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John Brown Jr. Letter

Frederick Douglass' Paper
May 2, 1856

(For Frederick Douglass' Paper.

Osawatomie, Kansas, April 4th, 1856

It would seem by this time the general subject of Kansas must, through travellers, book-makers, letter writers, lecturers, &c., have become well nigh exhausted; and, were it not that its settlers have been and still are made the subjects of despotic outrage by the dark spirit of Slavery, we would no doubt occupy in the public mind only that place which the natural advantages of a rich field of emigration would secure. But instead of this, an acre of Kansas soil though perhaps no more fertile than an equal quantity in Iowa or Nebraska, has today, in the estimation of the American people, and I may say of the civilized world, a peculiar value. I need not say that this value is intrinsically greater, yet as a result of the struggle here I am convinced that in less than ten years from this time an average 160 acres will be in good demand at much higher price than an average quarter section in those States.

The blood of its freedom-loving inhabitants may alone give to this land superior fertility; yet the spirit of improvement, of energy, self-reliance, and true Republicanism will here take such a form that in all that makes a people truly great, Kansas will stand if admitted into the Union among the foremost in the Confederacy. As a country, then, in which to invest capital, it has few equals. Free labor and free institutions in prospect are at this moment attracting hundreds here, in spite of the "wars and rumors of wars" which constantly annoy us.

Lawrence was yesterday full of new arrivals of Eastern and Northern emigrants, men with their families, and young men, some from Ohio, and Massachusetts, others from Vermont and the Granite hills of New Hampshire, all well dressed, intelligent, and full of earnest purpose to secure to Freedom this land of their adoption. They not only bring with them the capital of health, of body and mind, but skilled hands to labor, mechanical and agricultural implements of superior kinds, not omitting Sharp's Rifles, nicely packed in their trunks.

On Friday last forty settlers passed through Osawatomie and Meridezine rivers: these were principally from Iowa, all but three of their number were Free State men. To-day I have met a characteristic emigrant train; a fine prairie plow projected from the rear of one of the wagons, and five Sharp's Rifles hung up in the fore part, indicating that where these men stop, the land may require to be cleared before it is ready for the plow. Blessings on those who come with these messengers of peace, and blessings upon those who have so generously contributed to supply the destitute with such gospel. A man with one of those weapons receives through it that magnetism which once circulated in the vicinity of Bunker Hill. These are the media through which we seek communication with the spirits of 1775-76; placed "in rapport" with them the weakest nerves are strung to manly tension, the feeblest knees are strengthened, and the fearful heart beats strong again.

From recent developments, it is now evident that our enemies are determined of prosecuting a series of oppressive measures in the form of vexatious suits in conformity with the Border Legislation, and either to compel us into slavish submission to the execution of those hated enactments - into acknowledgment in word or deed of the binding authority from which they emanate, or drive us into a forcible resistance, and thereby involve us in a quarrel with the general Government. This, no one who looks below the shallowest surface of things can, it seems to me, for a moment doubt, is to be the machinery at present to be employed for crushing us out. I have greatly mistaken the spirit of this people if this scheme shall become successful. Some here at least no power on earth can enslave; these may wear a halter, but chains - never. Hourly are we moving in the midst of inflammable material which it needs but a spark to ignite - mad and desperate men are scattering fire by means of these suits. The time has been that a hope to reform our enemies has prompted many a sufferer to smother the flame, though it burned the kindly hand. But the day in which that policy ruled is fast drawing to a close; the shadows of a night are now settling upon our pathway through which no gleam of morning is discernable, except through a struggle, which in all probability, will terminate the existence of human bondage in this Republic.

J. B., Jr.

Source: Boyd B. Stutler Collection, West Virginia State Archives

Chapter Five: Bleeding Kansas

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History