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    "Old Captain John Brown is sitting near me. . . . There is a young man with him. Both are armed to the 'teeth'"

    [John Brown] and [Kansas]. Samuel Reed Letters and Diary, all dated between 1855 and 1859, mostly written from Lawrence, Kansas, the nexus of Bleeding Kansas. The letters and diary contain fascinating content about John Brown and Bleeding Kansas. This group consists of Samuel Reed's five letters written from Kansas dated from 1858 and 1859 (a time when Reed lived in Lawrence, Kansas, and became friends with abolitionist John Brown) and Reed's diary, which contains entries dating from 1855 to 1859 (1855-1856 entries in the diary were written from Wisconsin and the 1858-1859 entries from Kansas). The late 1850s proved to be violent years for Kansas, as confrontations between anti-slavery Free-Staters and pro-slavery men took place. Reed, an abolitionist with sympathies for the Free-Staters, had much respect for John Brown, whose influence on the young man in his early thirties is quickly obvious in this archive. This collection is very well organized, containing typed transcriptions of every letter and the entire diary.

    Samuel P. Reed (1827-1908) hailed from Richmond, New York, and remained a bachelor throughout his life. In 1858, he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, sharing a house with his close friend Joel Grover and his wife. Beginning in 1855, Lawrence had become the center of the trouble in Kansas over slavery. While there, Reed and Grover met and befriended many abolitionists, including John Brown and James Montgomery. As evidenced in this collection, Brown even became a frequent visitor to the home of Reed and Grover. Shortly after arriving, Reed began serving the Kansas Territory as clerk of the territory's legislature until 1859. When the Civil War broke out, the young farmer returned to New York where he farmed until his death.

    Reed's five pre-Civil War letters consist of the following:

    (1) A four-page letter dated November 2, 1858, from Leavenworth City, Kansas, written while Reed journeyed to Lawrence. Along the way he "stopped at the Planter's, a first rate house, pro-slavery too."

    (2) A twelve-page letter written from Lawrence on December 16, 1858, to his sister Caroline. This letter includes Reed's first mention of John Brown: "The papers report troubles down Fort Scott way again, don't have what it will amount to, rather think the pro-slavery men will get more than they bargain for if they have kicked up a row with Montgomery and old John Brown. The old man's shadow is good for a decent sized company of greasers alone. . . . The principle topic [in Lawrence] was the running of negroes and Captain John Brown and Montgomery. Joel [Reed's housemate] is boiling over with abolitionism. Besides the 11 on the underground track to Canada secured by Capt. Brown I hear that from 20 to 25 are going to be put aboard from this vicinity and near there. A slave might stand in the streets of Lawrence from morning to night, and Missouri could not send daring ones enough to take him back to slavery. Old Brown thinks the Pres. treats him with a great deal of disrespect in offering a reward of only $250 for him, not half as much as could be offered for a good 'nigger'." In this letter, Reed also provides information on Border Ruffians (pro-slavery men from Missouri who served as activists in Kansas in the late-1850s) and an account of an unsuccessful attempt to capture Brown. In this letter, Reed also gives a description of James Montgomery, a staunch abolitionist who worked with Brown during the Bleeding Kansas era ("He is a man of good morals, a temperate man and one who never indulges in profanity").

    (3) A four-page letter written from Lawrence dated January 13, 1859. Reed writes in part about John Brown, "There has been quite a stir down here of late. Old John Brown and others down there believe that all men are created equal and accordingly have given the right hand of fellowship to whose skins happen to be a little darker than their own. For this and some other human acts there has been a determination among those in authority to have Brown & Montgomery arrested. . . . Old Captain John Brown is sitting near me reading the Lawrence Republican. . . . There is a young man with him. Both are armed to the 'teeth'. The old man says he was, and always, an abolitionist and if his sentiments concerning slavery have under gone any change in later years from what they were formerly it is only to hold it in greater abundance. I have listened with a good deal of pleasure to him as he has told of their troubles. One of the happier events of his life he says was the lib[erty] of those slaves a few days ago and he will readily tell it to a slaveholder as to a free statesman."

