Thayer, 1857, in Sauborn, p. 382. 


platform. Here I found a stranger, a man of tall, 
gaunt form, with a face smooth -shaven, destitute of 
full beard, that later became a part of history. The 
children were climbing over his knees ; he said, 
' The children always come to me.' I was then in- 
troduced to John Brown of Osawatomie. How little 
one imagined then that in less than three years 
the name of this plain homespun man would fill 
America and Europe ! Mr. Brown consented to 
occupy a place on the platform, and at the urgent 
request of the audience, spoke briefly. It is one of 
the curious facts, that many men who do it are 
utterly unable to tell about it. John Brown, a 
flame of fire in action, was dull in speech." ' 

Later in the same month Brown accompanied 
Sanborn and Conway to ex-Governor Eeeder's home 
iu Pennsylvania to induce him to return to Kansas, 
but he declined. April 1st found Brown back 
in Massachusetts, where for a week or more he was 
again in hiding from United States officers, probably 
among his Negro friends in Springfield. It was in 
April, too, that he took another step in his plan, 
namely, toward securing military training for his 
band. He stated according to Eealf that, "for 
twenty or thirty years the idea had possessed him 
like a passion of giving liberty to the slaves ; that 
he made a journey to England, during which he 
made a tour upon the European continent, inspect- 
ing all fortifications, and especially all earthwork 
forts which he could find, with a view of applying 
1 Reminiscences of Dr. Wayland, Sanborn, p. 381. 


the knowledge thus gained, with modifications and 
inventions of his own, to a mountain warfare in the 
United States. He stated that he had read all the 
books upon insurrectionary warfare, that he could 
lay his hands on : the Roniau warfare, the successful 
opposition of the Spanish chieftains during the 
period when Spain was a Roman province, — how, 
with ten thousand men, divided and subdivided 
into small companies, acting simultaneously, yet 
separately, they withstood the whole consolidated 
power of the Roman Empire through a number of 
years. In addition to this he had become very 
familiar with the successful warfare waged by 
Schamyl, the Circassian chief, against the Russians ; 
he had posted himself in relation to the wars of 
Toussaint L'Ouverture ; he had become thoroughly 
acquainted with the wars in Hayti and the islands 
round about." J 

Despite his own knowledge, however, he felt the 
need of expert advice, and meeting a former lieuten- 
:i nt of Garibaldi, one Hugh Forbes, he was cap- 
tivated by him, and forthwith hired him to drill 
his men. Forbes was an excitable, ill-balanced 
Englishman, who had fought in Italy and at last 
la in led penniless in New York. He thought Brown 
simply an agent of wealthy and powerful interests 
and that the whole North was ready to attack 
slavery. He proposed translating and publishing 
a manual of guerrilla warfare and John Brown gave 

1 Reports of Senate Committees, :56th Congress, 1st Session, 
No. 278, Testimony of Richard Realf, p. 96. 


him $600 for this work. He was then to join the 
leader and they would together go to the West 
and gather and drill a company. This large outlay 
left John Brown but little in his purse, for, after 
all, his efforts had been disappointing, and he de- 
parted from New England with a quaint half- 
sarcastic " Farewell to the Plymouth Bocks, Bunker 
Hill monuments, Charter Oaks and Uncle Tom's 
Cabins." He wrote : 

" He has left for Kansas ; has been trying since 
he came out of the Territory to secure an outfit, or, 
in other words, the means of arming and thoroughly 
equipping his regular minutemen, who are mixed 
up with the people of Kansas. And he leaves the 
states with the deepest sadness, that after exhaust- 
iug his own small means, and with his family and 
with his brave men suffering hunger, cold, naked- 
ness, and some of them sickness, wounds, imprison- 
ment in irons with extreme cruel treatment, and 
others death ; that, lying on the ground for months 
in the most sickly, unwholesome, and uncomfort- 
able places, some of the time with the sick and 
wounded, destitute of shelter, hunted like wolves, 
and sustained in part by Indians ; that after all this, 
in order to sustain a cause which every citizen of this 
' glorious Bepublic ' is under equal moral obliga- 
tion to do, and for the neglect of which he will be 
held accountable by God, — a cause in which every 
man, woman, and child of the entire human family 
has a deep and awful interest,— that when no wages 
are asked or expected, he cannot secure, amid all 


wealth, luxury, and extravagance of this 'heaven- 
exalted' people, even the necessary supplies of the 
common soldier. ' How are the mighty fallen !' 

"I am destitute of horses, baggage wagons, tents, 
harness, saddles, bridles, holsters, spurs, aud belts ; 
camp equipage, such as cooking and eating uten- 
sils, blankets, knapsacks, intrenching tools, axes, 
shovels, spades, mattocks, crowbars ; have not a 
supply of ammunition ; have not money sufficient 
to pay freight and traveling expenses ; aud left my 
family poorly supplied with common necessaries." ' 

Forbes also disappointed him by his delay, 
lingering in New York and not appearing in Iowa 
until August. Brown, who had been sick again, 
was nevertheless pushing matters among his Kansas 
friends. He wrote in June: "There are some 
half-dozen men I want a visit from at Tabor, la., to 
come off in the most quiet way ; . . . I have 
some very important matters to confer with some of 
you about. Let there be no words about it." ■ 

Arriving at Tabor early in August, Brown's first 
business was to secure the arms voted him. Be- 
cause of a previous failure to equip emigrants at 
points farther east, the Massachusetts Kansas State 
Committee had sent 200 Sharps rifles to Tabor, la. 
Bere they were stored in a minister's barn until 
•John Brown called for and removed them. Hugh 
Forbes finally arrived August 9th, bringing with 
him copies of his "Manual for the Patriotic Vol- 

' Bioton, pp. C14-615. 

1 Letter to Augustus Wattles, 1857, in Sauborn, p. 393. 


unteer." Brown wrote home that he and his son 
Owen were " beginning to take lessons and have, 
we think, a capable teacher." 

Differences, however, soon arose. Forbes wanted 
$100 per month in addition to the $600 previously 
paid, while Brown apparently considered that he 
had already advanced a half year's wage. Then 
too matters were on a meaner scale than Forbes had 
dreamed ; there was no money, few followers and 
little glory in sight. He felt himself duped ; he 
despised Brown's ability and proposed taking full 
command himself, projecting slave-raids into 
Missouri and other states. Brown was obdurate, 
and early in November, the foreign tactician sud- 
denly left for the East. This disturbed Brown's 
plans. He had intended to establish two or three 
military schools, one in Iowa, one in northern 
Ohio and one in Canada. Forbes' s desertion made 
him determine to give up the Iowa school and 
hasten to Ohio. He therefore passed quickly to 
Kansas, arriving in the vicinity of Lawrence, 
November 5, 1857. 

Cook says : 

"I met him at the house of E. B. Whitman, 
about four miles from Lawrence, K. T., which, I 
think, was about the first of November following. I 
was told that he intended to organize a company 
for the purpose of putting a stop to the aggressions 
of the pro-slavery men. I agreed to join him and 
was asked if I knew of auy other young men who 
were perfectly reliable whom I thought would join 


also. I recommended Richard Realf, L. F. Par- 
sons, and R. J. Hinton. I received a note on the 
next Sunday morning, while at breakfast in the 
Whitney House, from Captain Brown, requesting 
me to come up that day, and to bring Realf, Par- 
sons, and Hinton with me. Realf and Hinton 
were not in town, and therefore I could not extend 
to them the invitation. Parsons and myself went 
and had a long talk with Captain Brown. A few 
days afterward I received another note from Cap- 
tain Brown, which read, as near as I can recollect, 
as follows : 

" 'Captain Cook :— Dear Sir— You will please 
get everything ready to join me at Topeka by 
.Monday night next. Come to Mrs. Sheridan's, two 
miles south of Topeka, and bring your arms, am- 
munition, clothing and other articles you may re- 
quire. Bring Parsons with you if he can get ready 
in time. Please keep very quiet about this matter. 
Yours, etc., John Bkow.v' 

" I made all my arrangements for starting at the 
time appointed. Parsons, Realf, and Hinton could 
not get ready. I left them at Lawrence, and 
started in a carriage for Topeka. Stopped at a 
hotel over night, and left early next morning for 
.Mrs. Sheridan's to meet Captain Brown. Staid a 
day and a half at Mrs. S.'s— then left for Topeka, 
at which place we were joined by Whipple, Mof- 
lVtt, and Kagi. Left Topeka for Nebraska City, 
and camped at night on the prairie northeast of 
Topeka. Here, for the first, T learned that we were 


to leave Kansas to attend a military school during 
the winter. It was the intention of the party to go 
to Ashtabula County, Ohio." ! 

In this way Brown enlisted John E. Cook, 
whom he had met about the time of the turn of the 
battle of Black Jack ; Luke F. Parsons, who was a 
member of his old Kansas company ; and Richard 
Realf, a newspaper man. At Topeka Aaron D. 
Stevens, a veteran free state fighter, joined, with 
Charles W. Moffett, an Iowa man, and John Henry 
Kagi, who became his right hand. With these six 
he returned to Tabor, where he found William H. 
Seeman and Charles Plummer Tidd, two of his 
former followers ; Richard Richardson, an intel- 
ligent Negro fugitive ; and his son Owen. This 
party of eleven started hurriedly for Ashtabula, O., 
late in November. " Good-bye," said John Brown, 
" you will hear from me. We've had enough talk 
about ' bleeding Kansas. ' I will make a bloody spot 
at another point to be talked about." 2 

So the band started and pressed on their lonely 
way over two hundred and fifty miles across the wild 
wastes of Iowa until they came to the village of 
Springdale, about fifty miles from the Missouri. 
This was a little settlement intensely anti-slavery in 
sentiment. Here Brown had planned to stop long 
enough to sell his teams and then proceed by rail- 
road, eastward. The panic of this year, beginning 
late in August, was by December in full swing, and 

1 Confession of John E. Cook in Hinton, pp. 700-701. 
s Richman, John Brown Among the Quakers, pp. 20--21. 


he found himself without funds, and with no remit- 
tances from the East. He therefore decided to have 
his men spend the winter at Springdale while he 
went East alone. The Quakers received them gladly 
and they were quartered at a farmhouse three miles 
from the village, where they paid only a dollar a 
week for board. The winter passed pleasantly but 

Stevens was made drill-master ; all arose at five, 
breakfasted, studied until ten and drilled from ten 
to twelve. In the afternoon the}' practiced gym- 
nastics and shooting at targets. Five nights in the 
week a mock legislature was held either at the home 
or in the schoolhouse near by. Sometimes Eealf and 
others listened to the townspeople, and there was 
much visiting. Before John Brown left for the East, 
he revealed his plans in jjart to his landlord and two 
other citizens of Springdale. 

' ' Some time toward spring, John Brown came to 
my house one Sunday afternoon," said this man. 
" He informed me that he wished to have some pri- 
vate talk with me ; we went into the parlor. He 
then told me his plans for the future. He had not 
then decided to attack the armory at Harper's 
Ferry, but intended to take some fifty to one hun- 
dred men into the hills near the Ferry and remain 
there until he could get together quite a number of 
slaves, and then take what conveyances were needed 
to transport the Negroes and their families to Canada. 
And in a short time after the excitement had abated, 
to make a strike in some other Southern state ; and 


to continue on making raids, as opportunity offered, 
until slavery ceased to exist. I did my best to con- 
vince him that the probabilities were that all would 
be killed. He said that, as for himself, he was will- 
ing to give his life for the slaves. He told me re- 
peatedly, while talking, that he believed he was an 
instrument in the hands of God through which sla- 
very would be abolished. I said to him : ' You and 
your handful of men cannot cope with the whole 
South.' His reply was : ' I tell you, Doctor, it will 
be the beginning of the end of slavery.' He also 
told me that but two of his men, Kagi and Stevens, 
knew what his intentions were." 1 

The landlord several times sat late into the night 
arguing with Brown about his plans. Some of the 
neighbors were persuaded to join the band, among 
them the two Coppocs, and George B. Gill, a Cana- 
dian. Stewart Taylor also enlisted there. Hinton, 
however, still supposed the battle-ground would be 
Kansas. He says : 

" There was no attempt to make a secret of their 
drilling, and as Gill shows and Cook stated in his 
' confession,' the neighborhood folks all understood 
that this band of earnest young men were preparing 
for something far out of the ordinary. Of course 
Kansas was presumed to be the objective point. But 
generally the impression prevailed that when the 
party moved again, it would be somewhere in the 
direction of the slave states. The atmosphere of 
those days was charged with disturbance. It is diffi- 
1 Richuiau, pp. 28-29. 


cult to determine how niauy of the party actually 
knew that John Brown designed to invade Virginia. 
All the testimony goes to show that it is most prob- 
able that not until utter the assembling at the Mary- 
land farm in 185!) was there a full, definite announce- 
ment of Harper's Ferry as the objective point. That 
he fully explained his purpose to make reprisals on 
slavery wherever the opportunity offered is with- 
out question, but except to Owen, who was vowed 
to work in his early youth, and Kagi, who informed 
me at Osawatomie in July, 1858, that Brown gave 
him his fullest confidence upon their second inter- 
view at Topeka in 1857, there is every reason to be- 
lieve that among the men the details of the intended 
movement were matters of after confidence. My 
own experience illustrates this. I was absent from 
Lawrence when John Brown recruited his little com- 
pany. He had left already for Iowa before I re- 
turned. I met Realf just as he was leaving, and we 
talked without reserve, he assuring me that the pur- 
pose was just to prepare a fighting nucleus for re- 
sisting the enforcement of the Lecompton Constitu- 
tion, which it was theu expected Congress might try 
to impose upon us. Through this, advantage was to 
be taken of the agitation to prepare for a move- 
ment against slavery in Missouri, Arkansas, the In- 
dian Territory and possibly Louisiana. At Kagi's 
request (with whom I maintained for nearly two 
years an important, if irregular, correspondence), I 
began a systematic investigation of the conditions, 
roads and topography of the Southwest, visiting a 


good deal of the Indian Territory, with portions of 
southwest Missouri, western Arkansas, and northern 
Texas, also, under the guise of examining railroad 
routes, etc." 1 

Forbes in the meantime hurried East, nursing his 
wrath. He had all of a foreigner's difficulty in fol- 
lowing the confused threads of another nation's 
politics at a critical time. He classed Seward, 
Wilson, Sumner, Phillips and John Brown together 
as anti-slavery men who were ready to attack the 
institution vi et armis. This movement which he 
proposed to lead had been started, and then, as he 
supposed, shamelessly neglected by its sponsors while 
he had been thrust upon the tender mercies of John 
Brown. He was angry and penniless and he in- 
tended to have reparation. He first sought out 
Frederick Douglass, but was received coldly. He 
appears to have been more successful with McCune 
Smith and the New York group of Negro leaders. 
He immediately, too, began to address letters to 
prominent Kepublicans. 

John Brown was annoyed at Forbes' s behavior 
but seems at first not to have taken it seriously. 
He left his men at Springdale, and started East in 
January, arriving at Douglass's Bochester home in 
February. Douglass says : 

"He desired to stop with me several weeks, but 

added, ' I will not stay unless you will allow me to 

pay board.' Knowing that he was no trifler, but 

meant all he said, and desirous of retaining him 

'Hinton, pp. 156-157. 


uuder my roof, I charged him three dollars a week. 
While here he spent most of his time iu corre- 
spondence. He wrote often to George L. Stearns, 
of Boston, Gerrit Smith, of Peterboro, and many 
others, and received many Utters in return. "When 
he was not writing letters, he was writing and re- 
vising a constitution, which he meant to put in 
operation by means of the men who should go with 
him in the mountains. He said that to avoid 
anarchy and confusion there should be a regularly 
constituted government, which each man who came 
with him should be sworn to honor and sup- 
port. . . . His whole time and thought were 
given to this subject. It was the first thing in the 
morning and the last thing at night till, I confess, 
it began to be something of a bore to me. Once in 
a while he would say he could, with a few resolute 
men, capture Harper's Ferry and supply himself 
with arms belonging to the government at that 
place ; but he never announced his intention to 
do so. 

"It was, however, very evidently passing in his 
mind as a thing that he might do. I paid but little 
attention to such remarks, although I never doubted 
that he thought just what he said. Soon after his 
coming to me he asked me to get for him two 
smoothly planed boards, upon which he could 
illustrate, with a pair of dividers, by a drawing, 
the plan of fortification which he meant to adopt in 
the mountains. These forts were to be so arranged 
as to connect one with the other by secret passages, 


so that if one was carried, another could easily be 
fallen back upon, and be the means of dealing death 
to the enemy at the very moment when he might 
think himself victorious. I was less interested in 
these drawings than my children were ; but they 
showed that the old man had an eye to the means as 
well as to the end, and was giving his best thought 
to the work he was about to take in hand." ' 

From Rochester went letters sounding his friends, 
as he was uncertain of the real devotion of the many 
types of Abolitionists. He wrote Theodore Parker : 

"I am again out of Kansas and at this time con- 
cealing my whereabouts ; but for very different 
reasons, however, from those I had for doing so at 
Boston last spring. I have nearly perfected ar- 
rangements for carrying out an important measure 
in which the world has a deep interest, as well as 
Kansas ; and only lack from five to eight hundred 
dollars to do so, — the same object for which I asked 
for the secret-service money last fall. It is my only 
errand here ; and I have written to some of my 
mutual friends in regard to it, but they none of 
them understand my views so well as you do, and I 
cannot explain without their first committing them- 
selves more than I know of their doing. I have 
heard that Parker Pillsbury, and some others in 
your quarters hold out ideas similar to those on 
which I act ; but I have no personal acquaintance 
with them, and know nothing of their influence or 

1 Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, pp. 385- 


means. Cannot you either by direct or indirect 
action do something to further me? Do you know 
of some parties whom you could induce to give their 
Abolition theories a thoroughly practical shape ? I 
hope that this will prove to be the last time I shall 
be driven to harass a friend in such a way. Do you 
think any of my Garrisonian friends, either at Bos- 
ton, Worcester, or any other place, can be induced to 
supply a little 'straw,' if I will absolutely make 
'brick'? I have written George L. Stearns, of 
Medford, and Mr. F. B. Sanborn, of Concord ; but 
I am not informed as to how deeply-dyed Aboli- 
tionists those friends are, and must beg you to con- 
sider this communication strictly confidential, un- 
less you know of parties who will feel and act, and 
hold their peace. I want to bring the thing about 
during the next sixty days." ' 

To Higginson he wrote : "Bailroad business on 
a somewhat extended scale is the identical object 
for which I am trying to get means. I have been 
connected with that business, as commonly con- 
ducted, from my childhood, and never let an op- 
portunity slip. I have been operating to some 
purpose the past season ; but I know I have a 
measure on foot that I feel sure would awaken in 
you something more than a common interest if you 
could understand it. I have just written to my 
friends G. L. Stearns, and F. B. Sanborn, asking 
them to meet me for consultation at Peterboro, N. Y. 
I am very anxious to have you come along, as I feel 

1 Letter to Theodore Parker, 1858, iu Sauborn, pp. 434-435. 


certain that you will never regret having been one 
of the council." 1 

The Boston folk hesitated and suggested that 
Brown come there. He demurred on account of 
his being too well known. Finally Sanborn alone 
went to meet Brown and thus relates his experi- 
ence : 

" After dinner, and after a few minutes spent with 
our guests in the parlor, I went with Mr. Smith, 
John Brown, and my classmate Morton, to the 
room of Mr. Morton in the third story. Here, in 
the long winter evening which followed, the whole 
outline of Brown's campaign in Virginia was laid 
before our little council, to the astonishment and 
almost the dismay of those present. The constitu- 
tion which he had drawn for the government of his 
men, and of such territory as they might occupy, 
was exhibited by Brown, its provisions recited and 
explained, the proposed movements of his men in- 
dicated, and the middle of May was named as the 
time of the attack. To begin his hazardous ad- 
venture he asked for but eight hundred dollars, 
and would think himself rich with a thousand. 
Being questioned and opposed by his friends, he 
laid before them in detail his methods of organiza- 
tion and fortification ; of settlement in the South, 
if that were possible, and of retreat through the 
North, if necessary ; and his theory of the way in 
which such an invasion would be received in the 
country at large. He desired from his friends a 
1 Letter to Higginson, 1858, in Sanborn, p. 436. 


patient hearing of his statements, a candid opinion 
concerning his plan, and, if that were favorable, 
Hit n such aid in money and support as we could 
give him. We listened until after midnight, pro- 
posing objections and raising difficulties ; but noth- 
ing could shake the purpose of the old Puritan. 
Every difficulty had been foreseen and provided 
against in some manner ; the grand difficulty of 
all, — the manifest hopelessness of undertaking any- 
thing so vast with such slender means, — was met 
with the text of Scripture : ' If God be for us, who 
can be against us f ' He had made nearly all his 
arrangements : he had so many men enlisted, so 
many hundred weapons ; all he now wanted was 
the small sum of money. With that he would 
open his campaign in the spring, and he had no 
doubt that the enterprise ' would pay ' as he said. 
" On the 23d of February the discussion was 
renewed, and, as usually happened when he had 
time enough, Captain Brown began to prevail over 
ilir objections of his friends. At any rate, they 
saw that they must either stand by him, or leave 
him to dash himself alone against the fortress he 
\\;is determined to assault. To withhold aid would 
only delay, not prevent him ; nothing short of be- 
traying him to the enemy would do that. As the 
sun was setting over the snowy hills of the region 
where we met, I walked for an hour with Gerrit 
Smith among those woods and fields (then included 
in his broad manor) which his father had purchased 
of the Indians and bequeathed to him. Brown was 


left at home by the fire, discussing the points of 
theology with Charles Stewart, an old captain under 
Wellington, who also happened to be visiting at the 
house. Mr. Smith restated in his eloquent way the 
daring propositions of Brown, whose import he 
understood fully ; and then said in substance : 
' You see how it is ; our dear old friend has made 
up his mind to this course, and cannot be turned 
from it. We cannot give him up to die alone ; we 
must support him. I will raise so many hundred 
dollars for him ; you must lay the case before your 
friends in Massachusetts and perhaps they will do 
the same. I see no other way.' For myself, I had 
reached the same conclusion, and engaged to bring 
the scheme at once to the attention of the three 
Massachusetts men to whom Brown had written, 
and also of Dr. S. G. Howe, who had sometimes 
favored action almost as extreme as this proposed 
by Brown. I returned to Boston on the 25th of 
February, and on the same day communicated the 
enterprise to Theodore Parker and Wentworth 
Higginson. At the suggestion of Parker, Brown, 
who had gone to Brooklyn, K Y., was invited to 
visit Boston secretly, and did so on the 4th of 
March, taking a room at the American House, in 
Hanover Street, and remaining for the most part 
in his room during the four days of his stay. Mr. 
Parker was deeply interested in the project, but 
not very sanguine of its success. He wished to see 
it tried, believing that it must do good even if it 
failed. Brown remained at the American House 


until Monday, March 8th, when he departed for 

On the 6th of March he wrote to his son John 
from Boston: "My call here has met with a 
hearty response, so that I feel assured of at least 
tolerable success. I ought to be thankful for this. 
All has been effected by quiet meeting of a few- 
choice friends, it being scarcely known that I have 
been in the city." ' 

Leaving the money-raising to Sanborn and Smith, 
Brown turned to his Negro friends, saying to his 
eldest son, meantime : "I have been thinking that 
1 would like to have you make a trip to Bedford, 
Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and Uniontown in 
Pennsylvania, traveling slowly along, and in- 
quiring of every man on the way, or every family 
of the right stripe, and getting acquainted with 
I hem as much as you could. When you look at 
the location of those places, you will readily per- 
ceive the advantage of getting some acquaintance 
in those parts." 2 

And then he wrote two touching letters ; one to 
his eldest daughter and one to his staunch friend, 

To Ruth Brown he wrote : "The anxiety I feel 
to see my wife and children once more I am unable 
to describe. 1 want exceedingly to see my big baby 
Ruth's baby, and to see how that little company of 
sheep look about this time. The cries of my poor 

1 Sanborn, pp. i::s-440. 

* Letter t<> John Brown, Jr., 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 450-451. 


sorrow-stricken, despairing children, whose ' tears 
on their cheeks ' are ever in my eyes, and whose 
sighs are ever in my ears, may however prevent my 
enjoying the happiness I so much desire. But, 
courage, courage, courage ! — the great work of my 
life (the unseen hand that ' guided me, and who had 
indeed holden my right hand, may hold it still,' 
though I have not known Him at all as I ought) I 
may yet see accomplished (God helping), and be 
permitted to return, and 'rest at evening.' 

"Oh, my daughter Ruth! Could any plan be 
devised whereby you could let Henry go ' to school ' 
(as you expressed it in your letter to him while in 
Kansas), I would rather now have him ' for another 
term ' than to have a hundred average scholars. I 
have a particular and very important, but not dan- 
gerous, place for him to fill in the 'school,' and I 
know of no man living so well adapted to fill it. I 
am quite confident some way can be devised so that 
you and your children could be with him, and be 
quite happy even, and safe ; but God forbid me to 
flatter you in trouble ! " * 

To his friend Sanborn he said : "I believe when 
you come to look at the ample field I labor in, and 
the rich harvest which not only this entire country 
but the whole world during the present and future 
generations may reap from its successful cultiva- 
tion, you will feel that you are in it, an entire unit. 
What an inconceivable amount of good you might 
so effect by your counsel, your example, your en- 
1 Letter to his family, 1858, iu Sanborn, pp. 440-441. 


couragement, your natural and acquired ability for 
active service! Aud then, how very little we cau 
possibly lose ! Certainly the cause is enough to 

live for, if not to for. I have only had this 

one opportunity, in a life of nearly sixty years ; aud 
could I be continued ten times as long again, I 
might not again have another equal opportunity. 
God has honored but comparatively a very small 
part of mankind with any possible chance for such 
mighty and soul-satisfying rewards. But, my dear 
friend, if you should make up your mind to do so, 
I trust it will be wholly from the promptiugs of 
your own spirit, after having thoroughly counted 
the cost. I would flatter no man into such a meas- 
ure, if I could do it ever so easily. 

"I expect nothing but to endure hardness ; but I 
expect to effect a mighty conquest, even though it 
be like the last victory of Samson. I felt for a 
number of years, in earlier life, a steady, strong 
desire to die; but since I saw any prospect of be- 
coming a ' reaper ' in the great harvest, I have not 
only felt quite willing to live, but have enjoyed life 
much; and am now rather anxious to live for a few 
years more." ' 

1 Letter to F. B. Sanborn, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 444-445. 


" Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion." 
The decade 1830 to 1840 was one of the severest 
seasons of trial through which the black American 
ever passed. The great economic change which 
made slavery the corner-stone of the cotton king- 
dom was definitely finished and all the subtle moral 
adjustments which follow were in full action. New 
immigrants took advantage of the growing preju- 
dice which found a profitable place for the Negro in 
slavery, and was determined to keep him in it. 
They began to crowd the free Northern Negro in a 
fierce economic battle. With a precarious social 
foothold, little economic organization, and no sup- 
port in public opinion, the Northern free Negro was 
forced to yield. In Philadelphia from 1829 to 1849 
six mobs of hoodlums and foreigners cowed and 
murdered the Negroes. In the Middle West and, 
especially in Ohio, severe Black Laws had been en- 
acted in 1804 to 1807 providing that (a) No Negro 
should be allowed to settle in Ohio unless he could 
within twenty days give bond to the amount of $500 
signed by two bondsmen, who should guarantee his 
good behavior and support ; (b) The fine for har- 


boring or concealing a fugitive was at first 850, then 
8100, one-half to go to the informer and one-half to 
the overseer of the poor in the district ; (c) No 
Negro was allowed to give evidence in any case 
where a white man was a party. 1 

These laws, however, were dead letters until 1829, 
when increased Negro immigration induced the Cin- 
cinnati authorities to enforce them. The Negroes 
obtained a respite of thirty days and sent a deputa- 
tion to Canada. They were absent for sixty days, 
and when the whites saw no effort to enforce the 
law further, they organized a riot. For three days 
Negroes were killed in the streets until they barri- 
caded their homes and shot back. Meantime the 
governor of upper Canada sent word that he 
"would extend to them a cordial welcome." He 
said : "Tell the republicans on your side of the 
line that we royalists do not know men of their 
color. Should you come to us you will be entitled 
to all the privileges of the rest of His Majesty's sub- 
jects." a 

On receipt of this, fully two thousand Negroes 
went to Canada and founded Wilberforce ; while a 
national convention of Negroes was called in Phila- 
delphia in 1830— the first of its kind. This conven- 
tion at an adjourned session in 1831 addressed the 
public as follows : 

"The cause of general emancipation is gaining 
powerful and able friends abroad. Britain and 
Denmark have performed Such deeds as will im- 

1 Hickok, The Negro in Ohio, p. 42. » Ibid., p. 44. 


mortalize them for their humanity, in the breasts of 
the philanthropists of the present day ; whilst as a 
just tribute to their virtues, after-ages will yet erect 
imperishable monuments to their memory. (Would 
to God we could say thus of our own native soil.) 

" And it is only when we look to our own native 
land, to the birthplace of our fathers, to the land 
for whose prosperity their blood and our sweat 
have been shed and cruelty extorted, that the con- 
vention has had cause to hang its head and blush. 
Laws as cruel in themselves as they were unconstitu- 
tional and unjust, have in many places been enacted 
against our poor unfriended and unoffending breth- 
ren ; laws (without a shadow of provocation on our 
part) at whose bare recital the very savage draws him 
up for fear of the contagion, looks noble, and prides 
himself because he bears not the name of a Chris- 
tian. But the convention would not wish to 
dwell long on this subject, as it is one that is too 
sensibly felt to need description. . . . 

" This spirit of persecution was the cause of our 
convention. It was this that induced us to seek an 
asylum in the Canadas ; and the convention feels 
happy to report to its brethren, that our efforts to 
establish a settlement in that province have not 
been made in vain. Our prospects are cheering ; 
our friends and funds are daily increasing ; wonders 
have been performed far exceeding our most san- 
guine expectations ; already have our brethren 
purchased eight hundred acres of land — and two 
thousand of them have left the soil of their birth, 


crossed the lines, and laid the foundation for a 
structure which promises to prove an asylum for 
the colored population of these United States. 
They have erected two hundred log-houses, and 
have five hundred acres under cultivation." 

A college "on the manual labor system" was 
planned : " For the present ignorant and degraded 
condition of many of our brethren in these United 
States (which has been a subject of much concern to 
the convention) can excite no astonishment (al- 
though used by our enemies to show our inferiority 
in the scale of human beings) ; for, what opportuni- 
ties have they possessed for mental cultivation or 
improvement? Mere ignorance, however, in a 
people divested of the means of acquiring informa- 
tion by books, or an extensive connection with the 
world, is no just criterion of their intellectual inca- 
pacity ; and it has been actually seen, in various 
remarkable instances, that the degradation of the 
mind and character, which has been too hastily 
imputed to a people kept, as we are, at a distance 
from those sources of knowledge which abound iu 
civilized and enlightened communities, has resulted 
from no other causes than our unhappy situation 
and circumstances." l 

The convention met again in 1833 and resolved 
on further plans for settling in Canada. These 
conventions continued to assemble annually for five 
years, when they were succeeded by the convention 
of the American Moral Reform Society which met 
•Williams, Negro Race in America, Vol. 2, pp. 65-67. 


two years longer. Meantime Nat Turner had ter- 
rorized Virginia and the South and sent a wave of 
repression over the North that led to the disfran- 
chisement of Pennsylvania Negroes in 1837. 

