is open for business right now. Go get insured.

Gentle readers, because the Trump administration slashed the budget for Affordable Care Act outreach by 90% something like one third of Americans don’t know they can get insurance for themselves and their families right now. The early enrollment rates still look good for this year -better than last, I think- but a third of us don’t know about it. Please spread the word.

This post will remain at the top of the page until open enrollment through ends on December 12. Some states have extended the deadline and the Obama administration did so as a matter of course, but you probably don’t have until January this year. Don’t let the GOP take away your health care.


Guns, Chickens, and Checks: The Journey to Kansas, Part 5

John Brown

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

John Brown had letters on hand from three of his sons when he started for Kansas. Junior told him the general situation and advised him against expecting to make money raising livestock or land speculating. He did suggest that antislavery men in the territory should arm themselves, though. Jason wrote of his and his wife’s depression at the death of their son. Salmon wanted food and summer clothes. Further correspondence kept Brown up to date on the political situation  and asked if he could raise some money to send guns to Kansas. In better news, Junior also wrote that while all the territory’s surveying had all been contracted out it went so slowly that Brown stood a chance of getting work at it all the same.

All of this goes to the elder Brown’s motivation in coming to Kansas. John Brown went to Kansas to fight slavery and help his sons. He also wanted some means of support while doing so and took a keen interest in money making opportunities, inquiring about prices and the feasibility of various agricultural operations. When Brown got news that he would probably not make piles of money and an at best qualified endorsement of his plan to work as a surveyor, he still went. A person driven entirely by pecuniary interest would have looked elsewhere. Much later, sitting in a Virginia jail, Brown told Clement Vallandingham essentially the same thing:

Vallandingham. How long have you been engaged in this business?

Brown. From the breaking out of the difficulties in Kansas. Four of my sons had gone there to settle, and they induced me to go. I did not go there to settle, but because of the difficulties.

Vallandingham then asked why Brown came to Virginia. Brown gave an answer that would fit his trip to Kansas just as well:

We came to free the slaves, and only that.

Brown made his arrangements. From Chicago, he wrote explaining the progress of his journey since leaving North Elba. He picked up a good horse for $120

but have so much load that we shall have to walk a good deal-enough probably to supply ourselves with game.

Brown traveled with his son Oliver and son-in-law Henry Thompson. He continued on this theme on September 4, by which time they had reached just into Iowa. They tarried longer in than expected in Chicago because “our freight” hadn’t arrived. That freight included guns, of which Brown had a crate from Cleveland as well, and some artillery swords. In further firearms news, he told the family that Oliver turned out to have a good aim and had brought down many free-roaming chickens for the party. Brown closed with instructions for Watson, left in charge back in New York, on how to cash a check for some cattle Brown ordered sold.

The GOP Tax Bill is Another Attack on Us All.

Gentle Readers, it’s that time again. The Republican Party, which once produced our greatest president, has continued to dig its way through the concrete slab beneath the fallout shelter in its quest for the bottom. A tax bill has passed the House, with the vote of my Representative and maybe yours too, which will dramatically slash taxes for the extremely wealthy and corporations. Because they are using budget reconciliation to get that bill through the Senate without a filibuster, that means they need to write a bill that doesn’t add to the deficit over ten years. (Adding to the budget deficit within that time is allowed.) To make the math work, the GOP has decided that the rest of us should pay for it.

You may have heard that you will get a tax cut. Who ever told you that either told you on the deck of your yacht or wasn’t telling the truth:

By 2023, a key middle-class tax break expires. Many of the people facing tax hikes are solidly middle class ($40,000 to $75,000) or else in the “upper upper” middle class ($200,000 to $400,000), JCT found. A key savings for the middle class — the Family Flexibility Credit — goes away after 2022. The House bill also uses a low measure of inflation after 2022, meaning more and more people start to jump from the 12 percent tax bracket to the 25 percent bracket (which starts to kick in at $67,500 for heads of households).

That’s the House bill, but the Senate will be doing something similar and also repeal the ACA’s insurance mandate. You may know that as the pain that requires you to get insurance. It’s also the provision that gets enough of us into the risk pool that insurers can afford to take care of the sick and people with pre-existing conditions without demanding ruinous premiums from them. That may not sound just to you, and I will not defend the morality of for-profit health insurance, but it is how the system works. Insurers count on premiums from healthy people to keep them above water when someone gets very sick. Chronic illnesses, cancer, childbirth, and injuries can all make any of us extremely unappealing to the insurance industry unless we have a private pool made of solid gold. The estimated impact of removing the mandate is that thirteen million people would lose coverage. Some of those people would drop it voluntarily and take their chances, but many would not; the new rates would be too much for them to afford. This is a backdoor Obamacare repeal. And by the way, if you do get sick this bill removes your ability to deduct medical expenses from your taxes.

