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Sanborn Arrest

New York Herald
April 7, 1860


Reception of Sanborn in Concord:Great Outpouring of Citizens:Firing of Cannon:Ringing of Church Bells:Great Excitement All Around:A Village Run Mad:Colonel Joseph Holbrook Hissed, Groaned and Threatened:Large Meeting in the Town Hall:Speeches from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rev. T. W. Higginson:State of Feeling, &c &c &c.


Concord, Mass, April 5, 1860.

The excitement of last evening was renewed to-day in consequence of the discharge of Sanborn by the Supreme Court in Boston. Indications of rejoicing were to be observed on all hands, and it was determined that his return here should be the signal for an ovation of no insignificant character, and it so turned out.


After his discharge the pressure of the crowd was so great that it was found necessary to place Sanborn in a carriage, and whirl him through the streets toward the Fitchburg depot. This was about five o'clock this afternoon, and the cars leaving a short time thereafter, it was supposed Sanborn would take that train for home. The consequence was that a large crowd assembled at the depot, but they were disappointed in seeing the newly become noted character. To avoid and public demonstration and unnecessary display the carriage containing Mr. Sanborn, L. A. Surette, Geo. L. Stearns and Ezra Ripley, Esq., was driven to Cambridge, where they got on board the cars without creating any particular attention. In company with Judge E. Rockwood Hoar and Mr. Surette, Mr. Sanborn reached Concord at seven o'clock this evening.


On the arrival of the cars a large crowd of people were congregated, and on the announcement being made that "Frank Sanborn was free," a shout rent the air that might have shook the rafters in the depot. A number of ladies were present, who waved their handkerchiefs and appeared to join heartily in the general enthusiasm. At this moment a cannon, belonging to Company A Concord Artillery, belched forth its thunder, and taken altogether, for a spontaneous demonstration is was about as stirring an affair as could have been desired by the most ardent friend of the cause in which Sanborn is enlisted. After the excitement had somewhat subsided, Mr. Sanborn addressed a few words to the crowd, and was then escorted to his residence in Sudbury street, where the crown left him after giving him repeated cheers. The multitude then proceeded to the residence of Col. Joseph Holbrook, on Main street, and saluted him with


Colonel Holbrook is one of the most respected citizens of Concord. It seems that he furnished the United States officers with some information intended to facilitate the arrest of Sanborn, and consequently brought down upon his venerable head the indignation of the Sanbornites. Col. H. is full of pluck, as was evinced when he sheltered Gov. Dorr during the Rhode Island rebellion. He is now, and has been for some time, a Custom House officer in Boston, and a democrat of the old school. After venting their spleen upon Col. H., the crowd next proceeded to the Post Office, where Charles Z. Davis, the Postmaster, was saluted with


Mr. Davis did nothing but to advise that the law officers should be allowed to do their duty, and let the law take its course. The crowd cried, "Three groans for Davis," "Three groans for Holbrook," and Mr. Davis, stepping upon a box, told the crowd that "the boys composing it would be sorry for what they were doing by tomorrow evening." More groans for Davis, and some hisses, after which the crowd dispersed to attend


It having been announced, on the arrival of the cars at seven o'clock, during the firing of the cannon, that a meeting would be held in the Town Hall, at half past seven o'clock, at that hour the hall was partially filled by people of both sexes, particularly the weaker:which, it will appear, proved themselves almighty strong in this "second Concord fight," as it is termed. The excitement of the day and the hour was intensified in this meeting, and the appearance of Mr. Sanborn in the hall, about eight o'clock, was the signal for another outburst of enthusiasm. As others entered, the applause and cheering were most enthusiastic. Sanborn's sister, who assisted so valiantly in the defence of her brother, and who will doubtless by immortalized on account of her exploit, was received with unbounded enthusiasm; as also was Miss Anna Maria Whiting, daughter of Col. Wm. Whiting:a lady who took a seat in the carriage intended to convey Sanborn, and by spreading her crinoline, did not a little toward preventing the forcible entry of Sanborn into the vehicle. Something more in reference to the proceedings of this courageous young woman will appear as the narrative of the proceedings of the meeting progresses.


Among those of conservative and moderate views who sympathized with the objects of the meeting:which seemed to be to exalt Sanborn and the republican party:were such gentleman as Danl. Shattuck, Esq., an old whig, President of the Concord Bank, the principal moneyed man in the town; E. W. Bull, Esq., a prominent American republican; Capt. Richard Barrett, commander of Concord Artillery, democrat, republican and American; George Heywood, Esq., town clerk, an "old young" whig; Mr. L. A. Surrette, a merchant in Boston, an old line whig; and others of lesser note.

