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CHAP. XI. and a third rendered insane from cruel treatment, are scarcely compensated by the transitory notoriety he gathered in a few fool-hardy skirmishes.

James Redpath, "Life of

John Brown," p. 48.

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These varied experiences give us something of a clue to his character: a strong will; great physical energy; sanguine, fanatical temperament; unbounded courage and little wisdom; crude, visionary ideality; the inspiration of biblical precepts and Old Testament hero-worship; and ambition curbed to irritation by the hard fetters of labor, privation, and enforced endurance. In association, habit, language, and conduct, he was clean, but coarse; honest, but rude. In disposition he mingled the sacrificing tenderness with the sacrificial sternness of his prototypes in Jewish history. He could lay his own child on the altar without a pang. The strongest element of his character was religious fanaticism. Taught from earliest childhood to 'fear God and keep his commandments,” he believed firmly in the divine authenticity of the Bible, and memorized much of its contents. His favorite texts became literal and imperative mandates; he came to feel that he bore the commission and enjoyed the protection of the Almighty. In his Kansas camps he prayed and saw visions; believed he wielded the sword of the Lord and of Gideon; had faith that the angels encompassed him. He desired no other safeguard than his own ideas of justice and his own convictions of duty. These ideas and convictions, however, refused obedience to accepted laws and morals, and were mere fantastic and pernicious outgrowths of his religious fanaticism. His courage partook of the recklessness of insanity. He did not count odds. "What

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Sanborn,

in the "Atlantic,"

are five to one?" he asked; and at another time CHAP. XI. he said, "One man in the right, ready to die, will chase a thousand." Perhaps he even believed he held a charmed life, for he boasted that he had been fired at thirty times and only his hair had been touched. In personal appearance he was tall and slender, with rather a military bearing. He had an impressive, half-persuasive, half-command- April, 1872. ing manner. He was always very secretive, affected much mystery in movements, came and went abruptly, was direct and dogmatic to bluntness in his conversation. His education was scant, his reading limited; he wrote strong phrases in bad orthography. If we may believe the intimations from himself and those who knew him best, he had not only acquired a passionate hatred of the institution of slavery, but had for twenty years nursed the longing to become a liberator of slaves in the Southern States. To this end he read various stories of insurrections, and meditated on the vicissitudes, chances, and strategy of partisan warfare. A year's border fighting in Kansas not only suddenly put thought into action, but his personal and family sacrifices intensified his visionary ambition into a stern and inflexible purpose.

It is impossible to trace exactly how and when the Harper's Ferry invasion first took practical shape in John Brown's mind, but the indications are that it grew little by little out of his Kansas experience. His earliest collisions with the Border Ruffians occurred the spring and summer of 1856. In the autumn of that year the United States troops dispersed his band, and generally suppressed the civil war. In January, 1857, we find him in

VOL. II.-13

CHAP. XI. the Eastern States, appealing for arms and supplies to various committees and in various places, alleging that he desired to organize and equip a company of one hundred minute-men, who were "mixed up with the people of Kansas," but who should be ready on call to rush to the defense of freedom. This appeal only partly succeeded. From one committee he obtained authority as agent over certain arms stored in Iowa, the custody and control of which had been in dispute. From another committee he obtained a portion of the clothing he desired. From still other sources he received certain moneys, but not sufficient for his requirements. Two circumstances, however, indicate that he was practicing a deception upon the committees and public. He entered into a contract with a blacksmith, in Collinsville, Connecticut, to manufacture him 1000 pikes of a certain pattern,1 to be completed in 90 days, and paid $550 on the contract. There is no record that he mentioned this matter to any committee. His proposed Kansas minute-men were only to be one hundred in number, and the pikes could not be for them; his explanation to the blacksmith, that

1 "He was exhibiting to a number of gentlemen, who happened to be collected together in a druggist's store, some weapons which he claimed to have taken from Captain Pate in Kansas. Among them was a two-edged dirk, with a blade about eight inches long, and he remarked that if he had a lot of those things to attach to poles about six feet long, they would be a capital weapon of defense for the settlers of Kansas. . . When

he came to make the contract, he wrote it to have malleable ferrules, cast solid, and a guard to be of malleable iron. That was all the difference. . . After seeing the sample he made a slight alteration. One was, to have a screw to put in, as the one here has, so that they could be unshipped in case of necessity."- Blair, Testimony before Investigating Committee, Senate Report No. 278, 1st Sess. 36th Cong., pp. 121-2.

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