previous next


Chapter 8: the conquering pen.

From the date of his incarceration in the jail of Charlestown, till the day of his execution, John Brown wrote a number of eminently characteristic letters to his friends in different parts of the country. Such of them as we have been able to obtain, are herewith subjoined:

Letter for counsel.

Dear Sir: I am here a prisoner, with several sabre cuts in my head, and bayonet stabs in my body. My object in writing is to obtain able and faithful counsel for myself and fellow-prisoners, five in all, as we have the faith of Virginia pledged through her governor, and numerous prominent citizens, to give us a fair trial. Without we can obtain such counsel from without the slave states, neither the facts in our case can come before the world, nor can we have the benefit of such facts as might be considered mitigating, in the view of others, upon our trial. I have money on hand here to the amount of two hundred and fifty dollars, and personal property sufficient to pay a most liberal fee to yourself, or any able man who will undertake our defence, if I can be allowed the benefit of said property. Can you, or some other good man, come on immediately, for the sake of the young men prisoners at least? My wounds are doing well.

Do not send an ultra abolitionist.

Very respectfully yours, John Brown.
P. S. The trial is set for Wednesday next, the 26th instant.


A noble lady, a worthy friend of John Brown, when the news of his “failure” and imprisonment reached Boston, determined to go on to Virginia to nurse him; but, prostrated by the shock thus given to her nervous system, she was prevented, by physical incapacity, from carrying out the generous and heroic impulse. On suggesting the execution of this design to her distinguished relative, Mrs. Child, that lady at once sent a letter to Captain Brown, forwarding it with a note to Governor Wise, in which she asked permission to go on to Charlestown and nurse the old hero.

Letter to Captain Brown.

Wayland, Mass., Oct. 26, 1859.
Dear Captain Brown: Though personally unknown to you, you will recognize in my name an earnest friend of Kansas, when circumstances made that territory the battle ground between the antagonistic principles of slavery and freedom, which politicians so vainly strive to reconcile in the government of the United States.

Believing in peace principles, I cannot sympathize with the method you chose to advance the cause of freedom; but I honor your generous intentions; I admire your courage, moral and physical; I reverence you for the humanity which tempered your zeal; I sympathize with you in your cruel bereavement, your sufferings, and your wrongs. In brief, I love you and bless you.

Thousands of hearts are throbbing with sympathy as warm as mine. I think of you night and day, bleeding in prison, surrounded by hostile faces, sustained only by trust in God and your own strong heart. I long to nurse you — to speak to you sisterly words of sympathy and consolation. I have asked the permission of Governor Wise to do so. If the request is not granted, I cherish the hope that these few words may at least reach your hands, and afford you some little solace. May you be strengthened by the conviction that no honest man ever sheds blood for freedom in vain, however much he may be mistaken in his efforts. May God sustain you, and carry you through whatsoever may be in store for you. Yours, with heartfelt respect, sympathy, and affection.

Governor Wise's answer to Mrs. Child's request was respectful, but crafty and characteristic. He would [346] forward the letter, he said, to the Commonwealth's Attorney, “with the request that he will ask the permission of the Court to hand it to the prisoner.” After asserting that Virginia and Massachusetts were not involved in a civil war; that the Federal Constitution gave to citizens of Massachusetts going to Virginia the immunities of a citizen of the United States; that, coming to minister to the captive in prison — a mission merciful and humane — she had the right to visit Charlestown, and would “not only be allowed, but be respected, if not welcomed,” the politician added, that “a few unenlightened and inconsiderate persons, fanatical in their modes of thought and action to maintain justice and right, might molest you, or be disposed to do so, and this might suggest the imprudence of risking any experiment upon the peace of a society very much excited by the crimes with whose chief author you seem to sympathize so much.” Declaring the readiness of Virginia to protect Mrs. Child against the fury of the populace, the next sentence of the letter was worthy of Mark Antony: “I could not permit an insult, even to woman in her walk of charity among us, though it be to one who whetted knives of butchery for our mothers, sisters, daughters, and babes ... His attempt was the natural consequence of your sympathy.” He concluded by announcing that whether the lady should see him or not, when she should arrive in Charlestown, would be for the Court and its officers to say. The Executive, he intimates, and the Judiciary are separate branches of the Government; a statement that the first attempt to try Stevens will explain. [347]

The gilded threat of this letter caused Mrs. Child to delay her departure until she should hear from the old hero himself. When his letter came, it prevented her journey.

John Brown's letter to Mrs. Child.

My dear Friend: (such you prove to be, though a stranger:) Your most kind letter has reached me, with the kind offer to come here and take care of me. Allow me to express my gratitude for your great sympathy, and at the same time to propose to you a different course, together with my reasons for wishing it. I should certainly be greatly pleased to become personally acquainted with one so gifted and so kind; but I cannot avoid seeing some objections to it, under present circumstances. First, I am in charge of a most humane gentleman, who, with his family, have rendered me every possible attention I have desired, or that could be of the least advantage; and I am so far recovered from my wounds as no longer to require nursing. Then, again, it would subject you to great personal inconvenience and heavy expense, without doing me any good.

Allow me to name to you another channel through which you may reach me with your sympathies much more effectually. I have at home a wife and three young daughters — the youngest but little over five years old, the oldest nearly sixteen. I have also two daughters-in-law, whose husbands have both fallen near me here. There is also another widow, Mrs. Thompson, whose husband fell here. Whether she is a mother or not I cannot say. All these, my wife included, live at North Elba, Essex County, New York. I have a middle-aged son, who has been, in some degree, a cripple from his childhood, who would have as much as he could well do to earn a living. He was a most dreadful sufferer in Kansas, and lost all he had laid up. He has not enough to clothe himself for the winter comfortably. I have no living son, or son-in-law, who did not suffer terribly in Kansas.

Now, dear friend, would you not as soon contribute fifty cents now, and a like sum yearly, for the relief of those very poor and deeply afflicted persons, to enable them to supply themselves and their children with bread and very plain clothing, and to enable the children to receive a common English education? Will you also devote your own energies to induce others to join in giving a like amount, or any other amount, to constitute a little fund for the purpose named? [348]

I cannot see how your coming here can do me the least good, and I am quite certain you can do me immense good where you are. I am quite cheerful under all my afflicting circumstances and prospects; having, as I humbly trust, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” to rule in my heart. You may make such use of this as you see fit. God Almighty bless and reward you a thousand fold.

Yours, in sincerity and truth, John Brown.

Letter from the Quaker lady.