The meeting was called to order at 8 o'clock, by Capt. Charles Bowers, a shoe manufacturer (strict republican). At this time there were about 500 people in the hall, a strong half of whom were females. The number is set large, and was probably twice the number that attended the John Brown meeting held. The entire population of Concord is about 2,500. On motion of Capt. Bowers, Dr. Josiah Barlett was called to the Chair. Dr. Bartlett is an abolitionist, a temperance advocate of something more than fourteen years standing, and as good natured an old gentleman as can be found in any meeting of this sort anywhere.


The Chairman, briefly congratulated the people on the discharge of Mr. Sanborn. He said:God bless old Concord. He was willing to sacrifice everything for the defence of right. And the people of Concord were ready to do the same. How could it be otherwise, when one of their most respectable citizens was seen manacled in their streets under an illegal warrant for his arrest. He asked if this was not a reason why every citizen of Concord should resist? (He did not say particularly what, but the sentiment was received with great applause.) Had it not been for two ladies:Miss Anna Maria Whiting and the sister of Sanborn:Sanborn would not have been on his way to Washington, beyond the reach of any habeas corpus. He then introduced


On the appearance of Mr. Sanborn, there was a storm of applause, accompanied with a few hisses. Mr. Sanborn said:--


He had first to thank them for the most prompt, generous and unexpected manner in which they had come his assistance last night. But it was a case not only of his own, but their own peril. If his opinion had been asked before hand, he would have said "Le me meet it alone." There was only one thing he would change, and (showing a pair of handcuffs) he said there was fitness in this. What is this the emblem of? (A Voice:"Tyranny.") It is the badge of slavery. (Loud applause, during which Sanborn shook the manacles.) He said the Southerners held them as much in bondage as their own slaves. If any one strikes for freedom, as strikes at the interests of the slave owner, and hence the whole power of the national government is brought to bear to crush him. (Applause.) When he was arrested, he had committed but few crimes, fewer than he could wish:(another outburst of applause):in the same cause.


Mr. Sanborn continued, by saying that if those ruffians who attempted to carry him off last night had been killed in the act, the deed would not have been deemed unlawful. The perpetrators would not have been held amendable to the laws. They ought to have been killed. (Applause.) Such men are not killed. They die like vermin. (Renewed applause.) If any and every one of them had been laid under the sod of Concord, not one of those who did the deed could have been indicted. So the Supreme Court of Massachusetts decided to-day. (Loud acclamations.) When the Senate, or the House of Representatives, or the President, act under the mandates of the slave owners, they must be resisted by every way and by every means. (More applause.) Mr. Sanborn said he was ready to meet any other offence against the South in the same manner he had done last night. Dealing with the Southerners was not dealing with men, it was dealing with demons. The system of slavery should be opposed with force. He advised them not to be aggressive, but to meet the encroachments of slavery with force. That is the only argument some people can understand. (Applause.) There is no law to protect tigers and hyenas:and they must be met and dealt with as such. Mr. S. concluded by saying, that so help him God, he would put in practice the teachings of the last twenty-four hours, and so might God help them in pursuing the same course. (Loud cheering.)


The Rev. Grindall Reynolds, a clergyman of the Unitarian persuasion, pastor of the Unitarian church in this place, and a pretty good sort of a man generally (your reporter hears) rose to express his joy, and their joy, that this good town of Concord has been foremost in this battle for freedom and law. (Applause.) To express, he said, our joy that our friend had escaped from the jaws of the lion unscathed. Law is in alliance with conscience, and the lesson of this hour deafens us in our love for freedom. He expressed his deepest satisfaction that their highest judicial authorities had sided with them in this battle for freedom.


Henry T. Thoreau, a genius and a philosopher, and reputed to be a man of practical sense and tact:his business a surveyor:said he heard the bells ringing last night, as he supposed for fire, but it proved to be the hottest fire he ever witnessed in Concord. He denounced what he termed the mean and sneaking method the United States officials took to accomplish their purpose. Early in the evening there appeared a poor boy, under a forged name, seeking aid. This is the course the Senate of the United States took to arrest one of their fellow citizens. The kidnappers, he said, should have been in their place. (Applause.) He thought somebody should have taken the responsibility to arrest them at the time of the arrest of Sanborn. That was a mistake. Many had been congratulated because the affair had been conducted in a lawful and orderly manner, and their friend was not free according to law. He did not agree with them. No. The Concord people didn't ring the fire alarm bells according to law:they didn't cheer according to law:they didn't groan according to law:(loud applause):and as he didn't talk according to law, he thought he would stop and give way to some other speaker.


