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    John Brown raises money for his raid at Harper's Ferry

    John Brown Autograph Letter Signed. One page, 7.75" x 12.75", Peterborough, New Hampshire, May 15, 1857, to Gerrit Smith, one of the key financial backers of Brown's attempt to seize the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry. In this letter, Brown asks Smith for money. In part:

    "When you have received for me the $1,000 . . . from Boston, please deduct from the amount of what is then due you on Franklin P. and Saml. B. Thompson's land contract; together with One Hundred and ten Dollars . . . for which you hold on my note; also $150 . . . advanced by me to said Thom[p]sons; which $150 . . . please retain for me; and at once advise said Thompsons at North Elba, Essex Co., N.Y., by letter, of the receipt of the money by you; and also remit to them the balance on receipt of their contract assigned to me. When you have received money and Contract as above: please give Warrantee Deed to Mrs Ruth Thompson (of North Elba; my Daughter) of the south half of the lot sold by you to the Thompsons."

    Brown had originally acquired the above lot from Smith in 1854. He intended to live in the free black community that was located there and created by Smith, but he was called away to assist the anti-slavery fighters in Kansas. His decision to join those fighters changed his life. He soon participated in a series of brutal attacks and counter-attacks in which he killed five pro-slavery men at Potawatomie Creek in May 1856. As a result, Brown and his sons were expelled from Kansas. After this, acquaintances were struck by the fanaticism of his appearance and obsession with slavery. Both Brown and Smith became impatient with the slow progress of abolitionism. Smith provided money for the cause, contributing $16,000 to purchase guns in Kansas and funding Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry. After Brown's raid failed, Smith denied his connections to Brown and burned many of his incriminating documents, making this a rare example of an extant letter from Brown to coconspirator Smith. Smith even committed himself to an insane asylum in Utica, New York, for a short period. Penciled notations in the lower margin appear to be those of Smith and contain figures mentioned in Brown's letter. The fold separations have been professionally restored.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2010
    14th-15th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,874

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