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John Brown writes from "Bleeding Kansas" to the abolitionist who was supplying him with the arms and ammunition he and his men used at Pottawatomie and later at Harpers Ferry
Topeka, Kansas, November 16, 1857. 5" x 8". "Autograph Letter Signed ""John Brown"" and ""JB,"" 1.25 pages, 5"" x 8"", front and verso. Topeka, Kansas, November 16, 1857. To George L. Stearns, Esqr., Boston, Mass. Docketed on verso, probably by Stearns, ""John Brown / Topeka / Nov. 16/57."" Folds. Fine condition.In full, ""Dear Friend, I have now been in Kansas for more than a Week: & for about Two days with Mr Whitman, & other friends at Lawrence. I find matter's quite unsettled; but am decidedly of the opinion that there will be no use for the Arms or Ammunition here before another Spring. I have them all safe & together unbroken: & mean to keep them so: until I can see how the matter will be finally terminated. I have many calls uppon [sic] me for their distribution: but shall do no such thing until I am satisfied that they are really needed. I mean to be busily; but very quietly engaged in perfecting my arrangements during the Winter.""Whether the troubles in Kansas will continue or not; will probably depend on the action of Congress the coming Winter. Mr. Whitman has paid me $500. for you which will meet present wants as I am keeping only a small family. Before getting your letter saying to me not to draw on you for the $7000. (by Mr. Whitman) I had fully determined not to do it unless driven to the last extremity. I did not mean that the secret service money I asked for; should come out of you. & hope it may not. Please make this hasty line answer for friend Sanborn; & for other friends for this time. May God bless you all; is the earnest wish of your greatly obliged Friend John Brown""PS If I do not use the Arms & Ammunition in actual service; I intend to restore then unharmed: but you must not flatter yourself on that score too soon. Yours in Truth JB""The recipient of this letter, Boston merchant George L. Stearns (1809-1867), was one of the chief financiers of the Emigrant Aid Company which facilitated the settlement of Kansas by antislavery homesteaders. He identified himself with the antislavery cause, became a Free-Soiler, and established the Medford, Massachusetts, station of the Underground Railroad to help escaped slaves reach freedom. Stearns financially supported John Brown in Kansas with money and guns. He was one of the ""Secret Six"" who secretly funded Brown's ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859. John Brown was planning to capture weapons from the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now WV), and lead a slave rebellion in the South. Stearns physically owned the pikes and 200 Sharps rifles brought to Harpers Ferry by Brown and his followers. Following Brown's arrest, Stearns briefly fled to Canada, but returned to Medford to face inquiry following Brown's death.""Mr. Whitman"" was Edmund B. Whitman (1812-1883). On October 25, 1857, Whitman wrote a letter from Lawrence, Kansas Territory, to George L. Stearns [letter is in the Kansas Historical Society], telling him that John Brown ""will be here a week from Tuesday [November 3rd] at a very important council, Free State Central Com. Ter Executive Com. Vigilance Com of 52 Generals and Capts of the entire organization … J.B. wants shall be attended to as soon as I get the means this last sum I borrowed for one week on my own personal obligation…"" ""Friend Sanborn"" is writer Franklin B. Sanborn (1831-1917), one of the ""Secret Six."" He was a member of the Free Soil Party in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and, in 1856, became secretary of the Massachusetts Kansas Commission.BackgroundThe Kansas-Nebraska Act of May 30, 1854, provided for territorial self-government; the people would decide if their territory would allow slavery. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which had outlawed slavery north of 36o 30' latitude in the Louisiana territories; slavery in both territories would have been outlawed under the Compromise. ""Bleeding Kansas"" is the name given to the war fought between proslavery and antislavery advocates for control of the new territory of Kansas between 1854 and 1859. Armed proslavery and antislavery settlers rushed to Kansas, each side hoping to determine the results of the first election held after the law went into effect. Lawrence was the center of Kansas's antislavery movement. On May 21, 1856, a proslavery posse of over 800 men from Kansas and Missouri rode to Lawrence to arrest members of the Kansas antislavery government, the Free-Soil government. By a judge's order, they had been indicted for treason. The citizens of Lawrence did not resist, but the proslavery posse destroyed two newspaper offices, throwing the printing presses from the Free-Soil newspaper into the nearby river. They burned and looted homes and shops and completely destroyed the Free State Hotel by cannon fire. Three days later, an antislavery band led by John Brown retaliated with the murder of five men from a proslavery settlement on Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas.From the Collection of prominent New York philanthropists Elmer Holmes Bobst (1884-1978) and his wife, Mamdouha El-Sayed Bobst (1925-2015)."
      [Bookseller: University Archives]
Last Found On: 2016-08-28           Check availability:      Biblio    


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