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Friday, January 22, 2021

John Brown's Bankruptcy Bookshelf

     As a biographer of John Brown, I have found that often the portrayal of his business life by writers  is simplistic, and over the years likewise it has been used to set him up as a kind of ne’er-do-well whose entry into antislavery zealotry was something of an attempt to redeem himself from a failed life. Even one of Brown’s better biographers in the twentieth century, Stephen Oates, tended toward caricature when he wrote: “He was lonely and restless, and when he left the agency in the evening, after a maddening day with his disorderly accounts, he changed roles from a much-maligned businessman to a lone crusading abolitionist.”1  Perhaps the worst example of this is found in the writing of the late Chester G. Hearn, whose treatment of Brown is malign, and fraught with the author’s malicious liberties and misinterpretations that regretfully approximate the work of a scoundrel. In the introduction of his anti-Brown screed, Hearn thus writes: “As Brown grew older, he became acutely aware of his failures, and thrusting them aside, he became a sleuth in search of his own destiny. He followed many trades without ever achieving a permanent measure of self-satisfaction or success.”2  This poisonous nonsense not only flattens the history of John Brown’s business life, but also suggests that the basis of his antislavery zeal was some sort of private quest to find redemption from what otherwise was a life of failure.  

Biographically speaking, ad hominem slurs and dramatic sensationalism aside, Brown did not have an easy time of it in the late 1830s and well into the first half of the following decade. However, he did recover and even enjoyed a measure of success and notoriety as a specialist in fine sheep and wool—frankly something that none of Brown’s biographers have adequately focused on, probably because most biographers are too much in a hurry to get to “Bleeding Kansas” than to spend time looking at businessman Brown’s story in context. Be that as it may, it remains true that this period of business failure was the nadir of his first fifty years, and so a sketch of this chapter of his life should be better understood.

Like many others in the western states in the mid-1830s, John Brown could not have apprehended the downturn that was about to overtake him.  In simple terms, what brought him down was a boom in land speculation, a reliance on credit, and a lack of financial backups, from business insurance to the limited liability corporation, instruments that are part of the modern businessman’s tool chest.  Brown had none of these and he was out of his element, since his professional specializations were in livestock and farming. In fairness to him, however, it was not sheer ambition that caused him to abandon his primary expertise as much as it was desperation.

Brown had returned from Pennsylvania to his native northeastern Ohio in 1836 on the basis of an offer made to him by the wealthy Zenas Kent, a prominent figure in Franklin Mills (present day Kent, Ohio). Kent knew of Brown’s solid reputation and solicited him to become a business partner in his proposed tannery operation.  Given the exciting canal developments in Ohio at the time, Brown quite reasonably saw greater chances for success back in his home state.  However the partnership was rescinded  before it had even begun, when Kent decided to rent out the facility to his own son instead.3     

As a family man finding himself suddenly without work, Brown threw himself eagerly into land speculation and construction in Franklin Mills, primarily intent upon canal-related projects.  Public transportation contracts were booming in Ohio and the west at this time, and private stock companies were formed to undertake these new ventures with state funds. For instance, a major project at this time was the linking of the Pennsylvania and Ohio canal systems, and it is understandable why Brown began to talk up the possibilities of investing in related projects to his family and associates in Ohio.  A number of sources suggest that he took some kind of construction contract on the Pennsylvania and Ohio canal system and that he was also looking to invest in projects funded by independent banks, such as an extension of the canal from Akron to Franklin Mills.  Having borrowed a large sum of money, then, Brown also purchased a sizeable farm that he intended to parcel out for sale, as he had done with his own property before leaving Pennsylvania.  He also bought land and erected office buildings in Franklin Mills that would turn a fine profit once the canal was operative.4

Initially, Brown looked successful, but by 1838 he wrote to a Meadville associate that he had “made money rather too quickly” in the previous three years.  Indeed, his wealth was essentially based on bank notes and credit, and with the Panic of 1837 (which Brown called “the change in the times”), his efforts were considerably stunted.  Still, he pressed on, further and further into credit debt, anticipating a breakthrough in the economy and a harvest of wealth with the completion of his canal and construction projects.  Ever the optimist, he wrote in mid-1838: “We in this country feel now in hope that another year will effectually relieve us,” he wrote in mid-1838.5

