American Abolitionists and Antislavery Activists:
Conscience of the Nation

Updated April 4, 2021

l to r: Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips

Encyclopedia of Slavery and Abolition in the United States - J

JACKSON, Francis, 1789-1861, Boston, Massachusetts, merchant, philanthropist, social reformer, abolitionist.  President of the Anti-Slavery Society.  Supported the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society (BFASS).  Generously supported abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac Knapp and their anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator.  American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) Member, Executive Committee, 1840-1861, Vice President, 1840-1861, Treasurer, 1844-1861.  Vice President, 1836-1837, and President, 1839-1860, of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.  President, 1839-1840, Vice President, 1836-1837, Boston Vigilance Committee. 

(The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892, p. 318)


JACKSON, James Caleb, 1811-1895, New York, physician, newspaper editor, publisher, abolitionist leader.  Member, Executive Committee, 1840-1841, Corresponding Secretary, 1840-1842, American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS).  Agent, Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1838.  Assistant editor, National Anti-Slavery Standard.  Co-founded Madison County Abolitionst.  Editor, Liberty Press and Albany Patriot.

(Sorin, 1971, pp. 95-96, 130-131; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 1, p. 547; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 11, p. 752)


JACKSON, William, 1783-1855, Massachusetts, newspaper publisher, abolitionist, temperance activist.  U.S. Congressman, Whig Party.  Vice president, 1833-1836, and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, December 1833.  Founding member, Liberty Party.  President of the American Missionary Society from 1846-1854.

(Dumond, 1961, p. 286; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III; Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 1, p. 561)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JACKSON, William, financier, b: in Newton, Mass., 2 Sept., 1783; d. there, 26 Feb., 1855. He received a common-school education, and was trained to mercantile life. He was a member of the state house of representatives from 1829 till 1832, and in the latter year was elected to congress as a Whig. He was re-elected for the following term, but declined a second re-nomination. He was one of the earliest promoters of railroads in Massachusetts, delivering an address to the legislature in favor of the new method of locomotion, which was derisively received. Subsequently he delivered the address in various cities of New England, awakening an interest in railroads, and when their construction was begun superintended the works on the Boston and Worcester, Boston and Albany, and other lines. He was a pioneer in the temperance movement and an early opponent of slavery, being one of the founders of the Liberty party, which was afterward merged into the Free-soil party. From 1848 till his death he was the president of the Newton bank. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III.


JACOBS, John S., 1815-1873, African American, fugitive slave, abolitionist, author of slave narrative, “A True Tale of Slavery,” in 1861.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 6, p. 288)


JAMES, Thomas, 1804-1891, African American, former slave, clergyman, abolitionist.  Wrote slave narrative, “Life of Rev. Thomas James, by Himself,” 1886.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 6, p. 320)


JAY, John, 1745-1829, New York, lawyer, statesman, founding father, diplomat, anti-slavery leader.  President of the Continental Congress.  First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Governor of the State of New York, 1795-1801.  New York State’s leading opponent of slavery.  Founder and president of the New York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves and Protecting such of them as Have Been Liberated, founded 1785.  Attempted to end slavery in 1777 and 1785.  In 1799, he signed into law the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, which eventually freed all the slaves in New York.  This act was arguably the most comprehensive and largest emancipation in North America before the Civil War. 

(Basker, 2005, pp. 64-66, 73-74, 75, 77, 239, 319, 321, 322, 347-348, 350-351; Dumond, 1961, pp. 28, 47, 87; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 408-411; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 5; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 11, p. 891; Encylopaedia Americana, 1831, Vol. VII, pp. 180-181)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JAY, John, statesman, b. in New York city, 12 Dec., 1745; d. in Bedford, Westchester co., N. Y., 17 May, 1829. He was of Huguenot descent, and was educated in part by Pastor Stoope, of the French church at New Rochelle, and was graduated at Kings (now Columbia), New York, in 1766. He studied law with Benjamin Kissam, having Lindley Murray as his fellow-student, and in 1766 was admitted to the bar. When news of the passage of the Boston port bill reached New York, on 16 May, 1776, at a meeting of citizens, Jay was appointed a member of a committee of fifty-one to correspond with the other colonies. Their reply to the Boston committee, attributed to Jay, recommended, as of the utmost moment, “a congress of deputies from the colonies in general.” Jay was a delegate to the congress, which met in Philadelphia, 5 Sept. As one of a committee of three he prepared the “Address to the People of Great Britain,” which Jefferson, while ignorant of the authorship, declared to be “a production certainly of the finest pen in America.” Jay was an active member of the committee of observation in New York, on whose recommendation the counties elected a provincial congress, and also of a committee of association of 100 members. invested by the city of New York with general undefined powers. He was a member also of the 2d congress, which met in Philadelphia, 10 May, 1775, and drafted the “Address to the People of Canada and of Ireland”; and he carried against a strong opposition a petition to the king, which was signed by the members on 8 July. The rejection of this petition, leaving no alternative but submission or resistance, opened the way for a general acquiescence in the Declaration of Independence. Jay was a member of the secret committee appointed by congress, 29 Nov., 1775, after a confidential interview with a French officer, “to correspond with the friends of America in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world.” While he was attending congress at Philadelphia, Jay's presence was requested by the New York convention, which required his counsel. This convention met at White Plains, 9 July, 1776, and on Jay's motion unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence, which on that day was received from congress. The passage of a part of Lord Howe's fleet up the Hudson induced the appointment by the convention of a secret committee vested with extraordinary powers, of which Jay was made chairman, as also of a further committee for defeating conspiracies in the state against the liberties of America. The resolutions relating to this committee were drawn by him; and its minutes, many of which are in his hand, show the energy with which it exercised its powers by arrests, imprisonments, and banishments, and the vigorous system demanded by the critical condition of the American cause. The successes of the British in New York, and the retreat and needs of Washington's army, had induced a feeling of despondency, and Jay was the author of an earnest appeal to his countrymen, which by order of congress was translated into German and widely circulated.

Jay drafted the state constitution adopted by the convention of New York, which met successively at Harlem, Kingsbridge, Philip's Manor, White Plains, Poughkeepsie, and Kingston. He was appointed chief justice of the state, holding his first term at Kingston on 9 Sept., 1777, and acting also in the council of safety, which directed the military occupation of the state and wielded an absolute sovereignty. He was visited at Fishkill, in the autumn of 1778, by Gen. Washington for a confidential conversation on the invasion of Canada by the French and American forces, which they concurred in disapproving, chiefly on the probability that if conquered it would be retained by France. Chief-Justice Jay was again sent to congress on a special occasion, the withdrawal of Vermont from the jurisdiction of New York, and three days after taking his seat he was, 1 Dec., 1778, elected its president. The next September he wrote his letter, in the name of congress, on currency and finance. On 27 Sept., 1778, he was appointed minister to Spain, and later one of the commissioners to negotiate a peace. He sailed with Mrs. Jay, on 20 Oct., in the American frigate “Confederacy,” which, disabled by a storm, put into Martinico, whence they proceeded in the French frigate “Aurora,” which brought them to Cadiz, 22 Jan., 1780. Jay, while received with personal courtesy, found no disposition to recognize American independence, and congress added to the embarrassing position of the minister at a reluctant court by drawing bills upon him for half a million of dollars, on the assumption that he would have obtained a subsidy from Spain before they should have become due. Jay accepted the bills, some of which were afterward protested, the Spanish court advancing money for only a few of them, and the rest were afterward paid with money borrowed by Franklin from France.

While in Spain Jay was added by congress to the peace commissioners, headed by John Adams, and at the request of Franklin, on 23 June, 1782, he went to Paris, where Franklin was alone. The position of the two commissioners was complicated by the fact that congress, under the persistent urgency of Luzerne, the French minister at Philadelphia, had materially modified the instructions originally given to Mr. Adams, and on 15 June, 1781, had instructed its commissioners “to make the most candid and confidential communications upon all subjects to the ministers of our generous ally, the king of France; to undertake nothing in their negotiations for peace and truce without their knowledge and concurrence, and ultimately to govern yourselves by their advice and opinion.” Two arguments were used in support of this instruction: First, that the king was explicitly pledged by his minister to support the United States “in all points relating to their prosperity”; and next, that “nothing would be yielded by Great Britain which was not extorted by the address of France.” An interesting memoir in the French archives, among the papers under the head of “Angleterre,” shows that the interests of France required that the ambition of the American colonies “should be checked and held down to fixed limits through the union of the three nations,” England, France, and Spain. Before the arrival of Jay, Franklin had had an informal conversation, first with Grenville, and then with Mr. Oswald, who had been sent by the cabinet of Rockingham. On 6 Aug. Oswald presented to Jay and Franklin a commission prescribing the terms of the enabling act, and authorizing him “to treat with the colonies and with any or either of them, and any part of them, and with any description of men in them, and with any person whatsoever, of and concerning peace,” etc. This document led to a new complication in the American commission by developing a material difference of opinion between Jay and Franklin. When the commission was submitted to Vergennes, that minister held that it was sufficient, and advised Fitzherbert to that effect. Franklin believed it “would do.” But Jay declined to treat under the description of “colonies” or on any other than an equal footing. Oswald adopted Jay's view, but the British cabinet did not, and Jay's refusal to proceed soon stayed the peace negotiations of the other powers, which Vergennes had arranged should proceed together, each nation negotiating for itself.

During Jay's residence in Spain he had learned much of the aims and methods of the Bourbon policy, and a memoir submitted to him by Rayneval, as his “personal views” against our right to the boundaries, an intercepted letter of Marbois, secretary of legation at Philadelphia, against our claim to the fisheries, and the departure for England with precautions for secrecy of Rayneval himself, the most skilful and trusted agent of Vergennes, convinced him that one object of Rayneval's mission was to prejudice Shelburne against the American claims. As a prudent counter-move to this secret mission, Jay promptly despatched Benjamin Vaughan, an intimate friend and agent of Shelburne, to counteract Rayneval's adverse influence to the American interests. This was done without consultation with Franklin, who did not concur with Jay in regard to Rayneval's journey, and who retained his confidence in the French court and was embarrassed and constrained by his instructions. It appears from “Shelburne's Life” that Rayneval, in his interview with Shelburne and Grantham, after discussing other questions, proceeded to speak about America; and “here Rayneval played into the hands of the English ministers, expressing a strong opinion against the American claims to the fisheries and the valleys of the Mississippi and the Ohio”; and that Vaughan arrived almost simultaneously, bringing the “considerations” prepared by Jay, which enforced these points: 1. That, as Britain could not conquer the United States, it was for her interest to conciliate them; 2. That the United States would not treat except on an equal footing; 3. That it was the interest of France, but not of England, to postpone the acknowledgment of independence to a general peace; 4. That a hope of dividing the fisheries with France would be futile, as America would not make peace without them; 5. That any attempt to deprive the United States of the navigation of the Mississippi, or of that river as a boundary would irritate America; 6. That such an attempt, if successful, would sow the seeds of war in the very treaty of peace. The disclosure of the grave difference between the Americans and their allies on the terms of peace, with the opportunity it afforded to England, consistently with the pride, interest, and justice of Great Britain, and with the national jealousy of France, seems to have come to the cabinet with the force of a revelation, and its effect upon their policy was instantaneous and complete. A new commission in the form drafted by Jay, authorizing Oswald to treat with “the United States” of America, was at once ordered, and Lord Shelburne wrote to Oswald that they had said and done “everything which had been desired,” and that they had put the greatest confidence ever placed in man in the American commissioners. Vaughan returned “joyfully” with the new commission on 27 Sept., and on 5 Oct. Jay handed to Oswald the plan of a treaty including the clauses relating to independence, the boundaries, and the fisheries, and Oswald, in enclosing it to his government, wrote: “I look upon the treaty as now closed.” The great success of the English at Gibraltar, however, which determined the ministry to resist the demands of France and Spain, induced them to attempt some modification of the concessions to the Americans, even when they had been made by Oswald with the approval of the cabinet. Strachey and Fitzherbert were therefore ordered to assist Oswald, and on 25 Oct. John Adams arrived from Holland, where he had negotiated a treaty. He expressed to Franklin his entire approval of Jay's views and action, and Franklin, at their next meeting with Oswald, said to Jay: “I am of your opinion, and will go on with these gentlemen without consulting the court”; and Jay, in writing to Livingston, spoke of their perfect unanimity, and specially acknowledged Mr. Adams's services on the eastern boundaries and Franklin's on the subject of the Tories. The provisional articles, signed 30 Nov., 1782, to take effect on a peace between France and England, were communicated to Vergennes, who wrote to Rayneval in England that the concessions of the English exceeded all that he had believed possible, and Rayneval replied: “The treaty seems to me like a dream.” A new loan from France to America marked the continuance of their good understanding, and Hamilton wrote to Jay that the terms of the treaty exceeded the anticipations of the most sanguine.

