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Statement of Owen Brown as an Abolitionist

"I am an Abolitionist. I know we are not loved by many; I have no confession to make for being one, yet I wish to tell how long I have been one, and how I became so. I have no hatred to negroes. When a child four or five years old, one of our nearest neighbors had a slave that was brought from Guinea. In the year 1776 my father was called into the army at New York, and left his work undone. In August, our good neighbor Captain John Fast, of West Simsbury, let my mother have the labor of his slave to plough a few days. I used to go out into the field with this slave, - called Sam, - and he used to carry me on his back. and I fell in love with him. He worked but a few days, and went home sick with the pleurisy, and died very suddenly. When told that he would die, he said he should go to Guinea, and wanted victuals put up for the journey. As I recollect, this was the first funeral I ever attended in the days [page 11] of my youth. There were but three or four slaves in West Simsbury. In the year 1790, when I lived with the Rev. Jeremiah Hallock, the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, D.D. came from Newport, and I heard him talking with Mr. Hallock about slavery in Rhode Island, and he denounced it as a great sin. I think in the same summer Mr. Hallock had sent to him a sermon or pamphlet-book, written by the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, then at New Haven. I read it, and it denounced slavery as a great sin. From this time I was antislavery, as much as I be now. In the year 1798 I lived in Norfolk. There was a Presbyterian or Congregational minister settled in Virginia at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, by the name of Thomson, who on account of the war came to North Canaan with slaves, and not knowing how long the war would last, he bought a small farm in North Canaan, and lived on it till the close of the war; he then moved back to Virginia, and left a family of blacks on the farm. About 1798 he came up to sell his farm and move back his slaves, as he called them. Some time before this, slavery had been abolished in Connecticut. Mr. Thomson had difficulty in getting away his slaves. One man would not go, and ran into the woods, and Mr. Thomson hired help to catch him. He was secreted among blacks that lived in a corner of Norfolk. Mr. Thomson preached for Mr. Robbins at Norfolk, assisted in the administration of the sacrament, etc. There were blacks who belonged to the church, that absented themselves. Mr. Thomson attended meetings, I think, three Sabbaths; preached about twice. The last Sabbath it was expected he would preach in the afternoon; but there were a number of the church members who were dissatisfied with his being asked to preach, and requested Deacon Samuels and Deacon Gaylord to go and ask Mr. Robbins not to have Mr. Thomson preach, as it was giving dissatisfaction. There was some excitement amongst the people, some in favor and some against Mr. Thomson; there was quite a debate, and large numbers to hear. Mr. Thomson said he should carry the woman and children, whether he could get the man or not. An old man asked him if he would part man and wife, contrary to their minds. He said: 'I married them myself, and did not enjoin obedience on the woman.' He was asked if he did not consider marriage to be an institution of God; he said he did. He was again asked why he did not do it in conformity to God's word. He appeared checked, and only said it was the custom. He was told that the blacks were free by act of the Legislature of Connecticut; he replied that he belonged to another State, and that Connecticut had no control over his property. I think he did not get away his 'property,' as he called it. Ever since, I have been an Abolitionist; and I am so near the end of life I think I shall die an Abolitionist."

Source: F. B. Sanborn, ed., The Life and Letters of John Brown. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1891., pp. 10-11

Chapter Three: The Abolitionist Calling

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History