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´╗┐Title: Old John Brown, the man whose soul is marching on
Author: Hawkins, Walter, 1809?-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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This book is for busy people who have not the time to read at large
upon the subject.  Those who would adequately master all the bearings
of the story here briefly told must read American history, for which
facilities are rapidly increasing.  As to John Brown himself, his
friend F. B. Sanborn's LIFE AND LETTERS is a mine of wealth.  To its
pages the present writer is greatly indebted, and he commends them to

W. H.

Kilburn, May 1913.





There are few who have not a dim notion of John Brown as a name bound
up with the stirring events of the United States in the period which
preceded the Civil War and the emancipation of the slave.  Many English
readers, however, do not get beyond the limits of the famous couplet,

  John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
  But his soul is marching on.

That statement is authentic in both its clauses, but it is interesting
to learn what he did with the body before it commenced a dissolution
which seems to have been regarded as worth recording.  Carlyle says in
his grimly humorous way of the gruesome elevation of the head of one of
his patriotic heroes on Temple Bar, 'It didn't matter:  he had quite
done with it.'  And we might say the same of the body which was hanged
at Charlestown in 1859.  In his devoutly fatalistic way John Brown had
presented his body a living sacrifice to the cause of human freedom,
and had at last slowly reached the settled opinion that it was worth
more to the cause dead than alive.  Such a soul, so masterful in its
treatment of the body, was likely to march on without it. And it did in
the years that followed, This Abolitionist raider, with a rashness
often sublime in its devotion, precipitated the national crisis which
issued in the Civil War and Emancipation.

There are lives of brave men which set us thinking for the most part of
human power and skill:  we watch bold initiators of some wise policy
carrying their enterprise through with indomitable courage and
in-exhaustible patience, and we are lost in admiration of the hero.
But there are other brave lives which leave us thinking more of unseen
forces which impelled them than of their own splendid qualities.  They
never seem masters of destiny, but its intrepid servants.  They shape
events while they hardly know how or why; they seem to be rather driven
by fate than to be seeking fame or power.  They go out like Abraham,
'not knowing whither they go,' only that, like him, they have heard a
call.  Sometimes they sorely tax the loyalty of their admirers with
their eccentricities and their defiance of the conventions of their
age.  Wisdom is only justified of these, her strange children, in the
next generation.  Prominent among such lives is that of John Brown.
The conscience of the Northern States on the question of slavery needed
but some strong irritant to arouse it to vigorous action, and, the
hanging of John Brown sufficed.

The institution of slavery became both ridiculous and hateful to
multitudes because so good a man must be done to death to preserve it.
The verdict of Victor Hugo, 'What the South slew last December was not
John Brown, but slavery,' found an echo in many minds.  And when the
long, fierce conflict, through which Emancipation came, was begun, the
quaint lines,

  John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
  But his soul is marching on,

became one of the mightiest of the battle-songs which urged the Federal
hosts to victory.  His name kindled the flame of that passion for
freedom which made the cause of the North triumphant, and there was awe
mingled with the love they bore his memory. Perhaps no man had been
oftener called with plausible reason a fool; but those who knew the
single-hearted devotion to a great cause of this ready victim of the
gallows came reverently to think of him as 'God's fool.'  When they
sang 'John Brown died that the slave might be free' they were singing
more than a record of John Brown's generous motive; it was a record of
one of God's strange counsels.  'For God chose the foolish things of
the world that He might put to shame the things that are strong, and
the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God
choose, yea, and the things that are not, that He might bring to nought
the things that are, that no flesh should glory before God.'  Verily,
then, it might seem worth while to set the story of John Brown in such
a plain, brief form as to make it available for busy folk who have no
time to read longer accounts of him.  If it sets some thinking of the
ways of God rather than admiring John Brown, that will be just what he
would have ardently wished who desired always that God should be
magnified in his body, whether in the fighting which he never loved and
never shirked, or the hanging which he often foresaw and never feared.



The birth of John Brown is recorded in the following laconic style by
his father in a little autobiography he wrote for his children in the
closing days of his life.  'In 1800, May 8, John was born one hundred
years after his great-grandfather; nothing else very uncommon.'  In the
year mentioned the family were living at Torrington, Connecticut,
whence they shortly removed to Ohio, then the haunt of the Red Indian.
They were of the pioneer farming class, which has supplied so many of
the shapers of American history.  The one great honour in their
pedigree was that they descended from a man of the MAYFLOWER--Peter
Brown, a working carpenter who belonged to that famous ship's company.
We might say, indeed, that the story of John Brown flows from the
events of 1620, the year of the MAYFLOWER.  Two landings on the
American coast that year were destined to be memorable.  In August a
Dutch vessel disembarked the first cargo of imported slaves--twenty of
them; and that day Slavery struck deep root in the new land.  And in
November of that same year the MAYFLOWER, with her very different cargo
of brave freemen, dropped anchor in Cape Cod Bay.  The stream of ill
results from that first landing and the stream of Puritan blood,
generous in its passion for liberty, that flowed unimpoverished from
Peter Brown through generations of sturdy ancestors--these are the
streams destined to meet turbulently and to supply us with our story.
Owen Brown, the father of John, thus testifies to his own fidelity to
the tradition of liberty.  'I am an Abolitionist.  I know we are not
loved by many.  I wish to tell how I became one.  Our neighbour lent my
mother a slave for a few days.  I used to go out into the field with
him, and he used to carry me on his back, and I fell in love with him.'
There we have the clue to the history of the household of the Browns
for the next two generations.  They FELL IN LOVE With the despised
negro, and this glorious trait passed like an heritage from generation
to generation.

There is a letter extant which supplies us with the best information on
John Brown's own boyhood.  It was written for a lad in a wealthy home
where he stayed in later days, who had asked him many questions about
his experiences in early life.  He humorously calls it a 'short story
of a certain boy of my acquaintance I will call John.'  A few extracts
will reveal his character in the forming.  Here, for instance, you may
trace the conscientiousness (often morbid) which was so marked a
feature in his later days.  'I cannot tell you of anything in the first
four years of John's life worth mentioning save that at that early age
he was tempted by three large brass pins belonging to a girl who lived
in the family, and stole them.  In this he was detected by his mother;
and after having a full day to think of the wrong, received from her a
thorough whipping.'  He adds, 'I must not neglect to tell you of a very
foolish and bad habit to which John was somewhat addicted.  I mean,
telling lies, generally to screen himself from blame or from
punishment.  He could not well endure to be reproached, and now I think
had he been oftener encouraged to be entirely frank, by MAKING
FRANKNESS A KIND OF ATONEMENT for some of his faults, he would not have
had to struggle so long with this mean habit.'

A story is told of John's schooldays which is an amusing and quite
characteristic instance of his ethical eccentricities.  For a short
time he and his younger brother Salmon were at a school together, and
Salmon was guilty of some offence which was condoned by the master.
John had serious concern for the effect this might have upon his
brother's morals, and he sought the lenient teacher and informed him
that the fault was much deprecated by their father at home, and he was
sure castigation there would have been inevitable.  He therefore
desired it should be duly inflicted, as otherwise he should feel
compelled to act as his father's proxy.  Finding discipline was still
lax, he proceeded with paternal solemnity to administer it himself.
His brother acknowledged that this was done with reluctant fidelity!
Truly the moral instincts of the family were worthy of their Puritan

Although naturally self-conscious and shy, his precociousness in
boyhood, bringing him into association, as it did, with much older
folk, bred a somewhat arrogant manner.  The rule he exercised over
younger members of the family also made him somewhat domineering, a
fault which he diligently sought to correct in later life.  At fifteen
he had become a miniature man of business and was driving cattle on
long journeys with all the confidence of mid-age.  The letter from
which we have already quoted has one or two more passages which may
enlighten us as to his rearing.  Still writing in the third person, he
says, 'John had been taught from earliest childhood to fear God and
keep His commandments, and though quite sceptical he had always by
turns felt much doubt as to his future well being.  He became to some
extent a convert to Christianity, and ever after a firm believer in the
divine authenticity of the Bible.  With this book he became very
familiar, and possessed a most unusual memory of its entire contents.'
Here are hints as to his early pursuits: 'After getting to Ohio in
1805, he was for some time rather afraid of the Indians and their
rifles, but this soon wore off, and he used to hang about them quite as
much as was consistent with good manners and learned a trifle of their
talk.  His father learned to dress deer-skins, and at six years old
John was installed a young Buck-skin.  He was, perhaps, rather
observing, as he ever after remembered the entire process of deer-skin
dressing, so that he could at any time dress his own leather, such as
squirrel, racoon, cat, wolf, and dog skins, and also learned to make
whiplashes, which brought him some change at times, and was of
considerable service in many ways.  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, and during the warm season might generally be
seen barefooted and bareheaded, with buck-skin breeches suspended often
with one leather strap over his shoulder, but sometimes with two.  To
be sent off through the wilderness alone to very considerable distances
was particularly his delight; in this he was often indulged, so that by
the time he was twelve years old he was sent off more than a hundred
miles with companies of cattle.  He followed up with tenacity whatever
he set about so long as it answered his general purpose, and thence he
rarely failed in some good degree to effect the things he undertook.'

