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United States League of Gileadites

WORDS OF ADVICE.

Branch of the United States League of Gileadites. Adopted Jan. 15, 1851, as written and recommended by John Brown.

"UNION IS STRENGTH."

Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery. Witness the case of Cinques, of everlasting memory, on board the "Amistad." The trial for life of one bold and to some extent successful man, for defending his rights in good earnest, would arouse more sympathy throughout the nation than the accumulated wrongs and sufferings of more than three millions of our submissive colored population. We need not mention the Greeks struggling against the oppressive Turks, the Poles against Russia, nor the Hungarians against Austria and Russia combined, to prove this. No jury can be found in the Northern States that would convict a man for defending his rights to the last extremity. This is welt understood by Southern Congressmen, who insisted that the right of trial by jury should not be granted to the fugitive. Colored people have ten times the number of fast friends among the whites than they suppose, and would have ten times the number they now have were they but half as much in earnest to secure their dearest rights as they are to ape the follies and extravagances of their white neighbors, and to indulge in idle show, in ease, and in luxury. Just think of the money expended by individuals in your behalf in the past twenty years! Think of the number who have been mobbed and imprisoned on your account! Have any of you seen the Branded Hand? Do you remember the names of Lovejoy and Torrey?

Should one of your number be arrested, you must collect together as quickly as possible, so as to outnumber your adversaries who are taking an active part against you. Let no able-bodied man appear on the ground unequipped, or with his weapons exposed to view: let that be understood beforehand. Your plans must be known only to yourself, and with the understanding that all traitors must die, wherever caught and proven to he guilty. "Whosoever is fearful or afraid, let him return and part early from Mount Gilead" (Judges, vii. 3; Dent. xx. 8). Give all cowards an opportunity to show it on condition of holding their peace. Do not delay one moment after you are ready: you will lose all your resolution if you do. Let the first blow be the signal for all to engage; and when engaged do not do your work by halves, but make clean work with your enemies, - and be sure you meddle not with any others. By going about your business quietly, you will get the job disposed of before the number that an uproar would bring together can collect; and you will have the advantage of those who come out against you, for they will be wholly unprepared with either equipments or matured plans; all with them will be confusion and terror. Your enemies will be slow to attack you after you have done up the work nicely; and if they should, they will have to encounter your white friends as well as you for you may safely calculate on a division of the whites, and may by that means get to an honorable parley.

Be firm, determined, and cool; but let it be understood that you are not to be driven to desperation without making it an awful dear job to others as well as to you. Give them to know distinctly that those who live in wooden houses should not throw fire, and that you are just as able to suffer as your white neighbors. After effecting a rescue, if you are assailed, go into the houses of your most prominent and influential white friends with your wives; and that will effectually fasten upon them the suspicion of being connected with you, and will compel them to make a common cause with you, whether they would otherwise live up to their profession or not. This would leave them no choice in the matter. Some would doubtless prove themselves true of their own choice; others would flinch. That would be taking them at their own words. You may make a tumult in the court-room where a trial is going on, by burning gunpowder freely in paper packages, if you cannot think of any better way to create a momentary alarm, and might possibly give one or more of your enemies a hoist. But in such case the prisoner will need to take the hint at once, and bestir himself; and so should his friends improve the opportunity for a general rush. A lasso might possibly be applied to a slave-catcher for once with good effect. Hold on to your weapons, and never be persuaded to leave them, part with them, or have them far away from you. Stand by one another and by your friends, while a drop of blood remains; and be hanged, if you must, but tell no tales out of school. Make no confession.

Union is strength. Without some well-digested arrangements nothing to any good purpose is likely to be done, let the demand be never so great. Witness the case of Hamlet and Long in New York when there was no well-defined plan of operations or suitable preparation beforehand. The desired end may be effectually secured by the means proposed , namely, the enjoyment of our inalienable rights.

AGREEMENT.

As citizens of the United States of America, trusting in a just and merciful God, whose spirit and all-powerful aid we humbly implore, we will ever be true to the flag of our beloved country, always acting under it. We, whose names are hereunto affixed, do constitute ourselves a branch of the United States League of Gileadites. That we will provide ourselves at once with suitable implements, and will aid those who do not possess the means, if any such are disposed to join us. We invite every colored person whose heart is engaged in the performance of our business, whether male or female, old or young. The duty of the aged, infirm, and young members of the League shall be to give instant notice to all members in case of an attack upon any of our people. We agree to have no officers except a treasurer and secretary pro tem., until after some trial of courage and talent of able-bodied members shall enable us to elect officers from those who shall have rendered the most important services. Nothing but wisdom and undaunted courage, efficiency, and general good conduct shall in any way influence us in electing our officers.

[Sanborn: “Then follows, in the original manuscript, a set of resolves, such as John Brown, with his methodical, forward-looking mind, was in the habit of drawing up whenever he organized any branch of his movement against slavery. This paper, which is sufficiently curious, reads as follows: -“]

Resolutions of the Springfield Branch of the United States League of Gileadites. Adopted 15th Jan., 1851.

1. Resolved, That we, whose names are affixed, do constitute ourselves a Branch of the United States League, under the above name.

2. Resolved, That all business of this Branch be conducted with the utmost quiet and good order; that we individually provide ourselves with suitable implements without delay; and that we will sufficiently aid those who do not possess the means, if any such are disposed to join us.

3. Resolved, That a committee of one or more discreet, influential men be appointed to collect the names of all colored persons whose heart is engaged for the performance of our business, whether male or female, whether old or young.

4. Resolved, That the appropriate duty of all aged, infirm, female, or youthful members of this Branch is to give instant notice to all other members of any attack upon the rights of our people, first informing all able-bodied men of this League or Branch, and next, all well known friends of the colored people; and that this information be confined to such alone, that there may be as little excitement as possible, and no noise in the so doing.

5. Resolved, That a committee of one or more discreet persons be appointed to ascertain the condition of colored persons in regard to implements, and to instruct others in regard to their conduct in any emergency.

6. Resolved, That no other officer than a treasurer, with a president and secretary pro tem., be appointed by this Branch, until after some trial of the courage and talents of able-bodied members shall enable a majority of the members to elect their officers from those who shall have rendered the most important services.

7. Resolved, That, trusting in a just and merciful God, whose spirit and all-powerful aid we humbly implore, we will most cheerfully and heartily support and obey such officers, when chosen as before; and that nothing but wisdom, undaunted courage, efficiency, and general good conduct shall in any degree influence our individual votes in case of such election.

8. Resolved, That a meeting of all members of this Branch shall be immediately called for the purpose of electing officers (to be chosen by ballot) after the first trial shall have been made of the qualifications of individual members for such command, as before mentioned.

9. Resolved, That as citizens of the United States of America we will ever be found true to the flag of our beloved country, always acting under it.[1]

[footnote 1] This is signed by the following members: -

B. C. Dowling.
Henry Johnson
Henry Hector
John Smith.
G. W. Holmes
John Strong
Reverdy Johnson.
C. A. Gazam
Wm. Burns
Samuel Chandler.
Eliza Green
Wm. Gordon
J. N. Howard.
Jane Fowler
Joseph Addams
Charles Rollins.
H. J. Jones
Wm. Green
Scipio Webb.
Ann Johnson
Wm. H. Montague
Charles Odell.
Cyrus Thomas
Jane Wicks.
L. Wallace.
Henry Robinson
James Madison
And seventeen others.

Source: F. B. Sanborn, ed., The Life and Letters of John Brown. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1891., pp. 124-27. Sanborn indicated that he had “somewhat condensed” the manuscript.


Chapter Three: The Abolitionist Calling

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History