Newport, R. I., Tenth Month, 27th, 1859.
Capt. John Brown.
Dear Friend: Since thy arrest, I have often thought of thee, and have wished that, like Elizabeth Fry towards her prison friends, so I might console thee in thy confinement. But that can never be, and so I can only write thee a few lines, which, if they contain any comfort, may come to thee like some little ray of light. You can never know how very many dear friends love thee with all their hearts, for thy brave efforts in behalf of the poor oppressed; and though we, who are non-resistants, and religiously believe it better to reform by moral, and not by carnal, weapons, could not approve of bloodshed, yet we know thee was animated by the most generous and philanthropic motives. Very many thousands openly approve thy intentions, though most friends would not think it right to take up arms. Thousands pray for thee every day; and, O, I do pray that God will be with thy soul. Posterity will do thee justice. If Moses led out the thousands of Jewish slaves from their bondage, and God destroyed the Egyptians in the sea because they went after the Israelites to bring them back to slavery, then, surely, by the same reasoning, we may judge thee a deliverer who wished to release millions from a more cruel oppression. If the American people honor Washington for resisting with bloodshed for seven years an unjust tax, how much more ought thou to be honored for seeking to free the poor slaves! O, I wish I could plead for thee, as some of the other sex can plead; how I would seek to defend thee! If I had now the eloquence of Portia; how I would turn the scale in thy favor! But I can only pray, “God bless thee!” God pardon thee, and, through our Redeemer, give thee safety and happiness now and always.

From thy friend, E. B.

John Brown's reply.

Charlestown, Jefferson Co., Va., November 1, 1859.
My dear Friend, E. B. of R. I.: Your most cheering letter of 27th of October is received, and may the Lord reward you a thousand fold for the kind feeling you express towards me; but more especially [349] for your fidelity to the “poor that cry, and those that have no help.” for this I am a prisoner in bonds. It is solely my own fault, in a military point of view, that we met with our disaster-I mean that I mingled with our prisoners, and so far sympathized with them and their families, that I neglected my duty in other respects. But God's will, not mine, be done.

You know that Christ once armed Peter. So also in my case; I think he put a sword into my hand, and there continued it, so long as he saw best, and then kindly took it from me. I mean when I first went to Kansas. I wish you could know with what cheerfulness I am now wielding the “sword of the Spirit” on the right hand and on the left. I bless God that it proves “mighty to the pulling down of strongholds.” I always loved my Quaker friends, and I commend to their kind regard my poor, bereaved, Widowed wife, and my daughters and daughters-in-law, whose husbands fell at my side. One is a mother, and the other likely to become so soon. They, as well as my own sorrow-stricken daughter, are left very poor, and have much greater need of sympathy than I, who, through Infinite Grace and the kindness of strangers, am “joyful in all my tribulations.”

Dear sister, write them at North Elba, Essex Co., N. Y., to comfort their sad hearts. Direct to Mary A. Brown, wife of John Brown. There is also another, a widow, wife of Thompson, who fell with my poor boys in the affair at Harper's Ferry, at the same place.

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,--of 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 work out for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. I would be very grateful for another letter from you. My wounds are healing. Farewell. God will surely attend to his own cause in the best possible way and time, and he will not forget the work of his own hands.

Your friend, John Brown.

Letter to his family.

Charlestown, Jefferson Co., Va., 8th Nov., 1859.
Dear Wife and Children — Every One:
I will begin by saying that I have in some degree recovered from my wounds, but that I am quite weak in my back, and sore about my left kidney. My appetite has been quite good for most of the time since I was hurt. I am supplied with almost every thing I could desire to make me comfortable, and [350] the little I do lack (some articles of clothing, which I lost) I may perhaps soon get again. I am, besides, quite cheerful, having (as I trust) the peace of God, which “passeth all understanding,” to “rule in my heart,” and the testimony (in some degree) of a good conscience that I have not lived altogether in vain. 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 towards advancing the cause I have earnestly endeavored to promote, than all I have done in my life before. I beg of you all meekly and quietly to submit to this; not feeling yourselves in the least degraded on that account. Remember, dear wife and children all, that Jesus of Nazareth suffered a most excruciating death on the cross as a felon, under the most aggravating circumstances. Think, also, of the prophets, and apostles, and Christians of former days, who went through greater tribulations than you or I; and (try to) be reconciled. May God Almighty comfort all your hearts, and soon wipe away all tears from your eyes. To him be endless praise. Think, too, of the crushed millions who “,have no comforter.” I charge you all never (in your trials) to forget the griefs of “the poor that cry, and of those that have none to help them.” I wrote most earnestly to my dear and afflicted wife not to come on for the present at any rate. I will now give her my reasons for doing so. First, it would use up all the scanty means she has, or is at all likely to have, to make herself and children comfortable hereafter. For let me tell you that the sympathy that is now aroused in your behalf may not always follow you. There is but little more of the romantic about helping poor widows and their children than there is about trying to relieve poor “niggers.” Again, the little comfort it might afford us to meet again would be dearly bought by the pains of a final separation. We must part, and, I feel assured, for us to meet under such dreadful circumstances, would only add to our distress. If she come on here, she must be only a gazing stock throughout the whole journey, to be remarked upon in every look, word, and action, and by all sorts of creatures, and by all sorts of papers throughout the whole country. Again, it is my most decided judgment that in quietly and submissively staying at home, vastly more of generous sympathy will reach her, without such dreadful sacrifice of feeling as she must put up with if she comes on. The visits of one or two female friends that have come on here have produced great excitement, which is very annoying, and they cannot possibly do me any good. O Mary, do not come; but patiently wait for the meeting (of those who love God and their fellow-men) where no separation must follow. “They shall go no more out forever.” I greatly long to hear from some one of [351] you, and to learn any thing that in any way affects your welfare. I sent you ten dollars the other day. Did you get it? I have also endeavored to stir up Christian friends to visit and write to you in your deep affliction. I have no doubt that some of them at least will heed the call. Write to me, care of Capt. John Avis, Charlestown, Jefferson County, Va.

“Finally, my beloved, be of good comfort.” May all your names be “written on the Lamb's book of life” --may you all have the purifying and sustaining influence of the Christian religion — is the earnest prayer of your affectionate husband and father.

P. S. 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. But, beloved ones, do remember that this is not your rest, that in this world you have no abiding place or continuing city. To God and his infinite mercy I always commend you.

J. B. Nov. 9.

Letter to his half brother.