            The violation of the instructions of congress displeased a part of that body. Mr. Madison, who had voted for the instruction, wrote: “In this business Jay has taken the lead, and proceeded to a length of which you can form little idea. Adams has followed with cordiality. Franklin has been dragged into it.” Mr. Sparks, in his “Life of Franklin,” contended that the violation of their instructions by the American commissioners, in concluding and signing their treaty without the concurrence of the French government, was “unjustifiable.” By some error still unexplained, he represented the correspondence of Vergennes in the French archives as disproving the suspicions, which it authoritatively confirms. A map of North America, given in the “Life of Shelburne,” showing “the boundaries of the United States, Canada and the Spanish possessions, according to the proposals of the court of France,” shows that obedience by the American commissioners to the instruction to govern themselves by the opinion of Vergennes, would have shut out the United States from the Mississippi and the Gulf, and would have deprived them of nearly the whole of the states of Alabama and Mississippi, the greater part of Kentucky and Tennessee, the whole of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota, and the navigation of the Mississippi. The definitive treaty, a simple embodiment of the provisional articles, for nothing more could be procured from the cabinet of Fox and North, was signed 3 Sept., 1783, and Jay returned to New York in July, 1784, having been elected by congress secretary for foreign affairs, then the most important post in the country, which he held until the establishment of the Federal government in 1789. In that work he had taken a deep interest, as is shown by his correspondence with Washington and Jefferson, and on the formation of the National constitution he joined Hamilton and Madison in contributing to the “Federalist,” and published an address to the inhabitants of New York in favor of the constitution. He was an active member of the New York convention, which, after a long struggle, adopted the constitution “in full confidence” that certain amendments would be adopted, and Jay was appointed to write the circular letter that secured the unanimous assent of the convention. On the organization of the Federal government, President Washington asked Jay to accept whatever place he might prefer, and Jay took the office of chief justice of the supreme court, when he resigned the post of president of the Abolition society. In 1792 he consented to be a candidate for the governorship of New York, but the canvassers declined on technical grounds to count certain votes given for Jay, which would have made a majority in his favor, and Gov. Clinton was declared elected. In 1794 Jay was nominated by Washington as a special envoy to Great Britain, with which other relations were then strained, and he concluded with Lord Grenville on 19 Nov., 1794, the convention known in American history as “Jay's treaty,” which was assailed with furious denunciations by the Democratic party, whose tactics severely tested the firmness of Washington's character and the strength of his administration. The treaty and its ratification against an unexampled opposition avoided a war with Great Britain. An English opinion of the treaty, which in America was denounced as a complete surrender to England, was expressed by Lord Sheffield when, on the occurrence of the rupture with America, he wrote, “We have now a complete opportunity of getting rid of that most impolitic treaty of 1794, when Lord Grenville was so perfectly duped by Jay.” Five days before his return from England, Jay was elected governor of New York, an office to which he was re-elected in April, 1798. On the close of his second term, in 1801, Jay declined a return to the chief justiceship of the supreme court, to which he was reappointed by President Adams, and passed the remainder of his life on his estate in Westchester county, N. Y., a property which had descended to Mr. Jay through his mother, Mary Van Cortlandt. It is situated some forty-five miles north of New York city about midway between the Hudson river and Long Island sound. The Bedford house, as the mansion is called, is placed on an eminence overlooking the whole beautiful rolling region between the two great bodies of water. It is now the summer residence of his grandson, John Jay. See illustration on page 410. The last office that he filled was the presidency of the American Bible society. Daniel Webster said of him; “When the spotless ermine of the judicial robe fell on John Jay, it touched nothing less spotless than itself.” The life of John Jay bas been written by his son, and also by Henry B. Renwick (New York, 1841). See “The Life and Times of John Jay,” by William Whitlock (New York, 1887). He married on 28 April, 1774, Sarah Van Brugh Livingston, eldest daughter of Gov. William Livingston. She accompanied her husband to Spain, and later was with him in Paris, where she was a great favorite in society, and they resided with Benjamin Franklin at Passy. John Adams's daughter says of her at this time; “Every person who knew her here bestows many encomiums on Mrs. Jay. Madame de Lafayette said she was well acquainted with her, and very fond of her, adding that Mrs. Jay and she thought alike, that pleasure might be found abroad, but happiness only at home in the society of one's family and friends.” During the week of Washington's inauguration he dined with the Jays, and a few days later Mrs. Washington was entertained at Liberty hall by Gov. Livingston, Mrs. Livingston, and Mrs. Jay. During the following season hospitalities were frequently exchanged between the president and the Jays. The portrait of Mrs. Jay is from an original portrait painted by Robert E. Pine, and now in the possession of her grandson, the colleges in America and also “Reflections and Observations on the Gout” (London, 1772). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 408-411.


JAY, John, 1817-1894, New York, diplomat, lawyer.  Grandson of Chief Justice John Jay.  President of the New York Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Society in 184.  Active and leader in the Free soil Party and founding member of the Republican Party. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 413-414; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 10; Drake, 1950, pp. 95, 98)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JAY, John, diplomatist, b. in New York city, 23 June, 1817; d. there, 5 May, 1894, was graduated at Muhlenberg's institute, and at Columbia in 1836. After his admission to the bar in 1839 he became well known by his active opposition to slavery and his advocacy of St. Philip's colored church, which was admitted to the Protestant Episcopal convention after a nine years' contest. He was secretary of the Irish relief committee of 1847, and was counsel for many fugitive slaves, including George Kirk, two Brazilian slaves that were landed in New York, Henry Long, and the Lemmons. (See ARTHUR, CHESTER ALAN.) In 1854 he organized the meetings at the Broadway tabernacle, that resulted in the state convention at Saratoga on 10 Aug., and in the dissolution of the Whig and the formation of the Republican party at Syracuse, 27 Sept., 1855. During the civil war he acted with the Union league club, of which he was president in 1866, and again in 1877. In 1868, as state commissioner for the Antietam cemetery, he reported to Gov. Reuben E. Fenton on the chartered right of the Confederate dead of that campaign to burial, a right questioned by Gov. John W. Geary, of Pennsylvania, and Hon. John Covode. In 1869 he was sent as minister to Austria, where his diplomatic work included a naturalization treaty, the establishment of a convention on trademarks, and the supervision of the U. S. commission to the world's fair of 1873. He resigned and returned to the United States in 1875, afterward residing in New York city. In 1877 he was appointed by Sec. Sherman chairman of the Jay commission to investigate the system of the New York custom-house, and in 1883 was appointed by Gov. Cleveland as the Republican member of the state civil service commission, of which he was made president. Mr. Jay was active in the early history of the American geographical and statistical society, and was long manager and corresponding secretary of the New York historical society. He was also the first president of the Huguenot society, organized in 1855 in New York. In connection with his political career, Mr. Jay delivered numerous addresses on questions connected with slavery, and also bearing on its relation to the Episcopal church, of which he was a leader among the laity. His speeches and pamphlets, which have been widely circulated, include “America Free, or America Slave” (1856); “The Church and the Rebellion” (1863); “On the Passage of the Constitutional Amendment abolishing Slavery” (1864); “Rome in America” (1868); “The American Foreign Service” (1877); “The Sunday-School a Safe-guard to the Republic”; “The Fisheries Question”; “The Public School a Portal to the Civil Service.” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 413-414.


JAY, Peter Augustus, 1776-1843, anti-slavery activist.  Son of first Chief Justice of the United States and diplomat John Jay.  President of the New York Manumission Society in 1816, and President of the Anti-Slavery New York Public School Society.  Advocated for suffrage for free African Americans. 

(Dumond, 1961, p. 103; Sorin, 1971, p. 77; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 11)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JAY, Peter Augustus, lawyer, b. in Elizabethtown, N. J., 24 Jan., 1776; d. in New York city, 20 Feb., 1843, was graduated at Columbia in 1794, and became his father's private secretary, and in that capacity accompanied him when he was sent as minister to England in 1794. On his return he studied law and achieved a high rank at the New York bar. In 1816 he was a member of the assembly, being active in promoting legislation for the building of the Erie canal, and with his brother William supported the bill recommending the abolition of slavery in New York state. He held the office of recorder of New York city in 1819-'21, and was a member of the New York constitutional convention in 1821. Mr. Jay was a trustee of Columbia in 1812-'17, and again in 1823-'43, being chairman in 1832. In 1840-'3 he was president of the New York historical society, and he was connected with several literary and charitable societies. He received the degree of LL. D. from Harvard in 1831, and from Columbia in 1835. His great learning and strength of intellect, his masterly reasoning, his wisdom and his pre-eminent moral excellence, combined with his thorough refinement and dignity as a man, made him a very marked and remarkable jurist and member of society. Mr. Jay was one of the members of the Kent club, composed of prominent members of the bar, and was active in the social affairs of New York city. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III.


JAY, William, 1789-1858, Bedford, NY, jurist, anti-slavery activist, abolitionist leader, anti-slavery Liberty Party. Son of first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay. In 1819, he strongly opposed the Missouri Compromise, which allowed the extension of slavery into the new territories. Drafted the constitution of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS).  Corresponding Secretary, 1835-1838, Executive Committee, 1836-1837, AASS.  Vice President, American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (AFASS).  He was removed as a judge of Westchester County, in New York, due to his antislavery activities. Supported emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia and the exclusion of slavery from new territories, although he did not advocate interfering with slave laws in the Southern states.

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 47, 159, 226, 286, 301; Mabee, 1970, pp. 73, 107, 199, 251, 253, 295; Sorin, 1971, pp. 51, 77-81, 96, 132; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 11; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 473-475; Jay, W., Life and Writings of John Jay, 1833; Jay, W., An Inquiry into the Character and Tendency of the American Colonization and American Anti-Slavery Societies, 1834; Jay, W., A View of the Action of the Federal Government in Behalf of Slavery, 1837; Jay, W., War and Peace, 1848; Jay, W., Review of the Causes and Consequences of the Mexican War, 1849)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JAY, William, jurist, b. in New York city, 16 June; 1789; d. in Bedford, N. Y., 14 Oct., 1858, studied the classics at Albany with the Rev. Thomas Ellison, of Oxford, England. Among his classmates was James Fenimore Cooper, with whom he formed a life-long friendship, and who inscribed to Jay “Lionel Lincoln” and some of his “Letters from Europe.” Jay was graduated at Yale in 1808, and studied law with John B. Henry of Albany, but was compelled to relinquish the profession by weakness of the eyes. He retired to his father's home at Bedford, and in 1812 married Augusta, daughter of John McVickar, a lady “in whose character were blended all the Christian graces and virtues.” In 1815 he published a “Memoir on the Subject of a General Bible Society for the United States,” and in 1810 assisted Elias Boudinot and others in forming the American Bible society, of which he was for years an active and practical promoter, and its principal champion against the vigorous attacks of the high-churchmen led by Bishop Hobart. The interest in the controversy extended to England, and Jay's numerous letters and pamphlets on the subject have been commended as models of that sort of warfare. In 1818 Jay was appointed to the bench of Westchester county by Gov. DeWitt Clinton. His office as first judge was vacated by the adoption of the new constitution in 1821, but he was subsequently reappointed, without regard to politics, until he was superseded in 1843 by Gov. Bouck at the demand of a pro-slavery faction. In 1826, Jay, who in 1819, during the Missouri controversy, had written strongly against the extension of slavery, demanding that congress should “stand between the living and the dead, and stay the plague,” was instrumental in calling the attention of the New York legislature and of congress to the necessity of reforming the slave-laws of the District of Columbia. A free colored man, Gilbert Horton, of Somers, Westchester co., who had gone to Washington, was there arrested as a runaway and advertised by the sheriff to be sold as a fugitive slave, to pay his jail fees, unless previously claimed by his master. Jay called a public meeting, which demanded the interposition of Gov. DeWitt Clinton. This was promptly given, Horton was released, and a petition circulated for the abolition of slavery in the District. The New York assembly, by a vote of fifty-seven to thirty-nine, instructed their representatives in congress to vote for the measure. Pennsylvania passed a similar bill, and upon the memorial presented by Gen. Aaron Ward, the house of representatives, after a prolonged debate, referred the subject to a special committee. In 1828-'9 the debate was renewed in congress, and resolutions and petitions multiplied, from Maine to Tennessee.

