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Title: John Brown
Author: Bois, W. E. Burghardt Du
Language: English
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                               Edited by

                    Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, Ph. D.

                    The American Crisis Biographies

Edited by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, Ph.D. With the counsel and advice of
Professor John B. McMaster, of the University of Pennsylvania.

Each 12mo, cloth, with frontispiece portrait. Price $1.25 net; by mail,

  These biographies will constitute a complete and comprehensive
  history of the great American sectional struggle in the form of
  readable and authoritative biography. The editor has enlisted the
  co-operation of many competent writers, as will be noted from the
  list given below. An interesting feature of the undertaking is that
  the series is to be impartial, Southern writers having been assigned
  to Southern subjects and Northern writers to Northern subjects, but
  all will belong to the younger generation of writers, thus assuring
  freedom from any suspicion of war-time prejudice. The Civil War will
  not be treated as a rebellion, but as the great event in the history
  of our nation, which, after forty years, it is now clearly
  recognized to have been.

              Now ready:

          =Abraham Lincoln.= By ELLIS PAXSON OBERHOLTZER.
          =Thomas H. Benton.= By JOSEPH M. ROGERS.
          =David G. Farragut.= By JOHN R. SPEARS.
          =William T. Sherman.= By EDWARD ROBINS.
          =Frederick Douglass.= By BOOKER T. WASHINGTON.
          =Judah P. Benjamin.= By PIERCE BUTLER.
          =Robert E. Lee.= By PHILIP ALEXANDER BRUCE.
          =Jefferson Davis.= By PROF. W. E. DODD.
          =Alexander H. Stephens.= By LOUIS PENDLETON.
          =John C. Calhoun.= By GAILLARD HUNT.
          =“Stonewall” Jackson.= By HENRY ALEXANDER WHITE.
          =John Brown.= By W. E. BURGHARDT DUBOIS.

              In preparation:

          =Daniel Webster.= By PROF. C. H. VAN TYNE.
          =William Lloyd Garrison.= By LINDSAY SWIFT.
          =Charles Sumner.= By Prof. GEORGE H. HAYNES.
          =William H. Seward.= By EDWARD EVERETT HALE, Jr.
          =Stephen A. Douglas.= By PROF. HENRY PARKER WILLIS.
          =Thaddeus Stevens.= By PROF. J. A. WOODBURN.
          =Andrew Johnson.= By PROF. WALTER L. FLEMING.
          =Henry Clay.= By THOMAS H. CLAY.
          =Ulysses S. Grant.= By PROF. FRANKLIN S. EDMONDS.
          =Edwin M. Stanton.= By EDWIN S. CORWIN.
          =Jay Cooke.= By ELLIS PAXSON OBERHOLTZER.

[Illustration: John Brown]


                               JOHN BROWN


                    W. E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS, Ph. D.

              _Professor of Sociology, Atlanta University_

      Author of “The Suppression of the African Slave Trade,” “The
          Philadelphia Negro,” “The Souls of Black Folk,” etc.


                       GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY

                          COPYRIGHT, 1909, BY
                       GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY
                      _Published September, 1909_

                         _All rights reserved_
                          Printed in U. S. A.

                             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
emphasis upon the material which they have so carefully collected, and
to treat these facts from a different point of view. The view-point
adopted in this book is that of the little known but vastly important
inner development 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, Featherstonhaugh, Barry,
Hunter, Boteler, Douglass and Hamilton. But even in the absence of
special material 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.

                                                W. E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS.


                        CHRONOLOGY                 11

                     I. AFRICA AND AMERICA         15

                    II. THE MAKING OF THE MAN      21

                   III. THE WANDERJAHRE            28

                    IV. THE SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP  48

                     V. THE VISION OF THE DAMNED   75

                    VI. THE CALL OF KANSAS        123

                   VII. THE SWAMP OF THE SWAN     145

                  VIII. THE GREAT PLAN            198

                    IX. THE BLACK PHALANX         235

                     X. THE GREAT BLACK WAY       273

                    XI. THE BLOW                  308

                   XII. THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX  338

                  XIII. THE LEGACY OF JOHN BROWN  365

                        BIBLIOGRAPHY              397

                        INDEX                     401


                           BOYHOOD AND YOUTH

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

 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 postmaster.

 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 land.

 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 proposes
              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-merchants.”

 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 take 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 attacks to rid Lawrence of surrounding
              forts, August. Battle of Osawatomie, August 30th.
              Missouri’s last invasion 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, December.

 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, coöperating 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 munitions, June-October. He starts on
              the foray, Sunday, October 16th at 8 P. M. The town and
              arsenal are captured, 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 captured, 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.

                               JOHN BROWN

                               CHAPTER I
                           AFRICA AND AMERICA

  “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, inspired 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 continents 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 unselfish devotion and heroic self-realization:
Benezet, Garrison and Harriet Stowe; 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 they 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 western wanderings of
Coronado in his search for the Seven Cities of Cibola. Something more
than a a decade after the Cavaliers, and a year before the Pilgrims,
they set lasting foot on the North American continent.

These black men came not of their willing, but because of 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 slavery all the more cruel and hideous because
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—“intensely human”; and this too in their very modifications 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. 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 the government were ruthlessly overturned and debauched;
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 backward
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 a century and
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 it was builded into America the thrift of the
searchers of wealth, the freedom of the Renaissance and the stern
morality of the Reformation.

Three lands typified these three things which time planted in 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 passionate 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 Brown.

To the unraveling of human tangles, we would gladly believe that God
sends especial men—chosen vessels that come to the world’s deliverance.
And what could be more fitting than that the human embodiments 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 from goodly stock, possibly, though not sure,
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 respected and esteemed by my
father. He was an earnestly devout and religious man, of the old
Connecticut fashion; and one peculiarity of his impressed his name and
person indelibly upon my memory: he was 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. Consequently, 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.”[1]

In 1800, May 9th, wrote this Owen Brown: “John was born, one hundred
years after his great-grandfather. Nothing else very uncommon.”[2]

                               CHAPTER II
                         THE MAKING OF THE MAN

  “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”[3] roamed in the forests of northern Ohio. He remembered 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 a 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 the 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 a 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.”

The tragedy and comedy of this broad silent life turned on things
strangely simple and primitive—the stealing of “three large brass pins”;
the disappearance 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; finally the shadow of death which
is ever here—the death of a ewe-lamb and the death of the boy’s 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 going 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 considerable distances was particularly his
delight.... 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
discipline but had rather fallen into the mild heathenism 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 can 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

Thus this young freeman of the woods was born into a religious
atmosphere; not that of stern, intellectual Puritanism, but of a milder
and a more sensitive type. Even this, however, the naturally skeptical
bent of his mind did not receive unquestioningly. 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 credentials 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 foresight, 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

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? No, he was active,
intelligent and with the great warm sympathy of his race did the
stranger “numerous little acts of kindness,” 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 motherless with none to protect them or
provide for them, save at the will or caprice of the master—this was to
the half-grown man 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.

                              CHAPTER III
                            THE WANDERJAHRE

  “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell
  asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the

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 beginning his years of
wandering—spiritual searching for the way of life, physical wandering in
the wilderness 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 undertakings.”[4] In this case he
expected to get an education 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 little to help him, for the war was followed
by the “hard times” which are the necessary fruit of fighting. 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 Plainfield. 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 seeing father’s defeat,
father’s own look, and the position of the people and the things in the
old kitchen somehow gave me a fixed recollection of this little

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 must be given up. Several times before he had attempted
regular study, but for the most part these excursions to New England
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 working at the tanner’s and currier’s trade;” and
yet, naturally, ever looking here and there in the world to find his
place. And that place, he came gradually 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 along 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-confidence, notwithstanding his extreme
bashfulness. The habit so early formed of being obeyed rendered him in
after life too much disposed to speak in an imperious or dictating
way.”[6] Thus he spoke of himself, but others saw only that peculiar
consciousness of strength and quiet self-confidence, which characterized
him later on.

Just how far his failure to get a college training 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 decision
that college was impossible came to this strong free spirit with a
certain sense of relief—a relief 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 undertook to study by himself, mastering common
arithmetic and becoming 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 as he quaintly says,
“naturally fond of females, 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 die.”

But youth is stronger even than first love, and the widow who came to
keep house for him had a grown daughter, a homely, good-hearted and
simple-minded country lass; the natural result was that John Brown was
married at the age of twenty to Dianthe Lusk, whom he describes as “a
remarkably plain, but neat, industrious and economical girl, of
excellent character, earnest piety and practical common sense.”[7]

Then ensued a period of life which puzzles the casual onlooker with its
seemingly aimless changing character, its wandering restlessness, its
planless wavering. He was now a land surveyor, now a tanner and now a
lumber dealer; a postmaster, a wool-grower, a stock-raiser, a shepherd,
and a farmer. He lived at Hudson, at Franklin and at Richfield in Ohio;
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 to 1832, seven children were born—six sons
and one girl. The patriarchal ideal of family life handed down by his
fathers, strengthened by his own saturation in Hebrew poetry, and by his
own bent, grew up in his home.

His eldest son and daughter tell many little incidents illustrating his
family government: “Our house, on a lane which connects two main roads,
was built under father’s direction in 1824, and still stands much as he
built it with the garden and orchard around it which he laid out. In the
rear of the house was then a wood, now gone, on a knoll leading down to
the brook which supplied the tan-pits.”[8]

“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
diamond 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 tenderness 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: ‘Read 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 knitting; and when I was learning to spin he
always praised me if he saw that I was improving. He used to say: ‘Try
to do whatever you do in the very best possible manner.’”[9]

“Father had a rule not to threaten one of his children. He commanded and
there was obedience,” writes his eldest son. “My first apprenticeship to
the tanning business consisted of a three years’ course at grinding bark
with a blind horse. This, after months and years, became slightly
monotonous. 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
have a rather long rest, especially when father was absent from home;
and I would then join the others at their play. This subjected me to
frequent admonitions and to some corrections for eye-service as father
termed it.... He finally grew tired of these frequent slight admonitions
for my laziness and other shortcomings, and concluded to adopt with me a
sort of book-account something like this:

               “John, Jr.,
                   “For 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. On a certain Sunday
morning he invited me to accompany him from the house to the tannery,
saying that he had concluded it was time for a settlement. 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 offsets 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 ‘masterly.’ 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 account.
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

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 children.

“When I first began to go to school,” she continues, “I found a piece 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 one until I got
home. Father heard me then telling about it and said, ‘Don’t you know
what girl lost it?’ I told him I did not. ‘Well, when you go to school
to-morrow take it with you and find out if you can who lost it. It is a
trifling thing but always remember that if you should lose anything you
valued, no matter how small, you would want the person who found it to
give it back to you.’” He “showed a great deal of tenderness to me,”
continues the daughter, “and one thing I always noticed was my father’s
peculiar tenderness and devotion to his father. 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 evident in sickness: “When his
children were ill with scarlet fever, he took care of us himself and if
he saw 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.[11]...
When any of the family were sick he did not often trust watchers to care
for the sick one, but sat up himself and was like a tender mother. At
one time he sat up every night for two weeks while mother was sick, for
fear he would oversleep if he went to bed, and then the fire would go
out and she take cold.”[12]

The death of one little girl shows how deeply he 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 that 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 where she could see or hear him. I used to be
charmed myself with his singing to her. He noticed a change in her one
morning 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, ‘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 was very
calm, closed her eyes, folded her hands and laid her in her cradle. When
she was buried father broke down completely and sobbed like a

Dianthe Lusk, John Brown’s first wife, died in childbirth, August 10,
1832, having borne him seven children, two of whom died very young. On
July 11, 1833, 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
four 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 hard-working. No
sooner were the children grown than the wise father ceased to command
and simply asked or advised. He wrote to his eldest son when first he
started in life in characteristic style:

“I think the situation in which you have been placed by Providence at
this early period of your life will afford to yourself and others some
little test of the sway you may be expected to exert over minds in after
life and I am glad on the whole to have you brought in some measure to
the test in your youth. If you cannot now go into a disorderly country
school and gain its confidence and esteem, and reduce it to good order
and waken up the energies and the very soul of every rational being in
it—yes, of every mean, ill-behaved, ill-governed boy and girl that
compose it, and secure the good-will of the parents,—then how are you to
stimulate asses to attempt a passage of the Alps? If you run with
footmen and they should weary you, how should you contend with horses?
If in the land of peace 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 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 practice; I
frankly confess it does not; but I want your face to shine even if my
own should be dark and cloudy.”[15]

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 exceeding reverence toward
him. This speaks for something. Stern, unyielding, Puritanic, requiring
his wife and daughters to dress in sober brown, disliking 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 nurse.”

In his personal habits he was austere: severely clean, sparing in his
food so far as to 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
sedateness 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 son; and while his many children and his varied occupations
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 fruitful.

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’ Rest_, Henry _On Meekness_ and _Pilgrim’s Progress_.
“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.”[16]

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 religious skepticism of his
earlier youth became more formal and straight. The brother of his first
wife says, “Brown 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

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 himself and the
Captivity were in a strait and I have no doubt you will join with me
under similar circumstances. Don’t get discouraged, any of you, but hope
in God, and try all to serve Him with a perfect heart.”[17]

When Napoleon III seized France and Kossuth came to America, Brown
looked with lofty contempt on the “great excitement” which “seems to
have taken all by surprise.” “I have only to say in regard to those
things, I rejoice in them from the full belief that God is carrying out
His eternal purpose in them all.”[18]

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 trying to teach it to his children. The iron of
bitterness entered his soul with the coming of death, and a deep
religious fear and foreboding 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 son was buried with her. In 1843
four children varying in 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 in 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 experienced
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.”[19]

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.”[20]

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
considerable 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

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 have to confess my unfaithfulness to my friend in regard to his
most important interest.... When I think how very little influence I
have even tried to use with my numerous acquaintances and friends in
turning their minds toward God and 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

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 continually:

“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
that this world is not the home of man, and act in accordance. 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,—I am forced to say,
and feel too, that I have little—very little to cheer. That this should
be so is, I perfectly well understand, the legitimate fruit of my own
planting; and that only increases my punishment. Some ten or twelve
years ago I was cheered with the belief 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 disposition 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.”[23]

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 will give up their miserable delusions and believe in God and in
His Son, our Saviour.”[24]

All this is evidence of a striving soul, of a man to whom the world was
a terribly earnest thing. 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
spiritualist, and he himself hearkened for voices from the Other Land.
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 stickling for
detail, a homely shrewd attention to all the little facts of daily
existence. Sometimes this prosaic tinkering with things burdened, buried
and submerged 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 intellectual 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.

                               CHAPTER IV
                       THE SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP

  “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
  keeping watch over their flock by night.

  “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the
  Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.”

The vastest physical fact in the life of John Brown was the Alleghany
Mountains—that beautiful mass of hill and crag which guards the sombre
majesty of the Maine coast, crumples the rivers on the rocky soil of New
England, and rolls and leaps 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 clan. On the sides
of the Alleghanies, he tended his sheep and dreamed of his terrible
dream. It was the mystic, awful voice of the mountains that lured him to
liberty, 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 John 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 importance 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 developments—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 England forced her goods upon us at nominal
prices to kill the new-sprung infant industries; secondly, the new
protection from the competition of foreign 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 spasmodically but tremendously the cotton,
woolen and iron manufactories; and finally, the three whirlwinds of
1819, 1837–1839, and 1857, marking frightful 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. After ten years’ work in
Pennsylvania, he 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 1835. But his prosperity, 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 prices
went down to a specie level. John Brown, his tannery and his land
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 the ways of spiritual doubt and unrest.
For three or four years he seemed to flounder almost hopelessly,
certainly with no settled plan or outlook. He bred race-horses till his
conscience troubled him; he farmed and did some surveying; he inquired
into the commission business in various lines, and still did some
tanning. Then gradually he began to find himself. He was a lover of
animals. In 1839 he took a drove of cattle to Connecticut and wrote to
his wife: “I have felt distressed 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.”[25] 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
introduction of effective machinery had been slow, and one of the chief
drawbacks was ever the small quantity of good wool. Consequently our
chief supply came from England until the embargo and war cut off that
supply and stimulated domestic manufacture. Between 1810 and 1815 the
value of the manufacture increased five-fold, but after the war, when
England sent goods over here below the price, Americans rightly clamored
for tariff protection. This they got, but their advantage was nearly
upset 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 almost prohibitive figures,
save on the cheapest kind. In this way the wool manufacture had by 1828
recovered 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 even though meanwhile the tariff wall was
weakening. Thus by 1841 when John Brown turned his attention to
sheep-farming, there was a large and growing demand for wool, especially
of the better grades, and by the abolition of the English tariff in
1824, there was even a chance of invading 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 for air and space. He
wanted to think and read; time was flying 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. Already he had
broached the matter to friends and 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.”[26]

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 nominal
price, provided he could be allowed to buy on 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
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
acceded to, and that a commission and needful outfit be furnished by the
secretary and treasurer.”[27] The treasurer sent John Brown fifty
dollars and wrote his father, as a trustee of Oberlin, commending the
son’s purpose and hoping “for a favorable 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

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): “I like the country 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 they understand how to manage as well, they
would become rich.”[29]

By the summer of 1840 his work was accomplished with apparent success.
He had about selected his dwelling-place, having “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.”[30]

The Oberlin trustees in August, “voted, that the Prudential Committee be
authorized to perfect negotiations and convey by deed to Brother John
Brown of Hudson, one thousand acres of our Virginia land on the
conditions suggested in the correspondence which has already transpired
between him and the committee.”[31]

Here, however, negotiations stopped, for the renewal of the panic in
1839 overthrew all business calculations until 1842 and later, and
forced John Brown to take refuge in formal bankruptcy in 1842. This
step, his son says, was wholly “owing to his purchase of land on
credit—including the Haymaker farm at Franklin, which he bought in
connection with Seth Thompson, of Hartford, Trumbull County, Ohio, and
his individual purchase of three 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.”[32] Probably after the crash 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 property 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 Rockville,
Conn., a note declaring that “whereas I, John Brown, on or about the
15th day of June, A. D. 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 been legally discharged from my obligations by the
laws of the United States—I hereby agree (in consideration of the great
kindness and tenderness of said company toward me in my calamity, and
more particularly of the moral 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.”[33]

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 surrender of my
effects has placed me, with my numerous family, I fear this year must
pass without my effecting in the way of payment what I have encouraged
you to expect.”[34] 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.”[35] 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 for want of regular troops on
whom to depend.”[36] He again tells his son: “I would send you some
money, but I have not yet received a dollar from any source since you
left. I should not be so dry of funds, could I but overtake my
work;”[37] and then follows the teeth-gritting word of a man whose grip
is slipping: “But all is well; all is well.”[38]

Gradually matters began to mend. His tannery, perhaps never wholly
abandoned, was started again and his wool interests increased. Early in
1844 “we seem to be overtaking our business in the tannery,” he says,
and “I have lately entered into a co-partnership 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 wintering, 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 comfortable 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 mercy to 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 flock. We have nothing to do with
providing for them in the winter, excepting harvesting rutabagas and
potatoes. This I think will be considered 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
unexpected, and 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.”[39]

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 favorable. Hope
we do not entirely forget God,”[40] he writes.

