Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    John Brown Writes from Kansas Three Months Before the Pottawatomie Massacre: "Will Congress suffer us to be driven to such 'dire extremities'? Will anything be done?"

    John Brown Autograph Letter Signed. One page, 8" x 9.75", Osawatomie, Kansas Territory; February 20, 1856. Brown writes an impassioned letter to Joshua Giddings, the fiery abolitionist and representative from Ohio, foreshadowing the coming violence that would set off the Kansas Territory tinderbox following the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Brown moved to the territory in 1855 after five of his sons had settled at Osawatomie and they were all quickly embroiled in local anti-slavery politics. On February 11th, President Pierce had federal troops sent to Kansas to be commanded by the pro-slavery territorial governor as he saw fit. He simultaneously issued a proclamation calling on all Free Soil paramilitary groups to stand down. Here, Brown writes of their arrival and his mistrust of the Pierce Administration, calling on Giddings for assistance.

    It reads in full: "I write to say that a number of the United States Soldiers are quartered in this vicinity; for the ostensible purpose of removeing [sic] intruders from certain Indian Lands. It is however believed that the Administration has no thought of remomoveing [sic] the Missourians from the Indian Lands; but that the real object is to have these men in readiness to act in the enforcement of those Hellish enactments of the (so called) Kansas Legislature; absolutely abominated by a great Majority of the inhabitants of the Territory; & spurned by them up to this time.

    I confidently believe that the next movement on the part of the Administration; & its Pro Slavery Masters will be to drive the people here either to submit to those Infernal enactments: or to assume what will be termed Treasonable grounds by shooting down the poor Soldiers of the country with whom they have no quarrel whatever.

    I ask in the name of Allmighty God: I ask in the name of our venerated fore Fathers: I ask in the name of all that good or true men ever held dear; will Congress suffer us to be driven to such 'dire extremities'? Will anything be done? Please send me a few lines at this place. Long acquaintance with your public life; & a slight personal acquaintance incline; & embolden me to make this appeal to yourself. Every thing is still on the surface here; just now. Circumstances however are of a most suspicious character." Signed, "John Brown."

    Things did not stay on the surface much longer. Three months later, on May 21st, the city of Lawrence was sacked during a pro-slavery raid that destroyed two abolitionist newspapers and the Free State Hotel. On the night of May 24th, John Brown led a retaliatory attack against pro-slavery forces, resulting in the death of five men in what is now termed the Pottawatomie massacre. These two events precipitated a series of confrontations that lasted the summer of 1856 and were the culmination of the most violent period of the Bleeding Kansas conflict.

    Condition: Very light soiling. Smoothed folds.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2021
    6th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 18
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,161

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 15% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on Nov 6, 2021 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 12 days left to consign to the 2022 February 12 - 13 Lincoln and His Times Americana & Political Signature® Auction !

    Learn about consigning with us

    The pre and post sales experience was wonderful and flawless. Heritage has the best in-house operation I have ever seen and their people are not only professional but fun to work with, especially Steve C.

    As for Heritage's online system… Yes the interface is more complex than what we are used to with SAN but what is behind that interface is amazing for sellers and buyers alike. It is real time and for a real serious auction buyer there is nothing better in the auction industry, bar none.
    Ron Cipolla,
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search