Notwithstanding all this the Negroes were strug- 
gling on. Beside the general conventions arose the 
Phoenix Societies, which " planned an organization 
of the colored people in their municipal sub- 
divisions with the special object of the promotion of 
their improvement in morals, literature and the 
mechanic arts." Lewis Tappan refers to them in 
his biography. The ' ' Mental Feast, ' ' which was a 
social feature, survived thirty years later in some of 
the interior towns of Pennsylvania and the West. 1 

The first Negro paper, Freedom's Journal, had 
been established in 1827 and organizations like the 
Massachusetts General Colored Association were 
cooperating with the Abolitionists. The news of 
emancipation in the British West Indies cheered 
the Negroes, and indeed without the long effect- 
ive and self-sacrificing efforts of the Northern 
freed Negroes, the Abolition movement in the 
United States could not have been successful. 
Garrison's first subscriber to The Liberator was a 
black man of Philadelphia, and before and after the 
Negroes were admitted to membership in the anti- 
slavery societies, their aid was invaluable. In the 
West, despite proscription, a fight for schools was 
carried on from 1830 to 1810, which finally resulted 

1 Occasional Papers of the American Negro Academy, No. 9, 
p. 10. 


in a wide system of Negro schools partially supported 
by public funds. Toward 1:5-40 signs of promise 
began gradually to appear. A West Indian en- 
dowed a Negro school in Philadelphia in 1837. 
The Negro population increased from two and 
one-third to two and nine-tenths millions in the dec- 
ade, and evidences of economic success were seen 
among the free Negroes. Philadelphia had in 1838 
one hundred small beneficial societies ; Ohio 
Negroes owned ten thousand acres of land in 1810, 
while the Canada refugees were beginning to pros- 
per. The mutiny on the Creole, the establishment 
of the Negro Odd Fellows, and the doubling, in 
ten years, of the membership of the African Meth- 
odist Episcopal Church, all pointed to an awaken- 
ing after the long period of distress. 

The decade of 1840 to 1850 was a new era— an era 
of self-assertion and rapid advance for the free 
Northern Negro. For the first time conscious leader- 
ship of undoubted ability appeared. In Boston there 
was De Grasse, a physician, trained in this country 
and in France and a member of the Massachusetts 
Medical Society. Robert Morris was a member of the 
bar, as wasE. R. Walker, whose " Appeal"' in 1829 
startled the country. William Wells Brown and 
William Nell were writing, while Charles Lennox 
Remond was one of the first of the Abolition orators. 
In New York were the gifted preacher, Henry High- 
land Garnet ; the teachers, Reason and Peterson who 
made the Negro schools effective; and the physi- 
cian, McCune Smith, one of the best trained men of 


his day. In Philadelphia were Eobert Purvis, the 
Abolitionist ; "William Still, of the Underground 
Eailroad ; the three men who made the catering 
business — Dorsey, Jones and Minton ; and the rich 
Negro lumber merchant, Stephen Smith, whose mag- 
nificent endowment for aged Negroes stands to-day 
at the corner of Girard and Belmont Avenues and is 
valued at $-400,000. In western Pennsylvania were 
Vashon and Woodson, and in the West were Day, li- 
brarian of the Cleveland library ; the three Lang- 
stons of Oberlin, and the merchants Boyd and Wil- 
cox of Cincinnati. Elsewhere appeared the unlet- 
tered, but brave and shrewd leaders of the fugitive 
slaves. It is said that 500 black messengers of this 
sort were passing backward and forward between the 
slave and the free states in this decade, and notice- 
able among them were Harriet Tubman and Josiah 
Henson, who brought thousands to the North and to 
Canada. Foremost of all came Frederick Douglass, 
born in 1817 and reborn to freedom in 1838. He made 
his first speech in 1841 and took a prominent part iu 
the anti-slavery campaign of the next decade. In 
1845-6, he was in England aud, returning in 1847, he 
established his paper and met John Brown. From 
that time on he was Brown's chief Negro confidant, 
and in his house Brown's Eastern campaign was 
started and largely carried on. The churches also 
were training men in social leadership in the persons 
of their bishops, like John Brown's friend Loguen 
and the noble Daniel Payne. 
About 1847 new life appeared in the free Negro 


group. The Odd Fellows, under Peter Ogden, main- 
la hied their independence against aggressions of the 
whites, and the first of a new series of national col- 
ored conventions assembled at Troy, N. Y. "The 
first article in the first number of Frederick Doug- 
lass's North Star, published January, 1848, was 
an extended notice of this convention held at the 
Liberty Street Church, Troy, N. Y., 1847." 

The next year, 1848, Cleveland welcomed a simi- 
lar national convention. Nearly seventy delegates 
assembled there on September 6th, "the sessions 
alternating between the Court-House and the Taber- 
naele. Frederick Douglass was chosen president. 
As in previous conventions education was encour- 
aged, the importance of statistical information stated 
and temperance societies urged." ' 

The representative character of the delegates was 
shown by the fact that printers, carpenters, black- 
smiths, shoemakers, engineers, dentists, gunsmiths, 
fanners, physicians, plasterers, masons, college stu- 
dents, clergymen, barbers, hair-dressers, laborers, 
coopers, livery-stable keepers, bath-house keepers 
and grocers were among the members who were 
present. 2 

The same year Frederick Douglass attended a Free 
Soil convention at Buffalo, X. Y., and writes: "I was 
not the only colored man well known to the country 
who was present at this convention. Samuel Rin- 

1 Occasional Papers of the American Negro Acad emy, No. 9, 
p. 15. 

2 Ibid., No. 9, p. 16. 


gold Ward, Henry Highland Garnet, Charles L. 
Remond, and Henry Bibb were there and made 
speeches which were received with surprise and 
gratification by the thousands there assembled. As 
a colored man I felt greatly encouraged and strength- 
ened for my cause while listening to these men, in 
the presence of the ablest men of the Caucasian race. 
Mr. Ward especially attracted attention at that con- 
vention. As an orator and thinker he was vastly 
superior, I thought, to any of us, and being per- 
fectly black and of unmixed African descent, the 
splendors of his intellect went directly to the glory 
of race. In depth of thought, fluency of speech, 
readiness of wit, logical exactness, and general in- 
telligence, Samuel R. Ward has left no successor 
among the colored men amongst us, and it was a sad 
day for our cause when he was laid low in the soil 
of a foreign country." ' 

The next decade opened with over three and one- 
half millions of Negroes in the United States — an 
enormous increase since 1840 — and a remarkable in- 
dication of virility and prosperity despite the new 
Fugitive Slave Law. The Canadian Negroes were 
being organized in the Elgin and other settlements, 
the colored Baptists reported 150,000 members, and 
the Negroes of New York, replying to the Black 
Law recommendations of Governor Ward Hunt, 
proved unincumbered ownership of $1,160,000 worth 
of property. The escape of fugitive slaves was now 
systematized in the Underground Railroad and in the 
1 Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892), p. 345. 


secret organization known to outsiders variously as 
the -'League of Freedom," "Liberty League," or 
"American Mysteries." To these were added the 
fourteen Canadian " True Bands" with several hun- 
dred members each. 

State conventions were called in many instances, 
and the most representative and intelligent national 
convention held up to that time met in Rochester, 
N. V., Douglass's home, in 1853. This convention 
developed definite opposition to any hope of per- 
manent relief for the colored freeman through 
schemes of emigration. On the contrary, it directed 
its energies to affirmative constructive action and 
planned three measures : 

(1) An industrial college " on the manual labor 
plan." Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was to make a 
visit to England at the instance of friends in that 
country, was authorized to receive funds in the 
name of the colored people of the country for that 
purpose. "The successful establishment and con- 
duct of such an institution of learning would train 
youth to be self-reliaut and skilled workmen, fitted 
to hold their own in the struggle of life on the con- 
ditions prevailing here." 

(2) A registry of colored mechanics, artisans, 
and business men throughout the Union, and also, 
"of all the persons willing to employ colored men 
in business, to teach colored boys mechanic trades, 
liberal and scientific professions and farming ; also 
a registry <>f colored men and youth seeking em- 
ploymenl or instruction." 


(3) A committee on publication "to collect all 
facts, statistics and statements ; all laws and his- 
torical records and biographies of the colored people 
and all books by colored authors." This com- 
mittee was further authorized "to publish replies 
of any assaults worthy of note, made upon the char- 
acter or condition of the colored people." * 

The radical stand of this assembly against 
emigration caused a call for a distinct emigration 
Negro convention in 1854. This convention was 
held under the presidency of the same man who 
afterward presided at the Chatham conclave of John 
Brown, and with some of the same Negroes present. 
The account of it continues : 

' l There were three parties in the emigration con- 
vention, ranged according to the foreign fields they 
preferred to emigrate to. Dr. Delaney headed the 
party that desired to go to the Niger Valley in 
Africa, Whitfield the party which preferred to go 
to Central America, and Holly the party which pre- 
ferred to go to Haiti. 

" All these parties were recognized and embraced 
by the convention. Dr. Delaney was given a com- 
mission to go to Africa, in the Niger Valley, Whit- 
field to go to Central America, and Holly to Haiti, to 
enter into negotiations with the authorities of these 
various countries for Negro emigrants and to report 
to future conventions. Holly was the first to exe- 
cute his mission, going down to Haiti in 1855, 

1 Occasional Papers of the American Negro Academy, No. 9, 
pp. 16-19. 


when he entered into relations with the Minister of 
the Interior, the father of the late President Hyppo- 
lite, and by him was presented toEnrperor Faustin I. 
The next emigration convention was held at Chat- 
ham, Canada West, in 1856, when the report on 
Haiti was made. Dr. Delaney went off on his mis- 
sion to the Niger Valley, Africa, via England, in 
1858. There he concluded a treaty signed by him- 
self and eight kings, offering inducements to Negro 
emigrants to their territories. Whitfield went to 
California, intending later to go thence to Central 
America, but died in San Francisco before he 
could do so. Meanwhile [James] Redpath went 
to Haiti as a John Brownist after the Harper's 
Ferry raid, and reaped the first fruits of Holly's 
mission by being appointed Haitian Commissioner 
of Emigration in the United States by the Haitian 
government, but with the express injunction that 
Rev. Holly should be called to cooperate with him. 
On Redpath' s arrival in the United States, he 
tendered Rev. Holly a commission from the Haitian 
government at $1,000 per annum and traveling ex- 
penses to engage emigrants to go to Haiti. The 
first load of emigrants were from Philadelphia 
in 1861/' ' 

In 1853 when the American Anti-Slavery Society 
was formed, Negroes like Purvis and Barbadoes, 
trained in the Negro convention movement, were 
among its founders. By 1856 the African Methodist 

1 Occasional Papers of the American Negro Academy, No. 9, 
pp. 20-21. 


Church had 20,000 members and $425,000 worth of 

Of all this development John Brown knew far 
more than most white men and it was on this great 
knowledge that his great faith was based. To most 
Americans the inner striving of the Negro was a 
veiled aud an unknown tale : they had heard of 
Douglass, they knew of fugitive slaves, but of the 
living, organized, struggling group that made both 
these phenomena possible they had no conception. 

From his earliest interest in Negroes, John 
Brown sought to know individuals among them 
intimately and personally. He invited them to his 
home and he went to theirs. He talked to them, 
and listened to the history of their trials, advised 
them and took advice from them. His dream was 
to enlist the boldest and most daring spirits among 
them in his great plan. 

When, therefore, John Brown came East in Jan- 
uary, 1858, his object was not simply to further his 
campaign for funds, but more especially definitely 
to organize the Negroes for his work. Already he 
had disclosed his intentions to Thomas Thomas of 
Springfield and to Frederick Douglass. He now de- 
termined to enlist a larger number and he particu- 
larly had in mind the Negroes of New York and 
Philadelphia, and those in Canada. At no time, 
however, did John Brown plan to begin his foray 
with many Negroes. He knew that he must gain 
the confidence of black men first by a successful 
stroke, and that after initial success he could count 


on large numbers. His object then was to interest 
a few leaders like Douglass, organize societies with 
wide ramifications, and after the first raid to depend 
on these societies for aid and recruits. 

During his stay with Douglass in February, 1858, 
he wrote to many colored leaders : Henry Highland 
Garnet and James N. Gloucester in New York; 
John Jones in Chicago, and J. W. Logucn of the 
Zion Church. The addresses of Downing of Rhode 
Island, and Martin R. Delaney were also noted. 
On February 23d, after he had been in Boston and 
Peterboro he notes writing to Logneu, one of the 
closest of his Negro friends: " Think I shall be 
ready to go with him [to Canada] by the first of 
March or about that time." 1 

On March 10th, John Brown and his eldest son, 
Henry Highland Garnet, William Still and others 
met at the house of Stephen Smith, the rich Negro 
lumber merchant, of 921 Lombard Street, Philadel- 
phia. Brown seems to have stayed nearly a week 
in that city, and probably had long conferences 
with all the chief Philadelphia Negro leaders. On 
March 18th, he was in New Haven where he wrote 
Frederick Douglass and J. W. Loguen, saying : 
"I expect to be on the way by the 2Sth or 30th 
inst." After a flying visit home, involving a long 
walk to save expense, he appeared again at Dong- 
lass's in April. Gloucester collected a little money 
for him in New York and he probably received 

1 Manuscript Diary of John Brown, Boston Public Library. 
Vol. 2, p. 35. 


some in Philadelphia ; at last he turned his face to- 
ward Canada. 

He had long wished to see Canada, and had 
planned a visit as far back as 1846. Hither he had 
sent one of the earliest of his North Elba refugees, 
Walter Hawkins, who became Bishop of the British 
African Church. On April 8th, John Brown writes 
his son : u I came on here direct with J. W. Loguen 
the day after you left Bochester. I am succeeding, 
to all appearance, beyond my expectations. Harriet 
Tubman hooked on his whole team at once. He 
(Harriet) is the most of a man, naturally, that I 
ever met with. There is the most abundant ma- 
terial, and of the right quality, in this quarter, be- 
yond all doubt. Do not forget to write Mr. Case 
(near Bochester) at once about hunting up every 
person and family of the reliable kind about, at, or 
near Bedford, Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and Car- 
lisle, in Pennsylvania, and also Hagerstown and 
vicinity, Maryland, and Harper's Ferry, Va." l 

He stayed at St. Catherines until the 14th or 15th, 
chiefly in consultation with that wonderful woman, 
Harriet Tubman, and sheltered in her home. Har- 
riet Tubman was a full-blooded African, born a 
slave on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1820. 
"When a girl she was injured by having an iron 
weight thrown on her head by an overseer, an in- 
jury that gave her wild, half-mystic ways with 
dreams, rhapsodies and trances. In her early 
womanhood she did the rudest and hardest man's 
1 Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1858, in Sanborn, p. 452. 


work, driving, carting and plowing. Finally the 
slave family was broken up in 18-41), when she ran 
away. Then began her wonderful career as a res- 
cuer of fugitive slaves. Back and forth she traveled 
like some dark ghost until she had personally led 
over three hundred blacks to freedom, no one of 
whom was ever lost while in her charge. A reward 
of £10,000 for her, alive or dead, was offered, but 
she was never taken. A dreamer of dreams as she 
was, she ever " laid great stress on a dream which 
she had had just before she met Captain Brown in 
Canada. She thought she was in ' a wilderness sort 
of place, all full of rocks, and bushes,' when she 
saw a serpent raise its head among the rocks, and 
as it did so, it became the head of an old man with 
a long white beard, gazing at her, ' wishful like, 
jes as ef he war gwine to speak to me,' and then two 
other heads rose up beside him, younger than he, — 
and as she stood looking at them, and wondering 
what they could want with her, a great crowd of 
nun rushed in and struck down the younger heads, 
and then the head of the old man, still looking at 
her bo 'wishful ! ' This dream she had again and 
again, and could not interpret it ; but when she met 
Captain Brown, shortly after, behold he was the 
\ • r\ image of the head she had seen. But still she 
could not make out what her dream signified, till 
the news came to her of the tragedy of Harper's 
Ferry, and then she knew the two other heads were 
his two sons." ' 

1 Bradford, Harriet, the Moses of Her People, pp. 118-119. 


Iu this woman John Brown placed the utmost 
confidence. Wendell Phillips says: "The last 
time I ever saw John Brown was under my own 
roof, as he brought Harriet Tubman to me, saying : 
' Mr. Phillips, I bring you one of the best and 
bravest persons on this continent — General Tub- 
man, as we call her.' He then went on to recount 
her labors and sacrifices in behalf of her race." 1 

Only sickness, brought on by her toil and ex- 
posure, prevented Harriet Tubman from being 
present at Harper's Ferry. 

From St. Catherines John Brown went to Inger- 
soll, Hamilton and Chatham. He also visited 
Toronto, holding meetings with Negroes in Temper- 
ance Hall, and at the house of the "late Mr. 
Holland, a colored man, on Queen Street West. 
On one occasion Captain Brown remained as a guest 
with his friend, Dr. A. M. Boss, who is distin- 
guished as a naturalist, as well as an intrepid Aboli- 
tionist, who risked his life on several occasions in 
excursions into the South to enable slaves to flee to 
Canada." 1 

Having finally perfected plans for a convention, 
Brown hurried back to Iowa for his men. During 
his three months' absence they had been working 
and drilling in the Quaker settlement of Spring- 
dale, la., as most persons supposed, for future 
troubles in "bleeding Kansas." On John Brown's 

1 Letter of Wendell Phillips, printed in Bradford, Harriet, 
the Moses of Her People, pp. 155-156. 

"Hamilton, John Brown in Canada, p. 10. 


arrival they all hurriedly packed up — Owen Brown, 
Realf, Kagi, Cook, Stevens, Tidd, Leeman, Mof- 
fi*tt, Parsons, and the colored man Richardson, 
together with their recruits, Gill and Taylor. The 
Coppocs were to come later. " The leave-taking 
between them and the people of Spriugdale was 
one of tears. Ties which had been knitting through 
many weeks were suudered, and not only so, but 
the natural sorrow at parting was intensified by 
the consciousness of all that the future was full of 
hazard for Brown and his followers. Before quit- 
ting the house and home of Mr. Maxon, where 
they had spent so long a time, each of Brown's 
band wrote his name in pencil on the wall of the 
parlor, where the writing still can be seen by the 
interested traveler." They all immediately started 
for Canada by way of Chicago and Detroit. At 
Chicago they had to wait twelve hours, and the 
first hotel refused to accommodate Richardson at the 
break table. John Brown immediately sought 
another place. The company arrived shortly in 
Chatham and stopped at a hotel kept by Mr. Barber, 
a colored man. While at Chatham, John Brown, 
as Anderson relates, "made a profound impression 
upon those who saw or became acquainted with 
him. Some supposed him to be a staid but modern- 
ized ' Quaker' ; others a solid business man, from 
'somewhere,' and without question a philanthropist. 
His long white beard, thoughtful and reverent brow 
aud physiognomy, his sturdy, measured tread, as 
he circulated about with hands, portrayed in the 


best lithograph, under the pendant coat-skirt of 
plain brown tweed, with other garments to match, 
revived to those honored with his acquaintance and 
knowing his history the memory of a Puritan of 
the most exalted type." 1 

John Brown's choice of Canada as a centre of 
Negro culture, was wise. There were nearly 50, 000 
Negroes there, and the number included mauy 
energetic, intelligent and brave men, with some 
wealth. Settlements had grown up, farms had 
been bought, schools established and an intricate 
social organization begun. Negroes like Henson 
had been loyally assisted by white men like King, 
and fugitives were welcomed and succored. Near 
Buxton, where King and the Elgin Association 
were working, was Chatham, the chief town of the 
county of Kent, with a large Negro population of 
farmers, merchants and mechanics; they had a 
graded school, Wilberforce Institute, several 
churches, a newspaper, a fire-engine company and 
several organizations for social intercourse and up- 
lift. One of the inhabitants said : 

"Mr. Brown did not overestimate the state of 
education of the colored people. He knew that 
they would need leaders, and require training. His 
great hope was that the struggle would be supported 
by volunteers from Canada, educated and ac- 
customed to self-government. He looked on our 
fugitives as picked men of sufficient intelligence, 
which, combined with a hatred for the South, would 
1 Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 9. 


make them willing abettors of any enterprise des- 
tined to free their race." 

There were many white Abolitionists near by, 
but they distrusted Brown and in this way he gained 
less influence among the Negroes than he otherwise 
might have had. Martin R. Delaney, who was a 
fervid African emigrationist, was just about to start 
to Africa, bearing the mandate of the last Negro con- 
vention, when John Brown appeared. "On return- 
ing home from a professional visit in the country, 
Mrs. Delaney informed him that an old gentleman 
had called to see him during his absence. She de- 
scribed him as having a long, white beard, very 
gray hair, a sad but placid countenance. In speech 
he was peculiarly solemn. She added, ' He looked 
like one of the old prophets. He would neither 
come in nor leave his name, but promised to be 
back in two weeks' time.' " 

Finally Delaney met John Brown who said : 

'"I come to Chatham expressly to see you, this 
being my third visit on the errand. I must see 
you at once, sir,' he continued, with emphasis, 
' and that, too, in private, as I have much to do and 
but little time before me. If I am to do nothing 
here, I want to know it at once.' " 

Delaney continues : 

4 ' Going directly to the private parlor of a hotel 
near by, he at once revealed to me that he desired 
to carry out a great project in his scheme of Kansas 
emigration, which, to be successful, must be aided 
and countenanced by the influence of a general con- 


vention or council. That he was unable to effect 
iu the United States, but had been advised by dis- 
tinguished friends of his and mine, that, if he 
could but see me, his object could be attained at 
once. On my expressing astonishment at the con- 
clusion to which my friends and himself had ar- 
rived, with a nervous impatience, he exclaimed, 
' Why should you be surprised ! Sir, the people 
of the Northern states are cowards ; slavery has 
made cowards of them all. The whites are afraid 
of each other, and the blacks are afraid of the 
whites. You can effect nothing among such 
people,' he added, with decided emphasis. On 
assuring him if a council was all that was desired, 
he could readily obtain it, he replied, ' That is all ; 
but that is a great deal to me. It is men I want, 
and not money ; money I can get plentiful enough, 
but no men. Money can come without being seen, 
but men are afraid of identification with me, 
though they favor my measures. They are cowards, 
sir ! Cowards ! ' he reiterated. He then fully re- 
vealed his designs. With these I found no fault, 
but fully favored and aided in getting up the con- 
vention." ' 

Meantime John Brown proceeded carefully to 
sound public opinion, got the views of others, and, 
while revealing few of his own plans, set about get- 
ting together a body who were willing to ratify his 
general aims. He consulted the leading Negroes in 

'Rollins, Life and Public Services of Martin E. Delaney, 
pp. 85-90. 


private, aud called a series of small conferences to 
thresh out preliminary difficulties. In these meet- 
ings aud in the personal visits, many points arose 
and Mere settled. A member of the convention 
says : 

"One evening the question came up as to what 
flag should be used ; our English colored subjects, 
Mho had been naturalized, said they would never 
think of fighting under the hated ' Stars and 
Stripes.' Too many of them thought they carried 
their emblem on their backs. But Brown said the 
old flag was good enough for him ; under it free- 
dom had been won from the tyrants of the Old 
World, for white men ; now he intended to make it 
do duty for the black men. He declared emphatic- 
ally that he would not give up the Stars and 
Stripes. That settled the question. 

"Some one proposed admitting women as mem- 
bers, but Brown strenuously opposed this, and 
warned the members not to intimate, even to their 
wives, what was done. 

"One day in my shop I told him how utterly 
hopeless his plans would be if he persisted in mak- 
ing an attack with the few at his command, and 
that we could not afford to spare white men of his 
stamp, ready to sacrifice their lives for the salva- 
tion of black men. While I was speaking, Mr. 
Brown walked to and fro, with his hands behind 
his back, as was his custom when thinking on his 
favorite subject. He stopped suddenly and bringing 
down his right hand with great force, exclaimed : 


'Did not my Master Jesus Christ come down 
from Heaven and sacrifice Himself upon the altar 
for the salvation of the race, and should I, a worm, 
not worthy to crawl under His feet, refuse to sacri- 
fice myself?' With a look of determination, he re- 
sumed his walk. In all the conversations I had 
with him during his stay in Chatham of nearly a 
month, I never once saw a smile light upon his 
countenance. He seemed to be always in deep 
and earnest thought," l 

The preliminary meeting was held in a frame 
cottage on Princess Street, south of King Street, 
then known as the "King Street High School." 
Some meetings were also held in the First Baptist 
Church on King Street. In order to mislead the 
inquisitive, it was pretended that the persons as- 
sembling were organizing a Masonic Lodge of 
colored people. The important proceedings took 
place in " No. 3 Engine House," a wooden build- 
ing near McGregor's Creek, erected by Mr. Holden 
and other colored men. 

The regular invitations were issued on the fifth : 

" Chatham, Canada, May 5, 1858. 
" My Dear Friend : 

' ' I have called a quiet convention in this place 
of true friends of freedom. Your attendance is 
earnestly requested. . . . 

"Your friend, 

"John Brown." 

1 Reminiscences of J. M. Jones, in Hamilton, John Brown in 
Canada, pp. 14-15. 


The convention was called together at 10 A. m., 
Saturday, May 8th, and opeued without ceremony. 
There were present the following Negroes : Will- 
iam Charles Monroe, a Baptist clergyman, formerly 
president of the emigration convention and elected 
president of this assembly ; Martin R. Delaney, 
afterward major in the United States Army in the 
Civil War ; Alfred Whipper, of Pennsylvania ; 
William Lambert and I. D. Shadd, of Detroit, 
Mich. ; James H. Harris, of Cleveland, O., after the 
war a representative in Congress for two terms 
from North Carolina ; G. J. Reynolds, an active 
Underground Railroad leader of Sandusky City ; 
J. C. Grant, A. J. Smith, James M. Jones, a gun- 
smith and engraver, graduate of Oberlin College, 
1849 ; M. F. Bailey, S. Huuton, John J. Jackson, 
Jeremiah Anderson, James M. Bell, Alfred Ellis- 
worth, James W. Purnell, George Aiken, Stephen 
Dettin, Thomas Hickerson, John Cannel, Robinson 
Alexander, Thomas F. Cary, Thomas M. Kinnard, 
Robert Van Vauken, Thomas Stringer, John A. 
Thomas, believed by some to be John Brown's earlier 
confidant and employee at Springfield, Mass., after- 
ward employed by Abraham Lincoln in his Illinois 
home and at the White House also ; Robert New- 
man, Charles Smith, Simon Fislin, Isaac Holden, a 
merchant and surveyor and John Brown's host ; 
James Smith, and Richard Richardson. 

Hinton says : " There is no evidence to show 
that Douglass, Loguen, Garnet, Stephen Smith, 
Gloucester, Laugston, or others of the prominent 


men of color in the states who knew John Brown, 
were invited to the Chatham meeting. It is doubt- 
ful if their appearance would have been wise, as it 
would assuredly have been commented on and 
aroused suspicion." ' 

The white men present were : John and Owen 
Brown, father and son ; John Henri Kagi, Aaron 
D wight Stevens, still known as Charles Whipple ; 
John Edwin Cook, Bichard Bealf, George B. Gill, 
Charles Plummer Tidd, William Henry Leeman, 
Charles W. Moffett, Luke F. Parsons, all of Kansas ; 
and Steward Taylor of Canada, twelve in all. It 
has been usually assumed that Jeremiah Anderson 
was white but the evidence makes it possible that 
he was a mulatto. John J. Jackson called the 
meeting to order and Monroe was chosen presi- 
dent. Delaney then asked for John Brown, and 
Brown spoke at length, followed by Delaney and 

The constitution was brought forward and, after 
a solemn parole of honor, was read. It proved to 
be a frame of government based on the national 
Constitution, but much simplified and adapted 
to a moving band of guerrillas. The first forty- 
five articles were accepted without debate. The 
next article was: "The foregoing articles shall 
not be so as in any way to encourage the over- 
throw of any state government, or the general gov- 
ernment of the United States, and look to no dis- 
solution of the Union, but simply to amendment 
1 Hinton, p. 178. 


and repeal, and our flag shall be the same that 
our fathers fought for under the Revolution." 

To this Reynolds, the "coppersmith," one of the 
strongest men in the convention, objected. He felt 
no allegiance to the nation that had robbed and 
humiliated him. Brown, Delaney, Kagi and others, 
however, earnestly advocated the article and it 
passed. Saturday afternoon the constitution was 
Anally adopted and signed. Brown induced James 
M. Jones, who had not attended all the sittings, 
to come to this one, as the constitution must be 
signed, and he wished his name to be on the roll 
of honor. As the paper was presented for signa- 
ture, Brown said, "Now, friend Jones, give us John 
Hancock bold and strong." 

The account continues : 

"During one of the sittings, Mr. Jones had the 
floor, and discussed the chances of the success or 
failure of the slaves rising to support the plan pro- 
posed. Mr. Brown's scheme was to fortify some 
place in the mountains, and call the slaves to rally 
under his colors. Jones expressed fear that he 
would be disappointed, because the slaves did not 
know enough to rally to his support. The Ameri- 
can slaves, Jones argued, were different from those 
of the West India Island of San Domingo, whose 
successful uprising is a matter of history, as they 
had there imbibed some of the impetuous character 
of their French masters, and were not so overawed 
by white men. 'Mr. Brown, no doubt thought,' 
says Mr. Jones, ' that I was making an impression on 


some of the members, if not on him, for he arose 
suddenly and remarked, ' ' Friend Jones, you will 
please say no more on that side. There will be a 
plenty to defend that side of the question." A gen- 
eral laugh took place.' 

" A question as to the time for making the attack 
came up in the convention. Some advocated that 
we should wait until the United States became in- 
volved in war with some first-class power ; that it 
would be next to madness to plunge into a strife for 
the abolition of slavery while the government was 
at peace with other nations. Mr. Brown listened to 
the argument for some time, then slowly arose to 
his full height, and said : ' I would be the last one 
to take the advantage of my country in the face of a 
foreign foe.' He seemed to regard it as a great in- 
sult. That settled the matter in my mind that 
John Brown was not insane." ' 

At 6 p. m. the election of officers under the con- 
stitution took place, and was finished Monday, the 
tenth. John Brown was elected commander-in- 
chief ; Kagi, secretary of war ; Bealf, secretary of 
state ; Owen Brown, treasurer ; and George B. 
Gill, secretary of the treasury. Members of con- 
gress chosen were Alfred Ellisworth and Osborne 
P. Anderson, colored. 

After appointing a committee to fill other offices, 
the convention adjourned. Another and a larger 
body was also organized, as Delaney says : "This 

1 Reminiscences of J. M. Jones, in Hamilton, John Brown in 
Canada, pp. 14 and 16. 


organization was an extensive body, holding the 
same relation to his movements as a state or national 
executive committee holds to its party principles, di- 
recting their adherence to fundamental principles. " ' 

This committee still existed at the time of the 
Harper's Ferry raid. With characteristic reticence 
Brown revealed his whole plan to no one, and 
many of those close to him received quite different 
impressions, or rather read their own ideas into 
Brown's careful speech. One of his Kansas band 
says : "lam sure that Brown did not communicate 
the details of his plans to the members of the con- 
vention, more than in a very general way. Indeed, 
I do not now remember that he gave them any more 
than the impressions which they could gather from 
the methods of organization. From those who were 
directly connected with his movements he solicited 
plans and methods — including localities — of opera- 
tions in writing. Of course, we had almost precise 
knowledge of his methods, but all of us perhaps did 
not know just the locality selected by him, or, if 
knowing, did not comprehend the resources and 
surroundings." * 

"John Brown, never, I think," said Mr. Jones, 
"communicated his whole plan, even to his im- 
mediate followers. In his conversations with me 
he led me to think that he intended to sacrifice 
himself and a few of his followers for the purpose 

'Rollins, Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delaney, pp. 

1 Reminiscences of George B. Gill, in Hinton, p. 185. 


of arousing the people of the North from the stupor 
they were in on this subject. He seemed to think 
such sacrifice necessary to awaken the people from 
the deep sleep that had settled upon the minds of 
the whites of the North. He well knew that the 
sacrifice of any number of Negroes would have no 
effect. "What he intended to do, so far as I could 
gather from his conversation, from time to time, 
was to emulate Arnold Winkelried, the Swiss 
chieftain, when he threw himself upon the Austrian 
spearmen, crying, 'Make way for Liberty.' " ' De- 
laney in his own bold, original way assumed that 
Brown intended another Underground Bailway 
terminating in Kansas. Delaney himself was on 
his way to Africa and could take no active part in 
the movement. 

