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"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

John Brown's Brother: Frederick Brown Supports the Greeley Campaign of 1872

1859 Lithograph of Brown
holding Greeley's 
(Library of Congress Collection)
Horace Greeley (1811-72) is remembered as the founder and publisher of the New York Tribune, the most prominent antislavery newspaper in the antebellum era.  Greeley was a liberal Whig in politics and was despised by the slave South and proslavery Democrats in the North. Antislavery people read the Tribune, including John Brown.  In one of his memorandum books captured and published after the Harper's Ferry raid, Brown recorded having sent $3 for a subscription to the Tribune, presumably for his family in North Elba, N.Y., since he was preparing to go to Maryland under an alias.  It was Greeley's newspaper that provided the single most important coverage of Brown's last days as a prisoner in Virginia, particularly through the incognito reportage of the Tribune's theater critic, Edward H. House.

Greeley: Preparing the Way for the End of Reconstruction

Toward the end of the Civil War, Greeley was heavily criticized for opposing Lincoln’s renomination by the Republican Party in 1864, taking the position that Lincoln could not win the war. He was also criticized for contributing to the bail bond of former rebel president Jefferson Davis in 1867.  Unfortunately, he was joined in this effort by another double-minded hero of the antebellum era, Gerrit Smith, an alumnus of Brown's "Secret Six."  Greeley in particular reflected the easy backflip that many antislavery whites made after the Civil War, and which led to the ultimate demise of Reconstruction.

An 1895 sketch portrays Greeley's role in
signing the bail bond for Jeff Davis

(New York Public Library)
In fairness to Greeley, however, it is a matter of record that the first term of Pres. Ulysses S. Grant was rife with corruption, particularly the Crédit Mobilier affair of 1872-73, in which railroad company shares were accepted by various leaders in Washington D.C., bringing scandal to the Grant Administration.  But although a more generous reading of Greeley and others backpedaling from the Republican Party can be attributed to scandal, it is nevertheless the case that Greeley was on the vanguard of white society's pushback against radical Republicans in favor of the white South.

When Grant ran for reelection in 1872, Greeley joined a group of Republican dissenters who took the name of the "Liberal Republican Party," and was nominated as their candidate to run for the Presidency.  The Democratic Party, which had taken the wrong side of history prior to the Civil War, tried to do a quick fix by supporting Greeley's platform too.  But there were yet many consistent antislavery Republicans who saw through Greeley's "liberal" posture, recognizing that his politics were not just about anti-corruption but also a move away from the radical Republican position toward compromise with the former traitors and proslavery rebels of the South.  A notable opponent of Greeley was the political cartoonist, Thomas Nash, who portrayed Greeley as a sell-out willing to compromise with the racists and former rebels of the South.

This political cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, Oct. 1872, portrays Greeley shaking hands
with a racist white Southerner, the bodies of blacks and the U.S. flag under his feet

Horace Greeley ca. 1870
(Wikimedia Commons)
One source says that Greeley was so harshly criticized that he was not sure if he was running for the presidency or the penitentiary. His effort to win the White House failed quite significantly, although he did not even live to see the complete outcome.  After losing his wife, Greeley himself fell ill and was institutionalized, dying before the counting of electoral college votes was complete.  As it turned out, he received only three of the sixty-six electoral votes that had been pledged to him.  On the other hand, his ability to win or dominate in several Southern states and capture forty percent of the popular vote foreshadowed something ugly on the political landscape--what Rayford Logan so aptly called "The Betrayal of the Negro" by the undermining of Reconstruction.

John and Frederick Brown

In the fall of 1872, it was widely reported in newspapers across the country that a family member of John Brown had thrown his weight behind Horace Greeley's campaign.  This was big news.  Although John Brown had been dead for well over a decade, the public was generally interested in news about his family.  When it became known that Frederick Brown, the brother of John Brown of Harper's Ferry fame was supporting Greeley, it was notably observed in the South and enthusiastically greeted by Greeley's supporters in the north and west.  Frederick Brown (1807-77) was noted in newspaper reports as being the only surviving sibling of John Brown, although this discounted his half-brothers and sisters born to his father Owen Brown's second wife, Sally Root Brown.
Frederick Brown (Source uncertain--
possibly Hudson Library &
Historical Society?)

In John Brown's surviving correspondence, Frederick figures only slightly, in the 1830s and early '40s.  The scarcity of letters to Frederick in the 1840s and 1850s may suggest that the two brothers did not entirely see eye-to-eye regarding John's radical antislavery measures.  Certainly there is no extant letter either from or to Frederick Brown among John Brown's jail correspondence--quite in contrast to the several letters between Brown and his younger half-brother, Jeremiah Root Brown.  I happily defer to Brown family member and family historian, Alice Keesey Mecoy, as to further biographical information or commentary on Frederick Brown beyond the fact that he seems largely absent from mention in much of the material on his famous brother's later years.