His daughter says: “As a 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
hour or two at a time in his chair, and then would take a lantern, go
out and catch the ewes, and hold them while the lambs sucked. 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. One
Monday morning I had just got my white clothes in a nice warm suds in
the wash-tub, when he came in bringing a little dead-looking lamb. There
seemed to be no sign 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, and
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

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 and worth about $20,000.” The only apparent
danger 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, remained 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 practically
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,
untrained 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 measured
simply in personal wealth. To him business was a philanthropy. We have
not even to-day reached this idea, but, urged on by the Socialists, we
are faintly perceiving it. Brown proposed nothing Quixotic or
unpractical, but he did propose a more equitable distribution of the
returns of the whole wool business between the producers of the raw
material and the manufacturers. He proceeded 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 operations,” he writes March 24, 1846; “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.”[42] For
what indeed were sheep as compared with men, and money weighed with

The plan outlined by Brown before a convention of wool-growers involved
the placing of a permanent 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, commission
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

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 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.”[44]

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.”[45]

Yet great as was this initial prosperity, the business 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;—questions which we evaded yesterday and are trying
to evade to-day, but which we must answer to-morrow. 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 material 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? 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 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 return for
them. That this system was best for the whole trade every one knew, yet
it was weak. It was weak in the same sense that the merchants of the
Middle Ages were weak against the lawless onslaughts of robber barons.
Any compact organization 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 millmen 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 industrial armies in a battle whose victims are paupers and
prostitutes, and whose victory comes by compromising, whereby a
half-dozen millionaires are born to the philanthropic world.

On the other hand, to offer no opposition to organized 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 recognized 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 obdurate. His prices were right
and he thought justice counted in the wool business. The manufacturers
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 inflexible, 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.”[46]

Thereupon the combination turned the screws a little closer. Brown’s
clerks were bribed, and other “competitive” methods resorted to. But
Brown was inflexible and serene. The prospect of great wealth did not
tempt but rather repelled him. Indeed this whole warehouse business,
successful and important as it had hitherto been, was drawing him away
from his plans of larger usefulness. It took his time and thought, and
his surroundings more and more made it mere money-getting. The
manufacturers 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 disquieted
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 attention; 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.’”[47]

The next year, however, came a severe money pressure, “one of the
severest known for many 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, and we are on that account unable to
close our business.”[48] 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 selling wool middling fast of
late, on contract, at 1847 prices;” but he adds, scenting 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.”[49]

Evidently a crisis was approaching. The boycott against the firm was
more evident and the impatience of wool farmers growing. The latter kept
calling for advances on their stored wool. If they had been willing to
wait quietly, there was still a chance, for Perkins and Brown had
undoubtedly the best in the American market and as good as the better
English 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, including freight and commissions,
$57,884.48. His sales had amounted to $49,902.67, leaving him $7,981.81
short, and 200,000 pounds of wool in the warehouse.[50] 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. Indeed, low prices and
cash pleased them better than waiting. But John Brown conceived that a
principle 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 England and sell it,
thus opening up a new market for a great American product? 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.”[51]

In this English venture John Brown showed one weakness of his character:
he did not know or recognize the subtler twistings of human nature. He
judged it ever from his own simple, clear standpoint and so had a sort
of prophetic vision of the vaster and the eternal aspects of the human
soul. But of its kinks and prejudices, its little selfishnesses and
jealousies and dishonesties, he knew nothing. They always came to him as
a sort of surprise, uncalculated 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 knowledge of the technique of sorting and grading
unsurpassed 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, American 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 prejudice to
contend with, as well as conflicting interests both in this country and
from the United States.”[52] 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 American woolen men chuckled audibly:

“A little incident occurred in 1850. Perkins 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 broadcloths, 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 behind him, and
the nervous strides fairly devouring the way. It was his own clip, for
which Musgrave, 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 London, sold, and reshipped, and was in Springfield at eight
cents in the pound less than Musgrave offered.”[53]

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

This English venture was a death-blow to the Perkins and Brown wool
business. It was not entirely 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 straightforward 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 than the Massasoit of Springfield.”[54]
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 becoming

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 elsewhere. The nation was in turmoil
and so was he. At the time Anthony Burns was arrested in Boston he was
advising with his lawyers at Troy. Redpath says:

“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, and said, ‘I am going to Boston.’ ‘Going
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 himself. It took a long earnest talk with old
Brown to persuade him to remain. His memory and acuteness 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.”[56]

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: the boys
are driving on the cattle, and my wife and little girls are at Oneida
depot waiting for me to go on with them.”[57] He returned to farming
again with interest, taking prizes for his stock at state fairs and
raising many sheep. He had 550 lambs in 1853 and 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 carry out that plan.”[58] 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 Alleghanies 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.”[59]

                               CHAPTER V
                        THE VISION OF THE DAMNED

  “Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them.”

There 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 Napoleon 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 thousand 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
repression—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 devotion,
faithful service and light-hearted irresponsibility, 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 and male debauchery; 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,
surrender of body, mind and soul, and unaspiring animal content—toward
this ideal the slave might strive, and did. Wonderful, even beautiful
examples 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 them that did not fit, the sullen were cowed, the
careless brutalized and the rebellious killed. Four things 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 Rio Grande that could not
prostitute her to his lust. Did the proud sons of Virginia and Carolina
stoop to such bestial tyranny? Ask the grandmothers of the two million
mulattoes that dot the states to-day. Ask the suffering 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 Connecticut. A Southern slaveholding minister, Thomson
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 excitement amongst the
people, some in favor and some against Mr. Thomson; there was quite a
debate, 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.”[60]

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 supplant
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: brothers 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 sexes only in play and seldom in work, with its
concomitant tendency toward seclusion and helplessness among its whiter
women. Withal a society strong indeed, but wholly without vigor or

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 longing here and there—noble sacrifice, eager
help, determined emancipation. But all this was local, spasmodic and
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. Under 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 betrayed. Such outbreaks
here and there foretold the possibility of coördinate action and organic
development. To be sure, the successful outbreaks were few and
spasmodic; but the flare of Hayti lighted the night and made the world
remember that these, too, were men.

Among these black men, changes significant and momentous, were coming.
The native born Africans were passing away, with their native tongues
and their wild customs. Such were the slaves of John 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 1776 my father was called into the army at New York, and
left his work undone. In August, our good neighbor, Captain John Fast,
of West Simsbury, let 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, and I fell in love with him.
He worked but a few days, and went home sick with the pleurisy, and died
very suddenly. When told that he would die, he said he should go to
Guinea, 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 Revolutionary army and three
thousand of them fought for their masters’ freedom. After the war, their
bravery, the upheaval in Hayti, and the new enthusiasm for human rights,
led to a wave of emancipation which started in Vermont during the
Revolution 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 complications, 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 light-hearted as
was their nature, still the fire of liberty burned in them. In Louisiana
and Tennessee 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 that never left
the South and never ceased, but ever nerved the remorseless cruelty of
the master’s arm.

One thing saved the South from the blood-sacrifice of Hayti—not, to be
sure, from so 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
unconquered—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 presenting 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 organizing
themselves into a great black phalanx that worked and schemed and paid
and 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 another, and had some chance of asserting their nominal
freedom. Just at the close of the eighteenth 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 Carolina 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 reënforced in 1820. All the time, however,
John Brown’s keen eyes were searching for the way of life and his tender
heart was sensitive to injustice and wrong everywhere. Indeed, it is not
unlikely 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 them submitted as do most people everywhere to force and
fate. To fight singly meant death and to fight together meant plot and
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 tanner 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 probably 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 face ‘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 themselves 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 guests out the
back door and down into the 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 horsemen were people of the
neighborhood going to 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
heart throbbing for fear of capture. He brought them into the house
again, sheltered them a while, and sent them on their way.”[61]

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 filling with settlers until the question of admitting
parts of it as states faced the nation, and led to the Missouri
Compromise. The discussion of the measure was fierce in John Brown’s
neighborhood, and it must have strengthened 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, and just before the sombre days when his earnest young wife died
demented in childbirth and was buried with her babe, occurred the Nat
Turner insurrection in Virginia, the most successful and bloody of slave
uprisings since Hayti.

Squire Hudson, the father of the town where John Brown lived and one of
the founders of Western Reserve University, heard the news in stern joy;
a neighbor met him “one day in September, 1831, coming from his
post-office, 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 Calvinist was exclaiming, ‘Thank God for that! I 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.’”[62]

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 reaction. 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 in John Brown’s native state of Connecticut a white
woman was shamefully persecuted for attempting to teach Negroes. All
this aroused John Brown’s antipathy to slavery and made it more definite
and purposeful. In November of the year which witnessed 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 can 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 considerable privation in order
to buy one. This we are now using means in order to effect, in the
confident expectation 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 I think
that on many accounts it would be a most favorable location. 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 settlement 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 honestly believe
that our united exertions alone might soon, with the good hand of our
God upon us, effect it all.”[63]

Nothing came of this project, except that John Brown grew more deeply
interested. He was now worth $20,000, a man of influence and he felt
more and more moved toward definite action to help the Negroes. They
were keeping up their conventions and the stream of fugitives was
augmenting. The problem, however, was not simply one of slavery. The
plight of the free Negro was particularly pitiable. He was liable to be
seized and sold South whether an actual slave or not; he was
discriminated against and despised in all walks. This was bad enough in
every-day life, but to a straightforward religious soul like John Brown
it was simply intolerable in the church of God. His eldest daughter

“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
(explaining 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

His son tells the details of this incident:

“About 1837, mother, Jason, Owen and I, joined the Congregational Church
at Franklin, the Rev. Mr. Burritt, pastor. Shortly after, the other
societies, including Methodists and Episcopalians, joined ours in an
undertaking to hold a protracted meeting under the special management of
an evangelist preacher from Cleveland, named Avery. The house of the
Congregationalists 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 occupying by invitation the pews of
the church generally. Preacher Avery gave us in succession four sermons
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
melting 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 attention to the fact that, in
seating the colored portion 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 remainder of that protracted meeting continued to occupy 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
relations with the church in Franklin were ended in accordance 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 itself in
the church, and I shed a few uncalled for tears over the matter, for
instead I should have rejoiced in my emancipation. From that day my
theological shackles were a good deal broken, and I have not worn them
since (to speak of),—not even for ornament.”[65]

The years of 1837 and 1838 were the years of persecution for the
Abolition cause. Lovejoy was murdered in Illinois and mobs raged in
Massachusetts 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 slavery. How, he did not know—he was not sure—but
somehow he was determined, and his old idea of educating youth was still

It was in 1839, when 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-shaven; by him sat his young wife of
twenty-two and his 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 his
family in solemn and secret compact to labor for emancipation. And then,
instead of standing to pray, as was his wont, he fell upon his knees and
implored God’s blessing on his enterprise.

This marks a turning-point in John Brown’s life: in his boyhood he had
disliked slavery and his antipathy toward it grew with his years; yet of
necessity it occupied but little of a life busy with breadwinning.
Gradually, however, he saw the gathering of the mighty struggle about
him; 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 his
friends hurt and imposed on until at last, gradually, then suddenly, it
dawned upon him that he must fight this monster slavery. He did not now
plan physical warfare—he was yet a non-resistant, hating war, and did
not dream of Harper’s Ferry; but he set his face toward the goal and
whithersoever 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
determined to seize every opportunity to strike it a blow.

This, at least it seems to me, is a fair interpretation of John Brown’s
thought and action from the evidence at hand. Some have believed that
John Brown planned Harper’s Ferry or something similar 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 ending. 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 back their faith by action—William Lloyd
Garrison 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
sympathizers. 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 they 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 contamination 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 the methods were gradually coördinated into that mysterious
system known as the Underground Railroad. The slaves and freedmen
started the work and to the end bore the brunt of danger and hardship;
but gradually they more and more secured the coöperation 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 footing as
servants in cities, as farmers in Ohio and even as _entrepreneurs_ in
the great catering business 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 Cincinnati, 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
usefulness—of a life which would at once combine the pursuit of a great
moral ideal and the honest earning 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
he undoubtedly expected 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 foothills of mountains, beyond which lay the Great Black Way,
was formed a highway for the Underground Railroad and a place for
experiment in the uplift of black men. That he would meet opposition,
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-repressing Puritan. Yet the loss of a fortune and the shattering of
a dream, the bankruptcy and imprisonment, and the death of five
children, while around him whirled the struggle of the churches with
slavery and Abolition mobs, all dropped a sombre brooding veil of stern
inexorable fate over 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

“My husband always believed,” said his wife in after years, “that he was
to be an instrument in the hands of Providence, and I believed it
too.... Many a night he had lain awake and prayed concerning it.”[66]

It began to dawn upon him that he had sinned in the 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 had erred in
making his great work a side object—a secondary thing; it must be his
first and only duty, and let God attend to the nurture of his family. As
his conception of his own relation to slavery thus broadened and
deepened, so too did his plan of attacking the system become clearer and
more definite and he 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 eldest son used to
discuss slavery by the hour in his counting-room, and he 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.”[67]

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

It needed, as he soon saw, something more radical 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 like Garnet, Loguen, Gloucester
and McCune Smith. As 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 business came to John Brown
almost in the guise of a temptation to be shunned. For a 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 realized the price he must pay—the time, the chicanery, the
petty detail—he turned from it in disgust. It was at this time that he
studied the history of insurrection and became familiar with the
Abolition movement; as early as 1846 his Harper’s Ferry project began to
form itself more or less clearly in his mind.

One thing alone reconciled him to his Springfield sojourn and that was
the Negroes whom he met there. He had met black men singly here and
there all his life, but now he met a group. It was not one of the
principal Negro groups of the day—they were in Philadelphia and New
York, Cincinnati and Boston, and in Canada, working largely alone with
only imperfect intercommunication, but working manfully and effectively
for emancipation and full 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 between master and slave was necessary to
educate the blacks for self-government; but this he threw out as a
suggestion merely.”[68]

Nor did this appreciation of the finer qualities and capacity of the
Negroes blind him to their imperfections. 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 enumerates his errors: His
failure to improve his time in good reading; his waste of money in
indulgent luxuries and societies and consequent lack of capital; his
servile occupations; his talkativeness and inaptitude for organization;
his sectarian bias. In part of his arraignment, which will bear
thoughtful reading to-day by black men as well as white, he makes his
Sambo say:

“Another trifling error of my life has been, that I have always expected
to secure the favor of the whites by tamely submitting to every species
of indignity, contempt, and wrong, instead of nobly resisting their
brutal aggressions from principle, and taking my place as a man, and
assuming the responsibilities 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); but 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 and cheated, as Whigs and Democrats love to be, and think
themselves highly honored if they may be allowed to lick up the spittle
of a Southerner. I say to get the reward. But I am uncommon
quick-sighted; I can see in a minute where I missed it.”[69]

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

Not only did John Brown thus criticize, but he led these black folk. As
early as 1846 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?” 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
plan of increasing and systematizing the work of the Underground
Railroad by running off larger bodies of slaves. This was the first form
of his Harper’s Ferry plan and it rapidly grew in detail, so that its
disclosure to Douglass in 1847 showed thought and advance.

The first national Negro leader, Frederick Douglass, had delivered his
wonderful salutatory in New Bedford in 1844. 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 he aimed to free; Frederick Douglass
to know an intense foe of slavery. The historic meeting took place in
Springfield and is best told in Douglass’ own words:

“About the time I began my enterprise [_i. e._, his newspaper] in
Rochester, I chanced to spend a night and a day under the roof of a man
whose character and 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. Loguen. 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 own house. At the time to which I now refer this man was a
respectable merchant in a populous and thriving city, and our first
place of meeting was at his 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
disappointed with the appearance of the house and its location. After
seeing the fine store I was prepared to see a fine residence in an
eligible locality, but this conclusion was completely dispelled by
actual observation. In fact, the house was neither commodious 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 merchant.

“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 potatoes—a meal such as a man might relish after
following 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 certainly did.
In it there were no disguises, no illusions, no make-believes.
Everything implied stern truth, solid purpose, and rigid economy. I was
not long in company with the master of this house before I discovered
that he was indeed the master of it, and was likely to become mine too
if I stayed long enough with him. His wife believed in him, and his
children observed him with reverence. Whenever he spoke his words
commanded earnest attention. His arguments, which I ventured at some
points to oppose, seemed to convince all; his appeals touched all, and
his will impressed all. Certainly I never felt myself in the presence of
a stronger religious influence than while in this man’s house.

“In person he was lean, strong, and sinewy, of the best New England
mold, built for times of trouble and fitted to grapple with the
flintiest hardships. Clad in plain American woolen, shod in boots of
cowhide leather, and wearing a cravat of the same substantial material,
under six feet high, less than 150 pounds in weight, aged about fifty,
he presented a figure straight and symmetrical as a mountain pine. His
bearing was singularly impressive. 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 strong, square mouth, supported by a broad and prominent
chin. His eyes were bluish gray, and in conversation they were full of
light and fire. When on the street, he moved with a long, springing,
racehorse step, 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 fame.