The constitution adopted by the convention was an 
instrument designed for the government of a band of 
isolated people fighting for liberty. The preamble 
said : 

' ' Whereas slavery, throughout its entire exist- 
ence in the United States, is none other than a most 
barbarous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war of one 
portion of its citizens upon another portion — the only 
conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment and 
hopeless servitude or absolute extermination — in ut- 
ter disregard and violation of those eternal and 
self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of 
Independence : 

1 Reminiscences of J. M. Jones, in Hamilton, John Brown in 
Canada, p. 16. 


''Therefore, we, citizens of the United States, and 
the oppressed people who, by a recent decision of 
the Supreme Court, are declared to have no rights 
which the white man is bound to respect, together 
with all other people degraded by the laws thereof, 
do, for the time being, ordain and establish our- 
selves the following provisional constitution and 
ordinances, the better to protect our persons, prop- 
erty, lives, and liberties, and to govern our 
actions." 1 

The Declaration of Independence referred to was 
probably designed to be adopted July 4, 1858. when, 
as originally planned, the blow was to be actually 
struck. It was a paraphrase of the original dec- 
lination and ended by saying : 

" Declaring that we will serve them no longer as 
slaves, knowing that the 'Laborer is worthy of his 
hire,' We therefore, the Representatives of the cir- 
cumscribed citizens of the United States of America, 
in General Congress assembled, appealing to the 
supreme Judge of the World, for the rectitude of 
our intentions, Do in the name, & by authority of 
the oppressed Citizens of the Slave States, Solemnly 
publish and Declare : that the Slaves are, & of right 
ought to be as free & as independent as the un- 
changeable Law of God requires that All MenShall 
be. That they are absolved from all allegiance to 
those Tyrants, who still persist in forcibly subjecting 
them t<. perpetual ' Bondage,' and that all friendly 
connection between them and such Tyrants, is & 
1 Binton, pp. 619-633. 


ought to be totally desolved, And that as free and 
independent citizens of these states, they have a 
perfect right, a sufficient and just cause, to defend 
themselves against the Tyrrany of their oppressors. 
To solicit aid from & ask the protection of all true 
friends of humanity and reform, of whatever nation, 
& wherever found ; A right to contract all Alliances, 
& to do all other acts and things which free inde- 
pendent Citizens may of right do. And for the sup- 
port of the Declaration, with a firm reliance on the 
protection of divine Providence : "We mutually 
pledge to each other, Our Lives, and Our sacred 
Honor." 1 

The constitution consisted of forty-eight articles. 
All persons of mature age were admitted to mem- 
bership and there was established a congress with 
one house of five to ten members, a president and 
vice-president and a court of five members, each one 
of whom held circuit courts. All these officials 
were to unite in selecting a commander-in-chief, 
treasurer, secretaries, and other officials. All prop- 
erty was to be in common and no salaries were to be 
paid. All persons were to labor. All indecent be- 
havior was forbidden : ' ' The marriage relation shall 
be at all times respected, and families kept together, 
as far as possible ; and broken families encouraged 
to reunite, and intelligence offices established for 
that purpose. Schools and churches established, as 
soon as may be, for the purpose of religious and 
other instructions ; and the first day of the week re- 
1 Hinton, pp. 642-643. 


garded as a day of rest, and appropriated to moral 
and religious instruction and improvement, relief of 
the suffering, instruction of the young and ignorant, 
and the encouragement of personal cleanliness ; nor 
shall any person be required on that day to perform 
ordinary manual labor, unless in extremely urgent 
cases. : ' ' All persons were to carry arms but not con- 
cealed. There were special provisions for the cap- 
ture of prisoners, and protection of their persons 
and property. 

John Brown was well pleased with his work and 
wrote home: "Had a good Abolition convention 
here, frOm different parts, on the 8th and 10th iust. 
Constitution slightly amended and adopted, and so- 
ciety organized." * 

Just now as everything seemed well started, came 
disquieting news from the East. Forbes had been 
there since November, growing more and more 
poverty-stricken and angry, and his threats, hints 
and visits were becoming frequent and annoying. 
He complained to Senator Wilson, to Charles Sum- 
ner, to Hale, Seward and Horace Greeley, and to 
the Boston coterie. He could not understand why 
these leaders of the movement against slavery, as he 
supposed, should leave the real power in the hands 
of John Brown, and neglect an experienced soldier 
like himself after raising false expectations. John 
Brown had dealt with Forbes gently but firmly, and 
had sought to conciliate him, but in vain. Brown 

1 Provisional Constitution. Art. 42. 

1 Letter to bis family, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 455-456. 


was apparently determined to outwit him by haste ; 
he had written his Massachusetts friends to join him 
at the Chatham Convention, but Sanborn and Howe 
had already received threatening letters from Forbes 
which alarmed them. He evidently had careful in- 
formation of Brown's movements and was bent on 
making trouble. He probably was at this time in 
the confidence of McCune Smith and the able Negro 
group of New York who had developed a not un- 
natural distrust of whites, and a desire to foster 
race pride. Using information thus obtained, 
Forbes sought to put pressure on Bepublican lead- 
ers to organize more effective warfare on slavery, 
and to discredit John Brown. Sanborn wrote 
hastily : "It looks as if the project must, for the 
present, be deferred, for I find by reading Forbes' s 
epistles to the doctor that he knows the details of 
the plan, and even knows (what very few do) that 
the doctor, Mr. Stearns, and myself are informed of 
it. How he got this knowledge is a mystery. He 
demands that Hawkins [John Brown] be dismissed 
as agent, and himself or some other be put in his 
place, threatening otherwise to make the business 
public." 1 Gerrit Smith concluded, "Brown must 
go no further." But Higginson wisely demurred. 
" I regard any postponement," he said, " as simply 
abandoning the project ; for if we give it up now, 
at the command or threat of H. F., it will be the 
same next year. The only way is to circumvent 
the man somehow (if he cannot be restrained in his 
1 Letter from Sanborn to Higginson, 1858, in Sanborn, p. 458. 


malice). When the thing is well started, who cares 
what he says? " ' 

Further efforts were made to conciliate Forbes 
but he wrote wildly: "I have been grossly de- 
frauded in the name of humanity and anti-slavery. 
. . . I have for years labored in the anti-slavery 
cause, without wanting or thinking of a recompeuse. 
Though I have made the least possible parade of my 
work, it has nevertheless not been entirely without 
fruit. . . . Patience and mild measures having 
failed, I reluctantly have recourse to harshness. 
Let them not natter themselves that I shall even- 
tually become weary and shall drop the subject ; it 
is as yet quite at its beginning." 2 

" To go on in face of this is madness," wrote San- 
born, and John Brown was urged to come to New 
York to meet Stearns and Howe. Brown had al- 
ready been delayed nearly a month at Chatham by 
this trouble, but he obeyed the summons. Sanborn 
says: "When, about May 20th, Mr. Steams met 
Brown in New York, it was arranged that here- 
after the custody of the Kansas rifles should be in 
Brown's hands as the agent, not of this committee, 
but of Mr. Steams alone. It so happened that Ger- 
rit Smith, who seldom visited Boston, was coming 
there late in May. ... He arrived and took 
rooms at the Revere House, where, on the 2fth of 
May, 1858, the secret committee (organized in 

1 Letter from Higginson to Theodore Parker, in Sanborn, p. 459. 
1 Letter from Forbes to Higginson, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 460- 


March, and consisting of Smith, Parker, Howe, 
Higginson, Stearns, and Sanborn) held a meeting 
to consider the situation. It had already been de- 
cided to postpone the attack, and the arms had been 
placed under a temporary interdict, so that they 
could only be used, for the present, in Kansas. 
The questions remaining were whether Brown 
should be required to go to Kansas at once, and 
what amount of money should be raised for him in 
the future. Of the six members of the committee 
only one (Higginson) was absent. ... It was 
unanimously resolved that Brown ought to go to 
Kansas at once." 

As soon as possible after this, on May 21st, Brown 
visited Boston, and while there held a conversation 
with Higginson, who made a record of it at the 
time. He states that Brown was full of regret at 
the decision of the Bevere House council to postpone 
the attack till the winter or spring of 1859, when 
the secret committee would raise for Brown two 
or three thousand dollars ; he meantime was to blind 
Forbes by going to Kansas, and to transfer the 
property so as to relieve the Kansas committee of 
responsibility, they in future not to know his plans. 

"On probing Brown," Higginson goes on, "I 
found that he . . . considered delay very discour- 
aging to his thirteen men, and to those in Canada. 
Impossible to begin in autumn ; and he would not 
lose a day (he finally said) if he had three hundred 
dollars ; it would not cost twenty-five dollars apiece 
to get his men from Ohio, and that was all he needed. 


The knowledge that Forbes could give of his plan 
would be injurious, for he wished his opponents to 
underrate him ; but still . . . the increased 
terror produced would perhaps counterbalance this, 
and it would not make much difference. If he had 
the means he would not lose a day. He complained 
that some of his Eastern friends were not men of ac- 
tion ; that they were intimidated by Wilson's letter, 
and magnified the obstacles. Still, it was essential 
that they should not think him reckless, he said ; 
and as they held the purse, he was powerless without 
them, having spent nearly everything received this 
campaign, on account of delay, — a month at Chat- 
ham, etc." ' 

There was nothing now for Brown but to conceal 
his arms, scatter his men and hide a year in Kansas. 
It was a bitter necessity and it undoubtedly helped 
ruin the success of the foray. The Negroes in Can- 
ada fell away from the plan when it did not mate- 
rialize and doubted Brown's determination and wis- 
dom. His son hid the arms in northern Ohio in a 

Meantime, a part of the company — Stevens, Cook, 
Tidd, Gill, Taylor and Owen Brown— immediately 
after the adjournment of the convention, had gone to 
Cleveland, O., and had found work in the surround- 
ing country. Brown wrote from Canada at the time : 

' ' It seems that all but three have managed to stop 
their board bills, and I do hope the balance will fol- 
low the manlike and noble example of patience and 
1 Sanborn, pp. 463-464. 


perseverance set them by the others, instead of be- 
ing either discouraged or out of humor. The 
weather is so wet here that no work can be obtained. 
I have only received $15 from the East, and such has 
been the effect of the course taken by F. [Col. Forbes], 
on our Eastern friends, that I have some fears that 
we shall be compelled to delay further action for the 
present. They [his Eastern friends] urge us to do so, 
promising us liberal assistance after a while. I am 
in hourly expectation of help sufficient to pay off 
our bills here, and to take us on to Cleveland, to 
see and advise with you, which we shall do at once 
when we shall get the means. Suppose we do have 
to defer our direct efforts ; shall great and noble 
minds either indulge in useless complaint, or fold 
their arms in discouragement, or sit in idleness, 
when we may at least avoid losing ground % It is in 
times of difficulty that men show what they are ; it 
is in such times that men mark themselves. Are 
our difficulties such as to make us give up one of the 
noblest enterprises in which men ever were en- 
gaged?" ' 

Two weeks later the rest of the party, except Kagi, 
followed to Cleveland, John Brown going East to 
meet Stearns. Kagi, who was an expert printer, 
went to Hamilton, Canada, where he set up and 
printed the constitution, arriving in Cleveland about 
the middle of June when Brown returned from the 
East. Eealf says that Brown did not have much 

1 Letter to Owen Brown, 1858, in Richman, John Brown 
Among the Quakers, pp. 40-41. 


money, but sent him to New York and "Wash- 
ington to watch Forbes and possibly regain his con- 
fidence. Eealf, however, had become timid and 
lukewarm in the cause and sailed away to England. 
The rest of the men scattered. Owen Brown went 
to Akron, O. Cook left Cleveland for the neigh- 
borhood of Harper's Ferry ; Gill secured work in a 
Shaker settlement, probably Lebanon, O., where 
Tidd was already employed ; Steward Taylor went 
to Illinois ; Stevens awaited Brown at Cleve- 
land ; while Leeman got some work in Ashtabula 
County. John Brown left Boston, on the 3rd of 
June, proceeding to the North Elba home for a short 
visit. Then he, Kagi, Stevens, Leeman, Gill, Par- 
sons, Moffett, and Owen were gathered together and 
the party went to Kansas, arriving late in June. 
Thus suddenly ended John Brown's attempt to 
organize the Black Phalanx. His intimate friends 
understood that the great plan was only postponed, 
but the postponement had, as Higginson predicted, 
a dampening effect, and Brown's chances of enlist- 
ing a large Canadian contingent were materially les- 
sened. Nevertheless, seed had been sown. And 
there were millions of human beings to whom the 
last word of the Chatham Declaration of Independ- 
ence was more than mere rhetoric : ' ' Nature is 
mourning for its murdered and afflicted children. 
Hung be the Heavens in scarlet ! " 



"The Spirit of the. Lord God is upon me; because the Lord 
hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek ; He 
hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty 
to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are 

Half-way between Maine and Florida, in the 
heart of the Alleghanies , a mighty gateway lifts its 
head and discloses a scene which, a century and a 
quarter ago, Thomas Jefferson said was ' ' worth 
a voyage across the Atlantic. " He continues : 
' ' You stand on a very high point of laud ; on your 
right comes up the Shenandoah, haviug ranged along 
the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to find a 
vent ; on your left approaches the Potomac, in quest 
of a passage also. In the moment of their junction 
they rush together against the mountain, rend it 
asunder, and pass off to the sea." 1 

This is Harper's Ferry and this was the point 
which John Brown chose for his attack on Ameri- 
can slavery. He chose it for many reasons. He 
loved beauty : " When I met Brown at Peterboro 
in 1858," writes Sanborn, "Morton played some 
fine music to us in the parlor, — among other things 
1 Jefferson, Notes on Virginia. 


Schubert's Serenade, then a favorite piece, — and the 
old Puritan, who loved music and sang a good part 
himself, sat weeping at the air." 1 He chose 
Harper's Ferry because a United States arsenal was 
there and the capture of this would gi ve that dramatic 
climax to the inception of his plan which was so 
necessary to its success. But both these were 
minor reasons. The foremost and decisive reason 
Mas that Harper's Ferry was the safest natural en- 
trance to the Great Black Way. Look at the map 
(page 274). The shaded portion is "the black 
belt'' of slavery where there were massed in 1859 
at least three of the four million slaves. Two paths 
led southward toward it in the East : — the way by 
Washington, physically broad and easy, but legally 
aud socially barred to bondsmen ; the other way, 
known to Harriet Tubman and all fugitives, which 
led to the left toward the crests of the Alleghanies 
and the gateway of Harper's Ferry. One has but to 
glance at the mountains and swamps of the South 
to see the Great Black Way. Here, amid the mighty 
protection of overwhelming numbers, lay a path from 
slavery to freedom, and along that path were fast- 
nesses and hiding-places easily capable of becoming 
permanent fortified refuges for organized bands of 
determined armed men. 

The exact details of Brown's plan will never be 

fully known. As Eealf said : "John Brown was 

a man who would never state more than it was 

absolutely necessary for him to do. No one of his 

1 Sanborn, p. 467. 


most intimate associates, and I was one of the 
most intimate, was possessed of more than barely 
sufficient information to enable Brown to attach 
such companion to him." 1 

A glance at the map shows clearly that John 
Brown intended to operate in the Blue Ridge 
mountains rising east of the Shenandoah and known 
at Harper's Ferry as Loudoun Heights. The 
Loudoun Heights rise boldly 500 to 700 feet above 
the village of Harper's Ferry and 1,000 feet above 
the sea. They run due south and then southwest, 
dipping down a little the first three miles, then rising 
to 1,500 feet, which level is practically maintained 
until twenty-five miles below Harper's Ferry where 
the mountains broaden to a dense and labyrinthical 
wilderness, and rise to a height of 2,000 or more 
feet. Right at this high point and in sight of High 
Knob (a peak of 2,400 feet) began, in Fauquier 
County, the Great Black Way. In this county in 
1850 were over 10,000 slaves, and 650 free Negroes, 
as compared with 9,875 whites. From this county 
to the southern boundary of Virginia were a series 
of black counties with a majority of slaves, contain- 
ing in 1850 at least 260, 000 Negroes. From here the 
Great Black Way went south as John Brown indi- 
cated in his diary and undoubtedly in the marked 
maps, which Virginia afterward hastily destroyed. 

The easiest way to get to these heights was from 
Harper's Ferry. An hour's climb from the arsenal 

1 Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, 
No. 278 ; Testimony of Richard Realf, p. 100. 


grounds would easily have hidden a hundred men 
in inaccessible fastnesses, provided they were not 
overburdened ; and even with arms, ammunition 
and snpplies, they could have repelled, without dif- 
ficulty, attacks on the retreat. Forts and defenses 
could be prepared in these mountains, and before 
the raid they had been pretty thoroughly explored 
and paths marked. In Harper's Ferry just at the 
crossing of the main road from Maryland lay the 
arsenal. The plan without doubt was, first, to col- 
lect men and arms on the Maryland side of the 
Potomac ; second, to attack the arsenal suddenly 
and capture it ; third, to bring up the arms and am- 
munition and, together with those captured, to cross 
the Shenandoah to Loudoun Heights and hide in 
the mouutain wilderness ; fourth, thence to descend 
at intervals to release slaves and get food, and so re- 
treat southward. Most writers have apparently 
supposed that Brown intended to retreat from the 
arsenal across the Potomac. A moment's thought 
will show the utter absurdity of this plan. Brown 
knew guerrilla warfare, and the failure of the Har- 
per's Ferry raid does not prove it a blunder from the 
stail. The raid was not a foray from the mountains, 
which failed because its retreat was cut off; but it 
was a foray to the mountains with the village and 
arsenal on the way, which was defeated apparently 
because the arms and ammunition train failed to 
join the advance-guard. 

This then was the great plan which John Brown 
had been slowly elaborating and formulating for 


twenty years — since the day when kneeling beside 
a Negro minister he had sworn his sons to blood 
feud with slavery. 

The money resources with which John Brown 
undertook his project are not exactly known. 
Sanborn says : " Brown's first request in 1858 was 
for a fund of a thousand dollars only ; with this in 
hand he promised to take the field either in April 
or May. Mr. Stearns acted as treasurer of this 
fund, and before the 1st of May nearly the whole 
amount had been paid in or subscribed, — Stearns 
contributing three hundred dollars, and the rest 
of our committee smaller sums. It soon appeared, 
however, that the amount named would be too 
small, and Brown's movements were embarrassed 
from the lack of money before the disclosures of 
Forbes came to his knowledge." l From first to 
last George L. Stearns gave in cash and arms about 
$7,500, and Gerrit Smith contributed more than 
$1,000. Merriam brought with him $600 in gold in 
October. Between March 10th and October 16th, 
Brown expended at least $2,500. In all Sanborn 
raised $4,000 for Brown. Hinton says: "As 
near as can be estimated, the money received 
by Brown could not have exceeded $12,000, while 
the supplies, arms, etc., furnished may have cost 
$10,000 more. Of course, there were smaller con- 
tributions and support coming in, but if the total 
estimate be placed at $25,000, for the period be- 
tween the 15th of September, 1856, when he left 
1 Sanborn, p. 457. 


Lawrence, Kan., and the 16th of October, 1859, 
■when he moved on Harper's Ferry, Va., with 
twenty-one men, it will certainly cover all of the 
outlay except that of time, labor, and lives." ' 

This total, however, does not include a fund of 
§1,000 raised for his family. 

The civic organization under which Brown in- 
tended to work has been spoken of. The military 
organization was based on his Kausas experience 
and his reading. In his diary is this entry : 

11 Circassia has about 550,000 
Switzerland 2,037,030 
Guerrilla warfare See Life of Lord Well- 
Page 71 to Page 75 (Mina) 
See also Page 102 some valuable hints 
in Same Book. See also Page 196 some 
most important instructions to officers. 
See also same Book Page 235 these words 

deep, and 
narrow defiles where 300 men would sufiise 

to check an army. 
See also Page 236 on top of Page " 

This life of Wellington, W. P. Garrison states, 1 
was Stocqueler's and the pages referred to tell of 
the Spanish guerrillas under Mina in 1810, and 
of methods of cooking and discipline. In one place 
the author says : ' ' Here we have a chaos of moun- 
tains, where we meet at every step huge fallen 

•Hinton, pp. 130-131. 

3 W. P. Garrison iuthe Andovcr Kcviac, Dec, 1890, and Jan., 


masses of rock and earth, yawning fissures, deep 
and narrow defiles, where 300 men would suffice to 
check an army." The Alleghahies in Virginia 
and Carolina were similar in topography and, for 
operation here, Brown proposed a skeleton army 
which could work together or in small units of any 
size : 

"A company will consist of fifty-six privates, 
twelve non-commissioned officers, eight corporals, 
four sergeants and three commissioned officers (two 
lieutenants, a captain), and a surgeon. 

"The privates shall be divided into bauds or 
messes of seven each, numbering from one to eight, 
with a corporal to each, numbered like his band. 

"Two bands will comprise a section. Sections 
will be numbered from one to four. 

' ' A sergeant will be attached to each section, and 
numbered like it. 

" Two sections will comprise a platoon. Platoons 
will be numbered one and two, and each commanded 
by a lieutenant designed by like number." l 

Four companies composed a battalion, four bat- 
talions a regiment, and four regiments a brigade. 

So much for his resources and plans. Now for 
the men whom he chose as co-workers. The 
number of those who took part in the Harper's 
Ferry raid is not known. Perhaps, including 
active slave helpers, there were about fifty. Seven- 
teen Negroes, reported as probably killed, are 
wholly unknown, and those slaves who helped and 
1 General Orders, Oct. 10, 1859, Hinton, pp. 646-647. 


escaped are also unknown. This leaves the twenty- 
two men usually regarded as making the raid. 
They fall, of course, into two main groups, the 
Negroes and the whites. Six or seven of the twenty- 
two were Negroes. 

First in importance came Osborne Perry Ander- 
son, a free-born Pennsylvania mulatto, twenty-four 
years of age. He was a printer by trade, -'well 
educated, a man of natural dignity, modest, simple 
in character and manners." He met John Brown 
in Canada. He wrote the most interesting and re- 
liable account of the raid, and afterward fought in 
the Civil War. 

Next came Shields Green, a full-blooded Negro 
from South Carolina, whence he had escaped from 
slavery, after his wife had died, leaving a living boy 
still in bondage. He was about twenty-four years 
old, small and active, uneducated but with natural 
ability and absolutely fearless. He met Brown at 
the home of Frederick Douglass, who says : "While 
at my house, John Brown made the acquaintance 
of a colored man who called himself by different 
names — sometimes 'Emperor,' at other times, 
'Shields Green.' . . . He was a fugitive slave, 
who had made his escape from Charleston, S. C. ; a 
state from which a slave found it no easy matter to 
run away. But Shields Green was not one to shrink 
from hardships or dangers. He was a man of few 
words, and his speech was si ngularly broken ; but his 
courage and self-respect made him quite a dignified 
character. John Brown saw at once what 'stuff' 


Green * was made of,' and confided to him his plans 
and purposes. Green easily believed in Brown, and 
promised to go with him whenever he should be 
ready to move." a 

Dangerfield New by was a free mulatto from the 
neighborhood of Harper's Ferry. He was thirty 
years of age, tall and well built, with a pleasant face 
and manner ; he had a wife and seven children in 
slavery about thirty miles south of Harper's Ferry. 
The wife was about to be sold south at this time, 
and was sold immediately after the raid. Newby 
was the spy who gave general information to the 
party, and lived out in the community until the 
night of the attack. 

John A. Copeland was born of free Negro parents 
in North Carolina, reared in Oberlin and educated 
at Oberlin College. He was a straight- haired mu- 
latto, twenty-two years old, of medium size, and a 
carpenter by trade. Hunter, the prosecuting attor- 
ney of Virginia, says : " From my intercourse with 
him I regarded him as one of the most respectable 
prisoners that we had. . . . He was a copper- 
colored Negro, behaved himself with as much firm- 
ness as any of them, and with far more dignity. If 
it had been possible to recommend a pardon for any 
of them, it would have been for this man Copeland, 
as I regretted as much, if not more, at seeing him 
executed than any other one of the party." 2 

1 Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, p. 387. 

2 Hunter, John Brown's Eaid, republished iu the Publications 
of the Southern History Association, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 188. 


Lewis Sherrard Leary was born in slavery in 
North Carolina and also reared in Oberlin, where 
he worked as a harness- maker. An Oberlin friend 
testified : " He called again afterward, and told 
ine he would like to keep to the amount I had given 
him, and would like a certain amount more for a 
certain purpose, and was very chary in his com- 
munications to me as to how he was to use it, ex- 
cept that he did inform me that he wished to use it 
iu aiding slaves to escape. Circumstances just then 
transpired which had interested me contrary to any 
thought I ever had in my own mind before. I had 
had exhibited to me a daguerreotype of a young 
lady, a beautiful appearing girl, who I was in- 
formed was about eighteen years of age. . . ."' 
But here Senator Mason of the Inquisition sceuted 
danger, and we can only guess the reasons that sent 
Leary to his death. He was said to be Brown's 
first recruit outside the Kansas band. 

John Anderson, a free Negro from Boston, was 
sent by Lewis Hayden and started for the front. 
Whether he arrived and was killed, or was too late 
has never been settled. 

The seventh man of possible Negro blood was 
Jeremiah Anderson. He is listed with the Negroes 
in all the original reports of the Chatham Conven- 
tion and was, as a white Virginian who saw him 
says, "of middle stature, very black hair and 
swarthy complexion. He was supposed by some 

1 Report : Reports of Senate Committees. 36th Congress, 1st 
Session, No. 278 ; Testimony of Ralph Plumb, p. 181. 


to be a Canadian mulatto." ' He was descended 
from Virginia slaveholders who had moved north 
and was born in Indiana. He was twenty-six years 

Of the white men there were, first of all, John 
Brown and his family, consisting of three sons, and 
two brothers of his eldest daughter's husband, 
William and Dauphin Thompson. 

Oliver Brown was a boy not yet twenty-one, 
though tall and muscular, and had just been married. 
Watson was a man of twenty-five, tall and athletic ; 
while Owen was a large, red-haired prematurely 
aged man of thirty-five, partially crippled, good- 
tempered and cynical. The Thompsons were neigh- 
bors of John Brown and part of a brood of twenty 
children. The Brown family and theirs intermar- 
ried and Anne Brown says that William, who was 
twenty-six years of age, was "kind, generous- 
hearted, and helpful to others." Dauphin, a boy 
of twenty-two, was, she writes, ' ' very quiet, with a 
fair, thoughtful face, curly blonde hair, and baby- 
blue eyes. He always seemed like a very good 
girl." 2 

The three notable characters of the band were 
Kagi, Stevens and Cook, the reformer, the soldier 
and the poet. Kagi's family came from the Shen- 
andoah Valley. He was twenty-four, had a good 
English education and was a newspaper reporter in 
Kansas, where he earnestly helped the free state 

1 Barry, The Strange Story of Harper's Ferry, p. 93. 
*Anne Brown in Hinton, pp. 529-530. 


cause. He had strong convictions on the subject of 
slavery and was willing- to risk all for them. " You 
will all be killed," cried a friend who heard his 
plan. " Yes, I know it, Hinton, but the result will 
be worth the sacrifice.'' Hinton adds : "I recall 
my friend as a man of personal beauty, with a fine, 
well-shaped head, a voice of quiet, sweet tones, that 
could be penetrating and cutting, too, almost to 
sharpness." 1 Anderson writes that Kagi "left 
home when a youth, an enemy to slavery, and 
brought as his gift offering to freedom three slaves, 
whom he piloted to the North. His innate hatred 
of the institution made him a willing exile from the 
state of his birth, and his great abilities, natural 
and acquired, entitled him to the position he held 
in Captain Brown's confidence. Kagi was indif- 
ferent to personal appearance ; he often went about 
with slouched hat, one leg of his pantaloons prop- 
erly adjusted, and the other partly tucked into his 
high boot-top ; unbrushed, unshaven, and in utter 
disregard of ' the latest style.' " " 

Stevens was a handsome six-foot Connecticut sol- 
dier of twenty-eight years of age, who had thrashed 
his major for mistreating a fellow soldier and de- 
serted from the United States army. He was active 
in Kansas and soon came under John Brown's disci- 

" Why did you come to Harper's Ferry ?" asked 
a Virginian. 

1 Hinton, p. 453. 

* Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 15. 


He replied : "It was to help my fellow men out 
of bondage. You know nothing of slavery — I know 
a great deal. It is the crime of crimes. I hate it 
more and more the longer I live. Even since I have 
been lying in this cell, I have heard the crying of 
slave-children torn from their parents." ' 

Cook was also a Connecticut man of twenty-nine 
years, tall, blue-eyed, golden-haired and handsome, 
but a far different type from Stevens. He was 
talkative, impulsive and restless, eager for adven- 
ture but hardly steadfast. He followed John 
Brown as he would have followed any one else 
whom he liked, dreaming his dreams, rushing 
ahead in the face of danger and shrinking back 
appalled and pitiful before the grim face of death. 
He was the most thoroughly human figure in the 

One other deserves mention, because it was prob- 
ably his slowness or obstinacy that ruined the suc- 
cess of John Brown's raid. This was Charles P. 
Tidd. He was from Maine, twenty-seven years old, 
trained in Kansas warfare — a nervous, overbearing 
and quarrelsome man. He bitterly opposed the 
plan of capturing Harper's Ferry when it was 
finally revealed, and as Anne Brown said, " got so 
warm that he left the farm and went down to Cook's 
dwelling near Harper's Ferry to let his wrath cool 
off." A week passed before he sullenly gave in. 

Beside these there were six other men of more 
or less indistinct personalities. Five were young 
1 Hinton, pp. 496-497. 


Kansas settlers from Maine, the Middle West and 
Canada, trained in guerrilla warfare under Brown 
and Montgomery and thoroughly disliking the slave 
system which they had seen. They were personal 
admirers of Brown and lovers of adventure. The 
last recruit, Merriam, was a New England aristocrat 
turned crusader, fighting the world's ills blindly 
but devotedly. The Negro Lewis Hayden met him 
in Boston, "and, after a few words, said, 'I want 
five hundred dollars and must have it.' Merriam, 
startled at the manner of the request, replied, ' If 
you have a good cause, you shall have it' Hayden 
then told Merriam briefly what he had learned from 
John Brown, Jr. : that Captain Brown was at Cham - 
bersburg, or could be heard of there ; that he was 
preparing to lead a party of liberators into Vir- 
ginia, and that he needed money ; to which Merriam 
replied : ' If you tell me JohD Brown is there, you 
can have my money and me along with it.' " l 

These were the men— idealists, dreamers, soldiers 
aud avengers, varying from the silent and thought- 
ful to the quick aud impulsive ; from the cold and 
bitter to the ignorant and faithful. They believed 
in God, in spirits, in fate, in liberty. To them 
the world was a wild, young unregulated thing, 
and they were born to set it right. It was a 
veritable band of crusaders, and while it had much 
of weakness and extravagance, it had nothing nasty 
or unclean. On the whole, they were an unusual 
set of men. Anne Brown who lived with them 
1 Sanborn in the Atlantic Monthly, Hinton, p. 570. 


said: "Taking them all together, I think they 
would compare well [she is speaking of manners, 
etc.] with the same number of men in any station 
of life I have ever met." ' 

They were not men of culture or great education, 
although Kagi had had a fair schooling. They 
were intellectually bold and inquiring — several had 
been attracted by the then rampant Spiritualism ; 
nearly all were skeptical of the world's social con- 
ventions. They had been trained mostly in the 
rough school of frontier life, had faced death many 
times, and were eager, curious and restless. Some 
of them were musical, others dabbled in verse. 
Their broadest common ground of sympathy lay 
in the personality of John Brown— him they revered 
and loved. Through him they had come to hate 
slavery, and for him and for what he believed, 
they were willing to risk their lives. They them- 
selves had convictions on slavery and other mat- 
ters, but John Brown narrowed down their dream- 
ing to one intense deed. 

