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votes. In one district where the census three months
later showed only 53 voters, 602 votes were cast and
counted. At the election of members of the Territorial
Legislature, March 30, 1855, this outrage was even
more brazenly repeated. "Of 6307 votes cast, nearly
five-sixths were those of the invaders." The Pro-
Slavery party by intimidation and violence elected all
the members of the legislature except one and he after-
ward resigned. This was the famous Lecompton Legis-
lature which forced upon the people of Kansas the Mis-
souri code, including the institution of slavery.* It even
went farther and made it a criminal oft'ense for anyone
to entertain and express opinions hostile to that

There had been a number of "killings," how many
is not definitely known. Some who met this fate are
specifically named in the report of the Howard Congres-
sional Committee on which John Sherman, of Ohio, was
a member. Others are reported, among them the shoot-
ing of Charles Dow, a Free State man from Ohio. Prac-
tically every person in Kansas went armed and the seeds
of civil war were freely sown. The fact that the Pierce
administration at Washington was doing about every-
thing in its power to help fasten the institution of slavery
on Kansas made the situation doubly irritating for the
Free-State settlers. There was elected by votes from
Missouri a sherifif of Lawrence County, Kansas, who
at the same time held the position of postmaster in

* This is the "Kansas Legislature" referred to by Jahn Brown in his
letter of February 20, 1856, to Joshua R. Giddings.

200 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

Westport, Missouri. It is needless to say that this
sheriff was a source of trouble in this stronghold of the
Free-State men.

The early part of the winter 1855-1856 passed rather
quietly. The Free State men were gathering strength
and organizing for the admission of Kansas without
slavery. Their convention adopted a constitution and a
Free State legislature was chosen. John Brown, Jr.,
was elected to the latter. f

On January 24, 1856, President Pierce sent to Con-
gress a message that fanned to flaming heat the resent-
ment of the Free State men. It characterized their acts
in attempting to organize the state as revolutionary and
likely to lead to "treasonable insurrection." This mes-
sage was followed by a proclamation placing the United
States troops at Fort Riley at the service of Governor
Shannon, who was in complete sympathy with the move-
ment to make Kansas a slave state. This proclamation
foreshadowed the dissolution of the Free State Topeka
Legislature by the military forces of the United States.
The feelings that this aroused in John Brown are fully
revealed in the following letter to Joshua R. Giddings,
then representing the Western Reserve District of Ohio
in Congress:

OsAWATOMiE, Kansas Territory, 20th Feby, 1856.

Hon. Joshua R. Giddings,
Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir,

I write to say that a number of the United States Soldiers
are quartered in this vicinity for the ostensible purpose of re-
moving intruders from certain Indian Lands. It is, however,
beheved that the Administration has no thought of removing

t The Free State legislature was chosen by the Free State party.
The Pro- Slavery party did not participate in the election.

John Brown 201

the Missourians from the Indian Lands ; but that the real object
is to have these men in readiness to act in the enforcement of
those Hellish enactments of the (so called) Kansas Legislature;
absolutely abominated by a great majority of the inhabitants of
the Territory ; and spurned by them up to this time. I con-
fidently believe that the next movement on the part of the Ad-
ministration and its Proslavery masters will be to drive the
people here, either to submit to those Infernal enactments ; or
to assume what will be termed treasonable grounds by shooting
down the poor soldiers of the country with whom they have
no quarrel whatever. I ask in the name of Almighty God ; I ask
in the name of our venerated fore-fathers ; I ask in the name of
all that good or true men ever held dear; will Congress suffer
us to be driven to such "dire extremities"? JVill anything be
done? Please send me a few lines at this place. Long ac-
quaintance with your public life, and a slight personal ac-
quaintance incline and embolden me to make this appeal to

Everything is still on the surface here just now. Circum-
stances, however, are of a most suspicious character.
Very respectfully yours^

John Brown.

This letter received prompt attention at the hands of
the militant Congressman who replied in part :

"You need have no fear of the troops. The President will
never dare employ the troops of the United States to shoot the
citizens of Kansas. The death of the first man by the troops
will involve every free state in your own fate. It will light up
the fires of Civil War throughout the North, and we shall stand
or fall with you. Such an act will also bring the President so
deep in infamy that the hand of political resurrection will never
reach him."

