Correspondence of The N. Y. Tribune.
Charleston, Va., Nov. 10, 1859–Evening.
The Court did not meet very early this morning. Judge Parker having, no doubt, been occupied in examining exceptions and motions in arrest. At about 11 o’clock the Hall began to fill, and by the time the prisoners were ready to receive sentence, it was crowded to the full extent of the capacity. The prisoners having been severally asked if they had anything to say, previous to listening to their sentence of death, Coppic rose and spoke thus:
“The charges that have been made against me are not true. I never committed any treason against the State of Virginia. I never made war upon it. I never conspired with any anybody to induce your slaves to rebel, and I never even exchanged a word with one of your servants. What I come here for I always told you. It was to run off slaves into a Free State and liberate them there. This is an offense against your laws, I admit, but I never committed murder. When I escaped to the engine house, and found the Captain and his prisoners surrounded there, I saw no way of deliverance but by fighting a little. If anybody was killed on that occasion, it was in a fair fight. I have, as I said, committed an offense against you laws, but the punishment for that offense would be very different from what you are going to inflict on me now. I have no more to say.”
It will readily be seen that this statement coincides exactly with, and substantiates the account, which I sent you a few days ago, from Brown’s own lips, of his real intention in this expedition. The next two prisoners, the negro and mulatto, Green and Copeland, when called upon, said nothing. When Cook’s turn came, he delivered, in a hesitating, nervous manner, a speech, which had probably been carefully prepared. He said, in substance, that he had not come to commit treason or murder, but merely in pursuance of orders from his commander-in-chief, with a design to liberate slaves. As to the sword and pistols of George Washington, taken from Lewis Washington’s house, he said they were seized by order of Brown, not for purposes of robbery, but for the sake of the moral effect that their possession might afford in case of a war of liberation. At the conclusion of his not very effective speech, Judge Parker pronounced sentence of death, in a manner showing genuine sincerity of emotion and pity–feelings which did not seem to be shared by his hearers. These were the Judge’s words:
“Your trials, on which we have been so long employed, have at length ended, and all that remains to be done to complete these judicial proceedings is to pronounce and record the judgments which by law must follow upon the crimes for which you have been tried and of which you have been found guilty. These crimes have all grown out of a mad inroad upon this State, made with the predetermined purpose to raise in our midst the standard of a servile insurrection. In the execution of this purpose, in the darkness of a Sabbath night, you seized upon a portion of our territory; captured several of our best citizens, holding them as hostages of war until your party was itself overcome by forced; armed such of our slaves as you could seize upon with deadly weapons, which they were to use against their owners, whom you denounced to them as their oppressors; and, in your efforts to push your bold and unholy scheme through to a successful issue, you have taken human life in no fewer than five instances. The evidence most abundantly proved that all these things had been done, and by the force of that evidence Jury after Jury has felt itself compelled to bring in its verdict of guilty against each one of you. Happily for the peace of our whole land, you obtained no support from that quarter whence you so confidently expected it. Not a slave united himself to your party, but, so soon as he could get without the range of your rifles, or as night gave him an opportunity, made his escape from men who had come to give him freedom, and hurried to place himself once more beneath the care and protection of his owner. When we reflect upon all the mischief and ruin, the dark and fearful crimes which must have attended even your partial success–men everywhere should be thankful that you were so soon and so easily overpowered. For these offenses the law demands the penalty of death, and imposes upon me the duty of pronouncing that sentence. It is the most painful duty I have ever been called on to perform. In spite of your offenses against our laws, I cannot but feel deeply for you, and sincerely, most sincerely, do I sympathize with those friends and relations, whose lives are bound up in yours, and whose hearts will be so wrung with grief when they shall hear of the sad fate which has overtaken you, the objects of their warmest and holiest affections. For them we all do sorrow: while a due regard for our safety may not permit us to forgive the offenses of which you have been guilty, I hope that they will turn for consolation, and you for pardon, to that good Being, who in his wrath remembereth mercy. Make then your peace with Him–for you must soon be ushered into his presence, there to be dealt with as His justice and His mercy may ordain. To conclude this sad duty, I now announce that the sentence of the law is, that you, and each one of our John E. Cooke, Edwin Coppic, Shields Green, and John Copeland, be hanged by the neck until you are dead–and that execution of this judgment be made and done by the Sheriff of this County, on Friday, the sixteenth day of December next, upon you Shields Green and John Copeland, between the hours of eight in the forenoon and twelve, noon, of that day–and upon you, John E. Cooke and Edwin Coppic, between the hours of twelve, noon, and five in the afternoon of same day. And the Court being of opinion that the execution of this sentence should be in public, it is further ordered that this judgment be enforced and executed, not in the jail-yard, but at such public place convenient thereto as the said Sheriff may appoint–and may God have mercy upon the soul of each one of you.”
The prisoners were then remanded. The day fixed for the execution is the 16th of December. There is, however, very strong reason to believe that the indictments will not hold together in the Court of Appeals. The most prominent of the native lawyers here have expressed great doubts as to whether they could stand under some of the objections taken by Mr. Sennott and others. In case strict legal justice were exercised, the matter would be beyond a doubt; but “these fellows do “not stand upon points,” and the determination to secure the prompt punishment of the invaders is so strong, that it is possible that all inaccuracies of the trials will be overlooked. Nothing can compare with the flexibility of the Virginia law.
Correspondence of The N. Y. Tribune.
Charlestown, Va., Nov. 8, 1859.
The trial of Cook as far as it has proceeded, has been very sharply contested. The extreme hatred which the people of Jefferson County bear this prisoner, far exceeding that felt for any of the rest, and the magnitude of the preparations for the defense, have combined to excite an unusual interest in the progress of his case. Cook acts under the guidance of five counsel–two, Messrs. Botts and Green, belonging to Charlestown, and three to Indiana, including Gov. Willard. The defense has certainly been conducted with a brisk press equalling that of Mr. Sennott in the cases of Copeland and Green; and the prosecution has likewise exorted its best powers against the concentrated force brought to bear upon it. The debates today have been very keen, and sometimes very severe. Mr. Botts has all the while sat coiled together in his chair, as I never before say any man coiled out of a circus, watching for opportunities to spring upon his antagonist. At the least sign of weakness from Mr. Hunter, he has darted upon him, and striven, with an energy quite refreshing to witness in a Virginia lawyer, to destroy the fabric of his argument. With a power of resistance that shows him to be altogether the ablest of the Charlestown lawyers, Mr. Hunter vigorously repelled these attacks, and in some cases turned them to his own advantage. Mr. Green, however, he has found to be a more formidable opponent.
Mr. Green is one of the most extraordinary men to look upon I ever saw. He is long, angular, uncouth and wild in gesture, and deficient in all rhetorical graces. His words rush from his mouth scarce half made up. He speaks sentences abreast. His pronunciation is ludicrously ungainly; “thar” and “whar” are the least of his offenses. His demeanor, altogether, is of unrivaled oddity; and yet his power is so decided that, while he is upon his legs, he carries everything with him. He is the most remarkable man I have seen here, although not so impressive in his bearing as Mr. Andrew Hunter, the prosecuting attorney, who is a man of real nobility of presence. Mr. Hunter’s manner in pleading is nearer like Rufus Choate’s, in his quieter moments, than that of any other man’s I have ever seen; and his personal appearance is also, in many respects, very strongly suggestive of Mr. Choate.
Neither the acuteness of Cook’s counsel, nor the blunders of Harding, the unfortunate inebriate who trammels Mr. Hunter in the business of the prosecution, helped the defense in any perceptible degree. Points were raised with unceasing rapidity, were closely discussed, often with some signs of acrimony, and were swept aside, according to custom, by the Court. This continued throughout the morning. The “points” of the defense were like Hydra heads. No sooner was one disposed of than half a dozen others took its place. But all these availed nothing, and, as the afternoon advanced, the trial went more smoothly on its way. The spectators had begun to withdraw, expecting no continuance of the interest, when, suddenly, all attention was arrested by Mr. Hunter’s announcement that he had a confession rendered by Cook, which he was about to read. The intelligence spread about, and the Court-room soon was speedily crowded again. All hoped for a complete and satisfactory revelation, which should elucidate the entire operations of Brown, from beginning to end, and which should bring evidence of the complicity of those Northern gentlemen whom the people of Virginia are so eager to get within their grasp–but all were disappointed.
For the confession, which occupied some twenty large pages of manuscript, and was not read in less than half an hour, was very little beside a record of some of Cook’s experiences in Kansas, Iowa, Ohio, Canada, and elsewhere, in which, to be sure, Brown was concerned all through, but which, expecting the latter portions, bore very remotely upon the Harper’s Ferry question. The few important points I have sent you by telegraph. The document itself is withheld from the public eye, in order that it may be issued in copy-righted pamphlet form for the benefit of the man Young, who was wounded in the conflict at the Ferry, and who is now left destitute. It is quite a Virginia notion, this turning of a public paper to private uses. But beyond the interest that attaches to an ostensible full avowal from one of Brown’s party, this confession has none. It is thought by the Court that Cook has played a double game in preparing it–that he has pretended to reveal to the authorities in good faith, all that he is able to, and at the same time attempted to preserve his fidelity to his old master.
