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Chapter 9: forty days in chains.

The old man was imprisoned in the jail of Charlestown for forty-two days. The preceding chapter contains the principal letters that he wrote during this long period of confinement. His conduct while in jail was in keeping with his previous character. He never wavered in his faith; never faltered in the presence of any man. From his first commitment, on the 19th of October, till the 7th of November, no clean clothing was given to him; he lay as he had fallen at Harper's Ferry, in his dirty and blood-stained garments.

Such brief notes as have been published of his life in prison, from reliable authorities, I will now record in their chronological order.

During the trial.

The first is a telegraphic despatch to the Associated Press, of October 26:

Brown has made no confession; but, on the contrary, says he has full confidence in the goodness of God, and is confident that he will rescue him from the perils that surround him, He says he has had rifles levelled at him, knives at his throat, and his life in as great peril as it is now, but that God has always been at his side, He knows God is with him, and fears nothing.


On the 2d of November, Judge Russell, of Boston, and his wife,1 arrived in Charlestown, and had an interview with John Brown. The Judge spoke of the charge preferred by an administration journalist in Kansas against the Captain, which charged him with having killed the ruffians of Pottawattomie. The old ran declared that he did not, in any way, participate in their execution ; but thought here, in jail, as he had believed in Kansas, that the act was just and necessary. A reliable writer, who was admitted to the cell on the same day, thus speaks of the old man:

He is permitted to receive such visitors as he desires to see. He states that he welcomes every one, and that he is preaching, even in jail, with great effect, upon the enormities of slavery, and with arguments that every body fails to answer.

Another newspaper correspondent who visited him at this time- the days of his sentence-- says:

He said that Captain Avis, his jailer, showed as much kindness in treating him, as he had shown courage in attacking him. “It is what I should expect from a brave man.” Seeing that one of the deputy jailers was present, he added: “I don't say this to flatter; it isn't my way. I say it because it is true.” Capt. Brown appears perfectly fearless in all respects,--says that he has no feeling about death on a scaffold, and believes that every act, “ even all the follies that led to this disaster, were decreed to happen ages before the world was made.” The only anxiety he expressed was in regard to the circumstances of his family. He asked and obtained leave to add a postscript to a letter to his wife, telling her that he was to be hanged on the second of December, and requested that it should be directed to Mrs. John Brown, “for there are some other widow Browns in North Elba.” He speaks highly of his medical attendants, but rejects the offered counsel of all ministers who believe that slavery is right. He will die as fearlessly as he has lived.


The visit of Judge Russell and his wife was not liked by the self-styled hospitable Virginians, but they were permitted to visit the jail unmolested by the populace, and were not uncourteously received.

After the trial.

The next Northern visitor — a Boston sculptor — who had come to take a likeness and a measure of John Brown's head, was less tenderly treated by the authorities. Captain Brown refused, at first, to permit the measurements to be made; but, when told that a lady, who had been a friend to him in other days, requested it as a personal favor, he at once expressed his willingness to permit it to be done. But the judicial, official, and jail authorities interposed, and the sculptor was refused all access to him. A reporter who had access to the cell on the same day--November 3writes:

Brown's cheerfulness never fails him. He converses with all who visit him in a manner so free from restraint and with so much unconcern, that none can doubt his real convictions of self-approval. His daring courage has strongly impressed the people, and I have more than once heard public avowals of admiration of his fearlessness in spite of ominous murmurs of disapprobation from bystanders. A telegraphic despatch, dated Boston, was this morning received from T. W. Higginson. It said, “ John Brown's wife wishes to go on and see him. Can you obtain permission for her?” This was answered affirmatively; but when the matter was mentioned to Brown, he directed that this message should be immediately sent: “ Do not, for God's sake, come here now. John Brown.”