On the day that Brown wrote the letter to Joshua R.
Giddings, February 20, 1856, The Squatter Sovereign
said editorially:

"In our opinion the only effectual way to correct the evils
that now exist is to hang up to the nearest tree the very last
traitor who was instrumental in getting up, or participating in,
the celebrated Topeka Convention."

202 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

More than a month previous the Pro-Slavery men
had acted in the spirit of this advice. Captain Reese P.
Brown (not related to the subject of this sketch) shortly
after he had been elected a member of the Topeka Free-
State Legislature, was brutally murdered by Pro-
Slavery men who rushed around him and "literally
hacked him to death with their hatchets." When his
bleeding body, from which life was not yet extinct, was
thrown at the feet of his wife she swooned and awoke
a raving maniac. The morning following this deed The
Kansas Pioneer came out with this lurid appeal :

"Sound the bugle of war over the length and breadth of
the land and leave not an abolitionist in the territory to relate
their treacherous and contaminating deeds. Strike your piercing
rifle balls and your glittering steel to their black and poisonous

The killing of Reese P. Brown was scarcely more
gruesome than others occurring about the same time.
It is here given because the victim was elected to the
Topeka Legislature in which John Brown, Jr., later
(March 8, 1856) acted on a committee that condemned
the "cold blooded murder" of their fellow member.

For his activity in this Legislature, John Brown, Jr.,
was made to pay a terrible penalty as will be shown later
in a sketch of his life. From the little that has here been
said it may be seen that the subversion of the ballot-box
was complete and that violence was rife in Kansas be-
fore the afifair at the Pottawatomie.

In the meantime the war of words on the hustings
and in legislative halls was not less violent than deeds
on the plains of Kansas. At times it is difficult to say
which was echo of the other. In Congress the speeches
turned more and more upon the struggle to fix slavery

John Brown 203

on Kansas Territory and the parties to the fray on that
western frontier were stirred to more desperate action
by the charges and counter-charges, denunciations and
appeals of their friends back east.

Excitement went up to fever heat when Preston
Brooks, a member of the House of Representatives from
South Carolina, accompanied by a colleague from that
state and one from Virginia, made a violent attack upon
Charles Sumner, a senator from the state of Massachu-
setts. Sumner on the 19th day of May, 1856, delivered
a notable speech in the Senate in which he most severely
arraigned the slave power and its defenders in Congress.
He was eloquent in his defense of the Free State settlers
of Kansas and contrasted their spirit with that exhibited
by the people of South Carolina. He compared the
women of Lawrence with "the matrons of Rome who
poured their jewels into the treasury for the public

"It would be difficult to find anything in the history of
South Carolina," said he, "which presents as much heroic spirit
in an heroic cause as shines in that repulse of the Missouri in-
vaders by the beleaguered town of Lawrence, where even the
women gave their effective efforts to freedom."

And in conclusion, turning to Senator Butler, he

"Ah, sir, I tell the senator that Kansas, welcomed as a free
state, 'a ministering angel shall be' to the Republic, when South
Carolina, in the cloak of darkness which she hugs, 'lies howling'."

There were bitter personalities exchanged in the
course of this debate. Two days afterward Brooks of
South Carolina with his two confederates approached
Sumner where he was sitting at his desk in the senate
chamber. As he raised his cane he shouted to Sumner,

204 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

"I have read yonr speech over twice carefully; it is a
libel on South Carolina and Mr. Butler who is a relative
of mine." With these words he rained blow upon blow
upon Sumner's head and arms. The senator struggled
to rise, but before he could successfully defend himself
he fell bleeding from more than tw^enty wounds on the
floor of the senate chamber. Senator Crittenden of
Kentucky started to assist Sumner but was prevented by
Representative Keitt, of South Carolina, Representative
Edmundson, of Virginia, and others who shouted:
"Let them alone." "Don't interfere." "Go it, Brooks."
"Give the Abolitionist h — 1." With shouts like these, in-
terspersed with oaths, the senate chamber rang as the
confederates of Brooks with raised canes prevented any

The subsequent history of this outrage is too well
known to be repeated here. For almost four years
Sumner was unable to return to the Senate.