Unfortunately, the financial situation only worsened, not just for John Brown but for many others caught up in the boom.  As monies for projects dried up, other business ventures likewise followed, and shortly Brown was left with debt and lawsuits for unpaid notes, wages, and money due on accounts.  At one point, he was the defendant, either by himself or with partners, in twenty-one different lawsuits. Meanwhile, he was  looking and hoping for alternatives, such as the purchase of a mill.  Throughout 1838, Brown went east to scour his native Connecticut for loans, since the eastern states recovered before the western states like Ohio. By the summer of 1839, however, things had only gotten worse. New England proved a disappointment, and he returned home empty-handed, with fading hope of obtaining money from eastern banks.  “The prospect is rather dark however,” he wrote to a close associate.  “I have made every exertion in my power to extricate ourselves from the difficulty we are in but have not yet been able to effect it.” Things were getting bad and he felt “rather more depressed than usual.”6 

At this point, Brown’s story descends quickly.  In 1839,  beside overdue tax and business expenses, he had ten children to feed and clothe, including three adolescents and seven other children between newborn and ten years of age.  He was desperate. In what proved to be an unhappy coincidence, it was at this time that Brown secured a role as purchasing agent for a New England firm, which entrusted him with a sizeable purse for the purchase of western cattle. Tempted in his own desperate mind, however, Brown convinced himself that he could use the firm’s money in order to pay pressing debts and taxes, and then promptly replace the money from a loan that he confidently expected from a bank in Boston.  As if finding himself within a morale tale, when the loan was refused, John Brown found himself in hot water.

Now, I would argue that this episode—and not his later role in the Pottawatomie killings—was John Brown’s moral nadir in biographical terms. In appropriating his client’s money, he deliberately committed an unethical act, both breaking the law and violating his own keen sense of right and wrong.  Whatever one may feel about his resort to violence in the Pottawatomie crisis of 1856, Brown’s ethical stance in that case actually is far more defensible than is this bloodless crime of desperation.  Certainly, had he ended up in jail and his otherwise upright reputation soiled, Brown would have deserved it.  Fortunately for him, when he owned up to his foolish manipulation, he was treated with leniency by his client, although he was not able to survive a host of lawsuits and never was able to fully repay the client, as much he tried to do so, and as much as it weighed upon him (Brown even directed some money to be sent to the client just before his hanging in Virginia in 1859).  

Besides the complexity—perhaps even the impossibility—of untangling John Brown’s many business issues from nearly two centuries ago, what makes this chapter of his life even more difficult is the fact that he continued to pursue any opportunity that might turn his condition around, from selling cattle sales to breeding race horses and silk worms. Overall, as I have argued, although Brown merits some responsibility for his business misfortunes in this period, historians typically have focused on his troubled story without considering the circumstances of which he was a part, and which certainly troubled many other of Brown’s contemporaries. Besides failing to consider that he was among many others facing the same difficulties, and that he did not have the safety nets that modern business people enjoy, historians likewise have failed to recognize that he was caught between a financial panic 1837 and an aftershock that took place in 1839, the latter actually proving to be the context for John Brown’s financial undoing. Even his most notable biographers have missed the Crisis of 1839, as did Stephen Oates, who simplistically wrote that the Panic of 1837 “shook the national economy,” concluding that Brown “should have expected the worst” in the 1830s because President Andrew Jackson had refused to renew the Bank of the United States, leaving the national economy “extremely unstable.”  Lacking a fuller explanation of the downturns of the 1830s, however, Oates imputed greater blame to Brown than he deserves in retrospect.7