This confession will serve no particular end. Unless an understanding exists to the contrary between Gov. Willard and Gov. Wise–which is suspected by many–Cook will as surely be hung as all the rest.
The shadow of an unconquerable terror still hangs over the Virginians. Their precautions are endless. What do you think was their last movement? They excluded Mr. Sennott, Brown’s authorized counsel, who has in charge the disposition of the little property that remains to the condemned man, for the benefit of his wife and children, and who is endeavoring to arrange the best methods for collecting it together, from all private communication with the prisoners. It occurred to them that Mr. Sennott might act as a medium of correspondence between Brown and his Northern friends. This would not do at all. So the Court was appealed to, or Mr. hunter was appealed to, and an order was issued, prohibiting Mr. Sennott’s entrance to the jail, excepting when accompanied by the jailer. I do not know how Mr. Sennott took this, but I know that he would assuredly have given his opinion upon the matter in open Court just as readily as he gave it upon “the absurd and illogical system of Slavery,” if it had not been deemed wisest, when he first privately expressed resentment, to remove all obstacles and restore him to his just position as counsel. I should not be surprised, however, if on looking over the Virginia code some provision should be found depriving a condemned prisoner of the right to see his legal adviser. The Virginia code is full of just such convenient arrangements.
Charlestown, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 9, 1859.
The people here are congratulating themselves on the decline of the excitement. Enough, however, lasts to more than satisfy inexperienced visitors, whose lives are not so hotly spiced with warlike variety as those of the sunny Southerners. I call it a fair evidence of feeling that the slightest spark of Northern sentiment sets it off roaring and violent as an ill-regulated volcano. When martial law pervades a community; when no two persons can meet without helping one another to loud-sounding expressions of wrath; when business is more than half suspended; when female residents are restrained from venturing beyond their thresholds, so that a bonnet is as rare a curiosity as a phrase without an oath; when armed patrols are constantly on the alert; when Sharp’s rifles take the places of walking-sticks; when every stranger is hemmed in by vulgar scrutiny, and forced to undergo continual inspection, or reviled in newspapers, I think the existence of excitement may be acknowledged without much difficulty. Let me endeavor to give a notion of the most prominent public events of a day in Charlestown–those which would strike a newcomer the most forcibly, and which are now far less marked than they were a week ago. It may be interesting to have a plan of the center of the town to refer to at the same time.
At sunrise, the rattling of the drums awakens all sleepers. The night patrol comes in, staggering under some fatigue and some old rye, and tumbles wearily to bed. In front of the Market building the troops are convened, exercised, marched about, and dissembled. Then, for an hour, a partial quiet is restored. Toward 7 o’clock, the corner groups begin to gather. The open square in front of the Court-House is occupied by clusters of earnest orators, who repeat the stale invectives of the past ten days. As morning advances, the knots of people are drawn tighter, in a double sense. By the jail door poor Harding, the District-Attorney, than whom the least of John Brown’s party is a worthier specimen of humanity, strives to clear his brain, clouded by last night’s revels, by long continued arguments in which no one but himself takes part At 9 ½ o’clock, the Court bell rings, the Judge assumes his chair. The lawyers drop into their places, and the outside crowd pours in. A detachment of the Continentals (the volunteer troops being, as yet, too inexperienced for so responsible a charge) marches across to the jail, receives the prisoner, which, to-day, is Cook and, with solemn dignity, conducts him over the way to the hall of justice (convenient and popular though, sometimes, inaccurate title).
As the trial begins, the crackling of chestnuts sets in, and accompanies the proceedings without cessation. The lawyers coil themselves up in strange attitudes, or protrude their legs over tables and railings. The prisoner, Cook, is very thoughtful, and does not seem to possess the fearlessness which animates almost all of his confederates. He is very pale, certainly, and the stoop of his shoulders detracts from the manliness of his presence. He is a smaller man than any of the rest. His light hair and complexion, and uncertain eyes, seem to indicate an irresolution of purpose, which I have not seen in Brown, nor Coppic, nor Stephens. The crowd regards him with great hatred, for he is looked upon with more hostility than all the others together. Very often the denunciations that are uttered against him rise to a clamor that calls for the interference of the sheriff; and then, for a moment all is still again, except the ceaseless snapping of the chestnut shells.
Without, the unvarying round of discussion goes on. An editor of one of the local unwashed sheets has secured a party of listeners, to whom he propounds plans for raising a committee to wait upon the suspected strangers in town, men and women alike, and to compel them to depart, under penalty of lynching. This proposition is received with favor, until some one comes along with a new idea, to which the recently adopted gives way. The debates wax more and more bitter, until a lady, a stranger, walks out of her hotel, and approaches the jail. The crowd at once becomes breathless. All eyes fasten upon her. Instinctively the locks of some rifles are examined. There are perfectly audible mutterings of rage. But the lady passes by the jail, and goes on, and the tension of the Virginia nerve is relaxed once more.
At dinner time there is a peaceful hour. The prisoner is bayonetted back to his cell, and the multitudes, having men and approved the operation, give themselves up to appetite. For a brief hour the angry passions vanish. As yet, in Charlestown, cookery supersedes cannibalism. The delicious pies of the hotel dinners, standing out in very effective contrast to the numberless discomforts around, soothe all asperities, and overcome all crustiness but their own. But very soon the drums are heard again. The soldiers come forth, and the people follow. The turbulence of the morning returns. The court-room is replenished, and the streets echo with highly-flavored conversations.
In the middle of the afternoon, it is rumored that a Northern lady, in defiance of the prohibition of the Sheriff, is to be admitted, by favor of Capt. Avis, the jailor, to see Brown. This is a terrible turn of affairs. What can the jailor think of? Col. Romulus and Major Remus are lost in amazement. They resolve to interpose remonstrances, but, as they start upon this errand, they see the lady entering the jail door. It is then too late. The excitement rises to intensity. There is talk of mobbing the jail. A throng gathers. Half an hour passes. The fever grows upon them. An hour. Some measured must be taken. Shall the jail be stormed at once? Ah, here she is. Stop! Is it she? look closely at those features. Make sure it is not Old Brown, disguised in feminine attire. No, all is safe in that direction. But, observe the frowns, the cold-blooded glares that follow the visitor as she moves sway. A man might well quail before them.
The jailer is put through a scorching course of interrogations. Luckily he is a man of firmness and decision, and has the courage to beat down the noisy complaints that assail him. But there are few in Charlestown like Capt. Avis.
At nightfall, the circumspection is doubled. Free passage through the streets is not yielded. At every turn you meet an ugly fellow, with a still uglier musket (generally a flint-cock, at which the Colonel in command is greatly scandalized, averring that the Government sends all its best arms to the North, and reserves the worst for Virginia), who will neither let you advance nor recede, without a long parley. Later in the evening you cannot go about al all, except within close range of your hotel. There, indeed, you may have the delights of society–a bar-room filled with blatant boors, who, unchecked by the presence of the Judge, who site among them, rehearse their foolish frenzies, and strive in vain to drown their venom in successive flowing bowls. Thus pass the days and nights in Charlestown.
As far as a man can be made comfortable in a jail, and under circumstances like his, I believe Brown is so. His jailer is a humane and a just man. He does all for his prisoners that his duty allows him to. I think he has a sincere respect for Brown’s undaunted fortitude and fearlessness. He permits Brown and Stephens to occupy the same room, the position of which, as well as the general arrangement of the jail, I give herewith:
This is exact and particular, and I can give no further details of the interior of the jail, excepting that the other prisoners are distributed among the rooms above and below, and that great care has been taken to remove every nail and other metallic implement from each cell. The victims, you see, must be carefully preserved for the sacrifice.
Brown’s conversation is singularly attractive. His manner is magnetic. It attracts every one who approaches him, and while he talks he reigns. The other prisoners venerate him. Stephens sits in his bed, usually with his face away from the window, and listens all day to “the Captain’s” words, seldom offering a syllable except when called upon. Sometimes he gets a little excited, and springs forward to make clear some point about which “the Captain” is in doubt, but his five bullets, in head and breast, weigh him down, and he is soon exhausted. As for the other men–Copeland, Green and Coppic, they are always sending messages to “the Captain,” assuring him that “it was not they who confessed, and he musn’t growl at them, but at Cook.” I cannot forget hearing Brown express himself on the subject of the threatening anonymous letters that have been received by Gov. Wise relating to his case. “Well, gentlemen,” he said, “I tell you what I think of them. They come from no friends of mine. I have nothing to do with such friends. Why, gentlemen, of all the things in the world that I despise, anonymous letters are the worst. If I had a little job to do, I would sooner take one half the men I brought down here to help me than as many of these fellows as could fill all Jefferson County, standing close upon every inch. If I don’t get out of this jail before such people as they are take me out, I shan’t go very soon.”
