Description

    "Matters are in a fair way of comming to a head"

    John Brown Autograph Letter Signed. One page, 8" x 11.5", "Brown's Station [Kansas Territory]," April 22, 1856, to Reverend S. L. Adair in Osawatomie, Kansas. As tensions heat up over slavery in the Kansas Territory, abolitionist John Brown writes to his brother-in-law concerning a "bogus" pro-slavery court and laws. In part:

    "Yesterday I went to Dutch Henrys to see how things were going at Court; & my boys turned out to train at a house near by. Many of the volunteer Co. went in without show of arms to hear the charge to Grand Jury. The Court is thoroughly Bogus but the Judge had not the nerve to avow it openly. He was questioned on the bench in writing civilly but plainly whether he intended to enforce the Bogus Laws or not; but would give no answer. He did not even mention the so called Kansas Legislature or name their acts but talked of our laws & it was easy for any one conversant with law matters to discover what code he was charging the Jury under. He evidently felt much agitated but talked a good deal about having criminals punished, &c. After hearing the charge & witnessing the refusal of the Judge to answer the volunteers met under arms passed the Osawatomie Preamble & Resolutions every man voting aye. They also appointed a Committee of Three to wait on the Judge at once with a coppy in full; which was immediately done. The effect of that I have not yet learned. You will see that matters are in a fair way of comming to a head."

    By the spring of 1856, tensions increased between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery men in the Kansas Territory as they vied for the future of the territory. Brown considered "bogus laws" those passed by the pro-slavery territorial government, and he considered "thoroughly bogus" the Judge Sterling G. Cato's Kansas Territorial Supreme Court, held at Dutch Henry's Crossing. Apparently, Judge Cato was issuing arrest warrants for violators of pro-slavery laws, prompting Brown's son, John Jr., and members of his local anti-slavery militia to protest at the courthouse. When Brown Jr. confronted Judge Cato with questions, the judge walked away without replying.

    Events were truly "comming to a head" as Judge Cato, concerned about his own safety, sought to arrest the Brown's thereafter. One month after writing this letter, pro-slavery activists sacked Lawrence, Kansas, which exasperated the guerrilla war in the Kansas Territory between anti-slavery men and pro-slavery men. A few days after that on May 24, Brown led a coterie that killed five pro-slavery men, making him a wanted man by territory authorities. This letter is written in clear ink on lined paper with folds. Toned with minor stains. Docketed on the verso by Adair. Matted and framed to an overall size of 10" x 13.75" (the framed letter is viewable from both sides).

    Also included is a Reverend Samuel L. Adair Autograph Letter Signed "Samuel" to John Brown's younger half-sister and Adair's future wife, Florella Brown. Four pages, 7.5" x 9.75" (sight), Oberlin, April 27, 1841. Florella lived at Hudson, Summit County, Ohio. Adair writes of Florella's new step-mother, his engagement with Florella, her education ("I feel deeply most deeply the importance of a good education, & have desired you should enjoy as great a share of it as possible"), and religious matters. Florella, twenty-five years old when she received this letter, attended Oberlin College, which her father helped found. There she met Adair, who affectionately writes in this letter, "I can truly say that I now love you as I never did before." The couple married seven months later and became active abolitionists, settling as missionaries in Osawatomie, Kansas, in March 1855. Their cabin became a base for John Brown's anti-slavery activism. This letter, written in bold ink, has folds and at least two holes, caused by the original opening of the seal. A small amount of text is lost. Matted and framed to an overall size of 17" x 11.5" (the framed letter is viewable from both sides).


    Fees, Shipping, and Handling Description: Framed - without Glass, Medium (view shipping information)

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    Auction Dates
    October, 2013
    17th-18th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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    We had a wonderful time in New York during the October 2013 Historical Manuscripts auction that featured my mother’s papers collected during her tenure as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s secretary. In fact, the entire experience from beginning to end has been a pleasure.
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