In fact, the Panic of 1837 and the Crisis of 1839 were two very different downturns in Brown’s world, and there was no way for Brown to have anticipated.  The Panic occurred as a result of domestic and foreign influences, and was largely felt in the eastern states, but especially in New York City and New Orleans, the major ports for the international cotton trade.  While the Panic was felt throughout the nation, a decline in specie, loans and discounts, and deposits was much worse in the east than in the south and west. In nearly every aspect, it was more severe for northeastern banks than for western banks in 1837.  Yet the Panic was quickly remedied by federal measures, and the economy made a comeback after 1837, which explains why Brown and many others continued to push their luck out in Ohio.  Oates fails to realize that most people could not have foreseen a serious downturn on the horizon, which is why borrowing continued in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. As a result, the land boom was further bolstered by canal and railroad construction after 1837, which in turn engendered greater public confidence.  But things took a shocking turn for the worst in 1839, and this was the real basis of John Brown’s undoing. 

After dealing extensively in bonds, after 1837, many banks in Ohio and other western states began to find it difficult to redeem them because of the tightening of the market. As a result, they increasingly began to deal in credit, an economic pattern that filtered down into the business economy.  John Brown’s own state of Ohio especially had borrowed heavily and now found itself with enormous debt.  Unable to meet their obligations, banks in Ohio and other western states thus overreached and defaulted, resulting in a sharp decline in the money supply, and a loss of confidence in the banks.  Without depositor confidence, western banks began to collapse while banks in the northeast were in a state of improvement. Under these circumstances, Ohio and other western states experienced heavy losses in specie holdings, loans and discounts, and deposits. Indeed, between January 1839 and January 1841, the national money supply had declined by 22-percent, and the brunt of this loss was felt in western and southern states.8  Contrary to the simplistic narrative, where John Brown was an incompetent, talentless businessman, it is clear that these national economic factors were largely responsible for bringing about his and other people’s ruin in the late 1830s.  While he thrashed about for a few more years, ever hoping to find a way out, Brown finally was forced to surrender.  As he described it later, this was a time of “poverty, trials, discredit, & sore afflictions.”  Years later he wrote to his wife Mary, saluting her faithfulness in the shadowed days “when others said of me, ‘now that he lieth, he shall rise up no more.’”9     

As it happened, the United States had recently passed a new Bankruptcy Act on August 19, 1841, and it was under this new act that the disappointed John Brown submitted a petition for bankruptcy on May 11, 1842, two days after his forty-second birthday.  That month, a small notice appeared in the Akron Beacon declaring John Brown, “Tanner and Currier,” and a grocer named Meacham as having made petitions for a court hearing of bankruptcy the following month. As if to pour salt in the wound, the county commissioner published notice a week later that he was prepared to consider Brown’s claims, and that summer, and in October, he was listed under a short notice entitled “Bankrupts” with eighteen other unfortunate fellow citizens. By this time, however, Brown had already received an assignee from the court named George B. De Peyster, charged with taking a fine-tooth comb to every detail of property in the Brown household. De Peyster gave public notice in the summer that he was handling Brown’s bankruptcy case, and by late September, he had prepared a signed inventory.  Even centuries later, the document is pitiful  because De Peyster’s schedule sets forth the things that the Browns personally owned, and included things that De Peyster permitted them to keep, from household furniture and home furnishings to foods and tools. De Peyster’s schedule still exists and is held in the Boyd B. Stutler Collection in the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

    Of particular interest to me in this episode are the books De Peyster listed on the bottom of the first page, for they provide a particular insight into Brown’s life and interests at this period. I should add that among these household items on another page De Peyster mentions that there were “about 36 volumes of school & miscellaneous books” in the household, so the books under consideration were the only ones he considered of value.  Doubtless the “school & miscellaneous books” represent the texts that Brown used for the education of his children (and other people’s children, as was the case during his Pennsylvania years), although De Peyster provided no title information. Fortunately, he did list several other volumes, and evidently did so because they had greater value, and evidently because they were John Brown’s own books. 

In listing these more valuable volumes on Brown’s bookshelf,  De Peyster offered scant information as to titles although assigning dollar value to each. Fortunately,  with a little help from Google books and other internet sources, I was able to identify almost all of them, thus gaining insight into the kinds of things that John Brown was reading in the late 1830s and early ‘40s, some of which are interestingly when keyed to his biography. 