Perhaps the most famous letter to Frederick Brown from John Brown is accessible in Sanborn's Life and Letters of John Brown (the original is privately held by a collector who has not proven generous even in sharing images or transcriptions, although he should know that what is valuable to historians is not what is valuable to him as a hoarder of primary documents).  The letter, written in November 21, 1834, is notable to biographers of Brown because it marks his thought at a pre-radical phase of his antislavery thinking.  In the letter, John Brown writes of his "confident expectation that God is about to bring [enslaved blacks] all out of the house of bondage."  In the main portion of his letter, he requests Frederick to join him in setting up a school for young blacks.  He writes:
If once the Christians in the free States would set to work in earnest in teaching the blacks, the people of the slaveholding States would find themselves constitutionally driven to set about the work of emancipation immediately.1 
Of course, by late 1850, John Brown had changed his mind significantly from this point of view, instead having come to believe that slave hunters empowered by the Fugitive Slave Law had to be physically resisted.  He had already been nursing the plan of a "grand rescue" of enslaved people from the South, although after his time in Kansas this plan took on a more militant side: slave holders and their militia might have to be resisted with measured violence in order to destabilize slavery throughout the South.  The rest, including his invasion of Virginia, as they say, is history.

Frederick Brown, 1872

Thirteen years after his brother was hanged in Virginia, Frederick Brown made national news by coming out in support of the "Liberal Republicans" and their candidate, Horace Greeley.  In this regard, the Chicago Tribune picked up a fascinating report from The Cincinnati Commercial, describing Frederick as "an elderly gentleman of rather marked appearance, plain in manners, but bearing the impress of intelligence and decision of character regulated by knowledge of men and the world."  The article states that Frederick had practiced law but had retained the same love of "raising fine stock" for which his brother John was known.  Interestingly, the article--apparently based on Frederick Brown's own claims--say that he was an antislavery man before John, and had converted his famous brother by "sending him a copy of an address published by Birney"--meaning the Ohio lawyer and abolitionist, James G. Birney.

The article goes on to describe Frederick's basis for supporting Greeley: that "the shackles have been knocked off the limbs of four million chattel slaves, who are now with their posterity, forever free; and not only free, but citizens, with the same rights and privileges, including the right to vote, that anybody else has." The author of the article, still reiterating Frederick, concluded that "this should satisfy us" and "cause us to try to reconcile those who, as all men do, smart under such entire defeat."  This would avoid further hostility and "bring about lasting reconciliation and friendship between the two section," he wrote.

The article is telling, not only about Frederick Brown, but about the easy turnabout that many putative antislavery people--even in the Brown family--made after about a decade following the war.  That turnabout was reflective of greater concern for the unity and peace of white society than the considerable inequity and systemic changes necessary to complete the elevation of an oppressed people to a level of human and political satisfaction.  As Frederick Brown's pattern of reasoning exhibits, many whites were far more concerned with ameliorating white society's sense of instability; in such thinking, this instability could only be resolved by the restoration of white privilege and priority. Ultimately this is exactly what was accomplished when Reconstruction was undermined in the later 1870s--former traitors and rebels from the South were restored to power over the black populace, no real punishment was administered to the traitors, and black people were reduced to a state of "free" peonage and segregation, not to mention terror at the hands of former rebels masked and murderous.  In a real sense this betrayal of the liberated community was enabled by the likes of Horace Greeley and his kind, and also with the naive support of men like Frederick Brown--sadly, the very brother of the most militant ally of black people in US history.

The rest of the Cincinnati Commercial article chronicled Frederick's other reasons for supporting Greeley: that charge that Grant and his followers were less about earnest convictions of justice and more about "selfish ends and ambitions"; and finally the belief that Greeley was foremost among the antislavery generation for intelligence, self-sacrifice, and integrity.2 

The support of John Brown's brother for Horace Greeley made news across the country.  In Raleigh, North Carolina, the Weekly Sentinel picked up the Commercial's report with interest, succinctly noting the same three reasons for Brown's support of Greeley--noting that the "anti-slave [sic] party has already accomplished its work. . . . Grant and his Ring are not actuated by principle, but selfish interest," and "Greeley is honest and reliable."3  Even in John Brown's Kansas, the pro-Greeley editor of the Olathe Mirror relished the news, counting Frederick's support as one of the great gains of the Greeley campaign.  "Here is a family," the editor boasted, "to whose insight and devotion even Mr. Wm. Lloyd Garrison would be willing to bow.  Where John Brown's brother gladly goes, no declaration by Mr. Wendell Phillips of danger from Rebels can deter antiSlavery men from following."4

A Rejoinder from John Brown Jr.

