Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Just Finished Reading - John Brown Speaks: Letters and Statements from Chalestown

With John Brown Speaks: Letters and Statements from Charleston, editor Louis DeCaro, Jr. assembles a thorough collection of letters that Brown wrote from October 21 to his date of execution, Dec. 2 1859. In the majority of the included letters, Brown wrote in reply to those who sent him letters of encouragement and financial support. They touch upon a diverse array of issues from personal remembrances of past acts of kindness, to making arrangements for the disbursement of inheritance from his father, to concerns about his adult children's state of religious salvation. 

All of the letters are expertly contextualized by the editor and give significant insight into who John Brown, the man, truly was. The letters express no regret or contrition for his role in the Harper's Ferry role. Rather they display the thoughts of a man who fully understood the dangers of his mission and fully accepted the results as God's will. 

Some say that Brown changed over his 30-plus days of confinement, but what comes through in these letters though is that Brown remained constant in his mindset and commitment to try to end slavery. But through these letters, several of which found their ways into Northern newspapers, and his jailhouse statements, others came to see Brown differently from the man depicted in the immediate days following the raid. 

A bonus to the letters are also a set of eight recollections from those who visited Brown in support or interviewed him to gather information on why he did what he did. Some of these account were written in 1859 and 1860, while others were made as late as the late 1880s. 

This book is in fine company with DeCaro's other works - Fire from the Midst of You: A Religious Life of John Brown and Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia. It is one that students of abolitionism should want in their library, and students of John Brown can not afford to overlook.

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