18 December 2003
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF JEROME SHOCHET
[CIVIL WAR]. BROWN, JOHN (1800-1859). AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT, A PORTION OF A SPEECH TO ABOLITIONISTS, N.D. (CA. 1856-1857). 2 PAGES, 4TO.
JOHN BROWN VIVIDLY DESCRIBES THE HORRORS OF "BLEEDING KANSAS"
A very rare, possibly unique relic of one of Brown's inflammatory and impassioned addresses to anti-slavery audiences. In the wake of the anarchic conflicts between pro- and anti-slavery forces on the Kansas frontier, Brown paints a lurid picture of the violence and reprisals in "Bleeding Kansas" during the summer and fall of 1856: "I was present & saw the mangled & disfigured boddy of the murdered Hoyt of Deerfield Mass., brought into our camp. I knew him well." He recalls witnessing "the ruins of many Free State men's houses," and of seeing his son and son-in-law severely wounded. All through the state, people had abandoned their houses to flee the fighting, or been violently driven from them by roving bands of "Border Ruffians." The scale of the horrors increase in Brown's narrative as he discusses events in Osawatomie: "I saw three mangled bodies two of which were dead & one alive with twenty Buck shot & Bullet holes in him; after the two murdered men had lain on the ground to be worked at by flies for some 18 hours. One of these young men was my own son." The violence meted out at Osawatomie was retaliation for Brown's own ruthless killing of five pro-slavery men that were dragged from their home by Brown's men and hacked to death at Potawatomie Creek.
Brown, then and now, is one of the most controversial figures of the Civil War era. To southerners at the time, he represented the fanaticism of Northern abolitionism. To some radical twentieth century historians he was a brave freedom fighter. To others, merely a homicidal maniac cloaking his sociopathic actions with the dignity of the anti-slavery cause. Massachusetts abolitionists welcomed him as a hero in 1856 and 1857, and Brown made a series of speeches at anti-slavery fundraisers around the state, generrally sticking to the same text. This leaf present the actual words he delivered before audiences in Concord, Boston (where he addressed the state's legislature in February 1857), as well as abolitionist meetings in Rochester, New York and Cleveland, Ohio in 1858 (the full text of Brown's speech is printed in F.B. Sanborn's Life of John Brown, p. 244).
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