“After the strong meal already described, Captain Brown cautiously
approached the subject which he wished to bring to my attention; for he
seemed to apprehend opposition to his views. He denounced 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 accomplish
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 coöperation. His plan as it then lay in his
mind had much to commend it. It did not, as some suppose, contemplate a
general rising among the slaves, and a general slaughter of the
slave-masters. An insurrection, he thought, would only defeat the
object; but his plan did contemplate the creating of an armed force
which should act 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. He called my attention
to a map of the United States, and pointed out to me the far-reaching
Alleghanies, 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
emancipation 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 hiding-places, where large numbers of brave men could be
concealed, and baffle 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 despite 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. My 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 shall 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 hundred 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 Underground Railroad. His operations would be enlarged
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 the system throughout
the state.’ ‘But they would employ bloodhounds to hunt you out of the
mountains.’ ‘That they might attempt,’ said he, ‘but the chances are, we
should whip them, and when 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.’ He thought that this
could not be done so that 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 it down in the cause of the slave. When I suggested
that we might convert the slaveholders, he became much excited, and said
that could never be. He knew their proud hearts and they would never be
induced to give up their slaves, until they felt a big stick about their

“He 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 boastful tone, for he felt
that he had delayed already too long, and had no 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., 1847, while I
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.”[70]

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
naturally because here two radically opposite characters 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 buttressed it the world
over; the other felt its moral evil and knowing simply that it was
wrong, concluded 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 revealed,
while the evil of this world had seared his vitals. He uncovered himself
if not reverently, certainly respectfully before the Seer; he gave him
much help and information; he turned almost imperceptibly 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 Douglass 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 the cost. And the horror of that cost none knew as 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 exclusively
outside his own family. This was eminently fitting but impractical, as
Douglass and his fellows must have urged. White men could move where
they would in the United States, but to introduce an armed band
exclusively or mainly of Negroes 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, however, 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, 1846, with great interest. This wealthy leader of the New
York Abolition group took occasion 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. It was not a well
thought-out scheme: the climate was bleak for Negroes, the methods of
culture 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 object in life, and to
train men to help him. He went to Gerrit Smith at Peterboro, N. Y., in
April, 1848, 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 colored 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.”[71]

His offer was gladly accepted and he moved his family there the
following year. It was a wild, lonely place. Thomas Wentworth 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 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. There is a
little frame house, unpainted, set 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,—the glorious line of the Adirondacks on the east, and on
the south one slender road leading off to Westport, a road so straight
that you could sight a United States marshal for five miles.”[72]

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 daughter Ruth writes:
“While we were living in Springfield, 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. One day he called us
older ones to him and said: ‘I want to plan with you a little; and I
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.’”[73]

It was no paradise, even for the enthusiast. Redpath 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 anything 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.”[74]

Meantime the scattered isolated eddies of the anti-slavery battles were
swirling to one great current, and more and more John Brown was becoming
the man of one 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 returned to
America in time to hear all the feverish discussion of the Fugitive
Slave Law and 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

His 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 acting
under it. We, whose names are hereunto affixed, do constitute ourselves
a branch of the United States 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 notice
to all members in case of an attack upon any of our people. We agree to
have no officers except a treasurer and secretary pro tem., 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. Nothing but wisdom and undaunted courage, efficiency, and
general good conduct shall in any way influence us in electing

To this was added exhortation and advice by John Brown.

“Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery,” he wrote.
“Witness the case of Cinques, 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 throughout the nation than the accumulated wrongs and
sufferings of more than three millions of our submissive 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 can 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 extravagances 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?”[77]

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 part 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 traitors 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
opportunity 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 engaged
do not do your work in halves, but make clean work with your
enemies,—and be sure you meddle not with any others. By going about your
business quietly, you will get the job disposed of before the number
that an uproar would bring together can collect; and you will have the
advantage of those who come out against you, for they will be wholly
unprepared with either equipments or matured plans; all with them will
be confusion and terror. Your enemies will be slow to attack you after
you have done up the work nicely; and 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, determined, and cool; but let it be understood that you are
not to be driven to desperation 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 profession 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 opportunity for a general rush. A lasso might possibly 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 them far away
from you. Stand by one another and by your friends, while a drop of
blood remains; and 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 demand be never so great. Witness the case of Hamlet and Long in
New York, when there was no well defined plan of operations or suitable
preparation beforehand. The desired end may be effectually secured by
the means proposed; namely, the enjoyment of our inalienable

There is evidence that this league did effective rescue work, as did
other groups of Negroes in Boston, Philadelphia, Albany, New York and
elsewhere. 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 fighting.

John Brown himself was active in such rescue work. He helped in the
release of “Jerry” in Syracuse, and writes in 1851 from Springfield:
“Since 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 encouragement in my power. They
very much need encouragement and advice; and some of them are so alarmed
that they tell me they cannot sleep on account of either themselves or
their wives and children. 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.”[79]

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 1819–50. 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 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 was singing, ‘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 Ruth! Don’t sing any more; it is too sad!’”[80]

At the same time his thrifty careful attention to minutiæ 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.”[81]

His daughter says: “He did not lose interest in the colored people of
North Elba, and grieved over the sad fate of one of them, Mr. Henderson,
who was lost in the woods in the winter of 1852 and perished with the
cold. Mr. Henderson was an intelligent and good man, and was very
industrious and father thought much of him.”[82]

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: “I
am much rejoiced at the news of a religious kind in Ruth’s letter and
would be still more rejoiced to learn that all the sects who hear the
Christian name would have no more to do with that mother of all

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 beneath;—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 infinite 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:

“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.”

                               CHAPTER VI
                           THE CALL OF KANSAS

  “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew 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 the Southwest
looking toward Kansas. It was the Negro Steven, once 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 Southwest, if not upon
Kansas itself. Whiter men have since 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.[84]

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 and in the lower Southwest.
Then the slave barons looked behind them, and saw to their own dismay
that there could be no backward step. The slavery of the new Cotton
Kingdom in the nineteenth century must either die or conquer a nation—it
could not hesitate or pause. It was an industrial 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 made 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 revolutionary 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 in the great
Southwest—in Mexico, in Central America and the islands of the sea. Its
softer souls, timid with a fear prophetic of failure, still held
halfheartedly 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 treasure 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 Union.

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 awakened 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 California 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 John Brown, he 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 Brown.

John Brown’s decision to go to Kansas was sudden. 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 representations 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; but I feel committed to
operate in another part of the field. If I were not so committed, I
would be on my way this fall.”[85]

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 son writes:

“During the years of 1853 and 1854, most of the leading Northern
newspapers were not only full of glowing accounts of the extraordinary
fertility, healthfulness, and beauty of the territory of Kansas, then
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. Influenced 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 arrangements 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 these especially desirable in a new
country, Owen, Frederick, and Salmon took them by way of the lakes to
Chicago, thence to Meridosia, Ill., 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
Osawatomie. My brother Jason and his family, and I with my family
followed at the opening 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 railroads west of St.
Louis; our journey must be continued 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 passengers, 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 occupation 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 prevailed 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 thunderstorm. 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 prosperity could be realized. Our tents would suffice to
shelter until we could plough our land, plant corn and other crops,
fruit trees, and vines, cut and secure 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 legality, no regard for decency. On the evening before and
the day of the election, nearly a thousand Missourians arrived at
Lawrence in wagons and on horseback, well armed with rifles, pistols and
bowie-knives, and two pieces of cannon loaded with musket balls.
Although but 831 legal electors in the Territory voted, there were no
less than 6,320 votes polled. They elected all the members of the
legislature, 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

John Brown hesitated. His fighting blood was stirred and yet there was
the plan of years yet unrealized. 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 hurriedly 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 belonging to John, Jason and
themselves, intending to winter somewhere in Illinois.... Gerrit Smith
wishes me to go back to North Elba; from Douglass and Dr. McCune Smith I
have not yet heard.”[87]

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 movement. 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.”

Redpath 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 freedom. 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 Gerrit Smith.”[88]

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 I came; for I have met
with a most warm reception from all, so far as I know, and except 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

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,
accompanied 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 conspicuously 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,
arriving there about the 6th of October, 1855.”[90]

His daughter says: “On leaving us finally to go to Kansas that summer,
he said, ‘If it is so painful for us to part with the hope of meeting
again, how dreadful must be the feelings of hundreds of poor slaves who
are separated for life.’”[91]

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 measures; rather
he seemed and was but a humble coworker, appearing and disappearing here
and there,—now startling men with the grim decision of his actions, now
lost 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 always 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 cannot read Kansas history without feeling
that the man who in all this bewildering broil was least the puppet of
circumstances—the man who most clearly saw the real crux of the
conflict, most definitely 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 confused 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 celebrated Kansas-Nebraska Bill which formed two territories, 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 Southern 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 territory 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 long 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 economic systems: On the one side were all the
machinery 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, pressing
economic necessity and capacity for organization. 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

In the beginning, the fall of 1854, the fatal misunderstanding 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 they hurried
settlers to Kansas from the North a majority for freedom was reasonably
certain. Missouri and the South, on the other hand, assumed that Kansas
was already of right a slave state and resented as an impertinence the
attempt to make it free by any means. Thus at Lawrence, on August 1st,
the bewildered and unarmed Northern settlers and their immediate
successors, such as John Brown’s sons, were literally pounced upon by
the furious Missourians, who crossed the border like an invading army.
“To those who have qualms of conscience 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 Stringfellow of
Missouri. Thereupon 5,000 Missourians 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 and bowie-knives, driving some
of the free state immigrants back home and the rest into apprehensive
inaction and silence.

Snatching thus the whip-hand, with pro-slavery governor, judges, marshal
and legislature, they then 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 imprisonment.

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 another in such irreconcilable difference as would
slip even slavery through. But unblushing force and fraud united them to
an 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

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 occasion 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 neighbors 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, liquor 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 gathered themselves for a last crushing blow. Armed bands came
out of the South with flying banners, the Missouri River was blockaded
to Northern immigrants, and the border ruffians rode unhindered over the
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 resistance 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 Sumner’s head in the Senate chamber, for
telling the truth about Kansas.

The deed was done. Kansas was a slave territory. 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
mutterings in the East but the cause of freedom was at its lowest ebb.
Then suddenly 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
harrying the free state settlers, and practically swept out of existence
the “Dutch Henry” pro-slavery settlement in the Swamp of the Swan. The
rank and file of the free state men themselves recoiled at first in
consternation and loudly, then faintly, disclaimed the deed. Suddenly
they saw and laid the lie aside, and seized their Sharps rifles. 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 fight 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 restraint, planned a last
desperate blow. Nearly 3,000 men were mustered in Missouri. The new
governor, whose _cortège_ barely escaped highway robbery, found
“desolation and ruin” on every hand; “homes and firesides were deserted;
the smoke of burning dwellings darkened the atmosphere; women and
children, driven from their habitations, wandered over the prairies and
among the woodlands, or sought refuge and protection even among the
Indian tribes; the highways were infested 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
bankrupt, there were no pecuniary resources within herself to meet the
exigencies of the time; the Congressional appropriations intended to
defray the expenses of a year, were insufficient to meet the demands of
a fortnight; the laws were null, the courts virtually suspended and the
civil arm of the government almost entirely powerless.”[92]

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 convention 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 program 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; 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 exertions 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 before 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 that Geary’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 _finesse_ 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 yielding the legislature
therefore to the patent free state majority, it seemed possible that
political manipulation 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 determined 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 Senate 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 imperial 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 morning
rode up to the world again. Behind them lay five twisted, red and
mangled corpses. Behind them rose the stifled wailing of widows and
little children. Behind 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 was John Brown. Such was the cost of freedom.

                              CHAPTER VII
                         THE SWAMP OF THE SWAN

  “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 Midian, and all the host.”

“Did you go out under the auspices of the Emigrant 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 personal
fortunes, and a more careful study of the development 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 inhospitality, and in Kansas sickness and freezing
weather. Nevertheless they were stout-hearted and hopeful, and went
bravely to work until the political 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. “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
uncomfortable situation, with no houses to shelter one of them, no hay
or corn fodder of any account secured, 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 careful 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 thoroughly armed,” but “no enemy
appeared” and Brown was encouraged to think that the prospect of Kansas
becoming free “is brightening every day.”

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
mudded, and roofed with our tent, and a chimney so far advanced that we
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, pumpkins 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 preparation to build a house
for John and Owen; and Salmon 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 forsaken us!”[93]

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 and property. The difference came out at the first meeting of
settlers in the little Osawatomie township. Redpath says: “The
politicians of the neighborhood were carefully pruning resolutions so as
to suit every variety of anti-slavery extensionists; and more especially
that class of persons whose opposition to 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 expressing
his earnest, anti-slavery convictions with a force and vehemence little
likely to suit the hybrids.[94]

Nothing daunted by the cold reception of his radical ideas here, Brown
strove to extend them when a larger opportunity came at the first
beleaguering of Lawrence. It was in December, 1855, when rumors of the
surrounding of Lawrence by the governor and his pro-slavery followers
came to the Browns. The old man wrote home: “These reports appeared to
be well authenticated, but we could get no 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 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 forenoon,
all of us more or less lamed by our tramp.”[95]

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 immediately 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,”[96] when Governor Shannon was induced to enter the town and
after some parley a treaty was announced. Immediately Brown’s suspicions
were aroused. He surmised that the governor’s party had not thus lightly
given up the fight 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 Robinson replying, when John
Brown, mounting a piece of timber at the corner of the house, began a
fiery speech. “He said that the people of Missouri had come to Kansas to
destroy Lawrence; that they had beleaguered the town 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
volunteers to go under his command, and attack the pro-slavery camp
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
territorial laws were to be observed. Those laws he denounced and spit
upon, and would never obey—no! The crowd was fired by his earnestness
and a great 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 he was mistaken; that there had been no
surrendering of principles on their side.”[97] 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, suffering 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.”[98]

The Wakarusa “treaty,” however, was but a winter’s truce as John Brown
soon saw; his distrust of the compromisers and politicians grew, and he
tried to get his own 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, but I think he may find his hands full before it is
all over.”[99] And Joshua R. Giddings assures him that the President
“never will dare to employ the troops of the United States to shoot the
citizens of Kansas.”[100] Yet the President did dare. Not only were
regular troops put into the hands of the Kansas slave power, but armed
bands from the South appeared, and one in particular from Georgia
encamped on the Swamp of the Swan near the Brown settlement. John
Brown’s procedure was characteristic. With his surveying instruments in
hand one May morning, 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 office, 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.”[101] 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 of the company,
said: ‘We’ve 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!’”[102]

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 meeting, 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 blow.

While, however, the free state leaders were willing 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
resistance, and their wisdom cost them dear. On the 21st of May the
pro-slavery forces swooped on 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 until it was too late to help.
Notwithstanding, he hurried to the scene, and sat down by the smoldering
ashes in grim anger. He was “indignant that there had been no
resistance; that Lawrence was 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.”[103] 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 Sunday, 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 fellows,” he said grimly.
“Something must be done to show these barbarians that we too have
rights!”[104] He called four of his sons, Watson, Frederick, Owen and
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 hesitation and whispering, and one at least ventured a
mild remonstrance, but Brown shook him off in disgust. 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 decided that the seven ringleaders of the projected
deviltry must be killed, and John Brown was appointed 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 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 in the crime, but
shared the spoils. Next came the probate judge, who harried the free
state men with warrants of all sorts; and lastly, three miserable
drunken tools, formerly slave-chasers who had come to Kansas with their
bloodhounds and were ready for 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 free state men to death. The
ringleaders sat securely hedged back of United 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 saloon 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 cases the proceeding
was similar: a silent approach and a quick sharp knocking in the night.
The inmates leapt startled from their beds, for midnight rappings were
ominous there. They hesitated to 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 footsteps 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 victims were hacked to death with

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 collectively, to prevent a recurrence of a
similar tragedy, and to ferret out and hand over to the criminal
authorities the perpetrators for punishment.” 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 compelling 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, ... his horse reeking with
sweat, and said, ‘five men have been killed on the Pottawatomie,
horribly cut and 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.’”[105]

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?’ 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 service.’ My wife spoke and
said, ‘Then, captain, you think that God uses you as an instrument in
His hands to kill men?’ Brown replied, ‘I think 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!’”[106]

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 because they had affiliated
with the free state movement. Horror at his father’s deed and the
cruelty of his captors drove the eldest son temporarily insane, 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.”[107] The old man never wavered. He wrote home: “Jason started to
go and place himself under 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 ungrateful 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 situation 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 to a trial before bogus court, the result of which we
have not yet learned. 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

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

“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 perform 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 volunteer force for the
maintenance of the rights and liberties 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 discipline
at all times until our term of service expires.”[109]

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 unkind treatment of citizens or of prisoners.

“Art. XX. No person after having first surrendered 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 beverage, is hereby declared disorderly.”[110]

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 find:

“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 picking blackberries from
the bushes; three or four armed men were lying on red and blue blankets
on the grass; and two fine-looking youths were standing, 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 band gathered about me. But it was a moment only; for the captain
ordered them to renew their work. He respectfully but firmly forbade
conversation on the Pottawatomie affair; and said that, if I desired any
information from the company in relation to their conduct or intentions,
he, as their captain, would answer for them whatever it was proper to

“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 been asked on it. After every meal, thanks were 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 subsequently 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 children’s

“It was at this time that the old man said to me: ‘I 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 continued, ‘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

“I remained in the camp about an hour. Never before had I met such a
band of men. They were not earnest but earnestness incarnate.”[111]

A member of the band says:

“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. Nevertheless 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 determined 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 affection 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 commonwealth. His words have ever remained firmly
engraved in my mind. Many and various were the instructions he gave
during the days of our compulsory 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 outrages committed in Kansas to further its extension
had directed the attention of all intelligent citizens of the United
States and of the world to the necessity of its abolishment, as a
stumbling-block in the path of 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 handful 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

“Occasionally Captain Brown also gave us directions 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. Repeatedly 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.”[112]

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 accomplishing something,”[113] he demanded of a hesitating
emissary, and turning to his men he said: “If 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: “I am ready.”[114]

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
contents to ashes; in which burning we have all suffered more or less.
Orson and boy have been prisoners, 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 these
places 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

“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 principal 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 situation, and continued the fire, both his men and the
enemy being armed with Sharps rifles. My company had no long shooters.
We (my company) did not fire 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 compelled them to hide in a ravine. Captain Shore,
after 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 fight 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 them 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
accident, soon after the fight; but both he and Henry are fast

“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
prisoners (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.”[115]

It was John Brown’s hope that the courage engendered 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 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, Lecompton, 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 journeyed 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 picketed 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, ‘I am afraid you will be hardly able to eat a soldier’s harsh

“We next placed our two saddles together, so that our heads 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 everything, 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 professional 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 conversation 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
deification 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
land 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 American 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

“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 modern 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.’”[116]

The Topeka journey was in vain. The legislature 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:

“‘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 Thompson was in our company. It was a long,
rugged-featured face I saw. A tall, sinewy figure, too (he had
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 voice-tones 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 tucked 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.”[117]

Pushing on northward, Brown found asylum for his wounded follower at
Tabor, Ia. 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:

“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.’”[118]

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 systematic 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 indignantly 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 post-office,
captured the old cannon ‘Sacramento,’ which our gallant Missourians
captured in Mexico, and are now turning its mouth against our
friends.”[119] 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
16th, 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, including 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
months. I had the pleasure of escorting our prisoners to Sedgwick’s
camp, and receiving the cannon and the prisoners held by the enemy
there, in exchange.”[120]

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 attacked 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 Reid with two
hundred and fifty men and one piece of artillery, 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 Reid from a thick chaparral four hundred yards
off. General Reid 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 men, 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.”[121]

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 yesterday; 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 off, 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 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 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.”[122]

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.
Robinson, the wariest of them, wrote: “I cheerfully accord to you my
heartfelt thanks for your prompt, efficient, 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.”[123]

Meantime the Missourians, after their hard-won victory, hastened back to
join the larger wing of the invaders, and so disconcerting was their
report, 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 15th 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 appeared before the city. He immediately returned
to the town, where there were only 200 fighting men. He was asked to
take command of the defense 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

“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 see
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
seeing a fight, so that you had better do your best. If they should come
up and attack us, don’t yell and make a great noise, but remain
perfectly silent and still. Wait until 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 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.”[124]

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. Redpath who
was with Brown says: “About five o’clock in the afternoon, their
advance-guard, consisting 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 offensive 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

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

“I know of no possible reason why they did not 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
thing. The government troops at this time were with Governor Geary at
Lecompton, a distance of twelve miles only from Lawrence, and,
notwithstanding 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 administration 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 constitutional, for the sole and only purpose of
forcing slavery upon that territory. I challenge this whole nation to
prove before God or mankind the contrary. Who paid this money to enslave
the settlers of Kansas and worry them out? I say nothing in this
estimate of the money wasted by Congress in the management of this
horrible, tyrannical, and damnable affair.”[126]

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 earnestness. As he
reported: “Fully appreciating the awful calamities that were impending,
I hastened with all possible dispatch to the encampment, assembled 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
demonstration as was contemplated, and the absolute necessity of more
lawful and conciliatory measures to restore peace, tranquillity, and
prosperity to the country. I read my instructions from the President,
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.”[127]

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

The Missourians were thus induced to retreat, partly by Geary’s logic,
partly perhaps by John Brown’s resolute handling of his patently
inadequate 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 force.