Mr. A. G. Fay, agent for the American Powder Company Mill, located in Barre, Mass., said he had met a man on the road to-day who said "Sanborn would never be carried away without bloodshed. Telegraphic dispatches had been sent all about the country, and the friends of the cause were on the alert to prevent his being carried away. He will never be carried away alive, that you may depend on." He had a revolver, ready for use, and Mr. Fay told him 'his name was Fay, and he made gunpowder." Mr. F. said there were some people in town who commanded his respect for their conduct last night, but there were others that he hoped they would hate all their natural lives. (Continued applause.)


At this juncture of the proceedings, Capt. Bowers introduced the following resolutions, which were subsequently unanimously adopted:--


Resolved, That Concord remains where she was on the 19th of April, 1775, and there she will remain forever.

Resolved, That the doctrine of the Revolution, "that resistance to tyrants is obedience to God," is our doctrine, and that we proclaim our unswerving determination to resist all attempts to abridge the right of any citizen to all the privileges and guarantees of constitutional liberty.

Resolved, That the attempt of the Unites States officers, by false pretences, and under cover of darkness, to rob a man of his freedom, is base, mean and cowardly; but for private citizens to volunteer their services to aid and abet in such nefarious work, is black and diabolical as the toryism of the Revolution.

Resolved, That Concord stands by the principles vindicated at the old North Bridge, on the 19th of April, 1775.

Resolved, That the fame of old Concord for its spirit of noble daring on the 19th of April, 1775, is glorious, and only equaled by the chivalrous rescue of one of our most honored citizens from a band of kidnappers, who had forcibly seized and manacled and were hurrying him away from his home and friends on the 3d of April, 1860.


Mr. A. Bronson Alcott, a transcendental lecturer, and an able and courteous gentleman, polite, affable, and superintendent of schools for this town, whose daughter is a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, &c, &c., was called upon, and after briefly apologizing for not making a speech, said that he considered the 4th of April as the 19th in the new calendar. [It will be remembered that the 19th was the day on which the first battle for freedom(1775) was fought in the Revolution.]


Colonel Wm. Whiting, an abolitionist, was called on next. He labored under a severe hoarseness, and said it was occasioned by "hollering" murder last night. He hollered so loud that he was heard a mile and a half off. He was excused from making any further remarks.


Capt. Bowers said the best thing in this connection had not yet been related. It was this:--when those "miserable officers" went to take Sanborn in their carriage, they found a woman in it. (Miss Anna Maria Whiting, before reported.) She was asked by one of the United States officers to leave. She declined. The officer said he should be obliged to assist her out. She still declined. The officer expostulated, and said the horses might run away and she be killed. "Let them run," said the young woman, "I don't care." (Tremendous applause.) Capt. B. referred to


He said the last time he met him, when the melee was going on, he cried, 'Stand by him:stand by him, Warren!' (Great applause.) Capt. B. hoped that the memory of Hosmer would be entertained with all honor, and that his bereaved family would not be allowed to suffer.

[Hosmer has repeatedly said that he would never live to see Sanborn carried away from Concord; and, unfortunate man, he did not.]


There were now loud cries for "Warren," "Warren."

The President (pleasantly):Do you mean General Warren?

A Voice:If he isn't a general he ought to be. (Applause.)


Mr. N. Henry Warren was introduced, and made a bitter speech against the United States officials. He called them "miserable scoundrels," and said they ought to have been put where they deserve to be, and where they will be if they ever come again to Concord. (Applause.) For the last three months he had calculated upon an attempt of this kind to take away Sanborn. And for that length of time he had had a rifle loaded, and was determined that if everything else failed:when rescue by cutting the traces and all other means failed:the officer who attempted to carry away Sanborn should take the bullet form that rifle into his head. (Loud applause.) Mr. Warren referred to his Revolutionary ancestors, and said he was now prepared to vindicate the rights they then sought to maintain. His impulse last night was to take hold of "them men," and although he had not laid violent hands upon a man for seventeen years, and although considered before that a passionate and quarrelsome person, he could not resist the temptation to floor one of them. [Mr. Warren, is seems, smashed a window in the carriage with a bean pole, the first weapon he could find, and for the act was floored by the driver Mr. Foss, before he exactly understood the character of the operations. Mr. W. is a determined looking personage, of short stature and slight physique. But he has a quick eye, and looks as though he could pull a trigger of a rifle about as expertly as almost any other individual.]