I was standing at the railroad depot this morning, amusing myself with the manner in which the soldiers and citizens collect to take note of all arrivals. The train from Winchester came in. A woman lifted one of the car windows, and gazed out with much interest. She was very nearly a beauty, or else the entire seclusion of the feminine part of Charlestown has deprived me of standards for comparison. She certainly did not look at all like an ogress. She very soon began to talk in a loud tone, with the evident intention of being overheard, for her handsome eyes glanced slyly round at every moment, to mark the impression she created. I am going to tell you what this pleasant creature and her compassion, her husband, I suppose, said:
“Did you tell me, Paul, that there was another caught?”
“Yes, another was caught yesterday.”
“Then there are six now?”
“Yes, six altogether.”
“Will they all be hanged together?”
“What, all six?”
“Oh, won’t that be gay?”
“Oh, Paul, may I be here to see? I wish I could wait till it was all done.”
(Paul laughs, and looks admiringly on the vivacious speaker.)
“Then, Paul, they’ll catch those other villains, Giddings, and all those, and hang them, too, won’t they?”
“We hope so.”
“Oh, I must be here, Paul, get me some water.”
Water, gentle lady, why did you not ask for blood? It would have better satisfied your particular thirst, I know.
People may say what they please of the indifference of the negroes to the passing events, but it is not true. They burn with anxiety to learn every particular, but they fear to show it. A hotel servant busied himself the whole morning a day or two ago to extract from me something concerning the prospects of Brown, without appearing to ask a direct question. At last I told him he’d better say what he wanted. “Well, Sir,” he said very timidly, “what do you think they’ll do, after all, with Mr. Brown?” I told him they would surely hang him. “Well, now,” he said, argumentatively, “Don’t you see it would be a pity to do anything so ‘brupt.” I told him that if brown were not disposed of, the people in Virginia would think themselves in a bad scrape. “Pity they wasn’t,” said he, shuffling away very much discomposed.
I think the people here do not like The Tribune. Its circulation is forbidden, but it leaks in nevertheless. I saw a man to-day tear a copy with his teeth after reading something that displeased him. I was surprised that so incendiary a document did not burn his mouth.
Charlestown, Va., Thursday, Nov. 10, 1859.
Yesterday the trial of Cook was continued. He was defended by his five lawyers, Gov. Willard, Attorney-General McDonald, District-Attorney Voorhies, and Messrs. Botts and Green, just one lawyer for each count in the indictment. This party of gentlemen have been moving heaven and earth for the last five days to get up a feeling in favor of Cook. The whole forenoon was consumed in the examination of witnesses, and in raising the same points which had been already take in the preceding cases. In the afternoon the Prosecuting Attorney, Harding, poured out a stream of his peculiar eloquence for two mortal hours, such as probably was never heard in a court-room before, except in Old Virginia. What he was talking about no person seemed to know or care about at all, and the cracking of chestnuts, the trampling of heavy boots, and the rustling of book-leaves, continued as tranquilly as if he were not in existence.
The Judge, who is one of the most patient of men, improved the opportunity to read his newspaper and examine his order-book. The lawyers collected their authorities and arranged their points, and Mr. Harding, having exhausted his tobacco-box, and levied upon the plugs of all his neighbors, wound up by saying A”fiat justitia ruat calum” and then rushed out of the Court, without waiting to see the effect of his remarks.
Without taking the least notice of him, District-Attorney Voorhies arose and addressed the Jury on behalf of the prisoner, in a speech of great power, almost admitting the guilt of Cook, but throwing the blame on the Republican party and the Abolitionists, and beseeching mercy, or at least a recommendation for mercy. Mr. Andrew Hunter followed for the prosecution, with his usual directness, force and success, for, after being out about an hour, the Jury returned a verdict such as had been returned against the two negroes, namely–not guilty of treason, but guilty of the remaining county–for conspiracy with slaves to rebel and murder. Cook received the verdict without any exhibition of emotion. He will hear his sentence in the morning.
The arrangement undoubtedly was to get rid of the count for treason, which Gov. Wise could not overset, and to take a conviction for conspiracy and murder, which it is thought he can and will pardon. To this end the prosecution allowed the witnesses called in Cook’s favor to testify with great latitude, and even admitted an article from The N. Y. Times to be read in evidence, showing the romance of Cook’s nature, and how easily he was led away. Harding, who was at least able to see that something was wrong, and who was not in the secret, objected to the reception of such testimony at the top of his voice, but while stopping to pick up a large and valuable deposit of tobacco which had unfortunately dropped out of his mouth, he was interrupted by Mr. Botts, who proceeded, at a wave of Mr. Hunter’s hand, and got the start of poor Harding. No management or eloquence, however, could induce the Jury to do anything but what they had already decided upon; and so Cook stands convicted in the same manner as all the others, with an additional count in his indictment which the others had not.
All the parties remaining unsentenced will be sentenced to-morrow morning, when the proper motions in each case will be heard, prior to taking the whole matter up to the Court of Appeals.
THE TRIALS AT CHARLESTOWN.
Correspondence of The N. Y. Tribune.
Charlestown, Va. Saturday p.m. Nov. 12, 1859.
At 3 o’clock this afternoon Messrs. Jewett and Hoyt, the former artist for Frank Leslie’s paper, the latter junior counsel for John Brown, departed this town for a more northern and happier sphere. Their last moments were alas! not tranquil. A lingering suspicion had long preyed upon them, and although in certain moments hopes were entertained that the result would not prove fatal to their residence here, yet the disorder gathered strength, and after a series of violent spasms, which began yesterday and continued in irregular succession for twenty-four hours, causing great public anxiety, the crisis came, and the destiny of Messrs. Jewett and Hoyt was decided. The victims had all along appeared singularly blind to danger, and even up to the solemn announcement of their impending fate were perfectly unconscious of their precarious position. When informed that their Charlestown life was about to terminate, they manifested a careless unconcern, which found expression in winks and furtive smiles, revolting to the instincts of their advisors. Such evidence of hardened impenitence checked whatever flow of sympathy their misfortunes might have given rise to, and they were sternly admonished to make preparation for the end of their visit, which occurred soon after. I saw what remained of them borne away in a hack of funereal aspect. The painful event was witnessed by the entire population of Charlestown. Various sentiments appropriate to the occasion were uttered. Not a soldier but discharged his farewell shot of reproachful remark. The Colonel in charge tightened the bow-knot in which his hair is tied over his forehead, and breathed murmurs of satisfaction at the peaceful manner of the exodus. The hotel negroes clinked the little legacies which had been bestowed upon them by the departed, and blessed their retreating shadows. All felt that it was, perhaps, well over, and the clouds of constraint were lifted from Charlestown.
After this, a descent to narration of plain facts will probably be in order. The circumstances of this explusion are to me very ludicrous, although I cannot but feel a deep remorse when I consider that these gentlemen have been made to bear, in a measure, the penalty of my atrocious misdeeds, each of them having been supposed–Mr. Jewett in particular–to be the correspondent of The New-York Tribune. Both, however, have had other stigmas attached to them. Mr. Hoyt was understood to have the entire spirit of Northern Abolitionism concentrated within him, and was suspected of various devices for the delivery of some of the prisoners. Mr. Jewett was absolutely believed by many persons to be the incendiary who fired Col. Lucas’s wheat stack. From the arrival of Col. Lucas in town, I think, the extreme and active bitterness of feeling against the visitors may be dated. I remember that the Colonel rode breathlessly up to the front of the Carter House, and, as soon as his voice, which he had outridden, overtook him, began to deliver an oration of great weight, so far as heaviness of denunciation was concerned. While describing the individual who had been seen in suspicious proximity to his stack, his eye fell upon Mr. Jewett. He dismounted, walked up, laid his hand upon Mr. Jewett’s shoulder, and proclaimed that the resemblance between him and the prowler was most extraordinary, in form, in feature, and in garments. Mr. Jewett did not seem to be overcome with gratitude at this bit of compliment. The people of Charlestown, however, who are wholly given up to hatred of all Northern visitors, immediately set their spleen at work, and revolved malignant plans. Colonel Lucas gave the correct turn to their ideas by declaring aloud that too much tolerance had been shown the strangers round about, and that he hoped, for his part, that something would be done to get rid of them. The public mind of Charlestown being in the condition of a powder magazine, and needing only some such spark of incitement, went off at once, with a great deal of noise. A discussion was held, unorganized and irregular, to be sure, but sufficiently effective, for the morning, the Mayor of the town, Thomas W. Green, issued the following proclamation:
Whereas, It is deemed prudent and right, by the Town Council of Charlestown, that there should not be longer permitted to remain in our town or county any stranger who cannot give a satisfactory account of himself; now, therefore, I, Thomas C. Green, Mayor of Charlestown, do hereby proclaim, and make known, that all such strangers must immediately leave the town or county, and if they do not, any member of the Town Council, the Town Sergeant, Col. Davis, Lawson Botts, E. M. Asquith, Wells J. Hawks, are requested to make it their special business to bring such strangers before the Mayor or some Justice of the Peace, to be dealt with according to law; and the authorities of Harper’s Ferry, Bolivar, Shepherdstown, or Middleway, and all other authorities in the county are hereby requested to take like action.