The news of this disgraceful affair reached John
Brown's men on their way to the Pottawatomie. It
spurred them on to action swift and terrible. The blows
struck in the Senate of the United States reached to
Kansas — and farther. The memory of the Sumner
assault is revived here simply to show the unfortunate
condition into which the whole country had drifted as
a result of the anti-slavery controversy. When such
a deed of violence could occur in broad daylight in the
highest legislative body of our land, what might not be
expected, under the then existing conditions, when the
news of it reached the Kansas frontier?

Shortly after the Pottawatomie tragedy and before
authentic account of it had reached the East, Abraham
Lincoln caught the spirit of the hour and in his famous

John Brotvn 205

speech at Bloomington, Illinois, May 29, 1856, pro-

"We must highly resolve that Kansas must be free * * *
let us draw a cordon so to speak around the slave states, and the
hateful institution, like a reptile poisoning itself, will perish
by its own infamy."

He reached the climax in this speech in these words :

"There is a power and a magic in popular opinion. To
that let us now appeal ; and while, in all probability, no resort
to force will be needed, our moderation and forbearance will
stand us in good stead when, if ever, we must make an appeal
to battle and the God of hosts."

Quotations might be extended almost without limit
to show that the spirit of war was in the air throughout
our land when the first red drops of the approaching
storm were falling on the plains of Kansas.

The alTair for which John Brown has been most fre-
quently and seriously criticised was preceded, it should
always be remembered, by the burning and sacking of
the town of Lawrence, the headquarter^ of the Free
State men in Kansas territf ry. To avenge wrongs done
the "highly honorable Jones" who was at the same time
holding the position of postmaster of Westport, Mis-
souri, and sheriff of Lawrence County, Kansas, a band
of border ruffians numbering about 1200 and led by
former United States Senator Atchison of Missouri
appeared before the town. The citizens determined to
offer no resistance and to put up to the authorities of the
United States the responsibility for what might 'follow.
After they had surrendered Atchison in a fiery speech
said to his followers among other things :

"And now we will go with our highly honorable Jones, and
test the strength of that damned Free State Hotel. Be brave,

206 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

be orderly, and if any man or woman stand in your way, blow
them to hell with a chunk of cold lead."

The border ruf^ans, many of whom were inflamed
by drink, sacked the town, destroyed two newspaper
offices and threw the types, papers, presses and books
into the river. A number of cannon shots were then
fired into the Free State Hotel which was soon on fire
and went up in flames. When it lay in ruins the "highly
honorable Jones" shouted in glee: 'This is the happiest
moment of my life. I have done it, by God I have done

It has been sometimes claimed that John Brown was
in Lawrence at the time its destruction began. This is
hardly true, however, as there would have been resolute
resistance if he had been there. Some of his friends
have claimed that what he saw at Lawrence was his
excuse for the act of vengeance on the Pottawatomie,
but Villard marshals a lot of evidence to show that John
Brown was probably not present and that therefore he
could not ofTer what he saw in excuse for what he later
did. It seems very inconsequential whether he was
present or not. He certainly heard of what occurred on
the 21st of May before the action of his followers on the
Pottawatomie on the night of the 24th of that month.
And the conclusion cannot be escaped that he and his
followers, with this fresh demonstration that the gov-
ernment of the United States would do nothing to pre-
serve life and the semblance of civilization in Kansas,
resolved to take the law into their own hands and by a
terrible reprisal notify the Border Ruffians that hence-
forth they would send their hordes into Kansas at their
own peril, that their armed assassins comir^g over the

John Brown 207

border would, in the language of Corwin, "be welcomed
with bloody hands to hospitable graves."

The Pottawatomie affair, as Villard states, has
caused perhaps more discussion than any other event in
the history of Kansas Territory. Upon this the enemies
of John Brown invariably dwell at length, while his
friends are equally explicit with their apologies and
defenses. Five Pro-Slavery men were killed on the
night of May 24, 1856, and it is now generally admitted
that they met their fate at the hands of John Brown and
his followers. John Brown himself killed no one, it is
claimed, but he was present and later assumed full re-
sponsibility for what was done. John Brown, Jr. was
some distance away and did not learn of the tragedy
until some time after it had occurred. Colonel Richard
J. Hinton in his JoJin Brozvn and His Men fully justifies
what was done and terms it the "Pottawatomie execu-
tions." Villard strongly condemns the participants in
what he terms the "Murder on the Pottawatomie."