In his next letter he adds:

November 4. Certain Northern papers convey the impressions of a very general belief in John Brown's safety from execution. They assume, that, for political or other reasons, Governor Wise will be induced to show clemency to this condemned man. Such ideas are received here with indignation. It is evident that any attempt to remove him alive from this town would fail. The people say that a regiment of soldiers, with the Governor at their head, could not accomplish it. You, at a distance, can hardly form an impression of the rage for vengeance which is felt by the citizens of this place. [376] When Brown was in court on trial, there were always faces burning with hatred hanging over him, fiercely watching every movement that he made. In the event of an attempt to rescue, which has been the great fear all along, the jailers have been instructed to shoot him. The populace are resolute in their determination that their victims shall never be taken from them, and it does not seem that this determination is to be shaken by any expedient.

Brown's own ideas on the subject are characteristic. He tranquilly says, “I do not know that I ought to encourage any attempt to save my life. I am not sure that it would not be better for me to die at this time. I am not incapable of error, and I may be wrong; but I think that perhaps my object would be nearer fulfilment if I should die. I must give it some thought.” There is no insincerity about this, you may be sure. Brown does not value his life; or, at least, is wholly unmoved at the prospect of losing it. He was never more firm than at this moment. The only compunctions he expresses are in relation to his management at Harper's Ferry, by which he lost not only himself, but sacrificed his associates. He sometimes says that if he had pursued his original plan of immediate escape to the mountains, he could never have been taken, for he and his men had studied the vicinity thoroughly, and knew it a hundred times better than any of the inhabitants. It was, he says, his weakness in yielding to the entreaties of his prisoners, and delaying his departure, that ruined him. “ It was the first time,” are his own words, “ that I ever lost command of myself, and now I am punished for it.”

The reason Brown has given for asking his wife to remain away, is also characteristic. He knows it would cause great suffering, and will, possibly, shatter his composure in a manner which he is resolved against, lest his captors should esteem it an evidence of regret for what he has done. The despatch which I told you was sent to Mrs. Brown did not reach her, and to-day another was received, announcing that she was about to leave Philadelphia for this town. Brown will still make another effort to check her. Nothing seems to give Brown greater annoyance than hearing of those threatening anonymous letters that are continually sent to Governor Wise, and to the authorities of Charlestown, respecting his fate. He protests against them, and feels unwilling to believe that they proceed from his own friends.

A pro-slavery reporter of the New York Herald visited John Brown on the same days, and thus records the results of the interview :

I have just seen “ Old Captain Brown.” I inquired after his health and condition; he replied that his recent wounds had caused some inflammation in an old one, received, doubtless, in some of his “Kansas work;” with that exception he was easy in mind and body, and thought he had done his duty to God and man. If it was decreed that he should suffer for it, very well; it was of but small consequence to him. He cared but little, any way. I asked him if he had no regret for the valuable lives he had destroyed. The old sinner replied he had not intended that. In answer to the query, (If [377] he thought his designs could be carried out without bloodshed? “ he replied, It had been done in Missouri.” Just at that point the interview terminated.

The prisoners are still guarded with the greatest vigilance. Hundreds of men all the time under arms are stationed at the jail, which, by the way, in its external appearance looks much more like a private residence than a jail, with its curtained windows and porch or stoop, to speak in Yankee parlance, leading out on the street-but it is very strong and secure within.

On the 5th of November, a Northern lady-- Mrs. Spring-arrived in Charlestown to nurse John Brown; and, on the following day, was admitted to his cell. From her account of this interview, all that has not hitherto been published is subjoined:

On our way we spent a night at Harper's Ferry. In the parlor we heard a young lady describing to a gentleman the horrors of the night of terror. “I wished,” she said, “I could shoot them all.” She told the story of poor Thompson, brought wounded into the hotel, followed by the infuriated people, protected for a time by Mr. Foulke's sister, at last dragged out and killed on the bridge. She said, “It was dreadful to drag him out so; but they did right to kill him. I would. ...