That’s cruel in itself. The bill also includes offenses against the historical profession and, for that matter, almost every profession. In the United States, becoming a professional usually requires a college degree to get your foot in the door. More than that, it tends to requires a graduate degree. Some disciplines have their own names for it, but most of these are Masters and Doctorates. Graduate school is ruinously expensive, much more so than ordinary university already is. Grad students who aren’t independently wealthy get by largely through the fact that universities ruthlessly exploit them in exchange for a pittance salary and waiving their tuition. The GOP’s bill will remove the deduction for that tuition waiver and tax it as income. Thus a person working to become a historian, or an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, almost any middle class or higher job, will be expected to pay taxes on an income two or three times what actually goes into their bank.

Gentle Readers, I’m friends with some people in grad school and others about to start it right now. None of them can afford that. They are your future historians and librarians. People with advanced degrees designed your car. They developed your medicine. They are essential to the survival of modern society and all the benefits it brings us. If you value what they contribute to the world and hope it continues, you can’t support this bill unless you also think that those roles should be open only to those of us lucky enough to be born fabulously wealthy.

There is some good news, though. If you’re a corporation you could deduct the cost of supplies you buy for your workers to use to make you money. To pay for that, among other things, the GOP will remove the ability of teachers to deduct money out of their own pockets that they spend on supplies for your kids. Virtually every teacher does this every year.

All in all, three-quarters of the cuts in this bill go to businesses and corporations. The extremely rich get the rest. In exchange for that, we are promised that money will rain from the heavens to make up for it. We’ve been promised that for every prior cut like this and none of them has ever paid for itself. This is the largest yet. If you believe them now and that this time will be different, I don’t know what to say.

If none of that moves you, then consider this: The House bill will knock a 1.4 trillion hole in the federal budget by design. That’s what it’s for. The plan is to create a massive deficit and then use it as an excuse to radically cut programs that people depend on for their very lives: Medicaid and Medicare top the list and would face immediate cuts to the tune of billions of dollars. This bill will kill people. It will devastate higher education. It will hurt teachers and children. And then the GOP will use it to come back around for more blood from the same people. It’s all being done with an almost total absence of committee hearings, chances for the minority to offer amendments, in haste and largely in secret just like ACA repeal.

This is sadism. I would call it inhuman, but I study people who do things like this to other people. Even the people at Forbes, not known for their bleeding heart liberalism or love of taxes, think this bill is madness. As these cuts will disproportionately harm those with the least, and we have ordered our society such that people who we don’t consider white tend to have the least, I consider this also a white supremacist piece of legislation. I cannot study what I do in good faith and let it pass entirely in silence.

Get in touch with your Senators, especially if they’re Republicans and doubly so if they’re Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, or John McCain, and let them know what you think about all that. You can get contact information for them here or use ResistBot’s automated system through Facebook Messenger or your smart phone. If all of this sounds great to you, then those systems also work the other way. I hope you agree with me that this is a fight worth having, but if not then we still have something like a democracy. You deserve to have your voice heard too. We are all Americans.

Money and Provisions: The Journey to Kansas, Part 4

John Brown

Parts 1, 2, 3

We left John Brown inquiring with his sons who went to Kansas about prices in Westport. Brown still planned to make a trip to North Elba, but by spring of 1855 he had decided to go at least for a time to the nation’s newest territory himself. As he settled up affairs in Ohio and looked forward to that tip, Brown had a letter in hand from John, Jr., describing all Kansas’ troubles with election-stealing Missourians. He recommended, in language close to that his father used when establishing the League of Gileadites, that “The Antislavery portion of the inhabitants should immediately, thoroughly arm and organize themselves in military companies.”

The younger John Brown avowed that his brothers with him in Kansas, except maybe the unusually gentle Jason, would take up the fight in a heartbeat, if only they had guns and ammunition. Since Brown the elder intended to come to Kansas anyway, could he pick up some for them? To get the cash, Junior suggested hitting up Gerrit Smith.

