Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?> Planning the Raid>John Cook's "Confession"

John Cook’s “Confession,” November, 1859

Source: Sanford, John Brown, 702-705

. . . We stopped some days at Tabor, making preparations to start. Here we found that Captain Brown's ultimate destination was the State of Virginia. Some warm words passed between him and myself in regard to the plan, which I had supposed was to be confined entirely to Kansas and Missouri. Realf and Parsons were of the same opinion with me. After a good deal of wrangling we consented to go on, as we had not the means to return, and the rest of the party were so anxious that we should go with them . . . .

. . . We remained at Pedee [Springfield, Iowa till about the middle of April, when we left for Chatham, Canada, via Chicago and Detroit. We staid about two weeks in Chatham some of the party staid six or seven weeks. We left Chatham for Cleveland, and remained there until late in June. In the meantime, Captain Brown went East on business; but previous to his departure he had learned that Colonel Forbes had betrayed his plans to some extent. This, together with the scantiness of his funds, induced him to delay the commencement of his work, and was the means, for the time being, of disbanding the party. He had also received some information which called for his immediate attention in Kansas. I wished to go with him, but he said that I was too well known there, and requested me and some others to go to Harper's Ferry, Va., to see how things were there, and to gain information. While we were in Chatham he called a convention, the purpose of which was to make a complete and thorough organization. He issued a written circular, which he sent to various persons in the United States and Canada . . . .

As the names were left blank I do not know to whom they were sent, though I wrote several of them. I learned, however, that one was sent to Frederick Douglass, and I think Gerrit Smith also received one. Who the others were sent to I do not know. Neither Douglass nor Smith attended the convention. I suppose some twenty five or thirty of these circulars were sent, but as they were directed by Captain Brown or J. H. Kagi I do not know the names of the parties to whom they were addressed. I do know, however, that they were sent to none save those whom Captain Brown knew to be radical abolitionists. I think it was about ten days from the time the circulars were sent that the convention met. The place of meeting was in one of the negro churches in Chatham. The convention, I think, was called to order by J. H. Kagi. Its object was then stated, which was to complete a thorough organization and the formation of a constitution. The first business was to elect a president and secretary. Elder Monroe, a colored minister, was elected President, and J. H. Kagi, Secretary. The next business was to form a constitution. Captain Brown had already drawn up one, which, on motion, was read by the Secretary. On motion it was ordered that each article of the constitution be taken up and separately amended and passed, which was done. On motion, the constitution was then adopted as a whole. The next business was to nominate a Commander in Chief, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. Captain John Brown was unanimously elected Commander in Chief; J. H. Kagi, Secretary of War, and Richard Realf, Secretary of State. Elder Monroe was to act as President until another was chosen. A. M. Chapman, I think, was to act as Vice-President. Doctor M. K. Delany was one of the Corresponding Secretaries of the organization. There were some others from the United States, whose names I do not now remember. Most of the delegates to the Convention were from Canada. After the constitution was adopted, the members took their oath to support it. It was then signed by all present. During the interval between the call for the convention and its assembling, regular meetings were held at Barbour's Hotel, where we were stopping, by those who were known to be true to the cause, at which meetings plans were laid and discussed. There were no white men at the convention save the members of our company. Men and money had both been promised from Chatham and other parts of Canada. When the convention broke up, news was received that Col. H. Forties, who had joined in the movement, had given information to the government. This, of course, delayed the time of attack. A day or two afterward most of our party took the boat to Cleveland -Jno. H. Kagi, Richard Realf, Wm. H. Leeman, Richard Robertson, and Capt. Brown remaining. Capt. B., however, started in a day or two for the East. Kagi, I think, returned to some other town in Canada, to set up the type and to get the constitution printed, which he completed before he went to Cleveland. We remained in Cleveland for some weeks, at which place, for the time being, the company disbanded. Capt. Brown had had the plan of the insurrection in contemplation for several years in fact, told me that it had been the chief aim of his life to carry out and accomplish the abolition of slavery.


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