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 irreconcilables 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 be
induced quietly to leave on promise of immunity? Accordingly, Geary
issued a warrant against Brown, but gave it into the 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

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 fellows, 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

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, John, 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 captured 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 pollute 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. I say in view of the
wisdom, firmness and patience of my friends and fellow sufferers in the
cause of humanity, let the Lord’s name be eternally praised!”[128]
Notwithstanding this attitude of many of the free state party, they were
prevailed upon to vote in the state election of October, 1857. As a
concession, however, Lane was appointed 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-covered wagons, and ten really ingenious,
industrious (not gassy) men, with about one hundred and fifty dollars in
cash.”[129] 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 centred in southeast
Kansas. The pro-slavery forces saw the state slipping from them, but
they determined by desperate blows to plant slavery so deeply in the
counties next to Missouri that no free state majority could possibly
uproot it. To accomplish this it was necessary again to drive off the
free state settlers. The settlers objected and led by James Montgomery,
there ensued a series of bloody reprisals culminating in May, 1858, two
years after the first May massacre. A Georgian with a remnant of
Buford’s band again rode down amid the calm silent beauty of the Swamp
of the Swan. 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 wounded six others, leaving them
all for dead.

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

“I am 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
Hamilton 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 number. Old Mr.
Hairgrove, who was terribly wounded at the same time, is another. The
blacksmith returned here with me and 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 and farm in Missouri but a day or two
since, his life being threatened on account 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 concealed 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

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 coöperated 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.”[131] Hinton met Brown at this time and found him not
only unwell but “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. Captain
Montgomery’s name was introduced, and I inquired how Mr. Brown liked
him. The captain was quite enthusiastic in praise of him, avowing a most
perfect confidence in his integrity and purposes. ‘Captain Montgomery,’
he said, ‘is the only soldier I have met among the prominent Kansas men.
He understands my system of warfare exactly. He is a natural chieftain,
and knows how to lead.’

“Of his own early treatment at the hands of ambitious ‘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 therefore supposed I might be in the way of
their schemes. While they had this feeling, of course they opposed me.
Many men did not like the manner in which I conducted 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 different 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 management of it from an anti-slavery point of
view, pronounced 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 manner remarked, ‘Abortion!—yes, that’s the word!’

“‘For twenty years,’ he said, ‘I have never made any business
arrangement which would prevent 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

During the fall John Brown coöperated 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 interrupted 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 following the expedition of Fort Scott, as I was scouting 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
making a confidant of me, and I found that his name was Jim Daniels;
that his 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 particularly, but to find help 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
expecting or hoping that God would provide him a basis of action. When
this came, he hailed it as heaven-sent.”[133]

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

“Not one year ago eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood,—William
Robertson, William Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, Asa
Snyder, Thomas Stillwell, William Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, Patrick
Ross, and B. L. Reed,—were gathered up from their work and their homes
by an armed force under one Hamilton, and without trial or opportunity
to speak in their own defense 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 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 administration man, to ferret
out and punish the perpetrators of this crime.

“Now for the other parallel. On Sunday, December 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 belonged 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 soon 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 forcibly 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 collecting a posse of
Missouri (not Kansas) men at West Point, in Missouri, a little town
about ten miles distant, to ‘enforce the laws.’ All pro-slavery,
conservative, free state, and dough-face men and administration tools
are filled with holy horror.”[134]

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 near 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, Stevens, he went down to them
and said:—‘Gentlemen, 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 yonder 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

“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 seventy-five of them, and they
surrounded the house, and we was all afraid we was going 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, Ia., a man came to see Captain Brown, and told him there
was 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 coming up to capture us. We all went up to the
schoolhouse and got ourselves ready to fight.

“The crowd came and hung around the schoolhouse 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 Captain Brown? 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.’”[135]

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.”[136]

                              CHAPTER VIII
                             THE GREAT PLAN

  “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?”

“Sir, the angel of the Lord will camp round about me,” said John Brown
with stern eyes when the timid foretold his doom.[137] 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 attacking 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 1859 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 clandestinely and send them
out as emissaries. As gradually he became acquainted with the great work
and wide ramifications of the Underground Railroad, he 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 mountains, 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 Red and Arkansas Rivers, but
this was but a passing thought; he soon reverted to the great spur of
the Alleghanies.

“I never shall forget,” writes Thomas Wentworth Higginson, “the quiet
way in which he once told me that ‘God had established the Alleghany
Mountains 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.”[138]

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
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 first
movement would have any other appearance 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 defeated. 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 states by the amount of the organization it would exhibit, and the
strength it gathered. They anticipated, after the first blow had been
struck, that, by the aid of the free and Canadian Negroes who would join
them, they could inspire confidence in the slaves, and induce them to
rally. No 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 Almighty,’ said
John Brown to me afterward, ‘for a refuge for the slave, and a defense
against the oppressor.’ 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 indicated, and from his own personal knowledge, and with the
assistance of Canadian Negroes who had escaped from those states, they
had arranged a general plan of attack.

“The counties he named were those which contained 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 reënforced;
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,
however, 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 and trustworthy, to have the use of the
Sharps rifles and revolvers. They anticipated procuring provisions
enough for subsistence by forage, as also arms, horses, and ammunition.
Kagi said one of the reasons that induced him to go into the enterprise
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.”[139]

The knowledge of the country was obtained by personal inspection. Kagi
and others of Brown’s lieutenants went out on trips; the old man himself
had been in western, northern and southern Virginia, and his Negro
friends especially knew these places and routes. One of Brown’s men

“My object in wishing to see Mr. Reynolds, 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 people. 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 asserted,
must be taken care of, being the most dangerous 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
membership, and, in part to corroborate his assertions, he took me to
the room in which they held their meetings 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.”[140]

Speaking of this league, Hinton also says:

“As one may naturally understand, looking at conditions then existing,
there existed something of an organization to assist fugitives and for
resistance to their masters. It was found all along the borders from
Syracuse, New York, to Detroit, Michigan. As none but colored men were
admitted into direct and active membership with this ‘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 continuous line of swamps from the
vicinity of Norfolk, Va., to the northern border of Florida afforded a
refuge for many who could not escape and became ‘marooned’ in their
depths, while giving 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 safe route to
freedom. It was used, too, for many years. Doubtless 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.”[141]

The trained leadership John Brown found in his Kansas experience, and
his wide acquaintance with colored men; the organization of the Negroes
culminated 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
occupations 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 different 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

And again: “John Brown has devoted the service 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 pounds
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 continue in the service at present
without the means of defraying my expenses are furnished me.”[143]

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 1854, but had nearly all united
in Thayer’s New England Emigrant Aid Company in 1855. This company
proposed to aid free state emigration as an investment, but it failed in
this respect because of the political troubles, and the panic of 1857.
It did, however, arouse great interest throughout the nation. The
National Kansas Committee, formed after the sacking of Lawrence, was
more belligerent than philanthropic in its projects, while the Boston
Relief Committee was distinctly radical. John Brown had some connection
with Thayer’s company, but his 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 committee 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 armed 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 unshrinking bravery, your self-sacrificing benevolence,
your devotion to the cause of freedom, and have long known them. May
Heaven preserve your life and health, and prosper your noble

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 devoted himself entirely to business; but since these troubles
he has abandoned all business, and has become wholly absorbed by the
subject of slavery. He had property left him by his father, and 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 must
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
God 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 opinion of

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

“At this juncture, Mr. Stearns wrote to John Brown, that if he would
come to Boston and consult 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 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.’

“It may not be out of place to describe the impression 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 instant
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), ‘Gentlemen, I
consider the Golden Rule and the Declaration 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 emphatic tones and manner that our little Carl, not three years
old, remembered it in manhood as one of his earliest recollections. The
child stood perfectly 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 singular
air of refinement. At dinner, he declined all dainties, saying that he
was unaccustomed to luxuries, 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. Emerson, Theodore Parker, H. D.
Thoreau, A. Bronson Alcott, F. B. Sanborn, Dr. S. G. Howe, Col. T. W.
Higginson, Governor Andrew, and others.”[146]

Sanborn says:

“He came to me with a note of introduction from 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 Committee at Chicago, and it was needful to follow up our
vote by similar action in the National Committee. 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, Ia., in the following September, and
took possession; it was with part of these rifles that he entered
Virginia two years later.

“At this Astor House meeting Brown was closely questioned by some of the
National Committee, particularly by Mr. Hurd of Chicago, as to what he
would do with money and arms. He refused 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
disclose 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.”[147]

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 $1,774. The funds of the committee, however, were
low and the officers suspicious; in April they informed Brown: “The
committee are at present out of money, and compelled to decline 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 sending us contributions, and we
have no means of replenishing our treasury. We shall need to have aid
from some quarter to enable us to meet our present engagements.”[148]

Immediately Brown set out to raise his own funds and for three months
worked fervently. Just before the Dred Scott Decision he spoke to the
Massachusetts 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.”[149]

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 gentlemen and ladies of Hartford, where I
make my appeal 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 counties, cities, towns, societies, or churches, or
in some other way? I think the little beggar children in 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

On the day that Buchanan was inaugurated and two days before the Dred
Scott Decision, he published a similar appeal in the New York _Tribune_
“with no little sacrifice of personal feeling.” Once he 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.”[151]

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 Congress from that district, to
ask him to sit on the 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 introduced
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

Later in the same month Brown accompanied Sanborn and Conway to
ex-Governor Reeder’s home in 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 Realf
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,
inspecting all fortifications, and especially all earthwork forts which
he could find, with a view of applying 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 Roman
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.”[153]

Despite his own knowledge, however, he felt the need of expert advice,
and meeting a former lieutenant of Garibaldi, one Hugh Forbes, he was
captivated 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 landed 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 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
departed from New England with a quaint half-sarcastic “Farewell to the
Plymouth Rocks, 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 exhausting his own small means, and with his family and with
his brave men suffering hunger, cold, nakedness, and some of them
sickness, wounds, imprisonment in irons with extreme cruel treatment,
and others death; that, lying on the ground for months in the most
sickly, unwholesome, and uncomfortable 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 Republic’ is under equal
moral obligation 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, and belts; camp equipage, such as cooking and
eating utensils, 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; and left my
family poorly supplied with common necessaries.”[154]

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, Ia., 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.”[155]

Arriving at Tabor early in August, Brown’s first business was to secure
the arms voted him. Because of a previous failure to equip emigrants at
points further east, the Massachusetts Kansas State Committee had sent
200 Sharps rifles to Tabor, Ia. Here 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 Volunteer.” 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 suddenly 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 any other young men who
were perfectly reliable whom I thought would join also. I recommended
Richard Realf, L. F. Parsons, 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,
Parsons, 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 Captain 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, ammunition, clothing and other articles
you may require. Bring Parsons with you if he can get ready in time.
Please keep very quiet about this matter. Yours, etc.,

                                                            JOHN BROWN.’

“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, Moffett, and Kagi. Left Topeka for Nebraska
City, and camped at night on the prairie northeast of Topeka. Here, for
the first, I 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.”[156]

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 intelligent 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.”[157]

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
railroad, eastward. The panic of this year, beginning late in August,
was by December in full swing, and he found himself without funds, and
with no remittances 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 busily.

Stevens was made drill-master; all arose at five, breakfasted, studied
until ten and drilled from ten to twelve. In the afternoon they
practiced gymnastics 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 Realf and others listened to the townspeople, and there
was much visiting. Before John Brown left for the East, he revealed his
plans in part 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
private 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 hundred 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 convince him that the
probabilities were that all would be killed. He said that, as for
himself, he was willing to give his life for the slaves. He told me
repeatedly, while talking, that he believed he was an instrument in the
hands of God through which slavery 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.”[158]

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 Canadian. 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 difficult to determine how many of the party actually knew that
John Brown designed to invade Virginia. All the testimony goes to show
that it is most probable that not until after the assembling at the
Maryland farm in 1859 was there a full, definite announcement of
Harper’s Ferry as the objective point. That he fully explained his
purpose to make reprisals on slavery wherever the opportunity offered is
without 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 interview at Topeka in
1857, there is every reason to believe 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 company. He had left already for Iowa before I
returned. I met Realf just as he was leaving, and we talked without
reserve, he assuring me that the purpose was just to prepare a fighting
nucleus for resisting the enforcement of the Lecompton Constitution,
which it was then expected Congress might try to impose upon us. Through
this, advantage was to be taken of the agitation to prepare for a
movement against slavery in Missouri, Arkansas, the Indian 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.”[159]

Forbes in the meantime hurried East, nursing his wrath. He had all of a
foreigner’s difficulty in following 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 intended 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 Republicans.

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 Rochester home in February. Douglass

“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 under my roof, I
charged him three dollars a week. While here he spent most of his time
in correspondence. He wrote often to George L. Stearns, of Boston,
Gerrit Smith, of Peterboro, and many others, and received many letters
in return. When he was not writing letters, he was writing and revising
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 support.... 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.”[160]

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

“I am again out of Kansas and at this time concealing my whereabouts;
but for very different reasons, however, from those I had for doing so
at Boston last spring. I have nearly perfected arrangements 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
themselves 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 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 Boston, 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
Abolitionists those friends are, and must beg you to consider this
communication strictly confidential, unless 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.”[161]

To Higginson he wrote: “Railroad 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 conducted, from my childhood,
and never let an opportunity 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 certain that you
will never regret having been one of the council.”[162]

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 experience:

“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 constitution 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 indicated, and the middle of May was
named as the time of the attack. To begin his hazardous adventure 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 organization 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 patient hearing of his statements, a candid opinion concerning
his plan, and, if that were favorable, then such aid in money and
support as we could give him. We listened until after midnight,
proposing objections and raising difficulties; but nothing 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 anything so vast with such slender
means,—was met with the text of Scripture: ‘If God be for us, who can be
against us?’ 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
the 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 was determined to assault. To withhold aid would only delay,
not prevent him; nothing short of betraying 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, N. 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 Philadelphia.”

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.”[163]

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 I would like to have you make a trip to Bedford, Chambersburg,
Gettysburg, and Uniontown in Pennsylvania, traveling slowly along, and
inquiring of every man on the way, or every family of the right stripe,
and getting acquainted with them as much as you could. When you look at
the location of those places, you will readily perceive the advantage of
getting some acquaintance in those parts.”[164]

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

To Ruth Brown he wrote: “The anxiety I feel to see my wife and children
once more I am unable to describe. I 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 sorrow-strieken, 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

“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 dangerous, 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!”[165]

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 cultivation, 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 encouragement, your natural
and acquired ability for active service! And then, how very little we
can 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; and 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 promptings of
your own spirit, after having thoroughly counted the cost. I would
flatter no man into such a measure, 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 becoming 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.”[166]

                               CHAPTER IX
                           THE BLACK PHALANX

  “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 kingdom was definitely
finished and all the subtle moral adjustments which follow were in full
action. New immigrants took advantage of the growing prejudice 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 support 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 enacted 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 harboring or concealing a fugitive was at
first $50, then $100, 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.[167]

These laws, however, were dead letters until 1829, when increased Negro
immigration induced the Cincinnati authorities to enforce them. The
Negroes obtained a respite of thirty days and sent a deputation 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 barricaded 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 subjects.”[168]

On receipt of this, fully two thousand Negroes went to Canada and
founded Wilberforce; while a national convention of Negroes was called
in Philadelphia in 1830—the first of its kind. This convention 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
immortalize 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 convention has had
cause to hang its head and blush. Laws as cruel in themselves as they
were unconstitutional and unjust, have in many places been enacted
against our poor unfriended and unoffending brethren; 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 Christian. 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 sanguine 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 (although used by our enemies to show our
inferiority in the scale of human beings); for, what opportunities have
they possessed for mental cultivation or improvement? Mere ignorance,
however, in a people divested of the means of acquiring information by
books, or an extensive connection with the world, is no just criterion
of their intellectual incapacity; 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 in
civilized and enlightened communities, has resulted from no other causes
than our unhappy situation and circumstances.”[169]

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 two years longer. Meantime Nat Turner had
terrorized Virginia and the South and sent a wave of repression over the
North that led to the disfranchisement of Pennsylvania Negroes in 1837.