The five Pro-Slavery men on Pottawatomie Creek
were seized without warning and ruthlessly slain. Full
particulars are given by Villard, Sanborn and Hinton.
Although this action is strongly condemned by Villard,
in his analysis of the motive of Brown, he says:

"He believed that a collision was inevitable in the spring,
and Jones and Donaldson proved him to be correct. Fired with
indignation at the wrongs he witnessed on every hand, impelled
by the Covenanter's spirit that made him so strange a figure
in the nineteenth century, and believing fully that there should
be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, he killed his men
in the conscientious belief that he was a faithful servant of
Kansas and of the Lord. He killed not to kill, but to free ; not
to make wives widows and children fatherless, but to attack on
its own ground the hideous institution of human slavery, against
which his whole life was a protest. He pictured himself a

208 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

modern crusader as much empowered to remove the unbeliever
as any armored searcher after the Grail."

Villard also states that the action of John Brown
on the Pottawatomie was generally approved in after
years by the Free State men of Kansas and that many of
them went on record to the effect that it was necessary
for the protection of the Free State settlers and prepared
the way for the final deliverance of Kansas from the
institution of slavery.

In this introductory paper no attempt will be made
to differentiate the conscientious convictions that the
North and the South brought to the controversy. At this
late day no serious effort will be made, it is presumed, to
prove that the institution of slavery was fundamentally
right and that it should have been perpetuated under our
flag. At the time of John Brown's activity in the anti-
slavery cause, however, the people of the South believed
that their ''peculiar system" could be justified on the
highest moral grounds and their ministers of the gospel
eloquently defended it from the pulpit, basing their con-
clusions on extended quotations from Holy Writ. An
overwhelming majority of the white citizens of the
United States who lived south of the Mason and Dixon
line regarded the abolition movement as an attack upon
them and their property, designed to incite a servile in-
surrection with horrors similar to those that signalized
the uprising of the blacks against their masters in San
Domingo. In view of this fact, the excesses of the slave
power and its agents in Kansas and Virginia are self-

The action of the people of Virginia at Harper's
Ferry and Charlestown has been criticised, ridiculed and

John Brown 209

bitterly condemned. The treatment of the prisoners
who were captured at Harper's Ferry, however, stands
out in redeeming rehef. The jailer. Captain Avis, and
Sheriff Campbell were so considerate that the prisoners
paid frequent tribute to their kind and chivalrous con-
duct. Much must be said also to the credit of Governor
Wise whose testimony to the high character and sterling
qualities of John Brown was truly remarkable when we
consider the circumstances under which it was uttered.
It must also be remembered that he was so impressed
by the conduct of Edwin Coppoc and his Quaker
friends that he desired to commute the sentence of this
youth to imprisonment for life and was only dissuaded
by action of the Legislature of Virginia. In spite of
the excitement attending the raid and the excesses inci-
dent to its suppression Virginia maintained and exhib-
ited a degree of her traditional chivalry.

Elsewhere will be presented a statement of the won-
derful change in popular opinion that was wrought in
large measure by John Brown and his men. The Civil
War soon followed and the leaders who were prominent
in opposing John Brown by force of arms at Harper's
Ferry to maintain the supremacy of the laws of the
United States and Virginia were soon afterwards them-
selves in uniforms of gray fighting to overthrow the
Republic that they had sworn to defend; while the fol-
lowers of John Brown who survived the raid and the
gallows were in uniforms of blue fighting to preserve
the Union.

Of special importance, as we have already intimated,
to all readers of the Quarterly is Ohio's relation to the
work of John Brown and his men. Brown himself
came to the village of Hudson, "the capital of our West-

Vol. XXX — 14.