'From fifteen years and upward he felt a good deal of anxiety to learn,
but could only read and study a little, both for want of time and on
account of inflammation of the eyes.  He managed by the help of books,
however, to make himself tolerably well acquainted with common
arithmetic and surveying, which he practised more or less after he was
twenty years old.'  'John began early in life to discover a great
liking to fine cattle, horses, sheep, and swine; and as soon as
circumstances would enable him, he began to be a practical shepherd--it
being a calling for which, in early life, he had a kind of enthusiastic
longing, together with the idea that as a business it bade fair to

Here we touch the keynote of this life of manifold outward occupations,
but of one consuming desire.  That PRINCIPAL OBJECT filled his horizon
even in childhood.  He loved to tell how, like his father before him,
he fell captive to the slave's dumb plea and pledged his whole strength
to the chivalrous task of breaking his fetters.  It happened on this
wise.  In those long journeys he was allowed to take, he was the
'business guest' of a slave-owner, who was pleased with his
resourcefulness at such an age. He was the object of curious attention,
and was treated as 'company' at table.  On the estate was a young negro
just his own age, and as intelligent as he.  Young John struck up an
acquaintance with him, and could not fail to contrast the fashion in
which he himself was pampered with the way the young darkie was
coarsely treated with scant fare and ill-housing.  His frequent
thrashings seemed to bruise young John's spirit as much as they did his
flesh.  They were not always administered with the orthodox whip, but
with a shovel or anything else that came first to hand.  Young John
pondered long upon this contrast, and tells us how the iniquity of
slavery was borne in upon his young heart, and he was drawn to this
little coloured playmate, who had neither father nor mother known to
him.  The Bible was the final court of appeal in the Brown family, and
the verdict of that court was that they two--the slave and the
guest--were brothers, so henceforth the instinct of fraternal loyalty
drew young John to 'swear eternal war with slavery.'  That vow, never
recanted or forgotten, became the text of his life.  It interprets all
his vagaries and reconciles what else were hopeless inconsistencies. It
was a devout obsession which made him a wanderer all his days, and in
the end carried him to prison and to death.  To a child a great call
had come, and a child's voice had replied, 'Speak, Lord, Thy servant
heareth.'  And ears and heart tingled at messages that seemed to come
from the Unseen.



For over thirty years did this man both 'hope and quietly wait for the
salvation of the Lord' to come for the slaves of his land.  The
interval is full of interest for those who care to watch the
development of a life-purpose.  Only for three, or four years was he
destined to figure in the eyes of the world.  Those years, as we shall
hereafter see, were crowded with events; but for a generation he felt
an abiding conviction of impending destiny.

There is something fateful about the constant indications of this
spirit of readiness.  His commercial pursuits were multifarious, but
none of them was greatly successful.  At Hudson, Ohio, till 1825, and
afterwards at Richmond, Pennsylvania, he was tanner, land-surveyor, and
part of the time postmaster.  He became skilful at his father's
business of tanning, but is a typical Yankee in the facility with which
he turns his hand to anything.

From 1835 to 1839 he was at Franklin, Ohio, where we find him adding to
his former occupations the breeding of horses, and also dabbling in
land speculation, with the result that he became bankrupt.  But when he
failed in business he set to work to pay his debts in full.  His death
found him still striving to achieve that end.  He was regarded as
whimsical and stubborn, yet through years of struggle, endeavour, and
even failure he was known as trusty and honourable.

From 1841 to 1846 he lived at Richfield, Ohio, where he took to
shepherding and wool-dealing, which he continued in 1849 at
Springfield, Massachusetts.  He seems to have developed much capacity
for wool-testing.  When he came to England with a cargo of wool, some
English dealers sought to practise a fraudulent joke upon his quick
fingers.  They stripped a poodle of the best of his fleece and handed
it to the oracular Yankee with the inquiry, 'What would you do with
that wool?'  But there was wisdom in him down to the finger-ends, for
he rolled it there, and in a moment handed it back with the confounding
retort, 'Gentlemen, if you have any machinery in England for working up
dog's hair I would advise you to put this into it.'

Had he known how to sell wool as well as he knew how to test it; had he
known how to sell his sheep as well as he knew hundreds of sheep faces
apart, and like a diviner could interpret their inarticulate language;
had he been as apt upon the market as he was upon the farm, he might
have made money.  As it was, there was never more than enough for the
wants of a severely plain household life.

But this business record was (and herefrom its frequent misfortune may
have largely proceeded) in no wise the history of John Brown.  We must
catch, if we can, indications of the unfolding of his soul, and of the
inward preparation for what he felt was his divine destiny; and these
may best be gathered as we watch the simple home life of the family.
At an early age, while residing at Hudson, Ohio, he married his first
wife, Dianthe Lusk; and though he was but twenty years of age, his was
no rash choice.  A description by one who had been brought up with her
may be fitly quoted:  'Plain but attractive, because of a quiet amiable
disposition, sang beautifully, almost always sacred music; she had a
place in the wood not far from the house where she used to go alone to
pray.'  John Brown, servant as he already accounted himself of the
Invisible Powers, is drawn to one who thus communes with the Unseen.
She will have sympathy with his moral aims and a source of strength
when he may be absent from her in pursuit of them.  The sketch
proceeds, 'She was pleasant but not funny; she never said what she did
not mean.'  Here, truly, was the wife for a man in dead earnest and who
could keep a boyish oath even unto death.  For twelve years she proved
a good comrade, and of the seven children of this marriage five
survived, from whom testimonies concerning the domestic life are

The wife who succeeded her (Mary Ann Day) seems to have been no less a
help-meet in his enterprises.  Thirteen children, many of whom died
young, were the off-spring of this second marriage, so that in a
hereditary sense the soul of John Brown may be said to have marched on.

He infected all his children with his passionate love of liberty. Many
are his cares for their spiritual welfare.  Some of them sorely tried
his patience by their aloofness from the Christian conventions that
were dear to him; he yearns over their souls as he fears their
experience of the inner working of grace is not as his own, but they
swerved not in their allegiance to the cause of the slave.  Let us
avail ourselves of some of their memories of their remarkable father.
How early the house became a city of refuge for the runaway negro we
learn from the eldest son, who tells us he can just recollect a timid
knock at the door of the log cabin where they lived.  A fugitive slave
and his wife were there, for they had heard that there were a couple
residing in the house who loved the negro and would lend him a rescuing
hand. They were speedily made to know they were welcome, and the
negress, relieved of her last fear, takes young John in a motherly
fashion upon her knee and kisses him.  He almost instinctively scampers
off to rub the black from his face. Returning, he watches his mother
giving them supper.  Presently father's extraordinarily quick ear
detects the sound of horsehoofs half a mile away; weapons are thrust
into the hands of the terrified pair, and they are taken out to the
woody swamps behind the house to lie in hiding.  Father then returns,
only to discover that it is a false alarm, whereupon he sallies forth
to bring them into shelter and warmth once more, and tells the
assembled family on their arrival how he had difficulty in the dark in
recognizing the hiding-place and really discovered them at length by
hearing the beating of their frightened hearts.  No wonder.  Quick as
any faculty he had was that of hearing a slave's heart beat.  Had it
not been for that keen instinct there would have been no tale to tell
of John Brown.

The daughter says her earliest memory is of her father's great arms
about her as he sang to her his favourite hymn:

  Blow ye the trumpet, blow
  The gladly solemn sound:
  Let all the nations know
  To earth's remotest bound.
  The year of Jubilee is come,
  Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.