Among Jay's writings at this time were essays on the Sabbath as a civil and divine institution, temperance, Sunday-schools, missionary and educational efforts, and an essay on duelling, to which, in 1830, while the authorship was unknown, a medal was awarded by the Anti-duelling association of Savannah, by a committee of which Judge James M. Wayne and Gov. Richard W. Habersham were members. In 1833 he published the “Life and Writings of John Jay.” Its careful sketch of the peace negotiations of 1782, and its exposition of the hostility of France to the American claims was questioned by Dr. Sparks, but their accuracy was certified by Lord St. Helens (Mr. Fitzherbert), and has since been confirmed by the Vergennes correspondence and the “Life of Shelburne.” In October, 1832, President Jackson appointed Judge Jay a commissioner to adjust all unsettled matters with the western Indians; but the appointment, which was unsolicited, was declined. Judge Jay contributed a paper on the anti-slavery movement to the first number of the “Emancipator,” published in New York, 1 May, 1833. In October of the same year the New York city anti-slavery society was formed, and in December an Anti-slavery convention met at Philadelphia to form the American anti-slavery society. Each of these bodies, at Judge Jay's suggestion, disclaimed the right of congress to interfere with slavery in the states, while claiming for congress power to suppress the domestic slave-trade and to abolish slavery in the territories under its exclusive jurisdiction. The significance of the principles and action of these societies is illustrated by the interesting historic facts: first, that nullification in South Carolina in 1832, when a medal was struck inscribed “John C. Calhoun, First President of the Southern Confederacy,” was the precursor of the secession of 1861, showing that the pro-slavery policy during the interval was a part of the secession scheme; and next, that the anti-slavery movement, organized in 1833 on strictly constitutional grounds, culminated in the Republican party, by which slavery was abolished and the republic preserved. The same year, 1833, was noted for the persecution and trial in Connecticut of Prudence Crandall (q. v.), and for the decision of Judge Daggett that colored persons could not be citizens. Judge Jay's review of that decision and his able enforcement of the opposite doctrine were approvingly quoted by Chancellor Kent in his “Commentaries.” The years 1834 and 1835 were memorable for the attempt to arrest, by threats and violence, the expression of anti-slavery sentiments. Judge Jay, in a charge to the grand jury, called their attention to the prevailing spirit of lawless violence, and charged them that any law that might be passed to abridge in the slightest degree the freedom of speech or the press, to shield any one subject from discussion, would be null and void. He prepared also, for the American anti-slavery society, an address to the public, restating their views and principles, which was widely published throughout America and Europe. In 1834 Judge Jay published his “Inquiry into the Character and Tendency of the American Colonization and American Anti-Slavery Societies,” which was read “by scholars and statesmen and exerted a powerful influence!” “The work,” wrote Prof. E. Wright, Jr., “sells faster than it can be printed,” and it was presently reprinted in London. In December, 1835, President Jackson, in his message, assailed the character and designs of the anti-slavery movement, accusing the Abolitionists of circulating through the mails “inflammatory appeals addressed to the passions of the slaves, and calculated to stimulate them to insurrection and all the horrors of civil war,” and the president suggested to congress a law forbidding the circulation through the mails of incendiary documents. On 28 Dec. the executive committee addressed to the president what Henry Wilson called “an elaborate and dignified protest from the polished and pungent pen of Judge Jay,” denying his accusations, and offering to submit their publications to the inspection of congress.

Judge Jay's next work, “A View of the Action of the Federal Government in Behalf of Slavery” (1837), made a deep impression, and had a rapid sale. This was followed in 1839 by a startling presentation of facts on “The Condition of the Free People of Color in the United States,” in 1840 by an address to the friends of constitutional liberty on the violation by the house of representatives of the right of petition, and a review from his pen of the case of the “Amistad” negroes (see CINQUE) was read by John Quincy Adams in congress as a part of his speech on the subject. In 1842 Judge Jay reviewed the argument by Mr. Webster on the slaves of the “Creole.” The two subjects to which Judge Jay's efforts were chiefly devoted were those of war and slavery. His writings on the first, both before and after he became president of the American peace society, had no little influence at home and abroad. In his volume entitled “War and Peace; the Evils of the First, with a Plan for securing the Last” (New York, 1848), he suggested stipulation by treaty referring international disputes to arbitration, as a plan based upon obvious principles of national policy, and adapted to the existing state of civilized society. The suggestion met with the warm approval of Joseph Sturge, the English philanthropist, who visited Judge Jay at Bedford while the work was still in manuscript, and it was embodied by Mr. Sturge in a volume published by him on his return to England. The plan was heartily approved by Mr. Cobden, who wrote to Judge Jay: “If your government is prepared to insert an arbitration clause in the pending treaties, I am persuaded it will be accepted by our government.” The main feature of the plan, arbitration, after approval by successive peace congresses in Europe (at Brussels in 1848, at Paris in 1849, at London in 1851) was virtually recommended by Protocol No. 23, of the Congress of Paris, held in 1856 after the Crimean war, which protocol was unanimously adopted by the plenipotentiaries of France, Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, and Turkey. These governments declared their wish that the states between which any serious misunderstanding might arise should, before appealing to arms, have recourse, as far as circumstances might allow, to the good offices of a friendly power. The honor of its introduction in the congress belongs to Lord Clarendon, whose services had been solicited by Joseph Sturge and Henry Richard, and it was supported by all of his colleagues in the congress. It was subsequently referred to by Lord Derby as worthy of immortal honor. Lord Malmsbury pronounced it an act “important to civilization and to the security of the peace, of Europe,” and it was somewhat later approved by all the other powers to whom it was referred, more than forty in number. Among Judge Jay's other writings on this subject are his letter on the “Kossuth Excitement” (1852); an address before the American peace society at Boston (1845), and a petition from the society to the U. S. senate in behalf of stipulated arbitration (1853). Perhaps under this head should be included his historic and searching “Causes and Consequences of the Mexican War” (Boston, 1849). In 1846 Judge Jay republished, with an elaborate preface, the concluding chapter of Bishop Wilber-force's “History of the Church in America,” which had been announced by two American publishers who relinquished the design when it was found to contain a reproof of the American church for its course on slavery. This was followed by a letter on the same subject to Bishop Ives, of North Carolina. “The Calvary Pastoral, a Tract for the Times,” rebuked the attempt to convert the Episcopal church into a popish church without a pope. In 1849 appeared “An Address to the Non-Slave-holders of the South, on the Social and Political Evils of Slavery.” This was in part embodied in an address to the people of California, which was effectively circulated on the Pacific coast in English and Spanish. In 1850 Judge Jay addressed a letter to William Nelson, on Clay's compromise measures; and this was followed by a review of Mr. Webster's declaration that slavery was excluded from California and New Mexico by the law of physical geography. Subsequent letters and addresses included one to Samuel A. Elliott, in reply to his apology for the fugitive-slave bill, an address to the anti-slavery Christians of the United States, and in 1853 several letters and reviews of the conduct of the American tract society in the interest of slavery. The same year a volume of Judge Jay's miscellaneous writings on slavery was published in Boston. In 1854 he had the satisfaction of seeing the Republican party founded on the anti-slavery principles that he had early advocated. Of his anti-slavery labors Horace Greeley said: “As to Chief-Justice Jay, the father, may be attributed, more than to any other man, the abolition of negro bondage in this state [New York], so to Judge William Jay, the son, the future give the credit of having been one of the earliest advocates of the modern anti-slavery movements, which at this moment influence so radically the religion and the philanthropy of the country, and of having guided by his writings, in a large measure, the direction which a cause so important and so conservative of the best and most precious rights of the people should take.” He left in manuscript a commentary on the Bible.—Peter Augustus's son, John Clarkson, physician, b. in New York city, 11 Sept., 1808; d. in Rye, N.Y., 15 Nov., 1891, was graduated at the College of physicians and surgeons in 1831. In addition to his practice of medicine he made a specialty of conchology, and acquired the most complete and valuable collection of shells in the United States. This and his costly library on this branch of science were purchased by Catherine Wolfe and presented, in memory of her father, to the American museum of natural history, where it is known as the Jay collection. In 1832 he became a member of the Lyceum of natural history (now New York academy of sciences), and was its treasurer in 1836-'43. He took an active part in the efforts that were made during that time to obtain subscriptions for the new building, and bore the principal burden in planning and superintending its construction. He was one of the founders of the New York yacht-club, and for some time its secretary. From 1859 till 1880 he was a trustee of Columbia college. The shells collected by the expedition of Com. Matthew C. Perry to Japan were submitted to him for examination, and he wrote the article on that subject in the government reports. Dr. Jay was the author of “Catalogue of Recent Shells” (New York, 1835); “Description of New and Rare Shells” (1836); and later editions of his catalogue, in which he enumerates about 11,000 well-marked varieties, and at 7,000 well-established species. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III.




JENKINS, David, 1811-1877, free African American, abolitionist leader, newspaper editor and publisher, writer, lecturer, community activist.  Publisher of anti-slavery newspaper, Palladium of Liberty, in Columbus, Ohio.

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 6, p. 355)




JOCELYN, Simeon S., New Haven, Connecticut, New York, NY, abolitionist leader, clergyman.  Vice President, 1834-1835, Manager and founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, December 1833.  Member of the Executive Committee, American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1840-1855.  Co-founded the Amistad Committee with Lewis Tappan and Joshua Leavitt.  Active in the Underground Railroad, aiding escaped slaves.  

(Dumond, 1961, pp. 169, 171, 175-176; Mabee, 1970, pp. 4, 30, 31, 150, 235, 396n5; Sorin, 1971; Abolitionist, Vol. I, No. XII, December, 1833; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. II. New York: James T. White, 1892, p. 326)



Please note that this entry includes three chapters:

·        Chadwick, Causes of the Civil War, 1906

·        Wilson, “John Brown's Invasion of Virginia,” 1872

·        Wilson, “John Brown's Invasion of Virginia,” 1872

Chapter: “Causes of the Civil War,” by French Ensor Chadwick, in The American Nation: A History, 1906.

THE civil war in Kansas was ending, and the territory was certain to be one of the free states which, by the admission of Minnesota and Oregon, now numbered eighteen as against fifteen slave states-Delaware and Maryland were not dependent on slavery, and four others, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, had large areas where the slaves were so few that there was no positive and insistent pro-slavery feeling. There was still a wide-spread and powerful Union sentiment throughout all parts of the South, except in South Carolina, though even there it was far from unknown. 

The Whig party, which had been the stronghold of Unionist feeling, had now as a party disappeared, its following in the South finding refuge in the ephemeral organization known as ''Americans'' or "Know-Nothings," and many of the northern Whigs drifting to the new Republican party, a name which to the South, unfortunately and incorrectly, was the synonym of abolitionist. New England was now solidly Republican; New York elected a Republican governor in 1858, and Pennsylvania in 1859 for the first time left the Democratic ranks. Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota were Republican. Maryland elected a "Know-Nothing" governor, Hicks, in 1858. Houston left the Senate to become governor of Texas. Quitman, who for seven years had been a firebrand, had died in July, 1858. Alexander H. Stephens was no longer in Congress. Leaving Washington, March 5, 1859, he stood at the stern of the boat gazing at the Capitol. A friend remarked, "I suppose you are thinking of coming back to these halls as a senator." Stephens replied: " No, I never expect to see Washington again, unless I am brought here as a prisoner of war,'' a prophecy which was to be fulfilled.1

October 17, 1859, the country was startled by the news of the seizure, the previous night, of the United States arsenal at Harper's Ferry, and the domination of the village by a small body of men led by John Brown, whose name was already known throughout the Union by a series of bloody exploits in Kansas, ending in the summer of 1858 with a raid into Missouri to free some slaves.2

Born at Torrington, Connecticut, in 1800, reared in the Western Reserve in northern Ohio, in his father's occupation as a tanner; married at twenty years

1 Johnston and Browne, Stephens, 348. 

2 Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chap. xi.

and again at thirty-three; the father of twenty children, thirteen of them by his second wife; by turns tanner, farmer, land surveyor, wool dealer, cattle drover, sheep raiser, a migrant for years between Ohio and Massachusetts, and always unsuccessful in his affairs, he finally, after a ruinous visit to Europe in 1849 to sell wool, settled his family, but not himself, on a small farm in the Adirondacks, at North Elba, Essex County, New York. It was in this region that Gerrit Smith, a large-hearted philanthropist, had given farms to a considerable number of colored people, though a region where Indian-corn would not ripen and stock had to be fed six months in the year was wholly unfitted by climate and production to the negro race. It was among these that Brown established himself somewhat as an adviser and helper, and no doubt also because he obtained a home for his family under favorable conditions.