Ralph Waldo Emerson, independent in wealth as he is transcendental in politics, well known all over the Union for his eccentricities, and at the same time for the warmth of his heart, addressed the assemblage. He was received with great tokens of approbation. He commended the expression of the feelings of Concord as given by those who preceded him and approving the action taken by the citizens in defending the rights of one of her most esteemed citizens, declared that the greatest praise was due to the heroic women, who by their prompt and devoted exertion prevented an attempt of the officers to snatch him away from his friends and his home and gave the alarm to the town. The lesson learned here is of the greatest political importance:resistance the most vigilant and determined to the tendency toward centralization. Let us hate and dread it. As Paris has become the mistress of France, so Washington aspires to become the centre of America and all the power of the nation tends toward the national government. Let the States resist the government and the cities the States, and the villages the cities. That is the greatest protection of the law and this government:that the people are jealous of their rights and ready to resist the slightest encroachment under any circumstances.


Mr. W. E. Bull, a gold beater, and famous as the originator of the "Concord" grape:a Bacchus in a Main law district:formerly a member of the State Senate, and Chairman of the Republican County Committee; also Chairman of the Board of Selectmen of this town, and a member of the Town School Committee, asked if Concord had degenerated? He spoke of "thieves in the night," and all that sort of thing, with a view to encourage resistance under circumstances that occurred here last night.


The Rev. T. W. Higginson, of Worcester, well known as an abolition agitator, spoke at some length. He said it was not his fault that he was not here last night. He blamed Divine Providence for it. After some remarks, he put the question, "Will Concord maintain the action of last night?" There were cries of "Yes, yes." But in case there should be any doubt upon the question, he would repeat it. He did not repeat the question, but he repeated his interrogatory:As many as are in favor will say "yes":contrary, "no." And there were no negatives. Making especial reference to some people who were in a corner, the reverend gentleman's remarks were directed especially to an effective military organization in this town, to carry out the principles of resistance to United States laws. He said, if such a thing should be stated here it would meet with a response in other towns, especially Worcester. He argued that there was nothing at the bottom of the United States government, as had been evinced by the decision of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts this day. (Applause.) Mr. Higginson referred to the visit of Asa O. Butman, a United States officer, to Worcester to arrest a fugitive slave, and his retirement from that place under an escort of a few friends. He referred to the necessity of a military organization to resist such arrests in future.


On motion of Capt. Bowers, the following gentlemen were appointed by the Chair a committee to consult and devise a plan to meet the views expressed by the last speaker, and report at a future meeting, viz:--Messrs. George E. Prescott, depot master; Nathan Henry Warren, large farmer, ex-President of Farmers' Club; Moses Hobson, master builder; John Brown, Jr. (in the dry good business, no relation of Harper's Ferry Brown); Col. Wm. Whiting, carriage maker; Edward C. Damon, woolen manufacturer; Nathan B. Stowe, extensive farmer.


Mr. Sanborn again took the stand, after a motion to adjourn had bee put. He said:When the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of this Commonwealth said I was discharged, I took my hat, and was leaving the court room. Friends came up and asked me what I was going to do. Had I not better go away, and thus avoid any further persecution? No, I said. I will go back to Concord. He then explained the cause of his discharge, on the grounds that an agent of the Sergeant at-Arms, of the United States Senate, had served the writ upon him, and not that officer himself, in person; and said that if that officer himself had come in person, or the Vice President of the Senate, himself, should come in person, he would never submit. He said:"I will stay in Concord." He regarded the process for his arrest as illegal, coming, as it did, from a branch of the government; and as a usurpation on the part of that branch, and he should resist it as such. The audience he addressed might go with him or not. It rested with them. But personally, if ever called upon by any person clothed with any powers emanating from the United States Senate, he should resist the execution of the warrant.

Mr. Sanborn concluded his remarks without any perceptible marks of applause, and retired to his home.


Deputy Sheriff Moore arrived in the train to-night, clothed with plenary powers to present to Miss Sanborn a bouquet, sent from a democratic lover of feminine heroism in Boston:an Elder Bowditch:in token of her heroic endeavors to rescue her brother from the United States officials.

Sanborn was arrested after the meeting to-night, on a complaint made by his friend, Mr. L. A. Surette, for assault on the United States officials. This complaint is made, as I understand, under the advice of eminent Boston lawyers. It will cover Sanborn with the panoply of the local State law on a criminal process, and keep him within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth until the meeting of the criminal court in the latter part of June next, in the county of Middlesex. This is considered a shrewd movement on the part of Sanborn's friends to prevent his transfer from this town to Washington. It is reported that Sanborn severely maltreated one or two of the United States officials in their attempt to take his away.