Notwithstanding all this the Negroes were struggling on. Beside the
general conventions arose the Phœnix Societies, which “planned an
organization of the colored people in their municipal subdivisions 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

The first Negro paper, _Freedom’s Journal_, had been established in 1827
and organizations like the Massachusetts General Colored Association
were coöperating with the Abolitionists. The news of emancipation in the
British West Indies cheered the Negroes, and indeed without the long
effective 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 1840, which finally resulted in a wide system of Negro schools
partially supported by public funds. Toward 1840 signs of promise began
gradually to appear. A West Indian endowed a Negro school in
Philadelphia in 1837. The Negro population increased from two and
one-third to two and nine-tenths millions in the decade, 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 1840, while the Canada refugees were beginning
to prosper. The mutiny on the _Creole_, the establishment of the Negro
Odd Fellows, and the doubling, in ten years, of the membership of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church, all pointed to an awakening 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
leadership 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
was E. 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 Highland Garnet; the teachers, Reason and
Peterson who made the Negro schools effective; and the physician, McCune
Smith, one of the best trained men of his day. In Philadelphia were
Robert Purvis, the Abolitionist; William Still, of the Underground
Railroad; the three men who made the catering business—Dorsey, Jones and
Minton; and the rich Negro lumber merchant, Stephen Smith, whose
magnificent 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,
librarian of the Cleveland library; the three Langstons of Oberlin, and
the merchants Boyd and Wilcox of Cincinnati. Elsewhere appeared the
unlettered, 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
noticeable 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 in the anti-slavery campaign of
the next decade. In 1845–6, he was in England and, 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, maintained their independence against aggressions of
the whites, and the first of a new series of national colored
conventions assembled at Troy, N. Y. “The first article in the first
number of Frederick Douglass’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 similar national convention.
Nearly seventy delegates assembled there on September 6th, “the sessions
alternating between the Court-House and the Tabernacle. Frederick
Douglass was chosen president. As in previous conventions education was
encouraged, the importance of statistical information stated and
temperance societies urged.”[171]

The representative character of the delegates was shown by the fact that
printers, carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, engineers, dentists,
gunsmiths, farmers, physicians, plasterers, masons, college students,
clergymen, barbers, hair-dressers, laborers, coopers, livery-stable
keepers, bath-house keepers and grocers were among the members who were

The same year Frederick Douglass attended a Free Soil convention at
Buffalo, N. Y., and writes: “I was not the only colored man well known
to the country who was present at this convention. Samuel Ringgold 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 strengthened 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 convention. As an orator and thinker he was
vastly superior, I thought, to any of us, and being perfectly 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 intelligence, 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

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
indication 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 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 hundred 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. Y., Douglass’s home, in 1853. This convention
developed definite opposition to any hope of permanent 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 conduct of such an institution of learning would train youth to be
self-reliant and skilled workmen, fitted to hold their own in the
struggle of life on the conditions 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 of colored men
and youth seeking employment or instruction.”

(3) A committee on publication “to collect all facts, statistics and
statements; all laws and historical records and biographies of the
colored people and all books by colored authors.” This committee was
further authorized “to publish replies of any assaults worthy of note,
made upon the character or condition of the colored people.”[174]

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:

“There were three parties in the emigration convention, 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 preferred to go to Haiti.

“All these parties were recognized and embraced by the convention. Dr.
Delaney was given a commission to go to Africa, in the Niger Valley,
Whitfield 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
execute his mission, going down to Haiti in 1855, when he entered into
relations with the Minister of the Interior, the father of the late
President Hyppolite, and by him was presented to Emperor Faustin I. The
next emigration convention was held at Chatham, Canada West, in 1856,
when the report on Haiti was made. Dr. Delaney went off on his mission
to the Niger Valley, Africa, via England, in 1858. There he concluded a
treaty signed by himself 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 coöperate 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
expenses to engage emigrants to go to Haiti. The first load of emigrants
were from Philadelphia in 1861.”[175]

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

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 and 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 January, 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 determined to enlist a larger number and he
particularly 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. Loguen 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 Loguen, 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.”[176]

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, Philadelphia. 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 28th or 30th inst.”
After a flying visit home, involving a long walk to save expense, he
appeared again at Douglass’s in April. Gloucester collected a little
money for him in New York and he probably received some in Philadelphia;
at last he turned his face toward 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: “I came on here direct with J. W.
Loguen the day after you left Rochester. 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 material, and of the right quality,
in this quarter, beyond all doubt. Do not forget to write Mr. Case (near
Rochester) at once about hunting up every person and family of the
reliable kind about, at, or near Bedford, Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and
Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, and also Hagerstown and vicinity, Maryland,
and Harper’s Ferry, Va.”[177]

He stayed at St. Catherines until the 14th or 15th, chiefly in
consultation with that wonderful woman, Harriet Tubman, and sheltered in
her home. Harriet 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 injury that gave
her wild, half-mystic ways with dreams, rhapsodies and trances. In her
early womanhood she did the rudest and hardest man’s work, driving,
carting and plowing. Finally the slave family was broken up in 1849,
when she ran away. Then began her wonderful career as a rescuer 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 men rushed
in and struck down the younger heads, and then the head of the old man,
still looking at her so ‘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 very 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.”[178]

In 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 Tubman, as we
call her.’ He then went on to recount her labors and sacrifices in
behalf of her race.”[179]

Only sickness, brought on by her toil and exposure, prevented Harriet
Tubman from being present at Harper’s Ferry.

From St. Catherines John Brown went to Ingersoll, Hamilton and Chatham.
He also visited Toronto, holding meetings with Negroes in Temperance
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. Ross, who is distinguished as a naturalist, as well as
an intrepid Abolitionist, who risked his life on several occasions in
excursions into the South to enable slaves to flee to Canada!”[180]

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 Springdale, Ia., as most
persons supposed, for future troubles in “bleeding Kansas.” On John
Brown’s arrival they all hurriedly packed up—Owen Brown, Realf, Kagi,
Cook, Stevens, Tidd, Leeman, Moffett, 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
Springdale was one of tears. Ties which had been knitting through many
weeks were sundered, 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 quitting 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 breakfast 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 modernized
‘Quaker’; others a solid business man, from ‘somewhere,’ and without
question a philanthropist. His long white beard, thoughtful and reverent
brow and 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.”[181]

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 many
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 uplift. 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 accustomed to self-government. He looked on our
fugitives as picked men of sufficient intelligence, which, combined with
a hatred for the South, would make them willing abettors of any
enterprise destined 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 convention, when John Brown appeared. “On returning 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 described
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:

“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 convention or council. That
he was unable to effect in the United States, but had been advised by
distinguished 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
conclusion to which my friends and himself had arrived, 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 revealed
his designs. With these I found no fault, but fully favored and aided in
getting up the convention.”[182]

Meantime John Brown proceeded carefully to sound public opinion, got the
views of others, and, while revealing few of his own plans, set about
getting together a body who were willing to ratify his general aims. He
consulted the leading Negroes in private, and called a series of small
conferences to thresh out preliminary difficulties. In these meetings
and in the personal visits, many points arose and were settled. A member
of the convention says:

“One evening the question came up as to what flag should be used; our
English colored subjects, who 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 freedom 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 emphatically that he would not
give up the Stars and Stripes. That settled the question.

“Some one proposed admitting women as members, 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 making 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 salvation 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 sacrifice myself?’
With a look of determination, he resumed 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.”[183]

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
assembling were organizing a Masonic Lodge of colored people. The
important proceedings took place in “No. 3 Engine House,” a wooden
building near McGregor’s Creek, erected by Mr. Holden and other colored

The regular invitations were issued on the fifth:

                                      “_Chatham, Canada, May 5, 1858._


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

                                             “Your friend,
                                                         “JOHN BROWN.”

The convention was called together at 10 A. M., Saturday, May 8th, and
opened without ceremony. There were present the following Negroes:
William 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 gunsmith and engraver, graduate of
Oberlin College, 1849; M. F. Bailey, S. Hunton, John J. Jackson,
Jeremiah Anderson, James M. Bell, Alfred Ellisworth, 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., afterward employed by
Abraham Lincoln in his Illinois home and at the White House also; Robert
Newman, 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, Langston, or others of the prominent
men of color in the states who knew John Brown, were invited to the
Chatham meeting. It is doubtful if their appearance would have been
wise, as it would assuredly have been commented on and aroused

The white men present were: John and Owen Brown, father and son; John
Henri Kagi, Aaron Dwight Stevens, still known as Charles Whipple; John
Edwin Cook, Richard Realf, 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 president. Delaney then asked for John Brown, and Brown spoke
at length, followed by Delaney and others.

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 overthrow of any state government, or the
general government of the United States, and look to no dissolution of
the Union, but simply to amendment 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 finally 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 signature, 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 proposed. 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 American 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 general 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 involved 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 insult.
That settled the matter in my mind that John Brown was not insane.”[185]

At 6 P. M. the election of officers under the constitution took place,
and was finished Monday, the tenth. John Brown was elected
commander-in-chief; Kagi, secretary of war; Realf, secretary of state;
Owen Brown, treasurer; and George B. Gill, secretary of the treasury.
Members of congress 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 organization was an extensive body, holding the same
relation to his movements as a state or national executive committee
holds to its party principles, directing their adherence to fundamental

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: “I am sure that Brown did not communicate the details
of his plans to the members of the convention, 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 operations 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.”[187]

“John Brown, never, I think,” said Mr. Jones, “communicated his whole
plan, even to his immediate 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 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.’”[188]
Delaney in his own bold, original way assumed that Brown intended
another Underground Railway 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 existence 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 utter disregard and violation of those eternal and
self-evident truths set forth in our Declaration of Independence:

“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 ourselves the following provisional constitution and
ordinances, the better to protect our persons, property, lives, and
liberties, and to govern our actions.”[189]

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 declaration 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 circumscribed 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 unchangeable Law of God requires that All Men Shall be. That they
are absolved from all allegiance to those Tyrants, who still persist in
forcibly subjecting them to perpetual ‘Bondage,’ and that all friendly
connection between them and such Tyrants, is & ought to be totally
dissolved, 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 independent Citizens may of
right do. And for the support 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.”[190]

The constitution consisted of forty-eight articles. All persons of
mature age were admitted to membership 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
property was to be in common and no salaries were to be paid. All
persons were to labor. All indecent behavior 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 regarded as a day
of rest, and appropriated to moral and religions 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.”[191] All persons were to carry arms but not
concealed. There were special provisions for the capture 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
inst. Constitution slightly amended and adopted, and society

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 Sumner, 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
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 information 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 unnatural distrust of whites, and a desire to foster
race pride. Using information thus obtained, Forbes sought to put
pressure on Republican leaders 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.”[193] 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
malice). When the thing is well started, who cares what he says?”[194]

Further efforts were made to conciliate Forbes but he wrote wildly: “I
have been grossly defrauded in the name of humanity and anti-slavery....
I have for years labored in the anti-slavery cause, without wanting or
thinking of a recompense. 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 flatter themselves that I shall eventually
become weary and shall drop the subject; it is as yet quite at its

“To go on in face of this is madness,” wrote Sanborn, and John Brown was
urged to come to New York to meet Stearns and Howe. Brown had already
been delayed nearly a month at Chatham by this trouble, but he obeyed
the summons. Sanborn says: “When, about May 20th, Mr. Stearns met Brown
in New York, it was arranged that hereafter the custody of the Kansas
rifles should be in Brown’s hands as the agent, not of this committee,
but of Mr. Stearns alone. It so happened that Gerrit Smith, who seldom
visited Boston, was coming there late in May.... He arrived and took
rooms at the Revere House, where, on the 24th of May, 1858, the secret
committee (organized in March, and consisting of Smith, Parker, Howe,
Higginson, Stearns, and Sanborn) held a meeting to consider the
situation. It had already been decided 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 Revere 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 discouraging 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 action; 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 Chatham, etc.”[196]

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 Canada fell away
from the plan when it did not materialize and doubted Brown’s
determination and wisdom. 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 surrounding 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 follow the manlike and noble example of
patience and perseverance set them by the others, instead of being
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 engaged?”[197]

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. Realf says that Brown did not have much
money, but sent him to New York and Washington to watch Forbes and
possibly regain his confidence. Realf, 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
neighborhood 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 Cleveland;
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, Parsons, 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 enlisting a large Canadian contingent were
materially lessened. Nevertheless, seed had been sown. And there were
millions of human beings to whom the last word of the Chatham
Declaration of Independence was more than mere rhetoric: “Nature is
mourning for its murdered and afflicted children. Hung be the Heavens in

                               CHAPTER X
                          THE GREAT BLACK WAY

  “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because of 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 bound.”

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 a quarter ago, Thomas Jefferson said was “worth a voyage across the
Atlantic.” He continues: “You stand on a very high point of land; on
your right comes up the Shenandoah, having 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.”[198]

This is Harper’s Ferry and this was the point which John Brown chose for
his attack on American 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
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.”[199]
He chose Harper’s Ferry because a United States arsenal was there and
the capture of this would give 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 was that Harper’s Ferry
was the safest natural entrance 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 and 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 fastnesses 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 Realf
said: “John Brown was a man who would never state more than it was
absolutely necessary for him to do. No one of his 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.”[200]


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 insight 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 was a series of black counties with a majority of
slaves, containing in 1850 at least 260,000 Negroes. From here the Great
Black Way went south as John Brown indicated in his diary and
undoubtedly in the marked maps, which Virginia afterward hastily

The easiest way to get to these heights was from Harper’s Ferry. An
hour’s climb from the arsenal grounds would easily have hidden a hundred
men in inaccessible fastnesses, provided they were not overburdened; and
even with arms, ammunition and supplies, they could have repelled,
without difficulty, 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 a doubt was first, to collect 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 ammunition and, together with those
captured, to cross the Shenandoah to Loudoun Heights and hide in the
mountain wilderness; fourth, thence to descend at intervals to release
slaves and get food, and retreat 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 Harper’s Ferry raid
does not prove it a blunder from the start. 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

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 the 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 the 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.”[201] 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 contributions and support coming in, but if the total
estimate be placed at $25,000, for the period between the 15th of
September, 1856, when he left 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

This total, however, does not include a fund of $1,000 raised for his

The civic organization under which Brown intended to work has been
spoken of. The military organization was based on his Kansas experience
and his reading. In his diary is this entry:

                       “Circassia has about 550,000
                          Switzerland 2,037,030

    Guerrilla warfare See Life of Lord Wellington

    Page 71 to Page 75 (Mina)

    See also Page 102 some valuable hints in the 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 suffice to check an army.

    See also Page 236 on top of Page ”

This life of Wellington, W. P. Garrison states,[203] 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 mountains, where we meet at every step
huge fallen masses of rock and earth, yawning fissures, deep and narrow
defiles, where 300 men would suffice to check an army.” The Alleghanies
in Virginia and Carolina was similar in topography and, for the
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 bands or messes of seven each,
numbering from one to eight, with a corporal to each, numbered like his

“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.”[204]

Four companies composed a battalion, four battalions 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. Seventeen Negroes, reported as probably killed, are wholly
unknown, and those slaves who helped and 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 Anderson, 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 reliable 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 singularly 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.”[205]

Dangerfield Newby 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 mulatto, twenty-two years old, of medium size, and a
carpenter by trade. Hunter, the prosecuting attorney 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 firmness 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!”[206]

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 me 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 communications to me as to
how he was to use it, except that he did inform me that he wished to use
it in aiding slaves to escape. Circumstances just then transpired which
had interested me contrary to any thought I ever had in my mind before.
I had had exhibited to me a daguerreotype of a young lady, a beautiful
appearing girl, who I was informed was about eighteen years of
age....”[207] But here Senator Mason of the Inquisition scented 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
Convention and was, as a white Virginian who saw him says, “of middle
stature, very black hair and swarthy complexion. He was supposed by some
to be a Canadian mulatto.”[208] He was descended from Virginia
slaveholders who had moved north and was born in Indiana. He was
twenty-six years old.

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 neighbors of John Brown and part of a brood of twenty
children. The Brown family and their intermarried 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.”[209]

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
Shenandoah Valley. He was twenty-four, had a good English education and
was a newspaper reporter in Kansas, where he earnestly helped the free
state 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.”[210] 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 indifferent to personal
appearance; he often went about with slouched hat, one leg of his
pantaloons properly adjusted, and the other partly tucked into his high
boot-top; unbrushed, unshaven, and in utter disregard of ‘the latest

Stevens was a handsome six-foot Connecticut soldier of twenty-eight
years of age, who had thrashed his major for mistreating a fellow
soldier and deserted from the United States army. He was active in
Kansas and soon came under John Brown’s discipline.

“Why did you come to Harper’s Ferry?” asked a Virginian.

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 3 slave-children torn from their

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 adventure but hardly
steadfast. He followed John Brown as he would have followed anyone 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 band.

One other deserves mention because it was probably his slowness or
obstinacy that ruined the success 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.

Besides these, there were six other men of more or less indistinct
personalities. Five were young 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 Chambersburg, or could be heard of there; that he was preparing to
lead a party of liberators into Virginia, and that he needed money; to
which Merriam replied: ‘If you tell me John Brown is there, you can have
my money and me along with it.’”[213]

These were the men—idealists, dreamers, soldiers and avengers, varying
from the silent and thoughtful to the quick and 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 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.”[214]

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 conventions. 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 themselves, had convictions on
slavery and other matters, but John Brown narrowed down their dreaming
to one intense deed.

Finally, there was John Brown himself. His 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 mouth passed without telling of 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 found 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” and there
can be little doubt that it was an illness and pain-racked body which
his indomitable will forced into the raid of Harper’s Ferry.

Having collected a part of the funds and organized 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 a booking 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. “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 action driven out pro-slavery men from the
Territory; but if the occasion demanded it, he would drive them into the
ground, like fence stakes, where they would remain permanent settlers.

“Brown remarked that he was an outlaw, the governor of Missouri has
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 submission; 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 he had considered it his duty to break the
fetters from any slave when he had an opportunity. He was a thorough

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
Sanborn. Alcott at Concord wrote:

“This evening I heard Captain Brown speak at the town hall on Kansas
affairs and the part took by them in the late troubles there. He tells
his story with surpassing simplicity and sense, impressing 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 themselves, 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 proper moment. I infer he intends 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 was
deeply intent in the making of him. He is of imposing appearance,
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 Romanesque; 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 air 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.”[216]

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 intervened, 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, coöperating with a faithful Negro barber,
Watson, was established as a general agent to forward men, mail, and
freight. Then passing through Hagerstown, 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 sending regular information
to Brown. Brown and his sons wandered about at first, and a local farmer
greeted them cheerily: “Good-morning, gentlemen, how do you do?” They
returned the greeting pleasantly. The conversation is recounted as

“I said, ‘Well, gentlemen,’ after saluting them in that form, ‘I suppose
you are out hunting minerals, 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
about 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.”[217]

Through this easy-going, 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, Chambersburg, and the North, about
five miles from the Ferry and in a quiet secluded place. The house stood
about 300 yards back from the Boonesborough 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 to the men were gathered slowly. They were at
the four ends of the country, in all sorts of employment and 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, and Oliver’s girl
wife came and kept the 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
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
Chambersburg and John Brown himself “labored and traveled night and day,
sometimes on old Dolly, his brown mule, and sometimes in the wagon. He
would start directly after night, and travel the fifty miles between the
farm and Chambersburg by daylight the next morning; and he otherwise
kept open communication between headquarters and the latter place, in
order that matters might be arranged in due season.”[218]

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 northern Ohio. The result was meagre; not because
of a 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
immediate 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. 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 presence 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 Northern Negroes
depended to 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 August
19th at Chambersburg in an abandoned stone quarry. Douglass says:

“As I came near, he regarded me rather suspiciously, but soon recognized
me, and received me cordially. He had in his hand when I met him a
fishing-tackle, with which he had been fishing in a stream hard by, but
I saw no fish and did not suppose he cared much for his ‘fisherman’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 stone 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 desirous 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 be an attack 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 fetters
more firmly than ever on the limbs of the enslaved. 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
that 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.”[219]

Douglass’s decision undoubtedly kept many Negroes from joining Brown.
Shields Green, however, started south. The slave-catchers followed him
and made him and Owen Brown swim a river. Only their journeying
southward instead of northward saved them from capture.