Newspaper sketch of
John Brown Jr.
ca. 1870s
Clearly, the political direction taken by Frederick Brown was already a point of concern before it made national news in the fall of 1872.  In early August, John Brown Jr., whose politics were in sympathy for the radical Republicans (and later for leftists), could not remain silent on the subject of his Uncle Frederick's political choice.  In a letter first published in the Philadelphia Bulletin but then picked up by the New York Times, John Junior protested any use of the Greeley faction of the Brown family legacy, apparently in response to an editorial inquiry.  On August 2, 1872, he wrote:
It is a matter of surprise to me that you could for a moment suppose that I am in favor of placing in power the party which every friend of liberty and equal rights had found it necessary to oppose with all his might these many years.  If any other of my friends entertain  such an opinion of me, please do me the favor to correct their mistake.  I am still, as I ever have been, faithful to Republican principles, and to the only party in the United States which, it seems to me, fairly represents them--the party whose standard-bearers are Grant and Wilson.5 Very truly yours,
                                                                                                           John Brown, Jr.6
John Brown Jr., who probably was speaking for most or all of the family, was clear that he could not support any political agenda that could be combined with the Democrat Party's agenda as was Greeley's platform.  John Jr. was acutely aware that the concerns of the liberated black community in the US were not to be so easily disposed of, and that beyond liberation and giving the vote to black men it would be necessary to enable them to establish political and economic equality in the nation--something that tragically was never accomplished. When Reconstruction went sideways later that decade, John Jr. was among a number of former abolitionists who tried to go to the aid of blacks in the wake of another wave of white supremacy sweeping through the South.  John Jr. doubtlessly recognized that Greeley had abandoned the cause of racial justice too quickly in order to appease the sensibilities of white privilege and white supremacy in the nation.  Unfortunately, despite Greeley's defeat in 1872, the nation would move precisely in the direction that Greeley had anticipated by bailing out Jefferson Davis and shaking hands with an unrepentant South.  Shortly, in the movement that Greeley prefigured, even John Brown's legacy would suffer, along with the real black victims of the resurgence of white supremacy in the South and beyond.

If there is a moral to this story it is that the struggle for justice is always a constant and present effort, even when the greatest battles have been won.-LD


     1 See Sanborn, Life and Letters of John Brown, pp40-41.
     2 "John Brown's Brother," Chicago Tribune, 17 Sept. 1872, p. 2.
     3 Weekly Sentinel [Raleigh, N.C.], 24 Sept. 1872, p. 3.
     4 "The Good Cause Goes On," Olathe Mirror [Olathe, Kan.], 26 Sept. 1872, p. 2.
     5 The Wilson to which he refers is Henry Wilson, the antislavery senator from Massachusetts who ran as the vice-presidential candidate with Grant in 1872.
     6 "John Brown's Family," New York Times, 23 Sept. 1872.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Morrow Lowry Visits John Brown in Jail, November 1859

Morrow Barr Lowry was born on March 6, 1813 in New York State but was a life-long political and community figure in Pennsylvania, particularly in the northwestern part of the state.  During and after the Civil War years, Mowry served as an eminent state senator and as a judge in Erie County.  In his youth, Lowry's family lived in Crawford County, Pa., around the time that John Brown and his family resided in the same section (1826-35).  Brown seems to have taken up for the Lowry family and other Pennsylvania settlers in a dispute over land claims with a large company based in Philadelphia early in his time in Crawford County.  This may be one reason that Lowry was kindly disposed toward Brown, although generally the latter had many friends and admirers based simply on his high conduct and reputation during and after his Pennsylvania residence.  It should be remembered too that Brown's second wife, Mary Ann Day was from the same area, so the bonds of community between the Browns and friends in northwestern Pennsylvania were deep-rooted.  When Morrow thus heard of Brown's actions at Harper's Ferry and his capture and sentencing in Virginia in 1859, it is no wonder that he was greatly concerned.

The article transcriptions that follow pertain to Lowry's visit to John Brown in Charlestown jail on November 19, 1859 and the episodes that came after that, some of which stretched into the Civil War years.  Lowry remained a strong voice for John Brown's legacy, and although he was heavily criticized for his high view of the abolitionist, he never recanted.

I.  Lowry Tells of His Visit to Brown

Upon his return to Pennsylvania from Virginia, Lowry composed a lengthy account of his visit for The Erie True American, a Republican newspaper.  Lowry personally shared a proof-sheet copy of his article with the editor of the Crawford Journal in Meadville, where Brown had many friends and associates.  The latter reproduced the article in its November 29th edition, the editor explaining his haste in publishing it since Brown was scheduled for execution the following Friday, December 2.  "As next Friday is fixed for the execution of the old man, and there seems to be no reasonable hope for him," the editor explained, "everything connected with this noble-hearted but infatuated individual is invested with thrilling interest.  We therefore give the letter, although received at a late hour, to the exclusion of other but less important matter.  It will be seen that [Brown] still retains a warm attachment and recollection of his old friends in Crawford county."

