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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, March 27, 2021

John Brown Today, "Letters and Friends" Feature: John Brown to Mary Brown, Jan. 30, 1858


In "John Brown Today" (Season 2, Episode 6),  I speak with Dr. Margaret Washington of Cornell University, my first guest for the new segment, "Letters and Friends."  Here is a complete transcription of the letter we are discussing.

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John Brown, Rochester, N.Y., to Mary Brown, North Elba, N.Y., 01-30-58
Transcribed by Louis A. DeCaro, Jr.

Rochester N Y, 30,th Jany, 1858, My Dear Wife & Children every one

I am (praised be God) once more in [New] York State. Whether I shall be permitted to visit you or not this Winter or Spring I cannot now say; but it is some relief of mind to feel that I am again so near you Possibly; if I cannot go to see you; that I may be able to devise some way for some one, or more of you to meet meet me some -where. The anxiety I feel to see my Wife; & children once more; I (^ am) unable to describe. I want exceedingly to see my big Baby; & “Mums Baby”: & to see how that little company of Sheep look about this time. The cries of my poor sorrow stricken despairing children whoose [sic] “tears on their cheeks” are ever in my Eye; & whose sighs are ever in my Ears, may (^ however) prevent my enjoying the happiness I so much desire But courage Courage Courage the great work of my life * (: the unseen Hand that “girded me; & who has indeed holden my right hand; (^ may hold it still) though I have not known Him”; at all as I ought;) *I may yet see (^ it) accomplished; (God helping;) & be permitted to return, & rest; (^ at) Evening.” O my Daughter Ruth could any plan be devised whereby you could let Henry go “to School” (as you expressed it in your letter to him while in Kansas;) I would rather now have him “for another term”; than to have a Hundred average sc(^h)ollars [sic]. I have a particular (^ & very important; (but not dangerous( place for him to fill; in the “school”; & I know of no man living; so well adapted to fill it. I am quite confident some way can be devised; so that you; & your children could be with him; & be quite happy even; & safe but “God forbid” me to flatter you into trouble. I did not do it before.

[page 2]
My dear child could you face such music: if on a full explanation Henry could be satisfyed [sic] that his family might be safe? I would make a similar enquiry of (^ my) own dear Wife; but I have kept her tumbling “here & there”; over a stormy & tempestus [sic] sea for so many years that I cannot ask her such a question. The natural ingenuity of Salmon: in connection with some experience he, & Oliver have both had; would point him out as the next best man I could now select; but I (^ am) dumb in his case; as also in the case of Watson, & all my other sons. Jason[’]s qualifications are some of them like Henry[’]s also.  I want to hear from you all if possible before I leave this neighborhood. Do not noise it about; that I am in these parts; & direct to N Hawkins; Care of Fredk Douglas Esqr Rochester NY. I want to hear how you all are supplied with Winter clothing, Boots, &c. God bless you all
Your Affectionate Husband & Father 

[postscript in the hand of Frederick Douglass:] My dear Friends:

Your brave husband and father is now my guest-and has been since Thursday of this week. Gladly indeed we hailed him, and joyfully we entertain him. It does not seem safe-or desirable for him to come to you just now-though he could most gladly do so. I shall retain him here as long as he desires to remain and would be glad for yo you to meet him here.

[vertically along left fold]
I remember with pleasure the pleasant moments spent under your roof-and take know no small satisfaction
in the thought of your Friendship

[vertically along right fold]
I shall be truly glad to see either of you or both of you at my house-at any time during Capt Brown’s stay-
Fred. Douglass-


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