Between Mr. Brown and his jailer there has grown up a most friendly feeling. Captain Avis, who is too brave to be afraid to be kind, has done all he could for the prisoners, and been cursed accordingly. Still their condition was very cheerless, and Mr. Brown was in the same clothes in which he was taken. A cloth under his head was much stained with blood from a still open wound. It was hard for me to forget the presence of the jailer, (I had that morning seen his advertisement of “fifty negroes for sale; ” but I soon lost all thought of him in listening to Mr. Brown, who spoke at once of his plans and his failure. Twenty years he has labored, and waited, and suffered, and at last he believed the time of fulfilment had come. But he failed; and instead of being free on the mountains, strong to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free, he was shorn of his strength, with prison walls about him. “But,” he said, “I do not now reproach myself; I did what I could.” I said, “The Lord often leads us in strange ways.” “Yes,” he answered; “and I think I cannot 2now better serve the cause I love so much than to die for it; and in my death I may do more than in my life.” A pleasant smile came over his face when I exclaimed, “ Then you will be our martyr! ” I continued, “I want to ask one question for others, not for myself-Have you been actuated by any feeling of revenge?” He raised his head, and gave me a surprised look; then, lying back, he answered slowly, but firmly, “I am not conscious of having had a feeling of the kind. No, not in all the wrong done to me and my family in Kansas, have I had a feeling of revenge.” “ That would not sustain you now,” I remarked. “No, indeed,” he replied quickly; “but I sleep peacefully as an infant, or if I am wakeful, glorious thoughts come to me, entertaining [378] my mind.” Presently he added, “The sentence they have pronounced against me did not disturb me in the least; it is not the first time that I have looked death in the face.” “It is not the hardest thing for a brave man to die,” I answered; “ but how will it be in the long days before you, shut up here? If you can be true to yourself in all this, how glad we shall be! ” “ I cannot say,” he responded, “ but I do not believe I shall deny my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ; and I should be if I denied my principles against slavery. Why, I preach against it all the time--Captain Avis knows I do.” The jailer smiled, and said, “ Yes.” We spoke of those who, in times of trial, forgot themselves, and he said, “ There seems to be just that difference in people; some can bear more than others, and not suffer so much. He had been through all kinds of hardships, and did not mind them.” My son remarked it was a great thing to have confidence in one's own strength. “I did not mean to say that,” was the answer. “It was only a constitutional difference, and I have been trained to hardships.” When twelve years old he went with his father to furnish the American army with cattle. This had led him far away from home, and subjected him to much exposure. Sometimes he slept in graveyards, but without any superstitious fears, and in forests a hundred miles from human habitations, surrounded by hostile English and Indians. “ But,” he added, smiling, “I have one unconquerable weakness; I have always been more afraid of being taken into an evening party of ladies and gentlemen than of meeting a company of men with guns.” I think he is still more afraid of giving trouble to others. He seems to me to be purely unselfish, and in all that he has done to have never thought of himself, but always of others. In a noble letter to his wife, which I brought away with me, he entreats his “ dear wife and children, every one, Never in all your trials forget the poor that cry, and him that hath none to help him.”

While he was talking to me with deepest solicitude of his family, the rabble, ever hanging about the Court House and prison, fearful that we were plotting treason inside, became restless. The sheriff was frightened, and called the jailer, so that I had only a moment to speak to Stevens, and to say farewell to Mr. Brown, who stood up to take leave of us, saying, “ The Lord will bless you for coming here.”

There was, I learned afterwards, an angry mob outside the jail, but I did not see it. In a moment we reached the hotel, and at once recorded all we could remember of this interesting visit. That night there were rumors of an attack on the jail, and it was thought best that I should not repeat my visit.

But the evening before we left Charlestown, a telegram announced to me that Mrs. Brown was in Philadelphia; and I was anxious therefore to have another interview with her husband. In the morning I sent for the Judge, who went with us to the prison door. Mr. Brown was sitting at the table, where he had just finished a letter to his wife, and a note to me. He looked better, and brighter, and happier than at my first visit, and Stevens also looked better. The old man said little except about his family, whom he commended to the kindness of good people.