Brown already had some years of familiarity with Smith from his North Elba involvement. Smith had the right politics and the deep pockets to provide. Brown meant to go to New York anyway. All the pieces fell together and Brown found Smith at Syracuse, where “Radical Political Abolitionists” had gathered for a convention. Brown stepped into the hall on June 28 and informed the body, who had already voted $4,600 to antislavery business, that Kansas needed support.

Brown explained what happened next in a letter collected in The Life and Letters of Captain John Brown, by Richard Webb. He received “a most warm reception from all” and got just that day

a little over sixty dollars-twenty from Gerrit Smith, five from an old British officer; others giving smaller sums with such earnest and affectionate expressions of their good wishes as did me more good than money even. John’s two letters were introduced, and read with such effect, by Gerrit Smith, as to draw tears from numerous eyes in the great collection of people present.

Gerrit Smith

Smith and Frederick Douglass also spoke to the convention on Brown’s behalf.

Brown sounds genuinely moved by his reception. He tells his family that he wishes they could have seen it with him and that he made many “warm hearted and honest friends.” He took their sixty-odd dollars, not a great deal considering what the convention pledged elsewhere, back to Ohio and bought bought a box of guns.

In Springfield, he received advice from Junior that he had requested about the best way to get into Kansas. Brown should avoid the river at this time of year and travel by lumber wagon. Junior also warned him of the weather and reported that the amount of squatters made land speculation dubious. Nor should Brown hope to do well with horses or cattle. Jason wrote as well, explaining that he had fallen silent out of depression over Austin’s death. His wife Ellen had taken it worse still and he might have to bring her back east. Salmon wrote asking Brown to bring food and summer clothing, while also reporting slaves owned not three miles away from the boys’ claims.


Visions of Prosperity: The Journey to Kansas, Part 3

John Brown

Parts 1, 2

With Austin Brown dead of cholera and buried in Missouri, the families of Jason and John Brown, Jr., made their way back to the steamer and found that it had left them behind. They paid for a full passage and departed the boat only to bury four year old Austin, in the middle of a thunderstorm no less, but got abandoned all the same. By the most charitable reading, the captain simply didn’t know they left. More likely he didn’t care or saw the chance to spite Yankees as a fringe benefit to making up lost time. That left the Browns to proceed by land, paying passage all over again. That included food, which many Missourians refused to sell to Northerners.

Still, the Browns soldiered on and reached Kansas

her lovely prairies and wooded streams seemed to us indeed like a haven of rest. Here in prospect we saw our cattle increased to hundreds and possibly to thousands, fields of corn, orchards, and vineyards. At once we set about the work through which our visions of prosperity could be realized.

The Browns had the standard frontier experience, gleefully imagining their future prosperity on stolen land. They came to the town of Osawatomie, where the Marais des Cynges met Pottawatomie Creek, an area with ample timber. They a brief time time with John Brown’s in-law, Samuel Adair, and he probably got them up to speed on what the Missourians did come election time. Then they headed off to find Frederick, Salmon, and Owen Brown’s claims by North Middle Creek, a tributary of the Marais des Cynges. There they established adjoining claims. Kansas greeted its new arrivals with the height of its rainy season, delivering thunderstorms aplenty.

All this takes us up to May of 1855, at which point Brown biographer Stephen Oates says Brown decided to join his sons in Kansas. He references Sanborn’s Life and Letters of John Brownfrom which I have most of the Brown correspondence I’ve quoted to date. Sanborn doesn’t produce a letter indicating Brown’s official change of heart, but the relevant page includes narrative from Sanborn that Brown made his decision at this point. Considering Sanborn knew Brown personally and served as one of his Harper’s Ferry backers, his word should suffice.

Oates refers to Brown writing John, Jr., on May 24 to ask about the best way to come to Kansas and what his sons wanted him to bring along. The relevant page of Sanborn does include two brief letters Brown wrote from Rockford, dated May 7 and June 4. Neither letter refers to any plan to come to Kansas directly or includes the questions Oates has Brown ask. Nor does the letter that Junior wrote Brown on May 2 informing him of the situation in the territory appear there. I would rather have both, but will have to settle for Oates’ rendition:

On May 24, Brown himself wrote his sons from Rockford, Illinois, asking how he should come to Kansas and what necessities they might want him to bring. He also inquired about the prospects for surveying and speculating in land and about the going prices for beans, apples, cornmeal, bacon, horses, and cattle.

