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    John Brown writes a year before Harper's Ferry: "I felt for a number of years in earlier life; a steady strong desire to die... I am now rather anxious to live for a few years more."

    John Brown (1800-1859) radical abolitionist, fine content Autograph Letter Signed "John Brown" two pages, 5.25" x 8", Peterboro, New York, February 24, 1858 to Transcendentalist author Franklin Benjamin Sanborn (1831-1917) who was a member of Brown's Committee of Six (or Secret Six) and a major financial supporter of Brown's activities. A stirring letter written just two days after he had revealed his plan to Sanborn and Gerrit Smith to raid the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry. He writes:

    "Mr. Morton has taken the liberty of saying to me that you felt 1/2 inclined to make a common cause with me. I greatly rejoice at this; for I believe when you come to look at the ample filed I labour in; & the rich harvest which (not only this entire country, but) the whole world during the present & future generation may reap from its successful cultivation; you will feel that you are out of your element until you find you are in it; an entire Unit. What an inconceivable amount of good you might so effect; by your counsel, your example, your encouragement, your natural & acquired ability; for active service. And then how very little we can possibly loose? Certainly the cause is enough to live for; if not to for. I have only had this one opportunity in a life of nearly Sixty years & could I be continued ten times as long again I might not again have another equal opportunity. God has honored but comparatively a very small part of mankind with any possible chance for such mighty & soul satisfying rewards. But my dear friend if you should make up your mind to do so I trust it will be wholly from the prompting of your own spirit; after having thoroughly counted the cost. I would flatter no man into such a measure if I could do it ever so easily. I expect nothing but to 'endure hardness': but I expect to effect a mighty conquest even though it be like the last victory of Samson. I felt for a number of years in earlier life; a steady strong desire to die: but since I saw any prospect of becoming a 'reaper' in the great harvest I have not only felt quite willing to live: but have enjoyed life much; I am now rather anxious to live for a few years more."

    The "Secret Six" was a group of six wealthy New England abolitionists and included Sanborn and Gerrit Smith who financially supported Brown's militant anti-slavery activities. The committee provided Brown with the funds and arms that he used in his failed attempt to raid the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry to supply arms for a general slave insurrection. His plot failed and he was captured by U.S. Marines under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown was tried and hanged for treason and fomenting a slave rebellion. John Brown remains one of the most defining figures in American history -- his deeds debated as either the butchery of a madman or the zealous labors of a passionate abolitionist. Credited/blamed for being one of the dominoes that tumbled to start the War, his letters are quite scarce. Weakness at folds, starting at two, else fine- bright and clean, mounted at edge of integral leaf to larger sheet. A fine vintage engraving included. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2006
    20th-21st Monday-Tuesday
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