Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?>The Execution>John Brown to Reverend H.L. Vaill

John Brown to Reverend H.L. Vaill, November 15, 1859

Source: Sanborn, John Brown, 589-591

Your most kind and most welcome letter of the 8th inst. reached me in due time. I am very grateful for all the good feeling you express, and also for the kind counsels you give, together with your prayers in my behalf. Allow me here to say, notwithstanding "my soul is among lions," still I believe that "God in very deed is with me." You will not, therefore, feel surprised when I tell you that I am "'joyful in all my tribulation"; that I do not feel condemned of Him whose judgment is just, nor of my own conscience. Nor do I feel degraded by my imprisonment, my chains, or prospect of the gallows. I have not only been- though utterly unworthy)- permitted to suffer affliction with God's people," but have also had a great many rare opportunities for "preaching righteousness in the great congregation." I trust it will not all be lost. The jailer (in whose charge I am) and his family and assistants have all been most kind; and notwithstanding he was one of the bravest of all who fought me, he is now being abused for his humanity. So far as my observation goes, none but brave men are likely to be humane to a fallen foe. "Cowards prove their courage by their ferocity." It may be done in that way with but little risk.

I wish I could write you about a few only of the interesting times I here experience with different classes of men, clergymen among others. Christ, the great captain of liberty as well as of salvation, and who began his mission, as foretold of him, by proclaiming it, saw fit to take from me a sword of steel after I had carried it for a time; but he has put another in my hand ("the sword of the Spirit"), and I pray God to make me a faithful soldier, wherever he may send me, not less on the scaffold than when surrounded by my warmest sympathizers.

My dear old friend, I do assure you I have not forgotten our last meeting, nor our retrospective look over the route by which God had then led us; and I bless his name that he has again enabled me to hear your words of cheering and comfort at a time when I, at `
least, any on the "brink of Jordan." (See Bunyan's "Pilgrim.") God in infinite mercy grant us soon another meeting on the opposite shore. I have often passed under the rod of him whom I call my Father, and certainly no son ever needed it oftener; and yet I have enjoyed much of life, as I was enabled to discover the secret of this somewhat early. It has been in making the prosperity and happiness of others my own; so that really I have had a great deal of prosperity. I am very prosperous still; and looking forward to a time when "peace on earth and good will to men" shall everywhere prevail, I have no murmuring thoughts or envious feelings to fret my mind. "I'll praise my Maker with my breath." . . .

As I believe most firmly that God reigns, I cannot believe that anything I have done, suffered, or may yet suffer will be lost to the cause of God or of humanity. And before I began my work at Harper's Ferry, I felt assured that in the worst event it would certainly pay. I often expressed that belief; and I can now see no possible cause to alter my mind. I am not as yet, in the main, at all disappointed. I have been a good deal disappointed as it regards myself in not keeping up to my own plans; but I now feel entirely reconciled to that, even, for God's plan was infinitely better, no doubt, or I should have kept to my own. Had Samson kept to his determination of not telling Delilah wherein his great strength lay, he would probably have never overturned the house. I did not tell Delilah, but I was induced to act very contrary to my better judgment; and I have lost my two noble boys, and other friends, if not my two eyes.

But "God's will, not mine, be done." I feel a comfortable hope that, like that erring servant of whom I have just been writing, even I may (through infinite mercy in Christ Jesus) yet "die in faith." As to both the time and manner of my death, I have but very little trouble on that score, and am able to be (as you exhort) "of good cheer."….


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