The next account that we have, is from the correspondence of a pro-slavery paper,--the New York [379] Herald,--and from so very prejudiced a source, it is an important testimony to John Brown's character and courage:

A person visiting Brown in jail, and seeing him for the first time, ,with an estimate formed of the man from his conduct during the trial and the speeches there delivered by him, would find his preconceived opinions rapidly disappear before the subject of them. It is true that, acting under excitement and from the consciousness that he was surrounded by his enemies, Brown frequently indulged in irascible remarks, feeling somewhat secure in the protection of the law whose victim he must be, while, at the same time, he dared, and, indeed, seemed to court, the worst his foes could do, thinking, perhaps, that he might Escape the slower and more vengeful process of the law. In this state of feeling, sensitive as an enthusiast in giving to the world the motives of an act which, to his own diseased mind, was great and good, but which the world must condemn, he claimed with petulance and impatience those delays in the administration of the law which neither his crimes nor the circumstances of the court could fairly admit of. His object in this was, as he himself said, to give the world a fair opportunity of judging of his motives. If this opportunity was to be denied him, a summary quietus from one of the Sharpe's rifles in the hands of his enemies was all he next most desired. Now that he has received at the hands of justice and fair play all the delay that he could possibly hope for — a trial protracted over five days--with the fullest publicity given to the statements of those witnesses who testified most directly and generously to his humanity to his prisoners in the Armory at Harper's Ferry, he is satisfied, and awaits the result with that calm firmness which is the sure characteristic of a brave man.

What Brown was most anxious to establish in the eves of the world, during the trial, was his claim to being considered humane and merciful from his conduct to his prisoners. Whatever good quality a man possesses in any marked degree he is most anxious to have acknowledged at a time when circumstances point the other way; and so it was with Brown. Though his deeds in the Kansas border wars did not entitle him to be considered either as humane, or as averse to the shedding of blood, certainly his prisoners at Harper's Ferry had no fault to find with him on that score. They frankly acknowledged his humanity and courtesy towards them. At all events, the opinions formed of the man from the darker features of his life would fade before the influence of a personal interview with him in prison. Now that his fate has been decided by the just and proper process of law, he feels resigned to it. He no longer indulges in complaints and invectives. He rarely adverts to his trial; but whenever he does, he pays a tribute to all concerned — Judge, counsel, and witnesses. He speaks freely upon all subjects but one, and that is the death of his sons. From his taciturnity he has been adjudged as entirely callous as to the fate of his sons and the other unfortunate victims of his mad enterprise ; but this is a very great mistake, and arises from ignorance of the human heart. He avoids the subject, it is true, but in waiving it, should it be started, the observer can mark and understand the feeling which confines it to his own heart. He speaks freely [380] enough of his wife and daughters, and he has been some time considering the propriety of allowing them to visit him. They are now on their way to visit him, although he had resolved on avoiding an inter. view with them until some few days previous to that fixed for his death, and which he has not the slightest hope of seeing put off a single hour.

Mrs. Russell, wife of Judge Russell, visited him the other day, and had a long chat with him. He appears — very much pleased with the lady's manner, and was very communicative with her. In illustrating his own character, he said that he had never known what fear was when brought into opposition or collision with his fellowsman, but that he had a strange feeling of that nature on his first introduction to the higher class of men with whom his peculiar and wayward life brought him into contact. This feeling, he said, was very awkward, and very painful, also, when entering the society of women. The interview with Mrs. Russell seemed to touch the old man's heart, and no woman could turn from him, so full of trials and sorrowfor woman at such a moment rarely looks back to first causes — without emotion.

