Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?>Was John Brown Insane?>Deposition of E.N. Sill

Deposition of E.N. Sill, November 14, 1859

Source: From the Henry A. Wise Papers in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

I have had some acquaintance with John Brown who is now under sentence of death in the State of Virginia with his Father, a most excellent but very peculiar man I was well acquainted for many years. I have also known several of his Brothers well All of these men have possessed more than ordinary character, and several of them very striking idiosyncrasies. John Brown, who had removed to Kansas with his family as [illegible word] for a permanent residence, returned to this vicinity, soon after the commencement there of the difficulties between the free state men & other parties and telling me the story of the wrongs of himself & family & free state friends, asked my aid to purchase arms for their defense. He said not one word of any acts of retaliation in Kansas, Missouri or elsewhere; nothing of any plan or design to liberate slaves, but only of defense. And in this matter I fully sympathized with him, and was more than willing to give the desired aid; But from his peculiarities I thought Mr. Brown an unsafe man to be commissioned with such a matter, and I neither then, nor at any other time, contributed any thing to him or through him, for this or any other purpose. I admire Mr. Brown's courage and devotion to his beliefs. But I have no confidence in the sanity of his judgement in matters appertaining to slavery. I have no doubt that, upon this subject, more especially upon his relation to the abolition of slavery, he is surely a monomaniac as any inmate of any lunatic asylum in the country.


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