Dear Brother Jeremiah: Your kind letter of the 9th instant is received, and also one from Mr. Tilden, for both of which I am greatly obliged. You inquire, “can I do any thing for you or your family?” I would answer that my sons, as well as my wife and daughter, are all very poor, and that any thing that may hereafter he due me from my father's estate I wish paid to them, as I will endeavor hereafter to describe, without legal formalities to consume it all. One of my boys has been so entirely used up as very likely to be in want of comfortable clothing for the winter. I have, through the kindness of friends, fifteen dollars to send him, which I will remit shortly. If you know where to reach him, please send him that amount at once, as I shall remit the same to you by a safe conveyance. If I had a plain statement from .Mr. Thompson of the state of my accounts, with the estate of my father, I should then better know what to say about that matter. As it is, I have not the least memorandum left me to refer to. If Mr. Thompson will make me a statement, and charge my dividend fully for his trouble, I would be greatly obliged to him. In that case you can send me any remarks of your own. I am gaining in health slowly, and am quite cheerful in view of my approaching end, being fully persuaded that I am worth inconceivably more to hang than for any other purpose. God Almighty bless and save you all.

Your affectionate brother, John Brown.
P. S. Nov. 13.-Say to my poor boys never to grieve for one [352] moment on my account; and should many of you live to see the time when you will not blush to own your relation to Old John Brown, it will not be more strange than many things that have happened. I feel a thousand times more on account of my sorrowing friends than on my own account. So far as I am concerned, I “count it all joy.” “I have fought the good fight,” and have, as I trust, “finished my course.” Please show this to any of my family that you may see. My love to all; and may God, in his infinite mercy, for Christ's sake, bless and save you all.

Your affectionate brother, J. Brown.

Letter from a christian conservative.

West Newton, Mass., Nov. 5, 1859.
Capt. John Brown.
Dear Brother: Withholding any expression of opinion respecting the outbreak at Harper's Ferry, I cannot but admire your bravery and effort to save life during the conflict. But, above all, your unwavering faith in God and fidelity to principle, your fearless answers, your faithful testimony against slavery, and your noble, self-sacrificing spirit excite the admiration of all who venerate justice, truth, and humanity.

While I cannot approve of all your acts, I stand in awe of your position since your capture, and dare not oppose you lest I be found fighting against God; for you speak as one having authority, and seem to be strengthened from on high. Look only to God for aid in these your trying hours, which if they be brief, may the illumination of his Spirit and of a lifetime be centred in the time allotted you here. If called to ascend the gallows, may you do it joyfully, praising God that you have been counted worthy to die for those ready to perish; and, like his Son, may you feel to forgive and bless those who take your life. Many, yes, a multitude, appreciate you now; and were you ambitious of immortal fame, you might now enjoy a foretaste of that which is to come, if you die as you have lived since a prisoner.

Your family will not be forgotten; their wants will be attended to abundantly by those who love heroism and integrity to principle, and by the Father who suffers not a sparrow to fall to the ground without his notice. My prayers you have. May God give you strength and resignation, and inspire you to utter words of wisdom, warning, courage, and love to those you leave.

I would imprint on your sacred face the kiss of sympathy and love ere you join the multitude of martyrs who have gone before you. But this cannot be. God bless you. I would ask a line from you, but would not tax your brief time; for never having seen you, I should [353] sacredly cherish a line from your hand. Believing God reigns, I feel to view these recent events as his providence, which in time may be fully manifested, although at present inscrutable. A host of friends love and remember you, and I speak for many in my immediate neighborhood. Farewell, dear brother. God bless you.

John Brown's reply to a Christian conservative.

My dear Sir: Your kind mention of some things in my conduct here, which you approve, is very comforting indeed to my mind. Yet I am conscious that you do me no more than justice. I do certainly feel that through divine grace I have endeavored to be “faithful in a very few things,” mingling with even these much of imperfection. I am certainly “unworthy even to suffer affliction with the people of God;” yet in infinite grace he has thus honored me. May the same grace enable me to serve him in a “new obedience,” through my little remainder of this life, and to rejoice in him forever. I cannot feel that God will suffer even the poorest service we may any of us render him or his cause to be lost or in vain. I do feel, “dear brother,” that I am wonderfully “strengthened from on high.”

May I use that strength in “showing his strength unto this generation,” and his power to every one that is to come. I am most grateful for your assurance that my poor, shattered, heart-broken I “family will not be forgotten.” I have long tried to recommend them to ( “the God of my fathers.” I have many opportunities for faithful plain dealing with the more powerful, influential, and intelligent classes in this region, which, I trust, are not entirely misimproved. I humbly trust that I firmly believe that i “God reigns,” and I think I can truly say, “Let the earth rejoice.” May God take care of his own cause, and of his own great name, as well as of those who love their neighbors.


Yours, in truth, John Brown.

The next letter was addressed to his old schoolmaster, in Litchfield, Connecticut, and is thus introduced by the Rev. L. W. Bacon:

My aged friend, the Rev. H. L. Vaill, of this place, remembers John Brown as having been under his instruction in the year 1817, at Morris Academy. He was a godly youth, laboring to recover from his disadvantages of early education, in the hope of entering the ministry of the gospel. Since then, the teacher and pupil have met but once to take “ a retrospective look over the route by which God had led them.” But a short time since, Mr. Vaill wrote to Brown, in his [354] prison, a letter of Christian friendship, to which he has received the following heroic and sublime reply. Has ever such an epistle been written from a condemned cell since the letter “to Timotheus,” when Paul “ was brought before Nero the second time” ?

I have copied it faithfully from the autograph that lies before me, without the change or omission of a word, except to omit the full name of the friends to whom he sends his message. The words in Italics and capitals are so underscored in the original. The handwriting is clear and firm; but towards the end of the sheet seems to show that the sick old man's hand was growing weary. The very characters make an appeal to us for our sympathy and prayers. “ His salutation with his own hand. Remember his bonds.”

Letter to his schoolmaster.

My dear, steadfast Friend: Your most kind and most welcome letter of the 8th instant reached me in due time.

I am very grateful for all the good feeling you express, and also for the kind counsels you give, together with your prayers in my behalf. Allow me here to say, that notwithstanding “my soul is amongst lions,” still I believe that “God in very deed is with me.” You will not, therefore, feel surprised when I tell you that I am “joyful in all my tribulations;” that I do not feel condemned of Him whose judgment is just, nor of my own conscience. Nor do I feel degraded by my imprisonment, my chain, or prospect of the gallows. I have not only been (though utterly unworthy) permitted to “suffer affliction with God's people,” but have also had a great many rare opportunities for “preaching righteousness in the great congregation.” I trust it will not all be lost. The jailer (in whose charge I am) and his family and assistants have all been most kind; and, notwithstanding he was one of the bravest of all who fought me, he is now being abused for his humanity. So far as my observation goes, none but brave men are likely to be humane to a fallen foe. Cowards prove their courage by their ferocity. It may be done in that way with but little risk.

