Chapter 1: Whetting the sword.Thus far John Brown's action has been exclusively defensive; even according to the usual but unjust definition of the word. He had never struck a blow but in defence of a threatened party. He had fought against the invaders of Free Soil, but never yet invaded a slave country. We are now to see him acting as an aggressor — if we accept the popular interpretation of the phrase. Rather, in truth, we are now to see him as a defender of the faith delivered to the fathers. For error is always an innovator — ever an aggression. It has supplanted and fills the place that God intended for the truth. Hence the radical reformer is the only conservative; and the monomaniac is the man who supports any untrue thing, whether creed, party, church, or civil institution. The North says that slavery is a wrong. Why not, then, destroy it? The Constitution, the Union, Federal laws, State rights, it answers; refusing to believe that no real good can be gained by nourishing a gigantic wrong.  When John Brown walked, he neither turned to the right nor left. With a solemn, earnest countenance, he moved straight on, and every one he met made way for him. So in his ideas. He felt that he was sent here, into this earnest world of ours, not to eat, and sleep, and dress, and die merely, but for a divinely pre-appointed purpose — to see justice done, to help the defenceless, to clear God's earth of the Devil's lies, in the shortest time and at any cost. He looked over the American field, and saw a huge embodied falsehood there; a magazine of all manner of ungodliness-the sum of all villanies. He heard people call it slavery, and regret its existence; others style it the peculiar institution, and hope that it might finally disappear. Others he heard loudly cursing it, but not one grappling with it. He was amazed at what he saw and heard; and, when he said so, people called him a monomaniac. He saw some afraid to assail it, because it was guarded by two lions in the way — called the Union, and the Constitution; while others, seeing the cotton that it belched from its mouth, were so pleased with that performance, that they would not look behind the bales. Some he saw bound with the chains of policy, and others with the manacles of non-resistance. But not one living, dreadfully-in-earnest foe among them all! That is what he saw, or thought he saw. Perhaps, had he seen the hidden mines that some men were digging, he would have changed his opinion of the value of their labor; but even had he known it, as he was not a miner, but a fighter on the earth, he still  would have acted as he did act. He marched straight ahead, trampling under foot the rotten stubble of unjust laws and constitutions, that stood between him and his foe. It is true that he finally fell among them; but not before he proved how very powerless they are to resist a man.
John Brown's scheme.John Brown returned to Kansas in the month of November, 1857. What had he been doing since January, when we reported him in Boston? Whetting his sword. And how? In our free Republic, with its barbaric Southern rulers, it would not be here safe to say how. Only brief traces of his movements, therefore, can, in justice to his noble friends, be recorded at this time. It should be stated, first, that at this period there was every prospect of renewed disturbances in Kansas. Our need of officers had been greatly felt in the recent conflict there. One hundred mounted men, well armed and officered, would at any time have swept the invaders from the Territory. John Brown fully appreciated this necessity, and the terror that his own name had inspired, arose from the dread, he modestly thought, of his military knowledge, as much as from the victories he had gained. Hence he desired to have funds to equip a sufficient force for the protection of the squatters, as well as to drill a select number of the young men of Kansas, who had proved themselves faithful to principle. He well knew, from his power over men, that, should the Kansas difficulties cease, the youths thus  drilled would follow him to Harper's Ferry, which, for many years, he had selected as the grand point of attack on slavery.
John Brown in Boston.I met John Brown in Boston in January, 1857; and many of the facts of this volume he told me at that period. To a gentleman of note in Massachusetts, who made his acquaintance at that time, I am indebted for the reminiscences that follow:
Emerson is reported at this time to have said that John Brown was the truest hero-man he had ever met. Theodore Parker, also, said to a friend of mine, who spoke of Captain Montgomery as a man of more harmonious and cultivated intellect than John Brown, “Do you know what you say, sir? John Brown is one of the most extraordinary men of this age and nation.” Henry D. Thoreau styled him a “true transcendentalist.” Mr. Stearns, an active and generous friend of Kansas, tells two incidents of John Brown's visit to Boston at this time, which are exceedingly characteristic of the old Puritan. Shortly after his introduction to him, Mr. Stearns said, one day, half jestingly, “I suppose, Captain Brown, that if Judge Lecompte had fallen into your hands, he would have fared rather hard.” The old man turned round in his chair, and, in the most earnest tones, said, “If the Lord had delivered Judge Lecompte into my hands, I think it would have required the Lord to have taken him out again.”  A meeting of prominent friends of freedom in Kansas, was to be held on the Sabbath, as no other day could a full attendance be obtained. Mr. Stearns, not knowing how the old Puritan might regard this use of the day of rest,--to him and to us a very holy use of it,--inquired if it would be consistent with his religious conviction to give his attendance. “Mr. Stearns,” said the old man, “I have a poor little ewe that has fallen into the ditch, and I think the Sabbath is as good a day as any to help her out. I will come.”