Life at the farm during this time was curious. Anderson says:

“There was no milk and water sentimentality—no offensive contempt for
the Negro, while working in his cause; the pulsations of 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 prejudice dared intrude its ugly self—no
ghost of distinction 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, storeroom, prison,
drilling-room, comprised in the loft above—who could tell how we lived
at Kennedy Farm.

“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
touching supplications for all flesh; and especially pathetic were his
petitions in behalf of the oppressed. I never heard John Brown pray,
that he did not make strong appeals to God for the deliverance 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 detailed 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 were 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—related our
personal history; but when our resources became pretty well exhausted,
the _ennui_ from confinement, 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.”[220]

Anne, the young daughter, says: “One day, a short time after I went down
there, father was sitting at the table writing. I was nearby 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 devour 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 he 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 the old seal
of Virginia, with the tyrant under her foot.”[221]

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-resistant, anti-slavery principles; 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 family of poor people who
lived nearby 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, several 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 insight at meal-times, to gather up
the victuals and table-cloth and quietly disappear up-stairs.

“One Saturday father and I went to a religious (Dunker) meeting that was
held in a grove near the schoolhouse and the folks left at home forgot
to keep a sharp lookout for Mrs. Heiffmaster, and she stole into the
house before they saw her, and saw Shields Green (that must have been in
September), Barclay Coppoc, and Will Lemnian. 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 magazine after a slow match had been

Despite all precautions, a rumor began to get in the air. A Prussian
Pole was among the Kansas cooperators invited. He had been in Kansas in
1856 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 insurrection. The leader of the movement
is one ‘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 mind 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.”[223]

Gerrit Smith, too, with little discretion, addressed to Negro audience
words which plainly showed he shortly expected a slave insurrection.
Even among Harper’s Ferry party forced inaction led to disputes and
disaffection. John Brown sharply rebuked the letter-writing and
gossiping about his men. “Any person is a stupid fool,” he told Kagi,
“who expects his friends to keep for him that which he cannot 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
keeping 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.”[224]

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.”[225]
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 so warm that John Brown at one
time resigned, but he was immediately reëlected and this formal letter
was sent to him:

“DEAR SIR—We have all agreed to sustain your decisions, until you have
proved incompetent, and many of us will adhere to your decisions so long
as you will.”[226]

In these ways Brown was compelled to hurry and accordingly he urged his
eldest son, who replied: “Through those associations which I formed in
Canada, I am able to reach each individual member at the shortest notice
by letter. I am devoting my whole time to our company business. I shall
immediately 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 reasons 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. I shall strain every nerve to accomplish this. You may be assured
that what you say to me will reach those who may be benefited thereby,
and those who would take stock, in the shortest possible time; so don’t
fail to keep me posted.”[227]

As late as October 6th Brown expected to “move about the end of the
month” and made a hurried 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. Anderson says he went “on the business of
great importance. How important, men there and elsewhere 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, detailed point after point
of interest”[228] 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 Philadelphia
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 taking 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 during that week,
and so indiscreetly exposed their numbers to the prying 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
neighbors have been allayed for a few days, the disappointment in the
former respect would not have been of much weight.”[229]

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

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 remembering that, consider
that the lives of others areas dear to them as yours are to you. Do not,
therefore, take the life of anyone, if you can possibly avoid it, but if
it is necessary to take life to save your own, then make sure work of

                               CHAPTER XI
                                THE BLOW

         “Woe unto them that call evil, good; and good, evil.”

“At eight o’clock on Sunday evening, Captain Brown said: ‘Men, get on
your arms; we will proceed 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.”[232]

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 Shenandoah. 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.

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 intervals, 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 approached the railroad, Cook and Tidd cut the
telegraph wires which led to Baltimore and Washington. 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 himself 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, running 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 crowbar 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.”[233]


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 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.”[234]

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
Copeland went there, captured the watchman and took possession.

“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 myself
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 opportunity 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 direction. The result was
that many colored men gathered to the scene of action. The first
prisoner taken by us was Colonel Lewis Washington [a relative 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, ‘You
are our prisoner,’ when he stood as if speechless 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 remain.’ ‘No,’ said the captain, ‘you must go along too; so get

He and his male slaves were thus taken, together with a large four-horse
wagon and some arms, including 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 taken prisoners and about one o’clock in
the morning the east-bound Baltimore and Ohio train arrived. 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 sunrise 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 exciting events. In consequence of the movements of
the night before, we were prepared for commotion and tumult, but
certainly not for more than we beheld around us. Gray dawn and yet
brighter daylight 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 movements.

“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 neighborhood, to join
John Henry Kagi and John Copeland 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.”[236]

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 were 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. Leeman, and, I think, four slaves
[Anderson says fourteen 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 bring
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 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. Leeman. 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.”[237]

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 extraordinary failure of Brown’s
foray at a time when victory 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 deposited 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 death. Cook stopped at this place and
unloaded the wagon, and then Leeman 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 schoolhouse before
eight o’clock in the morning, and the whole of the stores by ten
o’clock. That Brown expected this is shown by his sending William
Thompson 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 undoubtedly
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’s

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
without having had communication with any of our party.”[238]

The citizens were “wild with fright and excitement.... The prisoners
were also terror-stricken. Some wanted to go home to see their families,
as if for the last time. The privilege was granted them, under escort,
and they were brought back again. Edwin Coppoc, one of the sentinels at
the armory gate, was fired at by one of the citizens, but the ball did
not reach him, when one of the insurgents 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.”[239]

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 Londoun 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 them.

(_b_) The arms could have been taken down to the Potomac from the
schoolhouse, ferried across and moved over to Kagi. Brown and his men
could have joined the party there and all retreated up Loudoun 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 retreating 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 manœuvre 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 schoolhouse 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 schoolhouse, and then if all was well to the Ferry, or
straight across to the mountains. Cook started before 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 dispatched 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 expedition. Did Thompson
misapprehend his message? 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

(_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

(_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 unthinkable.

(_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

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
Charlestown in the meantime for Captain Rowan, commander 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 approach the Ferry, and
also a messenger to Shepherdstown.”[241]

Another eye-witness adds: “There was unavoidable 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 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 reënforced by four more of Brown’s party. Another small
party under Captain Medler was to cross the Shenandoah and take position
opposite the rifle works, while Captain Avis, with a sufficient force,
should take possession of the Shenandoah bridge, and Captain Roderick,
with some of the armorers, should post themselves on the Baltimore and
Ohio Railway west of the Ferry just above the armories.”[242]

At last the militia commenced to arrive and the movements to cut off
Brown’s men began. The Jefferson 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 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 manœuvres, said,
‘We will hold on to our three positions, if they are unwilling to come
to terms, and die like men.’”[243]

The attack came at noon from the Jefferson Guards, who started across
the Potomac bridge from Maryland. 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 entered the bridge from
the Maryland side, he, with some of his men, went into the street, and
sent a message 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 encouragement, 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 retreat 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 mentioned.

“The troops soon came out of the bridge, and up the street facing us, we
occupying 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
columns, 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 matter, and hence, very properly
and in our defense, undertook to forestall their movements. The
consequence 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

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 with
terror. Men, women and children forsook the place in great haste,
climbing up hillsides, and scaling the mountains. The latter seemed to
be alive with white fugitives, fleeing from their doomed city. During
this time, William Thompson, who was returning 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.”[245]

It was now one o’clock in the day and while things were going against
Brown, his cause was not desperate. His Maryland men might yet attack
the disorganized Jefferson Guards in the rear and the arsenal was full
of hostages. But militia and citizens kept pouring into the town and by
three o’clock “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 once been
mistaken for them. On this account the message 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 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, however, 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, leaving 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, both having been rendered temporarily useless, as I
afterward learned, from being wet. Holt, however, as he again advanced,
continued to snap his gun, while Copeland did the same.”[246]

Copeland was taken alive and Leeman, with a second message from Kagi to
Brown, was killed. 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 himself. He thought that the same end might be accomplished by
negotiation. His first move, therefore, was to withdraw all his force
and the important 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 selections. After getting
into the engine-house he made this speech: ‘Gentlemen, perhaps you
wonder why I have selected you from the others. It is because 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.”[247]

This evident weakening of the raiders let pandemonium 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 himself,” 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.’”[248]

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.”[249]

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.”[250]

The doomed raiders saw “volley upon volley” discharged, while “the
echoes from the hills, the shrieks of the townspeople, and the groans of
their wounded and dying, all of which filled 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.”[251]

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. Fouke, 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 I
then moved to the back part of the room, still with purpose unchanged,
but with a view to divert attention from me, in order to get an
opportunity, at some moment when the crowd would be less dense, to shoot
him. After a moment’s thought it occurred 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 way to 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.”[252]

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 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 son 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.”[253]

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
Russel undertook the dangerous duty; the risk arose from the excited
state of the people who would be likely to fire on anything seen
stirring around the prison-house, and the citizens were persuaded to
stop firing in consideration of the danger incurred of injuring the

“It was now dark and the wildest excitement existed in the town,
especially among the friends of the killed, wounded and prisoners of the
citizens’ party. It had rained some little all day and the atmosphere
was raw and cold. Now, a cloudy and moonless sky hung like a pall over
the scene of war, and, on the whole, a more dismal night cannot be
imagined. Guards were stationed round the engine-house to prevent
Brown’s escape and, as forces were constantly arriving from Winchester,
Frederick City, Baltimore and other places to help the Harper’s Ferry
people, the town soon assumed quite a military appearance. The United
States authorities in Washington had been notified in the meantime, and,
in the course of the night, Colonel Robert E. Lee, afterward the famous
General Lee of the Southern Confederacy, arrived with a force of United
States marines, to protect the interests of the government, and kill or
capture the invaders.”[254]

Meantime Cook had awakened to the fact that something was wrong. He left
Tidd at the schoolhouse and started toward the Ferry; finding it
surrounded, he fired one volley from a tree and fled. He found no one at
the schoolhouse, but met Tidd, and the whole farm guard, and one Negro
on the road beyond. They all turned and 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 prisoners tells the story of the last stand:

“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 himself on the clemency of the
government. Brown declined to accept Colonel Lee’s terms, and determined
to await the attack. When Stuart was 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 responded 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?’ 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 commenced beating the door with
that, the party within firing incessantly. I had assisted in the
barricading, 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 was 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.”[255]

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 battered 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:

“Hazlett thought it must be Owen Brown and his men trying to force their
way into the town, as they had been informed that a number of us had
been 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 schoolhouse by C. P. Tidd. They were in the
bushes on the edge of the mountains, dodging about, occasionally
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 without 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
companions, now being destroyed, we concluded to make our escape

Anderson managed to get away, but Hazlett was captured in Pennsylvania
and was returned to Virginia. Thus John Brown’s raid ended. Seven of the
men—John Brown himself, Shields Green, Edwin 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
fight, and six others—Owen Brown, Tidd, Leeman, Barclay Coppoc, Merriam
and O. Anderson escaped.

At high noon on Tuesday, October 18th, the raid was over. John Brown lay
wounded and bloodstained 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. I
came 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. Yesterday 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 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
expedition. But I have failed.”[257]

                              CHAPTER XII
                        THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX

  “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 receive 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 Riddle 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 another 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 experience 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 becomes 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
impracticable) 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 character; we instinctively distrust its comfortable tone, 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,
unflickering brightness, blinding by its all-seeing brilliance, making
the whole world simply a light and a darkness—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 plain to be true—it is true but truth
is not the only thing 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 Riddle of the Sphinx, that must be answered.

Such a light was the soul of John Brown. He was simple, exasperatingly
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.” 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 justice and patriotism. So was American slavery clothed in 1859,
and it had to die by revolution, 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 instinctively felt that
these things were not of the light but of the surrounding darkness. It
is at once surprising, 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 American—the typical
American, like Charles Robinson—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 merchant-errant like
Stearns. Finally, there were the two great fateful types—the master and
the slave.

To Robinson, Brown was simply a means to an end—beyond that he was
whatever prevailing public opinion indicated. When the gratitude of
Osawatomie swelled high, Brown was fit to be named with Jesus Christ;
when the wave of Southern reaction 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 indispensable, and not the first time, nor the last, has a
cool and skilful politician, like Robinson, climbed to power on the
heads of those helpers of his, whose half-realized ideals he bartered
for present possibilities—human freedom for statehood. For the
Abolitionist 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. Nor did he
rightly gauge the value of spiritual as contrasted with physical 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 and 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? 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 argument 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 Canada. Of the Boston committee only
Stearns stood up and out in the public glare and said unequivocally,
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.”[258]

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 holding 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. It was something to make the boldest
hold his breath.”[259]

Wise and Buchanan started immediately on Douglass’s track and he fled to
Canada and eventually to England. Why did not Douglass join John Brown?
Because, first, he was of an entirely different 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
Underground Railroad 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 system. They had been
slaves. They had risked life to help loved ones to escape its
far-reaching tentacles. They had reached a land 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 newspaper.
Then came the call. They loved the old man and cherished him, helped and
forwarded his 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 meaning 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, without 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 1859 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 in cowardice,
submission and fatality; the systematic elimination, by death and
cruelty, of strength and self-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 communication and the
poverty of black men, all made effective coöperation exceedingly

Even as it was, fifteen or twenty Negroes had enlisted and would
probably have been present had they had the time. Five, probably six,
actually came in 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 themselves standing with freedom before them. The white man was
John Brown’s truest companion and the black man was 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 Vallandighams, that
the mighty paradox and burning farce of the situation revealed itself.
Picture the situation: 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 almost before his
eyes, the piled corpses of his seven slain comrades near and afar, a
wife and a bereaved 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 inquisitors insisted.

“No man sent me—I acknowledge no master in human form!”

“What was your object in coming?”

“We came to free the slaves.”

“How do you justify your acts?”

“You are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity and it would
be perfectly right for any one to interfere with you so far as to free
those you wilfully and wickedly hold in bondage. I think I did right;
and that others will do right who interfere 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. I pity the poor in bondage 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

“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 and 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?”

“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

“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 free.”

“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
delaying my movements through Monday night, and up to the time I was
attacked by the government troops.”

“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 them?”

“Not at all.”

“To set them free would sacrifice the life of every man in this

“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 crowd.

“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 comparatively 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.”[260]

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. Indeed,
the dilemma into which John Brown’s raid threw the state of Virginia was
perfect. If his foray was the work of a handful 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-five to one hundred and he “expected
large reinforcements”; while Andrew Hunter, the state’s attorney, saw
nation-wide conspiracies.

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 least, 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 Virginia, 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.”[261]

The paths by which John Brown’s raid precipitated 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. 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 coöperate. 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 extremely improbable. The only other possible
perpetrators 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.[262] 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’).”[263] It is impossible to prove the extent of this clearing-out
of suspected slaves but the census reports indicate something of it. The
Negro population 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 Harper’s Ferry, Southern
leaders like Mason, the author of the Fugitive Slave Bill, and chairman
of the Harper’s Ferry investigating committee; Jefferson Davis, who was
a member of this committee; Wise, Hunter and other Virginians, had set
their faces toward secession as the only method of protecting 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 argument 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
abhorrent; Beecher thundered against John Brown and Seward bitterly
traduced him. Then came 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 lawbreaker 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
impracticability attracted poet and philosopher and common man.

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 execution 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
conscience. 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 justice. After
a certain moral bewilderment 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.”[264] 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 than in my life.”[265]

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 done 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 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.”[266]

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-appointed judge of those very
institutions, had convicted them before a jury of mankind. To defend the
good name of the state, Virginia had to restrain the violent blood
vengeance of men whose kin had been killed in the raid, and 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 and 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 hand, Hunter
not only feared the local mob but the slowly arising sentiment for this
white-haired crusader. He therefore pushed the proceedings legally, but
with almost brutal pertinacity. The prisoner was arraigned while wounded
and in bed; the lawyers, hurriedly chosen, were given scant time for
consultation or preparation. John Brown was formally committed to jail
at Charlestown, the county seat, on October 20th, had a preliminary
examination October 25th, and was indicted by the grand jury October
26th, for “conspiracy with slaves for the purpose of insurrection; with
treason against the commonwealth of Virginia; and with murder in the
first degree.”

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.”[267]

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 refused 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. Redpath 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 through the wide hall, and beyond the doors. There stood the anxious
but perfectly silent and 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?”

“Guilty,” answered the foreman.

“Guilty of treason, and conspiring and advising with slaves and others
to rebel, and murder in the first degree?”


Redpath 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 silence interrupted
during the whole of the time occupied by the forms of the court. Old
Brown himself said not even a word, but, as on any previous day, turned
to adjust his pallet, and then composedly stretched himself upon

The following Wednesday John Brown was sentenced. Moving with painful
steps and pale face, he took his seat under the gaslight in the great
square room and remained motionless. The judge read his decision on the
points of exception and the clerk asked: “Have you anything to say why
sentence 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 say.

“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
destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or
to make insurrection.

“I have another objection; and that is, it is unjust that I should
suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered 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 than punishment.

“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
understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe 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 country 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 circumstances, it has been more generous than
I expected. 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 commit 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 statements made by some of
those connected with me. I hear it has been stated by some of them that
I have induced them to join me. But the contrary is true. I do not say
this to injure them, but as regretting 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
conversation with, till the day they came to me; and that was for the
purpose I have stated.