I wish I could write you about a few only of the interesting times I here experience with different classes of men — clergymen among others. Christ, the great Captain of liberty as well as of salvation, and who began his mission, as foretold of him, by proclaiming it, saw fit to take from me a sword of steel after I had carried it for a time; but he has put another in my hand, ( “the sword of the Spirit;” ) and I pray God to make me a faithful soldier wherever he may send me--not less on the scaffold than when surrounded by my warmest sympathizers. [355]

My dear old friend, I do assure you I have not forgotten our last meeting, nor our retrospective look over the route by which God had then led us; and I bless his name that he has again enabled me to hear your words of cheering and comfort at a time when I, at least, am on the “brink of Jordan.” See Bunyan's Pilgrim. God in infinite mercy grant us soon another meeting on the opposite shore. 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 the 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 every where prevail; I have no murmuring thoughts or envious feelings to fret my mind. “I'll praise my Maker with my breath.”

Your assurance of the earnest sympathy of the friends in my native land is very grateful to my feelings; and allow me to say a word of comfort to them:

As I believe most firmly that God reigns, I cannot believe that any thing 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 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. Had Samson kept to his determination of not telling Delilah wherein his great strength lay, he would probably have never overturned the house. I did not tell Delilah; but I was induced to act very contrary to my better judgment; and I have lost my two noble boys, and other friends, if not my two eyes.

But “God's will, not mine, be done.” I feel a comfortable hope that, like that erring servant of whom I have just been writing, even I may (through infinite mercy in Christ Jesus) yet “die in faith.” As to both the time and manner of my death, I have but very little trouble on that score, and am able to be (as you exhort) “of good cheer.”

I send through you my best wishes to Mrs. V- and her son George, and to all dear friends. May the God of the poor and oppressed be the God and Saviour of you all.

Farewell, till we meet again.

Your friend, in truth, John Brown.


Letter to his wife.

Charlestown, Jefferson Co., Va., 16th Nov., 1859.
My dear Wife: I write you in answer to a most kind letter, of November 13, from dear Mrs.--. I owe her ten thousand thanks for her kindness to you particularly, and more especially than for what she has done, and is doing, in a more direct way for me personally. Although I feel grateful for every expression of kindness or sympathy towards me, yet nothing can so effectually minister to my comfort as acts of kindness done to relieve the wants or mitigate the sufferings of my poor, distressed family. May God Almighty and their own consciousness be their eternal rewarders. I am exceedingly rejoiced to have you make the acquaintance, and be surrounded by, such choice friends as I have long known some of those to be, with whom you are staying, by reputation. I am most glad to have you meet with one of a family (or I would rather say of two families) most beloved and nearer to be forgotten by me. I mean dear, gentle--. Many and many a time has she, her father, mother, brother, sisters, uncle and aunt (like angels of mercy) ministered to the wants of myself and of my poor sons, both in sickness and in health. Only last year I lay sick for quite a number of weeks with them, and was cared for by all, as though I had been a most affectionate brother or father. Tell her that I ask God to bless and reward them all forever. “I wcas a stranger, and they took me in.” It may possibly be that would like to copy this letter, and send it to her home. If so, by all means let her do so. I would write them if I had the power.

Now let me say a word about the effort to educate our daughters.

I am no longer able to provide means to help towards that object, and it therefore becomes me not to dictate in the matter. I shall gratefully submit the direction of the whole thing to those whose generosity may lead them to undertake it in their behalf, while I give anew a little expression of my own choice respecting it. You, my wife, perfectly well know that I have always expressed a decided preference for a very plain, but perfectly practical, education for both sons and daughters. I do not mean an education so very miserable as that you and I received in early life, nor as some of our children enjoyed. When I say plain, but practical, I mean enough of the learning of the schools to enable them to transact the common business of life comfortably and respectably, together with that thorough training to good business habits which best prepares both men and women to be useful, though poor, and to meet the stern realities of life with a good grace. You well know that I always claimed that the music of the broom, wash-tub, needle, spindle, loom, axe, scythe, hoe, flail, &c., should first be learned at all events, and that of the piano, &c., afterwards. I put them in that order as most conductive to health of body and mind; [357] and for the obvious reason that, after a life of some experience and of much observation, I have found ten women as well as ten men who have made their mark in life right, whose early training was of that plain, practical kind, to one who had a more popular and fashionable early training. But enough of this.

Now, in regard to your coming here: If you feel sure that you can endure the trials and the shock, which will be unavoidable, (if you come,) I should be most glad to see you once more; but when I think of your being insulted on the road, and perhaps while here, and of only seeing your wretchedness made complete, I shrink from it. Your composure and fortitude of mind may be quite equal to it all; but I am in dreadful doubt of it. If you do come, defer your journey till about the 27th or 28th of this month. The scenes which you will have to pass through on coming here will be any thing but those you now pass, with tender-hearted friends, and kind faces to meet you every where. Do consider the matter well before you make the plunge. I think I had better say no more on this most painful subject. My health improves a little ; my mind is very tranquil, I may say joyous, and I continue to receive every kind attention that I have any possible need of. I wish you to send copies of all my letters to all our poor children. What I write to one must answer for all, till I have more strength. I get numerous kind letters from friends in almost all directions, to encourage me to “be of good cheer,” and I still have, as I trust, “the peace of God to rule in my heart.” May God, for Christ's sake, ever make his face to shine on you all.

Your affectionate husband,

Letter to a young friend.

My Dear Young Friend:--I have just received your most kind and welcome letter of the 15th inst., but did not get any other from you. I am under many obligations to you, and to your father, for all the kindness you have shown me, especially since my disaster. May God and your own consciences ever be your rewarders. Tell your father that I am quite cheerful-that I do not feel myself in the least degraded by my imprisonment, my chains, or the near prospect of the gallows. 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 1776! I look forward to other changes to take place in God's good time, fully believing that the “fashion of this world passeth away.”

Farewell. May God abundantly bless you all!

Your friend, John Brown.


Letter to his son Jason.