Brown himself states that he became an abolitionist during the War of 1812, through witnessing the maltreatment of a colored boy, a slave.1 It is not surprising, with his intensity of character, that as early as 1839 he had decided upon some such course as was taken in 1859. He seems to have kept this steadily in view and to have looked upon his whole family as instruments in the cause.2 Coming of Puritan stock, he inherited the intense

1 Sanborn, 'John Brown, 12-17.

2 Sanborn, in Atlantic Monthly, XXXV., 21 (January, 1875). 

religiosity associated with the Puritan character and a firm faith in the Bible, of which he was a constant reader and quoter; he was a religious man and a kindly one, as religion and kindliness presented themselves to such a soul, which, when fired with an idea, recked little of the law and morality which lay across his way.

Six of Brown's seven living sons and a son-in-law migrated to Kansas in 1855. The wretched conflict, which was the forerunner of the greater war later, caused Brown to find the true métier for which nature had fitted him--that of the partisan leader.

Whatever other dark and savage deeds were done in the dark period, none, it must be said in the truth of history, was more savage and more ruthless than the murder (for it can be called nothing else) at Pottawatomie during the night of May 24, 1856, when five men were taken at midnight from their beds and their heads split open by a heavy, old-style navy cutlass, but one shot being fired. Even Sanborn, the intimate associate of Stearns and Higginson on the Boston Kansas committee, and Brown's biographer and ardent admirer, can find no better excuse for this outrage than that Brown "knew-what few could believe-that slavery must perish in blood; and though a peaceful man, he had no scruples about shedding blood in so good a cause ... we who praise Grant for those military movements which caused the bloody death of thousands, are so inconsistent as to denounce Brown for the death of these five men in Kansas.'' 1

The savagery of Kansas conditions roused the fighting instincts of the man, and he reverted to views expressed to Frederick Douglass as early as 1847 regarding a scheme of an Appalachian stronghold: "To take at first about twenty-five picked men and begin on a small scale; supply them with arms and ammunition, and post them in squads of five on a line of twenty-five miles, the most persuasive and judicious of whom shall go down to the fields from time to time, as opportunity offers, and induce the slaves to join them, seeking and selecting the most reckless and daring." 2

Brown's three guerilla years in Kansas may be regarded as a preliminary study for his work of 1859. His organization of a corps of "Kansas Regulars'' in 1856 and the rules for their government are much in keeping with his later action. 3 In January, 1857, Brown first came in contact with the Massachusetts Kansas committee, of which Mr. G. L. Stearns was chairman, and he received the custody of certain arms in western Iowa belonging to the committee and was furnished with a considerable sum of money to transport them.4

1 Sanborn, John Brown, 268.

2 Douglass, Life and Times (ed. of 1881), 280.

3 Sanborn, John Brown, 287-290.

4 Sanborn, in Atlantic Monthly, XXXV., 232. 

Later in the same month he was urging in New York, before the national Kansas committee, the organization of a company of a hundred mounted rangers.

The chaotic conditions of public feeling is shown by the effort to induce the Massachusetts legislature to vote ten thousand dollars for use in Kansas; and Brown, in February, 1857, appeared before the committee appointed to consider such petitions, and gave a powerful description of Kansas outrages,1 omitting, however, a description of his own. In the fall of 1857 Brown was in Iowa, associated with an English adventurer, Forbes, who had been Italian silk merchant, Garibaldian, and New York fencing master, and who was engaged by Brown as an instructor in military matters. In November, 1857, Brown was again in Kansas. He was soon back in Iowa, where his views were revealed to a small following of nine persons besides Forbes; a revelation which caused a good deal of wrangling.2 The property of the Massachusetts committee, consisting of about two hundred Sharps rifles, a like number of revolvers, blankets, clothing, and ammunition, were shipped to Ashtabula County, Ohio, whence they finally found their way to the Kennedy farm in Maryland.

Brown's plan was fully revealed Monday, February 22, 1858, at the house of Gerrit Smith, at Peterboro, New York, where Brown had asked to meet

1 Redpath, john Brown, 176-184. 2 Cook's confession, in Ibid., 198. 

him Theodore Parker, George L. Stearns, T. W. Higginson, and F. B. Sanborn, all of Boston, and his intimate supporters. Sanborn alone came, but was empowered to represent the others. After dinner," says Sanborn, "I went with Mr. Smith, John Brown, and my classmate Morton [Smith's secretary] to the room of Mr. Morton in the third story. Here in the long winter evening which followed, the whole outline of Brown's campaign in Virginia was laid before our little council… the middle of May was named as the time of the attack. To begin this hazardous enterprise he asked for but eight hundred dollars, and would think himself rich with a thousand.'' 1

The colloquy lasted late into the night and was resumed next day, with the result that Smith and Sanborn agreed that funds must be raised and Brown supported. Sanborn continues: “I returned to Boston on the 25th of February and ... communicated the enterprise to Theodore Parker and Wentworth Higginson. At the suggestion of Parker, Brown, who had gone to Brooklyn, N. Y., was invited to visit Boston secretly, and did so on the 4th of March, taking a room at the American House, in which he remained for the most part during a four days' stay." Brown could write to his son John, March 6: "My call here has met with a most hearty response, so that I feel assured of at least tolerable success .... All has been effected by quiet

1 Sanborn, John Brown, 438.

meeting of a few choice friends." 1 Brown's letters at this time to his family show how fully he was possessed with the spirit of his project, and also illustrate the wildness of his views, which included a possible return after the accomplishment of "the great work of my life " and "'rest at evening.'" 2

Sanborn makes it clear that at least Higginson, Stearns, Parker, and Howe were informed at this period of Brown's plans of attack and defence in Virginia, though he does not know that any besides himself knew of his purpose to surprise the arsenal and town of Harper's Ferry.3

May 8, 1858, found Brown (known for some time for safety as Shubel Morgan) at Chatham, Canada, with eleven young white associates and one colored man whom he had attached to himself and who had been with him in Kansas and elsewhere. At Chatham, by these men and thirty - four colored persons, was adopted an extraordinary "Provisional Constitution and Ordinance for the people of the United States," which was written in January, 1858, at the house of Frederick Douglass, in Rochester, a paper in itself a witness of the abnormality of the mind of the author.4 Brown was elected commander-in-chief, Richard Realf, secretary of state; J. H. Kagi, secretary of war; George B. Gill, secretary of the treasury. Two colored men were

1 Sanborn, John Brown, 440.

 2 Ibid., 441.

 3 Ibid., 450.

4 For this constitution in full, see Hinton, John Brown and His Men, 619-634.

elected members of the congress, and seem to have formed the entire body; commissions were issued signed by W. C. Munroe; a colored man, as president of the convention.

Suspicions of Brown's intentions reached Senator Henry Wilson from Forbes, the English adventurer mentioned. A letter to Dr. Howe from Wilson caused the committee, of which Stearns was chairman, to write Brown, May 14, 1858, not to use the arms furnished him for any other purpose than the defence of Kansas. This was evidently a blind to cover responsibility, as May 31 found Brown back in Boston in consultation with Smith, Stearns, Howe, Parker, Higginson, and Sanborn. Here, notwithstanding the danger of publicity, Higginson protested against delay, regarding "any postponement as simply abandoning the project.'' 1 But all the others of the committee were against him, Sanborn writing him, May 18: "Wilson, as well as Hale and Seward, and God knows how many more, have heard about the plot from Forbes. To go on in the face of this is mere madness." 2 The duplicity of the committee is shown by a letter of May 12, 1858, to Senator Wilson, sent by Howe, saying: "I understand perfectly your meaning. No countenance has been given to Brown for any operations outside of Kansas by the Kansas Committee," 3 and three days later, "Prompt

1 Sanborn, John Brown, 459.

2 Ibid., 460.

3 The emphasis is in the letter. 

measures have been taken and will be resolutely followed up to prevent any such monstrous perversion of a trust as would be the application of means raised for the defence of Kansas to a purpose which the subscribers of the fund would disapprove and vehemently condemn.'' 1 The meaning of this gross prevarication was that the arms having been furnished by Stearns, he now made claim to them, withdrew them from the Kansas committee, and, meeting Brown in New York about May 20, arranged that they should be in Brown's hands as the agent, not of the committee, but of Stearns alone. 2 It is not a pleasant story. It was a curious salve to the consciences of the conspirators, who thus far had been in the fullest degree accessories. These arms and a thousand pikes contracted for by Brown in Collinsville, Connecticut, were to be the arms of an army of liberation. Brown, consulting Higginson, proposed to blind Forbes by going to Kansas, and that the committee in future should not know his plans. June 3 he left Boston with five hundred dollars in gold, and reached Lawrence, Kansas, June 25, 1858.

A massacre of Free State men at Marais des Cygnes by a party of "Border Ruffians” in May, 1858, a deed which raised the North to a dangerous heat, was a good reason for Brown's return; but seven months later, at the end of December, 1858, he was in Kansas, and the leader of a party of 

1 Sanborn, John Brown, 462.

 2 Ibid., 463.

familiars which crossed the Missouri border and carried away eleven slaves and some horses and wagons, killing one of the owners who had attempted to defend his possessions. The slaves were safely landed in Canada and the horses were sold at Cleveland, Ohio, by Brown, who had the grace, however, to warn the purchasers of a possible defect in the title. 1

Brown wandered in many places until July, 1859, when he appeared in the rough, semi-mountainous country of the upper Potomac, immediately on the highway, and six miles north from Harper's Ferry, where he rented for a year a small place known as the Kennedy farm, on which were two houses. Thither he transported by degrees all his arms and gathered together his twenty-one followers (five of whom were colored), for whom his daughter Anne and his sixteen-year-old daughter-in-law, wife of Oliver Brown, “kept house." Nor were most of the men much older. Except John Brown and his son Owen, they ranged in age from eighteen to twenty - eight. Only five of the whites were over twenty-four years of age; one was not yet nineteen; three were Brown's sons.

Brown's pretense of looking for a better climate and for a location for raising sheep, imposed upon the unsophisticated neighbors, and no suspicions seem to have been roused by the presence and the going to and fro in this secluded district of a number of strangers, who wandered freely over the

1 Sanborn, John Brown, 494. 

mountains of the vicinity. The time in-doors was spent in what they called drill and in looking after the arms. The heads of the pikes had come separately from the shafts, which latter passed for fork-handles; they were fitted together at the farm.

An anonymous letter dated at Cincinnati, August 20, 1859, to the secretary of war, gave full information of the intended movement, but received no attention. It indicated so clearly Brown's movements that it was evident later that it had been written by one thoroughly informed. Not until 1897 was the name of the writer made public, and it was then shown to have been written in Iowa by a young man urged on by the solicitude of some in the Quaker settlement, which he was visiting, for the safety of the young Iowans accompanying Brown.1

Sunday, October 16, the party was assembled in an all-day council at the Kennedy farm, the "constitution." was read for the benefit of four newcomers, commissions for newly made officers made put, and orders given detailing the movement, which Brown had decided should be that evening. "Captains" Owen Brown, Merriam, and Barclay Coppoc were to remain and guard arms find effects until morning, when, joined by some men from Harper's Ferry, they were to remove the arms with teams to an old school - house in Virginia three quarters of a mile from Harper's Ferry. Two were to go ahead of the wagon in which Brown was to

1 B. F. Gue, in Am. Hist. Mag., I., 162. et seq. (March, 1906). 

go and cut the telegraph wires; two were to capture the watchman at the railroad bridge, and two were detailed for each of the following posts: the covered Potomac bridge, the engine-house, the armory, and the rifle factory. "Captain" Stevens, after the engine-house should be seized, was to go into the country with five companions and take certain persons prisoners, among them Colonel Lewis Washington, owner of the Washington sword which tradition has falsely ascribed as a present from Frederick the Great, which Brown coveted, and which, when received, he theatrically wore.

The invading procession left the Kennedy farm at eight o'clock. Brown, with his wagon and party, having captured the bridge watchman, went on to the armory, forced the door, and seized the watchman. The several stations assigned were occupied 'by eleven o'clock. A shot fired at a relief bridge watchman gave the alarm. The stoppage of an eastward-bound train at midnight at first suggested to the passengers a strike among the arsenal workmen; at daylight it was allowed to proceed with a knowledge of the true situation, Brown himself seeing the conductor across the bridge, as he "had I no intention of interfering with the comfort of passengers or hindering the United States mails.''1

With daylight, October 17, came a four-horse wagon-load of Colonel Washington's slaves. Washington himself, when aroused and captured, had

1 Hinton, John Brown and His Men, 288. 

been ordered to give in charge to Anderson (a colored man) the historic sword, and a pair of pistols from Lafayette. He was brought in his own carriage to the armory, where he was kept as a prisoner, as were several other neighboring slave-owners. The Washington wagon and fourteen slaves were sent to the Kennedy farm to assist in removing the arms to the Virginia school-house.1

Two deaths had by this time occurred; the first that of a colored porter at the hotel who would not stop when ordered; the other that of the village mayor, Beckham, who was passing unarmed in range from the engine-house, and whose body was left exposed for some hours. An inquisitive bartender had been seized, but was exchanged for breakfast from the hotel for forty persons.