Thomas C. Green,
Mayor of Charlestown.
Nov. 12, 1859.
Thus fortified and encouraged, the people would have it that Messrs. Sennott, Jewett and Hoyt, must leave the neighborhood. Deputations waited upon them, and so informed them. They at first-doubted, and one of them sought the Colonel in command to ascertain particulars. Col. Davis thought they had all better go. Everybody mistrusted Mr. Hoyt, he said, and as for Mr. Jewett, it was settled that he was The Tribune correspondent, and the most dangerous man in town, as he had been seen drawing military plans on numerous occasions. Mr. Hoyt professed willingness to depart, and Mr. Jewett did not feel called upon to invite destruction by remaining, so they immediately collected their baggage, and at 3 o’clock started off for Harper’s Ferry. Their landlord bade them a kind farewell, and said he was sorry he could no longer shelter them, but surely they could not expect him to bear unmoved the prospect of having all his windows smashed on their account. Mr. Sennott refused to go, and did not go; but whether he will be permitted to choose for himself in this matter is a doubtful question. I suppose it will next be determined here that he is The Tribune caitiff, since the withdrawal of Messrs. Hoyt and Jewett fails to interrupt the correspondence. I trust not, for he is working well to gain whatever advantages may be legally secured for the prisoners, and to collect the scattered fragments of Brown’s property, which the family of the prisoner will need. Perhaps it may be worth while to say that any such step would hardly accomplish the desired end, The Tribune correspondent will remain at Charlestown, will cleave to it, will still invoke the hospitalities of its community, and will never forsake it, until the whirlwind of excitement which now agitates it shall subside, leaving no opportunities for the exercise of his functions, and the flat stagnation of its customary life shall have again folded its inhabitants in the dreary desolation from which no journalist can extract profit or satisfaction.
When the carriage which conveyed away Messrs. Hoyt and Jewett had disappeared in distant dust, a load seemed to have been lifted from the shoulders of the town. A partial cheerfulness diffused itself around. The flint-locks of the soldiers rattled quite merrily. The knowledge that Mr. Sennott remained, dampened in some degree the general satisfaction, but on the whole, the turning away of two very dangerous men was enough of a triumph to crow over for one day. Gradually the conversation on this subject passed away, and the now universal topic of the impending show, the execution, was taken up. The people are delighted with the prepared arrangements for their entertainment of the 16th of December. They hope that the time of Brown’s execution may be deferred until that day, in order that their great hunger for vengeance may be satisfied at one gulp. They want a full five-act tragedy. First two acts in the morning, when the negroes Copeland and Green are to be strangled; second two in the afternoon, after a suitable intermission, for the imagination to feast upon the recollection of what has passed and the anticipation of what is to come–when Cook and Coppic are to yield their lives. Finally, at a later hour, for fifth act, and for crowning climax, they demand that Brown shall expire before them, the curtain of night to fall upon the old man’s death struggles, and the lights of the firmament to guide the retiring footsteps of the vast audience. It is a pretty scheme–a scheme worthy of Virginia, I think.
Charlestown, Va., Monday. Nov. 14, 1859.
Of many of the distinguished persons whom the recent stirring events have attracted to this place, no special descriptions, illustrated or otherwise, have been offered to the public. There is unfairness in this. Most of the artists who have come here, have shown a persistent partially for criminal portraiture, which can only be accounted for on the ground that the people of the country prefer rather to gaze upon vicious Northern than virtuous Virginian countenances. I do not see why prisoners should monopolize all pictorial attentions. I believe that Jailer Avis’s personal characteristics have as good a right to be diffused as those of jailee Stephens, although to be sure the latter is a handsomer man; and that the features of Col. Davis have some claim to wood-cut immortalities, as well as those of John brown, notwithstanding that John Brown’s are infinitely fuller of dignity and vigor. I shall endeavor to remedy this serious neglect, by giving as fully as can be briefly and verbally done, a few likenesses of the most eminent of the Charlestown community. They shall be as accurate as I can make them, and, as I find by the illustrated papers before me, that either owing to haste in engraving or some other cause, a number of the portraits therein contained are rather wide of truth, I will also attempt to rectify some of their defects. I remember that, on the arrival of one of these papers a legal luminary, after studying the sketch of himself for several minutes, declared his most delicate instinct outraged, and made horrible threats against the libeler of his nose; but I believe these were never carried out. His wrath showed, however, that some dissatisfaction was felt by certain gentlemen fo the manner in which they had been put before the world. I trust they will be better pleased with my fidelity. I will try and not swerve from correctness in any way. First, of
This gentleman I take to be a sort of modern Caesar, who would rather be the first man in a village than the second man in an empire. In no other way can I account for his hiding his talents in so dreary and desolate a place as this. In intellect, as in stature, he stands loftily above those by whom he is surrounded. He leads the town. The course of public affairs in the late disturbances has been wholly directed by him. Engaged by the Government to conduct the prosecution of the prisoners, and to supply the admitted deficiencies of the regular prosecuting attorney, he has all along controlled events, and shaped circumstances as he chose. He has held within his grasp the populace, the officers of justice, the Court itself. I have many times seen the judge awaiting Mr. Hunter’s gesture of assent or dissent before determining a disputed point. Public opinion, too, has been guided by him, although, as is common enough, it has often run far beyond the limits of his precepts, and tumbled into all sorts of wild extravagance. Perhaps his well-known relations with Gov. Wise have contributed to his superiority of position at this time. He has been in constant communication with the Governor, and between them they have managed matters pretty much as they pleased, with very little regard to the voice of the people, or the clamors of legal routine, the latter sometimes vociferously uttered by his ostensible coadjutor, the regular Prosecuting Attorney. Mr. Hunter, in fact, has been the man of this occasion. He has condemned to death all the prisoners that came before him, except one, whom he has reserved for the purpose of aiding in the capture of “higher and wicheder game”–as he himself expressed it. He has suspended trials at his pleasure in spit of all opposition. He has even been so confident in his strength that he has used, comparatively, little exertion in the disposition of Court affairs. His indictments were most bunglingly drawn up, showing a carelessness that in any but a Virginia Court, would have been fatal to his cases. His arguments, except when roused to unwonted energy, were careless and ineffective, though usually to the point. As for discussing the questions of [?] which were raised in profusion by Mr. Sennott, he never thought of it. Sure of his object, he would simply say that he was obliged to nurse his voice, which threatened to fail him; or that he had often before made such and such a subject clear to the Court; or that the time pressed to that degree that he absolutely must be excused from entering upon irrelevant details. Knowing that he was arguing upon a foregone conclusion, he naturally shrank from over exercise of brain and body, which, after all, could in reality nowise affect the result, that being already settled. But when urged to great efforts, as he sometimes was, Mr. Hunter give abundant evidence of his real power. More impressive forensic orators are rare. His manner of speaking is mostly quiet and grave. His tone of voice is deep and full, singularly like Rufus Choate’s. His gestures are few, but always replete with expression. Generally, his style is that of subdued conversation, and very persuasive it is; but at times he rises to an eloquence that rings through the court-room, and moves listeners to approving outbursts that call for subjugation by sheriff and constable. In the case of the negro Green, allusion was made by the counsel for the defense to an attempt to introduce impertinent evidence respecting the advances of the prisoner toward a mulatto girl at the time of the midnight entrance into the plantations. Mr. Hunter pursued his answering argument quietly, until he reached this point, and then, lifting himself to his full h[e]ight, and compressing his fine features to unwonted sterness [sic] (for he usually wears a smile), he turned upon the negro, and with a rapidity that certainly exhibited a wonderful acquaintance with the vocabulary of invective, hurled for a while incessant denunciation upon the guilty passion which he assumed to have inspired Shields Green to join the expedition. How the negro ever sat so stolid under it, I cannot understand; but the crowd that filled the hall blazed with fury, and clenched fists in agonies of virtuous indignation. I suppose that the consciousness of having offered endless similar impure examples never entered their minds at all. Mr. Hunter, however, gained new and blushing honors. It was his best display of the season, and far surpassed anything offered by other orators.
Mr. Hunter, although the first man in Charlestown, is not free from narrow prejudices, and does not hesitate to exercise his power in very unworthy ways. He has countenanced all the incivilities which have been so freely extended to ladies from the North, and has tacitly acknowledged the propriety of expelling all suspected strangers. He, too, first interfered with Mr. Sennott in his intercourse with John Brown, giving orders that “the Boston lawyer” should be permitted to hold no conversation with the prisoner, except in the presence of the jailer. The mere fact of the prosecuting counsel holding the power to prevent a counsel for the defense from communicating with his client, shows what supremacy Mr. Hunter enjoys. It is well to know, however, that this fiat was rescinded on Mr. Sennott’s representation that it would hardly be an agreeable subject to bring to light in open Court, which, should it stand, certainly must be done.