Dear Children:

Your most welcome letters of the 16th inst. I have just received, and I bless God that he has enabled you to bear the heavy tidings of our disaster with so much seeming resignation and composure of mind. That is exactly the thing I have wished you all to do for me — to be cheerful and perfectly resigned to the holy will of a wise and good God. I bless his most holy name, that I am, (I trust,) in some good measure, able to do the same. I am even “joyful in all my tribulations,” even since my confinement, and I humbly trust that “I know in whom I have trusted.” A calm peace (perhaps) like that which your own dear mother felt, in view of her last change, seems to fill my mind by day and by night. Of this, neither the powers of “earth or hell” can deprive me. Do not, dear children, any of you, grieve for a single moment on my account. As I trust my life has not been thrown away, so I also humbly trust that my death shall not be in vain. God can make it to be a thousand times more valuable to his own cause than all the miserable service (at best) that I have rendered it during my life. When I was first taken, I was too feeble to write much; so I wrote what I could to North Elba, requesting Ruth and Anne to send you copies of all my letters to them. I hope they have done so, and that you, Ellen, will do the same with what I may send to you, as it is still quite a labor for me to write all that I need to. I want your brothers to know what I write, if you know where to reach them. I wrote Jeremiah, a few days since, to supply a trifling assistance, fifteen dollars, to such of you as might be most destitute. I got his letter, but do not know as he got mine. I hope to get another letter from him soon. I also asked him to show you my letter. I know of nothing you can any of you now do for me, unless it is to comfort your own hearts, and cheer and encourage each other to trust in God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. If you will keep his sayings, you shall certainly “know of his doctrine, whether it be of God or no.” Nothing can be more grateful to me than your earnest sympathy, except it be to know that you are fully persuaded to be Christians. And now, dear children, farewell for this time. I hope to be able to write you again. The God of my father take you for his children.

Your affectionate father, John Brown.

Note.--The remittance referred to was unquestionably intended for Owen Brown, who escaped from Harper's Ferry, but is supposed to be destitute even of a change of clothing. The significant allusion in the letter shows that the father was confident of Owen's safety.--Akron (Ohio.) Beacon.


Letter to an Ohio clergyman.

Jail, Charlestown, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 1859.
Rev. McFarland.
Dear Friend: Although you write to me as a stranger, the spirit you show towards me and the cause for which I am in bonds, makes me feel towards you as a dear friend. I would be glad to have you, or any of my liberty-loving, ministerial friends here, to talk and pray with me. I am not a stranger to the way of salvation by Christ. From my youth I have studied much on that subject, and at one time hoped to be a minister myself; but God had another work for me to do. To me it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. But while I trust that I have some experimental and saving knowledge of religion, it would be a great pleasure to me to nave some one better qualified than myself to lead my mind in prayer and meditation, now that my time is so near a close. You may wonder, are there no ministers of the gospel here? I answer, No. 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. The subject you mention as having been preaching on, the day before you wrote to me, is one which I have often thought of since my imprisonment. 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.” Christ told me to remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, to do towards them as I would wish them to do towards me in similar circumstances. My conscience bade me do that. I tried to do it, but failed. Therefore I have no regret on that score. I have no sorrow either as to the result, only for my poor wife and children. They have suffered much, and it is hard to leave them uncared for. But God will be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless.

I have frequently been in Wooster; and if any of my old friends from about Akron are there, you can show them this letter. I have but a few more days, and I feel anxious to be away, “where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” Farewell.

Your friend, and the friend of all friends of liberty, John Brown.


From a subsequent letter, dated Nov. 24, we make the following extract:

I have had many interesting visits from pro-slavery persons, almost daily, and I endeavor to improve them faithfully, plainly, and kindly. I do not think I ever enjoyed life better than since my confinement here. For this I am indebted to Infinite Grace, and kind letters from friends from different quarters. I wish I could only know that all my poor family were as composed and as happy as . I think nothing but the Christian religion could ever make any one so composed.

My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this.

Letter to Mr. Hoyt.

Dear Sir: Your kind letter of the 22d inst. is received. I exceedingly regret my inability to make you some other acknowledgment for all your efforts in my behalf than that which consists merely in words; but so it is. May God and a good conscience be your continual reward. I really do not see what you can do with me any further. I commend my poor family to the kind remembrance of all friends, but I well understand that they are not the only poor in our world. I ought to begin to leave off saying our world. I have but very little idea of the charges made against Mr. Griswold, as I get to see but little of what is afloat. I am very sorry for any wrong that may be done him; but I have no means of contradicting any thing that may be said, not knowing what is said. I cannot see how it should be any more dishonorable for him to receive some compensation for his expenses and service, than for Mr. Chilton, and I am not aware that any blame is attached to him on that score. I am getting more letters constantly than I well know how to answer. My kind friends appear to have very wrong ideas of my condition as regards replying to all the kind communications I receive.

Your friend, in truth, John Brown.

This letter needs a word of comment. Mr. Chilton, “John Brown's chivalrous Southern lawyer,” demanded a fee of one thousand dollars, which was paid out of the fund contributed for his family and cause in the New England States. Mr. Griswold accepted a fee of two hundred and fifty dollars for travelling expenses and [361] services from John Brown personally; supposing — as every one at Charlestown thought at the time — that he was a man of independent fortune. For receiving this fee, Mr. Griswold has been denounced in hundreds of democratic papers, while not one of them has printed a reproachful word against the “distinguished lawyer” from Maryland. Neither is to blame, or both are; and if to blame, let a fourfold punishment be meted out to Mr. Chilton.

Letter to his wife — extracts.

Before Mrs. Brown started from Philadelphia for Charlestown, she received a letter from her husband, dated November 25, in which, after referring to the fact that she was then staying with Lucretia Mott, he says:

I remember the faithful old lady well, but presume she has no recollection of me. I once set myself to oppose a mob at Boston, where she was. After I interfered, the police immediately took up the matter, and soon put a stop to mob proceedings. The meeting was, I think, in Marlboroa Street Church, or Hotel, perhaps. I am glad to have you make the acquaintance of such old “Pioneers” in the cause. I have just received from Mr. John Jay, of New York, a draft for $50 (fifty dollars) for the benefit of my family, and will enclose it made payable to your order. I have also $15 (fifteen dollars) to send to our crippled and destitute unmarried son; when I can, I intend to send you, by express, two or three little articles to carry home. Should you happen to meet with Mr. Jay, say to him that you fully appreciate his great kindness both to me and my family. God bless all such friends. It is out of my power to reply to all the kind and encouraging letters I get; I wish I could do so. I have been so much relieved from my lameness for the last three or four days as to be able to sit up to read and write pretty much all day, as well as part of the night; and I do assure you and all other friends that I am quite busy, and none the less happy on that account. The time passes quite pleasantly, and the near approach of my great change is not the occasion of any particular dread.

I trust that God, who has sustained me so long, will not forsake me [362] when I most feel my need of Fatherly aid and support. Should He hide His face, my spirit will droop and die; but not otherwise, be assured. My only anxiety is to be properly assured of my fitness for the company of those who are “washed from all filthiness,” and for the presence of Him who is infinitely pure. I certainly think I do have some “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” If it be only genuine, I make no doubt I “shall be filled.” Please let all our friends read my letters when you can; and ask them to accept of it as in part for them. I am inclined to think you will not be likely to succeed well about getting away the bodies of your family; but should that be so, do not let that grieve you. It can make but little difference what is done with them.