Finally there was John Brown himself. His 
personal appearance has been often described — 
several times in these pages. In 1859 he was the 
same striking figure with whitening hair, burning 
eyes and the great white beard which hardly hid 
the pendulous side lips of Olympian Jove. One 
thing, however, must not be forgotten. John 
Brown was at this time a sick man. From 1856 to 
1859, scarce a month passed without telling of 

1 Anne Brown in Hinton, p. 450. 


illness. His health, was "some improved" in 
May, 1857, but soon he lost a week " with ague and 
fever and left home feeble." In August he wrote 
of "ill health" and " repeated returns of fever and 
ague." In September and October his health was 
"poor." The spring and summer of 1858 fouud 
him "not very stout," and in July and August 
he was " down with ague " and " too sick " to write. 
In September he was ' ' still weak, ' ' and, although 
"some improved" in December, the following 
spring found him " not very strong." In April, 
amid the feverish activity of his fatal year, he was 
"quite prostrated," with "the difficulty in my 
head and ear and with the ague in consequence." 
Late in July he was " delayed with sickness" aud 
there can be little doubt that it was an ill and pain- 
racked body which his indomitable will forced 
into the raid of Harper's Ferry. 

Having collected a part of the funds and organ- 
ized the band, John Brown was about to strike his 
blow in the early summer of 1858, as we have seen, 
when the Forbes disclosures compelled him to hide 
in Kansas, where the last massacre on the Swamp 
of the Swan invited him. He left Canada for 
Kansas in June, 1858. Cook, somewhat against 
the wishes of Brown who feared his garrulity, went 
to Harper's Ferry, worked as book agent and canal 
keeper, made love to a maid and married her and 
then acted as advance agent awaiting the main 
band. Ten months after leaving Canada, and in 
mid-March, 1859, John Brown appeared again in 


Canada (as has been told in Chapter VII) with 
twelve rescued slaves as an earnest of the feasibility 
of his plan. He stayed long enough to spread the 
news and then went to northern Ohio where he 
spoke in public of Kansas and slavery. u He said 
that he had never lifted a finger toward any one 
whom he did not know was a violent persecutor of 
the free state men. He had never killed anybody ; 
although, on some occasions, he had shown the 
young men with him how some things might be 
done as well as others ; and they had done the 
business. He had never destroyed the value 
of an ear of corn, and had never set fire to 
any pro-slavery man's house or property. He 
had never by his own action driven out pro-slavery 
men from the Territory ; but if occasion demanded 
it, he would drive them into the ground, like fence 
stakes, where they would remain permauent set- 

" Brown remarked that he was an outlaw, the 
governor of Missouri having offered a reward of 
$3,000, and James Buchanan $250 more, for him. 
He quietly remarked, parenthetically, that John 
Brown would give two dollars and fifty cents for 
the safe delivery of the body of James Buchanan in 
any jail of the free states. He would never submit 
to an arrest, as he had nothing to gain from sub- 
mission ; but he should settle all questions on the 
spot if any attempt was made to take him. The 
liberation of those slaves was meant as a direct 
blow to slavery, and he laid down his platform that 


lie had considered it his duty to break the fetters 
from any slave when he had an opportunity. He 
was a thorough Abolitionist." ' 

Then he went East to see his family and visit 
Douglass (where he met and persuaded Shields 
Green), and to consult with Gerrit Smith and San- 
born. Alcott at Concord wrote : 

" This eveniug I heard Captain Brown speak at 
the town hall on Kansas affairs, aud the part taken 
by them in the late troubles there. He tells his 
story with surpassing simplicity and sense, impress- 
ing us all deeply by his courage and religious 
earnestness. Our best people listen to his words, 
— Emerson, Thoreau, Judge Hoar, my wife ; and 
some of them contribute something in aid of his 
plans without asking particulars, such confidence 
does he inspire in his integrity and abilities. I 
have a few words with him after his speech, and 
find him superior to legal traditions, and a disciple 
of the Right in ideality and the affairs of the state. 
He is Sanborn's guest, and stays for a day only. A 
young man named Anderson accompanies him. 
They go armed, I am told, and will defend them- 
selves, if necessary. I believe they are now on 
their way to Connecticut and farther south ; but 
the captain leaves us much in the dark concerning 
his destination and designs for the coming months. 
Yet he does not conceal his hatred of slavery, nor 
his readiness to strike a blow for freedom at the 

'From the newspaper report of the speech at Cleveland, March 
22d, Redpath, pp. 239-240. 


proper moment. I infer it is his intention to run 
off as many slaves as he can, and so render that 
property insecure to the master. I think him equal 
to anything he dares, — the man to do the deed, if it 
must be done, and with the martyr's temper and 
purpose. Nature obviously was deeply intent in 
the making of him. He is of imposing appear- 
ance, personally, — tall, with square shoulders and 
standing ; eyes of deep gray, and couchant, as if 
ready to spring at the least rustling, dauntless yet 
kindly ; his hair shooting backward from low down 
on his forehead ; nose trenchant and Eomanesque ; 
set lips, his voice suppressed yet metallic, suggesting 
deep reserves ; decided mouth ; the countenance 
and frame charged with power throughout. Since 
here last he has added a flowing beard, which gives 
the soldierly Ifr and the port of an apostle. Though 
sixty years old he is agile and alert, and ready for 
any audacity, in any crisis. I think him about the 
manliest man I have ever seen, — the type and 
synonym of the Just." ' 

The month of May John Brown spent in Boston 
collecting funds, and in New York consulting his 
Negro friends, with a trip to Connecticut to hurry 
the making of his thousand pikes. Sickness in- 
tervened, but at last on June 20th, the advance- 
guard of five — Brown and two of his sons, Jerry 
Anderson and Kagi — started southward. They 
stayed several days at Chambersburg, where Kagi, 
cooperating with a faithful Negro barber, Watson, 
1 Diary of A. Bronson Alcott, Sanborn, pp. 504-505. 


was established as general agent to forward men, 
mail and freight. Then passing through Hagers- 
town, they appeared at Harper's Ferry on July 4th. 
Here they met Cook, who had been selling maps, 
keeping the canal-lock near the arsenal, and send- 
ing regular information to Brown. Brown and his 
sous wandered about at first, and a local farmer 
greeted them cheerily: "Good-morning, gentle- 
men, how do you do ?" They returned the greet- 
ing pleasantly. The conversation is recounted as 
follows : 

"I said, 'Well, gentlemen,' after saluting them 
in that form, ' I suppose you are out hunting min- 
erals, gold, and silver?' His answer was, ' No, we 
are not, we are out looking for land ; we want to 
buy land ; we have a little money, but we want to 
make it go as far as we can. ' He asked me the 
price of the land. I told him that it ranged from 
fifteen dollars to thirty dollars in the neighborhood. 
He remarked, ' That is high ; I thought I could buy 
land here for about a dollar or two dollars per acre.' 
I remarked to him, ' No, sir ; if you expect to get 
land for that price, you will have to go further 
west, to Kansas, or some of those Territories where 
there is government land.' ... I then asked 
him where they came from. His answer was, 
'From the northern part of the state of New 
York.' I asked him what he followed there. 
He said farming, and the frost had been so heavy 
lately, that it cut off their crops there ; that he 
could not make anything, and sold out, and 


thought he would come further south and try it 
awhile." ' 

Through this easy-goiug, inquisitive farmer, 
Brown learned of a farm for rent, which he hired 
for nine months for thirty-five dollars. It was on 
the main road between Harper's Ferry, Chambers- 
burg and the North, about five miles from the Ferry 
aud in a quiet secluded place. The house stood 
about 300 yards back from the Boouesborough 
pike, in plain sight. About 600 yards away on 
the other side of the road was another cabin of one 
room and a garret, which was largely hidden from 
view by the shrubbery. Here Brown settled and 
gradually collected his men and material. The 
arms were especially slow in coming. Most of the 
guns arrived at Chambersburg from Connecticut 
about August, but the pikes did not come until a 
month later. Then too the men were gathered 
slowly. They were at the four ends of the country, 
in all sorts of employment and in different financial 
conditions, and they were not certain just when the 
raid would take place. All this delayed Brown 
from July until October and greatly increased the 
cost of maintenance. A daughter, Anne, aud Oli- 
ver's girl wife came and kept house from July 16th 
to October 1st. 

At this critical juncture Harriet Tubman fell sick 
— a grave loss to the cause — and there were other 
delays. By August 1st, there were at Harper's 

1 Report : Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st 
Session, No. 278 ; Testimony of John C. Unseld, pp. 1-2. 


Ferry the two Brown daughters and three sons, and 
the two brothers of a son-in-law, besides the two 
Coppocs, Tidd, Jerry Anderson and Stevens. 
Hazlett, Leeman and Taylor came soon after. 
Kagi was still at Chainbersburg and John Brown 
himself "labored and traveled night and day, 
sometimes on old Dolly, his brown mule, and some- 
times in the wagon. He would start directly after 
night, and travel the fifty miles between the farm 
and Chambersburg by daylight next morning ; and 
he otherwise kept open communication between 
headquarters and the latter place, in order that 
matters might be arranged in due season." l 

In the North John Brown, Jr., was shipping the 
arms and gathering men and money. He was in 
Boston August 10th, at Douglass's home soon after, 
and later in Canada with Loguen. All the chief 
branches of the League were visited and then north- 
ern Ohio. The result was meagre ; not because 
of lack of men but lack of the kind of men wanted 
at this time. There were thousands of Negroes 
ready to fight for liberty in the ranks. But most 
of these John Brown could not use at present. 
No considerable band of armed black men could 
have been introduced into the South without im- 
mediate discovery and civil war. It was therefore 
picked leaders like Douglass, Reynolds, Holden and 
Delaney that Brown wanted at first— discreet and 
careful men of influence, who, as he said to Douglass, 
could hive the swarming bees both North and South. 
1 Auderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 19. 


To get these picked men interested was, however, 
difficult. Each had his work and his theory of 
racial salvation ; they were widely scattered. A 
number of them had been convinced in 1858, but 
the postponement had given time for reflection and 
doubt. In many ways the original enthusiasm had 
waned, but it was not dead. The cause was just as 
great and all that was needed was to convince men 
that this was a real chance to strike an effective 
blow. They required the magic of Brown' s own pres- 
ence to impress this fact upon them. They were not 
sure of his agents. Men continued to come, however, 
others began to prepare and still others were almost 
persuaded. An urgent summons went to Kansas to 
white fellow workers, and the response there was 
similarly small. Brown knew that his ability to 
command the services of a large number of North- 
ern Negroes depended in some degree on Frederick 
Douglass's attitude. He was the first great national 
Negro leader — a man of ability, finesse and courage. 
If he followed John Brown, who could hesitate ? If 
he refused, was it not for the best of reasons'? Thus 
John Brown continually urged Douglass and as a 
last appeal arranged for a final conference on Au- 
gust 19th at Chambersburg in an abandoned stone 
quarry. Douglass says : 

"As I came near, he regarded me rather suspi- 
ciously, but soon recognized me, and received me 
cordially. He had in his hand when I met him a 
fishing-tackle, with which he had apparently been 
fishing in a stream hard by ; but I saw no fish 


and did not suppose he cared much for his ' fisher- 
man's luck.' The fishing was simply a disguise, 
and was certainly a good one. He looked every 
way like a man of the neighborhood, and as much 
at home as any of the farmers around there. His 
hat was old and storm-beaten, and his clothing was 
about the color of the stoue-quarry itself — his then 
present dwelling-place. 

" His face wore an anxious expression, and he was 
much worn by thought and exposure. I felt that I 
was on a dangerous mission, and was as little desir- 
ous of discovery as himself, though no reward had 
been offered for me. We — Mr. Kagi, Captain 
Brown, Shields Green, and myself— sat down among 
the rocks and talked over the enterprise which was 
about to be undertaken. The taking of Harper's 
Ferry, of which Captain Brown had merely hinted 
before, was now declared as his settled purpose, and 
he wanted to know what I thought of it. I at once 
opposed the measure with all the arguments at my 
command. To me such a measure would be fatal to 
running off slaves (as was the original plan), and 
fatal to all engaged in doing so. It would bean at- 
tack upon the Federal government, and would array 
the whole country against us. Captain Brown did 
most of the talking on the other side of the question. 
He did not at all object to rousing the nation ; it 
seemed to him that something startling was just what 
the nation needed. . . . Our talk was long 
and earnest ; we spent the most of Saturday and a 
part of Sunday in this debate — Brown for Harper's 


Ferry, and I against it; he for striking a blow 
which should instantly rouse the country, and I for 
the policy of gradually and unaccountably drawing 
off the slaves to the mountains, as at first suggested 
and proposed by him. When I found that he had 
fully made up his mind and could not be dissuaded, 
I turned to Shields Green and told him he heard 
what Captain Brown had said ; his old plan was 
changed, and that I should return home, and if he 
wished to go with me he could do so. Captain Brown 
urged us both to go with him, but I could not do so, 
and could but feel that he was about to rivet the fet- 
ters more firmly than ever on the limbs of the en- 
slaved. In parting he put his arms around me in a 
manner more than friendly, and said : ' Come with 
me, Douglass ; I will defend you with my life. I 
want you for a special purpose. "When I strike, the 
bees will begin to swarm, and I shall want you to help 
hive them.' But my discretion or my cowardice made 
me proof against the dear old man's eloquence — 
perhaps it was something of both which determined 
my course. When about to leave, I asked Green 
what he had decided to do, and was surprised by his 
coolly saying, in his broken way, 'I b'lieve I'll go 
wid de ole man.' Here we separated ; they to go 
to Harper's Ferry, I to Rochester." ' 

Douglass's decision undoubtedly kept many 
Xegroes from joining Brown. Shields Green, how- 
ever, started south. The slave-catchers followed 
him and made him and Owen Brown swim a river. 
1 Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, pp. 388-391. 


Only their journeying southward instead of north- 
ward saved them from capture. 

The life at the farm during this time was curious. 
Anderson says : 

u There was no milk and water sentimentality — 
no offensive contempt for the Negro, while working 
in his cause ; the pulsations of each and every heart 
beat in harmony for the suffering and pleading 
slave. I thank God that I have been permitted to 
realize to its furthest, fullest extent, the moral, 
mental, physical, social harmony of an anti-slavery 
family, carrying out to the letter the principles of its 
antitype, the anti-slavery cause. In John Brown's 
house, and in John Brown's presence, men from 
widely different parts of the continent met and 
united into one company, wherein no hateful preju- 
dice dared intrude its ugly self — no ghost of dis- 
tinction found space to enter. . . . 

"To a passer-by, the house and its surroundings 
presented but indifferent attractions. Any log 
tenement of equal dimensions would be as likely to 
arrest a stray glance. Rough, unsightly, and aged, 
it was only for those privileged to enter and tarry 
for a long time, and to penetrate the mysteries of 
the two rooms it contained — kitchen, parlor, dining- 
room below, and the spacious chamber, attic, store- 
room, prison, drilling-room, comprised in the loft 
above — who could tell how we lived at Kennedy 

"Every morning, when the noble old man was at 
home, he called the family around, read from his 


Bible, and offered to God most fervent and touch- 
ing supplications for all flesh ; and especially 
pathetic were his petitions in behalf of the op- 
pressed. I never heard John Brown pray, that he 
did not make strong appeals to God for the deliver- 
ance of the slave. This duty over, the men went to 
the loft, there to remain all day long ; few only 
could be seen about, as the neighbors were watchful 
and suspicious. It was also important to talk but 
little among ourselves, as visitors to the house 
might be curious. Besides the daughter and 
daughter-in-law, who superintended the work, 
some one or other of the men was regularly de- 
tailed to assist in the cooking, washing, and other 
domestic work. After the ladies left, we did all 
the work, no one being exempt, because of age or 
official grade in the organization. 

"The principal employment of the prisoners, as 
we severally jsvere when compelled to stay in the 
loft, was to study Forbes' s Manual, and to go 
through a quiet, though rigid drill, under the 
training of Captain Stevens, at some times. At 
other times we applied a preparation for bronzing 
our gun-barrels — discussed subjects of reform — re- 
lated our personal history ; but when our resources 
became pretty well exhausted, the ennui from con- 
finement, imposed silence, etc., would make the 
men almost desperate. At such times, neither 
slavery nor slaveholders were discussed mincingly. 
We were, while the ladies remained, often relieved 
of much of the dullness growing out of restraint by 


their kindness. As we could not circulate freely, 
they would bring in wild fruit and flowers from the 
woods and fields." ' 

Anne, the young daughter, says: "One day, a 
short time after I weut down there, father was sit- 
ting at the table writing. I was near by sewing (he 
and I being alone in the room), when two little 
wrens that had a nest under the porch came flying 
in at the door, fluttering and twittering ; then they 
flew back to their nest and again to us several 
times, seemingly trying to attract our attention. 
They appeared to be in great distress. I asked 
father what he thought was the matter with 
the little birds. He asked if I had ever seen them 
act so before ; I told him no. ' Then let us go and 
see,' he said. We went out and found that a snake 
had crawled up the post and was just ready to de- 
vour the little ones in the nest. Father killed the 
snake ; and then the old birds sat on the railing 
and sang as if they would burst. It seemed as if 
they were trying to express their joy and gratitude 
to him for saving their little ones. After we went 
back into the room, he said he thought it very 
strange the way the birds asked him to help them, 
and asked if I thought it an omen of his success. 
He seemed very much impressed with that idea. I 
do not think he was superstitious ; but you know 
lie always thought and felt that God called him to 
that work ; and seemed to place himself, or rather 
to imagine himself, in the position of the figure in 
1 Auderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, pp. 23-25. 


the old seal of Virginia, with the tyrant under her 
foot." 1 

The men discussed religion and slavery freely, 
read Paine's Age of Reason and the Baltimore Sun. 
John Brown himself was careful to cultivate the 
good-will of his neighbors, attending with skill 
the sick among animals and men, so much so that 
he and his sons became prime favorites. Owen 
had long conversations with the people, while Cook 
was also moving about the country selling maps. 
A little Dunker chapel was near with non-re- 
sistant, anti-slavery principles j here John Brown 
often worshiped and preached. Yet with all this 
caution and care, suspicion lurked about them and 
discovery was always imminent. 

Brown's daughter relates that " there was a fam- 
ily of poor people who lived near by and who had 
rented the garden on the Kennedy place, directly 
back of the house. The little barefooted woman 
and four small children (she carried the youngest 
in her arms) would all come trooping over to the 
garden at all hours of the day, and, at times, sev- 
eral times during the day. Nearly always they 
would come up the steps and into the house and 
stay a short time. This made it very troublesome 
for us, compelling the men, when she came in sight 
at meal-times, to gather up the victuals and table- 
cloth and quietly disappear upstairs. 

" One Saturday father and I went to a religious 
(Dunker) meeting that was held in a grove near the 
1 Anne Brown in Sanborn, p. 531. 


schoolbouse, and the folks left at home forgot to keep 
a sharp lookout for Mrs. Ileiffmaster, and she stole 
into the house before they saw her, and saw Shields 
Green (that must have been in September), Barclay 
Coppoe, and Will Leeman. And another time after 
that she saw C. P. Tidd standing on the porch. She 
thought these strangers were running off negroes to 
the North. I used to give her everything she wanted 
or asked for to keep her on good terms, but we were 
in constant fear that she was either a spy or would 
betray us. It was like standing on a powder maga- 
zine, after a slow match had been lighted." ! 

Despite all precautions, rumor began to get in the 
air. A Prussian Pole was among the Kansas co- 
operators invited. He had been in Kansas in 1S5G 
and was known to Brown and Kagi. After hearing 
from Brown in August, 1859, the Pole disclosed 
their plans to Edmund Babb, a correspondent of the 
Cincinnati Gazette. It was probably Babb who 
thereupon wrote to the United States Secretary of 
War : "I have discovered the existence of a secret 
association, having for its object the liberation of 
the slaves at the South and by a general insurrec- 
tion. The leader of the movement is ' old John 
Brown,' late of Kansas." Approximately correct 
details of the plot followed ; but Secretary Floyd 
was lolling at a summer resort and had some little 
conspiracies of his own in hand not unconnected 
with United States arsenals. Being, therefore, as he 
said magniloquently, "satisfied in my own mind 

1 Anne Brown in Hintou, p. 265. 


that a scheme of such wickedness and outrage could 
not be entertained by any citizens of the United 
States, I put the letter away, and thought no more 
of it until the raid broke out." l 

Gerrit Smith, too, with little discretion, addressed 
to a Negro audience words which plainly showed he 
shortly expected a slave insurrection. Even among 
the Harper's Ferry party forced inaction led to dis- 
pute and disaffection. John Brown sharply rebuked 
the letter-writing and gossiping of his own men. 
" Any person is a stupid fool," he told Kagi, " who 
expects his friends to keep for him that which he can- 
not keep himself. All our friends have each got 
their special friends ; and they again have theirs ; 
and it would not be right to lay the burden of keep- 
ing a secret on any one at the end of a long string. 
I could tell you of reasons I have for feeling rather 
keenly on this point." 2 

The men, on the other hand, were dissatisfied with 
Brown's plans as they were finally disclosed. Anne 
Brown writes that they generally "did not know 
that the raid on the government works was a part of 
the ' plan ' until after they arrived at the farm in the 
beginning of August." 3 They wanted simply to 
repeat the Missouri raid on a larger scale and not 
try to capture the arsenal. Tidd was especially 
stubborn and irreconcilable. The discussion became 

Report : Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st 
Session, No. 278 ; Testimony of John B. Floyd, pp. 250-252. 

2 Letter to Kagi, 1859, in Hinton, pp. 257-258. 

3 Anne Brown in Hinton, p. 260. 


so warm that Joliu Brown at one time resigned, but 
lie was immediately reelected and this formal letter 
was sent him : 

" Deae. Sir — We have all agreed to sustain your 
decisions, until 3011 have proved iuconrpetent, and 
many of us will adhere to your decisions so long as 
you will." ' 

In these ways Brown was compelled to hurry and 
accordingly he urged his eldest son, who replied : 
" Through those associations which I formed in Can- 
ada, I am able to reach each individual member at 
the shortest notice by letter. I am devoting my 
whole time to our company business. Shall imme- 
diately go out organizing and raising funds. From 
what I even had understood, I had supposed you 
would not think it best to commence opening the 
coal banks before spring, unless circumstances should 
make it imperative. However, I suppose the rea- 
sons are satisfactory to you, and if so, those who own 
smaller shares ought not to object. I hope we shall 
be able to get on in season some of those old miners 
of whom I wrote you. Shall strain every nerve to 
accomplish this. You may be assured that what 
you say to me will reach those who may be bene- 
fited thereby, and those who would take stock, in 
the shortest possible time ; so don't fail to keep me 
posted." ■ 

As late as October 6th Brown expected to "move 
about the end of the month " and made a hurried 

1 Letter of Oweu to John Brown, 1850, in Hinton, p. 259. 
'John Brown, Jr., to Kagi, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 547-548. 


trip to Philadelphia. There he met a large group 
of Negroes, and Dorsey the caterer with whom he 
stayed, at 1221 Locust Street, is said to have given 
him $300. In some way he was disappointed with the 
visit. Audersou says he went " ou business of great 
importance. How important, men there and else- 
where now know. How affected by, and affecting 
the main features of the enterprise, we at the farm 
knew full after their return, as the old captain, in 
the fullness of his overflowing, saddened heart, de- 
tailed point after point of interest." ' Perhaps he 
was still trying to persuade Douglass and the leaders 
of the Philadelphia and New York groups. 

The women left the farm late in September and 
O. P. Anderson, Copeland and Leary arrived. 
Merriam joined Brown while he was on the Phila- 
delphia trip and was sent to Baltimore to buy caps 
for the guns. Others were coming when suddenly 
Brown fixed on October 17th as the date of the 
raid. This hurried change was probably because 
officials and neighbors were getting inquisitive, and 
arms were being removed from the arsenal to man 
Southern stations. Yet it was unfortunate, as 
Anderson says: "Could other parties, waiting 
for the word, have reached the headquarters in 
time for the outbreak when it took place, the tak- 
ing of the armory, engine-house, and rifle factory, 
would have been quite different. But the men at 
the farm had been so closely confined, that they 
went out about the house and farm in the daytime 
1 Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 26. 


during that week, and so indiscreetly exposed their 
numbers to the pryiug neighbors, who thereupon 
took steps to have a search instituted in the early 
part of the coming week. Captain Brown was not 
seconded in another quarter, as he expected., at the 
time of the action, but could the fears of the neigh- 
bors have been allayed for a few days, the disap- 
pointment in the former respect would not have 
been of much weight." l 

Only the nearest of the slaves round about who 
awaited the word could be communicated with and 
several recruits like Hinton were left stranded on 
the way, unable to get through in time. So the 
great day dawned : "On Sunday morning, October 
16th, Captain Brown arose earlier than usual, and 
called his men down to worship. He read a 
chapter from the Bible, applicable to the condition 
of the slaves, and our duty as their brethren, and 
then offered up a fervent prayer to God to assist in 
the liberation of the bondmen in that slaveholding 
land. The services were impressive." 2 

A council was held, over which O. P. Anderson, 
the colored man, presided. In the afternoon the 
final orders were given and at night just before 
setting out, John Brown said : " And now, 
gentlemen, let me impress this one thing upon 
your minds. You all know how dear life is to you, 
and how dear life is to your friends. And in re- 
membering that, consider that the lives of others 

1 Anderson, A Voice from Harper s Ferry, p. 27. 
Ubid., p. 28. 


are as dear to them as yours are to you. Do not, 
therefore, take the life of any one, if you can 
possibly avoid it ; but if it is necessary to take 
life in order to save your own, then make sure 
work of it." ■ 

'Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 29. 



" Woe unto them that call evil, good ; and good, evil." 

"At eight o'clock on Suuday eveuiDg, Captain 
Brown said : ' Men, get on your arms ; we will pro- 
ceed to the Ferry.' His horse and wagon were 
brought out before the door, and some pikes, a 
sledge-hammer and a crowbar were placed in it. 
The captain then put on his old Kansas cap, and 
said : ' Come, boys ! ' when we marched out of 
the camp behind him, into the lane leading down 
the hill to the main road." 1 

The orders given commanded Owen Brown, 
Merriam and Barclay Coppoc to watch the house 
and arms until ordered to bring them toward the 
Ferry. Tidd and Cook were to cut the telegraph 
lines and Kagi and Stephens to detain the bridge 
guard. Watson Brown and Taylor were to hold 
the bridge over the Potomac, and Oliver Brown 
and William Thompson the bridge over the Shenan- 
doah. Jerry Anderson and Dauphin Thompson 
were to occupy the engine-house in the arsenal 
yard, while Hazlett and Edwin Coppoc were to hold 
the armory. 

'Andersou. A Voice from Harper's Ferry, pp. 31-32, 


During the night Kagi and Copeland were to 
seize and guard the rifle factory, and others were 
to go out in the country and bring in certain masters 
and their slaves. 

It was a cold dark night when the band started. 
Ahead was John Brown in his one-horse farm- 
wagon, with pikes, a sledge-hammer and a crowbar. 
Behind him marched the men silently and at inter- 
vals, Cook and Tidd leading. They had five miles 
to go, over rolling hills and through woods and 
then down to a narrow road between the cliffs and 
the Cincinnati and Ohio canal. As they ap- 
proached the railroad, Cook and Tidd cut the tele- 
graph wires which led to Baltimore and Washing- 
ton. At the bridge they halted and made ready 
their arms. At ten o'clock William Williams, one 
of the watchmen there, was surprised to find him- 
self a prisoner in the hands of Kagi and Stevens, 
who took him through the covered structure to the 
town, leaving Watson Brown and Steward Taylor to 
guard the bridge. The rest of the company entered 
Harper's Ferry. 

The land between the rivers is itself high, though 
dwarfed by the mountains and running down to a 
low point where the rivers join. At this place the 
bridge leads to Maryland. After crossing the bridge 
to Virginia, about sixty yards up the street, run- 
ning parallel to the Potomac, was the gate of the 
armory where the arms were made. On the 
Shenandoah side about sixty yards from the armory 
gate is the arsenal, "where the arms were stored. 


The company proceeded to the armory gate. The 
watchman tells how the place was captured : 

" ' Open the gate,' said they ; I said, ' I could not 
if I was stuck,' and one of them jumped up on 
the pier of the gate over my head, and another 
fellow ran and put his hand on me and caught me 
by the coat and held me ; I was inside and they 
were outside, and the fellow standing over my head 
upon the pier, and then when I would not open the 
gate for them, five or six ran in from the wagon, 
clapped their guns against my breast, and told me 
I should deliver up the key ; I told them I could 
not ; and another fellow made an answer and said 
they had not time now to be waiting for the key, but 
to go to the wagon and bring out the crowbar and 
large hammer, and they would soon get in ; they 
went to the little wagon and brought a large crow- 
bar out of it ; there is a large chain around the 
two sides of the wagon-gate going in ; they twisted 
the crowbar in the chain and they opened it, and in 
they ran and got in the wagon ; one fellow took me ; 
they all gathered about me and looked in my face ; 
I was nearly scared to death with so many guns 
about me." * 

The two captured watchmen, Anderson says, 
" were left in the custody of Jerry Anderson and 
Dauphin Thompson, and A. D. Stevens arranged 
the men to take possession of the armory and rifle 
factory. About this time, there was apparently 

'Report: Reports of Seuate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st 
Session, No. 278 ; Testimony of Daniel Wheeler, pp. 21-22. 


much excitement. People were passing back and 
forth in the town, and before we could do much, we 
had to take several prisoners. After the prisoners 
were secured, we passed to the opposite side of the 
street and took the armory, and Albert Hazlett and 
Edwin Coppoc were ordered to hold it for the time 
being." ' 

The other fourteen men quickly dispersed through 
the village. Oliver Brown and William Thompson 
seized and guarded the bridge across the Shenandoah. 
This bridge was sixty rods from the railway bridge 
up the river and was the direct route to Loudoun 
Heights, the slave-filled lower valley, and the Great 
Black Way. It was, however, not the only way 
across the Shenandoah : a little more than half a 
mile farther up were the rifle works, where the 
stream could be easily forded. Kagi and Copelaud 
went there, captured the watchman and took pos- 

"These places were all taken, and the prisoners 
secured, without the snap of a gun, or any violence 
whatever," says Anderson, and he continues : "The 
town being taken, Brown, Stevens, and the men 
who had no post in charge, returned to the engine- 
house, where council was held, after which Captain 
Stevens, Tidd, Cook, Shields Green, Leary and my- 
self went to the country. On the road we met 
some colored men, to whom we made known our 
purpose, when they immediately agreed to join us. 
They said they had been long waiting for an op- 
1 Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 33. 


portunity of the kind. Stevens then asked them to 
go around among the colored people and circulate 
the news, when each started off in a different direc- 
tion. The result was that many colored men 
gathered to the scene of action. The first prisoner 
taken by us was Colonel Lewis "Washington [a rela- 
tive of George Washington]. When we neared his 
house, Captain Stevens placed Leary and Shields 
Green to guard the approaches to the house, the 
one at the side, and the other in front. We then 
knocked, but no one answering, although females 
were looking from upper windows, we entered the 
building and commenced a search for the proprietor. 
Colonel Washington opened his room door, and 
begged us not to kill him. Captain Stevens replied, 
1 You are our prisoner,' when he stood as if speech- 
less or petrified. Stevens further told him to get 
ready to go to the Ferry ; that he had come to 
abolish slavery, not to take life but in self-defense, 
but that he must go along. The colonel replied : 
' You can have my slaves, if you will let me re- 
main.' ' No,' said the captain, 'you must go along 
too ; so get ready.' " ' 

He and his male slaves were thus taken, together 
with a large four-horse wagon and some arms, in- 
cluding the Lafayette sword. Away the party went 
and after capturing another planter and his slaves, 
arrived at the Ferry before daybreak. 