Then, ceasing, he would tell her with heart brimming with tenderness of
poor little black children who were slaves.  What were slaves?  she
wanted to know.  And he was ready enough to tell her of those who were
riven from father and mother and sold for base coin, whom in some
States it was illegal to teach their A B C, but quite lawful to flog;
and then the daughter would be asked, by way of application to his
moving discourse, if she would like some of them to come some time and
share her home and food.

Thus continually to that rising family there was unfolded the horror of
the slavery system.  That horror had faded in the minds of many in the
Northern States whose ancestry had held freedom dear; while in the
Southern States, for the most part, the possession of your fellow
creatures as if they were so much farm stock had become too familiar a
feature of common life to evoke any conscientious misgiving, much less
shame.  The enormous additions to the cotton trade had made slave
labour increasingly gainful, and the capital invested in this living
property was immense.  Careful rearing of slaves for the market as well
as their purchase brought wealth to many, and fierce was the resentment
when any one publicly criticized the institution. There was by no means
an absence of humane regard far the wellbeing of the negroes; a kind of
patriarchal tenderness towards them was distinctly 'good form.'  But
there was the deadly fact that they were human goods and chattels, with
no civil rights worth mentioning--for laws in their defence were
practically worthless, seeing they could not appear as witnesses in the
court.  Public whipping-houses were provided for the expeditious
correction of the refractory, and a mere suspicion of intent to escape
was legal justification for the use of the branding-irons upon their
flesh.  If they did contrive to escape there were dogs bred on purpose
to hunt them down.  If the slave resisted his master's will he might be
slain, and the law would not graze the master's head.  Domestic
security he had none, for wife might be wrenched from husband or child
from mother according to the state of the market.  And, strangest of
all to our ears, the pulpits of the South extolled slavery as appointed
of Heaven, and solemnly quoting the prophecy that Ham should be the
servant of his brethren, the pulpiteer would ask who would dare to
resist the will of God Most High?  Not content to hold their views
tenaciously, the slave-holders and their followers dealt out
threatenings and slaughter to all who by lip or pen opposed them.  The
household of Brown pondered all this invasion of the great natural
right of freedom, and with one accord pined for the opportunity of
checking, or, it might be, ending it.

It is on record how they were taught to repeat their father's vow.  It
was in 1839, when they were living at Franklin, Ohio, that he called
them around him, and on bended knee declared the secret mission with
which, he believed, High Heaven had charged him--to labour by word or
sword, by any means opportunity might offer, for the overthrow of
slavery, which he believed to be the very citadel of evil in America.
'Swear, children, swear,' said he; and from that little group in the
log house there went up an appeal for a blessing upon their oath--an
oath which they could truly protest was likely to bring nought to them
but peril, disaster, and, perchance, death, but which they were well
assured must bring glory to Eternal God.  And so their oath was
registered in heaven.

For many years it was only in indirect ways they could promote their
end.  Early they gave themselves to help the tentative endeavours that
were often on foot to educate those slaves who did make good their
escape, and especially to train them to independent agriculture, so
that evidence might be afforded that they could use their liberty to
good purpose, and become useful citizens.  The Browns were always
active in promoting such apprenticeship to freedom.

Two scenes reveal the temper of this united house.  The first is at
Franklin, where in the Congregational Church there are revival services
being conducted, in which the Episcopalians and Methodists are uniting
with their neighbours under the guidance of a fervent evangelist.  The
folk are greatly wrought upon, and are looking for an outpouring of
divine grace.  Among the large assemblies are many coloured folk, some
free and some runaway slaves.  The darkies are directed by judicious
deacons to seats reserved for them near the door, where they will not
vex the eyes of the worshipping whites.  John Brown has swift argument
within him as in his boyish days:  'Has God--their Father and ours--set
any line betwixt His children?  Is He a respecter of persons? And, if
not, can we expect reasonably an outpouring of His grace while in this
ungracious manner we are thwarting Him?  We shall bar the blessing we
seek.'  Rising to his feet, he denounces the distinction in God's
House, then, turning to his own family, who were accustomed to obey
him, and whom he knew agreed with him, he bade them rise and take the
seats near the door while the negroes came and took theirs near the
front.  Nothing loth, both parties did as they were told, to the
confusion of the pious community. Next day pastor and deacons waited
upon the refractory member--John Brown--to 'labour with him,' as the
old church chronicle has it, upon his grave indecorum.  But they found
themselves belaboured with passages from Old Testament and New, and
sundry stout doctrines of the Christian faith, till they retired
discomfited, in their hearts delivering him to Satan that he might
learn not to blaspheme.  But Satan would have none of him, we are sure.

Another instance of the same devotion to the cause of freedom belongs
to rather later days when they had removed to Springfield,
Massachusetts.  There they lived with their wonted simplicity, but it
had been the fond design of mother and daughter to furnish the parlour
in due course.  The moment had arrived when the domestic finances
seemed to allow of this modest luxury, but already John Brown had
designs of another removal to North Elba, New York, where an estate was
being occupied by escaped slaves under the patronage of Gerrit Smith, a
wealthy Abolitionist.  At this juncture he calls his family together
and asks for their mind as to whether they should now furnish the
parlour with their savings or retain them for the help of these black
settlers who require clothes and other equipment as they start their
new life of independence.  The blood of the Browns flows as one stream,
and the ready response of all is 'Save the money, father.'

His favourite books were well known by the children--JOSEPHUS,
Baxter's SAINTS' REST, Bunyan's PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, and Henry ON
MEEKNESS.  What a significant medley of peace and war--the wolf and the
lamb--Napoleon and Henry on Meekness side by side!  But dearest ever
was the Book which had been the oracle in his father's house--itself
the Book of battles and yet the gospel of peace, the sacred charter of
man's liberties and yet the holy statute book for man's government--the
Bible.  Swift paternal correction was there for any misquotation from
that Book; it was a Book not to be lightly paraphrased, but LEARNED AND
OBEYED.  In his own Bible there are pencillings that reveal at once the
secret springs of his strange, and to outward seeming, erratic life.
Thus these passages are marked:  'Remember them that are in bonds, as
bound with them.'  'Whoso stoppeth his ear at the cry of the poor, he
also shall cry and shall not be heard.' 'Whoso mocketh the poor
reproacheth his Maker.'  'He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto
the Lord.'

Above all passages, perhaps, was this quoted--Isa. lviii. 6:  'Is 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?  Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that
thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?'  If ever man kept
that chivalrous fast before the Lord it was John Brown.

The last stage in what we may call the long preparation of John Brown
for the prominent labours of his life reveals still further how the
passionate love of the cause of liberty burned as a fire in the bones
of this family.  They were attracted by the proposal of Gerrit Smith,
to celebrate the passing of West Indian Emancipation with the offer of
100,000 acres of his wild land in the north of New York State for
coloured families to settle upon. Eager for the success of the
experiment, Brown and his sons were prepared to start pioneering in the
new region, so as to be near at hand to encourage and assist the new
settlers.  Prepared to choose their location as they deemed the
exigencies of the great cause demanded, they settled at North Elba in
what was then a wilderness in Essex county, and commenced to live a
life of sterner simplicity than before, hewing in the forests, and
clearing with axe and fire the land which they then proceeded to
cultivate, obtaining food and clothes as those must who have neither
store nor tailor near.  There, with one room beneath that served by
day, and two rooms overhead that served by night, they lived, and not
discontentedly, for if there was little space or grandeur within there
was plenty without; and John Brown, who was no mere conqueror of
Nature, but a lover of her beauty, revelled in the glories of that
untamed land, with its mountains wooded to their summits, with its
frowning gorges and rushing torrents and its richly scented air.  Best
of all there were black settlers around whom they could help and thus
forward their life-work, proving that the race they vowed should be
free could appreciate and justify the boon.



Thus, then, did this family live their life of preparation.  But
eventful days were at hand, and John Brown felt that his real life-work
had yet to come.  'I have never,' he said, 'for twenty years made any
business arrangement that would prevent me at any time from answering
the call of the Lord.  I have kept my affairs in such a condition that
in two weeks I could wind them up and be ready to obey that call,
permitting nothing to stand in the way of duty, neither wife, children,
nor worldly goods; whenever the time should come, I was ready.'  Now
truly it seemed as if 'God's judgements' were to be abroad in the
earth, as if He was 'travelling in the greatness of His strength,
mighty to save' the oppressed; as if 'the Day of Vengeance' were in His
heart, and the 'Year of His redeemed was come'; and, said John Brown's
heart, 'He shall find one loyal henchman; I am ready.'