The countryside being now aroused, men with arms of all sorts poured into the village. Militia began to arrive from all the neighboring and some of the more distant towns, and desultory fighting began with a number of casualties on either side. At nightfall Brown held the engine-house with four men and ten prisoners, his son Oliver dead and another son, Watson, dying. Six others were dead, three wounded, and one a prisoner. At eleven in the evening a company of United States marines arrived from Washington, accompanied by Colonel Robert E. Lee, of General Scott's staff, who took over the command. At seven the next morning

1 Hinton, John Brown and His Men, 294.

(Tuesday, October 18) Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart was sent by Lee, under a flag of truce, to demand an unconditional surrender. Brown refused all offers unless he should be allowed to leave with his prisoners, to go, unpursued, as far as the second toll-gate, where he would free his prisoners, and the soldiers thereafter be permitted to pursue. A renewal of the demand and of advice to trust to the clemency of the government was refused by Brown, with the remark, "I prefer to die just here." The failure to obtain a surrender was followed by an assault by the marines, in which the door was battered in, with the loss of one man. Brown received a bayonet wound and several severe sword cuts in the melee. Owen Brown and six others escaped.1

After Brown was brought out he revived and talked earnestly in response to various questions. His conversation bore the impression of the conviction that whatever he had done to free slaves was right, and that in the warfare in which he was engaged he was entitled to be treated as a prisoner of war.2

Brown's prisoners all testified to their lenient treatment, and Colonel Washington spoke of him as. a man of extraordinary coolness and nerve. Brown and the other prisoners, to whom were added two captured later, were transferred to the county

1 Hart, Am. Hist. told by Contemporaries, IV., §§ 47, 48.

2 Harper's Weekly, III., 695. VOL. XJX.-6

jail at Charlestown.  On examination at the Kennedy farm a large quantity of blankets, clothing, and the arms previously mentioned were found, as also a carpet -bag containing a copy of Brown's "constitution” and a number of papers connected with his movement. 1

Brown's trial began October 25, two Virginia lawyers, Lawson Botts and C. J. Faulkner, being assigned to his defence. These gentlemen were replaced later by S. Chilton, of Washington. H. Griswold., of Cleveland, Ohio, and a young Boston lawyer, G. E. Hoyt. The indictment; was, first, for conspiring with negroes to produce insurrection; second, for treason to the commonwealth, of Virginia; and, third, for murder. October 31 he was found guilty, and was hanged December 2. All of the, other prisoners in turn suffered the same punishment. Brown's conduct throughout his imprisonment and trial was of great dignity and reserve, and commanded respect and sympathy.  He appeared in. court wounded and ill and in a cot, his speech previous to being sentenced was the only blot upon his, action at this time, in so far as he disclaimed (murder or treason, or the destruction of property, or to make insurrection." He claimed an intention simply to carry slaves to Canada. But one cannot do all he did and then disclaim the intention of using force.

1 Hinton, John Brown and His Men, 319.

Governor Wise himself gave high praise to Brown. 1 Thousands of letters poured in upon him urging Brown's pardon. Many threatened; others deemed the execution ill-advised. Wise's message to the legislature, written after Brown's death, gave good reasons for not taking such advice.2

The emotional feelings among the abolitionists caused throughout the North expressions of an extraordinary character which enthroned Brown among the saints, and scarcely left anything for future use in characterizing our most exalted philosophic or religious ideals. It is painful testimony to a national habit of emotional exaltation. A Virginia transcendentalist could say, "John Brown was executed on December 2, 1859, and two days later my sermon exalted him to the right hand of God." 3 Forty-four years later the same man could say, "Reading his career by the light of subsequent history, I am convinced that few men ever wrought so much evil.'' 4

The oratorical governor of Virginia saw in the event principally a means of arming his state to meet events which he too clearly foreboded. The whole available militia of the state was assembled, and Harper's Ferry became a camp of some eighteen hundred men. ''I brought the force into the field," said Wise, "in the first place to rouse the military spirit of the state; and in my humble estimation

1 Wise, Wise, 246.

3 Conway, autobiography, I., 302.

2 Ibid., 250-254.

4 ibid., 303.

that was worth all the money spent. In the next place . . . to assure the people of the border of their safety and defense." 1 In his message of December 5 he called upon the legislature to "organize and arm.''

The South, under the circumstances, was much calmer than might have been expected. This was due in part, no doubt, to a reassurance because the blacks failed to rise, and showed evident loyalty to their masters. Their attitude justified much of what the South had so long upheld as to the contentment of the slaves; and this, with a removal of much of the fear which had hung over the section since Nat Turner's insurrection in 1831, nurtured a satisfaction which did much to offset the indignation which was poured out abundantly upon Brown's northern abettors and upon the many who proclaimed him a martyr. Motions in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature to adjourn on the day of Brown's execution, though lost, very properly rankled in the southern mind, as did also meetings in many parts of the North prompted by ill-advised fanaticism. The strength and extent of this spirit was illustrated by Theodore Parker's belief that "No American has died in this century whose chance of earthly immortality is worth half so much as John Brown's."2 Parker was also one who could say, "I should like of all things 

1 Richmond Enquirer (semi-weekly ed.), January 31, 1860.

2 Frothingham, Parker, 463.

to see an insurrection of slaves. It must be tried many times before it succeeds, as at last it must," 1 an expression which was the outcome of his own full knowledge as to what was brewing. Of this the others of the Boston secret committee, Parker, Stearns, Higginson, Howe, and Sanborn, as already shown on the authority of the last, also had full information, as had Gerrit Smith, with the exception, perhaps, of the exact place at which Brown was to strike. Brown's funds were supplied by these men, who were accessories before the fact in the fullest meaning of the phrase.

It is impossible to justify such action. That they had full appreciation of the results should Brown succeed is shown in Howe's feeling, when, early in 1859, returning from Cuba and "accepting the hospitality of Wade Hampton and other rich planters . . . it shocked him to think he might be instrumental in giving up to fire and pillage their noble mansions."2 If Brown and his coadjutors were justified, then Orsini's attempt, to which Lincoln himself compared Brown's, was justifiable; the death of Lincoln himself was a result of the same want of principle. For the men just mentioned were conspirators in the same sense as those who aided Orsini and Booth, both of whom were acting upon the extreme view of " the higher law" which makes man a law unto himself. Stearns and his fellows were not martyrs; they did not risk their

1 Frothingham, Parker, 475.

2 Sanborn, John Brown, 491. 

lives; they were not in open warfare; they were simply in secret conspiracy to carry by bolder instruments throughout the South the horrors of Hayti, still vivid in the recollection of many then yet living.

One can respect the fanatical spirit which so often goes with martyrdom. Brown was undoubtedly willing to lay down his life in order to instigate the blacks to move for freedom. But his willingness was no more a justification than Orsini's or Booth's. No result of the kind intended could possibly have justified the overriding of every law of the country from the formation of the Constitution. That the negroes had themselves a right to rise, and, if necessary to their freedom, to slaughter and burn, cannot be denied. Every man has the right, at all hazards, to resist enslavement; it is a right of nature. But the men who bought the arms and supplied the money for the pikes carried to the Kennedy farm, with full knowledge of the uses which they were to be put to, and the whites who were to use them, were fighting, not against the South, but against all organized society. We could palliate such action on the part of the quarter of a million of free negroes in the North, working in behalf of their race, and respect the southern free negro who was willing to fight for such a cause. But of such willingness there was too faint a sign to suppose such action, unaided by higher leadership, possible.

While Brown had a blood-thirst which made him a willing leader in some of the worst incidents of the bloody epoch in Kansas, he had the high qualities of undaunted courage and an unflinching willingness to give his life for the cause he had at heart. Such willingness is, however, by no means so infrequent that it need elevate such a case as Brown's to a foremost rank of martyrdom. For, however willing to be a martyr, he did not expect that glory; he was, in his own mind, to be the head of a great and successful movement, and herein his conduct showed too much insanity or folly to deserve sympathy. In all the important phases of his plot he showed extreme ignorance and want of good sense. His original scheme was as wild and impossible as could be imagined. It was stamped with ignorance and incapacity. His intent to occupy the rough region of the Alleghenies with a large body of blacks, led by a score of whites, most of whom were mere boys, wanting in any supplies of clothing or food, in an unsettled region, one of the roughest of the continent, was one showing absolute want of the judgment necessary in a leader. Starvation would have met him at the threshold of his eyrie. The choice both of h1s theatre of action and of the time showed a want of balance of mind. The theatre was a region where the whites were in an overpowering majority; the time the beginning of the season when the support of life is most difficult and in which the negro would be most unlikely to yield the warm comfort of his cabin for the wintry heights of the West Virginia Mountains. The whole scheme, so far as it expected slave support by insurrection, was one of complete folly.

That Brown, despite his speech when condemned, did expect a rising, must be taken as unquestionable. If proof beyond his own statement were needed, we have it in that of his "Adjutant-General” Kagi (killed at Harper's Ferry), as follows: "It was not anticipated that the first movement would have any other appearance to the masters than a slave stampede or local insurrection at most. The planters would pursue their chattels and be defeated. The militia would then be called out, and would also be defeated.... They anticipated after the first blow had been struck that by the aid of the free and Canadian negroes who would join them, they could inspire confidence in the slaves, and induce them to rally; . . . the design was to make the fight in the mountains of Virginia, extending it to North Carolina and Tennessee and also to the swamps of South Carolina if possible." 1 "The mountains and swamps of the South were intended by the Almighty," said Brown, “for a refuge for the slave and a defence against the oppressor," 2 a remark not in disaccord with Brown's  claim to being directed by the Lord in visions. 3

When Brown found himself face to face with the

1 Hinton, John Brown and His Men, 673.

2 Redpath, John Brown, 204.

3 Ibid., 113. 

actuality of conflict it seemed to take from him all power of initiative or movement, and led him to sacrifice himself and his party in a defence which could only have one end. Whatever may be said as to his bravery, and he was certainly brave, or as to his loftiness of spirit, which is undeniable, he was, if it be granted that he was attempting that which every act, every writing, every explanation by himself, leads us to believe he attempted, a man wanting in knowledge of the race he was urging to rise, and so lacking in common-sense that he was plainly unfitted for such a leadership.

Nor could the South fail to be gratified with the rebound in northern sentiment. The sporadic cases of public approval of Brown could not outweigh the general indignation throughout the North. It needed the events of the next and later years, with which his acts had but remote connection, to canonize John Brown, whose name became the convenient watchword of antagonism to disruption of the Union, and gained a fame, whether good or ill, which will last as long as the memories of the great Civil War.

Source:  Chadwick, French Ensor, Causes of the Civil War. In Hart, Albert Bushnell, ed., The American Nation: A History, Vol. 19, 67-89. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906.

Chapter: “John Brown's Invasion of Virginia,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

The raid on Harper's Ferry and its failure, the capture, trial, conviction, and execution of John Brown and his followers, startled and profoundly stirred the nation. The South was excited, furious, and unanimous. The North was hardly less excited, but regretful and divided. Antislavery men generally deplored and condemned the invasion, though they admired the stern devotion to principle and the heroism dis played therein, sympathized with its actors in their misfortunes, and mourned over its tragic results. Many, however, who admired and pitied the heroic old man and his hardly less heroic followers, felt that such a revolutionary movement com promised legitimate reforms and put in peril rightful opposition to slavery. Nor were they mistaken; for, at once and everywhere, proslavery men and presses sought to fix the odium of this lawless act upon antislavery organizations, and especially upon the Republican Party. Although they signally failed in this, they did, for a time, greatly intensify the popular feeling against antislavery men and antislavery measures.

John Brown was a Puritan, and a lineal descendant of the Pilgrims. He inherited the spirit as well as the blood of his ancestry. Born in Connecticut, in the year 1800, he was taken by his father, at the age of five years, to the Western Reserve. Living in straitened circumstances in that pioneer home, he early exhibited those marked developments of character which distinguished him in after life. He was strictly conscientious and sternly religious. The Bible and the experimental writings of such men as Baxter and Bunyan were the chosen companions of his leisure hours. Principle and a nice and exacting sense of justice were the regal elements of his character, and unselfishness the resplendent virtue of his strange career. To relieve suffering, and to vindicate the rights of the injured and oppressed, were the leading objects of his life.