Meantime the citizens of the Ferry, returning late 
from protracted Methodist meeting, were being 
'Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, pp. 33-34. 


taken prisoners and about one o'clock in the morn- 
ing the east-bound Baltimore and Ohio train ar- 
rived. This was detained and the local colored 
porter shot dead by Brown's guards on the bridge. 
The passengers were greatly excited, but at first 
thought it was a strike of some kind. After sun- 
rise the train was allowed to proceed, John Brown 
himself walking ahead across the bridge to reassure 
the conductor. So Monday, October 17th, began 
and Anderson says it " was a time of stirring and ex- 
citing events. In consequence of the movements of 
the night before, we were prepared for commotion 
and tumult, but certainly not for more than we be- 
held around us. Gray dawn and yet brighter day- 
light revealed great confusion, and as the sun arose, 
the panic spread like wild-fire. Men, women and 
children could be seen leaving their homes in every 
direction; some seeking refuge among residents, 
and in quarters further away ; others climbing up 
the hillsides, and hurrying off in various directions, 
evidently impelled by a sudden fear, which was 
plainly visible in their countenances or in their 

« Captain Brown was all activity, though I could 
not help thinking that at times he appeared somewhat 
puzzled. He ordered Lewis Sherrard Leary and 
four slaves, and a free man belonging in the neigh- 
borhood, to join John Henry Kagi and John Cope- 
land at the rifle factory, which they immediately 
did. . . . After the departure of the train, 
quietness prevailed for a short time ; a number of 


prisoners were already in the engine-house, and of 
the many colored men living in the neighborhood, 
who had assembled in the town, a number were 
armed." ' 

Up to this point everything in John Brown's 
plan had worked like clockwork, and there had 
been but one death. The armory was captured, 
from twenty-five to fifty slaves had been armed, 
several masters Mere in custody and the next move 
was to get the arms and ammunition from the farm. 
Cook says that when the party returned from the 
country at dawn, "I stayed a short while in the 
engine-house to get warm, as I was chilled through. 
After I got warm, Captain Brown ordered me to go 
with C. P. Tidd, who was to take William H. Lee- 
man, and, I think, four slaves [Anderson says four- 
teen slaves] with him, in Colonel Washington's 
large wagon, across the river, and to take Terrence 
Burns and his brother and their slaves prisoners. 
My orders were to hold Burns and brother as 
prisoners at their own house, while Tidd and the 
slaves who accompanied him were to go to Captain 
Brown's house and to load in arms and briug them 
down to the schoolhouse, stopping for the Burnses 
and their guard. William H. Leeman remained 
with me to guard the prisoners. On return of the 
wagon, in compliance with orders, we all started 
for the schoolhouse. When we got there, I was to 
remain, by Captain Brown's orders, with one of the 
slaves to guard the arms, while C. P. Tidd, with the 

1 Audersou, A Voice from Harjxr's Ferry, pp. 36-37. 


other Negroes, was to go back for the rest of the 
arms, and Burns was to be sent with William H. 
Leeman to Captain Brown at the armory. It was 
at this time that William Thompson came up from 
the Ferry and reported that everything was all right, 
and then hurried on to overtake William H. Lee- 
man. A short time after the departure of Tidd, I 
heard a good deal of firing and became anxious to 
know the cause, but my orders were strict to 
remain in the schoolhouse and guard the arms, 
and I obeyed the orders to the letter. About four 
o'clock in the evening C. P. Tidd came with the 
second load." 1 , ,.. i 

Here, in all probability, was the fatal hitch. 
The farm was not over three miles from the 
schoolhouse, and there was a heavy farm-wagon 
with four large strong horses and a dozen men 
or more to help. The fact that it took these men 
eleven hours to move two wagon-loads of material 
less than three miles is the secret of the extraor- 
dinary failure of Brown's foray at a time when vic- 
tory was in his grasp. That Cook was needlessly 
dilatory in the moving is certain. He sat down 
in Byrnes's house and made a speech on human 
equality. Then Tidd went on to the farm with the 
wagon and brought a load of arms, which he depos- 
ited at the point where the Kennedy farm road meets 
the Potomac almost at right angles, about three 
miles or less from the Ferry. The schoolhouse 
stood here and the children were frightened half to 
« Statement by John Edwin Cook in Hinton, pp. 700-718. 


death. Cook stopped at this place and unloaded the 
wagon, and then Leeinan went with Byrnes to the 
guard-house, lingering and actually sitting beside 
the road. Even then they arrived before ten o' clock. 
With haste it is certain that, despite the muddy road, 
the first load of arms could have been at the school - 
house before eight o'clock in the morning, and the 
whole of the stores by ten o'clock. That Brown ex- 
pected this is shown by his sending William Thomp- 
son to reassure the men at the farm of his safety and 
probably to urge haste ; yet when the second load of 
arms appeared, it was four o'clock in the afternoon, 
at least three hours after Brown had been completely 
surrounded. Judging from Cook's narrative, it is 
likely that Thompson did not see Tidd at all. It 
was this inexcusable delay on the part of Tidd and 
Cook and, possibly, William Thompson that un- 
doubtedly made the raid a failure. To be sure, 
John Brown never said so — never hinted that any one 
was to blame but himself. But that was John 
Brown 1 s way. 

Events in the town had moved quickly. After 
Cook had departed, Brown ordered O. P. Anderson 
"to take the pikes out of the wagon in which he 
rode to the Ferry, and to place them in the hands of 
the colored men who had come with us from the 
plantations, and others who had come forward with- 
out having had communication with any of our 
party." ' 

The citizens were " wild with fright and excite- 

1 Andersou, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 37. 


meiit. . . . The prisoners were also terror- 
stricken. Some wanted to go home to see their fam- 
ilies, as if for the last time. The privilege was 
granted them, under escort, aud they were brought 
back again. Edwin Coppoc, one of the sentinels at 
the armory gate, was tired at by one of the citizens, 
but the ball did not reach him, when one of the in- 
surgents close by put up his rifle, and made the 
enemy bite the dust. Among the arms taken from 
Colonel Washington was one double-barreled gun. 
This weapon was loaded by Leeman with buckshot, 
and placed in the hands of an elderly slave man, 
early in the morning. After the cowardly charge 
upon Coppoc, this old man was ordered by Captain 
Stevens to arrest a citizen. The old man ordered 
him to halt, which he refused to do, when instantly 
the terrible load was discharged into him, and he 
fell, and expired without a struggle." 1 

The next step which John Brown had in mind is 
unknown, but there were two safe movements at 
9 A. M. Monday morning : 

(a) The arms could have been brought across the 
Potomac bridge and then across the Shenandoah, 
and so up Loudoun Heights. The men from the 
Maryland side could have joined, and Brown and 
his men covered their retreat by compelling the 
hostages to march with them. Kagi and his men, 
by wading the Shenandoah, could have supported 

(b) The arms could have been taken down to the 
'Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, pp. 37-38. 


Potomac from the schoolhouse, ferried across aiid 
moved over to Kagi. Brown and his men could 
have joined the party there and all retreated up Lou- 
doun Heights. From the fact that Brown had the 
arms stopped at the schoolhouse, this seems probably 
to have been the thought in his mind. 

On the other hand, the plan usually attributed to 
Brown is unthinkable ; viz. , that he intended re- 
treating across the Potomac into the Maryland 
mountains. First, he had just come out of the 
Maryland mountains and had moved down his arms 
and ammunition ; and second, this manoeuvre 
would have cut his band off from the Great Black 
Way to the South unless he captured the Ferry a 
second time. Manifestly this, then, was not 
Brown's idea. It has, however, been suggested 
that the arms had been moved down to the school- 
house to be placed in the hands of slaves there. 
But why were they left on the Maryland side ? In 
the whole Maryland country west of the mountains 
were less than a thousand able-bodied Negroes, of 
whom not a tenth could have been cognizant of the 
uprising, while Brown had arms for 1,200 men or 
more. No, Brown intended to move the arms in 
bulk. He had perhaps a ton, or a ton and a half of 
baggage. He wished it moved first to the school- 
house, and then if all was well to the Ferry, or 
straight across to the mountains. Cook started be- 
fore five o'clock in the morning, and Brown no 
doubt expected to hear that the arms were at the 
schoolhouse by ten. At eleven o'clock he dis- 


patched "William Thompson to Kennedy farm. 
Anderson thinks that Thompson's message made 
the farm party even more leisurely because it told 
of success so far. This is surely impossible. The 
veriest tyro must have known that minutes were 
golden despite the tremendous fortune of the ex- 
pedition. Did Thompson misapprehend his mes- 
sage? Was the delay Tidd's and what was Owen 
Brown thinking and doing ? It is a curious puzzle, 
but it is the puzzle of the foray. If the party with 
the arms had arrived at the bridge any time 
before noon, the raid would have been successful. 
Even as it was, Brown still had three courses 
open to him, all of which promised a measure of 
success : 

(a) He could have gotten his band and crossed 
back to Maryland,— although this meant the 
abandonment of the main features of his whole 
plan. As time waned Stevens and Kagi urged this 
but Brown refused. 

(b) He could have gone to Loudoun Heights, 
but this would have involved abandoning his arms 
and stores and above all, one of his sons, Cook, 
Tidd, Merriam, Coppoc and the slaves. This was 

(c) He could have used his hostages to force 
terms. For not doing this he afterward repeatedly 
blamed himself, but characteristically blamed no 
one else for anything. 

Meantime every minute of delay aroused the 
country and brought the citizens to their senses. 


"The train that left Harper's Ferry carried a 
panic to Virginia, Maryland and Washington 
with it. The passengers, taking all the paper 
they could find, wrote accounts of the insurrection, 
which they threw from the windows as the train 
rushed onward." ' 

A local physician says: "I went back to the 
hillside then, and tried to get the citizens together, 
to see what we could do to get rid of these fellows. 
They seemed to be very troublesome. When I got 
on the hill I learned that they had shot Boerly. 
That was probably about seven o'clock. ... I 
had ordered the Lutheran church bell to be rung to 
get the citizens together to see what sort of arms 
they had. I found one or two squirrel rifles and a 
few shotguns. I had sent a messenger to Charles- 
town in the meantime for Captain Eowan, com- 
mander of a volunteer company there. I also sent 
messengers to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to 
stop the trains coming east, and not let them ap- 
proach the Ferry, and also a messenger to Shep- 
herdstown." ' l 

Another eye-witness adds : " There was un- 
avoidable delay in the preparations for a fight, 
because of the scarcity of weapons ; for only a few 
squirrel guns and fowling-pieces could be found. 
There were then at Harper's Ferry thousands and 
tens of thousands of muskets and rifles of the most 

1 Redpath, p. 249. 

3 Report : Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress. 
1st Session, No. 278 ; Testimony of John I). Starry, p. 25. 


approved patterns, but they were all boxed up in 
the arsenal, and the arsenal was in the hands of 
the enemy. And such, too, was the scarcity of the 
ammunition that, after using up the limited supply 
of lead found in the village stores, pewter plates 
and spoons had to be melted and molded into bullets 
for the occasion. 

" By nine o'clock a number of indifferently armed 
citizens assembled on Camp Hill and decided that 
the party, consisting of half a dozen men, should 
cross the Potomac a short distance above the Ferry, 
and, going down the tow-path of the Chesapeake 
and Ohio Canal as far as the railway bridge, should 
attack the two sentinels stationed there, who, by the 
way, had been reinforced by four more of Brown's 
party. Another small party under Captain Medler 
was to cross the Shenandoah and take position op- 
posite the rifle works, while Captain Avis, with a suf- 
ficient force, should take possession of the Shenan- 
doah bridge, and Captain Eoderick, with some of the 
armorers, should post themselves on the Baltimore 
and Ohio Eailway west of the Ferry just above the 
armories." l 

At last the militia commenced to arrive and the 
movements to cut off Brown's men began. The Jef- 
ferson Guards crossed the Potomac, came down to the 
Maryland side and seized the Potomac bridge. The 
local company was sent to take the Shenandoah 
bridge, leave a guard and march to the rear of the 

'Boteler, "Recollections of the John Brown Raid" in the 
Century Magazine, July, 1883, p. 405. 


arsenal, while another local company was to seize 
the houses in front of the arsenal. 

" As strangers poured in," says Anderson, " the 
enemy took positions round about, so as to prevent 
any escape, within shooting distance of the engine- 
house and arsenal. Captain Brown, seeing their 
manoeuvres, said, ' We will hold on to our three posi- 
tions, if they are unwilling to come to terms, and 
die like men.' " ' 

The attack came at noon from the Jefferson Guards, 
who started across the Potomac bridge from Mary- 
land. This is Anderson's story : 

"It was about twelve o'clock in the day when we 
were first attacked by the troops. Prior to that, 
Captain Brown, in anticipation of further trouble, 
had girded to his side the famous sword taken from 
Colonel Lewis Washington the night before, and with 
that memorable weapon, he commanded his men 
against General Washington's own state. When the 
captain received the news that the troops had en- 
tered the bridge from the Maryland side, he, with 
some of his men, went into the street, and sent a mes- 
sage to the arsenal for us to come forth also. We 
hastened to the street as ordered, when he said — 
' The troops are on the bridge, coming into town ; we 
will give them a warm reception.' He then walked 
around amongst us, giving us words of encourage- 
ment, in this wise :— 'Men ! be cool ! Don't waste 
your powder and shot ! Take aim, and make every 
shot count ! ' < The troops will look for us to re 

1 Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 42. 


treat on their first appearance ; be careful to shoot 
first.' Our men were well supplied with firearms, 
but Captain Brown had no rifle at that time ; his 
only weapon was the sword before meutioued. 

"The troops soon came out of the bridge, and 
up the street facing us, we occupyiug an irregular 
position. When they got within sixty or seventy 
yards, Captain Brown said, ' Let go upon them ! ' 
which we did, when several of them fell. Again 
and again the dose was repeated. There was now 
consternation among the troops. From marching 
in solid martial columus, they became scattered. 
Some hastened to seize upon and bear up the 
wounded and dying, -several lay dead upon the 
ground. They seemed not to realize, at first, that 
we would fire upon them, but evidently expected 
that we would be driven out by them without firing. 
Captain Brown seemed fully to understand the mat- 
ter, and hence, very properly and in our defense, 
undertook to forestall their movements. The con- 
sequence of their unexpected reception was, after 
leaving several of their dead on the field, they beat 
a confused retreat into the bridge, and there stayed 
under cover until reinforcements came to the Ferry. 
On the retreat of the troops, we were ordered back 
to our former posts." ' 

At this time the Negro, Newby, was killed and 
his assailant shot in turn by Green. Two slaves also 
died fighting. Now " there was comparative quiet 
for a time, except that the citizens seemed to be wild 

i Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, pp. 39-40. 


with terror. Men, -women and children forsook the 
place in great haste, climbing up hillsides, aud scal- 
ing the mountains. The latter seemed to be alive 
Avith white fugitives, fleeing from their doomed city. 
During this time, William Thompson, Mho was re- 
turning from his errand to the Kennedy farm, was 
surrounded on the bridge by railroad men, who 
next came up, and taken a prisoner to the Wager 
house." x 

It was now one o'clock in the day and while things 
were going against Brown, his cause was not desper- 
ate. His Maryland men might yet attack the dis- 
organized Jefferson Guards in the rear and the 
arsenal was full of hostages. But militia and citi- 
zens kept pouring into the town and by three o'clock 
11 could be seen coming from every direction." 
Kagi sent word to Brown, urging retreat ; but Brown 
faced a difficult dilemma : Should he go to Loudoun 
Heights and lose half his men and all his munitions ? 
or should he retreat to Maryland ? This latter path 
lay open, he was sure, by means of his hostages. 
Meantime the Maryland party might appear at any 
moment. Indeed, the Jefferson Guards had ouce 
been mistaken for them. On this account the mes- 
sage was sent back to Kagi ' ' to hold out for a few 
minutes, when we would all evacuate the place." 
Still the Maryland party lingered with the stubborn 
Tidd somewhere up the road, and Cook idly kicking 
his heels at the schoolhouse. 

The messenger, Jerry Anderson, was fired on and 
'Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 40. 


mortally wounded before he reached Kagi, and 
the latter' s party was attacked by a large force and 
driven into the river. 

" The river at that point runs rippling over a 
rocky bed," writes a Virginian, "and at ordinary 
stages of the water is easily forded. The raiders, 
finding their retreat to the opposite shore intercepted 
by Medler's men, made for a large flat rock near the 
middle of the stream. Before reaching it, how- 
ever, Kagi fell and died in the water, apparently 
without a struggle. Four others reached the rock, 
where, for a while, they made an ineffectual stand, 
returning the fire of the citizens. But it was not 
long before two of them were killed outright and 
another prostrated by a mortal wound, leaviog 
Copeland, a mulatto, standing alone unharmed upon 
their rock of refuge. 

"Thereupon, a Harper's Ferry man, James H. 
Holt, dashed into the river, gun in hand, to capture 
Copeland, who, as he approached him, made a show 
of fight by pointing his gun at Holt, who halted 
and leveled his ; but, to the surprise of the lookers- 
on, neither of their weapons were discharged, botli 
having been rendered temporarily useless, as I after- 
ward learned, from being wet. Holt, however, as 
he again advanced, continued to snap his gun, while 
Copeland did the same." ' 

Copeland was taken alive and Leemau, with a 
second message from Kagi to Brown, was killed. 

1 Boteler, "Recollections of the John Brown Raid " in the 
Century Magazine, July, 1883, p. 407. 


Matters were now getting desperate, but the armory 
was full of prisoners and therein lay John Brown's 
final hope. Easily as a last resort he could use 
these citizens as a screen and so escape to the 
mountains. In attempting this, however, some of 
the prisoners were bound to be killed and Brown 
hesitated at sacrificing innocent blood to save him- 
self. He thought that the same end might be ac- 
complished by negotiation. His first move, there- 
fore, was to withdraw all his force and the impor- 
tant prisoners to a small brick building near the 
armory gate called the "engine-house." Captain 
Daingerfield, one of the prisoners, says: "He 
entered the engine-house, carrying his prisoners 
along, or rather part of them, for he made selec- 
tions. After getting into the engine-house he made 
this speech : ' Gentlemen, perhaps you wonder 
why I have selected you from the others. It is be- 
cause I believe you to be the most influential ; and I 
have only to say now, that you will have to share 
precisely the same fate that your friends extend to 
my men.' He began at once to bar the doors and 
windows, and to cut port-holes through the brick 
wall." ' 

This evident weakening of the raiders let pande- 
monium loose. The citizens realized how small a 
force Brown had and were filled with fury at his 
presumption. His men began to fight desperately 
for their lives. 

"About the time when Brown immured him- 
1 Daingerfield in the Century Magazine, June, 1885. 


self," a narrator reports, " a company of Berkeley 
County militia arrived from Martinsburg who, 
with some citizens of Harper's Ferry and the 
surrounding country, made a rush on the armory 
and released the great mass of the prisoners outside 
of the engine-house, not, however, without suffering 
some loss from a galling fire kept up by the enemy 
from ' the fort.' " l 

This released the arms and one of the Virginia 
watchmen says : " The people, who came pouring 
into town, broke into liquor saloons, filled up, and 
then got into the arsenal, arming themselves with 
United States guns and ammunition. They kept 
shooting at random and howling." 2 

The prisoners within the engine-house heard ' ' a 
terrible firing from without, at every point from 
which the windows could be seen, and in a few 
minutes every window was shattered, and hundreds 
of balls came through the doors. These shots were 
answered from within whenever the attacking party 
could be seen. This was kept up most of the day, 
and, strange to say, not a prisoner was hurt, 
though thousands of balls were imbedded in the 
walls, and holes shot in the doors almost large 
enough for a man to creep through." s 

The doomed raiders saw " volley upon volley" 
discharged, while "the echoes from the hills, the 
shrieks of the townspeople, and the groans of their 

1 Barry, Strange Story of Harper's Ferry, p. 67. 

2 Patrick Higgins in Hi'uton, p. 290. 

3 Daingerfield in the Century Slagazine, June, 1885. 


wounded and dying, all of which tilled the air, were 
truly frightful." Yet "no powder and ball were 
wasted. We shot from under cover, and took 
deadly aim. For an hour before the flag of truce 
was sent out, the firing was uninterrupted, and one 
and another of the enemy were constantly dropping 
to the earth." ' 

Oliver Brown was shot and died without a word 
and Taylor was mortally wounded. The mayor of 
the city ventured out, unarmed, to reconnoitre and 
was killed. Immediately the son of Andrew Hunter, 
who afterward was state's attorney against Brown, 
rushed into the hotel after the prisoner William 
Thompson : 

" We burst into the room where he was, and 
found several around him, but they offered only a 
feeble resistance ; we brought our guns down to his 
head repeatedly, — myself and another person, — for 
the purpose of shooting him in the room. 

"There was a young lady there, the sister of Mr. 
Fonke, the hotel-keeper, who sat in this man's lap, 
covered his face with her arms, and shielded him 
with her person whenever we brought our guns to 
bear. She said to us, ' For God's sake, wait and 
let the law take its course.' My associate shouted to 
kill him. ' Let us shed his blood,' were his words. 
All round were shouting, 'Mr. Beckham's life was 
worth ten thousand of these vile Abolitionists.' I 
was cool about it, and deliberate. My gun was 
pushed by some one who seized the barrel, and 1 
1 Amlerson, A J'oiee from Harper's Ferry, p. 42. 


then moved to the back part of the room, still with 
purpose unchanged, but with a view to divert at- 
tention from me, in order to get an opportunity, at 
some moment when the crowd would be less deuse, 
to shoot him. After a moment's thought it oc- 
curred to me that that was not the proper place to 
kill him. We then proposed to take him out and 
hang him. Some portion of our band then opened a 
wayto him, and first pushing Miss Fouke aside, we 
slung him out-of-doors. I gave him a push, and 
many others did the same. We then shoved him 
along the platform and down to the trestle work of 
the bridge ; he begged for his life all the time, very 
piteously at first." * 

Thus he was shot to death as he crawled in the 
trestle work. The prisoners in the engine-house 
now urged Brown to make terms with the citizens, 
representing that this was possible and that he and 
his men could escape. Brown sent out his son 
Watson with a white flag, but the maddened 
citizens paid no attention to it and shot him down. 
A lull in the fighting came a little later, and 
Stevens took a second flag of truce, but was 
captured and held prisoner. Daingerfield says : 

" At night the firing ceased, for we were in total 
darkness, and nothing could be seen in the 
engine-house. During the day and night I talked 
much with Brown. I found him as brave as a man 
could be, and sensible upon all subjects except 
slavery. He believed it was his duty to free the 
1 Testimony of Henry Hunter in Eedpatn, pp. 320-321. 


slaves, even if in doing so he lost his own life. 
During a sharp fight one of Brown's sons was 
killed. He fell ; then trying to raise himself, he 
said, 'It is all over with me,' and died instantly. 
Brown did not leave his post at the port-hole ; but 
when the fighting was over he walked to his son's 
body, straightened out his limbs, took off his 
trappings, and then, turning to me, said, 'This is 
the third son I have lost in this cause.' Another sou 
had been shot in the morning, and was then dying, 
having been brought in from the street. Often 
during the affair at the engine-house, when his men 
would want to fire upon some one who might be 
seen passing, Brown would stop them, saying, 
'Don't shoot; that man is unarmed.' The firing 
was kept up by our men all day and until late at 
night, and during this time several of his men were 
killed, but none of the prisoners were hurt, though 
in great danger. During the day and night many 
propositions, pro and con, were made, looking to 
Brown's surrender and the release of the prisoners, 
but without result." ' 

Another eye-witness says : 

" A little before night Brown asked if any of his 
captives would volunteer to go out among the 
citizens and induce them to cease firing on the fort, 
as they were endangering the lives of their friends — 
the prisoners. He promised on his part that, if 
there was no more firing on his men, there should 
be none by them on the besiegers. Mr. Israel 

1 Daingerneld in the Century Magazine, June, 1886. 


Eussel uudertook the dangerous duty ; the risk 
arose from the excited state of the people who would 
be Ukely to fire ou anything seeu stirrmg around 
the prison-house, aud the citizens were persuaded 
to stop firing in consideration of the danger incurred 
of iuiuriug the prisoners. ... 

«It was now dark and the wildest excitement 
existed in the town, especially among the : fnends 
of the killed, wounded aud prisoners of the citizens 
Ity t lad rained some little all day and the 
atmoVe. was raw and cold. How, a cloudy and 
moonless sky hung like a pall over the ^ scene of 
war, and, on the whole, a more dismal mgbt cannot 
be magiued. Guards were stationed round the 
eugnfhouse to prevent Brown's escape and as 
forces were constantly arriving from Winchester, 
F edenck City, Baltimore and other places to help 
the Harper's Ferry people, the town soon assumed 
quite a military appearance The United Stages 
authorities in Washington had been uotafiedm tte 
meantime, aud, in the course of the night, Colonel 
SM Lee,' afterward the famous Gene. Lee 
of the Southern Confederacy, amyed «*^>~« 
United States marines, to protect the interests of the 
government, and kill or capture the invaders. 
Meantime Cook had awakened to the fact that 
KM Tx„ ,„«■ xidd at the school- 

something was wrong. He lett liuo ul 

house and started toward the Ferry ; &f l "S* 

» Barry, Strange Story of Harper's Ferry, pp. 70-71. 


hid Tidd, and the whole farm guard, and one 
Negro on the road beyond. They all turned aud 
fled north, Tidd and Cook quarreling. They 
wandered fourteen days in rain and snow, and 
finally all escaped except Cook who went into a 
town for food and was arrested. 

Robert E. Lee, with 100 marines, arrived just 
before midnight on Monday and one of the prison- 
ers tells the story of the last staud : 

u When Colonel Lee came with the government 
troops in the night, he at once sent a flag of truce 
by his aid, J. E. B. Stuart, to notify Brown of his 
arrival, and in the name of the United States to 
demand his surrender, advising him to throw him- 
self on the clemency of the government. Brown 
declined to accept Colonel Lee's terms, and de- 
termined to await the attack. When Stuart Mas 
admitted and a light brought, he exclaimed, ' Why, 
aren't you old Osawatomie Brown of Kansas, 
whom I once had there as my prisoner ? ' 'Yes,' 
was the answer, ' but you did not keep me.' This 
was the first intimation we had of Brown's real 
name. When Colonel Lee advised Brown to trust 
to the clemency of the government, Brown re- 
sponded that he knew what that meant, — a rope 
for his men and himself; adding, ' I prefer to die 
just here.' Stuart told him he would return at 
early morning for his final reply, and left him. 
When he had gone, Brown at once proceeded to 
barricade the doors, windows, etc., endeavoring to 
make the place as strong as possible. All this time 


no one of Brown's men showed the slightest fear, 
but calmly awaited the attack, selecting the best 
situations to fire from, and arranging their guns 
and pistols so that a fresh one could be taken up as 
soon as one was discharged. . . . 

" When Lieutenant Stuart came in the morning for 
the final reply to the demand to surrender, I got up 
and went to Brown's side to hear his answer. Stuart 
asked, ' Are you ready to surrender, and trust to 
the mercy of the government 1 ' Brown answered, 
' No, I prefer to die here.' His manner did not 
betray the least alarm. Stuart stepped aside and 
made a signal for the attack, which was instantly 
begun with sledge-hammers to break down the 
door. Finding it would not yield, the soldiers 
seized a long ladder for a battering-ram, and com- 
menced beating the door with that, the party within 
firing incessantly. I had assisted in the barrica- 
ding, fixing the fastenings so that I could remove 
them on the first effort to get in. But I was not at 
the door when the battering began, and could not 
get to the fastenings till the ladder was used. I 
then quickly removed the fastenings ; and, after 
two or three strokes of the ladder, the engine rolled 
partially back, making a small aperture, through 
which Lieutenant Green of the marines forced his 
way, jumped on top of the engine, and stood a 
second, amidst a shower of balls, looking for John 
Brown. When he saw Brown, he sprang about 
twelve feet at him, giving an under-thrust of his 
sword, striking Brown about midway the body, 


and raising him completely from the ground. 
Brown fell forward, with his head between his 
knees, while Green struck him several times over 
the head, and, as I then supposed, split his skull 
at every stroke. I was not two feet from Brown at 
that time. Of course, I got out of the building 
as soon as possible, and did not know till some time 
later that Brown Mas not killed. It seems that 
Green's sword, in making the thrust, struck Brown's 
belt and did not penetrate the body. The sword 
was bent double. The reason that Brown was not 
killed when struck on the head was, that Green was 
holding his sword in the middle, striking with the 
hilt, and making only scalp wounds." ' 

After the attack on the troops at the bridge, 
Brown had ordered O. P. Anderson, Hazlett and 
Green back to the arsenal. But Green saw the 
desperate strait of Brown and chose voluntarily to 
go into the engine-house and fight until the last. 
Anderson and Hazlett, when they saw the door bat- 
tered in, went to the back of the arsenal, climbed 
the wall and fled along the railway that goes up 
the Shenandoah. Here in the cliffs they had a 
skirmish with the troops but finally escaped in the 
night, crossed the town and the Potomac and so 
got into Maryland and went to the farm. It was 
deserted and pillaged. Then they came back to 
the schoolhouse and found that empty. In the 
morning they heard firing and Anderson's narrative 
continues : 

1 Daiugeriield iu the Century Magazine, June, 1885. 


" Hazlett thought it must be Owen Brown and 
his rueu trying to force their way into the town, as 
they had been informed that a number of us had 
beeu taken prisoners, and we started down along 
the ridge to join them. When we got in sight of 
the Ferry, we saw the troops firing across the river 
to the Maryland side with considerable spirit. 
Looking closely, we saw, to our surprise, that they 
were firing upon a few of the colored men, who had 
been armed the day before by our men, at the 
Kennedy farm, and stationed down at the school - 
house by C. P. Tidd. They were in the bushes on 
the edge of the mountains, dodging about, occasion- 
ally exposing themselves to the enemy. The troops 
crossed the bridge in pursuit of them, but they 
retreated in different directions. Being further in 
the mountains, and more secure, we could see with- 
out personal harm befalling us. One of the colored 
men came toward where we were, when we hailed 
him, and inquired the particulars. He said that 
one of his comrades had been shot, and was lying 
on the side of the mountains ; that they thought the 
men who had armed them the day before must be 
in the Ferry. That opinion, we told him, was not 
correct. We asked him to join with us in hunting 
up the rest of the party, but he declined, and went 
his way. 

"While we were in this part of the mountains, 
some of the troops went to the schoolhouse, and 
took possession of it. On our return along up the 
ridge, from our position, screened by the bushes, 


we could see them as they invested it. Our last 
hope of shelter, or of meeting our compauious, now 
being destroyed, we concluded to make our escape 
north." * 

Anderson managed to get away, but Hazlett was 
captured in Pennsylvania and was returned to Vir- 
ginia. Thus John Brown's raid ended. Seven of 
the men — John Brown himself, Shields Green, Ed- 
win Coppoc, Stevens and Copeland and eventually 
Cook and Hazlett — were captured and hanged. 
Watson and Oliver Brown, the two Thompsons, 
Kagi, Jerry Anderson, Taylor, Newby, Leary, and 
John Anderson, ten in all, were killed in the light, 
and six others — Owen Brown, Tidd, Leeman, Bar- 
clay Coppoc, Merriam and O. Anderson escaped. 

At high noon on Tuesday, October 18th, the raid 
was over. John Brown lay wounded and blood- 
stained on the floor and the governor of Virginia 
bent over him. 

" Who are you ? " he asked. 

"My name is John Brown; I have been well 
known as old John Brown of Kansas. Two of my 
sons were killed here to-day, and I'm dying too. 1 
tame here to liberate slaves, and was to receive no 
reward. I have acted from a sense of duty, and am 
content to await my fate ; but I think the crowd 
have treated me badly. I am an old man. Tester 
day I could have killed whom I chose ; but I had 
no desire to kill any person, and would not have 
killed a man had they not tried to kill me and my 
1 Anderson, A Voice from Harper's Ferry, p. 52. 


men. I could have sacked and burned the town, 
but did not ; I have treated the persons whom I took 
as hostages kindly, and I appeal to them for the 
truth of what I say. If I had succeeded in running 
off slaves this time, I could have raised twenty 
times as many men as I have now, for a similar ex- 
pedition. But I have failed." 1 

1 John Brown in Sanborn, pp. 560-561. 



"Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows ; 
yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

" But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised 
for our iniquities : the chastisement of our peace was upon Him ; 
and with His stripes we are healed." 