Brown frequently indulges in amusing narratives of his encounters with his border enemies of Kansas and Missouri. He related to me that upon one occasion he had succeeded in running away with a party of slaves from Missouri, but that he was so hotly pursued that some stratagem was necessary to prevent them from being overtaken, in the event of which a severe fight and consequent sacrifice of life must be the result. To avoid this, Brown himself turned off the track of the retreating party, and having completely disguised himself, joined as an amateur the pursuers. With them he remained a day and a night, entering into their counsels and effectually controlling their motions, so that he turned them off the right track, and gave his friends an opportunity to escape. The old man laughed as he recalled the scene, and said, “ I never was good at a disguise, but that time I deceived several in the party who had seen and known me before.” With all who come in a kindly spirit to visit him Brown is exceedingly free and open. He esteems such as friends, and seems to view their leave-taking with regret. But these visits are but as angels' visits, few and far between, for the jealousy and suspicion with which the people of Charlestown regard all who are likely to feel for and sympathize with the prisoner — in fact, all strangers — keep barred the prison doors. It is not so, however, in regard to those about whose earnest hostility to all abolition movements there is no doubt entertained. They enter in flocks, and gape, and stare, and follow the jailer in and out. He is in the same cell with Stevens, at whose bedside he is constantly found sitting, with the Bible (just closed as the visitor enters) placed upon his knees. This is the Bible he always carried with him. It was found, after the final attack and recapture of Harper's Ferry, in. the Armory, and was by some kind person restored to its owner in captivity. It is almost needless to say that Brown awaits death with that resignation and tranquillity which disarm the dreaded phantom of all terror.

A republican correspondent, writing under date of November 8, informs us that, [381]

Brown's conversation is singularly attractive. His manner is magnetic. It attracts every one who approaches him, and while he talks he reigns. The other prisoners venerate him. Stevens sits in his bed, usually with his face away from the window, and listens all day to “the Captain's” words, seldom offering a syllable except when called upon. Sometimes he gets a little excited, and springs forward to make clear some point about which I the Captaina is in doubt; but his five bullets, in head and breast, weigh him down, and he is soon exhausted. As for the other men,--Copeland, Green, and Coppic,they are always sending messages to “ the Captain,” assuring him that it was not they who confessed, and he “mustn't growl at them, but at Cook.” I cannot forget hearing Brown express himself on the subject of the threatening anonymous letters that have been received by (Gov. Wise relating to his case. “ Well, gentlemen,” he said, “I tell you what I think of them. They come from no friends of mine. I have nothing to do with such friends. Why, gentlemen, of all the things in the world that I despise, anonymous letters are the worst. If I had a little job to do, I would sooner take one half the men I brought down here to help me than as many of these fellows as could fill all Jefferson County, standing close upon every inch. If I don't get out of this jail before such people as they are take me out, I shan't go very soon.”

During all this time, John Brown received large numbers of letters daily. All anonymous notes he burned without reading. He replied to as many of the others as he had time to answer. Previous to this date, also, two militia companies paid him a visit, the Continentals and the Fredericksburg Guards. He received them cordially ; but objected, he said, “to be made a monkey show of.” He told the Continentals that he had seen their uniform on the border during the war of 1812.

Writ of error refused.

On November 16, says the New York Tribune,

John Brown, by counsel, made his last appeal to a Virginia tribunal. Within a few hours' time, the five judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals uttered their unanimous opinion that the judgment of the Jefferson County Court, under which the old man awaits death by hanging on the 2d day of December, was right; and therefore they denied his petition for a writ of error. The indictment upon which Brown was tried contained, four counts — for treason, for advising and conspiring with slaves and others to rebel, and for murder. Charged jointly with others, he was tried alone. One general judgment of death was entered upon the whole of it. The grounds of his application [382] for a writ of error were few. He claimed, first, that the judgment against him was erroneous, because it was not averred in the treason count, that at the time of the offence charged he was a citizen of the State of Virginia or of the United States. The law is well settled that treason is a breach of allegiance, and can be committed only by one who owes allegiance, either temporary or perpetual. Brown appealed to the Court, that if the judgment against him on all the counts, including this defective one of treason, was to stand, he would be put out of all possible reach of the Executive clemency. That clemency could have reached him, on the contrary, if the judgment had only been on the other counts of the indictment. Secondly, he claimed that the judgment under which he now awaits death was erroneous, in that the Court below denied his application that the prosecution be made to elect some one count upon which to try him, and abandon the rest. He was entitled to that election: First, Because the offence of treason is not pardonable by the Governor of Virginia, and therefore a count charging it should not have been united in an indictment with counts for offences that are pardonable. Second, Because the punishment upon conviction upon each of the counts was not necessarily the same; that while it was inevitably capital upon one of them, upon the others he might have been found guilty only of a misdemeanor, or of a simple manslaughter. Thirdly, he insisted that the Court below should have instructed the Jury that if they believed, from the evidence, that at the time of the committing of the acts charged in the count for treason, he was not a citizen of Virginia, but of another State, he could not be convicted under it. Fourthly, he claimed that the finding by the Jury upon the counts for conspiring with slaves to rebel, and for killing four white men and one free negro, “ in manner and form as aforesaid,” was too uncertain and inconsistent to warrant a judgment of death. Briefly, and without any delay painful to the tense expectation of the Virginia mind, did the five Judges of the Appeals Court say to John Brown, through his counsel, “ The judgment under which you are to be hung by the neck until you are dead, is plainly right.” His counsel were not allowed to be heard.