In the letter of May 7, Brown asks only about the prices of wheat and corn in Westport. The next, June 4, reports that Brown has sold his Devonshire cattle and planned to head up to North Elba. Reading those in conjunction with Sanborn’s declaration that Brown chose for Kansas at this point makes for a convincing case, but the absent letters remain a personal research frustration.

Bereaved, Abandoned, and Hungry: The Journey to Kansas, Part 2

John Brown

Two of John Brown’s sons, John, Jr. and Jason, sold their Ohio farms and set off for Kansas by river with their wives and children. They arrived in St. Louis without incident and took on supplies there. In April of 1855 they boarded the New Lucy to steam up the Missouri to the territory. The ship didn’t have much elbow room and put the Browns in close quarters with avowed proslavery men, well armed and well lubricated. The fruit trees and grape vines they brought with them looked out of place on the ex officio proslavery troop transport. According to Junior,

for the first time arose in our minds the query: Must the fertile prairies of Kansas, through a struggle at arms, be first secured to freedom before free men can sow and reap? If so, how poorly we were prepared for such work will be seen when I say that, for arms, five of us brothers had only two small squirrel rifles and one revolver.

The Brown boys had the kind of weaponry you would expect of farmers: something to deal with pests in the field and maybe something to help with slaughtering livestock. The passionate talk about Kansas’ struggle for freedom hadn’t yet led to more than one small and one rather larger bout of election violence, which westerners like the Browns probably shrugged off. Now it all came to meet them on the New Lucy.

The Browns can’t have liked that one bit, but as they passed through Missouri another matter commanded their attention. Cholera struck the crowded boat. Jason and Ellen’s son Austin

aged four years, the elder of his two children, fell victim to this scourge; and while our boat lay by for repair of a broken rudder at Waverley, Mo., we buried him at night near that panic-stricken town, our lonely way illumined only by the lightning of a furious thunderstorm. True to his spirit of hatred off Northern people, our captain, without warning to us on shore, cast off his lines and left us to make our way by stage to Kansas City, to which place we had already paid our fare by boat.

All class on board the New Lucy. Steamers usually stopped for the night rather than risk finding a rock, log, or sandbar the hard way. The Lucy might have run through the night to make up for lost time courtesy of that broken rudder, since steamboat captains prided themselves on beating past records. Brown doesn’t say that the captain knew of their absence and doesn’t provide other evidence for his hating Yankees, but they could reasonably suspect at least that he took frustrating them as a fringe benefit.

The Browns had to make their way by land, which took them through the heart of Missouri’s enslaving country. Having not packed the food for that journey, they went to buy it from farms they passed on the way

but the occupants, judging from our speech that we were not from the South, always denied us, saying, ‘we have nothing for you.’ The only exception to this answer was at the stage-house at Indpendence, Mo.


The Journey to Kansas, Part 1

John Brown

John Brown and North Elba: parts 1, 234

According to Stephen Oates’ biography, John Brown felt conflicting urges to go ahead with his plan to relocate to North Elba and to go with his sons to Kansas. He had a prior commitment to New York and most of his family already lived there, but Kansas did beckon. He asked advice from friends and gave the black community in the Adirondacks potentially the deciding vote. By November of 1854, Brown had settled on the point. He would stick with his first plan.

That same month, Owen, Salmon, and Frederick Brown drove their herd of eleven cows and three horses into Illinois for the winter. Come spring, 1855, they continued on and staked claims near Osawatomie. That put them some thirty miles south of Lawrence and near to where Samuel Adair set up his homestead.

While Owen, Salmon, and Frederick moved their stock and wintered over, Jason and Brown’s namesake son sold their Ohio farms and readied themselves to follow. Not burdened by herds, they expected to travel across Missouri by riverboat. Brown himself kept on making arrangements and trying to scrape together the money to remove permanently from Ohio to North Elba. By February, he hoped that he could quit the state sometime in the next month and also

I got quite an encouraging word about Kansas from Mr. Adair the other day. He had before then given quite a gloomy picture of things. He and family were all well.

On the same day, February 13, he wrote another letter where he declared his interest in Kansas as considerably beyond the abstract:

Since I last saws you I have undertaken to direct the operations of a Surveying; & exploring party to be employed in Kansas for a considerable length of time, perhaps for some Two or Three years.