John Brown's call seemed to come after this wise.  The enrolment of
each New State in the Union was the occasion of fierce contention as to
whether the territories should be free or whether slavery should be
permitted.  Each party had sought at such junctures to score an
advantage, for the balance was often a very fine one between them.

The spirit of compromise had from the earliest days prevailed upon the
thorny question.  Washington was against slavery. Statesmen like Adams,
Franklin, Madison, and Munroe had opposed it; but others had been
willing to purchase the preservation of Union by concessions to the
South, and toleration had been their consistent policy.

The Missouri compromise in 1820 had apparently settled the question as
to the new State of Kansas, for all future States north of the latitude
36d 30m were to be free.  But at the enrolment of Kansas the slave
party circumvented this statute, and ensured local option for the State
upon this matter.  In 1854 the new State of Kansas proceeded to
determine for itself once for all by popular election the grave
question whether she was to be a Slave or a Free State.  But in these
young States, which were being almost daily reinforced by new
residents, each at once entitled to vote, the slave party saw a rare
opportunity for the manufacture of faggot votes.  What was to hinder
the inhabitants of Missouri, the neighbouring State--who were slavery
men--from going over in a body and voting!  Couldn't men migrate and
change their minds?  Scandalous, you say.  It was.  But the scandal was
actually perpetrated.  None other than the acting Vice-President of the
United States advised this course, and he found many ready to improve
upon his instructions.  One official stated:  'To those who have qualms
of conscience as to violating laws, State or National, I say the time
has come when such impositions must be disregarded, since your rights
and property are at stake.  And I advise you one and all to enter every
election district in Kansas and vote at the point of the bowie-knife
and, the revolver.'

Thus, a thousand strong, with two cannon in their procession, the armed
ruffians went to vote at an election out of their own State.  If brave
election judges protested--and some did, in spite of cocked pistols at
their heads (like true lawyers ready to die for justice' sake)--and
required the mob to establish their claims, they were overpowered; the
ruffians seized the ballot-boxes, and in the end there were 4,908 votes
cast, though there were only 1,410 genuine voters in the State.  Such
was the deliberate report of a committee years after.  The Legislature
thus elected met and were suffered to make a Statute Book for the young
State.  Penalties of imprisonment and death were liberally appointed
for all who should dare to resist the institution of slavery.

With such legislation to shield their lawlessness, ruffians belonging
to the class of 'mean whites' commenced a series of barbarous outrages
in the interests of the slave-holders--a series sickening to
contemplate.  Two instances may be quoted which are typical:

A ruffian bets that he will scalp an Abolitionist in true Indian
fashion, and rides out in search of his prey.  A gentleman known to be
opposed to slavery is met in a gig and shot; and, taking his scalp, the
drunken fiend rides back, and producing the promised spoil, claims his

Another leader of the Free-State men is surrounded by these desperate
ruffians, and his skull and brain are cloven with a hatchet.  In
fiendish glee they dance upon the almost breathless man, who vainly
pleads, 'Do not abuse me, I am dying.'  The only response is a shower
of tobacco juice from their filthy lips into his pleading eyes.  With
his last breath he says, 'It is in a good cause,' and so
dies--slaughtered because he dared to say others should share in his
right of liberty.  True, dying man, the cause is good and will triumph,
though thou and many others die first!

Such scenes roused the ire of the long-suffering Free-State men of
Kansas.  Redress there was none, save in their own right arm, for, as
Emerson says, 'A plundered man might take his case to the court and
find the ring-leader who has robbed him dismounting from his own horse
and unbuckling his knife to sit as judge.'

They were not without allies.  There might be no government aid from
Washington, but throughout the North were men who loved the cause of
Abolition better than their own ease, and they came in ever-increasing
numbers.  Amongst them were several of Brown's upgrown sons, followed
by their father, ready to settle in this new State, where they might
turn the tide of public opinion in favour of Freedom.

Thus slowly the ranks of the righteous lovers of liberty were
replenished, and they began to form into bands for mutual protection,
farming and soldiering by turns as necessity dictated.

Some of John Brown's Northern friends, who knew the stuff of which he
was made, and saw that if Freedom had no blow struck on her behalf she
would be driven by outrage-mongers out of Kansas, equipped him with
money and rifles, or, as they had come to be called, 'Beecher
Bibles'--a tribute to Henry Ward Beecher's ardent championship of
advanced views upon the slavery question.

On October 6, 1855, he arrived at Osawatomie, and we find him writing
cheery words to his brave second wife and their family whom he had
left, telling them to hope in God and comfort one another, humbly
trusting they may meet again on God's earth, and if not--for his vow is
'to the death'--that they may meet in God's heaven.  Of that second
wife--heroine in obscurity, sharer of the oath which ever knit the
household in one, mother of thirteen children--we might say much, but
her spirit breathes in these words she speaks concerning her solitary

'That was the time in my life when all my religion, all my philosophy,
and all my faith in God's goodness were put to the test.  My husband
was away from home, prostrated by sickness; I was helpless from
illness; in one week three of my little ones died of dysentery--this
but three months before the birth of another child.  Three years after
this sad time another little one, eighteen months old, was burned to
death.  Yet even in these trials God upheld me.'

Such was the wife who, while John Brown fought for liberty, grudged him
not to such a cause, and patiently trained others who should bear his
name worthily in days to come.



John Brown was now at his work; no longer the mere fingers, but the
soul of him had found a task.  He set before himself this object, to
free Kansas from the slave-holders' grip.

The Free-State men had met and agreed to pay no taxes to a Legislature
illegally elected.  They organized a rival government, and brought
themselves into violent antagonism to the Federal Authorities at
Washington--for President Pierce and his Cabinet, which included the
renowned Jefferson Davis, backed the pro-slavery Legislature and its
following of ruffians.  The town of Lawrence, which the Free Staters
held, was taken and pillaged by a wild mob under the leadership of the
United States Marshal, and we find the Browns in a company marching to
its relief. There was much skirmishing, during which two of Brown's
sons were taken prisoners.  Only the constant vigilance and undaunted
courage of a few desperately bold men kept heart in the lovers of
liberty.  But they (often led by John Brown) escaped the government
officials who sought to arrest them and sped to the help of those who
were marked as the victims of the marauders. So slowly did the Federal
Authorities awake to the situation that for a time there seemed little
protection to be expected for persecuted lovers of liberty.

We must now form some estimate of the two sides in this irregular
warfare in which John Brown all through the summer of 1856 was so
prominently engaged.

On the one hand were those whom the slave-holders relied upon for the
most part to do their dirty work--ruffians, many of them from the
neighbouring State; men who did not work, but who lived a wild
life--not cultivating a tract of land around their rude dwelling-place
like honest settlers, but fishing, shooting, and thieving for a
living--preferring the atmosphere of a Slave State as more favourable
to their life of lawlessness and plunder, and finding inspiration in
the whisky-bottle for such deeds of devilry as have been described.

Upon the other side, waging a guerilla warfare--for little else was
possible against enemies who preferred sneaking outrages to pitched
battles--were little companies of some score or two. Captain John
Brown's company was ever to the fore.  He felt that outrage had gone
far enough unchecked, and that it was time honest men took the
aggressive and struck terror into cowards' hearts.  They were not
without fierceness, but it was the fruit of honest anger.  Rifles in
their judgement went not ill with Bible-reading and prayer--but we have
heard of such before. Armed Roundheads and Scotch Covenanters combined
prayer with sword exercise.  In this camp, morning and evening prayers
were an institution; uncivil treatment of prisoners was a gross
offence; no intoxicating liquors were permitted.  One by-law runs:
'All profane, vulgar, or ungentlemanly talk shall be discountenanced.'
What!  do these rough men set themselves up to be gentlemen!  Yes,
according to Emerson's own meaning when he says of Brown's supporters:

'All gentlemen, of course, are on his side.  I do not mean by
"gentlemen" people of scented hair and perfumed handkerchiefs, but men
of gentle blood and generosity, "fulfilled with all nobleness," who,
like the Cid, give the outcast leper a share of their bed; like the
dying Sidney, pass the cup of cold water to the wounded soldier who
needs it more.  For what is the oath of gentle blood and knighthood!
What but to protect the weak and lowly against the strong oppressor!
Nothing is more absurd than to complain of this sympathy, or to
complain of a party of men united in opposition to slavery.  As well
complain of gravity or the ebb of the tide.  Who makes the
Abolitionist!  The slave-holder. The sentiment of mercy is the natural
recoil which the laws of the universe provide to protect mankind from
destruction by savage passions.  And our blind statesmen go up and
down, with committees of vigilance and safety, hunting for the origin
of this new heresy.  They will need a very vigilant committee, indeed,
to find its birthplace, and a very strong force to root it up.  For the
arch-abolitionist, older than Brown, and older than the Shenanndoah
Mountains, is Love, whose other name is Justice--which was before
Alfred, before Lycurgus, before Slavery, and will be after it.'