John Brown and the Southern clergy.

John Brown had frequent calls from the Virginia clergy, but with none of them would he bow the knee to their Baal. Mr. Lowry, an old neighbor, who visited him in prison, states that:

Mr. Brown is a member of the Old-School Presbyterian Church, and a decidedly religious man, though he strictly and sternly refuses to be aided in his prayers by the pro-slavery divines of Virginia. One of these gentlemen, in conversation with me, said that he had called on Brown to pray with him. He said that Brown asked if he was ready to fight, if necessity required it, for the freedom of the slave. On his answering in the negative, Brown said that he would thank him to retire from his cell; that his prayers would be an abomination to his God. To another clergyman he said that he would not insult his God by bowing down with any one who had the blood of the slave upon his skirts.


A correspondent of the Baltimore American gives this additional testimony to John Brown's fidelity:

Captain Brown has also recovered, and is getting quite active. He refuses to receive any ministers who countenance slavery, telling them to go home and read their Bibles. Rev. Alfred Griffith had an interview with him a few days since, which lasted for nearly an hour, principally on the subject of slavery. They quoted Scripture to sustain their views, and had quite a clashing time of it; but neither was able to convince the other of the correctness of their peculiar doctrines.

Another writer says:

Brown was visited yesterday by Rev. James H. March, of the M. E. Church. The reverend gentleman having advanced an argument in favor of the institution of slavery as it now exists, Brown replied to him, saying, “ My dear sir, you know nothing about Christianity; you will have to learn the A B C's in the lesson of Christianity, as I find you entirely ignorant of the meaning of the word. I, of course, respect you as a gentleman; but it is as a heathen gentleman.” The reverend gentleman here thought it best to draw such a discussion to a close, and therefore withdrew.

Let the churches of America blush in shame in presence of the faithful Christian of Charlestown jail. Was ever testimony against slavery so firmly or so worthily borne? The effect of it was noteworthy. The clergy-men of Charlestown refused to pray for John Brown before his execution, although that custom is immemorial, and Christianity enjoins the duty of praying even for our enemies.

To Mr. Lowry, in speaking of the Pottawattomie executions, and the person who accused him of having killed the ruffians, he said that he was mistaken in supposing that the charge needed any refutation from him. “Time and the honest verdict of posterity,” he said, “will approve of every act of mine to prevent slavery from being established in Kansas. I never shed the blood of a fellow-man, except in self-defence or in promotion of a righteous cause.” Mr. Lowry adds: [384]

During our conversation, the martial music (where Governor Wise was reviewing his army near the prison) made a great noise, and, thinking it must annoy him, I asked him if it did not. “ No,” said the man; “it is inspiring! ”

And here, as I parted with him, telling him I would see him again, if possible, he repeated to me: “ Tell those without that I am cheerful.” My time was up, and I was invited to leave.

During this week five fires, caused by incendiaries, occurred within a circuit of fifteen miles. The frightened Virginians attributed them to anti-slavery invaders; but the planters, knowing the feelings of their slaves, slept every night in the town. A cow approached the guards, one evening, and, refusing to give the countersign, was shot. In a few days afterwards, companies of infantry and artillery arrived from Petersburg and Richmond, to protect the citizens.

