Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?> Planning the Raid>Hugh Forbes to Dr. How

Hugh Forbes to Dr. Samuel G. How, May 14, 1858

Source: New York Herald, October 27, 1859


No preparatory notice having been given to the slaves (no no¬tice could go or with prudence be given them) the invitation to rise i might, unless they were already in a state of agitation, meet with no response, or a feeble one. To this Brown replied that he was sure of a response. He calculated that he could get on the first night from 200 to 500. Half, or thereabouts, of this first lot he proposed to keep with him, mounting 100 or so of them, and make a dash at Harper's Ferry manufactory destroying what he could not carry off. The other men not of this party were to be sub divided into three, four or five distinct parties, each under two or three of the original band and would beat up other slave quarters whence more men would be sent to join him.

He argued that were he pressed by the U.S. troops, which after a few weeks might concentrate, he could easily maintain himself in the Alleghenies and that his New England partisans would in the meantime call a Northern Convention, restore tranquility and overthrow the pro slavery administration. This, I contended, could at most be a mere local explosion. A slave insurrection, being from the very nature of things deficient in men of education and experi¬ence would under such a system as B. proposed be either a flash in the pan or would leap beyond his control, or any control, when it would become a scene of mere anarchy and would assuredly be suppressed. On the other hand, B. considered foreign intervention as not impossible. As to the dream of a Northern Convention, I considered it as a settled fallacy. Brown's New England friends would not have courage to show themselves, so long as the issue was doubtful, see my letter to J. B. dated 23 February.

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