210 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

ern Reserve," when he was only five years old and grew
up to manhood with the pioneers of our state. Of seven
sons that aided him in his warfare against slavery six
were born in Ohio and all were reared in this state. Of
other followers John Henri Kagi, who was killed at
Harper's Ferry, was born in Trumbull County, Ohio,
and Edwin Coppoc, who was executed at Charlestown,
Virginia, was born in Columbiana County, Ohio, as was
his brother Barclay who escaped from Harper's Ferry
and afterwards lost his life while serving his country as
lieutenant in a Kansas regiment of volunteers.

Lewis Sherrard Leary, who was killed at Harper's
Ferry, and John A. Copeland, who was executed at
Charlestown, were both colored, born in other states but
Ohioans by adoption, and went from their homes in
Oberlin to join John Brown at Chambersburg, Pennsyl-

Wilson Shannon and Samuel Medary at different
times served as governor of Kansas Territory. The
former was appointed by President Pierce and the latter
by President Buchanan. Both were from Ohio and
had been prominent in the political annals of this state.
Shannon had been its governor.

Other Ohio men less prominent were not less pow-
erful in shaping the destiny of Kansas in the days of
stress and controversy over slavery. They were so
numerous that they were the dominating influence in
the convention that gave Kansas her free constitution.
The census of 1860 shows that Ohio had at that time
contributed more than any other state to the population
of Kansas.

One of the men who at Harper's Ferry plied old John
Brown with questions for the evident purpose of impli-

John Brown 21"i

eating prominent anti-slavery statesmen in the raid,
was Clement L. Vallandigham, the congressman from
Ohio, destined himself to lose the road to eminence in
the mighty conflict soon to follow.

One of the youthful followers of Brown, as will later
be seen, lost his life through the burning of a bridge by
Quantrill, the Confederate guerrilla chieftain, who was
also born in Ohio. Assuredly in this labyrinth of
tragedy Ohioans were conspicuously involved.


Biographies of John Brown properly and necessarily
start with Plymouth Rock. His ancestor, Peter Brown
the carpenter, came over in the Mayfloiver with the Pil-
grims in December, 1620.

Detailed information is available in a number of
works relative to the descendants of this ancestor. It is
unnecessary to repeat here all that has been written.
Peter Brown died in 1633 and his remains were buried
at Duxbury near those of the famous Captain Standish
whose monument now rises from the little promontory
that faces the sea.

Peter Brown of the Mayfloiver left a son named
after himself who moved to Windsor, Connecticut,
shortly prior to 1658. He here became the father of
thirteen children, one of whom, John Brown, was born
January 8, 1668. He grew to manhood and was the
father of eleven children, one of whom, John Brown
second, was born in 1700 and died in 1790. His son, Cap-
tain John Brown of West Simsbury, was the grandfather
of John Brown of Osawatomie and Harper's Ferry
fame. This grandfather was a soldier in the Revolution
and died in the service, leaving a widow and eleven chil-

212 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

dren, one of whom was born after he entered the army.
•This widow's maiden name was Owen and one of her
sons named Owen was the father of John Brown,
the mihtant opponent of slavery. A detailed account of
his ancestry shows that Welsh, Dutch and English blood
mingled in his veins. Both of his grandfathers were
officers in the Revolution and one of them, as we have
seen, died in the service.

Owen Brown lived for a time in the town of West
Simsbury, now Canton, Connecticut. "Town" is used
here in the New England 'sense and means township.
Later he moved to Torrington, Connecticut, where his
son John was born May 9, 1800. In 1804 he made a
journey to what was then the far West and visited Hud-
son, Ohio, with the thought of locating there. One year
afterward he brought his family in a wagon drawn by
an ox team, chose his place of habitation and became a
citizen of the young state, Ohio.

The maiden name of John Brown's mother was
Ruth Mills. Her father, Lieutenant Gideon Mills,
moved to Ohio in 1800, five years before Owen Brown
and his family came to the state.

Fortunately for those interested, Owen Brown when
nearly eighty years old and while living at Hudson
wrote a biography covering rather fully the events of
his life. This autobiography has a general interest for
the reader as it details the experiences, the trials, re-
verses and triumphs of the pioneers of our state and
especially those w^ho came over from Connecticut and
settled on the Western Reserve. This brief narrative is
taken up largely with the things that interested the

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