Mr. Hunter is apparently about fifty-five years old, is six feet tall, very erect, and well proportioned. His countenance is always agreeable, though seared with many lines, and his elegance of manner is equal to his dignity of presence. He does not al all resemble the pictures of him that have been published.
This is an unfortunate man. That a person so enslaved by degrading habits should be intrusted with the delicate and responsible office he holds, speaks ill for the judgment of the citizens of Charlestown. He is the regular prosecuting attorney for the district. He has legally the right to conduct all cases which come before the court in which the invaders have recently been tried. He has, to be sure, been induced to waive a portion of his right, for the past few weeks, to Mr. Hunter, but his uncontrollable wits have often during that period, got the better of him, and he has broken in upon the regular flow of proceedings after a fashion which severely tried the patience of the Court. Toward the end, he became intolerable, and was icily cut short whenever he strove to encumber the way of justice. Repeated snubbings nearly drove him frantic, and more than a dozen times I have heard him delivering street addresses of great violence, declaring defiance to the Judge, to Mr. Hunter, to Governor Wise, to the American Union, and to all the universe. The way in which he has been ridden over is another proof of the flexibility of legal restrictions in this locality. The right he has claimed, of managing the cases, are clearly his, but as he would have fallen in an instant before the sharper intellects and clearer logic of the lawyers who came in for the defense, it was deemed safest to hold him in close constraint. But for this, indeed, there would have been no hanging in Jefferson County next month. Mr. Harding’s daily occupations are not of a nature to fit him for the management of an important case. On the first day of Brown’s trial, after delivering the opening speech for the Government, he issued forth from the Court House, and, flushed with imagined triumph, entered into conflict with a blind negro, and got rather badly beaten. Variegated disfigurements clung to his face for many days thereafter, and furnished amusing topics of conversation for the juries in succeeding cases. I think, however, that Mr. Harding’s evident inclination to bring all possible injury upon the prisoners, saves his reputation in the public esteem. He gloats over the prospect of their execution. He is happiest when picturing to himself and hearers the horrors of the fate which is in waiting for them. He is pleased with every reminiscence of insult which has been flung upon Brown. I heard him yesterday narrating a lively anecdote of the captain of one of the volunteer companies which hastened to Harper’s Ferry as soon as the Untied States troops had done all the hot work. It ran somewhat thus: The captain approached Brown, who lay, seemingly dying, upon the wagon which was bearing him to Charlestown. “Well, old Brown,” he said, “how is it; are you going to die?” “Oh, no,” said Brown, “I think not.” “Well,” responded the jocular warrior, “if you were going to die, I should take one of your teeth, but, as you mean to live, I’ll only take a piece of your hair to remember you”–which he did. Mr. Harding’s ferocious exultation over this and many kindred recitals is enough to make the heart sick to witness. I have never heard more monstrous cruelties of language, not even in Virginia, than habitually proceed from him.
In person Mr. Harding is unprepossessing. He carries the worst marks of intemperance. His face is a vindictive as well as a degraded one. His long curved nose seems always on the point of collision with his rising chin. There is no speculation in his eye. His very dress indicates his utter recklessness to appearances. His manner is as outre as his aspect. He is forever ridiculed. He commands no respect. When he talks in Court, the Judge falls into a reverie, the lawyers turn their backs, the bystanders jeer. He never seems to heed it, but after saying his word–long or short–falls back into his chair, and sleeps, while the nearest of his neighbors tickles his nose with a straw. Excepting in the air of general dilapidation, he, too, is wholly unlike the published portraits of him.
The Judge is a handsome man. He is, too, an amiable man, and that he is open to gentle emotions, his evident struggles to retain his composure the other day when sentencing Cook, Coppic, and the two negroes, very plainly showed. Judge Parker, I believe, has presided over these trials with as much fairness as in the nature of the case could be expected. That he has been strongly influenced by Mr. Hunter, throughout, it would be hard to deny. That he has been strangely deaf to some very powerful arguments for the defense–especially those of Mr. Green, in the case of Cook–is sufficiently evident. But no one has doubted the integrity of his intentions. Outside of the court, too, he has displayed a degree of courtesy to strangers who needed it, when even Mr. Hunter has failed in this regard. Judge Parker has every appearance of a keen lawyer. His face almost always seems to be shaded by a frown, owing to the deep lines in his brow and around his mouth; but his voice is invariably gentle and his manner kind. His age must be a little under fifty. His stature is very small. He is prone to comforts of posture, and social pleasantries; for in court he sits forever with his judicial legs aloft resting among piles of law-books on his table, and of evening, he whiles away some cozy hours in the snug bar-room of his hotel, extracting heart-beams from the rare old rye that flows in odorous streams around. He, again, is in no respect like the published portraits.
. . .
To the Editor of The N. Y. Tribune.
Sir: In order that the conduct of the people and authorities of the Town of Charlestown, Va., in recently expelling Mr. Jewett, of Frank Leslie’s paper, and myself from that locality, may be perfectly exposed and understood, I deem it proper to make a brief statement of the facts in the case.
My return from Boston to that town was heralded by the press, and the object of my visit announced, days before I reached there. My business was known to be legitimate. I went back to do what was possible to rescue and recover the scattered effects of Capt. Brown, in order that the avails of the same might be secured to his destitute and heart-stricken family. My business also related to the copies of the record in the other cases, intending to obtain and transmit them seasonably to counsel who were to argue the exceptions in the Court of Appeals. Because I was regularly associated in the trial, and known to be actively engaged in the defense of Brown and Coppic; no man had the right to accuse me, upon bare suspicion, without a particle of evidence to confirm it, of being an agent of “Boston Abolitionists.”
I could not fail to observe, immediately upon my return, that, where I had formerly been treated with studious civility, I had now to meet the inhospitable frown; and where before I at least was permitted to pass without insult, I must expect offensive and opprob[r]ious epithets, and denunciations not the least vulgar. I cannot say I did not expect this, for, when first a sojourner in the town, I had concluded it was no genuine, but a forced civility, which allowed the counsel of John Brown to perform their sad duties unmolested. I saw a deep under-current of feeling smothered for the time, by a desire to be rated fair, all ready, at the slightest breath, to burst into consuming madness. But, so long as their victim lay in his prison cell, waiting his fast-approaching doom, and the decision of the higher Court, I felt certain the “chivalry of the Old Dominion” would attempt no bodily violence to his counsel.
I had expected the copies of the records would be ready for me to bear to Washington Saturday morning, but I failed to obtain them, and had concluded to wait a later train, when the singular “proclamation” of Mayor Green (who, it will be remembered, was of Mr. Brown’s counsel in the first instance) fell into my hands. My surprise was great when a gentleman intimated that my case was referred to in that document, and that my friend, Mr. Jewett, was also included. I sought Mr. Jewett, and found him pondering over the extraordinary production. I informed him what I had heard, and after a debate as to whether two individuals whose business was so well known, and whose characters were privileged, had any right to take this as a “notice to quit.” Mr. J. sought Col. Davis, Chairman of the body constituted and authorized by this curious paper to act in the premises, and demanded to know it if had any reference to us. Col. Davis accompanied him to my presence, and in answer to a direct interrogatory, plainly said it did. He further informed us that, although aid-de-camp to Gov. Wise, and under instructions to preserve the peace, he had no force at his command upon which he could rely to protect us from the mob, which would certainly assemble the next day (Sunday). He was willing to lay down his own life in our defense, but it could be of no avail, and he conjured us, for our own sakes, and for sake of the honor of the State of Virginia, and in consideration of the trifling personal inconvenience such a sacrifice would be to him and those dependent upon him, to leave that afternoon.
Although I had seen considerable excitement in the place during the first days of the trial and afterward, I confess I never had seen anything like the wild foment in which the town was this afternoon thrown. Some spiteful enemy had set fire to a Mr. Tate’s stable, and the over-zealous fire-eating “chivalry” who, from the time of our first advent in the place, had striven to make our visit uncomfortable, and our efforts futile, and who had never ceased their causeless and ridiculous denunciations, eagerly took hold on the occasion to spread the report that they were “abolition emisaries” acting under my directions, who had set the torch to the wheat stacks and barns.
What I feared most was an attack on the jail, in which the “military” would participate. I have some good reasons for believing that there was a band of organized desperadoes who, at one time, determined to force the jail and lynch the prisoners. This was seasonably discovered, and prevented, by an officer in in command. Now, if a mob, composed of a drunken and infuriate people, should assemble to drive obnoxious people out of the town with the genteel incidents of “tar and feathers,” and not over-fresh eggs, such a mob would be more than likely to make an attempt on that little prison-house, and, by way of parenthesis, let me say, I think the gallows a pleasanter instrument of torture and death than the torments of a Virginia mob.
