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Years Before His Raid on Harpers Ferry, John Brown Attempts to Settle Accounts
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Some fifteen years before his ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry, abolitionist John Brown operated an Ohio tannery and dealt in cattle, horses, and sheep. His passion for abolition grew alongside his expertise in sheep and wool, as Brown’s business travels throughout Ohio put him in the same circles as fervent abolitionists. In 1844, he began a partnership with Simon Perkins. Two years later, in 1846, Brown and Perkins moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, a progressive community deeply interest in anti-slavery campaigns. From a business perspective, Brown had hoped that by moving East, he could command higher prices for wool both at home and in Europe. Instead, Brown grew more radical while in Springfield, believing that slavery would only end through violence. In 1850, he founded the League of the Gileadites, a militant group devoted to preventing the capture of fugitive slaves. From that point on, no fugitive slaves from the Springfield area were ever returned to slavery. Unfortunately, the wool business failed, setting Brown on his fateful path as a militant abolitionist in Massachusetts, Kansas, and Virginia in the years leading to the Civil War.

JOHN BROWN. Autograph Letter Signed, to William Beall. Springfield, Mass., May 1, 1851. 1 p., 6¾ x 7½ in.

Inventory #23273       Price: $3,900


“In consequence of our discontinuing business here, your Letter to us of the 21st March last has been a long time lying unanswered. When our Mr. Brown was in your country he did intend to call on you but forgetting where you was located when he was near you until he was passed some miles, he being in a great hurry left your account with James Patterson Esqr to present Patterson & Miles for us & to receive a small balance in our favour; as that appeared to be the true state of accounts between us. If we understand the matter right, you had over drawn your account (by expecting a letter sale than was in our power to make) some Thirty Dollars, & a little over. We did suppose untill we got your letter that your account had been handed you, & the balance paid Mr. Patterson. We suppose he must have forgotten it.”

John Brown (1800-1859) rejected the pacifism of other abolitionists and instead believed that slavery could only be overthrown by violence. To that end, he planned a raid against the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859 hoping to start a slave uprising. Instead, he was captured and executed for treason. Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry was the culmination of anti-slavery activities in Kansas in 1855 and 1856, as well as earlier Underground Railroad activities.


Fine. Two small spots of ink and scattered spots of foxing.

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