On their arrival in Charlestown, on November 22, these protectors of Virginia from her graminivorous enemies paid a visit to the old man in prison; but no one cared or was permitted to describe the interview. Governor Wise, who accompanied them to Charlestown, had a conversation with John Brown, who “justified and defended his course.”

On the 24th, the militia Colonel hitherto in command was superseded by General Taliaferro, and martial law was at once proclaimed. The telegraph was seized by the Government of Virginia, and every train that entered the State was searched and put under guard. The Austrian passport system was inaugurated — for the first time in American history.

The next and only published record of John Brown's life in his cell, until the day preceding his sublime victory over death, is from the pen of a very prejudiced [385] authority, but bears, nevertherless, internal evidences of its truthfulness:

Colonel Smith, of the Virginia Military Institute, paid a visit to John Brown to-day, in company with Mr. O. Jennings Wise, son of Governor Wise, who is attached to Company F, of Richmond. I had an interview with one of the jail officials who was present at the conversation that took place between Captain Brown and these gentlemen, and I give you, word for word, what transpired during our interview:

Reporter. Did Colonel Smith question Brown as to whether he had my desire to have a clergyman to administer to him the consolations of religion?

Jail Official. Yes, he did; but Brown said he did not recognize any slaveholder, lay or clerical, or any man sympathizing with slavery, as a Christian. He gave the same reason yesterday for his refusal to accept the services of some clergymen who called upon him. He also said he would as soon be attended to the scaffold by blacklegs or robbers of the worst kind as by slaveholding ministers, or ministers sympathizing with slavery, and that if he had his choice he would prefer being followed to the scaffold by barefooted, barelegged, ragged negro children, and their old gray-headed slave-mother, than by clergymen of this Character. He would feel, he said, much prouder of such an escort, and wished he could have it.

Reporter. Has he said any thing on the subject of religion to the clergymen who have called upon him?

Official. Yes, he argues with them; but winds up frequently by telling them that they, and all slaveholders and sympathizers with slavery, have far more need of prayers themselves than he has, and he accordingly advises them to pray for themselves, and exhibit no concern about him. While making these remarks, he requests that he would not be understood as designing to offer any insult.

Reporter. Does his health seem impaired by the anxiety which he must necessarily feel in view of his impending fate?

Official. No, sir; he looks much better to-day than he did at any period since his imprisonment. He eats his meals regularly, and seems to be in. better spirits this morning than he has been for ten days.

Reporter. Does he make any reference to his sons who were shot at Harper's Ferry?

Official. He expressed some anxiety to get the bodies of his sons together, and requested the jailer to give his wife any assistance in his power to get them together.

Reporter. What does he mean by getting them together?

Official. He is aware that the body of one of his sons was taken to the Winchester Medical College for dissection, and in using the words getting them together he meant to have their bones collected and given to his wife. He also expressed a desire to have the bones of two men, named Thompson, from his neighborhood, who were shot at Harper's Ferry, given to his wife. He expressed an idea that it would be well to have the flesh burned off the bodies of all, and their bones boxed up, so that they might be carried home with more convenience. In expressing this wish he remarked that he meant to 4o no violence to [386] the feelings or Christian sentiments of the people of Virginia. His sole object was to prevent inconvenience in their transportation, and avoid any disagreeable odor.

Reporter. There was a rumor on the streets during yesterday that he was engaged in writing out, or had written, his autobiography. Is there any truth in the rumor?

Official. No, sir; there is no truth in it. He is, however, writing a long communication to his family.2

Reporter. Does he exhibit much concern about his wife and children?

Official. Some time since he felt deeply concerned lest they may be reduced to want. Now, however, he has less concern on that head, doubtless because of the assurance he received of a purpose to make provision for them. He often speaks of his three youngest daughters, the eldest of whom, he says, is rising sixteen, and the youngest six.

Reporter. Does he say any thing relative to Governor Wise?