You can well remember the changes you have passed through. Life is made up of a series of changes. and let us try to meet them in the best manner possible. You will not wish to make yourself and children any more burdensome to friends than you are really compelled to do. I would not.

I will close this by saying that, if you now feel that you are equal to the undertaking, do exactly as you feel disposed to do about coming to see me before I suffer. I am entirely willing.

Your affectionate husband, John Brown.

Letter to Thaddeus Hyatt.

My dear Sir: Your very acceptable letter of the 24th instant has just been handed to me. I am certainly most obliged to you for it, and for all your efforts in behalf of my family and myself. ... It, your effort, at any rate, takes from my mind the greatest burden I have felt since my imprisonment, to feel assured that, in some way, my shattered and broken-hearted wife and children would be so far relieved as to save them from great physical suffering. Others may have devised a better way of doing it. I had no advice in regard to it, and felt very grateful to know, while I was yet living, of almost any active measure being taken. I hope no offence is taken at yourself or me in the matter. I am beginning to familiarize my mind with new and very different scenes. Am very cheerful.

Farewell, my friend. John Brown.

Letter to a young lady.

My dear Miss--: Your most kind and cheering letter of the 18th instant is received. Although I have not been at all low-spirited nor [363] cast down in feeling since being imprisoned and under sentence, which I am fully aware is soon to be carried out, it is exceedingly gratifying to learn from friends that there are not wanting in this generation some to sympathize with me and appreciate my motive, even now that I am whipped. Success is in general the standard of all merit. I have passed my time here 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 hope 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 have tried to believe that, and still keep trying. Those who die for the truth may prove to be courageous at last; so I continue ( “hoping on,” till I shall find that the truth must finally prevail. I do not feel in the least degree despondent nor degraded by my circumstances, and I entreat my friends not to grieve on my account. You will please excuse a very poor and short letter, as I get more than I can possibly answer. I send my best wishes to your kind mother, and to all the family, and to all the true friends of humanity. And now, dear friends, God be with you all, and ever guide and bless you.

Your friend, John Brown

Letter to Judge Tilden.

My dear Sir: Your most kind and comforting letter of the 23d inst. is received.

I have no language to express the feelings of gratitude and obligation I am under for your kind interest in my behalf ever since my disaster.

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 of my living and dying in it. My present great anxiety is to get as near in readiness for a different field of action as I well can, since being in a good measure relieved from the fear that my poor, broken-hearted wife and children would come to immediate want. May God reward, a thousand fold, all the kind efforts made in their behalf. [364] I have enjoyed remarkable cheerfulness and compose: e of mind ever since my confinement; and it is a great comfort to feel assured that I am permitted to die (for a cause) not merely to pay the debt of nature, (as all must.) I feel myself to be most unworthy of so great distinction. The particular manner of dying assigned to me, gives me but very little uneasiness. I wish I had the time and the ability to give you (my dear friend) some little idea of what is daily, and, I might almost say, hourly, passing within my prison walls; and could my friends but witness only a few of those scenes just as they occur, I think they would feel very well reconciled to my being here just what I am, and just as I am. 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. 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. I intend to take the liberty of sending, by express, to your care, some trifling articles for those of my family who may be in Ohio, which you can hand to my brother Jeremiah, when you may see him, together with fifteen dollars I have asked him to advance to them. Please excuse me so often troubling you with my letters, or any of my matters. Please also remember me most kindly to Mr. Griswold, and to all others who love their neighbors. I write Jeremiah to your care.

Your friend, in truth, John Brown.

Letter to Mr. Sewall.

My dear Sir: Your most kind letter of the 24th inst. is received. It does, indeed, give me “pleasure,” and the greatest encouragement to know of any efforts that have been made in behalf of my poor and deeply afflicted family. It takes from my mind the greatest cause of sadness I have experienced during my imprisonment here. I feel quite cheerful, and ready to die. I can only say, for want of time, may the God of the oppressed and the poor, in great mercy, remember all those to whom we are so deeply indebted.

Farewell. Your friend, John Brown.


John Brown's last letter to his family.

Charlestown Prison, Jefferson Co., Va., Nov. 30, 1859.
My dearly beloved Wife, Sons and Daughters, Every One: As I now begin what is probably the last letter I shall ever write to any of you, I conclude to write to all at the same time. I will mention some little matters particularly applicable to little property concerns in another place.

I recently received a letter from my wife, from near Philadelphia, dated Nov. 22, by which it would seem that she was about giving up the idea of seeing me again. I had written her to come on if she felt equal to the undertaking, but I do not know that she will get my letter in time. It was on her own account chiefly that I asked her to stay back. At first I had a most strong desire to see her again, but there appeared to be very serious objections; and should we never meet in this life, I trust that she will in the end be satisfied it was for the best at least, if not most for her comfort. I enclosed in my last letter to her a draft of $50 from John Jay, made payable to her order. I have now another to send her, from my excellent old friend Edward Harris of Woonsocket, R. I., for $100, which I shall also make payable to her order.

I am waiting the hour of my public murder with great composure of mind and cheerfulness, feeling the strong assurance that in no other possible way could I be used to so much advantage to the cause of God and of humanity, and that nothing that either I or all my family have sacrificed or suffered will be lost. The reflection that a wise and merciful, as well as just and holy God rules not only the affairs of this world, but of all worlds, is a rock to set our feet upon under all circumstances — even those more severely trying ones into which our own feelings and wrongs have placed us. I have now no doubt but that our seeming disaster will ultimately result in the most glorious success. So, my dear shattered and broken family, be of good cheer, and believe and trust in God with all your heart, and with all your soul, for he doeth all things well. Do not feel ashamed on my account, nor for one moment despair of the cause or grow weary of well doing. I bless God I never felt stronger confidence in the certain and near approach of a bright morning and glorious day than I have felt, and do now feel, since my confinement here. I am endeavoring to return, like a poor prodigal as I am, to my Father, against whom I have always sinned, in the hope that he may kindly and forgivingly meet me, though a very great way off.

O, my dear wife and children, would to God you could know how I have been travailing in birth for you all, that no one of you may fail of the grace of God through Jesus Christ; that no one of you [366] may be blind to the truth and glorious light of his Word, in which life and immortality are brought to light. I beseech you, every one, to make the Bible your daily and nightly study, with a child-like, honest, candid, teachable spirit of love and respect for your husband and father.

And I beseech the God of my fathers to open all your eyes to the discovery of the truth. You cannot imagine how much you may soon need the consolations of the Christian religion. Circumstances like my own, for more than a month past, have convinced me beyond all doubt of our great need of some theories treasured up when our prejudices are excited, our vanity worked up to the highest pitch. O, do not trust your eternal all upon the boisterous ocean without even a helm or compass to aid you in steering. I do not ask of you to throw away your reason; I only ask you to make a candid, sober use of your reason.