    To no surprise, the first item listed  is “11 Bibles & testaments.” De Peyster valued these copies of the sacred text at $6.50, which according to one online inflation calculator is equivalent in today’s money about $200.  Of course, the testimony of the Brown children in later life is that on Sunday evenings, John Brown regularly passed out Bibles for a time of family worship and prayer, the family standing—not kneeling—in prayer, and Brown himself famously handling the chair (tipping it backward on its back legs) as he prayed. (As I recall, John Junior and his siblings only saw their father kneel in prayer once to make a sacred vow against slavery sometime between the late 1830s and early 1840s.) Certainly these Bibles were undoubtedly part of the family’s sacred regimen from week to week.

    The second item was “1 Vol Beauties of the Bible.” De Peyster valued this book at eighty-six cents, actually about $25 today. And no, this was not a book about the pretty women of the Bible (although that probably would make an interesting book). Rather, the “beauties” refers to notable selections of biblical text. In typical style for that era, the subtitle goes on and on: A Selection from the Old and New Testaments with Various Remarks and Brief Dissertations Designed for the Use of Christians in General, and Particularly for the Use of Schools, and for the Improvement of Youth. Interestingly, the editor and commentator of this book was Ezra Sampson of Hudson, New York. According to the old Appleton’s encyclopedia, Sampson (1749-1828) was a Massachusetts clergyman, writer, and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, afterward a chaplain at Roxbury, Mass. Sampson later co-founded a publication called the Balance, then served as editor of the Connecticut Courant [Hartford, Conn.], served as a county judge, and also wrote a number of theological and historical works, including Beauties of the Bible, first published in 1802. Given its publication date, it is likely that John Brown was first introduced to this work as a teenager, and possibly was given this book as a gift after his church membership was made official on March 31, 1816, when he was barely sixteen-years-old. Interestingly, in the preface, Sampson begins with the lamentation that at one time, the Bible was the only textbook used in public schools, but subsequently other books had been introduced along with the Bible as textbooks. Sampson writes that it should humble Christians to realize that “while we have neglected to make the knowledge of the bible any part of the school education of our children, the Mahometans [sic] have been teaching their children the Alcoran [sic] with most diligent care. Will not Mahometans rise up in judgment against us and condemn us?” (p. iii)

The next item is not religious, but rather “Flints Surveying.” De Peyster valued this work at eighty-seven cents, again, about $25 today. John Brown buffs will recall that later in life, he was an active and experienced surveyor, and that he surveyed lands in western Virginia in 1840 on behalf of the Oberlin Institute, and that likewise he surveyed property in the Kansas territory for his sons.  Interestingly, Brown quite intentionally went to the aid of local Indians (presumably the Sac and Fox Nation) by surveying their lands in order to restrict the intrusions of proslavery interlopers in the territory. In one or two cases, when surveying did not convince these Southern intruders, the Brown boys escorted them forcefully off Sac and Fox Nation land at gunpoint.   Brown also quite intentionally Used his surveying abilities as a means of conducting surveillance on proslavery terrorists, which is how he and his sons confirmed that they were marked for death in 1856, and what motivated the Pottawatomie killings. Interestingly, John Brown aficionado, Boyd B. Stutler, prepared an article about the Old Man in The Empire State Surveyor (1969), the official professional publication of New York State surveyors. In that article, Stutler wrote that “John Brown did not have a formal college training in surveying. He did have a propensity for math and geometry. His training in surveying was self-taught from the text of a book known as “Flints Surveying,” written sometime before 1820.” In his own famous autobiographical letter written in 1857, Brown described this informal education, writing of himself in the third person: “He however managed by the help of books to make himself tolerably well acquainted with common Arithmetic; & Surveying: which he practiced more or less after he was Twenty years old.” The book that Brown primarily alludes to is Abel Flint’s 1806 publication, A Treatise on Geometry and Trigonometry with a Treatise on Surveying in which the Principles of Rectangular Surveying without Plotting are Explained. I have not located the 1806 version that Brown likely used, but an 1839 version is accessible through Google Books.