This is a lengthy piece but it will interest the reader to have it in its entirety.  As Morrow himself recognized, some of his details are erroneous.  I have made brief notes to correct them where possible.

To the Old Friends of John Brown.
 Soon after the Harper’s Ferry Invasion, it was rumored among us that its leader, John Brown, was the same Mr. Brown who some twenty-five years ago resided in Crawford Co., Penna.  I soon became persuaded that the rumor was correct, and that instead of the stranger I had supposed, he was an old and respected friend.  As soon as I was convinced of this, I felt that it was due to the old man and to my old friendship for him to visit him in his prison, and bear to him the salutations of his old neighbors in North Western Pennsylvania.  I have just returned--having seen the misguided but honest old man and brought a message from him.  It is this--given to me as the door was closing between us—“Say to them without, I am cheerful.” 
With my promise thus fulfilled to Mr. Brown, I might stop, but as many are enquiring of me the circumstances of my visit; as it was itself, so full of unusual incident, and as everything in connection with what will go down to posterity as one of the most marked events in our country's history, is of interest to all intelligent people, I will narrate as accurately as possible what I saw in the old Commonwealth of Virginia. 
I obtained, before leaving, a letter from the Adjutant General of our State, and was well armed in addition with letters to Gov. Wise, Senator Mason, Andrew Hunter, Col. Washington and others, from friends in Philadelphia and Baltimore.  I was informed for the first time when I reached Philadelphia, that all northerners who had been identified as friends of Brown had been warned from the State and that the country about Charlestown was under martial law, and I was strongly warned not to venture any further on my journey.  On Friday evening last, when I reached Baltimore, the excitement was at fever heat.  I was warned not to go into Virginia that evening nor the next day, and I waited until Monday.  I was shown a private letter from Gov. Wise, by a gentleman in high position in Baltimore which satisfied me that the functionary was not altogether animated by ambitious motives in getting up the parade of troops and display of chivalry on the border of his State, but was really terrified, and with the whole population was fully persuaded that the North were advancing in large armies to rescue the prisoners and lay waste the land. 
Morrow B. Lowry
On Monday morning, I took the cars for Harper’s Ferry, and at the junction with the Washington road, I met large numbers of troops on their way to the prison of John Brown.  On enquiring for the Governor, I was told he was at Charlestown and on exhibiting my letter, I was promised protection, which I soon found meant that I should be well watched at the same time.  I was invited to go with the troops up to the Ferry, which I very gladly acceded to, as I considered myself less liable to insult from the troops than from unorganized militia who came rushing in from all quarters.  These Richmond companies were a fine looking body of men, and appeared very differently from the Yeomanry at Charlestown. 
By the time the train reached Harper’s Ferry, a number of gentlemen with whom I had conversed were satisfied that I was not an “Abolitionist spy” of which class they seem to have a decided horror.  From that place to Charlestown I was carried at the expense of the State of Virginia, no one in the cars being in citizen’s dress, but myself.  I was carefully watched and guarded on this part of my trip and for a time was at a loss to know why, but in a few minutes was told by a gentleman who, I believe is an Officer of the regiment, that they were satisfied that I was a clergyman of the Beecher School, and my letters might be forgeries, and if they were found to be so, I should swing on the same rope with Brown.  His fears were finally dispelled, however, by the sight of my unclerical [sic] vest and shirt boosom [sic], and by my assuring him that the faithful guardian of the Girard bequest in my own State had once fallen into the same error, only to be soon convinced of his mistake.  
On reaching Charlestown I resolved to keep near my new made friends, but in the swaying of the crowd lost sight of them, and as the Governor was standing at such a distance that it was impossible to reach him, and the crowd around me began to look with unpleasant glances on me as a stranger with a white cravat and in citizen’s dress, I stepped out and addressed a gentleman whom I had heard called Col. Davis,1 told him my name, and my desire to see the Governor.  He treated me very politely and kindly, and after another ineffectual effort to reach the Governor, consented to take me to the jail himself.  Other men entered the cell of Brown with me.  And here I will state a singular tribute to the noble presence and decided character of this unfortunate man, these Virginians when in the cells of the other prisoners cracked their jokes freely and carelessly, before him stood silent, as in the presence of some superior being. 
Mr. Brown did not, at first, recognize me, but on giving my name, greeted me cordially and gratefully.  He said there were many whom he had hoped to see, whom he had not seen, but he had not expected to see any of his old Crawford Co friends.  He alluded to Crawford as being very dear to him; as its soil was hallowed as the resting-place of his former wife and two beloved children, and the sight of anyone from that region was most cheering.  I cannot pretend to give his language--it was the natural expression of a deep and impassioned nature, and as eloquent as words could be uttered. 
“Say to them without, I am cheerful.” 
I remarked to Mr. Brown that there had been a different version given to his Kansas exploits by the Herald of Freedom from that which his friends gave and ventured the opinion that his reputation demanded an explanation.  He replied that he understood my allusion, but that I was mistaken in supposing that it needed any refutation from him.  “Time and the honest verdict of posterity,” said he, “will approve of every act of mine to prevent Slavery from being established in Kansas.  I never shed the blood of a fellow man except in self-defence [sic] or the promotion of a righteous cause.”  He spoke in indignant terms of the editor of the Herald of Freedom, characterizing him as “selfish, unjust, revengeful, mercenary, untruthful and corrupt.”  I remarked that I regretted to hear him speak of G. W. Brown in such terms, as he was an old acquaintance of mine and had been trusted and respected.2  His answer was: “Mr. Lowry you are mistaken if you suppose that anything that George Washington Brown could say can tarnish the character of John Brown.”  During our conversation, the martial music (where Gov. Wise was reviewing his army near the prison,) made a great noise, and thinking it must annoy him I asked him if it did not?  “No,” said the old man, “it is inspiring!”