My dear young children, will you listen to this last poor admonition of one who can only love you? O, be determined at once to give your whole heart to God, and let nothing shake or alter that resolution. You need have no fears of regretting it. Do not be vain and thoughtless, but sober-minded; and let me entreat you all to love the whole remnant of our once great family. Try and build up again your broken walls, and to make the utmost of every stone that is left. Nothing can so tend to make life a blessing as the consciousness that your life and example bless and leave you the stronger. Still, it is ground of the utmost comfort to my mind to know that so many of you as have had the opportunity have given some proof of your fidelity to the great family of men. Be faithful unto death; from the exercise of habitual love to man it cannot be very hard to love his Maker.

I must yet insert the reason for my firm belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible, notwithstanding I am, perhaps, naturally sceptical; certainly not credulous. I wish all to consider it most thoroughly when you read that blessed book, and see whether you cannot discover such evidence yourselves. It is the purity of heart, filling our minds as well as work and actions, which is every where insisted on, that distinguishes it from all the other teachings, that commends it to my conscience. Whether my heart be willing and obedient or not, the inducement that it holds out is another reason of my convictions of its truth and genuineness; but I do not here omit this my last argument on the Bible, that eternal life is what my soul is panting after this moment. I mention this as a reason for endeavoring to leave a valuable copy of the Bible, to be carefully preserved in remembrance of me, to so many of my posterity, instead of some other book at equal cost.

I beseech you all to live in habitual contentment with moderate [367] 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. 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 any thing, but to love one another. John Rogers wrote to his children, “Abhor that arrant whore of Rome.” John Brown writes to his children to abhor, with undying hatred also, that sum of all villainies — slavery. Remember, he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. Remember, also, that they, being wise, shall shine, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.

And now, dearly beloved family, to God and the work of his grace I commend you all.

Your affectionate husband and father, John Brown

John Brown's will.

I give to my son John Brown, Jr., my surveyor's compass and other surveyor's articles if found; also, my old granite monument, now at North Elba, N. Y., to receive upon its two sides a further inscription, as I will hereafter direct; said stone monument, however, to remain at North Elba so long as any of my children and my wiffe may remain there as residents.

I give to my son Jason Brown my silver watch with my name engraved on inner case.

I give to my son Owen Brown my double-spring opera-glass, and my rifle gun, (if found,) presented to me at Worcester, Mass. It is globe-sighted and new. I give also to the same son fifty dollars in cash, to be paid him from the proceeds of my father's estate, in consideration of his terrible suffering in Kansas, and his crippled condition from his childhood.

I give to my son Solomon Brown fifty dollars in cash, to be paid him from my father's estate, as an offset to the first two cases above named.

I give to my daughter Ruth Thompson my large old Bible, containing the family record.

I give to each of my sons, and to each of my other daughters, my son-in-law Henry Thompson, and to each of my daughters-in-law, as good a copy of the Bible as can be purchased at some bookstore in New York or Boston, at a cost of five dollars each in cash, to be paid out of the proceeds of my father's estate.

I give to each of my grandchildren that may be living when my father's estate is settled, as good a copy of the Bible as can be purchased (as above) at a cost of three dollars each. [368]

All the Bibles to be purchased at one and the same time, for cash, on the best terms.

I desire to have ($50) fifty dollars each paid out of the final proceeds of my father's estate to the following named persons, to wit: To Allen Hammond, Esq., of Rockville, Tolland County, Conn., or to George Kellogg, Esq., former agent of the New England Company at that place, for the use and benefit of that company. Also, fifty dollars to Silas Havens, formerly of Lewisburg, Summit County, O., if he can be found; also, fifty dollars to a man of Storck County, O., at Canton, who sued my father in his lifetime, through Judge Humphrey and Mr. Upson of Akron, to be paid by J. R. Brown to the man in person, if he can be found. His name I cannot remember. My father made a compromise with the man by taking our house and lot at Manneville. I desire that any remaining balance that may become my due from my father's estate may be paid in equal amounts to my wife, and to each of my children, and to the widows of Watson and Owen Brown, by my brother.

A final codicil.

It is my desire that my wife have all my personal property not previously disposed of by me, and the entire use of all my landed property during her natural life; and that, after her death, the proceeds of such land be equally divided between all my then living children; and that what would be a child's share be given to the children of each of my two sons who fell at Harper's Ferry, and that a child's share be divided among the children of my now living children who may die before their mother, (my present beloved wife.) No formal will can be of use when my expressed wishes are made known to my dutiful and beloved family.

My dear Wife: I have time to enclose the within and the above, which I forgot yesterday, and to bid you another farewell. “Be of good cheer,” and God Almighty bless, save, comfort, guide, and keep you to “the end.”

Your affectionate husband, John Brown.

Letter to James Forman.

Charlestown Prison, Jefferson Co., Va., Dec. 1, 1859.
James Forman, Esq.
My dear Friend: I have only time to say I got your kind letter of the 26th Nov. this evening. Am very grateful for all the good feeling expressed by yourself and wife. May God abundantly bless and save you all. I am very cheerful, in hopes of entering on a better [369] state of existence, in a few hours, through infinite grace in “( Christ Jesus, my Lord.” Remember the “poor that cry,” and “them that are in bonds as bound with them.”

Your friend as ever, John Brown.

Letter to Mr. Hunter.

Charlestown, Va., Nov. 22, 1859.
Andrew Hunter, Esq., Present.
Dear Sir: I have just had my attention called to a seeming confliction between the statement I at first made to Governor Wise and that which I made at the time I received my sentence, regarding my intentions respecting the slaves we took about the Ferry. There need be no such confliction, and a few words of explanation will, I think, be quite sufficient. I had given Governor Wise a full and particular account of that; and when called in court to say whether I had any thing further to urge, I was taken wholly by surprise, as I did not expect my sentence before the others. In the hurry of the moment, I forgot much that I had before intended to say, and did not consider the full bearing of what I then said. I intended to convey this idea: that it was my intention to place the slaves in a condition to defend their liberties if they would, without any bloodshed, but not that I intended to run them out of the Slave States. I was not aware of any such apparent confliction until my attention was called to it, and I do not suppose that a man in my then circumstances should be superhuman in respect to the exact purport of every word he might utter. What I said to Governor Wise was spoken with all the deliberation I was master of, and was intended for truth; and what I said in court was equally intended for truth, but required a more full explanation than I there gave. Please make such use of this as you think calculated to correct any wrong impression I may have given.