The people of Concord are naturally a law-abiding people. Some of the best citizens are devoted to the Union, and they will maintain their devotion to it at all hazards. The proceedings of the last twenty-four hours, as described impartially above, will afford some indication as regards their real feelings with respect to the fulfillment of a mandate of the Senate of the United States.

Although it may appear at the first blush that the people in Concord ignore nationality, yet the opinion of some of the best men among them is adverse to such a theory.

The United States officers, Messrs. Carleton, Darlton, Cooledge, and Freeman, are cited to appear on Friday next on a charge of assault and battery on Sanborn. The counters and re-counters appear to be thoroughly in the hands of the lawyers.



Concord, April 4, 1860.

I sent you last night a brief account of my seizure by a band of ruffians claiming some authority from the United States Senate, a body which has no power to make arrests and handcuff free citizens in Massachusetts. To-day I wish to add some particulars, as well as I could note and remember them in the hurry and confusion of the whole matter.

Earlier in the evening one of these men had visited in house, and finding the door unlocked, had gone in, [and] being met by the servant, told her that he had an important paper for me, and as she understood him, it was something about a situation. I was out at the time, and was told of it when I returned. How long the ruffians had been looking about town I do not know, but am informed they had been here some hours, probably watching my footsteeps [sic], in which honorable employment they were aided, as I am told and believe, by Joseph Holbrook, sometimes called Colonel Holbrook, an officer in the Boston Custom House, residing here, and Charles B. Davis, Postmaster of this town. These neighbors of mine, with one of whom I formerly boarded, have, as I believe, assisted in committing this outrage. Some weeks ago, the person calling himself Carleton was here as a spy, and made his headquarters at the Post Office.

I at first offered no resistance, but when the handcuffs were put on I refused to go, not hiving heard any warrant, or seen any signatures, or been told the names of the officers, or the nature of my offence, so far as I can recollect. When they dragged me into the open air, without allowing me to put on my boots, overcoat or hat, I cried "Murder," and resisted with my feet as well as I could with four stout men holding me. They dragged me to the carriage, which had been brought up by a firth or sixth confederate, and attempted to put me in. I broke the side of the carriage with my feet, and my sister seizing one of the ruffians, they dropped me on my feet again. Again they tried to put me in, but my sister whipped the horses, which started, and foiled them again. They were still struggling with me and her:five men against a man and a woman:when the neighbors came running to my aid. The ruffians still attempted to kidnap me, but they soon found they were overpowered. Then and not till then, did they read their warrant in the [?] by the light of a lantern, while I stood handcuffed and half clothed in their hands. This must have been [?] minutes after my first seizure.

I have learned from what seems good authority that the ruffians who seized me contrary to law, as Chief Justice Shaw has just decided, left the Lexington House at 6 and that they were in two carriages. Some of them, I am told, hid themselves in an old barn a stone's throw from my door, where it is supposed they were secreted by Joseph Holbrook, a Custom House officer. They must have been in town two hours before they feloniously entered my house to assault me. I opened the door myself to the young man, whom I conclude to be a son of Marshal Freeman.

Nothing but my own resistance and that of my sister Miss Sarah E. Sanborn, prevented me from being carried away by the hand of kidnappers before help could arrive. Mr. Edwin Bigelow first came to my aid, and in ten minutes twenty or thirty persons, neighbors and friends of mine, were around me. They compelled the reading of the warrant and the giving of names, which the ruffians very unwillingly gave. Freeman treated me with the most courtesy, and I took pains to inform my neighbors of this, and entreated them specially not to injure him. I also requested them not to maltreat any of them, and I think none were seriously injured. I was taken by force from the kidnappers by Sheriff Moore and his posse, then numbering some 200 men, women and children. My manacled wrists were in some danger of being broken in the affray, but though my hands are stiff I think there is no dislocation of the joints. I have the handcuffs in my possession, and shall kept them to show my family, and at my death give them to the town of Concord to be hung in the Town Hall, if the people will accept them, that they may be reminded of a second resistance to brutal aggression made on their historic village. It is my intention to see Mr. Carleton and his fellows brought to justice in the courts; and I shall direct my attorney, also, to institute suits against them for damages. Their warrant bears date Feb. 16, six weeks ago, nearly all which time I have been in Concord, and might have been arrested in [?] daylight any day for the last month. Why, then, should they sneak into town by night and get admittance to my house by means of a forged letter? Does this look as if our liberties were in danger or not?

The full bench of our Supreme Court have set me free, and I return to-night to Concord to pursue the duties of my profession. F. B. Sanborn.

Source: John Brown Scrap Book, compiled by Frank Sanborn, Vol. 1, Boyd B. Stutler Collection, West Virginia State Archives.

Chapter Thirteen: Toward Civil War

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History