And here, as I parted with him, telling him I would see him again if possible, he repeated to me: “Tell those without that I am cheerful.”  My time was up and I was invited to leave.  I went to a hotel, where, with great difficulty, I obtained some refreshment.  Seeing that I was the object of many little attentions, I did not relish, I asked the landlord to accompany me to the house of a Mr. Brown, to whom I had letters.  He introduced me to a gentleman through whose assistance I found the son of Mr. Brown on guard at the Court House, and through him I was introduced to Mr. Geo. B. Monroe, where I obtained quarters for the night, after having with some difficulty, quieted the fears of his good wife, who declared that “no abolitionist” should sleep in her home.  When satisfied, however, that I was really quite harmless, she received and entertained me with true hospitality.  I was told that I must not be alarmed if I was arrested during the night, as I might be, for I would be perfectly safe in the hands of the soldiers, while I might not be alone in the crowd. 
I wished much to see Brown again and expressed a wish to stay in his cell all night, but they assured me that if my wish, even, was known, I might not be safe--and in accordance with the advice of these friends, I left in the morning train for Harper’s Ferry.  On the train I met Gov. Wise.  In a previous conversation with me the evening before, he had asked me whether John Brown was considered an insane man when he resided in Pennsylvania.  I said that he was thought to be sane and honest.  In the cars I asked the Gov. if he would commute the sentence of Mr. Brown.  He said: “I dare commute the sentence of Brown--and the citizens of Virginia would acquiesce, but I will not do it.” “Why,” said he, “John Brown never asked to be pardoned.”  And I doubt whether he would ask it--if he knew the asking would obtain it.  He said that he would rather pardon Brown than pardon Cook, and he would pardon neither.  I asked the Gov. if Brown’s friends could have his body after his death.  He answered: “The Surgeons will claim his body.”  I said to the Governor that in my opinion Brown was a monomaniac and as crazy, on the subject of slavery as Gerrit Smith.  He said “men of that kind of insanity ought to be hung.” 
A very intelligent Virginia gentleman, a Mr. Brown, asked me “what I wished to do with Brown’s body.”  I told him it would belong to his wife--but if his friends would not claim it, I would, if they gave it to me, and bury it in my own burying ground.  He remarked that it would be used for a different purpose if the north should get it; that Massachusetts would take the head, and other northern States other parts of the body, and each would erect over its portion a monument higher than Bunker Hill. 
I would say that I saw all the other prisoners except Stevens who was in Brown’s cell, but I was so much occupied with Brown that I did not even observe him.  Cook is quite young and prepossessing in his appearance. 
Mr. Brown is a member of the old school Presbyterian church3 and a decidedly religious man, though he strictly and sternly refuses to be aided in his prayers and sternly refuses to be aided in his prayers by the pro-slavery divines of Virginia.  One of these gentlemen in conversation with me, said that he had called on Brown to pray with him.  He said Brown asked if he was ready to fight, if necessity required it, for the freedom of the slave.  On his answering in the negative, Brown said that he would thank him to retire from his cell, that his prayers would be an abomination to his God.  To another clergyman he said that he would not insult his God by bowing down with any one who had the blood of the slave upon his skirts. 
I omitted above to say that Gov. Wise told me there was one condition on which he would surrender Gen. Brown--which was that I should deliver up to him General Sympathy for execution in his stead.  The Governor and the citizens are evidently more afraid of the latter than of the former. 
I also asked Gov. Wise why the wife of John Brown, who came all the way from her Northern home as far as Baltimore, returned, nevertheless, without seeing her husband.  He replied that in this Brown acted heroically, sending a message to her to implore her not to come.  There are traits in Brown’s character that wring the admiration from the heart of the Governor, even in spite of himself.  Yet Virginia will have the blood of its victims, for public opinion there demands the luxury, expensive though it be. 
My memory as to names and dates is not retentive.  With this caution to Brown’s historian, I give the age of Mr. Brown as between fifty-nine and sixty, or as he said, “if I live until the __ day of May next, which is not at all likely, I will be sixty years of age.”  He married for his first wife the daughter of Christopher Clow, (I think) who has friends yet living in Sewickly, Beaver county, Pa.,4 and the maiden name of his present wife, whom he married in Crawford county, was Day.  He came to Pennsylvania early in 1829 and left in the fall of 1835.5  At that time he carried on the business of a country tanner, and much of his life since has been spent as a Surveyor.  In my haste at the time of my interview with Mr. Brown, I took no memorandum, and [in] that flurry of a rapid journey, may have made some mistakes as to names and dates. 
This is a plain statement of the circumstances connected with my visit to this mistaken and deluded but sincere and noble old man.  His effort in a military point of view seems at first sight a weak and foolish one.  But while Mr. Brown did not at all underrate the bravery of Virginia [i]n a fair, open field, he understood very well how strong a few men may become in a strong position--and one can easily believe on looking at the character of the ground about Harper’s Ferry, that a body of a few thousand men, as Brown expected would be there, could make a serious inroad into the integrity of the body politic of Virginia.  And the present panic among these Virginians demonstrated the correctness of Brown’s estimate of them when he thought that a small body of slaves with those unearthly weapons in their hands, could rush down from the mountains, victors over a panic-stricken Commonwealth. 
M. B. Lowry
Erie, Pa., Nov. 25, 1859

II.  A Rejoinder by Gov. Henry Wise

Evidently, Lowry's article was sent to Wise later in December after Brown's execution, apparently by the editor of the Democratic paper in Erie, The Observer.   To the editor of this paper, Wise wrote the following, published on December 25, 1859:

Gov. Henry A. Wise
That the printed statement of M.B. Lowry which you send me is incorrect--When at Charlesto[w]n, the 20th Nov. last, I retired late in the evening to the house of a friend (Mr. Hawkes) where I saw this person, Mr. M. B. Lowry, who presented a letter purporting to be addressed to me by the Ajutant General of Pennsylvania.  The professed purpose of Mr. Lowry was to visit John Brown, to identify him as he said: "to see whether he was the same John Brown whom he had known, at some time, in Pennsylvania."  I understood, indeed, then or afterwards, that his object was to decide a wager as to the identity of Brown.  Supposing when presented to him that he had not visited Brown I tendered to him my permission to see him, but he informed me that he had already been allowed to see him and that he had identified him as the person whom he knew in Pennsylvania.  I saw him but a few minutes that evening, and supposed him to be a clergyman.  
The next morning (of Tuesday, I think) I went to Harper's Ferry, and he was in the cars.  He stood up near me and in the noise of the train, down to the Ferry from Charlestown (only 8 or 9 miles) obtruded several inquiries which roused my suspicions of his motives, and I, therefore answered him very curtly, but not in either the sense or spirit which he pretends to describe.  I can't attempt to give the words, for my purpose at the time was rather to rebuke his inquiries by a slighting repulse.  He had, perhaps, just foundation enough to make his statement "colorable."  For example, he says, "on the train I met Gov. Wise, &c."  This would seem to imply that he had not met me before yet he says, "In a previous conversation with me the evening before, &c.," without having stated that he had seen me the evening before or that he had been at Mr. Hawkes' house at all.  
Again: what he says I said about the Surgeons' claiming the body of Brown is already contradicted by the orders which I gave to protect Mrs Brown and to hand over the body to her under a military guard.  When I got to Harper's Ferry I learned from the superintendent of the arsenal there, that Mr. Lowry was anything else but a clergyman.  To me, certainly, he professed to be a conservative and anything else but a sympathizer with Brown and his associates.6  But what he really is, is now very apparent, and I can only add in brief that in its general scope his statement is obviously mischievous in meaning and untrue as to the facts pertaining to me.  
Yours Respectfully, Henry A. Wise

III.  Lowry Looking Back: The Impact of His Last Visit with John Brown

Writing in 1863, Morrow Lowry recalled that his sudden conversion to abolitionism was  owed to Governor Wise.  He stated that while he was visiting John Brown in jail, Wise had made a speech "on the outside" in which he said that if Fremont were president, "they would have marched into the capital; they would have hung the Black Republicans, and have controlled the Government."  Since the commencement of the rebellion, Lowry continued, he had been in earnest in the case he had undertaken.  He added that during the previous eighty years "this Government has had the reputation of being a Republican one, and has told the oppressed of every land that, in this country, there was a refuge for all the oppressed and down-trodden.  For the last eighty years we have been a nation of hypocrites."