Deeming it no valor but sheer foolhardiness to brave the populace, Mr. Jewett and I packed our bags and quitted the municipality of Charlestown, the County of Jefferson, and the gallant old Commonwealth of Virginia. At this time I do not know whether my associate, Mr. Sennott, survived the Sabbath which ensued upon our departure or not. Being an avowed political friend of the South, he was not so unpopular as the undersigned, who never knew how to “cotton.” It is to be hoped that those who remain or go to serve John Brown in a legal capacity, may not meet the same sort of “hospitality” and “courteous” treatment which the “chivalry” bestowed upon
Geo. H. Hoyt
National House, Washington, Nov. 16, 1859.
VISIT OF A LADY TO THE CHARLESTOWN JAIL.
From The Independent, Nov. 17.
I write this morning, on board a steamboat, a hasty account of a personal interview last evening with Mrs. Mary Brown, wife of Capt. John Brown, now under sentence of death in Virginia, for having bravely failed in a brave deed.
I conversed with her during the entire evening. But only ten minutes acquaintance is enough to show that she is a woman worthy to be the wife of such a man. She is tall, large, and muscular, giving the impression at first sight of a frame capable of great strength and long endurance. Her face is grave and thoughtful, wearing, even in this hour of her trial, an expression of soberness rather than of sadness, as if, like her husband, she had long since learned how to suffer and be calm. Her manner is singularly quiet and retiring, although her natural simplicity and modesty cannot hide the evident force of character and strength of will and judgment, which have fitted her so long to be a counselor to her husband’s enterprises and a supporter in his trials.
She is a native of Whitehall, near Lake Champlain, and has been the mother of thirteen children; but, notwithstanding the cares of her numerous family, and her many privations and struggles independent of household burdens, she still appears as fresh and hale as if she were only now in the prime and vigor of life.
The conversation, of course, was of the scenes of Harper’s Ferry–both those which have already been enacted, and those which are shortly to follow. She alluded, with subdued though evident emotion, to the wounds of her husband, and to the loss of her two sons, Watson and Oliver, who fell in the struggle. But she made no such remark as that recently attributed to her in a New-England newspaper, “that four of her sons had already been slain, and she would be willing that all the rest of her family should be made a sacrifice, if necessary, to the cause of Freedom.” These words, she said to me, could never possibly have fallen from her lips; for she had already felt too many griefs to court any fresh sacrifice; and she could not think, without pain, of any new death-stroke to her family. She would not shrink from any necessary trial or struggle when the hour came for it, but she could not look forward with composure to any farther lessening of her family, already too sadly broken. She regretted that such a remark should have been pt in her mouth, “for,” as she observed, “they were unmotherly words.”
She said that she had been so long accustomed to sorrows that she had been trained to bear them. While living in Ohio, four of her children died from dysentery, within eleven days, three of whom were carried to the grave together on the same day! She mentioned in this connection that her husband had always been a watchful nurse, and the chief care-taker of the children and of herself, during periods of sickness.
I adverted, in alluding to Capt. Brown’s religious opinions, to the common report that he was an Old-School Presbyterian. She replied that he had been a church-member ever since he was boy; that he united, at 16 years of age, with a Congregational Church in Hudson, Ohio; and that on removing to Pennsylvania, thirty years ago, he transferred his membership to the Presbyterian Church, with which he had since remained connected. She said that the religious element of his character had always been the ruling motive of his life. He had always observed religious exercises in his household with exemplary regularity. It had been for many years the custom of the family to read the Bible every morning, in regular course of chapters, each member reading in turn a verse. She said that her husband’s familiarity with texts of Scripture was so great that he could detect almost the slightest misquotation of any passage, and that if a portion of a verse, in almost any part of the Bible, was read or repeated to him, he could immediately repeat the remainder. His conversation frequently abounded with Scripture texts, and his letters were always filled with them.
I asked if she knew what were his favorite passages to which she replied:
“He had a great many; but one was, Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them.”
How nobly his life has proved his deep-hearted sympathy for the slave!
In his habits of living, his wife testified that he was always singularly self-denying. As an example, he never suffered himself or his family to wear expensive clothing. His standing admonition was, “Let us save the money, and give to the poor.” Day before yesterday, when some clothes were sent from New York to Mrs. Brown to go in a box to her husband, among the articles was a new coat of fine brown cloth, which, when it was shown to her, she immediately pronounced too gay for her husband to wear. It was accordingly sent back; and last evening there came in return a coarser coat, which would better suit his taste, and which the brave old Puritan might not think too good for him to put on! He never in his life has used tobacco or ardent spirits, and never, until within the last few years, has taken tea or coffee. His mode of living has been so rigidly temperate that, in Kansas, he has been so rigidly temperate that, in Kansas, he would sometimes go for days with scarcely a mouthful of food, and suffer no faintness or exhaustion.
I referred incidentally to the design upon Harper’s Ferry as having been premeditated for two years, to which she indignantly replied:
He had been waiting twenty years for some opportunity to free the slaves; we had all been waiting, with him, the proper time when he should put his resolve into action, and when at last the enterprise of Harper’s Ferry was planned, we all thought that the time had now come; Mr. brown was sanguine of success; we all were equally confident; he had no idea, nor had any of the family, that the experiment would result in defeat; we all looked to it as fulfilling the hopes of many years!”
As I listened to this, I could not help half exclaiming, “What heroic words! What a man! What a woman!
I wrote down these sentences a few moments after they were uttered, and as I repeated them she added:
“For he has borne the yoke of the oppressed as if upon his own neck for these thirty years!”
She made several and repeated references to various newspaper accounts, in which her husband’s character had been misrepresented. She had been pained to see him described as a cruel man, for, as she said, “No man ever had a kinder heart. He is generous by nature. He has always aimed to impress his family with a spirit of benevolence. He has always taught his children to be unselfish; to act always for others before acting for themselves. His sympathies for the poor and the oppressed have always been too easily excited.”
I inquired as to his habit of carrying firearms about his person. She said that since the many threats upon his life during and since his efforts in Kansas, he had carried a revolver, but never before.
I then put the question which I had been chiefly solicitous to ask: “It is the common talk of the newspapers that Capt. Brown is insane; what do you say to that opinion?”
“I never knew,” she replied, “of his insanity, until I read it in the newspapers. He is a clear-headed man. He has always been, and now is entirely in his right mind. He is always cook, deliberate, and never over-hasty; but he has always considered that his first perceptions of duty, and his first impulses to action were the best, and the safest to be followed. He had almost always acted upon his first suggestions. No, he is not insane. His reason is clear. His last act was the result, as all his other acts have been, of his truest and strongest conscientious convictions.”
After these statements, supported as they are by other and abundant evidence, how can any man believe that Capt. Brown is insane? His project is easily characterized as mad, as any other daring and hazardous exploit is apt to be called, particularly after it is seen to have failed. But the attempt for the deliverance of Virginia slaves did not seem rash to Capt. Brown or to his confederates, and, if it had been successful, would never have seemed crazy, even to the newspapers. John Brown’s insanity means simply John Brown’s failure.
I may mention that I saw last evening a letter from Capt. Brown to his wife, dated November 8, and brought away by the lady who visited him at Charlestown. This letter is too private and, I might almost say, too sacred, to be exposed in print to every eye. Mrs. Brown is unwilling that it should be made public, both for her own sake and her husband’s. But I violate no confidence in saying that this letter, written in prison, is no less remarkable than the memorable speech delivered in Court. It breathes the same heroic spirit; it is marked by the same simplicity of style; it expresses the same conscientious conviction of the rightfulness of his undertaking; it exhibits throughout the same unwavering courage, and the same strong faith in God. To the many overflowing expressions of sympathy for his wife and children, given in this letter, I do not feel at liberty to allude, further than to say that they were as warm, as tender, and as delicate as ever were written by a husband to a wife. They prove that his delicacy is equal to his courage, and that his heart is not only as brave as a hero’s, but as tender as a child’s.
During the evening another letter came direct from the prison, dated November 10. The fresh message was briefer than the other, but of the same character and in the same spirit.
For several days past, until last evening, Mrs. Brown had been actively engaged, aided by some female friends, in preparing articles of clothing to be sent to her husband. A sewing-machine had been busy at work from morning till night for two days. Last evening the box was packed, and this morning sent to the cars, containing shirts, stockings, pocket-handkerchiefs, a pair of easy slippers, some writing materials, two or three favorite books, and some preserves fruits, and other delicacies. A great number of friends crowded around it, each anxious to add something for the old man’s comfort, before the cover was nailed on. From this scene Mrs. Brown retired, sobbing, to another part of the room, and for a few moments was unable to control her emotion, exclaiming, “Poor man! he will not need them long!”
But perhaps the troubled Governor of Virginia, and his Sheriff, who is making ready for the Second of December, may find, before the time shall roll around some other victim to keep up the honor of the fatal Friday, and may be glad, after all, not to hang the brave old man.”