The three following letters have never hitherto been published:

My dear Wife and Children, Every One: I suppose you have learned before this by the newspapers that two weeks ago to-day we were fighting for our lives at Harper's Ferry; that during the fight Watson was mortally wounded, Oliver killed, Wm. Thompson killed, and Dauphin slightly wounded; that on the following day I was taken prisoner, immediately after which I received several sabre cuts in my head, and bayonet stabs in my body. As nearly as I can learn, Watson [370] died of his wound on Wednesday the second, or on Thursday the third day after I was taken. Dauphin was killed when I was taken, and Anderson, I suppose, also. I have since been tried, and found guilty of treason, &c., and of murder in the first degree. I have not yet received my sentence. No others of the company with whom you were acquainted were, so far as I can learn, either killed or taken. 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. I feel no consciousness of guilt in the matter, nor even mortification on account of my imprisonment and iron; and I feel perfectly assured that very soon no member of my family will feel any possible disposition to “blush on my account.” Already dear friends at a distance, with kindest sympathy, are cheering me with the assurance that posterity at least will do me justice. I shall commend you all together, with my beloved, but bereaved, daughters-in-law, to their sympathies, which I have no doubt will soon reach you. I also commend you all to Him “whose mercy endureth forever” --to the God of my fathers, “whose I am, and whom I serve.” “He will never leave you or forsake you” unless you forsake Him. Finally, my dearly beloved, be of good comfort. Be sure to remember and to 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 any thing you bestow on them to be lost to you, even though they may be as 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 them.” I am in charge of a jailer like the one who took charge of “Paul and Silas;” and you may rest assured that both kind hearts and kind faces are more or less about me, whilst thousands are thirsting for my blood. “These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work out for us afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” I hope to be able to write you again. My wounds are doing well. Copy this, and send it to your sorrow-stricken brothers, Ruth, to comfort them. Write me a few words in regard to the welfare of all. God Almighty bless you all, and make you “joyful in the midst of all your tribulations.” Write to John Brown, Charlestown, Jefferson Co., Va., care of Captain John Avis.

Your affectionate husband and father. John Brown.
Nov. 3, 1859.
P. S.--Yesterday, Nov. 2, I was sentenced to be hanged on Dec. 2d next. Do not grieve on my account. I am still quite cheerful.

God bless you. Yours ever, ,signed>John Brown.


Letter to his wife.

My dear Wife: Your most welcome letter of the 13th instant I got yesterday. I am very glad to learn from yourself that you feel so much resigned to your circumstances, so much confidence in a wise and good Providence, and such composure of mind in the midst of all your deep afflictions. This is “just as it should be;” and let me still say, “Be of good cheer;” for we shall soon “( come out of all our great tribulations,” and very soon (if we trust in him) “, God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.” Soon “( we shall be satisfied when we are awake in his likeness.” There is now here a source of much disquietude to me, viz., the fires which are almost of daily and nightly occurrence in this immediate neighborhood. Whilst I well know that no one of them is the work of our friends, I know at the same time that by more or less of the inhabitants we shall be charged with them, the same as with the ominous and threatening letters to Governor Wise. In the existing state of public feeling, I can easily see a further objection to your coming here at present; but I did not intend saying another word to you on that subject. Why will you not say to me whether you had any crops mature this season? If so, what ones? Although I may never more intermeddle with your worldly affairs, I have not yet lost all interest in them. A little history of your success or of your failures, I should very much prize; and I would gratify you and other friends some way were it in my power. I am still quite cheerful, and by no means “cast down.” I “remember that the time is short.” The little trunk and all its contents (so far as I can judge) reached me safe. May God reward all the contributors. I wrote you under cover to our excellent friend Mrs. Spring on the 16th instant. I presume you have it before now. When you return it is most likely the Lake will not be open; so you must get your ticket at Troy for Moreau Station, or Glens Falls, (for Glens Falls if you can get one,) or get one for Vergennes in Vermont, and take your chance of crossing over on the ice to Westport. If you go soon, the route by Glens Falls to Elizabethtown will probably be the best. I have just learned that our poor Watson lingered with his wound until Wednesday about noon of the 19th Oct. Oliver died near my side in a few moments after he was shot. Dauphin died the next morning after Oliver and William were killed, viz., Monday. He died almost instantly — was by my side. William was shot by several persons. Anderson was killed with Dauphin.

Keep this letter to refer to. God Almighty bless and keep you all.

Your affectionate husband, John Brown

Dear Mrs. Spring: I send this to your care, because I am at a loss where it will reach my wife.

Your friend, in truth, J. Brown.


Letter to his children.

Dear Children All: I address this letter to you, supposing that your mother is not yet with you. She has not yet come here, as I have requested her not to do at present, if at all. She may think it best for her not to come at all. She has, (or will,) I presume, written you before this. Annie's letter to us both of the 9th has but just reached me. I am very glad to get it, and to learn that you are in any measure cheerful. This is the greatest comfort I can have, except that it would be to know that you are all Christians. God in mercy grant you all may be so. That is what you all will certainly need. When and in what form death may come is of but small moment. I feel just as content to die for God's Eternal Truth, and for suffering humanity's, on the scaffold as in any other way; and I do not say this from any 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 I “fair in the face” as I am capable of doing; and I now feel it most grateful that I am counted (in the least possible degree) worthy to suffer for the truth. I want you all to “be of good cheer.” This life is intended as a season of training, chastisement, temptation, affliction, and trial, and “the righteous shall come out of” it all. O, my dear children, let me again entreat you all to “forsake the foolish and live.” What can you possibly lose by such a course? “Godliness with contentment is great gain, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” “Trust in the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land; and verily thou shalt be fed.” I have enjoyed life much; why should I complain on leaving it? I want some of you to write me a little more particularly about all that concerns your welfare. I intend to write you as often as I can. “To God and the word of his grace I commend you all.”

Your affectionate father, John Brown
P. S.--I am very grateful to all our friends.

Yours, J. B.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Jefferson (West Virginia, United States) (23)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (6)
Kansas (Kansas, United States) (5)
Ilva (Italy) (5)
Faradofay (Madagascar) (4)
Glens Falls (New York, United States) (3)
Akron (Ohio, United States) (3)
United States (United States) (2)
New England (United States) (2)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
Essex County (New York, United States) (2)
Worcester (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Wooster (Ohio, United States) (1)
Woonsocket (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
West Newton (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Wayland (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Vermont (Vermont, United States) (1)
Tolland (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Summit County (Ohio, United States) (1)
Rockville, Md. (Maryland, United States) (1)
Rhode Island (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
Quaker (Missouri, United States) (1)
Providence, R. I. (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
Newport (Rhode Island, United States) (1)
New York State (New York, United States) (1)
Nazareth, Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Milton (Missouri, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Litchfield, Conn. (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Lewisburg (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Charles Town (West Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: