to Planning the Raid
Account of the Chatham Convention by Dr. Martin R. Delany
Richard J. Hinton, John Brown and His Men: With Some Account
of the Roads They Traveled to Reach Harper's Ferry (New York:
Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894), pp. 715 18.
. . . [John Brown] revealed to me that he desired to carry out
a great project in his scheme of Kansas emigration, which, to
be successful, must be aided and countenanced by the influence
of a general convention or council. That he was unable to effect
in the United States, but had been advised by distinguished friends
of his and mine, that, if he could but see me, his object could
be attained at once. On my expressing astonishment at the conclusion
to which my friends and himself had arrived, with a nervous impatience,
he exclaimed, "Why should you be surprised? Sir, the people
of the Northern States are cowards; slavery has made cowards of
them all. The whites are afraid of each other, and the blacks
are afraid of the whites. You can effect nothing among such people,"
he added, with decided emphasis. On assuring him if a council
were all that was desired, he could readily obtain it, he replied,
"That is all; but that is a great deal to me. It is men I
want, and not money; money I can get plentiful enough, but no
men. Money, can come without being seen, but men are afraid of
identification with me, though they favor my measures. They are
cowards, sir! cowards!" he reiterated. He then fully revealed
his designs. With these I found no fault, but fully favored and
aided in getting up the convention.
convention, when assembled, consisted of Captain John Brown, his
son Owen, eleven or twelve of his Kansas followers, all young
white men, enthusiastic and able, and probably sixty or seventy
colored men, whom I brought together.
plans were made known to them as soon as he was satisfied that
the assemblage could be confided in, which conclusion he was not
long in finding, for with few exceptions the whole of these were
fugitive slaves, refugees in her Britannic majesty's dominion.
His scheme was nothing more than this: To make Kansas, instead
of Canada, the terminus of the Underground Railroad; instead of
passing off the slave to Canada, to send him to Kansas, and there
test, on the soil of the United States territory, whether or not
the right of freedom would be maintained where no municipal power
stated that he had originated a fortification so simple, that
twenty men, without the aid of teams or ordnance, could build
one in a day that would defy all the artillery that could be brought
to bear against it. How it was constructed he would not reveal,
and none knew it except his great confidential officer, Kagi (the
secretary of war in his contemplated provisional government),
a young lawyer of marked talents and singular demeanor.
Delany stated that he had proposed, as a cover to the change in
the scheme, as Canada had always been known as the terminus of
the Underground Railroad, and pursuit of the fugitive was made
in that direction, to call it the Subterranean Pass Way, where
the initials would stand S. P. W., to note the direction in which
he had gone when not sent to Canada. He further stated that the
idea of Harper's Ferry was never mentioned, or even hinted in
such been intimated, it is doubtful of its being favorably regarded.
Kansas, where he had battled so valiantly for freedom, seemed
the proper place for his vantage ground, and the kind and condition
of men for whom he had fought, the men with whom to fight. Hence
the favor which the scheme met of making Kansas the terminus of
the Subterranean Pass Way, and there fortifying with these fugitives
against the border slaveholders, for personal liberty, with which
they had no right to interfere. Thus it is clearly explained that
it was no design against the Union, as the slave¬holders and
their satraps interpreted the movement, and by this means would
anticipate their designs.
also explains the existence of the constitution for a civil government
found in the carpet bag among the effects of Captain Brown, after
his capture in Virginia . . . .
organization was an extensive body, holding the same relation
to his movements as a state or national executive committee hold
to its party principles, directing their adherence to fundamental
he says, was the plan and purpose of the Canada Conven¬tion,
whatever changed them to Harper's Ferry was known only to Captain
Brown, and perhaps to Kagi, who had the honor of being deeper
in his confidence than any one else. Mr. Osborn Anderson, one
of the survivors of that immortal band, and whose statement as
one of the principal actors in that historical drama cannot be
ignored, states that none of the men knew that Harper's Ferry
was the point of attack until the order was given to march.