The deed was done. The next day the world 
knew and the world sat in puzzled amazement. It 
was ever so and ever will be. When a prophet like 
John Brown appears, how must we of the world re- 
ceive him? Must we follow out the drear, dread 
logic of surrounding facts, as did the South, even if 
they crucify a clean and pure soul, simply because 
consistent allegiance to our cherished, chosen ideal 
demands it? If we do, the shame will brand our 
latest history. Shall we hesitate and waver before 
his clear white logic, now helping, now fearing to 
help, now believing, now doubting? Yes, this we 
must do so long as the doubt and hesitation are 
genuine ; but we must not lie. If we are human, we 
must thus hesitate until we know the right. How 
shall we know it ? That is the Kiddle of the Sphinx. 
We are but darkened groping souls, that know not 
light often because of its very blinding radiance. 
Only in time is truth revealed. To-day at last we 
know : John Brown was right. 


Yet there are some great principles to guide us. 
That there are in this world matters of vast human 
import which are eternally right or eternally wrong, 
all men believe. Whether that great right comes, 
as the simpler, clearer minded think, from the 
spoken word of God, or whether it is simply an- 
other way of saying : this deed makes for the good 
of mankind, or that, for the ill — however it may be, 
all men know that there are in this world here and 
there and again and again great partings of the 
ways — the one way wrong, the other right, in some 
vast and eternal sense. This certainly is true at 
times— in the mighty crises of lives and nations. 
On the other hand, it is also true, as human experi- 
ence again and again shows, that the usual matters 
of human debate and difference of opinion are not 
so vitally important, or so easily classified ; that in 
most cases there is much of right and wrong on both 
sides and, so usual is it to find this true, that men 
tend to argue it always so. Their life morality be- 
comes always a wavering path of expediency, not 
necessarily the best or the worst path, as they freely 
even smilingly admit, but a good path, a safe path, 
a path of little resistance and one that leads to the 
good if not to the theoretical (but usually imprac- 
ticable) best. Such philosophy of the world's ways 
is common, and probably it is well that thus it is. 
And yet we all feel its temporary, tentative charac- 
ter ; we instinctively distrust its comfortable lone, 
and listen almost fearfully for the greater voice ; its 
better is often so far below that which we feel is a 


possible best, that its present temporizing seems 
evil to us, and ever and again after the world has 
complacently dodged and compromised with, and 
skilfully evaded a great evil, there shines, suddenly, 
a great white light — an unwavering, unfliekeriug 
brightness, blinding by its all-seeing brilliauce, 
makiug the whole world simply a light and a dark- 
ness — a right and a wrong. Then men tremble and 
writhe and waver. They whisper, "But — but — of 
course;" "the thing is plain, but it is too plaiu to 
be true — it is true but truth is not the only thiug in 
the world." Thus they hide from the light, they 
burrow and grovel, and yet ever in, and through, 
and on them blazes that mighty light with its horror 
of darkness and behind it peals the voice — the Eiddle 
of the Sphinx, that must be answered. 

Such a light was the soul of John Brown. He 
was simple, exasperatiugly simple ; unlettered, plain, 
and homely. No casuistry of culture or of learning, 
of well-being or tradition moved him in the slightest 
degree : "Slavery is wrong," he said, — "kill it. 1 ' 
Destroy it— uproot it, stem, blossom, and branch ; 
give it no quarter, exterminate it and do it now. 
Was he wrong? No. The forcible staying of 
human uplift by barriers of law, and might, and 
tradition is the most wicked thing on earth. It is 
wrong, eternally wrong. It is wrong, by whatever 
name it is called, or in whatever guise it lurks, and 
whenever it appears. But it is especially heinous, 
black, and cruel when it masquerades in the robes 
of law and j ust ice and patriotism. So was American 


slavery clothed in 1859, and it had to die by revolu- 
tion, not by milder means. And this men knew. 
They had known it a hundred years. Yet they 
shrank and trembled. From round about the white 
and blinding path of this soul flew equivocations, 
lies, thievings and red murders. And yet all men in- 
stinctively felt that these things were not of the light 
but of the surrounding darkness. It is at once sur- 
prising, baffling and pitiable to see the way in which 
men — honest American citizens — faced this light. 
Many types met and answered the argument, John 
Brown (for he did not use argument, he was himself 
an argument). First there was the Western Ameri- 
can — the typical American, like Charles Eobinson — 
one to whose imagination the empire of the vale of the 
Mississippi appealed with tremendous force. Then 
there was the Abolitionist — shading away from him 
who held slavery an incubus to him who saw its sin, 
of whom Gerrit Smith was a fair type. Then there 
was the lover of men, like Dr. Howe, and the mer- 
chant-errant like Stearns. Finally, there were the 
two great fateful types— the master and the slave. 
To Eobinson, Brown was simply a means to an 
end — beyond that he was whatever prevailing public 
opinion indicated. When the gratitude of Osa- 
watomie swelled high, Brown was fit to be named 
with Jesus Christ ; when the wave of Southern reac- 
tion subjugated the nation, he was something less 
than a fanatic. But whatever he was, he was the 
sword on which struggling Kansas and its leaders 
could depend, the untarnished doer of its darker 


deeds, when they that knew them necessary cowered 
and held their hands. Brown's was not the only 
hand that freed Kansas, but his hand was indispen- 
sable, and not the first time, nor the last, has a cool 
and skilful politician, like Kobinson, climbed to 
power on the heads of those helpers of his, whose 
half-realized ideals he bartered for present possibili- 
ties — human freedom for statehood. For the Aboli- 
tionist of the Garrison type Brown had a contempt, 
as undeserved as it was natural to his genius. To 
recognize an evil and not strike it was to John Brown 
sinful. "Talk, talk, talk," he said derisively. 
Kor did he rightly gauge the value of spiritual as 
contrasted with j)hysical blows, until the day when 
he himself struck the greatest on the Charleston 

But if John Brown failed rightly to gauge the 
movement of the Abolitionists, few of them failed to 
appreciate him when they met him. Instinctively 
they knew him as one who grasped the very pith and 
kernel of the evil which they fought. They asked 
no proofs or credentials ; they asked John Brown. 
So it was with Gerrit Smith. He saw Brown aud 
believed in him. He entertained him at his house. 
He heard his detailed plans for striking slavery a 
heart blow. He gave him in all over a thousand 
dollars, and bade him Godspeed ! Yet when the 
blow was struck, he was filled with immeasurable 
consternation. He equivocated and even denied 
knowledge of Brown's plans. To be sure, he. his 
family, his fortune were in the shadow of danger 


but where was John Brown 1 ? So with Dr. Howe, 
whose memory was painfully poor on the witness 
stand and who fluttered from enthusiastic support of 
Brown to a weak wavering when once he had tasted 
the famous Southern hospitality. He found slavery, 
to his own intense surprise, human : not ideally and 
horribly devilish, but only humanly bad. Was a 
bad human institution to be attacked vi et armis ? 
Or was it not rather to be met with persuasive argu- 
ment in the soft shade of a Carolina veranda ? Dr. 
Howe inclined to the latter thought, after his 
Cuban visit, and he was exceedingly annoyed and 
scared after the raid. He fled precipitately to Can- 
ada. Of the Boston committee only Stearns stood up 
and out in the public glare and said unequivocal ly ? 
then and there : "I believe John Brown to be the 
representative man of this century, as Washington 
was of the last — the Harper's Ferry affair, and the 
capacity shown by the Italians for self-government, 
the great events of this age. One will free Europe 
and the other America.'' ' 

The attitude of the black man toward John Brown 
is typified by Frederick Douglass and Shields Green. 
Said Douglass : " On the evening when the news 
came that John Brown had taken and was then hold- 
ing the town of Harper's. Ferry, it so happened that 
I was speaking to a large audience in National 
Hall, Philadelphia. The announcement came upon 
us with the startling effect of an earthquake. 

'Report : Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st 
Session, No. 278 ; Testimony of George L. Stearns, pp. 241-242. 


It was something to make the boldest hold his 
breath." ' 

Wise -mid Buchanan started immediately on 
Douglass's track and he fled to Canada and eventu- 
ally to England. Why did not Douglass join John 
Brown? Because, first, he was of an entirely dif- 
ferent cast of temperament and mind ; and because, 
secondly, he knew, as only a Negro slave can know, 
the tremendous might and organization of the slave 
power. Brown's plan never in the slightest degree 
appealed to Douglass's reason. That the Under- 
ground Bailroad methods could be enlarged and 
systematized, Douglass believed, but any further 
plan he did not think possible. Only national force 
could dislodge national slavery. As it was with 
Douglass, so it was practically with the Negro race. 
They believed in John Brown but not in his plan. 
He touched their warm loving hearts but not their 
hard heads. The Canadian Negroes, for instance, 
were men who knew what slavery meant. They 
had suffered its degradation, its repression and its 
still more fatal license. They knew the slave sys- 
tem. They had been slaves. They had risked life 
to help loved ones to escape its far-reaching ten- 
tacles. They had reached a laud of freedom and 
had begun to taste the joy of being human. Their 
little homes were clustering about — they had their 
churches, lodges, social gatherings, and newspa- 
per. Then came the call. They loved the old 
man and cherished him, helped and forwarded his 
1 Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892), p. 376. 


work in a thousand little ways. But the call? 
Were they asked to sacrifice themselves to free their 
fellow-slaves ? Were they not quite ready ? No — 
to do that they stood ever ready. But here they 
were asked to sacrifice themselves for the sake of 
possibly freeing a few slaves and certainly arousing 
the nation. They saw what John Brown did not 
fully realize until the last : the tremendous mean- 
ing of sacrifice even though his enterprise failed 
and they were sure it would fail. Yet in truth it 
need not have failed. History and military science 
prove its essential soundness. But the Negro knew 
little of history and military science. He did know 
slavery and the slave power, and they loomed large 
and invincible in his fertile imagination. He could 
not conceive their overthrow by anything short of 
the direct voice of God. That a supreme sacrifice 
of human beings on the altar of Moloch might hasten 
the day of emancipation was possible, but were they 
called to give their lives to this forlorn hope? 
Most of them said no, as most of their fellows, 
black and white, ever answer to the "voice, with- 
out reply." They said it reluctantly, slowly, even 
hesitatingly, but they said it even as their leader 
Douglass said it. And why not, they argued? 
Was not their whole life already a sacrifice ? Were 
they called by any right of God or man to give 
more than they already had given? What more 
did they owe the world ? Did not the world owe 
them an unpayable amount ? 
Then, too, the sacrifice demanded of black men 


in this raid was far more than that demanded of 
whites. In 1S59 it was a crime for a free black man 
even to set foot on Virginia soil, and it was slavery 
or death for a fugitive to return. If worse came to 
worst, the Negro stood the least chance of escape 
and the least consideration on capture. Yet despite 
all this and despite the terrible training of slavery 
iu cowardice, submission and fatality ; the sys- 
tematic elimination, by death and cruelty, of 
strength and sell- respect and bravery, there were in 
Canada and in the United States scores of Negroes 
ready for the sacrifice. But the necessary secrecy, 
vagueness and intangibility of the summons, the 
repeated changes of date, the difficulty of communi- 
cation and the poverty of black men, all made ef- 
fective cooperation exceedingly difficult. 

Even as it was, fifteen or twenty Negroes had en- 
listed and would probably have been present had they 
had the time. Five, probably six, actually came 
iu time, and thirty or forty slaves actively helped. 
Considering the mass of Negroes in the land and 
the character of the leader, this was an insignificant 
number. But what it lacked in number it made up 
in characters like Shields Green. He was a poor, 
unlettered fugitive, ignorant by the law of the land, 
stricken in life and homely in body. He sat and 
listened as Douglass and Brown argued amid the 
boulders of that old Chambersburg quarry. Some 
things he understood, some he did not. But one 
thing he did understand and that was the soul of 
John Brown, so he said, "I guess I'll go with the 


old man." Again in the sickening fury of that fatal 
Monday, a white man and a black man found them- 
selves standing with freedom before them. The 
white man was John Brown's truest companion and 
the black man Mas Shields Green. " I told him to 
come," said the white man afterward, "that we 
could do nothing more," but he simply said, "I 
must go down to the old man." And he went down 
to John Brown and to death. 

If this was the attitude of the slave, what was 
that of the master ? It was when John Brown faced 
the indignant, self-satisfied and arrogant slave 
power of the South, flanked by its Northern Vallan- 
dighams, that the mighty paradox and burning farce 
of the situation revealed itself. Picture the situa- 
tion : An old and blood-bespattered man, half-dead 
from the wounds inflicted but a few hours before ; a 
man lying in the cold and dirt, without sleep for 
fifty-five nerve-wrecking hours, without food for 
nearly as long, with the dead bodies of two sons al- 
most before his eyes, the piled corpses of his seven 
slain comrades near and afar, a wife and a be- 
reaved family listening in vain, and a Lost Cause, 
the dream of a lifetime, lying dead in his heart. 
Around him was a group of bitter, inquisitive 
Southern aristocrats and their satellites, headed by 
one of the foremost leaders of subsequent secession. 

"Who sent you — who sent you?" these inquisi- 
tors insisted. 

"No man sent me — I acknowledge no master in 
human form ! " 


" What was your object in coining?" 

" We came to free the slaves." 

"How do you justify your acts?" 

u You are guilty of a great wrong against God and 
humanity aud it would be perfectly right for any 
one to interfere with you so far as to free those you 
wilfully aud wickedly hold in bondage. I think I 
did right ; and that others will do right who inter- 
fere with you at any time and at all times. I hold 
that the Golden Rule, ' Do unto others as ye would 
that others should do unto you,' applies to all who 
would help others to gain their liberty." 

"But don't you believe in the Bible?" 

" Certainly, I do." 

"Do you consider this a religious movement? " 

"It is in my opinion the greatest service man can 
render to God." 

" Do you consider yourself an instrument in the 
hands of Providence? " 

"I do." 

"Upon what principles do you justify your acts ? " 

"Upon the Golden Rule. 1 pity the poor in 
boudage that have none to help them. That is why 
I am here ; not to gratify any personal animosity, 
revenge, or vindictive spirit. It is my sympathy 
with the oppressed and the wronged, that are as 
good as you and as precious in the sight of God." 

"Certainly. But why take the slaves against 
their will?" 

" I never did." . . . 

" Who are your advisers in this movement? " 


"I have numerous sympathizers throughout the 
entire North. ... I want you to understand 
that I respect the rights of the poorest aud the 
weakest of colored people, oppressed by the slave 
system, just as much as I do those of the most 
wealthy and powerful. That is the idea that 
has moved me, and that alone. We expected no 
reward except satisfaction of endeavoring to do for 
those in distress and greatly oppressed as we would 
be done by. The cry of distress of the oppressed 
is my reason, and the only thing that prompted me 
to come here." 

" Why did you do it secretly f " 

" Because I thought that necessary to success ; no 
other reason. ... I agree with Mr. Smith that 
moral suasion is hopeless. I don't think the people 
of the slave states will ever consider the subject of 
slavery in its true light till some other argument is 
resorted to than moral suasion/' 

"Did you expect a general rising of the slaves in 
case of your success? " 

' ' No, sir ; nor did I wish it. I expected to 
gather them up from time to time, and set them 

"Did you expect to hold possession here till then?" 

' ' You overrate your strength in supposing I could 
have been taken if I had not allowed it. I was too 
tardy after commencing the open attack— in delay- 
ing my movements through Monday night, and up 
to the time I was attacked by the government 


"Where did you get arms?" 

"I bought them." 

"In what state?" 

' ' That I will not state. I have nothing to say, only 
that I claim to be here in carrying out a measure I 
believe perfectly justifiable, and not to act the part of 
an incendiary or ruffian, but to aid those suffering 
great wrong. I wish to say, furthermore, that you 
had better — all you people at the South — prepare 
yourselves for a settlement of this question, that 
must come up for settlement sooner than you are 
prepared for it. The sooner you are prepared the 
better. You may dispose of me very easily, — I am 
nearly disposed of now, but this question is still to 
be settled, — this Negro question, I mean ; the end of 
that is not yet." 

"Brown, suppose you had every nigger in the 
United States, what would you do with them?" 

"Set them free." 

"Your intention was to carry them off and free 

"Not at all." 

" To set them free would sacrifice the life of every 
man in this community." 

" I do not think so." 

"I know it ;"I think you are fanatical." 

"And I think you are fanatical. Whom the 
gods would destroy they first make mad, and you 
are mad." 

" Was it your only object to free the Negroes ? " 

"Absolutely our only object." . . . 


"You are a robber," cried some voice in the 

"You slaveholders are robbers," retorted Brown. 

But Governor Wise interrupted: "Mr. Brown, 
the silver of your hair is reddened by the blood of 
crime, and you should eschew these hard words and 
think upon eternity. You are suffering from 
wounds, perhaps fatal ; and should you escape 
death from these causes, you must submit to a trial 
which may involve death. Your confessions justify 
the presumption that you will be found guilty ; and 
even now you are committing a felony under the 
laws of Virginia, by uttering sentiments like these. 
It is better you should turn your attention to your 
eternal future than be dealing in denunciations 
which can only injure you." 

John Brown replied : " Governor, I have from all 
appearances not more than fifteen or twenty years 
the start of you in the journey to that eternity of 
which you kindly warn me ; and whether my time 
here shall be fifteen months, or fifteen days, or fifteen 
hours, I am equally prepared to go. There is an 
eternity behind and an eternity before ; and this 
little speck in the centre, however long, is but com- 
paratively a minute. The difference between your 
tenure and mine is trifling, and I therefore tell you 
to be prepared. I am prepared. You have a. 
heavy responsibility, and it behooves you to prepare 
more than it does me." ' 

Correspondence of the New York Herald, Sanborn, pp. 


Thus from the day John Brown was captured to 
the day he died, and after, it was the South and 
slavery that was on trial — not John Brown. In- 
deed, the dilemma into which John Brown's raid 
threw the state of Virginia was perfect. If his 
foray was the work of a handM of fanatics, led by 
a lunatic and repudiated by the slaves to a man, 
then the proper procedure would have been to 
ignore the incident, quietly punish the worst 
offenders and either pardon the misguided leader, 
or send him to an asylum. If, on the other hand, 
Virginia faced a conspiracy that threatened her 
social existence, aroused dangerous unrest in her 
slave population, and was full of portent for the 
future, then extraordinary precaution, swift and 
extreme punishment, and bitter complaint were only 
natural. But both these situations could not be 
true — both horns of the dilemma could not be 
logically seized. Yet this was precisely what the 
South and Virginia sought. While insisting that 
the raid was too hopelessly and ridiculously small to 
accomplish anything, and saying, with Andrew 
Hunter, that "not a single one of the slaves" 
joined John Brown " except by coercion," the state 
nevertheless spent $250,000 to punish the invaders, 
stationed from one to three thousand soldiers in the 
vicinity and threw the nation into turmoil. When 
the inconsistency of this action struck various 
minds, the attempt was made to exaggerate the 
danger of the invading white men. The presiding 
judge at the trial wrote, as late as 1889, that the 


number in Brown's party was proven by witnesses 
to have been seventy-live to one hundred and he 
"expected large reinforcements" ; while Andrew 
Hunter, the state's attorney, saw nation-wide con- 

What, then, was the truth about the matter ? It 
was as Frederick Douglass said twenty-two years 
later on the very spot : "If John Brown did not 
end the war that ended slavery, he did, at hast, 
begin the war that ended slavery. If we look over 
the dates, places, and men for which this honor is 
claimed, we shall find that not Carolina, but Vir- 
ginia, not Fort Sumter, but Harper's Ferry and 
the arsenal, not Major Anderson, but John Brown 
began the war that ended American slavery, and 
made this a free republic. Until this blow was 
struck, the prospect for freedom was dim, shadowy, 
and uncertain. The irrepressible conflict was one 
of words, votes, and compromises. When John 
Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared, 
— the armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over 
the chasm of a broken Union, and the clash of arms 
was at hand." ' 

The paths by which John Brown's raid precipi- 
tated civil war were these : In the first place, 
he aroused the Negroes of Virginia. How far 
the knowledge of his plan had penetrated is of 
course only to be conjectured. Evidently few knew 
that the foray would take place on October 17th. 

1 Frederick Douglass in a speech at Storer College at Harper's 
Ferry, May, 1882. 


But when the movement had once made a successful 
start, there is no doubt that Osborne Anderson 
knew whereof he spoke, when he said that slaves 
were ready to cooperate. His words were proven 
by the 200,000 black soldiers in the Civil War. 
That something was wrong was shown, too, by five 
incendiary fires in a single week after the raid. 
Hunter sought to attribute these to "Northern 
emissaries," but this charge was unproven and ex- 
tremely improbable. The only other possible per- 
petrators were slaves and free Negroes. That 
Virginians believed this is shown by Hinton's 
declaration that the loss in 1859 by the sale of 
Virginia slaves alone was $10,000,000." A lady 
who visited John Brown said, "It was hard for me 
to forget the presence of the jailer (I had that 
morning seen his advertisement of ' fifty Negroes for 
sale ').' ' 2 It is impossible to prove the extent of this 
clearing-out of suspected slaves but the census re- 
ports indicate something of it. The Negro popula- 
tion of Maryland and Virginia increased a little 
over four per cent, between 1850 and 1860. But in 
the three counties bordering on Harper's Ferry — 
Loudoun and Jefferson in Virginia and Washington 
in Maryland, the 17,647 slaves of 1850 had shrunk 
to 15,996 in 1860, a decrease of nearly ten per cent. 
This means a disappearance of 2,400 slaves and is 
very significant. 
Secondly, long before John Brown appeared at 

Hinton, pp. 325-326. 

Mrs. Spring iu Redpath, p. 377. 


Harper's Ferry, Southern leaders like Mason, the 
author of the Fugitive Slave Bill, and chairman of 
the Harper's Ferry investigating committee ; Jef- 
ferson Davis, who was a member of this committee ; 
Wise, Hunter and other Virginians, had set their 
faces toward secession as the only method of pro- 
tecting slavery. Into the mouths of these men 
John Brown put a tremendous argument and a 
fearful warning. The argument they used, the 
warning they suppressed and hushed. The argu- 
ment was : This is Abolitionism ; this is the North. 
This is the kind of treatment which the South and 
its cherished institution can expect unless it resorts 
to extreme measures. Proceeding along these lines, 
they emphasized and enlarged the raid so far as its 
white participants and Northern sympathizers were 
concerned. Governor Wise, on November 25th, 
issued a burning manifesto for the ears of the South 
and the eyes of President Buchanan, and the 
majority report of the Senate Committee closed 
with ominous words. On the other hand, the 
warning of John Brown's raid — the danger of 
Negro insurrection, was but whispered. 

Third, and this was the path that led to Civil 
War and far beyond: The raid aroused and 
directed the conscience of the nation. Strange it 
was to watch its work. Some, impulsive, eager to 
justify themselves, rushed into print. To Garrison, 
the non-resistant, the sword of Gideon was ab- 
horrent ; Beecher thundered against John Brown 
and Seward bitterly traduced him. Then came 

356 JOHN BKinVX 

an ominous silence in the land while his voice, in 
his own defense, was heard over the whole country. 
A great surging throb of sympathy arose and swept 
the world. That John Brown was legally a law- 
breaker and a murderer all men knew. But wider 
and wider circles were beginning dimly and more 
clearly to recognize that his lawlessness was in 
obedience to the highest call of self-sacrifice for 
the welfare of his fellow men. They began to ask 
themselves, What is this cause that can inspire such 
devotion ? The reiteration of the simple statement 
of "the brother in bonds" could not help but 
attract attention. The beauty of the conception 
despite its possible unearthliness and impracti- 
cability attracted poet and philosopher and common 

To be sure, the nation had long been thinking 
over the problem of the black man, but never before 
had its attention been held by such deep dramatic 
and personal interest as in the forty days from mid- 
October to December, 1859. This arresting of 
national attention was due to Virginia and to John 
Brown : — to Virginia by reason of its exaggerated 
plaint ; to John Brown whose strength, simplicity 
and acumen made his trial, incarceration and exe- 
cution the most powerful Abolition argument yet 
offered. The very processes by which Virginia 
used John Brown to "fire the Southern heart" 
were used by John Brown to fire the Northern con- 
science. Andrew Hunter, the prosecuting state's 
attorney, of right demanded that the trial should 


be short and the punishment swift and in this John 
Brown fully agreed. He had no desire to escape 
the consequences of his act or to clog the wheels 
of Virginia j ustice. After a certain moral bewilder- 
ment there in the old engine-house at his failure on 
the brink of success, the true significance of his 
mission of sacrifice slowly rose before him. In the 
face of proposals to rescue him he said at first 
thoughtfully : "I do not know that I ought to 
encourage any attempt to save my life. I am not 
sure that it would not be better for me to die at 
this time. I am not incapable of error, and I may 
be wrong ; but I think that perhaps my object 
would be nearer fulfilment if I should die. I must 
give it some thought." ' And more and more this 
conviction seized and thrilled him, and he began 
to say decisively : "I think I cannot now better 
serve the cause I love so much than to die for it ; 
and in my death I may do more thau in my life." 2 
And again : " I can trust God with both the time 
and the manner of my death, believing, as I now do, 
that for me at this time to seal my testimony for 
God and humanity with my blood will do vastly 
more toward advancing the cause I have earnestly 
endeavored to promote, than all I have doue in 
my life before." And then finally came that last 
great hymn of utter sacrifice : "I feel astonished 
that one so vile and unworthy as I am would even 
be suffered to have a place anyhow or anywhere 

1 Newspaper report in Kedpath, p. 376. 

2 Mrs. Spring in Redpath, p. 377. 


amongst the very least of all who when they came 
to die (as all must) were permitted to pay the debt 
of nature in defense of the right and of God's 
eternal and immutable truth. ' ' x 

The trial was a difficult experience. Virginia 
attempted to hold scales of even justice between 
mob violence and the world-wide sympathy of all 
good men. To defend its domestic institutions, it 
must try a man for murder when that very man, 
sitting as self-ivppointed judge of those very insti- 
tutions, had convicted them before a jury of man- 
kind. To defend the good name of the state, Vir- 
ginia had to restrain the violent blood vengeance 
of men whose kin had been killed in the raid, 
aud who had sworn that no prisoner should escape 
the extreme penalty. The trial was legally fair but 
pressed to a conclusion in unseemly haste, and in 
obedience to a threatening public opinion aud a 
great hovering dread. Only against this unfair 
haste did John Brown protest, for he wanted the 
world to understand why he had done the deed. 
On the other baud, Hunter not only feared the local 
mob but the slowly arising sentiment for this white- 
haired crusader. He therefore pushed the pro- 
ceedings legally, but with almost brutal pertinac- 
ity. The prisoner was arraigned while wounded 
and in bed ; the lawyers, hurriedly chosen, were 
given scant time for consultation or preparation. 
Johu Brown was formally committed to jail at 
Charlestown, the county seat, on October 20th, had 
1 Letter to his sister, 1859, ill Sanborn, pp. 607-609. 


a preliminary examination October 25th, and was 
indicted by the grand jury October 26th, for " con- 
spiracy with slaves for the purpose of insur- 
rection ; with treason against the commonwealth 
of Virginia ; and with murder in the first de- 

Thursday, October 27th, his trial was begun. A 
jury was impaneled without challenge and Brown's 
lawyers, ignoring his outline of defense, brought in 
the plea of insanity. The old man arose from his 
couch and said: "I look upon it as a miserable 
artifice and pretext of those who ought to take a 
different course in regard to me, if they took any 
at all, and I view it with contempt more than 
otherwise. ... I am perfectly unconscious of 
insanity, and I reject, so far as I am capable, any 
attempts to interfere in my behalf on that score." l 

On Friday a Massachusetts lawyer arrived to help 
in the trial and also privately to suggest methods of 
escape. John Brown quietly refused to contemplate 
any such attempt, but was glad to accept the aid of 
this lawyer and two others, who were sent by John 
A. Andrew and his friends. The judge curtly re- 
fused these men any time to prepare their case, but 
in spite of this it ran over until Monday when the 
jury retired. Late Monday afternoon they returned. 
Bedpath says : 

"At this moment the crowd filled all the space 
from the couch inside the bar, around the prisoner, 
beyond the railing in the body of the court, out 
1 Remarks by John Brown in Kedpath, p. 309. 


through the wide hall, aud beyond the doors. There 
stood the anxious but perfectly silent aud attentive 
populace, stretching head and neck to witness the 
closing scene of old Brown ? s trial." 

The clerk of the court read the indictment and 
asked : " Gentlemen of the jury, what say you ? Is 
the prisoner at the bar, John Brown, guilty or not 

" Guilty," answered the foreman. 

" Guilty of treason, aud conspiring and advising 
with slaves and others to rebel, and murder in the 
first degree? " 


Bedpath continues: "Not the slightest sound 
was heard in this vast crowd as this verdict was thus 
returned and read. Not the slightest expression of 
elation or triumph was uttered from the hundreds 
present, who, a moment before, outside the court, 
joined in heaping threats and imprecations on his 
head ; nor was this strange sileuce interrupted dur- 
ing the whole of the time occupied by the forms of 
the court. Old Brown himself said not even a 
word, but, as ou any previous day, turned to adjust 
his pallet, and then composedly stretched himself 
upon it." * 

The following Wednesday Johu Brown was sen- 
tenced. Moving with painful steps and pale face, 
he took his seat under the gaslight in the great 
square room aud remained motionless. The judge 
read his decision on the points of exception and the 
1 Newspaper report quoted by Redpath, p. 337. 


clerk asked : " Have you auy thing to say why sen- 
tence of death should not be passed upon you ? ' ' 
Then rising and leaning forward, John Brown made 
that last great speech, in a voice at once gentle and 
firm : 

" I have, may it please the court, a few words to 

" In the first place, I deny everything but what I 
have all along admitted, — the design on my part to 
free the slaves. I intended certainly to have made 
a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter, 
when I went into Missouri and there took slaves 
without the snapping of a gun on either side, moved 
them through the country and finally left them in 
Canada. I designed to have done the same thing 
again, on a larger scale. That was all I intended. 
I never did intend murder, or treason, or the de- 
struction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to 
rebellion, or to make insurrection. 

" I have another objection ; and that is, it is un- 
just that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I in- 
terfered in the manner which I admit, and which I 
admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the 
truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of 
the witnesses who have testified in this case), — had 
I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the 
intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of 
their friends, — either father, mother, brother, sister, 
wife, or children, or any of that class, — and suffered 
and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it 
would have been all right ; and every man in this 


court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward 
rather thau puuishment. 

"This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the 
validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed 
here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least 
the New Testament. That teaches me that all 
things whatsoever I would that men should do to 
me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, 
further, to ' remember them that are in bonds, as 
bound with them.' I endeavored to act up to that 
instruction. I say, I am yet too young to under- 
stand that God is any respecter of persons. I be- 
lieve that to have interfered as I have done — as I 
have always freely admitted I have done — in behalf 
of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. 
Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit 
my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, 
and mingle my blood further with the blood of my 
children and with the blood of millions in this slave 
couutry whose rights are disregarded by wicked, 
cruel, and unjust enactments, — I submit; so let it 
be done ! Let me say one word further. 

"I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I 
have received on my trial. Considering all the cir- 
cumstances, it has been more generous than I ex- 
pected. But I feel no consciousness of guilt. I 
have stated from the first what was my intention, 
and what was not. I never had any design against 
the life of any person, nor any disposition to com- 
mit treason, or excite slaves to rebel, or make any 
general insurrection. I never encouraged any man 


to do so, but always discouraged any idea of that 

" Let me say, also, a word in regard to the state- 
ments made by some of those connected with me. 
I hear it has been stated by some of them that 1 
have induced them to join me. But the contrary is 
true. I do not say this to injure them, but as re- 
gretting their weakness. There is not one of them 
but that joined me of his own accord, and the 
greater part at their own expense. A number of 
them I never saw, and never had a word of conver- 
sation with, till the day they came to me ; and that 
was for the purpose I have stated. 