The lady whose visit to Charlestown has been already mentioned, went there chiefly to assist Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, whom she expected to meet in the prison; but as Capt. Brown had meanwhile written to Mrs. Child not to come, the new volunteer nurse found herself an entire stranger (except to her son, who accompanied her) in a community not over-disposed to be hospitable to strangers. She arrived at Charlestown shortly after Capt. Brown’s speech in court. She spent more than two days in vain entreaties with the Sheriff to secure admission to the jail. Hearing that Capt. Brown, whom she had informed of her arrival, was anxious to see her, and not being willing to take the Sheriff’s short answer after her long journey, she solicited Mr. Sennott’s aid, who at last persuaded the judge to grant a permit of entrance.
She refers to the visit in the jail as one of touching interest. She obtained two interviews, the first of an hour, and the other for a shorter period.
She describes the prison as a large brick building that seemed to have been formerly used as a dwelling-house. Capt. Brown was occupying, with his fellow-prisoner Stephens, a room on the ground-floor, about sixteen feet square, opening with a single door into a long gallery, and lighted through a single small window, grimly defended by heavy double bars.
Mrs. _____, on entering found Capt. Brown lying on a cot, and Stephens on a large bed. Capt. Brown arose from his bed to receive his guests, and stood a few moments leaning against the bedstead, immediately lying down again from weakness. His visitors were struck with the cheerfulness of his expression, and the calmness of his manner. He seemed not only passively resigned to his fate, but cheerful under it, and more than willing to meet it.
My friend said to him,
“I expected Mrs. Child would be here to introduce me; I am sorry not to find her, for her presence would make this room brighter for you!”
He smiled and replied:
“I have written to her the reasons why she should not come, but she was very [?]
Some questions were then asked as to his treatment and care he had received; to which he said:
“I wish it to be understood by everybody that I have been very kindly attended; for if I had been under the care of father or brother, I could not have been better treated than by Capt. Avis and his family.”
Capt. Avis is the jailer, of whom all the reports speak in high terms for his humane and courteous conduct not only to these but to all prisoners.
When another allusion was made to Mrs. Child, Capt. Brown remarked:
“The reason why I did not wish her to come, and why I did not wish my wife to come, was for fear least they would be harrassed and annoyed, and that on this account I would be troubled myself.”
Mrs. _____ had carried with her into the jail a large bunch of Autumn leaves, gathered in the morning from the woods. There was no nail on the wall to hang them by, and she arranged them between the grated bars, of the window. She gave to the sufferer a full-blown rose, which he laid beside his cheek on his pillow. The old man seemed to be greatly touched with these tokens of thoughtfulness. He is said to have always been a great lover of nature, particularly of the grandeur of forest scenes.
Mrs. _____ drew a chair near his bed-side, and taking out her knitting, sat by him for an hour. She has preserved his complete conversation of which I can give only a small portion. She says:
“I never saw a person who seemed less troubled or excited, or whose mind was less disturbed and more clear. His remarks are pointed, pithy, and sensible. He is not in the least sentimental, and seems to have singularly excellent common-sense about everything.”
She asked him the direct question–“Were you actuated, in any degree, in undertaking your late enterprise, by a feeling of revenge?”–adding that common impression to that effect had gone abroad..
He manifested much surprise at this statement, and after pausing a moment, replied– “I am not conscious of ever having had a feeling of revenge; no, not in all the wrong done to me and my family in Kansas. But I can see that a thing is wrong and wicked, and can help to right it, and can even hope that those who do the wrong may be punished–and still have no feeling of revenge! No, I have not been actuated by any spirit of revenge!”
He talked a good deal about his family, manifesting solicitude for their comfort after he was gone, but expressing his great confidence and trust in God’s kind providence in their behalf.
When some allusion was made to the sentence which he had received, he said very deliberately and firmly, and, as my friend says, “almost sublimely:”
“I do not think I can better serve the cause I love so much, than to die for it!”
She says that she can never forget the impressive manner in which he uttered these solemn words. She replied:
“It is not the hardest thing that can happen to a brave man to die; but it must be a great hardship for an active man to lie on his back in prison, disabled by wounds. Do you dot [sic] dread your confinement, and are you not afraid that it may wear you down, or cause you to relax your convictions, or regret your attempt, or make your courage fail?”
“I cannot tell,” he replied, “what weakness may come over me, but I do not think I shall deny my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, as I certainly should if I denied my principles against Slavery.”
When the conversation had proceeded thus far, as it was known outside the jail that a Northern lady was inside, a crowd began to collect, and although no demonstration of violence was made, yet there were manifest indications of impatience; so that the Sheriff called to the jailer, and the jailer was obliged to put an end to the interview.
A second visit was made on the second day afterward. The popular excitement had grown so great on occount [sic] of the first visit, that on the intervening day it was deemed unadvisable to attempt another. Mrs. _____ says:
“When I went into the prison the second time I found Capt. Brown sitting at the little deal table, engaged in writing. He had just been adding something to his letter to his wife. I shall never forget his appearance. He seemed perfectly noble and grand. His countenance seemed as if it had been illumined by the letter which he was writing. His expression was of great earnestness, cheerfulness, and faith. The memory of this brief interview is even more vivid than of the other.”
Mrs. _____ designs, at some future period, to publish an entire account of these two interviews, with full details of Capt. Brown’s conversations.
I have written, quickly and roughly, these random notes of my friend’s visit to the prison and the prisoner, and of my own conversation with the hero’s wife, preserving, as nearly as possible, the exact words of the narrators, and certainly not missing their true meaning and spirit. They serve to show, what scarcely need be added as a comment, that Capt. John Brown is a noble old man–that he performed his daring deed from the noble motive of a long-cherished purpose to do his utmost for the deliverance of the oppressed race–and that his name, as it shall pass from the gallows into history, will carry with it a clear record of a pure and honorable life; while his sterling integrity, his rare decision of character, and his sublime Christian faith, show him to be a true son of the Pilgrims, whose ancient Puritan blood will flow in his veins now only for a few days more!
Wednesday, Nov. 16.
The following letter is published by Dr. Howe in the Boston papers. It will be seen that he denies all knowledge of Cook, Brown’s lieutenant, who, in his confession, hinted at Dr. Howe’s direct complicity with Brown. The particular statement of Cook was that weapons had been given to Brown by Dr. Howe, some time previous to the invasion.
Boston, Nov. 14, 1859.
Rumor has mingled my name with the events at Harper’s Ferry. So long as it rested on such absurdities as letters written to me by Col. Forbes, or others, it was too idle for notice. But when complicity is distinctly charged by one of the parties engaged my friends beseech me to define my position; and I consent, the less reluctantly because I divest myself of what, in time, might be considered an honor, and I want no undeserved ones.
As regards Mr. Cook, to the best of my knowledge and belief, I never saw him; never corresponded with him; never even heard of him until since the outbreak at Harper’s Ferry. That event was unforeseen and unexpected by me; nor does all my pervious knowledge of John Brown enable me to reconcile it with his characteristic prudence, and his reluctance to shed blood, or excite servile insurrection. It is still, to me, a mystery, and a marvel.
As to the heroic man who planned and led that forlorn hope, my relations with him in former times were such as no one ought to be afraid or ashamed to avow. If ever my testimony to his high qualities can be of use to him or his, it shall be forthcoming at the fitting time and place. But neither this nor any other testimony shall be extorted for unrighteous purposes, if I can help it.
There are among the statutes of our Union certain weapons, concealed, as are the claws of the cat, in a velvet paw, which are seemingly harmless, but are really deadly instruments, by which we of the North may be forced to uphold and defend the barbarous system of Human Slavery. For instance, a dishonest Judge in the remotest South, or in far-off California, may, upon the affidavit of any white persons that the testimony of any citizen of Massachusetts is wanted in a criminal suit, send a Marshal, who may haul such citizen before the Judge, and there, among strangers, to recognize for his appearance in court, or be committed to jail.
Upon the stand, such expressions of opinion may be drawn from him as will mark him for an Abolitionist, and turn him out of the Court House to the tender mercies of a people, once called chivalrous and generous, but among whom the love of fair play seems rapidly dying out.
Such martyrdom might be coveted by some, if any high purpose were to be gained by it; but it is especially undesirable when the testimony is not sought with open and righteous, but with false and revengeful purpose.
I am told by high legal authority that Massachusetts is so trammeled by the bonds of the Union, that, as matters now stand, she cannot, or dare not protect her citizens from such forcible extradition; and that each one must protect himself as he best may. Upon that hint I shall act; preferring to forego anything rather than the right to free thought and free speech.
S. G. Howe.
From The Philadelphia Press, Nov. 16.
