Chapter 5: assembling to conspire.In the Canadian Provinces there are thousands of fugitive slaves. They are the picked men of the Southern States. Many of them are intelligent and rich; and all of them are deadly enemies of the South. Five hundred of them, at least, annually visit the Slave States, passing from Florida to Harper's Ferry, on heroic errands of mercy and deliverance. They have carried the Underground Railroad and the Underground Telegraph into nearly every Southern State. Here, obviously, is a power of great importance for a war of liberation. Up to the period when the last chapter closes, John Brown, wherever he had lived, had acquired the reputation of a prudent man. In Kansas, although, by the Missourians, he was regarded as a reckless desperado, those who best knew him and his plans gave him credit for great caution and foresight. Nothing that he did or tried, however seemingly insane, but, when examined, gave proofs of his prudence no less than his courage. Recently, the nation saw him undertake the conquest of Virginia, with a band, seemingly, of twenty-one followers  only. People called the attempt an insane one; but they did not know that many hundreds of men, earnest haters of the Slavery whose terrors they had known, and drilled for the service, were eagerly awaiting, in the Canadian Provinces, for the signal to be given at Harper's Ferry, to hasten southward and join the army of Immediate Emancipation. To conquer the South, a small band only is needed: but it must have backers in the North, who shall send down recruits from time to time. It is necessary, also, in order to prevent unnecessary bloodshed, for the liberated negroes to be held under strict control. John Brown knew all these facts. To inspire the Canadian fugitives with confidence in his plans, and, at the same time, to indicate his intentions in order to induce them to participate in it, he called a secret Convention of the friends of freedom at Chatham, in Canada. At this time he intended to attack Virginia within a very few months. Cook, in his Confession, thus writes of the Convention:
While we were in Chatham, he called a Convention, the purpose of which was to make a complete and thorough organization. He issued a written circular, which he sent to various persons in the United States and Canada. The circular, as near as I can recollect, reads as follows:Another report, which was found among John Brown's papers at Harper's Ferry, gives some additional information respecting this assembly. The full  reports, not only of this public Convention, but of many secret meetings, which are mentioned in Cook's Confession, and were written in phonography, and then translated into a secret cipher by Kagi, have happily not yet been discovered; or, it is probable that the scheme with which John Brown's name is now forever inseparably united, would have perished with his earthly life at Charlestown.
The names were left blank; but as they were directed by Captain Brown or J. H. Kagi, I do not know the parties to whom they were addressed. I do know, however, that they were sent to none save those whom Captain Brown knew to be radical Abolitionists. I think it was about ten days from the time the circulars were sent that the  Convention met. The place of meeting was in one of the negro churches in Chatham. The Convention, I think, was called to order by J. H. Kagi. Its object was then stated, which was to complete a thorough organization and the formation of a Constitution. The first business was to elect a President and Secretary. Elder Monroe, a colored minister, was elected President, and J. H. Kagi, Secretary. The next business was to form a Constitution. Captain Brown had already drawn up one, which, on motion, was read by the Secretary. On motion it was ordered that each article of the Constitution be taken up, and separately amended and passed, which was done. On motion, the Constitution was then adopted as a whole. The next business was to nominate a Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. Captain John Brown was unanimously elected Commander-in-Chief, J. H. Kagi, Secretary of War, and Richard Realf, Secretary of State. Elder Monroe was to act as President until another was chosen. A. M. Chapman, I think, was to act as Vice-President. Dr. M. K. Delaney was one of the Corresponding Secretaries of the Organization. There were some others from the United States, whose names I do not now remember. Most of the delegates to the Convention were from Canada. After the Constitution was adopted, the members took their oath to support it. It was then signed by all present. During the interval between the call for the Convention and its assembling, regular meetings were held at Barbour's Hotel, where we were stopping, by those who were known to be true to the cause, at which meetings plans were laid and discussed. There were no white men at the Convention, save the members of our company. Men and money had both been promised from Chatham and other parts of Canada. When the Convention broke up, news was received that Colonel H. Forbes, who had joined in the movement, had given information to the Government. This, of course, delayed the time of attack. A day or two afterwards most of our party took the boat to Cleveland — J. H. Kagi, Richard Realf, William H. Leeman, Richard Robertson, and Captain Brown remaining. Captain Brown, however, started in a day or two for the East. Kagi, I think, went to some other town in Canada to set up the type, and to get the Constitution printed, which he completed before he returned to Cleveland. We remained in Cleveland for some weeks, at which pace, for the time being, the company disbanded.
Promising that the plan of the Liberators was not extradition into the North, but emancipation in the South, - not to run off negroes to Canada, but to free them in Virginia, and to keep them there,--the Constitution adopted at this time is at once divested of the ridicule with which it has hitherto been clothed. Special attention should be paid, as indications of the design of the Liberators, to Article 1st, from 28 to 38, and from 43 to 46, of as much of the Constitution as Virginia permitted to be published. It will be seen that, even in this its fragmentary state, it organizes a Government eminently adapted to preserve order amongst insurgent slaves, and to prevent unnecessary suffering and devastation. They sought no offensive warfare against the South, but only to restore to the African Race its inherent rights, by enabling it to demand them of its oppressors, with the power to enforce and maintain the claim. Not revolution, but justice; not aggression, but defence; not negro supremacy, but citizenship; not war against society, but for freedom: such were the beneficent objects which they designed to effect. The following document is the Constitution as mutilated by the Virginians: 
There are many things, not yet clear to the public, and sometimes quoted as proofs of insanity, but, rightly understood, giving evidence of a comprehensive and penetrating intellect, which it is impossible, at this time, fully to explain, in justice to the Cause for which John Brown died, and to the noble friends by whom he was supported. Among these mysteries must be placed some parts of the Constitution; for, apart from the explanation already given, there are portions of it which still require a further elucidation. The organization behind the letter of the Constitution cannot now be described. To persons familiar with it there is neither insanity nor inconsistency in the instrument; but, on the contrary, every evidence of a judicious and humane statesmanship. The day will yet come when John Brown's name will stand first in the list of American statesmen. Why John Brown did not at once proceed to Harper's Ferry, is thus stated by Cook in his Confession:
We staid about two weeks in Chatham — some of the party staid six or seven weeks. We left Chatham for Cleveland, and remained there until late in June. In the mean time, Captain Brown went East  on business; but, previous to his departure, he had learned that Colonel Forbes had betrayed his plans to some extent. This, together with the scantiness of his funds, induced him to delay the commencement of his work, and was the means, for the time being, of disbanding the party. He had also received some information which called for his immediate attention in Kansas. I wished to go with him; but he said that I was too well known there, and requested me and some others to go to Harper's Ferry, Va., to see how things were there, and to gain information. In his trip East, he did not realize the amount of money that he expected. The money had been promised bona fide; but, owing to the tightness of the money market, they failed to comply with his demands. The funds were necessary to the accomplishment of his plans. I afterwards learned that there was a lack of confidence in the success of his scheme. It was, therefore, necessary that a movement should be made in another direction, to demonstrate the practicability of his plan. This he made about a year ago by his invasion of Missouri, and the taking of about a dozen slaves, together with horses, cattle, &c., into Kansas, in defiance of the United States Marshal and his posse.The news of the massacre of the Marais-des-Cygnes was the immediate cause of John Brown's return to Kansas; although it is also true, that the action of Colonel Forbes rendered it imperatively necessary to divert the attention of the Government from his original plan.