 Once more dependent upon the old Appleton’s encyclopedia, we learn that Abel Flint (1765-1825), was from Connecticut, a graduate of Yale University, and served as a tutor at Brown University until 1790. He studied theology and afterward became a minister (often young clergymen took their training as mentors of established ministers, rather than going to seminary), pastoring a Congregational church in Hartford, Conn. He edited the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine, helped compile a Congregational hymnal, and was one of the founders of the Connecticut Bible Society in 1809. In 1818, he received an honorary doctorate in divinity. Fortunately, this encyclopedic entry gives us the publishing date of his surveying work as 1806. 

The four book on John Brown’s shelf is listed by De Peyster as “Dicks Works,” which he valued at $2.00, about $60 in contemporary terms. Thomas Dick was a Scottish theologian and astronomer who sought to advance a Christian form of science in the face of rising secular science. In the pre-Darwinian era, Dick’s concerns were more broadly focused on how theology, which was still considered a science too, could be broadly applied to the "natural sciences," earth, space and social sciences. This may sound odd to us, particularly since we have been largely influenced by modern scientists who have philosophically demanded the absolute break between the secular and the sacred (some of whom have also presumed to make grandiose judgments about the sacred despite being limited to the more narrow notion of “science” that prevails today.) But Dick's approach is actually a logical outcome of the Protestant Reformation, particularly Calvinism, which presumed that the normative role of humanity as imago Dei, the image of God, was to explore and measure the creation. Since John Brown clearly inherited a Puritan’s curiosity for just about every study including science, it is no surprise that he would have had Dick’s writings on his home library shelf. There is an interesting vignette that relates to this theme, preserved in an 1879 article in The Atlantic Monthly, written by the journalist William Addison Phillips.  In this article, Phillips recalled meeting John Brown on three different occasions, but the first was in 1856, in Brown’s camp in Kansas in a wooded area where the Kaw and Wakarusa Rivers converged.  Phillips recalled:

The sun went down as we looked at it, and as I turned my eyes to his I saw he had drunk in the glorious beauty of the landscape.

"What a magnificent scene, captain!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," he said, in his slow, dry way; "a great country for a free State."

As the sun started to set, Phillips and Brown put their saddles down together, and lay down for the night, covered with a blanket under the broad night sky. “He seemed to be as little disposed to sleep as I was,” Phillips recalled, continuing

and we talked; or rather he did, for I said little more than enough to keep him going. I soon found that he was a very thorough astronomer and he enlightened me on a good many matters in the starry firmament above us. He pointed out the different constellations and their movements. “Now,” he said, “it is midnight,” and he pointed to the finger marks of his great clock in the sky.

Phillips continued:

In his ordinary moods the man seemed so rigid, stern, and unimpressible when I first knew him that I never thought a poetic and impulsive nature lay behind that cold exterior. The whispering of the wind on the prairie was full of voices to him, and the stars as they shone in the firmament of God seemed to inspire him. “How admirable is the symmetry of the heavens; how grand and beautiful. Everything moves in sublime harmony in the government of God. Not so with us poor creatures. If one star is more brilliant than others, it is continually shooting in some erratic way into space.”10

We do not know precisely what volume of “Dick’s Works” that De Peyster assessed on Brown's bookshelf, but it could easily have been Dick’s Celestial Scenery, or the Wonders of the Planetary System Displayed; Illustrating the Perfections of Deity, and a Plurality of Worlds (1837).  This work is essentially a Christian astronomer’s reading of his science. Interestingly, in this volume, Dick includes arguments for “plurality of worlds,” or other inhabited planets in the universe. More central to the work, however, is a theistic understanding of the cosmos as a divinely created and operated system, what in his preface Dick calls “the perfections and the empire of the Creator.” Demonstrating a certain knowledge of astronomy, Dick concludes that the “harmony and order” of heavenly bodies “evince [God’s] wisdom and intelligence” (p. 21), and amidst his astronomical speculations, concludes that the starry heavens “answer purposes in the Creator’s plan worthy of His perfections and of their magnitude and grandeur” (p. 27).