Recognizing no rightful claim of the master to his slave, the Underground Railroad early and ever found in him a practical and most efficient agent. Such relief of the oppressed, however, he deemed individual and of small account, and he looked for something more nearly adequate to the work to be accomplished. Despairing of a peaceful solution of the issue, the idea entered his mind that “perhaps a forcible separation of the connection between the slave and his master was necessary to educate the blacks for self-government." But, in common with his countrymen, he underestimated the strength and tenacity of the Slave Power, and underrated the difficulties in the way of the slave's redemption. Evidently, too, his wish was father to the thought, as he interpreted the probable designs of Providence towards removing the fearful evil. His reply, to one who informed him he had been marked by the Missourians for death, that “the angel of the Lord will camp round about me," revealed the secret conviction that his des tiny was linked with that of the slave, and that he was a chosen instrument of the Lord to work out his deliverance. This thought unquestionably affords a key to his life, and ex plains many things which might otherwise seem inexplicable.

With such convictions, it is not strange that such a man should be drawn to Kansas by the terrible scenes there enacted, and that he should have taken a prominent part in that great struggle; though the immediate cause of his going there was a request for arms from his four sons, who had gone there to make for themselves homes. He hoped, too, to aid the struggling freemen there to rescue that fair territory from the polluting touch of slavery. Not to make for himself a home, but to aid others to build for coming generations, was this courageous, self-forgetful, and future martyr willing to encounter the hardships and to brave the dangers which were involved in such a purpose.

But he felt that his work, that for which he believed he was specially called of God, that over which his soul had brooded for nearly a generation, was not thus to be accomplished. He had done something, but it was only individual and fragmentary. He would relieve an enslaved race, and destroy the system that was crushing it. Combination and conference were needed, and early in the spring of 1858 he sent out a call from Chatham, Canada, for “a very quiet convention at this place" of the "true friends of freedom." Such a meeting was held; and one of its acts was the adoption of a paper, drafted by him, entitled “Provisional Constitution and Ordinances for the People of the United States." In this paper, designed to give shape and direction to the movement, it was provided that the offices of president and commander-in-chief should be held by different persons. Brown was elected commander-in-chief, Richard Realf was chosen secretary of state, and J. H. Kagi was made secretary of war.

There is much that is strange and inexplicable in all this; and it will ever remain a mystery, whatever explanations may be made, how sane men could hope to establish such an organization, with a constitution setting forth the three departments of government, legislative, judicial, and executive, defining crimes and their penalties, including death even, and yet affirm, as it is affirmed in the forty-sixth of the forty-eight articles, that " the foregoing articles shall not be construed so as in any way to encourage the overthrow of any State government or of the general government of the United States, and we look to no dissolution of the Union, but simply to amendment and repeal; and our flag shall be the same that our fathers fought under in the Revolution." In the autumn of 1857 Brown began to organize a small body of men. For the purpose of giving them military instruction he employed Colonel Hugh Forbes, an English adventurer, who had fought with Garibaldi. The two, however, failed to see alike. The stern Puritan, who knew far more of Gideon than of Napoleon, and who looked upon war mainly in its providential aspects, had little in common with the mere adventurer, without convictions, and who looked upon war as a matter of science and a wise use of brute forces. They disagreed and separated. Immediately Forbes wrote letters to Dr. Samuel G. Howe and Frank B. Sanborn of Massachusetts, complaining that Brown had not fulfilled his promises.

In January, 1858, Brown left Kansas and went to the home of Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York, where he wrote his plan of government. From this place he wrote to Theodore Parker, Mr. Sanborn, George L. Stearns, and T. Wentworth Higginson, asking them to aid him by raising a small sum of money to carry out “an important measure, in which the world had a deep interest." In these and other letters he spoke of important things he was intending to do, but gave no definite explanations. He wrote also to Sanborn, Stearns, and Howe, and requested them to meet him at the home of a friend in Central New York. Sanborn was, however, the only one to respond, reaching the place on the 22d of February. Here he met Brown and his own classmate, Edwin Morton, a native of Massachusetts, then a member of Gerrit Smith's family, afterward a lawyer of Boston. To this little company Brown explained his proposed constitution, indicated his plans, and specified the middle of May as the time to commence operations. For the purposes named he desired them to aid him by furnishing a thousand dollars. Recognizing the character, magnitude, and difficulties of his scheme, and the obvious inadequacy of the means, even what was asked for, to the end proposed, they endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose, or, at least, besought him to defer his attempt; but he was inflexible.

It was manifestly a moment and a case, like many that were constantly arising during the dreary reign of the Slave Power, when the best men were in a position where there seemed at least a conflict of duties, where, the more conscientious a man was the greater the difficulty in deciding, and where, whatever the decision, there was at least some apparent infringement of admitted obligations. They listened late into the night and during the following day; and then, though still unconvinced by his arguments, they yielded to the potent and personal influence of the man. One well acquainted with the circumstances of that conference thus writes in the “Atlantic Monthly" of 1873: " As the sun was setting over the snowy hills of the region where they met, the Massachusetts delegate walked for an hour with the principal person in that little council of war. The elder of the two, of equal age with Brown and for many years a devoted abolitionist, said: ' You see how it is; our old friend has made up his mind to this course of action, and cannot be turned from it. We cannot give him up to die alone; we must stand by him. I will raise so many hundred dollars for him; you must lay the case before your friends in Massachusetts, and see if they will do the same.'”

This he did, and at the suggestion of Theodore Parker Brown visited Boston in March. Howe, Sanborn, Stearns, and Higginson consulted with him. To them he communicated his proposed invasion of Virginia, though he spoke of his purpose in regard to Harper's Ferry only to Mr. Sanborn. A secret committee consisting of these gentlemen was formed to raise the necessary means. This was speedily accomplished; and it was decided to strike the first blow in the latter part of May. Arriving in Chatham, Canada, on the last of April, he learned that Forbes was in Washington, threatening to disclose his plans to Republican members and the government, unless, as he insisted in letters, written in April and May, to Howe and Sanborn, that Brown should be dismissed as leader, and himself installed in his place. These letters being submitted to the secret committee, it was fin ally agreed, Higginson dissenting, that the attack should be deferred. But Brown had determined, notwithstanding these threats of Forbes, to go forward.

In May, Forbes communicated to Dr. Bailey of the “National Era," and to Senators Seward, Hale, and Wilson, that arms which had been furnished by the Massachusetts Kansas committee had passed into the hands of Brown, who was intending to use them for unlawful purposes. Alarmed at this information, though general and not specific, Mr. Wilson, at the request of Dr. Bailey and Mr. Seward, wrote to Dr. Howe on the 9th of May, disclosing this information, suggesting that such use of the arms would inure to the disadvantage of those who had contributed them for the defence of Kansas, and pressing upon him the importance of immediately recovering them. This letter was laid before the secret committee, and forwarded at once to Brown in Canada. “This awkward complication," says the writer in the "Atlantic," "seems to have decided Dr. Howe in favor of postponing the attack, and both he and Mr. Stearns, as members of the Kansas committee, wrote Brown that the arms must not be used for the present, except for the defence of Kansas. The latter saw that nothing could then be done, and yielded, though with reluctance, to the postponement."

A meeting of the secret committee was held at the Revere House, Boston, on the 24th of May. It was agreed that the assault should be deferred till the spring of 1859; that two or three thousand dollars should be raised for Brown's assistance; and that the rifles, which were the real property of Mr. Stearns, should be transferred to him, and thus the Kansas committee should be relieved of all responsibility. He visited Boston the following week, saw the secret committee, received the custody of the arms from Stearns and five hundred dollars. But, as nothing could be done for the furtherance of his Virginia scheme, he accepted the committee's suggestion that he should return immediately to Kansas, and he at once departed to aid the free State settlers there.

While untiring in these efforts, he was, as ever, intent on aiding the slave in his attempt to escape. Learning that a family of slaves, just beyond the border, were to be sold for Texas, he planned and effected their escape with that of five others. This occasioned great excitement, and the governor of Missouri offered a reward of three thousand dollars for his arrest, which was increased by the addition of two hundred and fifty dollars by President Buchanan. This, with the public disavowal by the free State men of all sympathy with his course, induced him to leave the Territory, though hotly pursued by his enemies. With a dusky retinue of eleven bondmen, he set forth on his long, uncertain, but finally successful journey for freedom for them and safety for himself.

In May, 1859, Brown visited Boston to confer again with the secret committee, to mature plans, and to make arrangements for future action. On the 28th he dined at the Parker House with the “Bird Club," in company with two or three members of the secret committee. While at the dinner-table he sat next to Mr. Wilson, who had never seen him before. Being in possession of the letter of the latter to Dr. Howe, which had arrested his expedition, he said: “Senator Wilson, I understand you do not approve my course." To this remark Mr. Wilson replied: “I am opposed to all violations of law, and to violence, believing that they lay a burden on the antislavery cause." To this he responded with some positiveness and no little emphasis: “I do not agree with you, sir." He left Boston in June, having received from the secret committee some two thousand dollars, more than half of which, says the " Atlantic " writer, was the gift of George L. Stearns, " who must have furnished the old hero, first and last, more than ten thousand dollars in money and arms." This committee furnished John Brown about four thousand dollars, and nearly twice that amount in arms; most of it given with knowledge of the real object for which it was furnished.

Soon after leaving Boston, Brown went to the Kennedy farm on the Maryland side of the Potomac, five miles from Harper's Ferry, which he had rented, and which he made his rendezvous. During the summer and early autumn recruits came first to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and thence to this farm. Of the fact, if not the place of this movement, the Secretary of War had been apprised in August by a letter from Cincinnati, of which, however, he did not seem to have taken much notice. After taking possession of it, he wrote to the Boston committee for three hundred dollars, which was furnished. About the same time Francis Jackson Merriam, grandson of Francis Jackson, who afterward died in the Union army, came to his house, joined the expedition, and gave him six hundred dollars. Just before the assault, Frederick Douglass, who had been made acquainted with his general plan, visited him at Chambersburg, and there first learned of Brown's purpose to attack Harper's Ferry. Vainly urging him to join the enterprise, Brown said: “Go with me, Douglass. I don't want you to fight. I will protect you with my life, but I want you to be there when the bees swarm and help put them into the hive." This remark indicated the underlying idea of the movement. He thought that the slaves were ready to rise on their masters, ready to fight for liberty, and only needed a leader and a plan. Remembering the Seminole War, its protracted history, the large amount of men and money ex pended for the results attained, it seemed to him that with the slaves flocking to his standard, he could, in the fastnesses of the mountains and in the recesses of swamps, hold at bay any forces the government could bring against them. But he miscalculated. He failed to forecast aright the action of either the slaves or of their masters. In the lights afforded by the history of his own attempt and of the war of the Rebellion, there never was the remotest possibility of success. Tried by the rules of ordinary warfare, it was presumption and “midsummer madness." The heart that prompted the movement was right, but the head that conceived and planned it was sadly at default.

The 24th of October had been selected as the day of the assault. Fearing, however, that they had been betrayed, the 16th was substituted therefor. On the evening of that day he assembled his little force, consisting of fourteen white and five colored men, armed and equipped for war. A little after ten o'clock they entered the town, took possession of the United States armory buildings, stopped the trains of the railroad, cut the telegraph wires, captured a number of the citizens, liberated several slaves, and held the town about thirty hours. After some fighting, in which several persons were killed and wounded, Brown retired to the engine-house, where he was finally overcome and captured by a detachment of United States marines, under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee, afterward the Confederate commander-in-chief. Brown was wounded in several places, eight of his band, including two of his sons, were killed or mortally wounded, six were captured, and five made their escape.

Brown, while confined in the guard-house, was visited by Governor Wise, to whom he stated with great frankness and fulness the motives and purposes of his action. He deeply impressed the bold, outspoken, impulsive governor, who, in an address to the citizens of Richmond, thus bore testimony of him: “They are mistaken who take him for a madman. He is a man of clear head, courageous fortitude, and simple ingenuousness. He is cool, collected, and indomitable; and it is but just to him to say that he was humane to his prisoners; and he inspired all with great trust in his integrity and as a man of truth. He is a fanatic, vain and garrulous, but firm, truthful, and intelligent." To Senator Mason and Mr. Vallandigham, who unquestionably catechized him in the hope that others, perhaps a party, would be implicated by his replies, he avowed his pity for the poor in bondage, and said that he "came to free the slaves, and only that." He expected no reward but the satisfaction of endeavoring to do to others in distress as he himself would be done by. He reminded Virginians of both their duty and their danger. “You people at the South," he said, "had better prepare yourselves for a settlement of this question, which will come up sooner than you are prepared for it." Mr. Vallandigham spoke of his "stoic faith, patience, and firmness," and of him as at "the farthest possible remove from the ordinary ruffian, fanatic, or madman."