    (4) A six-page letter written from Lawrence on February 5, 1859. In this letter, Reed writes of the consequences brought about by pro-slavery men who sent several blacks "down to New Orleans." He also writes of his faith in John Brown to bring about the abolition of slavery: "if any can carry out his undertaking he is the one."

    (5) A four-page letter written from Lawrence on February 21, 1859. Reed, in this letter, informs his sister that the Kansas legislature had repealed "the entire Bogus code." He also reports on a disturbance brought on when a posse of forty men arriving in Lawrence "with 15 free state prisoners chained both hand and foot. . . . As soon as the 40 got into town the 'boys' not waiting for a formal introduction, just introduced himself by pouring upon them a shower of brickbat, and then after knocking the chains off from the prisoners just walked into the posse and took from them their guns and side arms."

    Samuel Reed's 98-page diary contains entries evincing the palpable violent tension over slavery Kansas. The diary is housed in marbled hardcovers (octavo); several early pages have been cleanly cut away. Entries are dated from October 22, 1855, through May 9, 1859. In the diary, Reed explains that he left home on October 24, 1858, and arrived at Leavenworth, Kansas, on November 1, 1858. Regular daily entries begin on December 1, 1858. Reed records on numerous topics, such as sentiments in the region toward slavery ("Attended church at the Methodist House. Elder Dodge . . . condemned slavery in very strong terms [January 9, 1859]").

    The first mention of John Brown occurs on January 11, 1859: "The troops who came after Captain Brown and [James] Montgomery camped in sight, over across the Wakarusa without affecting their object." Three days later, Reed recorded that "Just at dinner time our friend, Captain John Brown and a friend of his by the name of Anderson happened in. in the afternoon we visited and talked over matters. I am much pleased with the captain. He is a kind-hearted man with tender feelings and a soul overflowing with sympathies for the oppressed. On the 20th of last month he assisted 10 slaves escape from Bates Co., Mo. He made one of the masters and two white men go along some 10 miles and then let them return. . . . In May when the pro-slavery men were murdering free state men not the least attempt was made nor even a word uttered by either the Administration nor any of his dupes against these shocking barbarities. But, now when Montgomery (a very estimable man) for releasing Ben Rice at Fort Scott, who was imprisoned in direct violation of the Denver-Montgomery treaty and whose company shot Little but not until after they had been shot at by the ruffians and Captain Brown's assistance to those slaves who had been all their lives deprived of their liberty, to their liberty, then as Captain Brown would do all hell seems to have broken loose. . . . This evening Captain Montgomery happened in and stopped over with us. Instead of being the wild beast he is represented in the administration prints, he is a man possessed of all the finer feelings and tender sensibilities of the most refined in eastern circles."

    Complaining about the circulation of falsehood about John Brown, Reed records on January 23, "What stories are circulated about Capt. John Brown in reference to certain doings down south. There is not a word of truth in them." On January 24, 1859, Reed only commented on the weather, but on the first free endpaper he wrote about this date, "Captain John Brown on the evening of the 24th of January 1859, I gave him a good shake of the hand just as he left in the direction of the north with 12." On February 16, 1859, Reed writes about the Kansas legislature passing "an amnesty bill in regards to offenses growing out of the political troubles down south." (The Amnesty Act forgave all citizens for past crimes which had been motivated by political differences in the southern counties.) He also reports on numerous prisoners taken in the disturbances between the Jayhawkers (anti-slavery Free-Staters) and Border Ruffians (pro-slavery men).

    At the end of the diary, Reed records his outrage of Kansas Territory's first election for a Congressional delegate in 1854. "Of 2,871 votes polled, 1,729 were ascertained to be illegal all of which were cast for [proslavery candidate John W.] Whitfield." Reed blames thousands of Missourians for illegally voting in Kansas elections during Whitfield's election and others. Reed also writes about the territory's constitution ("An important feature in this constitution was that slavery shall not exist in this state") and more political violence between the "free state men" and "pro-slavery men." Other entries record more information about John Brown and the events of Bloody Kansas.

    Other letters are also included: a Civil War-dated letter from Joel Grover to Reed (April 14, 1861); three letters (two dated 1875 and one 1876) from Grover to Reed; one letter from Reed to "J. Well" on February 17, 1900, with remembrances of John Brown, including a conversation with Brown about whether or not Brown was "insane on the subject of slavery."


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