Another book on Brown’s shelf is identified by De Peyster the work of “Dr Rush.” Valued at $2.00 (again, about $60 today. In this case, the book is undoubtedly Essays, Literary, Moral, and Philosophical, published first in 1789 and again in 1806 by Benjamin Rush (1746-1813). Rush was a physician and one of the founding fathers of the United States, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, and a leading educator and humanitarian who opposed slavery. Although Rush was a Universalist, Brown undoubtedly appreciated him because of his anti-slavery views and his contributions to educational theory. Rush may have entertained peculiar biological views of “race,” but he believed blacks were equal with whites and opposed chattel slavery. Brown’s story resonates with two particular essays in Rush’s book: the first was an essay dating from 1786 in which Rush set forth a plan to establish public schools in Pennsylvania, and his defense of public schools as being consistent with a republican form of government. John Brown was always a defender of the public school system, but this essay may have been of special interest to Brown during his decade in northwestern Pennsylvania, where he acted as a kind of community father in his own right—particularly as one who planned for the schooling of his children and others in his vicinity. Not only was he an advocate of public school education, but apparently he had held a seat on something similar to a school board in the Meadville area, and likewise dreamed if not planned on starting a school for black youth in the same area. Another essay in this book that would likely have been quite meaningful to John Brown is Rush’s inclusion of an essay by Anthony Benezet (1713-84), a Huguenot abolitionist. Benezet’s essay is more than fascinating—a short story called “Paradise of Negro Slaves—A Dream.” In Benezet’s fictive dream, he finds himself intruding upon a peaceful colony of black people at worship, only to discover that he is in the afterlife with black people who had suffered and died in slavery.

    The sixth book that got De Peyster’s attention is listed as a “Church Members Guide,” valued at twenty-five cents, about $7 in today’s currency. The exact identification of this book is somewhat difficult to determine since there would have been a variety of such works available. Assuming that Brown would have preferred a volume reflecting his own church heritage, a likely candidate is The Church Member’s Guide by John Angell James, published in England in 1822. This appears to have been a prototypical work of its kind in the early 19th century. The problem here is that it was not published in the U.S. until 1855; so if Brown had a copy of the James Church Member’s Guide, it was a British edition. A second possibility is that Brown had a copy of  A Manual for Young Church-Members (1841) by Leonard Bacon, a clergyman from New Haven, Conn., one of the founders of the anti-slavery New York Independent. Of course, this might have been another church membership book, published locally or otherwise. Generally, church member’s guides or handbooks set forth distinctive themes of Protestant denominations as well as major theological and ecclesiastical doctrines. 

Finally, De Peyster listed “Balls narrative,” another book valued at twenty-five cents, about $7 today. While it is no surprise to find an authentic so-called “slave narrative” on John Brown’s bookshelf, it is nonetheless interesting to know what he was reading about slavery at this time. The Narrative of Charles Ball is one of the more notable antebellum narratives, a genre of antislavery writing that tended to be edited by those not associated with radical abolitionism. According to the late historian John Blassingame, Ball’s editor was a lawyer named Isaac Fisher, and the first printing of the narrative was published in Pennsylvania in 1836—the same year that Brown returned to Ohio from Randolph Township near Meadville, Pennsylvania. Pro-slavery critics tried to debunk Ball’s narrative without success, and ultimately it has proven highly reliable to historians.11 If you’re interested, an 1854 edition of Ball’s narrative is available through Google books.

This short list of books from John Brown’s bookshelf in 1842 provide a sense of the man, certainly that he was deeply religious, practical in his studies, and interested in matters like astronomy while constantly being mindful of the plight of the enslaved.  At the same time, of course, De Peyster’s document is a reminder of a particularly painful period in John Brown’s life in which he, like other aspiring frontier entrepreneurs in the 1830s and ‘40s, had experienced devastating failure. In his younger days, Brown had envisioned himself as becoming a successful abolitionist tycoon who could do the kinds of things that his later associates among the “Secret Six” did by funding his antislavery. But in his early forties, John Brown was far from reaching the success that he had hoped to attain, while the nation itself had not yet come to the point when hope for the peaceful demise of slavery would vanish, finally pushing him across the line toward taking radical antislavery measures.  