Lowry attributed the failure of the Union to win the war to the fact that up to that point, the nation was still not primarily focused on slavery.  "The sooner we declare to the world that this war is for freedom the sooner will we reach the hearts of the people everywhere.  Gentlemen in the North who desire to perpetuate slavery will remember that it is already doomed, and that it is our duty to favor the going to the war of colored men.  . . .  This war is for the African and his race."7


       1 Col. Lucius Davis was appointed by Gov. Henry Wise to oversee the state troops stationed in Charlestown during Brown's last days.  Davis was a peculiar sight, with long whiskers braided and tied on the top of his head.  He was increasingly stressed and embarrassed in his leadership as rumors of abolitionist invasions increased to the point of distraction.  Eventually, he was replaced by another military officer and embarrassingly set aside.  The undercover reporter for the New York Tribune, Ned House, was quite successful in lampooning Davis and providing delightful details of his rise and fall in Charlestown. 

     2 George Washington [G.W.] Brown was another native of northwestern Pennsylvania and was known to both Lowry and John Brown.  G.W. Brown and John Brown were not relatives.  G.W. Brown relocated to the Kansas Territory and was greatly disliked by many free state settlers for his duplicity and willingness to collaborate with the proslavery faction.  According to one source, G.W. Brown published two different versions of his paper, The Herald of Freedom, in order to play both sides of the slavery controversy in Kansas territory.  He was infamously mercenary and malign in his character and he took a special interest in slandering John Brown during and after his death in expose-fashion.  John Brown was always careful with his words and rarely spoke in any direct fashion to condemn any man, so his reported words about G.W. Brown here should be taken as quite an extreme condemnation.

     3  Lowry is incorrect here.  Brown was a Calvinist and was schooled on the Westminister Catechism of the Reformed Presbyterians, but he was throughout his life a Congregationalist.

        4   Lowry is incorrect here.  Brown's first wife was Dianthe Lusk of Hudson, Ohio.  The Clow family knew the Browns and one of the Clow men married an adopted daughter of Jeremiah R. Brown of Hudson, Ohio, a half-brother of John Brown.  My knowledge of the Clow connection with the Brown is slight and I would refer the interested reader to the Hudson Library and Historical Society to pursue this further.

          5 Lowry is mistaken. John Brown moved to Crawford County in 1826 and returned to Ohio in 1835.

      6 There is no reason to believe that Wise was misrepresenting matters regarding Lowry's presentation at Charlestown.  A number of Brown's associates made efforts to reach Brown in jail and were unsuccessful or turned away.  Lowry had a letter but it is no surprise that he was savvy enough to alternatively pretend to be a conservative Pennsylvanian (i.e., that he was not opposed to slavery), a clergyman, and someone operating according to a wager over Brown's identity.  Whatever tales he told were intended to get him into John Brown's jail cell and he was quite successful.  However, it may be true that Lowry was not yet a convinced antislavery man when he went to see Brown.  See Part III above.

           7 Source: "Another Blast from Mr. Lowry's Bugle," Erie Observer, 27 June 1863, p. 3.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rich Smyth's Where Are They Now? BEGINNINGS

Owen Brown, father
of John Brown
It seems as if John Brown was born fighting the evils of slavery. His father, Owen, believed that slavery was sinful. Owen worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad and withdrew his support from Western Reserve College in Ohio because it refused to admit blacks. Owen once wrote, “Ever since, I have been an Abolitionist; I am so near the end of my life I think I shall die an Abolitionist.”1 

The son, inheriting his father’s traits was color blind, not physically but deep in his soul. He truly believed that all men were created equal, as directed by a higher authority than the United States Constitution which was less than truthful on the subject. That document, formulated by the countries founding fathers, many of which were slave owners, projected slaves as property with no rights whatsoever and as human beings…less than whole.2 

"I Consecrate My Life": Brown made
this daguerreotype image a decade
after making his Hudson vow
The issue of slavery began tearing at the fabric of the country from its humble beginnings. On November 7, 1837, a pro-slavery mob stormed a warehouse containing the printing press of Abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy. Confronting the armed crowd, Lovejoy was hit five times with slugs fired from a shotgun. The printing press was tossed out the window, then broken up and the pieces thrown in the Mississippi River. Abolitionists deplored the murder and called for action.3  

Laurens P. Hickok, a professor of theology at Western Reserve College spoke about the murder at the Hudson, Ohio’s Congregational Church stating, “The crisis has come.” John Brown quietly sitting in the church rose and raising his right hand pledged, “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.”4  Like Father, like son. 

Elijah Lovejoy
His realization early on that the “peculiar institution” could not be ended peacefully with words, shaped his life. Brown would spend his whole adult life fighting slavery, first in Kansas where he fought pro-slavery forces Then in Missouri where he rescued slaves from their masters by gunpoint, escorting them north to freedom. And finally…the reckoning in Virginia.