“Now I have done.”[269]

The day of his dying, December 2d, dawned glorious; 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 beautiful land,” he said. It was beautiful.
Wide, glistening, rolling fields flickered in the sunlight. Beyond, the
Shenandoah went rolling northward, and still afar rose the mighty masses
of the Blue Ridge, where Nat Turner had fought and died, where Gabriel
had looked for refuge and 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, and
he is probably right; and 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 hypocritical prayers made over me when I am publicly
murdered, and that my only religious attendants be poor little dirty,
ragged, bareheaded, and barefooted slave boys and girls, led by some
gray-headed slave mother. Farewell! Farewell!”[270]

                              CHAPTER XIII
                        THE LEGACY OF JOHN BROWN

  “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 dramatic 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 America. Of himself he speaks simply and with satisfaction:
“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,
having early learned to regard the welfare and prosperity 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

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 at all. I certainly think I was never more
cheerful in my life.”[272]

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

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
success 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 the worse or the better for my living
and dying in it.”[274]

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 disposition to blush on my

“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 endure for a moment, shall but work
for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”[276]

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.”[277]

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 cannot believe that anything I have done, suffered, or may yet suffer,
will be lost to the cause of God or of humanity. And before I began my
work at Harper’s Ferry, I felt assured that in 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 disappointed 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.”[278]

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

“I have often passed under the rod of Him whom I call my Father,—and
certainly no son ever needed it oftener; 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 prosperous
still; and looking forward to a time when ‘peace on earth and good-will
to men’ shall everywhere prevail, I have no murmuring thoughts or
envious feelings to fret my mind. I’ll praise my Maker with my

“Success is in general the standard of all merit I have passed my time
quite cheerfully; still trusting 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 condition of those who are always on the under-hill side,
and am in hopes of being able to meet the consequences without a murmur.
I am endeavoring to get ready for another field of action, where no
defeat 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.”[281]

“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.”[282]

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:

“‘He shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines.’
This was said of a poor erring servant many years ago; 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

“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.’”[284]

“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 month,
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.”[285]

“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 done
in my life before.”[286]

“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.”[287]

Against 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 advocate slavery, I cannot abide them. My knees will not bend
in prayer with them, while their hands are stained with the blood of
souls.”[288] He said to one Southern clergyman: “I will thank you to
leave me alone; your prayers would be an abomination 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.”

And to a third who argued in favor of slavery as “a Christian
institution,” John Brown replied impatiently: “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 Christianity means.... I respect you
as a gentleman, of course; but it is as a heathen gentleman.”[289]

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 another. John Rogers wrote his
children, ‘Abhor that arrant whore of Rome.’ John Brown writes to his
children to abhor, with undying hatred also, that sum of all

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 respect.’
Strange change in morals, political as well as Christian, since

“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.”[292]

This was the man. His family is the world. What legacy did he leave? It
was soon seen that his voice was a call to the great final battle with

In the spring of 1861 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 verses,

           “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

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 neighbor as
himself. He could not endure therefore to see his neighbor, poor,
unfortunate or oppressed. 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
sympathy with misfortune, was added the strong influence of the social
doctrines of the French Revolution with its emphasis on freedom and
power in political 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 doctrine was a growing,
conquering, social thing. Since 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 martyrdom 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 philosophy. Strong arguments have been made for
the fostering of war, the utility of human degradation and disease, and
the inevitable and known inferiority 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 individuals will
gradually succumb, and the strong will inherit the earth. With this
interpretation has gone the silent 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

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 Negro 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 attitude of the
larger portion of our thinking people.

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 wisest 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 expected, 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 imperceptibly 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 developed 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 admission is, however, fatal to the whole argument. If the
doomed races of men are going to develop exceptions 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
threatening not simply the political but the moral integrity of the
nation: that step is denying in the case of black men the validity of
those evidences of culture, ability, and decency which are accepted
unquestionably in the ease 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 scientific sanction, leads to
such a moral anomaly, it is time to examine rather carefully the logical
foundations 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 welfare of the world
demands it is certainly questionable if these stocks include the
majority of mankind; and it is indefensible and monstrous to pretend
that we know to-day with any reasonable assurance which these stocks
are. We can point to degenerate individuals and families here and there
among all races, but there is not the slightest warrant 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 Seine, 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 communication and
what we call accident, have played a great part in the rise of culture
among nations: to ignore these and assert dogmatically that the present
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 endlessness 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 obliterated but transfigured: not equality of
present attainment but equality of opportunity, for unbounded 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 Elysées, 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
ability or culture. To be sure, this outrageous program of wholesale
human degeneration is not outspoken yet, save in the backward
civilizations of the Southern 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 philanthropy 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 program.

This movement gathered force and strength; during the latter half of the
nineteenth century and reached its culmination when France, Germany,
England and Russia 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, the struggle for survival and a variety of
terms meaning 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 being swept off
the fairest portions of the earth or held there in perpetual serfdom or
guardianship. Ignoring 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 fitness.

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 increasing, 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 intercourse 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 because free
democracy and equality of opportunity allow the best to rise to their
rightful place. The same is true in racial contact. Vertical race
distinctions 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. Race 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 return 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? 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 unparalleled 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, spreading
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 ignore—its greatest cost would be the new problems of
racial intercourse and intermarriage which would come to the front.
Freedom and 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 something 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, are a 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
régime of freedom in human growth and development—they raise the cost of
liberty. Not only that but the very explosions, like the Russo-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; step 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 dangerous 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 unthinking to brand as demagogue and radical every
group leader who in the day of slavery and struggle cries out for

For such reasons it is that the memory of John 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
from 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. Repression 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 emancipation and its cost in
blood and treasure was staggering. But that was not all—it was only a
first step. There were other bills to pay of material reconstruction,
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 Rights Bill. But the effort was
great and the determination 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 expenditure
of money, ingenuity, physical or moral strength. The building of
barriers around these black men has been pushed with an energy so
desperate 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 coöperation. 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 forgotten 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 deprive 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 governments to help and
make effective this discrimination.

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 because 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 landed estate half
the size of all England, and put homes thereon as good and as pure as
the homes of any corresponding 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, 1,250,000 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
vantage-ground which it holds as a defender of the right of the freedom
of human development for black men in the midst of a centre of modern
culture. It sees its brothers in yellow, black and brown held physically
at arms’ length from civilization lest they become civilized and less
liable to conquest and exploitation. 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 overwhelming against you—wealth, tradition, learning and guns.
Be reasonable. Accept the dole of charity and the cant of missionaries
and sink contentedly to your place as humble servants and helpers of the
white world.” If this has not been effective, threats have been used:
“If you continue to complain, we will withdraw all aid, boycott 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 refused to die out and
disappear, and to-day stands as physically the most virile element in
America, intellectually 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
Golconda has induced him to believe that life without liberty is worth

On the other side heart-searching is in order. It is not well with this
land of ours: poverty is certainly 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 business, 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 battle 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
insulting of black women, and the stealing of black votes? How far are
business dishonesty and civic degradation in America the direct result
of racial prejudice?

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 R. Giddings,
keen, impetuous and fiery, was on the rack. Senator Davis, pale, sallow
and imperturbable, 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 Negro slaves, or did you also include minors, convicts,
and lunatics, who might be restrained of their liberty by the laws of
the land?”

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 reason, 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 enslaved 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

Giddings replied: “I will 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 preparing him to secure and
maintain the very rights to which I refer.”[293]

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 in slavery?
Then it is not benevolent. Liberty trains for liberty. Responsibility is
the first step in responsibility.

Even the restraints imposed in the training of men and children are
restraints that will in the end make greater freedom possible. Is the
benevolent expansion of to-day of such a character? Is England 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? 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-reliant freemen of a republic, or the dumb driven cattle of a great
industrial machine?

No sooner is the question put this way than the defenders of modern
caste retire behind a more defensible 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 maintained, 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
forcing rather than of growth, involving sinful and unnecessary 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 advance 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 inevitable 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 inherent 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 forward.

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 barriers 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 degeneration.
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. Revolution 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 cannot 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, (Valuable for Kansas life
            of Brown.)

  To the above may be added the shorter estimate by H. E. von Holst,
            1899, and some may like Chamberlain’s pert essay (Beacon
            Biographies, 1889).

_Students must add to these the following books and articles which
contain many of the original sources of our knowledge_:

  ANDERSON, OSBORNE P. A Voice from Harper’s Ferry. A narrative of
            events at Harper’s Ferry; with incidents 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 account.)

  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

  TRANSACTIONS of the Kansas State Historical Society, together with
            addresses, etc., Volumes I-IX. (Contains many personal

  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 consider 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. 196–202.

  —— John Brown’s Men; the lives of those killed at Harper’s Ferry, with
            a supplementary bibliography of John Brown. In Southern
            History Association publications. Volume 3, pp. 281–306.
            (The best bibliography.)

  DOUGLASS, FREDERICK. John Brown, an address at the fourteenth
            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 attorney.)

  HIGGINSON, THOMAS WENTWORTH. A Visit to John Brown’s Household in
            1859. (In “Contemporaries,” 1899.)

  WRIGHT, HARRY A. John Brown in Springfield. _New England 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.

  BOTELER, ALEXANDER L. Recollections of the John Brown Raid. _Century._
            July, 1883. Comment by F. B. Sanborn.

  DAINGERFIELD, JOHN E. P. John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. _Century._
            June. 1885, pp. 265–267. (The story of an engine-house

  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. Illustrated.
            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, Ill. The author. 1902.

  —— Reminiscences of Old John Brown. Thrilling instances of border life
            in Kansas. With appendix by Eli Thayer. Rockford, Ill. 1880.
            Printed by Eli Smith.

  WRIGHT, MARCUS JOSEPH. Trial of John Brown. Its impartiality and
            decorum vindicated. Southern History 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, 290–291.

 Alleghany Mountains, 48, 106, 127, 275, 279, 299.

 Anderson, Jeremiah, 258, 282–283, 324, 325, 336.

 Anderson, John, 282.

 Anderson, Osborne Perry, 280, 305, 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), 95.

 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, 25, 31;
   as tanner, 31;
   marriage of, 32;
   occupations of, 32;
   family life of, 33–37;
   second marriage of, 38;
   in panic of 1837, 41;
   as shepherd, 52–60;
   as wool merchant, 61–68;
   in England, 68–71;
   lawsuits of, 71–74;
   and fugitive slaves, 84, 85;
   first plan against slavery, 87–88;
   and Negroes in, 89–91;
   and mobs, 91;
   and oath vs. slavery, 92, 93;
   and Abolitionists, 91–94;
   and settlement in Virginia, 95;
   and black men, 97–121;
   and Frederick Douglass, 102–109;
   in the Adirondacks, 111–113;
   in Kansas, 126–134, 139–140, 143–144, 145–197;
   developing 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 resources of, 277–278;
   military organizations of, 106, 116, 149, 160–169, 175–179, 181–182,
      188–189, 191, 226–227, 278–279;
   Negro companions of, 280–283;
   white companions
 of, 283–287;
   health of, 288;
   seventh trip eastward, 288–291;
   starts South, 291;
   arrives at Harper’s Ferry, 292;
   perfecting arrangements, 293–307;
   meets Douglass, 295–297;
   life at Kennedy Farm, 298–302;
   betrayal of plans of, 302–303;
   raid of, at Harper’s Ferry, 308–337;
   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, 26–47, 300–301, 338–358;
   descriptions of, 21, 28, 73, 74, 92, 104, 173–174, 197, 287;
   family of, 31–39, 42, 44, 45, 58, 71, 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, 178, 179, 182, 186,
      187, 188–189, 218, 220, 227, 228, 232–234, 248, 249, 257, 266,
      267, 270, 271, 304, 357, 365–373;
   reading of, 40;
   religion of, 23, 25, 40–41, 42, 47, 365–373;
   speeches of, 132, 150, 180–182, 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, 336.

 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, 377–380, 387, 388, 391–393.

 Catchers, slave, 97.

 Charleston, Va. (W. Va.), 13.

 Committee, National Kansas, New York meeting of, 13, 207.

 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 Philadelphia, 236–238.

 Convention, Big Springs, Kansas, 12.

 Convention, Chatham, 203, 257, 267.

 Convention, Syracuse, of Abolitionists, 12, 132, 133.

 Cook, John E., 219, 220, 252, 259, 315, 316, 318, 319, 324, 331, 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, 154.

 Emancipation, 386–387.

 Engine-house at Harper’s Ferry, 326, 334.

 Fight at Harper’s Ferry, 322–326.

 Floyd, John, Secretary of War, 124.

 Forbes, Hugh, 73;
   meets Brown, 216–217;
   goes West, 218–219;
   returns East, 219;
   betrays plans, 225;
   complaints of, 266, 268.

 Franklin, Kansas, attack on, 175–176.

 Freedom, League of, 244.

 Free Soilers, 131.

 Fugitive Slave Law, 12, 236.

 Fugitive slaves, 82, 84, 85, 88, 94, 106–108, 203–204, 241.

 Gabriel, 11, 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, 391–392.

 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, 336, 343–347.

 Hall, Pennsylvania, 91.

 Hamilton’s massacre, 188, 192–194.

 Harper’s Ferry raid:
   the place 273–274;
   plans of, 274–276;
   financial resources of, 277–278;
   military organizations of, 278–280;
   participants of, 280–288;
   depot at Chambersburg, 291–292;
   preparations, 293–307;
   beginning of foray, 308;
   capture of armory, 310;
   capture of town, 311;
   capture of Colonel Washington, 311–312;
   halting of train, 313;
   bringing up the arms, 314–316;
   further plans, 317–319;
   gathering 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, 330–333;
   capture of Brown, 333–334;
   capture and escape of others, 334–336.

 Harper, Samuel, 194–195.

 Hayti, 75, 97.

 Hazlett, Albert, 334, 336.

 Henson, Josiah, 241, 253.

 Hinton, R. J., 7, 173, 181, 189, 204, 207, 222, 258, 277, 284.

 Holden, Isaac, 257, 258, 277, 284.

 Howe, Dr. S. G., 210, 231, 267, 341, 343.

 Hunter, Andrew, 352, 353, 356.

 Independence, Chatham Declaration of, 272.

 Insurrection, Cumberland region, 97.

 Insurrection in Virginia, 81.

 Insurrection of slaves, 79, 80, 83, 85, 97, 105–106.

 Insurrection, proposed Negro, 166.

 Intermarriage of races, 382, 384, 385.

 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, 324, 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, 119.

 Lawrence, Kansas, 12, 167, 170;
   sacking of, 153–154;
   last attack on, 180–184.

 League, Liberty, 244.

 League of Gileadites, 12, 114.

 Leary, Lewis Sherrard, 282–305.

 Lee, Robert E., 13, 331, 332.

 Leeman, William H., 221, 252, 259, 325, 336.

 _Liberator, The_, 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, 143–144, 154–159.

 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, 175–179,
    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, 259.

 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, 353–354.

 Negro insurrections, 79–80, 83, 85, 97, 105–106.

 Negro leaders, 97, 98, 101, 102, 110, 240, 241–243, 246, 258, 259, 294,

 Negro, Northern, 235.

 Negro organizations, 203–204, 244.

 Negro progress, 1830–1840, 235;
   1840–1850, 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, 389.

 Newby, Dangerfield, 281, 323.

 North Elba, New York, 12.

 _North Star_, 101, 242.

 Oberlin College, 11, 53, 55, 95, 258, 281, 283.

 Oberlin College lands in Virginia, 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, 231.

 Parsons, L. L., 220–221, 252, 259.

 Perkins, Simon, 58, 68.

 Perkins and Brown, wool-merchants, 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, 157, 158, 162.

 Purvis, Robert, 241, 246.

 Raid at Harper’s Ferry, see Harper’s Ferry.

 Realf, Richard, 215–220, 252, 259.

 Redpath, James, 7, 72, 99, 132, 147, 181, 246.

 Reeder, Governor of Kansas, 215.

 Reynolds, G. J., 208, 258, 260.

 Richardson, Richard, 221, 252, 258.

 Robinson, Charles, Governor of Kansas, 134, 150, 184, 207, 341, 342.

 Rochester, N. Y., state convention, 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, 189.

 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, Phœnix, 239.

 Society, American Anti-slavery, 246.

 Society, American Moral Reform, 238.

 Society, New England Emigrant Aid, 136, 145.

 Song of “John Brown’s Body,” 374.

 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, 53–55.

 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, 113, 155–168.

 Thompson, William, 77, 173, 315, 316, 319, 324, 328, 329.

 Tidd, C. P., 221, 252, 259, 315, 316, 319, 324, 331, 335, 336.

 Tubman, Harriet, 204, 241, 249, 251, 293.

 Turner, Nat, 11, 85, 97, 127, 239.

 Underground Railroad, 94, 101, 107, 110, 198, 243, 263.

 University, Western Reserve, 86.

 Vesey, Denmark, 83, 97.

 Virginia, 16.

 Wakarusa war and treaty, 151.

 War, Civil, 48, 142.

 War in Kansas, 140, 142.

 War of 1812, 25, 48–49.

 Ward, Samuel Ringgold, 242, 243.

 Wars, Seminole, 84.

 Washington, Colonel Lewis, 317, 322.

 Wilberforce University, 236, 253.

 Wilson, Senator, 225, 226.

 Wise, Governor of Virginia, 336, 355.

 Woodson, Governor of Missouri, 180, 241.

 Wool-growers’ convention, 62.


Footnote 1:

  Redpath, _Public Life of Captain John Brown_, p. 25.

Footnote 2:

  Autobiography of Owen Brown in Sanborn, _Life and Letters of John
  Brown_, p. 7.

Footnote 3:

  The quotations in this chapter are from John Brown’s Autobiography,
  Sanborn, _Life and Letters of John Brown_, pp. 12–17.

Footnote 4:

  John Brown’s Autobiography, Sanborn, p. 16.

Footnote 5:

  Heman Hallock, in the New York _Journal of Commerce_, quoted in
  Sanborn, p. 32.

Footnote 6:

  John Brown’s Autobiography, Sanborn, p. 16.

Footnote 7:

  John Brown’s Autobiography, Sanborn, pp. 16, 17.

Footnote 8:

  John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, p. 34.

Footnote 9:

  Ruth Brown in Sanborn, pp. 37–39.

Footnote 10:

  John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 91–93.

Footnote 11:

  Ruth Brown in Sanborn, pp. 93–94.

Footnote 12:

  _Ibid._, p. 104.

Footnote 13:

  Ruth Brown in Sanborn, p. 44.

Footnote 14:

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

Footnote 15:

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

Footnote 16:

  Ruth Brown in Sanborn, pp. 38–39.

Footnote 17:

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

Footnote 18:

  Letter to his wife, 1851, in Sanborn, p. 146.

Footnote 19:

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

Footnote 20:

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

Footnote 21:

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

Footnote 22:

  Letter to his father, 1846, in Sanborn, pp. 21, 22.

Footnote 23:

  Letter to his daughter, 1852, in Sanborn, p. 45.

Footnote 24:

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

Footnote 25:

  Letter to his wife, 1839, in Sanborn, p. 68.

Footnote 26:

  Sanborn, p. 58.

Footnote 27:

  Records of Oberlin College, quoted in Sanborn, pp. 134–135.