Official. He speaks of him in the highest terms, and expressed himself much pleased at seeing his son to-day, on account of his father's treatment of him. He observed that the Governor treated him much better than he expected he would have done under the circumstances.

Reporter. Does he seek to justify himself for the murder of the men at Pottawattomie Creek, when questioned upon the subject?

Official. He says he did not kill any of them, but that he approved of their being killed.

Reporter. Has he any intercourse with the rest of his confederates now in jail?

Official. He has not, except with Stevens, who occupies the same cell with him.

Reporter. Did he seem pleased when he was informed that the Governor agreed to hand over his body to his wife?

Official. He was very much pleased when he read the Governor's letter to the Sheriff, requesting his body to be given to his wife after execution.

At this stage of the dialogue a Presbyterian clergyman of this town, named Dutton, entered the jailer's dwelling, and requested to have his name reported to Mr. Brown, with a request for an interview if convenient. The message was delivered, but Mr. Brown declined an interview, on the ground that he was then too busy. Mr. Dutton then left.

Reporter. What is it keeps him busy?

Official. He is engaged in reading about two dozen letters, sent to him this morning. In declining an interview with Mr. Dutton, he desired that he (Mr. D.) be informed of his (Brown's) willingness to see him in the course of the day, and argue with him on the subject of religion.

Reporter. What is generally the character of the letters sent to him? Official. They are generally letters of sympathy and condolence.

Reporter. Does he receive any assuring him of a purpose to rescue him?

Official. Yes; several. These, however, are mostly anonymous, and he invariably commits them to the flames. I have observed him [387] throwing them into the fire upon finding them to be anonymous. Recently he reads no anonymous letter. Any communication, however, applauding him as a martyr to the anti-slavery cause, he carefully files away. Referring to his execution this morning, during his conversation with Mr. O. J. Wise and Colonel Smith, he said he was not to be executed, but publicly murdered.

Reporter. Does he profess any religion?

Official. Yes; he says he is a member of the Congregationalist Church, and represents himself as a good Christian.

Reporter. Have you any idea whether he has written, or intends to write, any thing which he would wish to have published?

Official. He has written nothing that I am aware of, except a short note to a gentleman across the street, stating that his commentaries on Beecher's sermon were not published as he gave them. Some of his commentaries, he said, were omitted, while others were materially altered.

Reporter. Does he exhibit any lack of firmness when spoken to on the subject of his approaching doom?

Official. I remarked to him this morning that the question was frequently asked, “Whether there was any caving in on his part,” and his reply was, that there was no caving in about him; that he would hold up to the last moment as he did at the start.

Reporter. What does he say regarding the prospects of his rescue?

Official. He said he was sure his sons could hardly contemplate his fate without using some efforts to rescue him; but this, he presumed, they would only do if he was allowed to remain in jail without any thing more than ordinary precaution to prevent his escape or rescue being exercised. He said, however, that such an attempt would not be made in view of the precautions now taken. He had no idea that any attempt at rescue would be made with so large a military force as he understood was now present.

Reporter. Is he aware that he will not be permitted to make any speech from the scaffold?

Official. Yes, he is; and when informed of that fact, he said he did not care about saying any thing.

“In all his conversation,” wrote another reporter, “Brown showed the utmost gentleness and tranquillity, and a quiet courtesy withal, that contrasted rather strongly with the bearing of some of his visitors.”

1 “When that Boston wife went down to John Brown's prison, and stood mending the sabre cut of his coat, a young Virginian, doubtless of the first families, who had on a uniform, although requested by a friend to retire for the purpose of letting her and Brown talk of old times alone, looked in through the window. But the wit of the woman got rid of him; for, having finished her needlework, she turned round and said, ‘Young man, get me a brush to clean this coat with;’ but the chivalry of the old State was so livid hot with rage at being asked to do any thing useful, that he went off, and was not seen again for half an hour, Now, that is a specimen of this white race in working.” Speech of Wendell Phillips, New York, December 15.

2 Which they never received.

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