John Brown and, at one time, six of his sons were in the company. Many
were rejected who offered for service, not for lack of physical
stature, but moral.  'I would rather,' said John Brown, 'have the
smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera all together in my camp than a man
without principles.  It is a mistake to think that bullies are the best
fighters.  Give me God-fearing men--men who respect themselves; and
with a dozen of them, I will oppose a hundred of these ruffians.'
These are the men, then, who were found in Kansas woods, with bare
heads and unkempt locks, in red-topped boots and blue shirts, taking
their hasty meals or fitful sleep, their horses tied to the tree-trunks
ready for swift mounting at the first signal of danger.  No sounds of
revelry betray their hiding-place; the spirit of the man in their
midst, with Puritan nobility in his rugged face, and a strange,
awe-inspiring unworldliness in his talk, has entered into them. No
novice is he in the affairs of either world--this or the Unseen.  At
night he will look up to the stars that glitter above the still camp
and talk like a theologian, moralizing upon the fact that while God's
stars are unerring in their courses God's human creatures are so
erratic.  But he is no mere dreamer; you may see him, when the enemy is
known to be near, sleeping in his saddle, with his gun across it, that
he may be no sooner awake than ready.  One who knew not of this habit
was once imprudent enough to touch him in his sleep, as he wanted to
speak to him; he had only time to knock up the swiftly pointed barrel
with his hand and John Brown's bullet grazed the intruder's shoulder.

One of the first deeds in this campaign, and the one that certainly
first turned the tide and caused the pro-slavery ruffians to feel that
they had need to look to their own safety, and would not be suffered
with impunity to murder whom they chose and fire honest men's houses
like fiends let loose, was the midnight massacre at Pottawatomie.
Along a certain creek there lived five of these incendiaries and
outrage-mongers who were specially notorious.  A report reached Brown
that they were sworn to sweep the neighbourhood clear of Abolitionists,
not forgetting 'those Browns.'  That they were to be kept in terror by
such a gang seemed to Brown an unrighteous state of things, and he
formed the desperate design of visiting them first.  But he loved not
slaughter for slaughter's sake.  Not only could he strike upon
occasion, but he could be just in his rough-and-ready fashion.  He
argued within himself, 'I shall be right in killing these men if I am
sure they intend these murders, but I will not act upon mere report.'
Disguising himself, he started with two men to carry a surveyor's
chain, and one to carry a flag.  No coward was this man.  He would put
his life in peril rather than act on mere suspicion.  So he ran his
lines past the houses of these five men, and they naturally came out to
see what this surveying business was.  Brown told them, as he looked
through his instrument and waved the flagman to this side or that,
'Yours is a grand country.  Are there many Abolitionists about here?'
In his pocket-book he jotted down the answer 'Yes,' and, swearing great
oaths, they told him that they meant to sweep the region clear of them
in a week.  'Are there some called Brown?'  'Yes,' and man by man they
swore the Browns should be killed by their hands.  Back he went saying
to himself, 'If I understand the Book these are murderers, they have
committed murder in their hearts.' Ere many nights were passed eight
men were requisitioned from the camp.  They stole forth armed with
short cutlasses, and next morning the ghastly news spread abroad that
five corpses had been found by that creek.  John Brown, jun., said,
'The only statement that I ever heard my father make in regard to this
was "I did not myself kill any of those men at Pottawatomie, but I am
as fully responsible as if I did."'  It was a terrible act; we cannot
wonder that it came as a great shock to many who had the cause of
liberty at heart, but when questioned about it the old man was always
reticent, and would only say, 'God is my Judge.'

The result was unmistakable.  From that moment John Brown's name became
a terror to the evildoers of that quarter.  The free settlers felt
there was another fate than extermination for them, and the impotent
administration at Washington first began to see that this hitherto
submissive majority of free settlers must be reckoned with.  A writer
said years after, 'It was like a clap of thunder from a clear sky.'
There are acts that can only be morally estimated by a careful
consideration of the prevailing circumstances, and in this case they
are such as we, well housed and protected folk, thank God, know not.
Those who knew this man through and through were swift to testify,
'Whatever may be thought of John Brown's acts, John Brown himself was
right.'  No personal end had he to serve; his harvest was privation,
suffering, death.  He had no personal vengeance to wreak, and when
revengeful words were spoken in his hearing he soon lifted the
conversation to a sublime level.

'That,' said he, 'is not a Christian spirit.  If I thought I had one
bit of the spirit of revenge I would never lift my hand.  I do not make
war on slave-holders, but on slavery.'

Henceforth John Brown's little band was famous.  A few days after the
Pottawatomie tragedy we find him engaging a company under Captain Fate,
who professed, with doubtful authority, to be the emissary of the
Government.  Hearing after prayer meeting one Sunday they are in the
neighbourhood, he is quickly in pursuit as soon as night has set in,
and in the morning with a handful of men he is exchanging brisk fire
with the enemy.  Presently Fred Brown, a wild-looking man of the woods,
who has been left in charge of the horses, comes riding upon a pony
none too large for its ungainly burden.  He waves his long arms,
shouting, 'Come on, boys, we've got 'em surrounded and cut off their
communications.' The enemy are scared at the apparition, and their
captain, thinking there is no fathoming the plots of these Browns,
sends a lieutenant forward with a flag of truce.  John Brown asks, 'Are
you captain!'  'No.'  'I will talk with him, not with you.' Captain
Fate advances with much parley.  'Any proposition to make?'
impatiently asks John Brown.  'No.'  Then he (John Brown) has
one--unconditional surrender; and with eight men he has soon secured
twenty prisoners.  So all through that summer Brown was wellnigh
ubiquitous in harassing the enemy, and their dispatches betray their
terror of him by ludicrous exaggerations of his achievements.  But it
is certain he lived as nearly up to his terrible reputation as he
could.  At Franklin, at Washington Creek, and at Osawatomie we find him
in evidence.  Here are extracts from his letters in reference to the
attack made by the pro-slavery men at the last-mentioned place.  'On
the morning of August 30 an attack was made by the ruffians on
Osawatomie, numbering some 400, by whose scouts our dear Frederick was
shot dead.'  (This was his son, and it was by a Methodist preacher's
rifle he was killed.  Such was the support which the pulpit sometimes
gave in those turbulent days to the slavery cause.) 'At this time I was
about three miles off, where I had some fourteen or fifteen men
over-night that had just enlisted under me.  These I collected with
some twelve or fifteen more, and in about three-quarters of an hour I
attacked them from a wood with thick undergrowth.

'With this force we threw them into confusion for about fifteen or
twenty minutes, during which time we killed or wounded from seventy to
eighty of the enemy--as they say--and then we escaped as we could with
one killed, two or three wounded, and as many more missing.  Jason
(another son) fought bravely by my side.  I was struck by a partly
spent shot which bruised me some, but did not injure me seriously.
"Hitherto the Lord has helped me, notwithstanding my afflictions."'

Later there was a futile attack upon Lawrence by 2,700 Of the Border
ruffians, and while the governor claimed afterwards the credit for the
failure of the attack, it is certain that his dilatory intervention had
less to do with the result than the prompt action of a couple of
hundred defenders of the place who made a dash outwards towards the
advancing rabble.  Mounted on a grocer's box in the main street, John
Brown thus addressed them before action:  'If they come up and attack
don't yell, but remain still.  Wait till they get within twenty-five
yards of you:  get a good object:  be sure you see the hind sight of
your gun--then fire.  A great deal of powder and lead is wasted on
aiming 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 the
neglect of this that I myself have so many times escaped; for if all
the bullets that have ever been aimed at me had hit, I should have been
as full of holes as a riddle.'

All these skirmishes from a military point of view were trivial, but
from a political standpoint they were crucial.  They saved Kansas, and
made free election at length possible.  Brown and his men were
'incarnate earnestness,' says one writer, and it was that fervent
devotion which made all that followed possible.  It became impossible
for a government to wink at arson and murder. 'Take more care to end
life well than to live long,' the old man used to say, and he
exemplified his doctrine.

His reckless bravery was proverbial.  After one of their successful
skirmishes a wounded Missourian wished greatly to see the redoubtable
John Brown before he died.  The captain went to the wagon where he lay
and said, 'Here I am; take a good look at me; we wish you all no harm.
Stay at home, leave us alone, and we shall be friends.  I wish you
well.'  The dying man looked at him from head to foot, and, reaching
out his hand, said, 'I don't see as you are so bad.  You don't look or
talk like it.  I thank you.'  Clasping his hand, the old captain said,
'God bless you,' and his tears were the Amen.  Thus tender was he ever
with his prisoners, despite his fierceness.

At length the United States Government saw the free settlers were in no
abject mood, and stepped in to their relief.  John Brown saw the dawn
of better days, and then travelled away northward, worn and sick, with
a fugitive slave as a kind of trophy hidden in his wagon.  Before long
he found security and peace for a while at North Elba, New York, at the
house of Gerrit Smith.



We now find John Brown busy for a while in the Northern States
addressing Abolitionist meetings, collecting funds for the cause, and
co-operating with the Anti-slavery Committees, of which there were
several thousands.  In many homes where the friends of freedom lived he
was a welcome guest, not least welcomed by the children, who always
seemed to refresh his weary heart.  'Out of the mouths of children,' as
the psalmist says (according to one version), 'God gives strength to
true men.'  You might often have seen him holding up a little
two-year-old child, saying, 'When John Brown is hanged as a traitor she
can say she used to stand on John Brown's hand.'  He was no false

Now also he was able to revisit, after two years' absence, the old
homestead where his wife and children were awaiting him, down to the
little one whom he had left an infant in the cradle. 'Come,' says the
strange father to the little prattler, 'I have sung it to all of them;
I must sing it to you.'

  Blow ye the trumpet, blow
  The gladly solemn sound:
  Let all the nations know
  To earth's remotest bound.
  The year of Jubilee is come,
  Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.

In strains to which a soul on fire gave enchantment and a tunefulness
of their own he sang that song of Moses and the Lamb, telling of the
Jewish charter of Liberty to which Christ in His turn gave larger
meaning; and the little eyes in the room beheld a transfigured face
which they remembered when he had ceased blowing the trumpet of
Jubilee, and when they sang the same hymn as they laid him beneath the
sod outside that cabin door.

But not long could he stay at home.  The year of Jubilee for all these
bondmen was his one thought, and he found friends who regarded him as a
tried man and were prepared to trust him implicitly.  Such men as
Beecher and Theodore Parker gave him help spiritual; men like the
wealthy Stearns gave him help financial to the extent of many thousand
dollars, and were content to know that John Brown, however he spent it
(and concerning his plans he was always reticent), would have but one
object--liberty to the captive.

One way in which it was spent was in the working of what was then known
as the underground railway.  The opportunist statesman--Henry Clay--had
led many Northern voters to tolerate the passing of the Fugitive Slave
Law, under which the Federal Government facilitated the enforced return
of fugitive slaves found in free states to the plantations of the
South.  And the Abolitionists in the North, as a set-off against this
detested legislation, gave themselves with much zest to aid the runaway
slave.  If a slave could escape to the swamps or the forest and elude
the bloodhounds on his track, he knew that at certain points he would
find those who were prepared to house him, and, passing him on secretly
from station to station, ensure his arrival at a terminus where he
would be safe for life.  That was Canada, the country where the Union
Jack waves--the flag of 'Britons' who 'never shall be slaves' and are
prepared to grant to all the priceless boon they claim themselves.
This escape was called 'shaking the paw of the lion.'  May that British
lion never be transformed into a sleek tiger; may his paw ever be
outreached to a runaway slave, and his roar be a terror to all who
would market in human flesh and blood!

This chain of well-known houses and locations was called the
underground railway; and, spite of penalties of imprisonment oft
inflicted, it never lacked porters or guards; and if the trains did not
always run to time it was because they were very cautious against
accident.  Some 30,000 passengers were probably conveyed on this line.
You will not be surprised to find John Brown an active 'guard,' and
under the name of 'Shubel Morgan' or 'Hawkins' he did good service
there.  See him making his way with twelve fugitive slaves from
Missouri, through Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan to
Canada.  It is the dead of winter, and the rough wagons travel heavily
and slowly along the drifted roads.  There is a price on his head in
these Southern States--3,250 dollars offered conjointly by the Governor
of Missouri and President Pierce--and the stations are sometimes thirty
miles apart.  They come to a creek, and there is the State Marshal
awaiting them with eighty armed men--for he thought he had better have
a good force, as he heard it was John Brown he might encounter.  John
puts his host of twenty-three men all told into battle array in front
of the wagons, and gives the laconic order, 'Now go straight at 'em,
boys, they are sure to run.' Into the water his men charge--but the
baptism of water is all they are fated to pass through; there is no
baptism of fire to follow, for, scared at the impulsive charge, and
filled with vague terror at that irrepressible John Brown, the Marshal
springs upon his horse and skedaddles.  His men scramble to their
horses.  Some cannot untie them from the shrubs quickly enough; several
animals carry two men, and, to complete the ludicrousness of the scene,
one man, fearing he might be too late, grips fast the tail of the steed
to which the proper rider has just set spurs, and, vainly trying to
spring on behind, is seen with his feet off the ground, being whirled
through the air.  A few prisoners are speedily added to Brown's little
company, who, thinking it is perhaps prudent to keep men off horseback
who were so prone to flight, orders them to walk.

But he has ideas of courtesy, has this rough old warrior, and says he
means them no unkindness and will walk with them.  Such a favourable
opportunity must in no wise be missed, so the old soldier-prophet gives
them his mind upon the wickedness of slave-holding and the meanness of
slave-hunting, which discourse, let us hope, is not wholly unfruitful.
When he has held them for one night he thinks they have been brought
far enough from their haunts to prevent further mischief, and sets them
free.  That one night spent with him they are not likely to forget.  He
would not so much as allow them the privilege of swearing.  'No taking
of God's name in vain gentlemen; if there is a God you will gain
nothing, and if there is none you are fools indeed.'  Such is the old
man's plain argument.

One of them, a harum-scarum young physician, is taken specially under
charge by John Brown.  Before retiring Brown desires him to pray.  'I
can't pray,' he says, with an oath.  'What, did your mother never teach
you?'  asks Brown.  'Oh yes,' he replies; 'but that was a long time
ago.'  'Well, you still remember the prayer she taught you?'  continued
Brown.  'Yes,' is the answer.   'Say that for want of a better,' is the
order.  Then, to the amusement of all, the poor doctor repeats the

  And now I lay me down to sleep,
  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Said the young doctor after he was released, 'John Brown knows more
about religion than any man I ever met.  He never used harsh language;
we were treated like gentlemen; we shared food with them.  Only it went
against the grain to be guarded by niggers.'

Thus the journey proceeds.  As they get farther north there is more
bark than bite about the opposition they encounter.  In the street at
one town where they are sheltered, Brown strolls alone and finds a
champion of slavery haranguing the crowd and denouncing Brown as a
reckless, bloody outlaw, a coward who skulked and would never fight in
the open.  Warming to a climax the orator proclaims, 'If I could get a
sight of him I would shoot him on the spot; I would never give him a
chance to steal any more slaves.'  'My friend,' says a plain-looking
countryman--no other than John Brown himself--on the outskirts of the
throng, 'you talk very brave; and as you will never have a better
opportunity to shoot old Brown than right here and now, you can have a
chance.'  But his powder was damped--or his courage!

Now the journey is over.  The twelve fugitives have become thirteen,
for a little infant has been born on the march, never to know, thank
God, the horrors the mother has left behind.  The child is named after
his deliverer 'John Brown,' who conducts them safely across the ferry
and places them under the shelter of the Union Jack on the Canadian
shore.  Then the old man reverently pronounces his 'Nunc dimittis,'
'Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have
seen Thy salvation.'  'I could not brook the thought that any ill
should befall them, least of all that they should be taken back to
slavery.  The arm of Jehovah has protected us.'  Before many months
those rescued ones were weeping at the news that John Brown was
condemned to die, and were saying 'Would that we could die instead.'