Travels in the Eastern States.The winter and spring of 1857 John Brown spent in travelling. He visited North Elba once. He spoke at different cities, and employed all his energies in collecting money. I believe that a large sum was voted for his use by the National Kansas Committee; but I know that- it is said through the dishonesty of an agent — he received only a very trifling portion of it. He published, also, the following appeal, which was widely copied by the press, and undoubtedly liberally responded to:
In February, when in Collinsville, Connecticut, he ordered the manufacture of his pikes. I remember that, when in Boston, he spoke with great contempt of Sharpe's rifles as a weapon for inexperienced men, and said that with a pike, or bow and arrows, he could arm recruits more formidably than with patent guns. How he ordered the pikes is thus stated by the maker of them:
In the latter part of February, or the early part of March, 1857, Old Brown, as he is familiarly called, came to Collinsville to visit his relatives, and by invitation addressed the inhabitants at a public meeting. At the close of it, or on the following day, he exhibited some weapons which he claimed to have taken from Capt. H. C. Pate, at the battle of Black Jack. Among others was a bowie knife or dirk, having a blade about eight inches long. Brown remarked that such an instrument, fixed to the end of a pole about six feet long, would be a capital weapon to place in the hands of the settlers in Kansas, to keep in their cabins to defend themselves against “ border ruffians or wild beasts,” and asked me what it would be worth to make one thousand. I replied that I would make them for one dollar each, not thinking that it would lead to a contract, or that such an instrument would ever be wanted or put to use in any way, if made; but, to my surprise, he drew up a contract for one thousand, to be completed within three months, he agreeing to pay me five hundred dollars in thirty days, and the balance within thirty days thereafter. 2 In March and April, Captain Brown made an agreement with a drill-master, named Hugh Forbes, all Englishman, and a Revolutionary exile, to instruct a number of young Kansas men in military science. Forbes engaged to be at Tabor, in Iowa, in June, to meet John Brown and his men there. In May, John Brown set out for Kansas, but was delayed in the Central States for some time. Here is an incident of his travels, recently published to prove his insanity, by a citizen of Ohio:
During the summer of 1857, I met John Brown in the cars between Cleveland and Columbus. He was about to return to Kansas. I sought to gather some information respecting the probable advantage of wool growing in that section; but found his mind was very restless on wool and sheep husbandry, and soon began to talk with great earnestness of the evil of Slavery, on which he soon became enthusiastic, and claimed that any course, whether stealing or coaxing niggers to run away from their masters, was honorable; at which I attempted to point out a more conservative course, remarking very kindly to him that Kentucky, in my opinion, would have been a free State ere this, had it not been for the excitement and prejudices engendered by ultra abolitionists of Ohio. At this remark, he rose to his feet with clinched fist, eyes rolling like an insane man, (as he most assuredly was,) and remarked that the South would become free within one year were it not that there were too many such scoundrels as myself to rivet the chains of Slavery. .... I must, though, in justice to Mr. Brown, state that, when not under excitement or mental derangement, he has ever manifested to me a kind, benevolent, and humane disposition, as a man of strict integrity, moral and religious worth. Affidavit of S. N. Goodale, of Cleveland, Ohio.Another person, who also met John Brown in the cars at this time, subsequently said that he regarded him as a monomaniac; and his chief reason was, that the old man “spoke of the Eastern people generally as criminally lukewarm on the subject and sin of slavery, and manifested a very great deal of warmth on the subject” ! That it is true that John Brown was not fully satisfied with the results of his trip to the east, may be seen  by the following characteristic note, which was found in his own handwriting among the papers left at the homestead of North Elba. It is entitled:
The diary of one of the old man's sons, which was found among the papers at the Kennedy Farm, gives an outline of his movements after starting for the Territory.
John Brown reached Tabor on the 7th of August, and Colonel Forbes, two days after him. They were obliged to remain there, inactive, till the 2d of November, in consequence of being out of funds.