He was indicted “for murder and other crimes," brought to trial, convicted, and on the 2d of November was sentenced to be hung. He was defended by George H. Hoyt, a young lawyer of Boston who volunteered his services, Samuel Chilton of Washington, and Henry Griswold of Ohio. Six of his followers, Coppoc, Stevens, Cook, Hazlett, Copeland, and Green, little less noble and heroic than himself, were tried, convicted, and executed. They all, except Cook, deported themselves with great firmness and propriety, leaving, like their leader, expressions of resignation, trust, and their still deathless devotion to liberty. Copeland and Green, the colored men, and Stevens, Brown's trusted lieutenant, who had been desperately wounded, were skilfully and ably defended by George Sennot, a Democratic lawyer of Boston, who went to Charlestown at the request of Dr. Howe, accompanied by Judge Russell. After the conviction of Stevens, Mr. Sen not visited Richmond and besought the legislature to spare his life. But his efforts were as unavailing as had been those of Governor Wise before the same body to secure remission of the sentence of Coppoc.

And yet the old hero himself was the principal actor in that grim tragedy, the central figure of that startling Virginia tableau with its dark background of Southern slavery, the pitchy blackness of the one making more resplendent the beauty and brightness of the other. His port and bearing, his interviews with Wise, Mason, Vallandigham, and others, his letters, and his remarks before sentence was passed, produced a profound impression. His simple and unstudied words, revealing such sublime devotion to principle, such profound sympathy for the poor, lowly, and oppressed, such serene trust in God, were seized upon and hoarded almost as gems from another and better land, or as the echoes from the heroic age of confessors and martyrs of a like precious faith. Acts of sympathy and proffers of aid were many.

During the darkest hours of the irrepressible conflict there was ever the consoling fact that the literature of the nation was mainly on the side of freedom, and that the brightest names in its galaxy of authors shone benignantly on the sacred cause. Among them one of the earliest and most cherished was that of Lydia Maria Child. From the first, her graceful and earnest pen was consecrated to the cause of immediate emancipation, and in her the slave and his defenders ever found a warm-hearted and self-sacrificing friend. While Brown lay in jail awaiting his trial, she wrote to Governor "Wise. She expressed her " regret " and " surprise " at " the step that the old veteran has taken," but added that he needed a mother or sister to dress his wounds and speak soothingly to him, and asked to be allowed " to perform that mission of humanity." The governor replied in courteous and courtly style, though perhaps a trifle curt. He avowed his want of sympathy with her "sympathy" for "one who whetted knives of butchery for our mothers, sisters, daughters, and babes," and his surprise at her "surprise," saying that “his attempt was a natural consequence of your sympathy." He however gave his permission, on the ground that he was “bound to protect" her, and accord to her the privileges and immunities of a citizen of Massachusetts coming into Virginia. She also wrote to Brown, disclaiming sympathy with his “method" of advancing the "cause of freedom," but avowing the greatest admiration for him personally and a strong desire to minister to his comfort. “In brief," she wrote, “I love you and bless you." In his reply he expressed his gratitude for her sympathy and kind offers, but intimated that he did not need anything more than was afforded by Captain Avis, his jailer, "a most humane man," who, " with his family, has rendered every possible attention I have desired, or that could be of the least advantage." This correspondence evoked no little interest and feeling. Among the evidences of it was a letter written to Mrs. Child by the wife of Senator Mason, in which were exhibited the usual slaveholding assumption, arrogance, and bitterness. Mrs. Child replied to her, as she had already to Governor Wise, in fitting terms and just as such a woman, on such a theme and under such circumstances, would necessarily respond.

Many friends of the slave as well as personal friends visited the prisoner to comfort and support. Among them was Judge Russell, afterwards collector of the port of Boston, at whose house he had been concealed, while fearing arrest on a requisition from the governor of Missouri. In his conversation with him he expressed in the strongest language his confidence in the Divine disposal of events and of himself; saying that he fully recognized God's sovereignty in the affair, even in the “mistakes” and “errors” which had been committed.

On the day before the execution, Mrs. Brown, accompanied by Hector Tyndale and J. Miller McKim, visited her husband, having an order from the governor who, considering the circumstances, deported himself very courteously and chivalrously towards John Brown and his friends for the delivery of his body, and a letter also, expressing his " sympathy with her affliction," and containing the assurance that his " authority and personal influence " should be exerted to enable her to secure "the bones of her sons and her husband" for "decent and tender interment among their kindred." Their meeting was deeply affecting. “For some minutes," it is said, " they stood speechless, with a silence more eloquent than any utterance could have been." Speaking tenderly of their children, both living and dead, he commissioned her to tell the survivors that their " father died without a single regret for the course he had pursued," and that he was satisfied that he was " right in 'the eyes of God and all just men." The only thing that seemed to trouble him was his anxiety for those he was leaving destitute. For those soon to be widowed and orphaned he did plead, though his requests were coupled with the characteristic remark: “I well understand that they are not the only poor in the land." For himself he had no tears; but for the loved ones he was leaving behind his heart yearned with a solicitude he could not and probably did not care to repress.

The 2d of December, appointed for the execution, having arrived, the final act in this drama of blood was performed, amid no little of “the pomp and circumstance of war," and John Brown's name was added to the list of martyrs, and the cause of impartial freedom he had served so nobly received the baptism of his blood. He died courageously and well, and his death was a fitting close of his life, lending glory to the gallows, and receiving naught of disgrace therefrom.

Immediately after the execution his body was delivered to General Tyndale and J. Miller McKim, who, with Mrs. Brown, started immediately for the North. At New York Wendell Phillips joined the little cortege, and they proceeded rapidly towards North Elba, where the widowed mother, returning from her sad pilgrimage, met her children with "a burst of love and anguish." That was, however, soon succeeded by "a holy and pensive joy," and they seemed reconciled even to this stern trial of their faith and love. They buried him on the 8th, with services as simple and unostentatious as was the character and life of the martyr himself, as was, too, the community in which he had lived and for which he had labored. Wendell Phillips could not but speak eloquently, and with such pathetic and pointed utterances as the event would naturally suggest to one so thoroughly in sympathy with the objects, if not the methods, of the dead. But, like all the opponents of slavery at that time, he evidently had little conception of the nature of the conflict itself, or of the forces that would be found needful to root up and destroy American slavery. Though it was but one brief year before South Carolina passed her ordinance of secession, raised the banners of revolt, and led the movement which ushered in the civil war, he said: “I do not believe slavery will go down in blood."

The execution became at once the signal of discussions at home and abroad. Abroad, the utterances were generally of commendation and eulogy. John Brown, if not the canonized saint, was the proclaimed hero of the hour, while America was held guilty of his murder. “Slaughtered," wrote Victor Hugo, "by the American republic, the crime assumes the pro portions of the nation which commits it." This country, from press, pulpit, and platform, resounded with conflicting discussions. Large meetings were held. Few approved. The great mass condemned, -- some, to show their continued fealty to the South, affirming, as was done in some Northern assemblages, that slavery was " wise, just, and beneficent," and stigmatizing antislavery men as " drunken mutineers"; and others, to express their confidence in the man, and in the integrity of his purpose, admiration for his heroism, sympathy for the object he had at heart, but repudiation of his methods, saying with Whittier:--

"Perish with him the folly

That seeks through evil good;

Long live the generous purpose

Unstained with human blood!

Not the raid of midnight terror,

But the thought that underlies;

Not the outlaw's pride of daring,

But the Christian sacrifice."

But whatever diversities in judgment, or errors of estimate there may have been, Mr. Phillips did not err when, standing by the open grave of John Brown, he said that his words were stronger than his arms, and that, while the echoes of his rifles had died away among the hills of Virginia, his words were guarded by a million hearts. When, a few months later, the uprising nation sent forth its loyal sons to battle, his brave, humane, and generous utterances were kept in fresh remembrance. The "John Brown Song," extemporized in Boston harbor, and sung by the “Massachusetts Twelfth," marching up State Street, down Broadway, and in its encampment in Pleasant Valley on the banks of the Potomac, struck responsive chords that vibrated through the land. Regiment after regiment, army after army, caught up the air, and in the camp, on the march, and on the battle-field, brave men associated the body "mouldering in the ground” and the soul still " marching on " of the heroic old man with the sacred idea for which he died and for which they were fighting.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 587-600.

Chapter: “Hunting for Treason,” by Henry Wilson, in History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, 1872.

Three days after the execution of John Brown the XXXVIth Congress assembled. A resolution was immediately offered by Mr. Mason for the appointment of a committee of investigation concerning the affair at Harper's Ferry. Upon taking up the resolution Mr. Trumbull offered an amendment instructing the same committee to inquire into "the facts attending the invasion, seizure, and robbery, in December, 1855, of the arsenal of the United States at Liberty, Missouri, by a mob of armed men." Mr. Mason expressed the conviction that the only purpose of the amendment was to embarrass his resolution. Mr. Hale replied in his best vein. Though his words bore the semblance of raillery and wit, they were trenchant and severely truthful. Alluding to the charges which had been made and reiterated against Republicans, he said he had no confession to make, no words to unsay. He favored the inquiry, and expressed the wish that it might be most thorough and searching. Mr. Hunter expressed surprise that any one should be disposed to embarrass the resolution by an amendment "not germane," or by partisan appeals. Jefferson Davis expressed the opinion that there was no necessary resemblance between the scenes enacted at Harper's Ferry and those in Missouri.

Mr. Wilson avowed his purpose to vote for both the resolution and the amendment, and for the resolution with or without the amendment. He spoke of John Brown's acts, words, and bearing as having excited the deepest sympathy, and as having extorted the admiration of many, though they regretted the course he had pursued at Harper's Ferry. "Men believed," he said,” that he was sincere, that he had violated the laws, but that he had followed out his deepest and sincerest convictions, and was willing to take the consequences of his acts." Mr. Clark said that there was "an eminent fitness and appropriateness in sending these two resolutions, which are kindred though different, to the same committee." He thought that such a reference would "quiet much of the ill-feeling and jealousy which had grown up here."

Mr. Mason, with an evident purpose to fasten responsibility on the Republican Party, said: “The vagabond Brown, a ruffian, a thief, and a robber, -- nothing more, -- had no resources of his own, but he brought resources there for the purposes of this insurrection, proportioned to it, and costing a large sum of money. We want to know where this money was supplied. We want to know the incentives that led him to that expedition. We want to get at the thousand rills which go to make up public sentiment, and which resulted in adequate treasure to send a ruffian with an armed band on such an errand." With still greater violence of language, Mr. Iverson made the same imputation, declaring that the whole design was "political." "It cannot be disguised," he said, "that the Northern heart sympathizes with Brown and his fate, because he died in the cause of what they call liberty. .... The truth is that it is the intention of the Republican Party to break down the institution of slavery by fair means or foul means, and if they cannot accomplish it in one way, they intend to accomplish it in another. If they cannot accomplish it by appealing to the slaveholders themselves, they mean to accomplish it by appealing to the slaves."

Referring to these assaults on the Republicans, and to the intense excitement then pervading the country because of the attack of John Brown and his few followers at Harper's Ferry, and also to the systematic and long-continued assaults on Northern men at the South, Mr. Wilson called attention to the outrage, just then perpetrated on Mr. Fisk of Massachusetts, who was doing business in Savannah, and who had been tarred and feathered for the alleged offences " that he generally expressed abolition sentiments, and that on last Sabbath evening he read to negroes in his store." To this statement Mr. Iverson replied: " For such conduct as that, teaching abolition sentiments among slaves, he deserved, not only to be tarred and feathered, but deserved the fate which John Brown had." In allusion to the expulsion of Professor Hedrick from a North Carolina college, mentioned by Mr. Wilson, for expressing sentiments favorable to the election of Fremont, Mr. Brown of Mississippi frankly said: " I have no hesitation in saying that I would not tolerate any man who would go to my State and avow his preference for the election of Mr. Seward upon the programme laid down in his Rochester speech." And the twofold fact is to be noted that the Slave Power not only demanded this complete suppression of all freedom of speech and action, but that it was thus bold and outspoken in its insolent demand.

Disowning all sympathy with the attack on Harper's Ferry, Mr. Wade expressed profound admiration for the man who planned it, and the most unmitigated disgust for those who had so much sympathy for Virginia, one of the oldest and largest States, because she had been assaulted by such an insignificant force, but who had shown none for Kansas four years before, with " its few and feeble colonies scattered in the wilderness," outraged by border-ruffians, backed by the countenance and aid of " a powerful party," in full possession of the government. “You may treat old John Brown," he said, "as a common malefactor, but he will not go down to posterity in that light at all." On Mr. Trumbull's amendment the vote stood twenty-two years and thirty-two nays. Mason's resolution was unanimously adopted, the committee was ordered, and Mason, Davis, Collamer, Fitch, and Doolittle were appointed.