John Brown now prepared for his final effort, for the enterprise he had
espoused and the sacrifice he had sworn to make for it were to be
completed by his death.  'There is no way of deliverance but by blood,'
had become his settled conviction upon this slavery question.  And
truly it seemed so.  The Slave States were waxing fiercer in their
unholy enterprise.  The reopening of the market for freshly imported
slaves from Africa was openly advocated--indeed, prices were offered
for the best specimens, as if it were a mere cattle trade.  'For sale,
400 negroes just landed,' was placarded in Southern streets; and to
complete the grim situation a prize was proposed for the best sermon in
defence of the slave trade.  Surely the Lord gave not 'the word,' but
'great was the company of the preachers' who were prepared to publish

John Brown felt that the fullness of time was come for a desperate
stroke.  Desperate indeed it was.  From a military point of view it was
madness.  He resolved to hire a farm in Maryland, near to the great
armoury at Harper's Ferry in the Slave State of Virginia, and there
diligently and silently to store arms.  Then with a small company he
would seize Harper's Ferry.  Having possessed himself of its stores, he
would retreat to the mountains, where he hoped there would be
considerable rallying to his standard.  Holding his own amid mountain
fastnesses of which he had acquired an intimate knowledge, he thought
he might at last become strong enough to make terms with the Government.

We next find him passing as Isaac Smith, a Maryland farmer--known to
his neighbours as a demure, somewhat eccentric, son of the soil.  Three
of his sons, true to the vow, were with him.  Little thought the
farmers around that hard by that farmhouse a few thousand weapons were
stored and that a little band of mysterious strangers was gathering
there, but so it was.  To the last there was much opposition to Brown's
impulsive scheme.  Once, indeed, he resigned leadership, but the little
group passed a horrible five minutes of bereavement and then re-elected
him with many promises of support.  Sublime old madman!--if mad indeed
he was! Had he not made them all feel like himself, 'that they have but
one life and once to die; and if they lose their lives perchance it
will do more for the cause than their lives would be worth in any other

One reluctant darkie, rescued by him from slavery, was challenged to
say what he would do.  He hesitated--looked at his shaggy old
benefactor, and then, with heart surcharged with gratitude, said, 'I
believe I'll go wid de ole man.'

Ah!  the old man's soul had entered into them--it kept them 'marching
on.'  In the dark, wet night of October 16, 1859, they mustered
quietly.  The captain addressed them, and he was no reckless destroyer
of human life who thus spake:  'Gentlemen, let me press this one thing
on your minds.  You all know how dear life is to you, and how dear your
lives are to your friends; and in remembering that, consider that the
lives of others are as dear.  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.'

Two of them were deputed to hasten, when the town was in their hands,
to Colonel Washington's house, four miles distant--to seize him, free
his slaves, and take the relic of the house, the famed sword of his
illustrious ancestor George Washington, that with this in hand John
Brown might head the campaign.  That feat they actually performed, and
for one brief day their leader bore that sword.

Silently marched that little band of about a score under shelter of the
darkness.  They had their plans complete, even a Constitution ready
framed, should they be successful.  The telegraph wires were cut.  They
contrived to terrify all on guard without firing a shot, and as the sun
rose, Harper's Ferry, arsenal, armoury, and rifle works, and many
prisoners were in the hands of John Brown.  The day wore on, but the
expected reinforcements came not; the spreading news, however, brought
hostile troops around the captured place, and they hourly increased.
Brown took not his one chance of escape to the mountains--why, it is
difficult to say.  In prison afterwards he said his weakness in
yielding to the entreaties of his prisoners ruined him.  'It was the
first time I ever lost command of myself, and now I am punished for
it,' he added.  At another time when questioned he gave fatalistic
answers, and said it was 'ordained so ages before the world was made.'
By afternoon he was on the defensive within the armoury, and a fierce
fight ensued. Even then his simple notions of justice were uppermost,
and to the last as his men fired from the portholes he would be heard
saying of some one passing in the street, 'That man is unarmed don't
shoot.'  Two of his sons--Watson and Oliver Brown--were pierced with
bullets.  As he straightened out the limbs of the second, he said,
'This is the third son I have lost in the cause.'  Always the cause!
The night fell and the fight was in abeyance, but in the morning he was
summoned to surrender, and refused, saying he would die there.  At
length the engine-house, their last resort, held stubbornly, was
captured, and Brown fell, wounded by the sword of a young lieutenant
who had marked him for his stroke.  One of his prisoners who was by
says truly of his last fight, 'Almost any other man who saw his sons
fall would have exacted life for life, but he spared all of us who were
in his power.'  Of the force of twenty-two men, ten were killed, seven
captured and hanged, and five escaped.  On the other side six were
killed and eight wounded.

He was now a captive, suffered to recover from his wounds that he might
die a felon's death.  Many were those who, from various motives, came
to see the wounded prisoner, and from many interviews reported at the
time we may take a few extracts:

Q. Can you tell us who furnished money for your expedition?

A. I furnished most of it myself.  I cannot implicate others.  It is by
my own folly I have been taken.  I could have saved myself had I not
yielded to my feelings.

Q. If you would tell us who sent you, who provided means, it would be
valuable information.

A. I will answer freely and faithfully about what concerned myself,
anything I can with honour, but not about others.  It was my own
prompting and that of my Maker or the devil--whichever you please to
ascribe it to--I acknowledge no master in human form.

Q. Why came you here?

A. To liberate the slaves--the cry of the oppressed is my only reason.
I respect the rights of the poorest coloured folk as much as those of
the most wealthy and powerful.

Q. How do you justify your acts?

A. I think, my friend, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and
humanity--I say it without wishing to be offensive and it would be
perfectly right for any one to free those you wickedly hold in bondage.
I am not here to gratify revenge, but because I pity those who have
none to help them.

Q. Do you consider this a religious movement?

A. The greatest service man can render to God.

Q. Do you consider yourself an instrument in the hands of Providence?

A. I do.

Q. Brown, suppose you had every nigger in the United States, what would
you do with them?

A. Set them free.

Said Governor Wise of Virginia, 'Mr. Brown, the silver of your hair is
reddened by the blood of crime, and you should eschew these hard words
and think of eternity.  You are committing felony by these sentiments.'
Brown replied, 'Governor, I have by all appearances not more than
fifteen or twenty years the start of you in the journey to eternity,
and whether my time has to be long or short I am equally prepared to
go.  There is an eternity behind and an eternity before, and this speck
in the centre, however long, is but comparatively a minute.  The
difference between your tenure and mine is trifling, and you have all
of you a heavy responsibility and it behoves you to prepare more than
it does me.'

The Governor's public testimony was:  'They are mistaken who took Brown
to be a madman.  He is a bundle of the best nerves I ever saw.  He is a
man of clear head, of courage, fortitude, and simple ingenuousness.  He
is cool, collected, and indomitable; and it is but just to him to say
that he was humane to his prisoners, and he inspired me with great
trust in his integrity as a man of truth.  He is a fanatic, vain and
garrulous, but firm, truthful, and intelligent.  He professes to be a
Christian in communion with the Congregational Church of the North, and
openly preaches his purpose of universal emancipation, and the negroes
themselves were to be the agents, by means of arms, led on by white
commanders.  Colonel Washington says that he was the coolest and
firmest man he ever saw in defying danger and death. With one son dead
by his side, and another shot through, he felt the pulse of his dying
son with one hand, held his rifle with the other, and commanded his men
with the utmost composure, encouraging them to be firm, and to sell
their lives as dearly as they could.'

The trial for treason and murder took place in the Virginian Court on
October 27-31, ere he had recovered.  He pleaded for delay till his
health allowed him to give more attention to his defence, but the
request was refused.  So, weak and wounded, he had to lie upon his
pallet with a blanket thrown over him.  His words were few, and to the
same effect as those we have quoted. There was only one verdict
possible in that court--GUILTY--and he was sentenced to be hanged.
Technically there was no other course possible.  The calm verdict of
the CAMBRIDGE MODERN HISTORY upon the raid is correct:  'It was the mad
folly of an almost crazed fanatic . . . the stain still upon him of the
bloodiest of the lawless work done in the name of Freedom; a terrible
outlaw because an outlaw for conscience' sake; intense to the point of
ungovernable passion--heeding nothing but his own will and sense of
right; a revolutionist upon principle; a lawless incendiary, and yet
seeking nothing for himself.'

