John Brown's Parallels

Designated "Old Brown's Parallels" and dated January 3, 1859, from Trading Post, Kansas, this is one of the better-known John Brown documents from Kansas. Written for publication in the newspapers just before his final departure from the territory, Brown began by stating "two parallels"--one being the failure of government to do anything about the murder of free-state men (Marais des Cygnes Massacre) May 1858; the other being his recent raid into Missouri to free eleven slaves and take "some property."


In the latter incident, only one white man, a slave owner, was killed, but "all 'Hell is stirred from beneath,'" as the governor of Missouri was demanding the capture of those "concerned in the last named 'dreadful outrage.'" Although this document indicates "Trading Post", Brown composed the letter from the Wattles house north of Mound City. He indicated elsewhere that he used the Trading Post address as a way of protecting his Mound City friends, who were already under much fire as a free-state community.

"Trading Post, Kansas, January, 1859--

"Gentlemen: You will greatly oblige a humble friend by allowing the use of your columns while I briefly state two parallels, in my poor way.

"Not One year ago Eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood (viz) Wm. Robertson, Wm. Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, Asa Synder, Thos Stilwell, Wm. Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, Patrick Ross and B.L. Reed, were gathered up from their work and their homes by an armed force (under one Hamelton) and without trial or opportunity to speak in own defense were formed into a line and all but one shot, five killed and five wounded. One fell unharmed pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. The only crime charged against them was that of being free-state men. Now, I inquire, what action has ever, since the occurrence in May last, been taken by either the President of Kansas, or any of their tools, or by any proslavery or administration man, to ferret out and punish the perpetrators of this crime?

"Now for the other parallel. On Sunday, the 19th of December, a negro called Jim came over to the Osage settlement from Missouri and stated that he together with his wife, two children and another negro man were to be sold within a day or two and begged for help to get away. On Monday (the following) night, two small companies were made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate the five slaves together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed to direct. We proceeded to the place, surrounded the buildings, liberated the slaves, and also took certain property supposed to belong to the estate.

"We, however, learned before leaving that a portion of the articles we had taken belonged to a man living on the plantation as a tenant, and who was supposed to have no interest in the estate. We promptly returned to him all we had taken. We then went to another plantation where we freed five more slaves, took some property and two white men. We moved very slowly away into the Territory for some distance, and then sent the white men back, telling them to follow as soon as they chose to do so. The other company freed one female slave, took some property, and as I am informed, killed one white man (the master), who fought against the liberation.

"Now for a comparison. Eleven persons were forcible restored to their natural and inalienable rights, with but one man killed, and all 'Hell is stirred from beneath.' It is currently reported that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition upon the Governor of Kansas for the delivery of such as were concerned in the last-named "dreadful outrage." The marshal of Kansas is said to be collecting a posse of Missouri (not Kansas) men at West Point in Missouri, a little town about ten miles distant, to "enforce the laws." All proslavery, conservative free-state, and dough-faced men, and administration tools, are filled with holy horror.

"Consider the two cases, and the action of the administration party."

"Respectfully yours,
John Brown."

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