Statements having appeared in several journals to the effect that great indignation was felt at Charlestown, Va., against all strangers, and that even the lives of the counsel of the prisoners were endangered, Mr. Sennott called at our office yesterday, to say, in justice to the people of Charlestown, that he had been treated with much kindness, and to request our publication of the following card, which we insert with great pleasure:
“Some one, apparently moved by spite against the people of Charlestown, Va., is circulating a report that they advised Capt. Brown’s counsel to leave the place. Now, if I had no gratitude for real services rendered to me by those people during the late exciting trials, common honesty would impel me to contradict that report, because I know it is not true. The facts are these:
“The people of Jefferson County are very much excited, and for the best of reasons. Three large fires, the last one consuming over 1,200 bushels of wheat, had occurred up to last Saturday morning. Under these circumstances, a meeting was held, and a very carefully-worded proclamation drawn up and published by Mr. Green, the Mayor, warning strangers giving no satisfactory account of themselves to leave the place. As I had important and well-understood business in the place, and could have given a satisfactory account, even if I had been on a visit of mere curiosity, I felt sure it did not concern me, particularly as no steps had been taken to call my attention to it. Other strangers, however, who could have accounted for themselves as well as I, thought it applied to them, and very unadvisedly, as I think, addressed a Col. Davis–himself a stranger in the place, I believe–asking him what he thought of it. I happened to be in the room when he entered. I listened to the speeches on both sides in great tranquility of mind, and was preparing to leave the gentlemen to themselves, with the remark that it did not concern me at all, when Col. Davis remarked that he did not know that he could answer for my personal safety if I staid. To this I replied, very civilly, however, that my personal safety was my personal business, not his, and that I should not leave until I was quite ready. The conversation dropped there, and I remained–and I could have remained until now if I desired it. It should be borne in mind that Col. Davis did not volunteer his opinion, or intimate anything, until he was asked to do so, and then it was merely his opinion privately expressed. How it got into the papers I do not know, but I am confident he cannot be held responsible for it. And, though mischief was often threatened by some ill-conditioned people, of whom Charlestown has its share, and from whom I believe New-York and Philadelphia are not altogether free, I will add that some of the very citizens whose relations were killed at Harper’s Ferry had sternly put down the very threat of it by declaring that no outrage should be done to us or any strangers but over their own dead bodies.
“Counsel for John Brown and for A. D. Stephens.”
Correspondence of The N. Y. Tribune.
Charlestown, Nov. 23, 1859.
I have the satisfaction of announcing the expected restoration of this place to a tolerable condition of decorum. Col. Davis has been done for. His reign is ended. His occupation’s gone. Plumed troops and neighing steeds have passed from under his control. This, I suppose, is the result of the conference between the Colonel and Gov. Wise, of which I have before spoken. Last evening a new and more highly titled officer came up on a special steam engine from Harper’s Ferry, to take upon himself military command, and to regulate the deficiencies of Col. Davis’s rule. The new commander is a Major-General, and his name is Taliafero. The people here call his Tollifer, Gen. Tollifer, which is said to be the accepted and correct pronunciation. Gen. Tollifer is a tall and stately gentleman, not fascinating in mien, but with an air of decision and energy that augurs good things. Many of the people are rejoiced at the change, but rather hesitate to give utterance to their feelings, for fear that Col. Davis may yet have enough of the honor of the State of Virginia in charge to put them to inconvenience, should he desire to. The Colonel’s immediate friends are a little chagrined at his deposition, and intimate that he might have retained his leadership had he chosen, but, finding that “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” he voluntarily forsook his position of superiority. Others craftily allege that he never considered himself the head of the militia at all, but merely held the situation of “authoritative counselor”–a delicate distinction. But if this were so, the Colonel would not now need to be dejected, which he assuredly is. I think it is pretty plain that Gov. Wise is determined that all the unnecessary fuss shall be made by him alone, and that nobody else shall share his gubernatorial prerogative of causing needless panics, and throwing the State into continual convulsions. At any rate, the Colonel’s revels in the hope that his successor will show more wisdom in administrating affairs. If Gen. Tollifer wishes to spread content around, he will have to subordinate considerably the recently arrived regiments, for the inhabitants are waxing very impatient at their behavior. Great things are looked for from the new General, and the old Colonel is already passing from popular regard. “Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi.”
The writ of error in Brown’s case has been denied, as was expected, and since the Governor has decided not to respite him to the day fixed for the execution of the other convicts, he will be put to death upon the second day of December, as originally intended by the Court. The indecision of the people as to whether the event should more properly be wholly public, or in a degree private, has passed over, and it has been settled that no great number of outside spectators shall be admitted to Charlestown on the 2d. The fear of another invasion, with a view to the rescue of Brown, grows from day to day. Portentous rumors come in with every wind. A man traveled up from Harper’s Ferry last evening to say that he had seen signal lights displayed from the mountains, and thought steps ought to be taken about it. But the only steps taken, I believe, were his own, homeward. Still there were many anxious eyes turned toward the Ferry after his departure. The felling is now such that it is generally asserted that no persons whatever, not even absent residents, will be permitted to enter Charlestown on the day of the execution. I doubt, however, whether the exclusion will be so very rigid as this, although the thousand soldiers whom Governor Wise has decided to bring here at that time are not coming for nothing.
In a paragraph thus headed, a Western paper asks what was done with the bodies of the dead insurgents after the Harper’s Ferry outbreak, and states that no “one has ever recorded the fact of their burial, and no one known that burial was ever given them.” The Colonel in charge at Harper’s Ferry tells me that the bodies were all hurriedly and loosely thrown into the ground, but were exhumed the same night, and carried away for dissection at a medical college in a town not far distant–Winchester, I believe. I understood from his manner of speaking that this disposition of the bodies was not objected to by the authorities, but was readily favored by them.
Correspondence of The N. Y. Tribune.
Petersburg, Va. Nov. 27, 1859.
As the second of December approaches, the excitement relative to the execution of Old Brown increases in this usually torpid town. A deeply-settled feeling of rancor and bitter hate against the North has taken possession of the community–a feeling which you may readily imagine is not lessened by the ridicule showered upon Virginian chivalry by the Northern press. There seems to be a firm belief that on the day of execution an attempt at rescue will be made, and the more excitable ones believe that a terrible and protracted civil war will be the result. In deference to the warnings of anonymous and other letter writers, and in obedience to popular clamor, Gov. Wise has recalled the previously dismissed troops, and will have over two thousand soldiers under arms to guard the gallows. The Petersburg City Guards and the Independent Greys, who returned from Harper’s Ferry only this week, are ordered back again, and will start in the 5 o’clock train this afternoon. The military spirit being rampant, an effort is now making to organize a cavalry troop, and it is more than probable that on Monday night, when the meeting is to be held, the requisite number of men will be enrolled.
It is amusing to hear the insurgents and vaporing of some men in this State, when the subject of disunion is brought up in conversation. “Sir,” said a prominent lawyer to me at my hotel last evening. “I would be glad to see the whole North sunk to the deepest depths of the bottomless pit! Damn her, we don’t want a union with her, when we can get a foreign market for all our products and receive our necessary articles from thence in exchange! The South has borne with her insolence too long, and it is time, and now is the opportunity for a great United Southern Confederation to show the world the true meaning of the word Republic.”
Anomalous as it may seem to you after what we know of the indecent haste shown at the Charlestown trials, the Virginians blame the officers of the law for too much leniency, and one of the municipal officers of Petersburg remarked to me that a lamentable mistake was made in not hanging the whole party immediately on the rendition of the verdict. Said he, “I would die content if I could see Greeley, Fred. Douglass, Emerson, Garrison, and Beecher strung up alongside old Brown on next Friday.” Whether my blood-thirsty friend would run a judicial amok among all the prominent men in the North before his thirst for vengeance would be sated, I cannot say. Mind you, I gave these opinions merely as the offspring of to-day’s excitement, and not as the sober sense of the leading men. It would be a very poor policy for me to include all the Virginians in a sweeping ridicule, because some are cowards and dolts. As to there being the remotest possibility for a rescue of the prisoners, I do not entertain a hope. The most positive instructions have been given to their guards to kill them the instant there is an attempt at disturbance. The excitement through the counties adjoining this is intense. The planters are said to be ready to a man to march to the Ferry, in case of need. Despite the warnings of the Southern press, I do not doubt but that there will be an immense crowd to witness the executions, and the materials for combustion are so plenty, that the day cannot reasonably be expected to pass without serious disturbance.
The Express (Petersburg) of yesterday, makes the fiendish suggestion that an auction be held to dispose of the lifeless body of poor Brown, the halter, scaffold, and all appurtenances complete, as they will stand an hour after the prisoner is hung. It remarks that to so great an attraction as this, if proper guaranties for personal safety were given, a large number of Northern Abolitionists would be drawn, and the amount realized for the precious relics of Saint Brown, as the brave old man is derisively called, would be very large. To-day it copies from The N. Y. Express an account of the negro panic in New-York of old, to show that with all our vaporing about Southern courage, we were more cowardly then than they are in this latter-day evil. They forget that then as slaveholders we had the fears and the demoralization of slaveholders, and acted with corresponding brutality. It is their turn to-day, and they act the part well.