Elijah Parish Lovejoy died on November 7, 1837 and is buried in Alton Cemetery in Alton, Illinois. The stone in front of his grave marker reads…”whose death at the hands of an angry mob…made him an enduring symbol of the fight for human liberty and freedom of the press.”5 
Lovejoy's resting place,
Alton Cemetery, Alton, Ill.
(courtesy Connie Nisinger)
Initially on November 9, 1837, Lovejoy was buried in an unmarked grave in the Alton City Cemetery. William “Scotch” Johnson, a Black man who assisted in the burial would be instrumental in locating the grave years later for reburial of the remains.  Decades had passed when his body was exhumed and reinterred in its present site in the Alton Cemetery, with the monument being dedicated on November 7, 1897, exactly sixty years after his murder.
Lovejoy's resting place, Alton, Ill.
(courtesy Connie Nisinger)
In 1835, Elijah married Celia Ann French, and they had two children; Edward Payton (1836-1891) and Ella F. Lovejoy Burrill (1854-1937). On March 19, 1835, Elijah wrote his mother describing Celia as “tall, well shaped, of a light, fair complexion, dark flaxen hair, large blue eyes, with features of a perfect Grecian contour. In short …very beautiful…pious…intelligent, refined…of agreeable manners…sweet-tempered, obliging, kind-hearted, industrious, good-humored, and possessed alike of a sound judgment and correct taste (and)…she loves me…”Celia died on July 11th 1870 in Weaverville, California. There is a cenotaph for her in Alton Cemetery. The exact location of her burial is not known. Alton cemetery is located at 600 Pearl Street, Alton, Illinois.


Hickok's resting place, Center 
Cemetery, Bethel, Conn. 
(Courtesy Gary Boughton

Find A Grave Contributor 

Laurens Perseus Hickok was the pastor that informed the congregation, including John Brown, of Lovejoy’s murder. Laurens was married to Elizabeth H. Taylor Hickcok (1805-1895). In 1866, he became president of Union College. Two years later he retired to Amherst, Massachusetts where he continued to study and write. A collection of his works was published in Boston in 1875. Hickok died on May 6, 1888 and was buried in Center Cemetery, Bethel, Connecticut.6  Elizabeth died on January 13, 1895 and was buried with her husband. Center Cemetery is located on South Street in Bethel, Connecticut.

Dr. Thomas Mordecai Hope (August 8th 1813 - October 15th 1885) claimed he was the one that murdered Elijah Lovejoy. In 1835, he married Elizabeth Pope, daughter of U.S. District Judge, Nathaniel Pope. In 1842 he was appointed U.S District Marshall. He ran for Governor of Illinois but was defeated. He was seventy-two-years-old when he died in Alton, Illinois. He is buried in Alton Cemetery (the same cemetery as Lovejoy), Alton, Illinois, block OY lot 296.

--Rich Smyth


      1 Quoted from Owen Brown’s 1850 autobiographical sketch in F. B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown (1885; reprinted New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), 11.

      2 The Three-Fifths Compromise, is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, which reads:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
      3 “Elijah Parish Lovejoy Was Killed by a Pro-slavery Mob," The Saint Louis Observer, The Library of Congress; John Brown’s father, Owen opened a tannery in Hudson, Ohio. His apprentice was Jesse R. Grant, father of future general and U.S. President, Ulysses S. Grant.

      4 John Brown’s quote from David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist (New York: Knopf, 2005), 65; The following quotation is taken from Edward Brown, “Pioneer Days of the Western Reserve," Northwestern Congregationalist [Minneapolis] (Oct. 21, 1892)
Among the earliest of the pioneers at Hudson, O., was Owen Brown, my father's brother, in after years a trustee, of Oberlin College. His eldest son, John, a very bright and energetic young man, making a religious profession at sixteen years of age, was desirous of studying for the ministry, incited thereto chiefly by that ardent founder of the American Board, Samuel J. Mills, a kinsman. Unable to furnish him money, his father gave him two horses, which he took, riding one and leading the other, to Connecticut and sold. Then he went to Plainfleld, Mass., where, at an academy and under the private instruction of one Moses Hallock, he was fitted to enter the junior class of Yale College, which he was prevented from doing by a chronic disease of the eyes. . . . With his father he was among the earliest of Abolitionists. He had been a surveyor in the mountains near Harper's Ferry, Virginia and had often remarked that, with a good leader, the slaves, escaping to those fastnesses and fortifying themselves, could compel emancipation.
      5 "Shooter Arrested," The Utica Morning Herald [N.Y.], Sept. 22, 1862. "Dr. Thomas Mordecai Hope, of Alton, Illinois, who boasts that he was the man who shot the anti-slavery martyr, Lovejoy, was arrested a few weeks since for using treasonable language."

      6 Ancestry.com gives the date of Hickok's death as May 7, 1888.