" Now I have done." l 

The day of his dying, December 2d, dawned glo- 
rious ; twenty-four hours before he had kissed his 
wife good-bye, and on this morning he visited his 
doomed companions — Shields Green and Copeland 
first ; then the wavering Cook and Coppoc and the 
unmovable Stevens. At last he turned toward the 
place of his hanging. Since early morning three 
thousand soldiers had been marching and counter- 
marching around the scaffold, which had been 
erected a half mile from Charlestown, encircling it for 
fifteen miles ; a hush sat on the hearts of men. John 
Brown rode out into the morning. " This is a beau- 
tiful land," he said. It was beautiful. Wide, glis- 
tening, rolling fields flickered in the sunlight. Be- 
yond, the Shenandoah went rolling northward, and 
still afar rose the mighty masses of the Blue Ridge, 
1 Eedpath, pp. 340-342. 


where Nat Turner had fought and died, where 
Gabriel had looked for refuge aud where John 
Brown had builded his awful dream. Some say he 
kissed a Negro child as he passed, but Andrew 
Hunter vehemently denies it. "No Negro could 
get access to him," he says, aud he is probably 
right ; aud yet all about him as he hung there knelt 
the funeral guard he prayed for when he said : 

" My love to all who love their neighbors. I have 
asked to be spared from having any weak or hypo- 
critical prayers made over me when I am publicly 
murdered, and that my only religious attendants be 
poor little dirty, ragged, bareheaded, aud barefooted 
slave boys and girls, led by some gray-headed slave 
mother. Farewell ! Farewell ! " ! 

1 Letter to Mrs. George L. Steams, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 610- 



"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he 
that hath no money ; come ye, buy, and eat ; yea, come, buy 
wine and milk without money and without price." 

"I, John Brown, am quite certain that the 
crimes of this guilty land will never be purged 
away but with blood. I had, as I now think vainly, 
flattered myself that without very much bloodshed 
it might be done." 

These were the last written words of John Brown, 
set down the day he died — the culminating of that 
wonderful message of his forty days in prison, which 
all in all made the mightiest Abolition document 
that America has known. Uttered in chains and 
solemnity, spoken in the very shadow of death, its dra- 
matic intensity after that wild and puzzling raid, its 
deep earnestness as embodied in the character of the 
man, did more to shake the foundations of slavery 
than any single thing that ever happened in Amer- 
ica. Of himself he speaks simply and with satis- 
faction : "I should be sixty years old were I to 
live to May 9, 1860. I have enjoyed much of life 
as it is, and have been remarkably prosperous, hav- 
ing early learned to regard the welfare and pros- 


perity of others as my own. I have never, since 
I can remember, required a great amount of sleep ; 
so that I conclude that I have already enjoyed full 
an average number of working hours with those 
who reach their threescore years and ten. I have 
not yet been driven to the use of glasses, but can 
see to read and write quite comfortably. But more 
than that, I have generally enjoyed remarkably 
good health. I might go on to recount unnumbered 
and unmerited blessings, among which would be 
some very severe afflictions and those the most 
needed blessings of all. And now, when I think 
how easily I might be left to spoil all I have done 
or suffered in the cause of freedom, I hardly dare 
wish another voyage even if I had the oppor- 
tunity." 1 

After a surging, trouble-tossed voyage he is at last 
at peace in body and mind. He asserts that he is 
and has been in his right mind : ''I may be very 
insane ; and I am so, if insane at all. But if that be 
so, insanity is like a very pleasant dream to me. I 
am not in the least degree conscious of my ravings, 
of my fears, or of any terrible visions whatever ; 
but fancy myself entirely composed, and that my 
sleep, in particular, is as sweet as that of a healthy, 
joyous little infant, I pray God that He will grant 
me a continuance of the same calm but delightful 
dream, until I come to know of those realities which 
eyes have not seen and which ears have not heard. 
I have scarce realized that I am in prison or in irons 
'Letter to his cousin, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 594-595. 


at all. I certainly think I was never more cheer- 
ful in my life." l 

To his family he hands down the legacy of his 
faith and works: "I beseech you all to live in 
habitual contentment with moderate circumstances 
and gains of worldly store, and earnestly to teach 
this to your children and children's children after 
you, by example as well as precept." And again : 
"Be sure to remember and follow my advice, and 
my example too, so far as it has been consistent 
with the holy religion of Jesus Christ, in which I 
remain a most firm and humble believer. Never 
forget the poor, nor think anything you bestow on 
them to be lost to you, even though they may be black 
as Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian eunuch, who cared 
for Jeremiah in the pit of the dungeon ; or as black 
as the one to whom Philip preached Christ. Be 
sure to entertain strangers, for thereby some have 
. . . Kemeniber them that are in bonds as bound 
with them." a 

Of his own merit and desert he is modest but 
firm : " The great bulk of mankind estimate each 
other's actions and motives by the measure of suc- 
cess or otherwise that attends them through life. 
By that rule, I have been one of the worst and one 
of the best of men. I do not claim to have been 
one of the latter, and I leave it to an impartial 
tribunal to decide whether the world has been 

1 Letter to D. R. Tilden in Sanborn, pp. 609-610. 

2 Letters to his family, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 579-580, 613- 


the worse or the better for my living and dying 
in it." ' 

He has no sense of shame for his action: "I 
feel no consciousness of guilt in that matter, nor 
even mortification on account of my imprisonment 
and irons ; I feel perfectly sure that very soon no 
member of my family will feel any possible disposi- 
tion to blush on my account." 2 

"I do not feel conscious of guilt in taking up 
arms ; and had it been in behalf of the rich and 
powerful, the intelligent, the great (as men count 
greatness), or those who form enactments to suit 
themselves and corrupt others, or some of their 
friends, that I interfered, suffered, sacrificed, and 
fell, it would have been doing very well. But 
enough of this. These light afflictions, which en- 
dure for a moment, shall but work for me a far 
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 3 

With desperate faith he clings to his belief in the 
providence of an all- wise God : " Under all these 
terrible calamities, I feel quite cheerful in the 
assurance that God reigns and will overrule all for 
His glory and the best possible good." * 

True is it that the night is dark and his faith at 
first wavers, yet it rises ever again triumphant : 
" As I believe most firmly that God reigns, I can- 
not believe that anything I have done, suffered, or 

'Letter to D. R. Tilden in Sanborn, pp. 609-610. 
» Letter to his family. 18- r ><). in Sanborn, pp. 579-580. 
3 Letter to a friend, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 582-583. 
* Letter to his family, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 579-580. 


may yet suffer, will be lost to the cause of God or 
of humanity. And before I begau my work at 
Harper's Ferry, I felt assured that iu the worst 
event it would certainly pay. I often expressed 
that belief; and I can now see no possible cause to 
alter my mind. I am not as yet, in the main, at 
all disappointed. I have been a good deal disap- 
pointed as it regards myself in not keeping up to 
my own plans ; but I now feel entirely reconciled 
to that, even, — for God's plan was infinitely better, 
no doubt, or I should have kept to my own." * 

He is, after all, the servant and instrument of 
the Almighty: "If you do not believe I had a 
murderous intention (while I know I had not), why 
grieve so terribly on my account ? The scaffold has 
but few terrors for me. God has often covered my 
head in the day of battle, and granted me many times 
deliverances that were almost so miraculous that I can 
scarce realize their truth ; and now, when it seems 
quite certain that He intends to use me in a different 
way, shall I not most cheerfully go % " 2 

" I have often passed under the rod of Him whom 
I call my Father, — and certainly no son ever needed 
itoftener ; and yet I have enjoyed much of life, as I 
was enabled to discover the secret of this somewhat 
early. It has been in making the prosperity and 
happiness of others my own ; so that really I have 
had a great deal of prosperity. I am very prosper- 

1 Letter to H. L. Vaill, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 589-591. 
'Letter to Rev. Dr. Humphrey, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 603- 


ous still ; and looking forward to a time when 
' peace on earth and good-will to men ' shall every- 
where prevail, I have no murmuring thoughts or 
envious feelings to fret my mind. I'll praise my 
Maker with my breath." ' 

"Success is in general the standard of all merit. 
I have passed my time quite cheerfully ; still trust- 
ing that neither my life nor my death will prove a 
total loss. As regards both, however, I am liable 
to mistake. It affords me some satisfaction to feel 
conscious of having at least tried to better the con- 
dition of those who are always on the under-hill 
side, and am in hopes of being able to meet the con- 
sequences without a murmur. I am endeavoring to 
get ready for another field of action, where no de- 
feat befalls the truly brave. That 'God reigns,' 
and most wisely, and controls all events, might, it 
would seem, reconcile those who believe it to 
much that appears to be very disastrous. I am one 
who has tried to believe that, and still keep trying." ' 

' ' I cannot remember a night so dark as to have 
hindered the coming day, nor a storm so furious or 
dreadful as to prevent the return of warm sunshine 
and a cloudless sky." 3 

More and more his eyes pierce the gloom and see 
the vast plan for which God has used him and the 
glory of his sacrifice : 

1 Letter to H. L. Vaill, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 590-591. 

'Letter to Miss Stearns, Sanborn, p. 607. 

8 Postscript of letter to his family, 18J9, in Sanborn, pp. 585- 



"'He shall begin to deliver Israel out of the 
hands of the Philistines.' This was said of a poor 
erring servant many years ago j and for many years 
I have felt a strong impression that God had given 
me powers and faculties, unworthy as I was, that He 
intended to use for a similar purpose. This most 
unmerited honor He has seen fit to bestow ; and 
whether, like the same poor frail man to whom I 
allude, my death may not be of vastly more value 
than my life is, I think quite beyond all human 
foresight." 1 

" I think I feel as happy as Paul did when he lay 
in prison. He knew if they killed him, it would 
greatly advance the cause of Christ ; that was the 
reason he rejoiced so. On that same ground ' I do 
rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.' Let them hang me ; 
I forgive them, and may God forgive them, for they 
know not what they do. I have no regret for the 
transaction for which I am condemned. I went 
against the laws of men, it is true, but ' whether it 
be right to obey God or men, judge ye.' " a 

" When and in what form death may come is but 
of small moment. I feel just as content to die for 
God's eternal truth and for suffering humanity on 
the scaffold as in any other way ; and I do not say 
this from disposition to 'brave it out.' No; I 
would readily own my wrong were I in the least 
convinced of it. I have now been confined over a 

1 Letter to Rev. Dr. Humphrey, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 603- 
5 Letter to Mr. McFarland, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 598-599. 


mouth, with a good opportunity to look the whole 
thing as ' fair in the face ' as I am capable of doing ; 
and I feel it most grateful that I am counted in the 
least possible degree worthy to suffer for the 
truth." l 

11 1 cau trust God with both the time and the 
manner of my death, believing, as I now do, that 
for me at this time to seal my testimony for God 
and humanity with my blood will do vastly more to- 
ward advancing the cause I have earnestly endeav- 
ored to promote, than all I have done in my life be- 
fore." 2 

"My whole life before had not afforded me one- 
half the opportunity to plead for the right. In 
this, also, I find much to reconcile me to both my 
present condition and my immediate prospect." 3 

Agaiust slavery his face is set like flint : " There 
are no ministers of Christ here. These ministers 
who profess to be Christian, and hold slaves or ad- 
vocate slavery, I cannot abide them. My knees 
will not bend in prayer with them, while their 
hands are stained with the blood of souls." * He 
said to one Southern clergyman : "I will thank you 
to leave me alone ; your prayers would be an abom- 
ination to God." To another he said, "I would 
not insult God by bowing down in prayer with any 
one who had the blood of the slave on his skirts." 

1 Letter to his younger children, 1859, in Sanhorn, pp. 596- 

■ Letter to his wife and children in Sanhorn, pp. 585-587. 

'Letter to I). R. Tilden in Sanborn, pp. «09-610. 

* Letter to Mr. McFarland, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 598-599. 


And to a third who argued in favor of slavery as 
"a Christian institution," Johu Brown replied im- 
patiently : " My dear sir, you know nothing about 
Christianity ; you will have to learn its A, B, C ; I 
find you quite ignorant of what the word Christi- 
anity means. ... I respect you as a gentle- 
man, of course ; but it is as a heathen gentleman." ' 

To his children he wrote: " Be determined to 
know by experience, as soon as may be, whether 
Bible instruction is of divine origin or not. Be 
sure to owe no man anything, but to love one an- 
other. John Eogers wrote his children, ' Abhor 
that arrant whore of Eome.' John Brown writes to 
his children to abhor, with undying hatred also, 
that sum of all villanies, — slavery." 2 

And finally he rejoiced : " Men cannot imprison, 
or chain, or hang the soul. I go joyfully in behalf 
of millions that ' have no rights ' that this great and 
glorious, this Christian republic 'is bound to re- 
spect.' Strange change in morals, political as well 
as Christian, since 1776."* 

" No formal will can be of use," he wrote on his 
doomsday, "when my expressed wishes are made 
known to my dutiful and beloved family. ' ' 4 

This was the man. His family is the world. 
What legacy did he leave ? It was soon seen that 

1 Redpath, pp. 382-383. 

3 Last letter to his family, 1859. in Sanborn, pp. 614-615. 

3 Letter to F. B. Musgrave, 1859, in Sanborn, p. 593. 

4 Report : Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st 
Session, No. 278; Testimony of Joshua R. Giddiugs, pp. 


his voice was a call to the great final battle with 

In the spring of 1S61 the Boston Light Infantry 
was sent to Fort Warren in Boston harbor to drill. 
A quartette was formed among the soldiers to sing 
patriotic songs and for them was contrived the 

"John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, 
His soul is marching on, " etc. 

This was set to the music of an old camp-meeting tune 
— possibly of Negro origin — called, "Say, Brother, 
Will You Meet Us?" The regiment learned it and 
first sang it publicly when it came up from Fort 
Warren and marched past the scene where Crispus 
Attucks fell. Gilmore's Band learned and played 
it and thus "the song of John Brown was started 
on its eternal way ! " 

Was John Brown simply an episode, or was he 
an eternal truth? And if a truth, how speaks 
that truth to-day? John Brown loved his neigh- 
bor as himself. He could not endure there- 
fore to see his neighbor, poor, unfortunate or op- 
pressed. This natural sympathy was strengthened 
by a saturation in Hebrew religion which stressed 
the personal responsibility of every human soul to 
a just God. To this religion of equality and sym- 
pathy with misfortune, was added the strong in- 
iluence of the social doctrines of the French Revolu- 
tion with its emphasis on freedom and power in po- 


litical life. And on all this was built John Brown's 
own inchoate but growing belief in a more just and 
a more equal distribution of property. From this 
he concluded, — and acted on that conclusion— that 
all men are created free and equal, and that the 
cost of liberty is less than the price of repression. 

Up to the time of John Brown's death this doc- 
trine was a growing, conquering, social thing. Siuce 
then there has come a change and many would rightly 
find reason for that change in the coincidence that 
the year in which John Brown suffered mar- 
tyrdom was the year that first published the Origin 
of Species. Since that day tremendous scientific 
and economic advance has been accompanied by 
distinct signs of moral retrogression in social philos- 
ophy. Strong arguments have been made for the 
fostering of war, the utility of human degradation 
and disease, and the inevitable and known inferi- 
ority of certain classes and races of men. While 
such arguments have not stopped the efforts of the 
advocates of peace, the workers for social uplift and 
the believers in human brotherhood, they have, it 
must be confessed, made their voices falter and 
tinged their arguments with apology. 

Why is this ? It is because the splendid scientific 
work of Darwin, Weissman, Galton and others has 
been widely interpreted as meaning that there is 
essential and inevitable inequality among men and 
races of men, which no philanthropy can or ought 
to eliminate; that civilization is a struggle for 
existence whereby the weaker nations and iudivid- 


mils will gradually succumb, and the stroug will 
inherit the earth. With this interpretation has 
goue the sileut assumption that the white European 
stock represents the strong surviving peoples, and 
that the swarthy, yellow and black peoples are the 
ones rightly doomed to eventual extinction. 

One can easily see what influence such a doctrine 
would have on the race problem in America. It 
meant moral revolution in the attitude of the 
nation. Those that stepped into the pathway 
marked by men like John Brown faltered and 
large numbers turned back. They said : He was 
a good man — even great, but he has no message for 
us to-day — he was a "belated Covenanter," an 
anachronism in the age of Darwin, one who gave his 
life to lift not the unlifted but the unliftable. We 
have consequently the present reaction — a reaction 
which says in effect, Keep these black people in 
their places, and do not attempt to treat a Xegro 
simply as a white man with a black face ; to do 
this would mean the moral deterioration of the race 
and the nation— a fate against which a divine racial 
prejudice is successfully fighting. This is the 
altitude of the larger portion of our thinking 

It is not, however, an attitude that has brought 
mental rest or social peace. On the contrary, it is 
to-day involving a degree of moral strain and 
political and social anomaly that gives the wises: 
pause. The chief difficulty has been that the 
natural place in which by scientific law the black 


race in America should stay, cannot easily be 
determined. To be sure, the freedmen did not, as 
the philanthropists of the sixties apparently ex- 
pected, step in forty years from slavery to nineteenth 
century civilization. Neither, on the other hand, 
did they, as the ex-masters confidently predicted, 
retrograde and die. Contrary to both these views, 
they chose a third and apparently quite unawaited 
way. From the great, sluggish, almost imper- 
ceptibly moving mass, they sent off larger and 
larger numbers of faithful workmen and artisans, 
some merchants and professional men, and even men 
of educational ability and discernment. They de- 
veloped no world geniuses, no millionaires, no 
great captains of industry, no artists of the first 
rank ; but they did in forty years get rid of the 
greater part of their total illiteracy, accumulate a 
half-billion dollars of property in small homesteads, 
and gain now and then respectful attention in the 
world's ears and eyes. It has been argued that 
this progress of the black man in America is due 
to the exceptional men among them and does not 
measure the ability of the mass. Such an admis- 
sion is, however, fatal to the whole argument. If 
the doomed races of men are going to develop ex- 
ceptions to the rule of inferiority, then no rule, 
scientific or moral, should or can proscribe the race 
as such. 

To meet this difficulty in racial philosophy, a 
step has been taken in America fraught with the 
gravest social consequences to the world, and threat- 


ening not simply the political but the moral integ- 
rity of the nation : that step is denying in the case 
of black men the validity of those evidences of cul- 
ture, ability, and deceucy which are accepted un- 
questionably in the case of other people ; and by 
vague assertions, unprovable assumptions, unjust 
emphasis, and now and then by deliberate untruth, 
aiming to secure not only the continued proscription 
of all these people, but, by caste distinction, to shut 
in the faces of their rising classes many of the paths 
to further advance. 

When a social policy, based on a supposed scien- 
tific sanction, leads to such a moral anomaly, it is 
time to examine rather carefully the logical foun- 
dations of the argument. And as soon as we do 
this many things are clear : First, assuming the 
truth of the unproved dictum that there are stocks 
of human beings whose elimination the best wel- 
fare of the world demands, it is certainly ques- 
tionable if these stocks include the majority of man- 
kind ; and it is indefensible and monstrous to pre- 
tend that we know to-day with any reasonable 
assurance which these stocks are. TVe can point to 
degenerate individuals and families here and there 
among all races, but there is not the slightest war- 
rant for assuming that there does not lie among the 
Chinese and Hindus, the African Bantus and 
American Indians as lofty possibilities of human 
culture as any European race has ever exhibited. 
It is, to be sure, puzzling to know why the Soudan 
should linger a thousand years in culture behind the 


valley of the Seiue, but it is no more puzzling than 
the fact that the valley of the Thames was miserably 
backward as compared with the banks of the Tiber. 
Climate, human contact, facilities of communi- 
cation and what we call accident, have played a 
great part in tbe rise of culture among nations : to 
ignore these and assert dogmatically that the pres- 
ent distribution of culture is a fair index of the 
distribution of human ability and desert, is to make 
an assertion for which there is not the slightest 
scientific warrant. 

What the age of Darwin has done is to add to 
the eighteenth century idea of individual worth the 
complementary idea of physical immortality. And 
this, far from annulling or contracting the idea of 
human freedom, rather emphasizes its necessity 
and eternal possibility— the boundlessness and end- 
lessness of human achievement. Freedom has come 
to mean not individual caprice or aberration, but 
social self-realization in an endless chain of selves ; 
and freedom for such development is not the denial 
but the central assertion of the evolutionary theory. 
So, too, the doctrine of human equality passes 
through the fire of scientific inquiry, not ob- 
literated but transfigured : not equality of present 
attainment but equality of opportunity, for un- 
bounded future attainment is the rightful demand 
of mankind. 

What now does the present hegemony of the 
white races threaten? It threatens by means of 
brute force a survival of some of the worst stocks of 


mankind. It attempts to people the best parts of the 
earth and put in absolute authority over the rest, 
not usually (and indeed not mainly) the culture 
of Europe but its greed and degradation — not only 
some representatives of the best stocks of the West 
End of London, upper New York and the Champs 
Elysees, but also, in as large if not larger numbers, 
the worst stocks of Whitechapel, the East Side and 
Montmartre ; and it essays to make the slums of white 
society in all cases and under all circumstances the 
superior of any colored group, no matter what its abil- 
ity or culture. To be sure, this outrageous program 
of wholesale human degeneration is not outspoken 
yet, save in the backward civilizations of the South- 
ern United States, South Africa and Australia. 
But its enunciation is listened to with respect and 
tolerance in England, Germany, and the Northern 
states by those very persons who accuse philan- 
thropy with seeking to degrade holy white blood by 
an infiltration of colored strains. And the average 
citizen is voting ships and guns to carry out this 

This movement gathered force and strength 
during the latter half of the nineteenth century and 
reached its culmination when France, Germany, 
England and Eussia began the partition of China 
and the East. With the sudden self-assertion of 
Japan, its wildest dreams collapsed, but it is still 
to-day a living, virile, potent force and motive, 
the most subtle and dangerous enemy of world 
peace and the dream of human brotherhood. It 


has a whole vocabulary of its own : the strong 
races, superior peoples, race preservation, thu 
struggle for survival and a variety of terms mean- 
ing the right of white men of any kind to beat 
blacks into submission, make them surrender their 
wealth and the use of their women and submit to 
dictation without murmur, for the sake of beiug 
swept off the fairest portions of the earth or held 
there in perpetual serfdom or guardianship. Ignor- 
ing the fact that the era of physical struggle for 
survival has passed away among human beings, and 
that there is plenty of room accessible on earth for 
all, this theory makes the possession of Krupp guns 
the main criterion of mental stamina and moral fit- 

Even armed with this morality of the club, and 
every advantage of modern culture, the white races 
have been unable to possess the earth. Many signs 
of degeneracy have appeared among them : their 
birth-rate is falling, their average ability is not in- 
creasing, their physical stamina is impaired, and 
their social condition is not reassuring. Lacking 
the physical ability to take possession of the world, 
they are to-day fencing in America, Australia, and 
South Africa and declaring that no dark race shall 
occupy or develop the land which they themselves 
are unable to use. And all this on the plea that 
their stock is threatened with deterioration from 
without, when in reality its most dangerous threat is 
deterioration from within. 

We are, in fact, to-day repeating in our inter- 


course between races all the former evils of class 
distinction within the nation : personal hatred and 
abuse, mutual injustice, unequal taxation and rigid 
caste. Individual nations outgrew these fatal things 
by breaking down the horizontal barriers between 
classes. We are bringing them back by seeking to 
erect vertical barriers between races. Men were 
told that abolition of compulsory class distinction 
meant leveling down, degradation, disappearance of 
culture and genius and the triumph of the mob. 
As a matter of fact, it has been the salvation of 
European civilization. Some deterioration and 
leveling there was but it was more than balanced 
by the discovery of new reservoirs of ability and 
strength. So to-day we are told that free racial 
contact — or "social equality" as Southern patois 
has it — means contamination of blood and lowering 
of ability and culture. It need mean nothing of the 
sort. Abolition of class distinction did not mean 
universal intermarriage of stocks, but rather the 
survival of the fittest by peaceful, personal and 
social selection — a selection all the more effective be- 
cause free democracy and equality of opportunity 
allow the best to rise to their rightful place. The 
same is true in racial contact. Vertical race dis- 
tinctions are even more emphatic hindrances to 
human evolution than horizontal class distinctions, 
and their tearing away involves fewer chances of 
degradation and greater opportunities of human 
betterment than in case of class lines. On the 
other hand, persistence in racial distinction spells 


disaster sooner or later. The earth is growing 
smaller and more accessible. Eace contact will 
become in the future increasingly inevitable not 
only in America, Asia, and Africa but even in 
Europe. The color line will mean not simply a re- 
turn to the absurdities of class as exhibited in the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but even to the 
caste of ancient days. This, however, the Japanese, 
the Chinese, the East Indians and the Negroes are 
going to resent in just such proportion as they gain 
the power ; and they are gaining the power, and 
they cannot be kept from gaining more power. 
The price of repression will then be hypocrisy and 
slavery and blood. 

This is the situation to-day. Has John Brown no 
message— no legacy, then, to the twentieth century 1 
He has and it is this great word : the cost of liberty 
is less than the price of repression. The price of 
repressing the world's darker races is shown in a 
moral retrogression and an economic waste unpar- 
alelled since the age of the African slave-trade. 
What would be the cost of liberty ? what would be 
the cost of giving the great stocks of mankind every 
reasonable help and incentive to self-development— 
opening the avenues of opportunity freely, spread- 
ing knowledge, suppressing war and cheating, and 
treating men and women as equals the world over 
whenever and wherever they attain equality % It 
would cost something. It would cost something in 
pride and prejudice, for eventually many a white 
man would be blacking black men's boots ; but this 


cost we may iguore— its greatest cost would be the 
new problems of racial intercourse and intermar- 
riage which would come to the frout. Freedom aud 
equal opportunity in this respect would inevitably 
bring some intermarriage of whites and yellows 
and browns and blacks. This might be a good 
thing and it might not be. We do not know. Our 
belief on the matter may be strong and even frantic, 
but it has no adequate scientific foundation. If 
such marriages are proven inadvisable, how could 
they be stopped ? Easily. We associate with cats 
and cows, but we do not fear intermarriage with 
them, even though they be given all freedom of 
development. So, too, intelligent human beings 
can be trained to breed intelligently without the 
degradation of such of their fellows as they may not 
wish to breed with. In the Southern United States, 
on the contrary, it is assumed that unwise marriages 
can be stopped only by the degradation of the blacks 
— the classing of all darker women with prostitutes, 
the loading of a whole race with every badge of 
public isolation, degradation and contempt, and by 
burning offenders at the stake. Is this civilization ? 
No. The civilized method of preventing ill-advised 
marriage lies in the training of mankind in the 
ethics of sex and child-bearing. We cannot ensure 
the survival of the best blood by the public murder 
and degradation of unworthy suitors, but we can 
substitute a civilized human selection of husbands 
and wives which shall ensure the survival of the 
fittest. Not the methods of the jungle, not even 


the careless choices of the drawing-room, but the 
thoughtful selection of the schools and laboratory is 
the ideal of future marriage. This will cost some- 
thing in ingenuity, self-control and toleration, but 
it will cost less than forcible repression. 

Not only is the cost of repression to-day large — 
it is a continually increasing cost : the procuring of 
coolie labor, the ruling of India, the exploitation of 
Africa, the problem of the unemployed, and the 
curbing of the corporations, area tremendous drain 
on modern society with no near end in sight. The 
cost is not merely in wealth but in social progress 
and spiritual strength, and it tends ever to explosion, 
murder, and war. All these things but increase the 
difficulty of beginning a regime of freedom in human 
growth and development — they raise the cost of lib- 
erty. Not only that but the very explosions, like the 
Kusso-Japanese War, which bring partial freedom, 
tend in the complacent current philosophy to prove 
the wisdom of repression. " Blood will tell," men 
say. " The fit will survive ; stop up the tea-kettle 
and eventually the steam will burst the iron," and 
therefore only the steam that bursts is worth the 
generating ; only organized murder proves the fitness 
of a people for liberty. This is a fearful and danger- 
ous doctrine. It encourages wrong leadership and 
perverted ideals at the very time when loftiest and 
most unselfish striving is called for— as witness Japan 
after her emancipation, or America after the Civil 
War. Conversely, it leads the shallow and unthink- 
ing to brand as demagogue and radical every group 


leader who in the day of slavery and struggle cries 
out for freedom. 

For such reasous it is that the memory of Johu 
Brown stands to-day as a mighty warning to his 
country. He saw, he felt in his soul the wrong 
and danger of that most daring and insolent system 
of human repression known as American slavery. 
He knew that in 1700 it would have cost something 
to overthrow slavery and establish liberty ; and that 
by reason of cowardice and blindness the cost in 
1800 was vastly larger but still not unpayable. He 
felt that by 1900 no human hand could pluck the 
vampire froni the body of the land without doing 
the nation to death. He said, in 1859, "Now is the 
accepted time." Now is the day to strike for a free 
nation. It will cost something — even blood and 
suffering, but it will not cost as much as waiting. 
And he was right. Bepression bred repression — 
serfdom bred slavery, until in 1861 the South was 
farther from freedom than in 1800. 

The edict of 1863 was the first step in emancipa- 
tion and its cost in blood and treasure was stagger- 
ing. But that was not all — it was only a first step. 
There were other bills to pay of material recon- 
struction, social regeneration, mental training and 
moral uplift. These the nation started to meet in 
the Fifteenth Amendment, the Freedman's Bureau, 
the crusade of school-teachers and the Civil Bights 
Bill. But the effort was great and the determina- 
tion of the South to pay no single cent or deed for 
past error save by force, led in the revolution of 


1876 to the triumph of reaction. Reaction meant 
and means a policy of state, society and individual, 
whereby no American of Negro blood shall ever 
come into the full freedom of modern culture. In 
the carrying out of this program by certain groups 
and sections, no pains have been spared — no ex- 
penditure of money, ingenuity, physical or moral 
strength. The building of barriers around these 
black men has been pushed with an energy so des- 
perate and unflagging that it has seriously checked 
the great outpouring of benevolence and sympathy 
that greeted the freedman in 1863. It has come so 
swathed and gowned in graciousness as to disarm 
philanthropy and chill enthusiasm. It has used 
double-tongued argument with deadly effect. Has 
the Negro advanced? Beware his further strides. 
Has the Negro retrograded ? It is his fate, why 
seek to help him ? Thus has the spirit of repression 
gained attention, complacent acquiescence, and even 
cooperation. To be sure, there still stand staunch 
souls who cannot yet believe the doctrine of human 
repression, and who pour out their wealth for Negro 
training and freedom in the face of the common cry. 
But the majority of Americans seem to have forgot- 
ten the foundation principles of their government 
and the recklessly destructive effect of the blows 
meant to bind and tether their fellows. We have 
come to see a day here in America when one citizen 
can deprive another of his vote at his discretion ; 
can restrict the education of his neighbors' children 
as he sees fit ; can with impunity load his neighbor 


with public insult on the king's highway ; can de- 
prive him of his property without due process of 
law ; can deny him the right of trial by his peers, 
or of any trial whatsoever if he can get a large 
enough group of men to join him ; can refuse to 
protect or safeguard the integrity of the family of 
some men whom he dislikes ; finally, can not only 
close the door of opportunity in commercial and 
social lines in a fully competent neighbor's face, but 
can actually count on the national and state gov- 
ernments to help and make effective this discrimi- 

Such a state of affairs is not simply disgraceful ; 
it is deeply and increasingly dangerous. Not only 
does the whole nation feel already the loosening of 
joints which these vicious blows on human liberty 
have caused — lynching, lawlessness, lying and 
stealing, bribery and divorce — but it can look for 
darker deeds to come. 