On the 15th of February Mr. Mason asked leave to report, in part. He stated that the committee had summoned three witnesses --, Frank B. Sanborn, James Redpath, and John Brown, Jr., -- and that they had failed to appear. He accordingly asked that they should be compelled to attend, and the authority was granted. A few days afterward he reported similar facts concerning Thaddeus Hyatt, asked authority to compel his attendance, and it was granted. The debate on this proposition was quite spirited, many making the point that the Senate had no authority thus to interfere with the personal rights of the citizens of States.

The results of the attempts to coerce the attendance of these witnesses, which had been unsuccessful except in the case of Hyatt, were succinctly stated in the final report of the committee, made on the 15th of June. From this report it appeared that Hyatt only was arrested; that John Brown, Jr., at first evaded the process of the Senate, and afterward, with a number of other persons, armed himself to prevent his arrest. Sanborn was arrested in the night, and ironed, but he was released from custody by the judges of the supreme court of Massachusetts on habeas corpus. Redpath, by leaving his State, or otherwise concealing himself, successfully evaded the process of the Senate. Of Hyatt the committee said “that on his appearance before the Senate, still refusing obedience to the summons of the committee, he was, by order of the Senate, committed to the jail of the District of Columbia."

On Mr. Hyatt's presenting himself at the bar of the Senate he put in, for answer to its summons, a long and elaborate paper, which occupied the clerk nearly three hours in the reading, and which embodied a labored argument of Samuel E. Sewall and John A. Andrew, afterward governor of Massachusetts, giving reasons why he should not be compelled to appear and testify in the case at issue. It occasioned an earnest debate, but the result was his imprisonment. He remained in the jail from the 12th of March till the 13th of June. The statement in the report of the committee that Mr. Sanborn was released from custody on habeas corpus Mr. Mason denied, declaring that he had been “rescued by a mob." The facts were that the officials found themselves unable to take him from his home in Concord, being pre vented by his own resistance, that of his sister, and that of his townsmen, who, upon the ringing of fire-bells, assembled in large numbers. A writ of habeas corpus was hastily issued by Judge Hoar, and at once served by Sheriff John S. Keyes, assisted by the citizens present, who were greatly indignant at this arrest of one of their neighbors. Mr. Sanborn sent a memorial to Congress, which was presented by Mr. Sumner on the 10th of April, reciting the facts and asking "redress."

This movement in Congress, the threats and attempts freely made elsewhere to implicate and convict, if possible, any who had aided or had been cognizant of the attempt on Harper's Ferry, with the general excitement then prevailing, naturally made those who had known of Brown's movements, or who had contributed in any way towards them, solicitous and anxious for their safety. Knowing that, in the then ex cited state of the public mind, there would be little chance for a fair and unprejudiced hearing, they deemed it best to place themselves beyond the reach of federal jurisdiction. Immediately after the assault, Douglass and Morton went to Canada, and thence sailed to England; and Sanborn spent some time in the Queen's dominions. Howe and Stearns, after the investigation was ordered, went to Canada for a few days, but Higginson refused to leave the country. Theodore Parker was in Italy, sick, and soon to die. On the 2d of December, the day of Brown's execution, he wrote to a friend in America, expressing his apprehensions of "fresh scenes of violence," though still hopeful of the final issue. “But such is my confidence," he wrote,” in democratic institutions, that I do not fear the final result. There is a glorious future for America, -- but the other side of the Red Sea." A still more systematic effort was made to implicate Gerrit Smith. He had for years been a warm friend of Brown, believed in his integrity and honesty of purpose, had sympathized warmly with him in his endeavor to aid escaping slaves, and had contributed small sums to aid him in this behalf. He had also received aid from him in the management of his colored colony in northern New York. He knew and heartily approved of his proposed attempt to aid slaves to escape to the mountains of Maryland and Virginia, but had no knowledge of his attempt on Harper's Ferry, and afterward, in a letter to a friend, wrote that “he was astonished to hear of it, so unlike was it to that of going to the mountains." But the excitement and a knowledge of these unfriendly at tempts so seriously affected his health and spirits that he was sent to the Utica hospital for several weeks.

In their report, the committee said that, while there was no doubt that it was " Brown's plan to commence a servile insurrection on the borders of Virginia, which he expected to extend, and which he believed his means and resources were sufficient to extend, through that State and throughout the entire South," yet, being a man " of remarkable reticence in his habits," he does not appear to have intrusted even his immediate followers with his plans. “Nor have the committee been enabled," they add, "clearly to trace knowledge of them to any." They say, too, that, “after much consideration, they are not prepared to suggest any legislation."

In the same direction, as it originated from the same inspiration, was the debate on a resolution offered by Mr. Douglas in January "for the suppression and punishment of conspiracies or combinations in one State against another." The speech of Mr. Douglas in support of his resolution was particularly marked, though exhibiting far more of the partisan than of the patriot, more of the advocate, intent on making out his case, than of the statesman enunciating the great principles of political truth. He quoted Mr. Lincoln's expression of belief that "this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free," and Mr. Seward's utterance concerning the "irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces," as a "fair exposition" of Republican doctrines and policy; and he gave utterance to the insinuation that the causes which produced the Harper's Ferry invasion were then " in active operation."

Mr. Fessenden replied in a speech of great vigor and force. While he yielded too much to the spirit of conservatism, he successfully met and disposed of the unfriendly allegations and innuendoes of Mr. Douglas, and vindicated the Republican Party from the aspersions the latter had so freely cast upon it. But he made the damaging admission that previous to 1850 the country was quiet upon the slavery question; damaging, because during the decade preceding 1854 had been enacted those fearful aggressions of the Slave Power which had excited so much alarm and such indignant protest. The annexation of Texas, the compromise measures, the Fugitive Slave Act, had all been crowded into those ill-fated and ill-freighted years. And yet, said Mr. Fessenden, the country was “quiet," and the great parties had " determined there should be no more trouble on the subject." Notwithstanding all the antislavery agitations and teachings of a quarter of a century, and all the outrages committed at the behests of slavery, and all its inroads upon the domain of freedom, this was the statement volunteered in the very presence of those who had led on those aggressive movements.

Mr. Hunter spoke, or rather delivered an elaborate oration, on the slavery question. He began, by a laborious examination of the figures afforded by the commerce between the Northern and Southern States, to show that " these vast interests are not hostile, but of mutual assistance to each other," and that the disturbance threatened by the antislavery agitation would be reciprocally disastrous; these common interests " constituting a mighty arch," he said, " while the very key stone of this arch consists in the black marble block of African slavery. Knock that out, and the mighty fabric, with all that it upholds, topples and tumbles to the ground."

Concerning the assumption that the South could be "whipped into the Union," he said: “It might be provoking, if it were not so absurd." "Sir," he confidently affirmed, "this coercion of which you speak is impossible." He con tended that slavery was “the normal condition of society," and in harmony with the Divine requirement,” Do as you would be done by." Those acquainted with Southern society must have doubted the sanity, as well as the candor, of one who could make declarations like these. Other Senators participated in the debate; but nothing came of the resolution, as no vote was reached.

Source:  Wilson, Henry, History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, Vol. 2.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1872, 601-609.



See also Williamson, Passmore


JOHNSON, Nathan, 1797-1880, African American, former slave, abolitionist leader, community leader.  American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), Manager, 1839-1840, 1841-1842. 

(Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds. African American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 6, p. 479)


JOHNSON, Oliver, 1809-1889, anti-slavery leader, newspaper editor, printer, reformer.  An early supporter of William Lloyd Garrison.  American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), Member Executive Committee, 1841-1843, Manager, 1852-1853.  Occasionally helped Garrison in the editing of The Liberator.  In 1832, co-founded the New England Anti-Slavery Society.  Lectured extensively against slavery.  Johnson edited various anti-slavery newspapers, including the National Anti-Slavery Standard, the Pennsylvania Freeman, and the Anti-Slavery Bugle

(Mabee, 1970, pp. 86, 87, 214, 215, 226, 261, 262, 297, 335, 368; Rodriguez, 2007, p. 367; Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, p. 446; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 412; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 12, p. 107)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JOHNSON, Oliver; editor, b. in Peacham, Vt., 27 Dec., 1809; d. in Brooklyn, N.Y., 10 Dec., 1889. He served in the office of the “Watchman,” at Montpelier, Vt., and in 1831 became the editor of the newly established “Christian Soldier.” From 1865 till 1870 he was managing editor of the “Independent,” after which he became the editor of the “Weekly Tribune,” which post he resigned in 1872 to become editor of the “Christian Union.” He was active in the cause of anti-slavery as lecturer and editor, and was one of the twelve that organized the New England anti-slavery society in 1832. He published “William Lloyd Garrison and his Times, or Sketches of the Anti-slavery Movement in America” (Boston, 1880). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, pp. 446.


JOHNSON, Rowland, 1816-1886, New York, NY, clergyman, reformer, abolitionist leader.  Vice president, American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), 1858-1864. 

(Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, p. 448)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JOHNSON, Rowland, reformer, b. in Germantown, Pa., 24 May, 1816; d. in West Orange, N.J., 25 Sept., 1886. His parents were members of the Society of Friends, and in early life he was a preacher of that denomination. In 1850 he removed to New York, and became a broker and commission-merchant in that city. He was among the earliest supporters of the abolition movement, and at one time was the leader of the anti-slavery party in New York. He was also one of the first members of the Union league club, and was active in charitable organizations. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III.      


JULIAN, George Washington, 1817-1899, Society of Friends, Quaker, statesman, lawyer, radical abolitionist leader from Indiana, vice president of the Free Soil Party, 1852.  Member of U.S. Congress from Indiana, 1850-1851.  Was against the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act.  Fought in court to prevent fugitive slaves from being returned to their owners.  Joined and supported early Republican Party.  Re-elected to Congress, 1861-1871.  Supported emancipation of slaves.  Husband of Ann Elizabeth Finch, who was likewise opposed to slavery.  After her death in 1860, he married Laura Giddings, daughter of radical abolitionist Joshua Giddings. 

(Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III, p. 486; Blue, 2005, pp. ix, 9, 10, 11, 13, 161-183, 210, 225-229, 259-260, 265-270; Riddleberger, 1966; Rodriguez, 2007, pp. 54, 354-355; Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1936, Vol. 5, Pt. 2, p. 245; American Reformers: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary, New York, 1985, pp. 486-487; American National Biography, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002, Vol. 12, p. 315)

Biography from Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography:

JULIAN, George Washington, statesman, b. near Centreville, Ind., 5 May, 1817; d. in Irvington, Ind., 7 July, 1899. He taught for three years, studied law, and was admitted to practice in 1840. He was elected to the Indiana house of representatives in 1845 as a member of the Whig party; but becoming warmly interested in the slavery question through his Quaker training, severed his party relations in 1848, became one of the founders and leaders of the Free-soil party, was a delegate to the Buffalo convention, and was then elected to congress, serving from 3 Dec., 1849, to 3 March, 1851. In 1852 he was a candidate for the vice-presidency on the Free-soil ticket. He was a delegate to the Pittsburg convention of 1856, the first National convention of the Republican party, and was its vice-president, and chairman of the committee on organization. In 1860 he was elected as a Republican to congress, and served on the joint committee on the conduct of the war. He was four times re-elected, and served on the committee on reconstruction, and for eight years as chairman of the committee on public lands. He espoused the cause of woman suffrage as early as 1847, and in 1868 proposed in congress a constitutional amendment conferring the right to vote on women. During the discussions on reconstruction he was zealous in demanding the electoral franchise for the negro. In 1872 he joined the Liberal Republicans, and supported Horace Greeley for president. His most strenuous efforts in congress were directed to the championship of the homestead policy and the preservation of the public lands for the people. In May, 1885, he was appointed surveyor-general of New Mexico. He had published “Speeches on Political Questions,” containing a sketch of his life by Lydia Maria Child (Boston, 1872), and “Political Recollections” (Chicago, 1884), and had contributed to magazines and reviews articles dealing with political reforms.—His brother, Isaac Hoover, journalist, b. in Wayne county, Ind., 19 June, 1823, removed to Iowa in 1846, resided there till 1850, and returning to Indiana settled in Centreville and edited the “Indiana True Republican,” which he afterward published in Richmond, Ind., under the title of “The Indiana Radical.” He occupied several local offices in that town, removed to San Marco, Texas, in 1873, and since that date has edited the “San Marco Free Press.” He has published, besides numerous poems, pamphlets, and essays, a “Memoir of David Hoover” (Richmond, Ind., 1857). Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1888, Vol. III.


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