Footnote 28:

  Levi Burnell to Owen Brown, 1840, in Sanborn, p. 135.

Footnote 29:

  Letter to his family, 1840, in Sanborn, p. 134.

Footnote 30:

  MS. Diary, Boston Public Library. Vol. I. p. 65.

Footnote 31:

  Records of the Board of Trustees, Oberlin College, Aug. 28, 1840,
  quoted in Sanborn, p. 135.

Footnote 32:

  John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, p 87.

Footnote 33:

  Agreement quoted in Sanborn, pp. 55–56.

Footnote 34:

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

Footnote 35:

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

Footnote 36:

  Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1843, in Sanborn, pp. 58–59.

Footnote 37:

  _Ibid._, p. 59.

Footnote 38:

  _Ibid._, p. 59.

Footnote 39:

  Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1844, in Sanborn, pp. 59–60.

Footnote 40:

  _Ibid._, p. 61.

Footnote 41:

  Ruth Brown in Sanborn, p. 95.

Footnote 42:

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

Footnote 43:

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

Footnote 44:

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

Footnote 45:

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

Footnote 46:

  E. C. Leonard in Sanborn, p. 65.

Footnote 47:

  Letter to Owen Brown, 1847, in Sanborn, pp. 23–24.

Footnote 48:

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

Footnote 49:


Footnote 50:

  Memoranda by John Brown, in Sanborn, p. 65; Redpath, p. 56

Footnote 51:

  Sanborn, pp. 67–68.

Footnote 52:

  Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1849, Sanborn, p. 73.

Footnote 53:

  E. C. Leonard, in Sanborn, pp. 67–68.

Footnote 54:

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

Footnote 55:

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

Footnote 56:

  Redpath, p. 58.

Footnote 57:

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

Footnote 58:

  Letter to his children, 1854, in Sanborn, p. 155.

Footnote 59:

  R. H. Dana, in the _Atlantic Monthly_, 1871.

Footnote 60:

  Owen Brown, in Sanborn, pp. 10–11.

Footnote 61:

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

Footnote 62:

  Sanborn, p. 34.

Footnote 63:

  Letter to his brother Frederick, 1834, in Sanborn, pp. 40–41.

Footnote 64:

  Ruth Brown, in Sanborn, p. 37.

Footnote 65:

  John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 52–53.

Footnote 66:

  Redpath, p. 65.

Footnote 67:

  Redpath, pp. 53–54.

Footnote 68:

  Redpath, pp. 59–60.

Footnote 69:

  From “Sambo’s Mistakes,” published in the _Ram’s Horn_ and printed in
  Sanborn, p. 130.

Footnote 70:

  Douglass, _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_ (1892), Chap. 8, Part
  II, pp. 337–342.

Footnote 71:

  Sanborn, p. 97.

Footnote 72:

  Redpath, p. 61.

Footnote 73:

  Ruth Brown, in Sanborn. p. 100.

Footnote 74:

  Redpath, p. 62.

Footnote 75:

  Letter to his wife, 1850, in Sanborn, pp. 106–107.

Footnote 76:

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

Footnote 77:

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

Footnote 78:

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

Footnote 79:

  Sanborn, p. 132.

Footnote 80:

  Ruth Brown, in Sanborn, pp. 131–132.

Footnote 81:

  Letter to his wife, 1852, in Sanborn, pp. 108–109.

Footnote 82:

  Ruth Brown, in Sunburn, p. 104.

Footnote 83:

  Letters to his children, 1852–1853, in Sanborn, pp. 110 and 148.

Footnote 84:

  Compare the _American Anthropologist_, Vol. 4, No. 2, April-June,

Footnote 85:

  Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1854, in Sanborn, p. 191.

Footnote 86:

  John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 188–190.

Footnote 87:

  Letter to his children, 1854, in Sanborn, pp. 110–111.

Footnote 88:

  Redpath, p. 81.

Footnote 89:

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

Footnote 90:

  John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, pp. 190–191.

Footnote 91:

  Ruth Thompson, in Sanborn, p. 105.

Footnote 92:

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

Footnote 93:

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

Footnote 94:

  Redpath, pp. 103–104.

Footnote 95:

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

Footnote 96:

  Letter to his wife, 1855, in Sanborn, pp. 217–221.

Footnote 97:

  G. W. Brown, _Reminiscences of Old John Brown_, p. 8; Phillips,
  _History of Kansas_, quoted in Redpath, p. 90.

Footnote 98:

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

Footnote 99:

  Letter to his family, 1856, in Sanborn, p. 223.

Footnote 100:

  Letter of Giddings to John Brown, 1856, in Sanborn, p. 224.

Footnote 101:

  D. W. Wilder, in the _Transactions_ of the Kansas State Historical
  Society, Vol. 6, p. 337.

Footnote 102:

  E. A. Coleman, in Sanborn, p. 260.

Footnote 103:

  James Hanway, in Hinton, _John Brown and His Men_, p. 695.

Footnote 104:

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

Footnote 105:

  Jason Brown, in Sanborn, p. 273.

Footnote 106:

  E. A. Coleman, in Sanborn, p. 259.

Footnote 107:

  John Brown, Jr., in Sanborn, p. 278.

Footnote 108:

  Letter to his family, 1856, in Sanborn, pp. 236–241.

Footnote 109:

  Sanborn, pp. 287–288.

Footnote 110:

  Sanborn, pp. 288–290.

Footnote 111:

  Redpath, pp. 112–114.

Footnote 112:

  Bondi in the _Transactions_ of the Kansas State Historical Society,
  Vol. 8, pp. 282–284.

Footnote 113:

  Bondi in the _Transactions_ of the Kansas State Historical Society,
  Vol. 8, p. 285.

Footnote 114:

  _Ibid._, p. 284.

Footnote 115:

  Bondi in the _Transactions_ of the Kansas State Historical Society,
  Vol. 8, p. 286; John Brown to his family, 1856, in Sanborn, pp.

Footnote 116:

  W. A. Phillips, in Sanborn, pp. 306–308.

Footnote 117:

  Hinton, pp. 201–204.

Footnote 118:

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

Footnote 119:

  Appeal to the citizens of Lafayette County, Mo., Sanborn, p. 309.

Footnote 120:

  Samuel Walker in _Transactions_ of the Kansas State Historical
  Society, Vol. 6, pp. 272–273.

Footnote 121:

  Quoted in Sanborn, p. 321.

Footnote 122:

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

Footnote 123:

  Charles Robinson to John Brown, 1856, in Sanborn, pp. 330–331.

Footnote 124:

  Speech of John Brown, Redpath, pp. 163–164.

Footnote 125:

  Redpath, pp. 164–165.

Footnote 126:

  Paper by John Brown, Sanborn, pp. 332–333.

Footnote 127:

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

Footnote 128:

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

Footnote 129:

  Correspondence of Lane and Brown, in Sanborn, pp. 401–402.

Footnote 130:

  Letter to F. B. Sanborn and others, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 474–477.

Footnote 131:


Footnote 132:

  Hinton in Redpath, pp. 199–206.

Footnote 133:

  George B. Gill in Hinton, p. 218.

Footnote 134:

  Sanborn, pp. 481–483.

Footnote 135:

  Hamilton, _John Brown in Canada_, pp. 4–5.

Footnote 136:

  Sanborn, p. 491.

Footnote 137:

  Redpath, p. 48.

Footnote 138:

  Redpath, p. 71.

Footnote 139:

  Hinton in Redpath, pp. 203–205.

Footnote 140:

  Reminiscences of George B. Gill, Hinton, pp. 732–733.

Footnote 141:

  Hinton, pp. 171–172.

Footnote 142:

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

Footnote 143:

  Paper by John Brown, in Sanborn, pp. 241–242.

Footnote 144:

  Letter from Gerrit Smith to John Brown, in Sanborn, p. 364.

Footnote 145:

  Jeremiah Brown in Redpath, pp. 174–175.

Footnote 146:

  Reminiscences of Mrs. Mary E. Stearns, in Hinton, pp. 719–727.

Footnote 147:

  Sanborn, _John Brown and his Friends_, p. 8.

Footnote 148:

  Letter of H. B. Hurd to John Brown, 1857, in Sanborn, p. 367.

Footnote 149:

  Sanborn, pp. 375–376.

Footnote 150:

  Speech of John Brown, Sanborn. p. 379.

Footnote 151:

  Letter to Eli Thayer, 1857, in Sanborn, p. 382.

Footnote 152:

  Reminiscences of Dr. Wayland, Sanborn, p. 381.

Footnote 153:

  Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No. 278,
  Testimony of Richard Realf, p. 96.

Footnote 154:

  Hinton, pp. 614–615.

Footnote 155:

  Letter to Augustus Wattles, 1857, in Sanborn, p. 393.

Footnote 156:

  Confession of John E. Cook in Hinton, pp. 700–701.

Footnote 157:

  Richman, _John Brown Among the Quakers_, pp. 20–21.

Footnote 158:

  Richman, pp. 28–29.

Footnote 159:

  Hinton, pp. 156–157.

Footnote 160:

  Douglass, _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_, pp. 385–386.

Footnote 161:

  Letter to Theodore Parker, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 434–435.

Footnote 162:

  Letter to Higginson, 1858, in Sanborn, p. 436.

Footnote 163:

  Sanborn, pp. 438—440.

Footnote 164:

  Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 450–451.

Footnote 165:

  Letter to his family, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 440–441.

Footnote 166:

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

Footnote 167:

  Hickok, _The Negro in Ohio_, p. 42.

Footnote 168:

  _Ibid._, p. 44.

Footnote 169:

  Williams, _Negro Race in America_, Vol. 2, pp. 65–67.

Footnote 170:

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

Footnote 171:

  Occasional Papers of the American Negro Academy, No. 9, p. 15.

Footnote 172:

  _Ibid._, No. 9, p. 16.

Footnote 173:

  Douglass, _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_ (1892), p. 345.

Footnote 174:

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

Footnote 175:

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

Footnote 176:

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

Footnote 177:

  Letter to John Brown, Jr., 1858, in Sanborn, p. 452.

Footnote 178:

  Bradford, _Harriet, the Moses of Her People_, pp. 118–119.

Footnote 179:

  Letter of Wendell Phillips, printed in Bradford, _Harriet, the Moses
  of Her People_, pp. 155–156.

Footnote 180:

  Hamilton, _John Brown in Canada_, p. 10.

Footnote 181:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 9.

Footnote 182:

  Rollins, _Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delaney_, pp. 85–90.

Footnote 183:

  Reminiscences of J. M. Jones, in Hamilton, _John Brown in Canada_, pp.

Footnote 184:

  Hinton, p. 178.

Footnote 185:

  Reminiscences of J. M. Jones, in Hamilton, _John Brown in Canada_, pp.
  14 and 16.

Footnote 186:

  Rollins, _Life and Public Services of Martin R. Delaney_, pp. 85–90.

Footnote 187:

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

Footnote 188:

  Reminiscences of J. M. Jones, in Hamilton, _John Brown in Canada_, p.

Footnote 189:

  Hinton, pp. 619–633.

Footnote 190:

  Hinton, pp. 642–643.

Footnote 191:

  Provisional Constitution, Art. 42.

Footnote 192:

  Letter to his family, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 455–456.

Footnote 193:

  Letter from Sanborn to Higginson, 1858, in Sanborn, p. 458.

Footnote 194:

  Letter from Higginson to Theodore Parker, in Sanborn, p. 459.

Footnote 195:

  Letter from Forbes to Higginson, 1858, in Sanborn, pp. 460–461.

Footnote 196:

  Sanborn, pp. 463–464.

Footnote 197:

  Letter to Owen Brown, 1858, in Richman, _John Brown Among the
  Quakers_, pp. 40–41.

Footnote 198:

  Jefferson, _Notes on Virginia_.

Footnote 199:

  Sanborn, p. 467.

Footnote 200:

  Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No. 278;
  Testimony of Richard Realf, p. 100.

Footnote 201:

  Sanborn, p. 457.

Footnote 202:

  Hinton, pp. 130–131.

Footnote 203:

  W. P. Garrison in the _Andover Review_, Dec., 1890, and Jan., 1891.

Footnote 204:

  General Orders, Oct. 10, 1859, Hinton, pp. 646–647.

Footnote 205:

  Douglass, _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_, p. 387.

Footnote 206:

  Hunter, _John Brown’s Raid_, republished in the Publications of the
  Southern History Association, Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 188.

Footnote 207:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of Ralph Plumb, p. 181.

Footnote 208:

  Barry, _The Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry_, p. 93.

Footnote 209:

  Anne Brown in Hinton, pp. 529–530.

Footnote 210:

  Hinton, p. 453.

Footnote 211:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 15.

Footnote 212:

  Hinton, pp. 496–497.

Footnote 213:

  Sanborn in the _Atlantic Monthly_, Hinton, p. 570.

Footnote 214:

  Anne Brown in Hinton, p. 450.

Footnote 215:

  From the newspaper report of the speech at Cleveland, March 22d,
  Redpath, pp. 239–240.

Footnote 216:

  Diary of A. Bronson Alcott, Sanborn, pp. 504–505.

Footnote 217:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of John C. Unseld, pp. 1–2.

Footnote 218:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 19.

Footnote 219:

  Douglass, _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_, pp. 388–391.

Footnote 220:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, pp. 23–25.

Footnote 221:

  Anne Brown in Sanborn, p. 531.

Footnote 222:

  Anne Brown in Hinton, p. 265.

Footnote 223:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of John B. Floyd, pp. 250–252.

Footnote 224:

  Letter to Kagi, 1859, in Hinton, pp. 257–258.

Footnote 225:

  Anne Brown in Hinton, p. 260.

Footnote 226:

  Letter of Owen to John Brown, 1850, in Hinton, p. 259.

Footnote 227:

  John Brown, Jr., to Kagi, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 547–548.

Footnote 228:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 26.

Footnote 229:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 27.

Footnote 230:

  _Ibid._, p. 23.

Footnote 231:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 29.

Footnote 232:

  Anderson. _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, pp. 31–32.

Footnote 233:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of Daniel Wheeler, pp. 21–22.

Footnote 234:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 33.

Footnote 235:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, pp. 33–34.

Footnote 236:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, pp. 36–37.

Footnote 237:

  Statement by John Edwin Cook in Hinton, pp. 700–718.

Footnote 238:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 37.

Footnote 239:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, pp. 37–38.

Footnote 240:

  Redpath, p. 249.

Footnote 241:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of John D. Starry, p. 25.

Footnote 242:

  Boteler, “Recollections of the John Brown Raid” in the _Century
  Magazine_, July, 1883, p. 405.

Footnote 243:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 42.

Footnote 244:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, pp. 39–40.

Footnote 245:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 40.

Footnote 246:

  Boteler, “Recollections of the John Brown Raid” in the _Century
  Magazine_, July, 1883, p. 407.

Footnote 247:

  Daingerfield in the _Century Magazine_, June, 1885.

Footnote 248:

  Barry, _Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry_, p. 67.

Footnote 249:

  Patrick Higgins in Hinton, p. 290.

Footnote 250:

  Daingerfield in the _Century Magazine_, June, 1885.

Footnote 251:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 42.

Footnote 252:

  Testimony of Henry Hunter in Redpath, pp. 320–321.

Footnote 253:

  Daingerfield in the _Century Magazine_, June, 1885.

Footnote 254:

  Berry, _Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry_, pp. 70–71.

Footnote 255:

  Daingerfield in the _Century Magazine_, June, 1885.

Footnote 256:

  Anderson, _A Voice from Harper’s Ferry_, p. 52.

Footnote 257:

  John Brown in Sanborn, pp. 560–661.

Footnote 258:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of George L. Stearns, pp. 241–242.

Footnote 259:

  Douglass, _Life and Times of Frederick Douglass_ (1892), p. 376.

Footnote 260:

  Correspondence of the New York _Herald_, Sanborn, pp. 562–571.

Footnote 261:

  Frederick Douglass in a speech at Storer College at Harper’s Ferry,
  May, 1882.

Footnote 262:

  Hinton, pp. 325–326.

Footnote 263:

  Mrs. Spring in Redpath, p. 377.

Footnote 264:

  Newspaper report in Redpath, p. 376.

Footnote 265:

  Mrs. Spring in Redpath, p. 377.

Footnote 266:

  Letter to his sister, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 607–609.

Footnote 267:

  Remarks by John Brown in Redpath, p. 309.

Footnote 268:

  Newspaper report quoted by Redpath, p. 337.

Footnote 269:

  Redpath, pp. 340–342.

Footnote 270:

  Letter to Mrs. George L. Stearns, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 610–611.

Footnote 271:

  Letter to his cousin, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 594–595.

Footnote 272:

  Letter to D. R. Tilden in Sanborn, pp. 609–610.

Footnote 273:

  Letters to his family, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 579–580, 613–615.

Footnote 274:

  Letter to D. R. Tilden in Sanborn, pp. 609–610.

Footnote 275:

  Letter to his family, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 579–580.

Footnote 276:

  Letter to a friend, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 582–583.

Footnote 277:

  Letter to his family, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 579–580.

Footnote 278:

  Letter to H. L. Vaill, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 589–591.

Footnote 279:

  Letter to Rev. Dr. Humphrey, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 603–605.

Footnote 280:

  Letter to H. L. Vaill, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 590–591.

Footnote 281:

  Letter to Miss Stearns, Sanborn, p. 607.

Footnote 282:

  Postscript of letter to his family, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 585–587.

Footnote 283:

  Letter to Rev. Dr. Humphrey, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 603–605.

Footnote 284:

  Letter to Mr. McFarland, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 598–599.

Footnote 285:

  Letter to his younger children, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 596–597.

Footnote 286:

  Letter to his wife and children in Sanborn, pp. 585–587.

Footnote 287:

  Letter to D. R. Tilden in Sanborn, pp. 609–610.

Footnote 288:

  Letter to Mr. McFarland, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 598–599.

Footnote 289:

  Redpath, pp. 382–383. c

Footnote 290:

  Last letter to his family, 1859, in Sanborn, pp. 614–615.

Footnote 291:

  Letter to F. B. Musgrave, 1859, in Sanborn, p. 593.

Footnote 292:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of Joshua R. Giddings, pp. 147–156.

Footnote 293:

  Report: Reports of Senate Committees, 36th Congress, 1st Session, No.
  278; Testimony of Joshua R. Giddings pp. 147–156.


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. P. 34, changed “John, Dr.” to “John, Jr.”.
 2. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 3. Archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as printed.
 4. Footnotes were re-indexed using numbers and collected together at
      the end of the last chapter.
 5. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.
 6. Enclosed bold font in =equals=.

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