And this not merely because of the positive harm 
of this upbuilding of barriers, but above all be- 
cause within these bursting barriers are men — 
human forces which no human hand can hold. It is 
human force and aspiration and endeavor which 
are moving there amid the creaking of timbers and 
writhing of souls. It is human force that has 
already done in a generation the work of many 
centuries. It has saved over a half-billion dollars 
in property, bought and paid for lauded estate half 
the size of all England, and put homes thereon as 
good and as pure as the homes of any correspond- 


ing economic class the world around; it has 
crowded eager children through a wretched and 
half-furnished school system until from an illiteracy 
of seventy per cent., two-thirds of the living adults 
can read and write. These proscribed millions have 
50 000 professional men, 200,000 men in trade and 
transportation, 275,000 artisans and mechanics, 
1 050 000 servants and 2,000,000 farmers working 
with 'the nation to earn its daily bread. These 
farmers raise yearly on their own and hired farms 
over 4,000,000 bales of cotton, 25,000,000 pounds 
of rice, 10,000,000 bushels of potatoes, 90,000,000 
pounds of tobacco and 100,000,000 bushels of 
corn, besides that for which they labor on the 
farms of others. They have given America 
music, inspired art and literature, made its bread, 
dug its ditches, fought its battles, and suffered in 
its misfortunes. The great mass of these men is 
becoming daily more thoroughly organized, more 
deeply self-critical, more conscious of its power. 
Threatened though it has been naturally, as a 
proletariat, with degeneration and disease, it is to- 
day reducing its death-rate and beginning organized 
rescue of its delinquents and defectives. The mass 
can still to-day be called ignorant, poor and but 
moderately efficient, but it is daily growing better 
trained, richer and more intelligent. And as it 
grows It is sensing more and more the van age - 
ground which it holds as a defender of the right of 
the freedom of human developing for black 
men in the midst of a centre of modern culture. 


It sees its brothel's in yellow, black and brown held 
physically at arms' length from civilization lest they 
become civilized and less liable to conquest and ex- 
ploitation. It sees the world-wide effort to build 
an aristocracy of races and nations on a foundation 
of darker half-enslaved and tributary peoples. It 
knows that the last great battle of the West is to 
vindicate the right of any man of any nation, race, 
or color to share in the world's goods and thoughts 
and efforts to the extent of his effort and ability. 

Thus to-day the Negro American faces his 
destiny and doggedly strives to realize it. He has 
his tempters and temptations. There are ever 
those about him whispering : " You are nobody ; 
why strive to be somebody ? The odds are over- 
whelming against you — wealth, tradition, learning 
and guns. Be reasonable. Accept the dole of 
charity and the cant of missionaries and sink con- 
tentedly to your place as humble servants and 
helpers of the white world.'" If this has not been 
effective, threats have been used : "If you con- 
tinue to complain, we will withdraw all aid, boy- 
cott your labor, cease to help support your schools 
and let you die and disappear from the land in 
ignorance, crime and disease." Still the black 
man has pushed on, has continued to protest, has re- 
fused to die out and disappear, and to-day stands as 
physically the most virile element in America, in- 
tellectually among the most promising, and morally 
the most tremendous and insistent of the social 
problems of the New World. Not even the silence 


of his friends, or of those who ought to be the 
friends of struggling humanity, has silenced him. 
Not even the wealth of modern Golcouda has in- 
duced him to believe that life without liberty is 
worth living. 

On the other side heart-searching is in order. It 
is not well with this land of ours : poverty is cer- 
tainly not growing less, wealth is being wantonly 
wasted, business honesty is far too rare, family 
integrity is threatened, bribery is poisoning our 
public life, theft is honeycombing our private busi- 
ness, and voting is largely unintelligent. Not that 
these evils are unopposed. There are brave men and 
women striving for social betterment, for the curbing 
of the vicious power of wealth, for the uplift of 
women and the downfall of thieves. But their bat- 
tle is hard, and how much harder because of the 
race problem — because of the calloused conscience 
of caste, the peonage of black labor hands, the in- 
sulting of black women, and the stealing of black 
votes ? How far are business dishonesty and civic 
degradation in America the direct result of racial 

Well do I know that many persons defend their 
treatment of undeveloped peoples on the highest 
grounds. They say, as Jefferson Davis intimated, 
that liberty is for the full-grown, not for children. 
It was during Senator Mason's inquisition after the 
hanging of John Brown, whereby the Southern 
leader hoped to entrap the Abolitionists. Joshua 
E. Giddings, keen, impetuous and fiery, was on the 


rack. Senator Davis, pale, sallow and imperturb- 
able, with all the aristocratic poise and dignity 
built on the unpaid toil of two centuries of slaves, 
said : 

"Did you, in inculcating, by popular lectures, 
the doctrine of a law higher than that of the social 
compact, make your application exclusively to Ne- 
gro slaves, or did you also include minors, convicts, 
and lunatics, who might be restrained of their lib- 
erty by the laws of the land t" 

Mr. Giddings smiled. "Permit me," he said, 
" . . . with all due deference, to suggest, so 
that I may understand you, do you intend to inquire 
whether those lectures would indicate whether your 
slaves of the slave states had a right at all times to 
their liberty!" 

"I will put the question in that form if you like 
it," answered Davis, and then Giddings flashed : 

"My lectures, in all instances, would indicate the 
right of every human soul in the enjoyment of rea- 
son, while he is charged with no crime or offense, 
to maintain his life, his liberty, the pursuit of his 
own happiness ; that this has reference to the en- 
slaved of all the states as much as it had reference 
to our own people while enslaved by the Algerines 
in Africa." 

But Mr. Davis suavely pressed his point : "Then 
the next question is, whether the same right was 
asserted for minors and apprentices, being men in 
good reason, yet restrained of their liberty by the 
laws of the land." 


Giddings replied: 'Twill answer at once that 
the proposition or comparison is conflicting with 
the dictates of truth. The minor is, from the law 
of nature, under the restraints of parental affection 
for the purposes of nurture, of education, of prepar- 
ing him to secure and maintain the very rights to 
which I refer." 1 

This debate is not yet closed. It was not closed 
by the Civil War. Men still maintain that East 
Indians and Africans and others ought to be under 
the restraint and benevolent tutelage of stronger 
and wiser nations for their own benefit. Well and 
good. Is the tutelage really benevolent! Then it 
is training in liberty. Is it training iu slavery? 
Then it is not benevolent. Liberty trains for lib- 
erty. Responsibility is the first step in responsi- 

Even the restraints imposed in the training of 
men aud children are restraints that will in the end 
make greater freedom possible. Is the benevolent 
expansion of to-day of such a character ? Is Eng- 
land trying to see how soon and how effectively the 
Indians can be trained for self-government or is she 
willing to exploit them just so long as they can be 
cajoled or quieted into submission 1 ? Is Germany 
trying to train her Africans to modern citizenship 
or to modern " work without complaint " ? Is the 
South trying to make the Negroes responsible, self- 

1 Report : Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st 
Session, No. 278; Testimony of Joshua R. Giddings pp. 


reliant freemen of a republic, or the dumb driven 
cattle of a great industrial machine? 

Xo sooner is the question put this way than the 
defenders of modern caste retire behind a more de- 
fensible breastwork. They say : " Yes, we exploit 
nations for our own advantage purposely — even at 
times brutally. But only in that way can the high 
efficiency of the modern industrial process be main- 
tained, and in the long run it benefits the oppressed 
even more than the oppressor." This doctrine is as 
wide-spread as it is false and mischievous. It is 
true that the bribe of greed will artificially hasten 
economic development, but it does so at fearful 
cost, as America itself can testify. We have here a 
wonderful industrial machine, but a machine 
quickly rather than carefully built, formed of forc- 
ing rather than of growth, involving sinful and un- 
necessary expense. Better smaller production and 
more equitable distribution ; better fewer miles of 
railway and more honor, truth, and liberty ; better 
fewer millionaires and more contentment. So it is 
the world over, where force and fraud and graft 
have extorted rich reward from writhing millions. 
Moreover, it is historically unprovable that the ad- 
vance of undeveloped peoples has been helped by 
wholesale exploitation at the hands of their richer, 
stronger, and more unscrupulous neighbors. This 
idea is a legend of the long exploded doctrine of in- 
evitable economic harmonies in all business life. 
True it is that adversity and difficulties make for 
character, but the real and inevitable difficulties of 


life are numerous enough for genuine development 
without the aid of artificial hindrances. The inher- 
ent and natural difficulties of raising a people from 
ignorant unmoral slavishness to self-reliant modern 
manhood are great enough for purposes of character- 
building without the aid of murder, theft, caste, and 
degradation. Not because of but in spite of these 
latter hindrances has the Negro-American pressed 

This, then, is the truth: the cost of liberty is less 
than the price of repression, even though that cost 
be blood. Freedom of development and equality of 
opportunity is the demand of Darwinism and this 
calls for the abolition of hard and fast lines between 
races, just as it called for the breaking down of bar- 
riers between classes. Only in this way can the 
best in humanity be discovered and conserved, and 
only thus can mankind live in peace and progress. 
The present attempt to force all whites above all 
darker peoples is a sure method of human degener- 
ation. The cost of liberty is thus a decreasing cost, 
while the cost of repression ever tends to increase 
to the danger point of war and revolution. Revo- 
lution is not a test of capacity ; it is always a loss 
and a lowering of ideals. 

John Brown taught us that the cheapest price to 
pay for liberty is its cost to-day. The building of 
barriers against the advance of Negro- Americans 
hinders but in the end cannot altogether stop their 
progress. The excuse of benevolent tutelage can- 
not be urged, for that tutelage is not benevolent 


that does not prepare for free responsible manhood. 
Nor can the efficiency of greed as an economic 
developer be proven — it may hasten development 
but it does so at the expense of solidity of structure, 
smoothness of motion, and real efficiency. Nor does 
selfish exploitation help the undeveloped ; rather it 
hinders and weakens them. 

It is now full fifty years since this white-haired 
old man lay weltering in the blood which he 
spilled for broken and despised humanity. Let the 
nation which he loved and the South to which he 
spoke, reverently listen again to-day to those words, 
as prophetic now as then : 

" You had better — all you people of the South — 
prepare yourselves for a settlement of this question. 
It must come up for settlement sooner than you are 
prepared for it, and the sooner you commence 
that preparation, the better for you. You may 
dispose of me very easily — I am nearly disposed 
of now ; but this question is still to be settled — 
this Negro question, I mean. The end of that is 
not yet." 


For the general reader the following works are indispensable: 

Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin. The Life and Letters of 
John Brown, Liberator of Kansas, and Martyr of 
Virginia. 1885. (The most complete collection of 
John Brown letters.) 

Hinton, Richard Josiah. John Brown and His Men, with 
some account of the roads they traveled to reach 
Harper's Ferry. 1894. (Valuable for its treatment 
of Kansas and its lives of Brown's companions.) 

REDPATH, James. Public Life of Captain John Brown, with 
autobiography of his childhood and youth. (The 
best contemporary account.) 

Connelley, William Elsey. John Brown. 1900. (Valu- 
able for Kansas life of Brown.) 

To the above may be added the shorter estimate 
by H. E. von Hoist, 1899, and some may like 
Chamberlain's pert essay (Beacon Biographies, 

Students must add to these the following books and articles 
which contain many of the original sources of our knoxcledge : 

Anderson, Osborne P. A Voice from Harper's Ferry. A 
narrative of events at Harper's Ferry ; with inci- 
dents prior and subsequent to its capture by John 
Brown and his men. 1861. (The best account 
of the raid by a participant. ) 

Manuscript Diary of John Brown in the Boston Public 
Library. (2 volumes.) 1838-1844, 1855-1859. 

Garrison, Wendell Phillips. The Preludes of Harper's 
Ferry. In the Andover Review, December, 1890, 
and January, 1891. 


Josephus, Jr. (Joseph Barry). The Brown Raid. In his 
annals of Harper's Ferry, 1872. (Excellent local 

United States Congressional Reports. Report of the 
select committee of the Senate appointed to 
inquire into John Brown's invasion and the 
seizure of the public property at Harper's 
Ferry. Thirty -sixth Congress, first session. 
Senate Reports of Committees. 

Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, together 
with addresses, etc., Volumes I-IX. (Con- 
tains many personal narratives.) 

Calendar of Virginia State papers, Volume XI, pp. 269-349. 
(A large amount of the Brown data copied from the 
papers found in his carpetbag at Harper's Ferry.) 

Virginia Senate Journal and Documents for the session of 
1859-60 : Report of the joint committee of the 
Senate and House of Delegates, appointed to con- 
sider the Harper's Ferry affair by Alexander H. 
Stuart, the chairman of the committee. 

VIRGINIA, Journal of House of Delegates of Virginia, 1859-60, 
containing messages of the governor, the trial and 
publication of John Brown's papers. 

Featherstonhaugh, Thomas. Bibliography of John Brown, 
Part I. Publications of the Southern 
History Association, Volume I, pp. 196- 

- John Brown's Men ; the lives of those 

killed at Harper's Ferry, with a supple- 
mentary bibliography of John Brown. 
In Southern History Association publi- 
cations. Volume 3, pp. 281-306. (The 
best bibliography.) 

Douglass, Frederick. John Brown, an address at the four- 
teenth anniversary of Storer College, 1881. 

Life and Times of. 1892. 

Redpath, James. Echoes of Harper's Ferry. 1860. 


Hunter, Andrew. John Brown's Raid. In Southern 
History Association publications. Volume I, pp. 
165-195. 1897. (The story of the prosecuting 

Higginson, Thomas Wentwobth. A Visit to John Brown's 
Household in 1859. (In " Contemporaries, " 1899.) 

Weight, Haeey A. John Brown in Springfield. New Eng- 
land Magazine, pp. 272-281. 

Webb, Richard D., Editor. The Life and Letters of Captain 
John Brown, who was executed at Charlestown, Va., 
December 2, 1859, for an armed attack upon American 
slavery ; with notices of some of his confederates. 1861. 

Botelee, Alexander L. Recollections of the John Brown 
Raid. Century. July, 1883. Comment by F. B. 

Daingerfield, John E. P. John Brown at Harper's Ferry. 
Century. June, 1885, pp. 265-267. (The 
story of an engine-house prisoner.) 

Voorhees, Daniel W. Argument delivered at Charleston, 
Va., November 8, 1859, upon the trial of John E. 
Cook. Richmond, Va., 1861. 

HAMILTON, James Cleland. John Brown in Canada. Illus- 
trated. Republished from Canadian Magazine, 
December, 1894. 

The purely controversial literature raging around John Brown is 
endless. Those interested might read : 

Utter, David N. John Brown of Osawatomie. North 
American Review, November, 1883. 

Nicolay, John G. and 'Hay, John. Abraham Lincoln, a 
history. 1890. (Volume two contains history of 
John Brown and Harper's Ferry Raid.) 

Robinson, Charles. The Kansas Conflict. 1892. 

Brown, George Washington, M. D. False claims of 
Kansas historians truthfully corrected. Principally 
a refutation of the claim that the rescue of Kansas 
from slavery was due to John Brown. Rockford, 111. 
The author. 1902. 


Reminiscences of Old Johu Brown. Thrilling in- 
stances of border life in Kansas. With appendix 
by Eli Thayer. Rockford, 111. 1880. Printed by 
Eli Smith. 

WEIGHT, Maiuts JOSEPH. Trial of John Brown. Its im- 
partiality and decorum vindicated. Southern His- 
tory Society Papers, Vol. XVI, pp. 357-363. 

Spring, L. W. Kansas. 1885. 

Williams, G. W. History of Negro Race in America. 1883. 
Two volumes. (For John Brown, see volume two, 
pp. 213-227.) 

Thayer, Eli. The Kansas Crusade. 1889. 

Hugo, Victor. John Brown. 1861. 

Wise, Barton H. The Life of Henry S. Wise. 1899. 


Abolitionists, 86, 91, 93, 96, 

125, 341-342. 
Adams, John Quincy, 49. 
Adirondack farm, the, 12, 199. 
Alcott, A. Bronson, 210, 290- 

Alleghany Mountains, 48, 106, 

127, 275, 279, 299. 
Anderson, Jeremiah, 258, 282- 

283, 324, 325, 336. 
Anderson, John, 282. 
Anderson, Osborne Perry, 280, 

3°5> 334, 336. 
Atchison, Senator, 134, 175. 

Black Jack, battle of, 166- 

169, 221. 
Brown, Anne, 286, 300, 301. 
Brown, Edward, 145. 
Brown, Frederick (the brother), 

Brown, Frederick (the son), 

128, 152, 155, 166, 167, 178. 
Brown, Jason, 87, 128, 146, 

149, 159, 160, 186. 

Brown, John, Jr., 127, 146, 
147, 159, 186. 

Brown, John, ancestry of, 15, 16, 
18, 19, 20; boyhood and 
youth of, 21-23, 2 5» 3 1 > as 
tanner, 31 ; marriage of, 32; 
occupations of, 32 ; family 
life of, 33-37 ; second mar- 
riage of, 38 ; in panic of 
1837, 41 ; as shepherd, 52- 
60; as wool merchant, 01- 
68 ; in England, 68-7 1 ; 
lawsuits of, 7 1-74 ; and fugi- 

tive slaves, 84, 85 ; first plan 
against slavery, 87-88; and 
Negroes in, 89-91 ; and 
mobs, 91 ; and oatli vs. slav 
ery, 92, 93 ; and Abolition- 
ists, 91-94 ; and settlement 
in Virginia, 95 ; and black 
men, 97-121 ; and Frederick 
Douglass, 102-109; m tne 
Adirondacks, m-113; in 
Kansas, 126-134, 139-140, 
I43" I 44, i$S-i91 ; develop- 
ing plans of, 198-206; trip 
eastward of, 197, 207-218; 
meets Forbes, 216; return 
westward, 218 ; securing arms 
and men, 218-225; second 
trip eastward, 225-251 ; at 
Douglass' home, 225-227 ; 
revelation of, 229-231 ; trip 
to Canada of, 15, 248-251 ; 
meets Harriet Tubman, 249- 
251 ; return to Iowa of, 251- 
253 ; third trip eastward of, 
252; return to Canada, 252 ; 
Chatham convention, 253- 
266; betrayal of, by Forbes, 
266-269 ; in New England 
and New York, 268-270 ; 
third return westward, 270- 
272; Harper's Ferry plans 
of, 274-277 ; financial re- 
sources of, 277-278 ; military 
organizations of, 106, 1 16, 
149, 160-169, 175-179. l8l ~ 
182, 188-189, 191, 226-227, 
278-279 ; Negro companions 
of, 280-283 ; white compan- 



ions of, 283-287 ; health of, 
288 ; seventh trip eastward, 
288-291 ; starts South, 
291 ; arrives at Harper's 
Ferry, 292 ; perfecting ar- 
rangements, 293-307 ; meets 
Douglass, 295-297 ; life at 
Kennedy Farm, 298-302 ; be- 
trayal of plans of, 302—303 ; 
raid of, at Harper's Ferry, 
3 o8 -337 5 capture of, 333- 
334-; fate of companions of, 
336 ; results, 338 ; trial of, 
356-364 ; execution of, 363- 
364 ; last letters of, 365-373 ; 
and present Negro problem, 
373-396; character of, 15, 
16, 22-23, 2 6-47, 3°°-3 OI > 
338-358; descriptions of, 21, 
28, 73, 74, 92, 104, 173-174. 
197, 287 ; family of, 31-39, 
42, 44, 45, 5 8 > 7 1 . 73. 74- 87, 
88, 89, 92, 95, 102-104, 112, 
119, 120, 121 ; letters of, 42- 

46, 53-60, 62-63, 66, 67, 69, 
71, 72, 74, 87-88, 113, 118, 
132, 146-149, 151, 152, 159, 
166-169, '78, 179, 182, 186, 
187, 188-189, 218,220,227, 
228, 232-234, 248, 249, 257, 
266, 267, 270, 271, 304, 357, 
3 6 5-373; reading of, 40; 
religion of, 23, 25, 40-41, 42, 

47. 3 6 5-373; speeches of, 
132, 150, 180-1S2, 213-214; 
song of, 334. 

Brown, Oliver, 133, 146, 149, 

152, 155, 283. 
Brown, Owen, 19, 20, 77, 78, 

128, 147, 152, 155, 186, 252, 

259, 272, 283, 319, 329, 335, 

Brown, Peter, 19. 
Brown, Salmon, 128, 137, 152- 

168, 186. 

Brown, Watson, 155, 283. 
Buchanan, President, 142, 214. 
Burns, Anthony, 72. 

Canada, the Negroes in, 236- 
238, 253-254, 270. 

Caste and the Negro, 76-78, 
81, 235-247, 377-38o, 387. 
388, 391-393- 

Catchers, slave, 97. 

Charleston, Va. (W. Va.), 13. 

Committee, National Kansas, 
New York meeting of, 13, 

Constitution, articles of Brown's, 
265, 266. 

Constitution, pro-slavery, of 
Kansas, 136. 

Constitution, Lecompton of 
Kansas, 143, 187, 224. 

Contact of races, 380, 382. 

Convention, address of Phila- 
delphia, 236-238. 

Convention, Big Springs, Kan- 
sas, 12. 

Convention, Chatham, 203, 257, 

Convention, Syracuse, of Abo- 
litionists, 12, 132, 133. 

Cook, John E., 219, 220, 252, 
259, 3«5. 3 l6 '3^> 319.324, 
33i, 336- 

Copeland, John A., 281-305, 
325. 336. 

Coppoc, Barclay, 223, 319, 336. 

Coppoc, Edwin, 223, 336. 

Coronado, 16, 123. 

Covenant and by-laws of John 
Brown's followers, 160-161. 

Crandall, Prudence, 87. 

Daingerfield, Captain, 326. 
Daniels, Jim, 192. 
Davis, Jefferson, 124, 391-393. 
Day, Mary Ann, 11,38, 241. 



Decision, Dred Scott, 142, 213. 

Delaney, Martin R., 245-246, 
248, 254, 258. 

Diary, John Brown's, 278. 

Douglass, Frederick, 7, 12, 13, 
15, 47, 101, 102-109, 121, 
122, 131, 132, 214, 225, 241, 
247, 258, 342, 344-346, 353- 

Douglas, Stephen A., 126. 

Dutch Henry's Crossing, 134, 

Emancipation, 386-387. 
Engine-house at Harper's Ferry, 
326, 334- 

Fight at Harper's Ferry, 322- 

Floyd, John, Secretary of War, 

Forbes, Hugh, 73 5 meets 
Brown, 216-217 ; goes \\ est, 
218-219 ; returns East, 219 ; 
betrays plans, 225 ; com- 
plaints of, 266, 268. 

Franklin, Kansas, attack on, 


Freedom, League of, 244. 
Free Soilers, 13I. 
Fugitive Slave Law, 12, 236. 
Fugitive slaves, 82, 84, 85, 88, 
94, 106-108, 203-204, 241. 

Gabriel, ii, 83, 127. 
Garnet, H. H., 98, 102, 240, 

243, 248, 258. 
Garrison, William Lloyd, 15, 

93, 342. 
Geary, Governor of Kansas, 13, 

141-180, 183-184. 
Giddings, Joshua, 152, 39I-39 2 - 
Gill, George B., 223, 259. 
Gloucester, Negro minister, 98, 

248, 258. 
Great Black Way, the, 273. 

Greeley, Horace, 130, 266. 
Green, Shields, 280, 323, 334, 
33 6 > 343-347- 

Hall, Pennsylvania, 91. 
Hamilton's massacre, 188, 192- 

Harper's Ferry raid : the place 
of, 273-274; plans of, 274- 
276; financial resources of, 
277-278 ; military organiza- 
tions of, 278-280; partici- 
pants of, 280-288 ; depot at 
Chambersburg, 291-292; 
preparations, 293-307 ; be- 
ginning of foray, 308 ; capture 
of armory, 310; capture of 
town, 311; capture of Colo- 
nel Washington, 311-312; 
halting of train, 313; bring- 
ing up the arms, 314-316; 
further plans, 3i7-3 IQ - 5 gath- 
ering of militia, 320-322; 
dislodging of Kagi, 324-325 ; 
retreat of engine-house, 326 ; 
killing of Brown's men, 327- 
329; arrival of Lee, 331; 
parleying, 33°-333 i capture 
of Brown, 333~334 J capture 
and escape of others, 334- 
Harper, Samuel, I94~ I 95- 
Hayti, 75, 97- 
Hazlett, Albert, 334, 33 6 - 
Henson, Josiah, 241, 253. 
Hinton, R. J., 7. '73- > Sl . *J9. 
204, 207, 222, 258, 277, 284. 
Holden, Isaac, 257, 258, 277, 

Howe, Dr. S. G., 210, 231,267, 

Hunter, Andrew, 352, 353, 35 6 - 

Independence, Chatham Dec- 
laration of, 272. 



Insurrection, Cumberland re- 
gion, 97. 

Insurrection in Virginia, 81. 

Insurrection of slaves, 79, 80, 
83, 85, 97, 105-106. 

Insurrection, proposed Negro, 

Intermarriage of races, 382, 

384, 3«5- 
Isaac, insurrection of, 97. 

Jackson, President, 50. 
Jamaica, 79, 97. 
Jones, Henry, 241. 
Jones, John, 248. 
Jones, J. M., 256, 258. 
Jones, Ottawa, 178. 
Journal, Freedom's, 239. 

Kagi, J. H., 13, 196, 199, 200, 
201, 202, 252, 259, 317, 318, 

3 2 4, 325- 

Kansas, 123; Brown's sons in, 
127-131 ; and slavery, 126, 
134, 138, 144 ; John Brown 
and, 125, 126-127, 131-134, 
139, 143-197- 

Kansas-Nebraska Bill, 13, 135, 
136, 219-221. 

Kennedy Farm, 319. 

Lane, General James, 134, 

141, 173-176, 186. 
Lane's Army, 13, 173-176. 
Lane College, 95. 
Langston brothers, 241, 258. 
Law, Fugitive Slave, 12, 113, 

Lawrence, Kansas, 14, 167, 

170; sacking of, 153-154; 

last attack on, 180-184. 
League, Liberty, 244. 
League of Gileadites, 12, 114. 
Leary, Lewis Sherrard, 282- 


Lee, Robert E., 13, 331, 332. 
Leeman, William H., 221, 252, 

2 59, 3 2 5» 336- 
Liberator, 7 he, 94, 239. 
Liberty Hall, 158. 
Loudoun Heights, at Harper's 

Ferry, 275, 318. 
L'Ouverture, Toussaint, 75, 216. 
Lovejoy, 91, 115. 
Lusk, Dianthe, 11, 32, 38. 

Marlborough Chapel, 91. 
Massacre at Dutch Henry's 

Crossing, 139-140, I43- I 44» 

Maxon farm, Iowa, 252. 
Merriam, F. J., 286, 305, 336. 
Middle Creek, Kansas, 158. 
Military organization of Brown's 

men, 106, 146, 149, 160-169, 

I 75- I 79. 181-182, 188-189, 

191, 226-227, 278-279. 
Mills, Peter, 19. 
Missouri slave raid, 191-197. 
Mobs, abolition, 91. 
Mobs against Negroes, 235. 
Moffett, Charles W., 221, 252, 

Montgomery, Captain, 188, 189, 

190, 191. 
" Morgan, Shubel," 189. 
Mulattoes, 77. 
Mysteries, American, 244. 

Negro character, 17. 

Negro conventions, 236, 237, 

238, 239, 242, 244, 245-246. 
Negro emigration, 245-246. 
Negro insurgents, 318, 353— 

Negro insurrections, 79-80, 83, 

85, 97, 105-106. 
Negro leaders, 97, 98, 101, 102, 

no, 240, 241-243, 246, 258, 

259, 294, 295. 



Negro, Northern, 235. 

Negro organizations, 203-204, 

Negro progress, 1830- 1840, 

235; 1 840- 1 850, 240; 1850- 

1860, 243. 
Negro slavery, 76-84. 
Negroes, 12, 16. 
Negroes in America, 16, 17 ; in 

Canada, 236-238. 
Negroes, increase of, in ten 

years, 243. 
Negroes and John Brown, 343, 

344. 347- 
Negroes of Springfield, 98, 99. 
Negroes, present condition of, 

Newby, Dangerfield, 281, 323. 
North Elba, New York, 12. 
North Star, 10 1, 242. 

Oberlin College, ii, 53, 55, 
95, 258, 281, 283. 

Oberlin College lands in Vir- 
ginia, 53-55, 95. 

Odd Fellows, Negro, 240. 

Osawatomie, Kansas, 12, 128, 
142, 147, 152, 159, 162, 166, 
177, 224. 

Owen, John, 19. 

Panic of 1837, 11, 50, 55, 91. 
Parker, Theodore, 210, 227, 

Parsons, L. L., 220-221, 252, 


Perkins, Simon, 58, 68. 

Perkins and Brown, wool mer- 
chants, 62, 67. 

Pierce, President, 151. 

Plans at Harper's Ferry, 101, 
318, 319, 324, 326. 

Plans of John Brown, 106-107, 
260, 276. 

Pottawatomie Creek, 12, IC7, 

158, 162. 
Purvis, Robert, 241, 246. 

Raid at Harper's Ferry, see 

Harper's Ferry. 
Realf, Richard, 215-220, 252, 

Redpath, James, 7, 72, 99, 132, 

147, 181, 246. 
Reeder, Governor of Kansas, 


Reynolds, G. J., 208, 258, 260. 

Richardson, Richard, 221, 252, 

Robinson, Charles, Governor of 
Kansas, 134, 150, 184, 207, 
341. 342. 

Rochester, N. Y., state conven- 
tion, 244-245. 

Ross, Dr. A. M., 251, 257. 

Routes, Fugitive Slave, 97. 

" Sambo's Mistakes," 99. 
Sanborn, Frank B., 7, 13, 210, 

228, 267. 
Schools for Negroes, 87, 94, 95 
Shannon, Governor of Kansas 

141, 149, 150, 176. 
Shore, Captain, 167- 168. 
" Shubel Morgan's " Company, 

Slave insurrections, 79-80, 83, 

85, 97, 105-106. 
Slavery, 75-89, 124-126, 235. 
Smith, Gerrit, 12, 53, 131, 132 

133, 207, 226, 303, 341. 
Smith, J. McCune, 98, 131, 132 

225, 240, 267. 
Smith, Stephen, 241, 248, 258. 
Societies, Phoenix, 239. 
Society, American Anti-slavery 

Society, American Moral Re 

form, 238. 



Society, New England Emi- 
grant Aid, 136, 145. 
Song of " John Brown's Body," 

Southern bands in Kansas, 152, 

166, 188. 
Spell of Africa, 121. 
Springdale, Iowa, John Brown 

in, 221-224. 
Stephens, Aaron D., 173, 194, 

195-222, 252, 259, 336. 
Stearns, George L., 208-210, 

226, 228, 277, 341. 
Still, William, 241, 248. 
Stuart, J. E. B., 332, 333. 
■« Subterranean Pass Way," 214. 
Sumner, Colonel, 15, 137, 139, 

168-169, 225, 266. 
Survey of Virginia lands, 53- 

Swamp, Dismal, 86. 

Swamp of the Swan, 134, 145, 

177, 188, 288. 
Sword of Gideon, 96. 

Tariff and wool, 61. 
Tariff of 1846, the, 65. 
Taylor, Stewart, 223, 259. 
Thayer, Eli, 126, 214. 
Thomas, John A., 258. 
Thomas, Thomas, 101, 247. 
Thompson, Henry, 133, 155— 

Thompson, William, 77, 173, 

315. 316, 319, 324, 328, 329- 

Tidd, C. P., 221, 252, 259, 315, 

316, 319, 324, 331, 335, 

Tubman, Harriet, 204, 241, 

249, 251, 293. 
Turner, Nat, 11, 85, 97, 127, 


Underground Railroad, 94, 
101, 107, no, 198, 243, 263, 


Western Reserve, 

Vesey, Denmark, 83, 97. 
Virginia, 16. 

Wakarusa war and treaty, 
I 5 I - 

War, Civil, 48, 142. 
War in Kansas, 140, 142. 
War of 181 2, 25, 48-49. 
Ward, Samuel Ringgold, 242, 

Wars, Seminole, 84. 
Washington, Colonel Lewis, 

317. 322. 
Wilberforce University, 236, 

Wilson, Senator, 225, 226. 
Wise, Governor of Virginia, 

336, 355- 
Woodson, Governor of Missouri, 

180, 241. 
Wool-growers' convention, 62.