But while we feel the veracity of these words there comes to our mind
one of Charles Kingsley's impulsive sayings:  'Get hold of one truth,
let it blaze in your sky like a Greenland sun, never setting day or
night.  See it in everything, and everything in it.  The world will
call you a bigot and fanatic, and then fifty years after will wonder
how it was the bigot and fanatic managed to do so much more than all
the sensible men round about him.'

John Brown vindicated that opinion.



The journeys of John Brown's body were now at an end.  Only his soul
was free to travel, and it found its vehicle in letters which carried
thoughts that breathed and words that burned far and wide.

This condemned prisoner had five weeks left of mortal life, and they
were the most fruitful he ever spent.  The greatest achievement of his
life was the marvellous advocacy of the cause conducted from his
prison.  His friend F. B. Sanborn says: 'Here was a defeated, dying old
man, who had been praying and fighting and pleading and toiling for
years, to persuade a great people that their national life was all
wrong, suddenly converting millions to his cause by the silent
magnanimity or the spoken wisdom of his last days as a fettered

He had spoken of a Samson's victory as possibly the great triumph in
store for him.  Even so it was, and in his death and by the manner of
it he mortally wounded his old enemy, Slavery. As the great continent
watched from afar his last days, a thrill passed through it that made
Emancipation a triumphant cause. Efforts to save Brown's life might be
in vain, but Brown's death was helping to save the life of the nation.
His letters from the prison were many and widely circulated.  All he
has to say of himself is that he knows no degradation.  'I can trust
God with the time and manner of my death, believing that for me now to
seal my testimony with my life will do vastly more for the Cause than
all I have done before.  Dear wife and children, do not feel degraded
on my account.'  Humorously he remarks, 'I am worth inconceivably more
to hang than for any other purpose.' 'Say to my poor boys never to
grieve for one moment on my account; and should many of you live to see
the time when you will not blush to own your relation to old John
Brown, it will not be more strange than many things that have
happened.'  '"He shall BEGIN to deliver Israel out of the hand of the
Philistines." This,' said he, 'I think is true of my commission from
God and my work.'  The scaffold had no terrors for him. His trust, he
averred, was firm in that Redeemer who, to European and Ethiopian, bond
and free alike, had brought a year of Jubilee and a great salvation.
But though he asked no pity for himself, he pleaded in every letter for
those who, as he said, were on the 'under-hill' side.  'Weep not for
me,' he wrote home, 'but for the crushed millions who have no
comforter.'  The old text was continually repeated, 'Remember them that
are in bonds as bound with them,' and he bade them abhor with undying
hatred that 'sum of all villanies--slavery.'

His only cause of agitation in the prison was the intrusive
ministration of certain pro-slavery parsons.  He refused to let a man
who 'had the blood of the slaves on his skirts' minister to him.  'I
respect you as a gentleman, but a HEATHEN gentleman,' he would say.
'Don't let such go with me to the scaffold,' he asked.  'I would rather
have an escort of barefooted, bareheaded, ragged slave boys and girls
led by some old grey-headed slave mother.'

A sculptor who had conceived a great admiration for the brave old man
was ambitious to execute a marble bust of him.  He applied to Mrs.
Stearns--Brown's old wealthy supporter--to aid him in his enterprise.
She readily promised to supply all funds, but, said she, 'You will have
a vain journey for the measurements.  He will just say, "Nonsense; give
the money to the poor." You will then say, "Mr. Brown, posterity will
want to know what you looked like," and he will reply, "No consequence
to posterity how I looked; better give the money to the poor." But go
if you will and use my name.'  And off went the eager artist.  With
some difficulty he procured an interview with the prisoner.  But woman
is far-sighted; sure enough the answer came, 'Nonsense; give the money
to the poor.'  But the artist pleaded, 'Posterity will want to see what
you were like.'  Said the man who longed that his work rather than his
memory should live, 'No consequence to posterity how I looked; give the
money to the poor.'  However, the name of Mrs. Steams prevailed at
last, and with a thankful look he said, 'She must have what she
desires; take the measurements.'

The day of execution, December 2, 1859, drew near.  Excitement
increased, and for the first time in the history of the Union the
passport system was introduced by the State Government of Virginia, and
was maintained during the last eight days of Brown's life, lest haply
aid from the North should be organized. Troops were present to the
number of 3,000, around the scaffold at Charlestown, when he was
carried forth to die.  Rumour alleged that he had on the way to the
scaffold taken a slave child from its mother's arms and kissed it.
But, credible as it may have been to many, those who were present knew
he was too closely pinioned and guarded for it to be possible.  He had
little to say--only one word of the glory of the surrounding scenery,
for he was a true son of Nature to the last.  He had placed in an
official's hands a slip of paper with the following words upon it:  'I,
John Brown, am now 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

Upon the scaffold he only bade them be quick, as he was quite ready.
Ready!  Yes, he had been ready many a year, and it was no unwilling
victim that swung mid-air that December morning.

They carried his body to the old log-house he occupied at North Elba,
where it was buried upon the farm.  That farm has been recently
purchased for a public park; and the grave, with the big boulder upon
it, forms a conspicuous feature.  Thousands approach it with reverent
feet, not so much because of the body which lies mouldering there, but
for the sake of the soul which is marching on.  They had sung in
Northern streets a grim ditty during those days of suspense before his
execution, with the refrain, addressed to the Southerner:

  And Old Brown, Osawatomie Brown,
  May trouble you more than ever
  When you've nailed his coffin down.

It contains a true word of prophecy.  Says an American writer: soon
after, 'I meet him at every turn.  John Brown is not dead; he is more
alive than ever he was.'  As that same year the Northern States gird
themselves for the great Presidential contest, determined that at
length a thorough Abolitionist named Abraham Lincoln shall tenant the
White House, it is evident that John Brown's soul is marching on.

When at length fierce civil war breaks out, and those same Northern
States month by month are brought to the sure conviction that Freedom
as certainly as Union is the cause for which they fight, and as through
long disappointment and suspense, lavish effusion of blood, generous
sacrifice of their bravest sons they steadily press to victory under
the ever-patient, dogged leadership of President Lincoln and General
Grant, it is evident that John Brown's soul is marching on.

In the tramp of ten thousands of armed men, in the strains of that
grand old battle-hymn of the Republic, I hear the march of his soul:

  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
  He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
  He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible, swift sword:
  His truth is marching on.
      Glory, glory, hallelujah, &c.

  He hath sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
  He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgement-seat;
  Oh, be swift, my soul!  to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
      Our God is marching on.

  I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
  They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
  I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
      His day is marching on.

  In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
  With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
  As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free!
     While God is marching on.

When Lincoln's first Emancipation Decree (made necessary by the fact
that so many blacks belonging to the disloyal were fighting for the
Union), that all slaves in the Rebel States from New Year's Day, 1863,
shall be free, is promulgated; and when, two years later, the
Constitution is amended so as to forbid slavery all through the
Republic, now again united; when the nation generously provides food,
shelter, and education for the emancipated; and when the freed bondmen
greet their liberty-loving President in Southern streets with shouts of
gratitude and cries of 'Father Abraham'--you may know that John Brown's
soul is marching on.

There in America and elsewhere it continues its march.  Wherever the
swift cruiser speeds in pursuit of the infamous slave-ship, in every
heart-beat of the brave seamen who feel they are on a righteous errand
and will overhaul her in the King's--aye, in God's--name, we hear the
march of John Brown's soul.

When a nation of free men rises up in wrath at the issue of some
official document that seems to be couched in temporizing language on
this supreme subject, or at some government that has tolerated
conditions that approximate slavery, and will have none of it, we know
the old hero's soul is marching on.

Whenever in secret council the ambassador of a free people negotiates a
treaty, and, backed by the most sacred impulses of those he represents,
urges an anti-slavery clause, we know John Brown's soul is on the march.

And march it shall, while nations learn to prize liberty as God's great
chartered right to every man, while they read the shining letters of
the Golden Rule, while they remember that God made all men of one blood
and that all are redeemed by the blood of One.

While God looks down from His heaven and sees the distressed face, or
hears the piercing cry of the oppressed, and can turn the hearts of men
to fight His battles upon earth, the soul of John Brown will be
marching still.

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