Brown: Hero or Terrorist?> John
Brown and the Secret Six>John Brown to Theodore Parker
Brown to Theodore Parker, March 7, 1858
Sanford, John Brown, 448-449
Since you know I have an almost countless brood of poor hungry
chickens to "scratch for," you will not reproach me
for scratching even on the Sabbath. At any rate, I trust God will
not. I want you to undertake to provide a substitute for an address
you saw last season, directed to the officers and soldiers of
the United States Army. The ideas contained in that address I
of course like, for I furnished the skeleton. I never had the
ability to clothe those ideas in language at all to satisfy myself;
and I was by no means satisfied with the style of that address,
and do not know as I can give any correct idea of what I want.
I will, however, try.
the first place it must be short, or it will not be generally
read. It must be in the simplest or plainest language, without
the least affectation of the scholar about it, and yet be worded
with great clearness and power. The anonymous writer must (in
the language of the Paddy) be "afther others," and not
"afther himself at all, at all." If the spirit that
communicated Franklin's Poor Richard (or some other good spirit)
would dictate, I think it would be quite as well employed as the
"dear sister spirits" have been for some years past.
The address should be appropriate, and particularly adapted to
the peculiar circumstances we anticipate, and should look to the
actual change of service from that of Satan to the service of
God. It should be, in short, a most earnest and powerful appeal
to men's sense of right and to their feelings of humanity. Soldiers
are men, and no man can certainly calculate the value and importance
of getting a single "nail into old Captain Kidd's chest."
It should be provided beforehand, and be ready in advance to distribute
by all persons, male and female, who may be disposed to favor
also want a similar short address, appropriate to the peculiar
circumstances, intended for all persons, old and young, male and
female, slaveholding and non slaveholding, to be sent out broadcast
over the entire nation. So by every male and female prisoner on
being set at liberty, and to be read by them during confinement.
I know that men will listen, and reflect too, under such circumstances.
Persons will hear your antislavery lectures and abolition lectures
when they have become virtually slaves themselves. The impres¬sions
made on prisoners by kindness and plain dealing, instead of barbarous
and cruel treatment, such as they might give, and instead of being
slaughtered like wild reptiles, as they might very naturally expect,
are not only powerful but lasting. Females are susceptible of
being carried away entirely by the kindness of an intrepid and
magnanimous soldier, even when his bare name was but a terror
the day previous. Now, dear sir, I have told you about as well
as I know how, what I am anxious at once to secure. Will you write
the tracts, or get them written, so that I may commence colporteur?