In 1848, six years after his bankruptcy, Brown confided to a friend: “I believe I received my Bankrupt discharge in the Fall of 1842 at which time all I possessed would not pay near the expense of getting it, so that I then had to go into a debt on annual interest which took me several years to pay. I then had a wife & Twelve minor children, & we were so destitute of clothing that the greater part of us stayed away from [church] meetings till we had nearly lost the habit of going entirely.”  By 1848, he concluded, he had “paid a good deal on my old debts,” as he wrote, and was looking forward to a good year in the wool business.12  More could be said about John Brown’s troubled business story, but suffice it to say that while he never found success, he did not finish his professional life a defeated soul.  There would be more ups and downs, but he would never again taste the bitterness of this period. In early 1849, writing from his wool commission operation in Springfield, John Brown informed his father back in Ohio: “Our business is prosperous; to all appearance.  Money is becoming more easy.”13

-LD


Notes

      1 Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land With Blood: A Biography of John Brown (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1970), 72. 

       2 Chester G. Hearn, Companions in Conspiracy: John Brown & Gerrit Smith (Gettysburg: Thomas Publications, 1996), 1.

       3 Marvin Kent later wrote: “The tannery . . . was just completed when I rented the same from my father for my own business.  This put John Brown out of a job and led him to take a construction contract on the line of the P&O Canal from Kent to Akron.  During this period, he traded many hundreds of dollars with my family.”  Quoted in a letter from Dudley Weaver to Boyd B. Stutler, Aug. 12, 1952, RP05-0042, in the Boyd B. Stutler Papers; Also see “John Brown, of Harper’s Ferry,” Kent Courier, Sept., 7/14?, 1906, Box 4, John Brown – Oswald Garrison Villard Papers.

 4 “John Brown Had Faith in Kent, O,” Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio] (July 6, 1926); Mary Land, “John Brown’s Ohio Environment,” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly (Jan. 1948): 33; J.B. Holm, “John Brown Was Resident of Kent; 100th Anniversary of Harper’s Ferry Is Today,” Record-Courier [Ravenna-Kent, Ohio] (Oct. 16, 1959), 9; Dudley Weaver to Boyd B. Stutler, Aug. 12, 1952, RP05-0042, Boyd B. Stutler Papers.

 5 John Brown to H. J. Huidekoper, July 5, 1838, in the John Brown Collection of Pelletier Library, Allegheny College, Meadville, Pa.

 6  Oswald G. Villard, John Brown: A Biography 1800-1859 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1910, 1929), 36-37; Holm, “John Brown Was Resident of Kent,” 9; John Brown to Seth Thompson, Dec. 13, 1838, Box 1, Folder 63, University of Atlanta.

 7  It is interesting, too, that Oates relied heavily on John Brown Jr.’s testimony, yet too easily rejects Brown’s claim that he was largely undone by dealing in credit.  Cf. Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land With Blood, 36-37

 8  John J. Wallis, “What Caused the Crisis of 1839?” Historical Paper 133 (Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research, Apr. 2001), 10.

 9   Mary Land, “John Brown’s Ohio Environment,” 33; “John Brown: Citizen of Kent,” The Kent Historical Society Home Page (Kent, Ohio). Retrieved from https://bit.ly/39R1SFa;  “John Brown Had Faith in Kent, O”; John Brown to Mary Brown, Mar. 7, 184[6], MS01-0016, Boyd B. Stutler Papers; also see DeCaro, “Fire from the Midst of You” A Religious Life of John Brown (New York: NYU Press, 2002), 115-20.

        10 See William A. Phillips, “Three Interviews with Old John Brown,” The Atlantic Monthly (Dec. 1879). See Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies, edited by John W. Blassingame (Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1977, 2002), pp. xxiii-xxvi. John Brown to Seth Thompson, Dec. 12, 1848, in Washington University Library collection. John Brown, Springfield, Mass., to Owen Brown, Hudson, Ohio, January 10, 1849, Kansas State Historical Society.

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