During this interval of suspense, writes Col. Forbes, Captain Brown advocated the adoption of his plan, and I supported mine of stampedes. The conclusion arrived at was, that he renounced his Harper's Ferry project, and I consented to cooperate in stampedes in Virginia and Maryland instead of the part of the country I indicated as the most suitable. I perceived, however, that his mind constantly wandered back to Harper's Ferry, and it was not till it had been definitely settled that neither of us should do any thing unless under the  direction or with the consent of a committee, that I felt easy in my mind respecting his curious notions of Harper's Ferry. He was very pious, and had been deeply impressed for many years with the Bible Story of Gideon, believing that he with a handful of men could strike down Slavery.On the 2d of November, Colonel Forbes took steamer at Nebraska City for the East, and Captain Brown went down to Kansas by the emigrants' road, in a wagon driven by one of his sons. He left two others at Tabor. Here Cook's Confession (which, although false in certain particulars, is mainly a correct statement of facts) becomes an authority of historical interest to the biographer of John Brown:
. . . I did not see him again until the fall of 1857, when I met him at the house of E. B. Whitman, about four miles from Lawrence, K. T., which, I think, was about the 1st 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, who, 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 afterwards I received another note from Captain Brown, which read, as near as I can recollect, as follows:In this extract there are two false statements; that “some warm words passed” between Cook and Brown; and that there was a “good deal of wrangling” between the Captain, and Parsons, and Realf.
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 the hotel over night, and left early the next morning for Mrs. Sheridan's, to meet Captain Brown. Staid a day and a half at Mrs. Sheridan's — then lift for Topeka, at which place we were joined by Stephens, Moffitt, and Kagi. Left Topeka for Nebraska City, and camped at night on the prairie north-east 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 Next morning I was sent back to Lawrence to get a draft of eighty dollars cashed, and to get Parsons, Realf, and Hinton to go back with me. I got the draft cashed. Captain Brown had given me orders to take boat to St. Joseph, Mo., and stage from there to Tabor, Iowa, where he would remain for a few days. I had to wait for Realf for three or four days; Hinten, could not leave at that time. I started with Realf and Parsons on a stage for Leavenworth. The boats had stopped running on account of the ice. Staid one day in Leavenworth, and then left for Westen, where we took stage for St. Joseph, and from thence to Tabor. I found C. P. Tidd and Leeman at Tabor. Our party now consisted of Captain John Brown, Owen Brown, A. D. Stephens, Charles Moffitt, C. P. Tidd, Richard Robertson, Col. Richard Realf, L. F. Parsons, William Leeman, and myself. We stopped some days at Tabor, making preparations to start. Here ce found that Captain Brown's ultimate destination was the State of Virginia. Some warm words passed between him and myself in regard to the plan, which I had supposed was to be confined entirely to Kansas and Missouri. Realf and Parsons were of the same opinion with me. After a good deal of wrangling we consented to go on, as we had not the means to return, and the rest of the party were so anxious that we should go with them. At Tabor we procured teams for the transportation of about two hundred Sharpe's rifles, which had been taken on as far as Tabor, one year before, at which place they had been left, awaiting the order of Captain Brown. There were, also, other stores, consisting of blankets, clothing, boots, ammunition, and about two hundred revolvers of the Massachusetts Arms patent, all of which we transported across the State of Iowa to Springdale, and from there to Liberty, at which place they were shipped for Ashtabula County, Ohio, where they remained till brought to Chambersburg, Pa., and were from there transported to a house in Washington County, Md., which Captain Brown had rented for six months, and which was situated about five miles from Harper's Ferry. It was the intention of Captain Brown to sell his teams in Springdale, and, with the proceeds, to go on with the rest of the company to some place in Ashtabula County, Ohio, where we were to have a good military instructor during the winter; but he was disappointed in the sale. As he could not get cash for the teams, it was decided we should remain in the neighborhood of Springdale, and that our instructor, Col. H. Forbes, should be sent on. We stopped in Pedee, Iowa, over winter, at Mr. Maxson's, where we pursued a course of military studies. Col. H. Forbes and Captain Brown had some words, and he (Col. F.) did not come on; consequently, A. D. Stephens was our drill-master. The people of the neighborhood did not know of our purpose. We remained at Pedee till about the middle of April, when we left for Chatham, Canada, via Chicago and Detroit.