Contrary to his first biographer, James Redpath, Oates found evidence that Brown intended to do more than survey a bit. He would look into land speculation and business opportunities. If any of those appeared promising, and Brown tended to find most business opportunities promising, then he could relocate his whole family to Kansas. John Brown would go to Kansas, at least for a few years and maybe for good, sometime in the summer or fall of 1855.

The other Browns had already gotten underway. Jason and Ellen, with their son Austin; and John Jr, Wealthy, and their son John Brown III went by boat as planned. They loaded up on supplies in St. Louis: “two small tents, a plough, and some smaller farming-tools, and a hand-mill for grinding corn.” In April they got going aboard the New Lucy,

which too late we found crowded with passengers, mostly men from the South bound for Kansas. That they were from the South was plainly indicated by their language and dress; while their drinking, profanity, and display of revolvers and bowie-knives -openly worn as an essential part of their make-up- clearly showed the class to which they belonged, and their mission was to aid in establishing slavery in Kansas.

“They should have a right to vote” John Brown and North Elba, Part 4

John Brown

A small personal note, Gentle Readers: I’ve just had my second appearance on the AskHistorians Podcast, talking about Charles Sumner. If you think all of this would be better without having to read my prose or just want my soothing words to delight you, it’s available here, via Youtube, or on Spotify. As before, I promise to use my fame mostly responsibly.

Parts 1, 23

John Brown vented himself to Frederick Douglass about the Kansas-Nebraska Act in a letter. He asked that Douglas refine his prose and make it available to the general public; someone had to talk good sense into white Americans. Douglas obliged by printing the letter in his paper. There Brown’s words joined the tide of outrage against repealing the Missouri Compromise. He could read the indignation of others from Horace Greeley’s paper, to which Brown subscribed, and probably hear it on most streets in the North at least for a while. Everyone understood that the future of Kansas now hung in the balance. Proslavery and antislavery whites would collide there and to the victor might go the nation.

Brown must not have enjoyed the news any better for expressing himself in the papers, but his many debts from the wool business preoccupied him. His surviving letters from the time don’t mention Kansas further. Instead he laments the drought, which claimed the crops he hoped would clear his obligations. Brown hadn’t suffered as badly as some of his neighbors, and suspected they might help themselves to his fruit crop, but the Kansas fever did not strike him at first.

Instead, Brown’s grown sons Owen, Salmon, Frederick, Jason, and John, Jr. decided they should go. They read Emigrant Aid Company material that depicted Kansas as especially verdant and promising. With Ohio in a drought, they must have seen little sense in sticking around. If the kids went, might Brown not go too? Junior asked him and Brown wrote back on August 21, 1854:

If you or any of my family are disposed to go to Kansas or Nebraska, with a view to help defeat Satan and his legions in that direction, I have not a word to say; but I feel committed to operate in another part of the field. If I were not so committed, I would be on my way this fall.

In other words, Brown still dreamed of the Adirondacks and the black colony Gerrit Smith set up there. An in-law of Brown’s, Samuel Adair, already aimed to go so the Brown boys would have a friendly face on the frontier. He had made promises to Smith and to the black community. He felt at home and at peace in North Elba. John Brown couldn’t turn away.

Frederick Douglass

On November 2, 1854, he wrote to his children that expected the elder boys to strike for Kansas. He felt “still pretty much determined to go back to North Elba.” But even by this point, Brown had his doubts. It appears that he wrote to Smith and Frederick Douglass for advice, as he says

Gerrit Smith wishes me to go back to North Elba; from Douglass and Dr. McCune Smith I have not yet heard.

Here Stephen Oates cites a letter in the Brown papers I dearly wish I had access to. As Oakes tells it, brown felt “hard pressed” to relocate to Kansas

as more likely to benefit the colored people on the whole than to return with them to N. Elba.

In his consultations, Brown did something remarkable for a nineteenth century American white man yet again: he asked his family in New York to consult with North Elba’s black community. Brown said

As I volunteered in their services; they should have a right to vote, as to course I should take.

Caught in a genuine dilemma, unsure of what he should do, John Brown believed that his black neighbors should have perhaps the controlling say in the further course of his life. He, in his own words, gave them a vote. Without it, he doesn’t sound at all inclined to give up on his commitment to them.

“Malignant spirits” John Brown and North Elba, Part 3

John Brown

Parts 1, 2

We left off looking at the resolutions that John Brown wrote for his League of Gileadites, wherein he laid out his plan for fighting slave catchers and remarkably declared that he considered black Americans his people just as much as he did whites. The League would take any who came and provide arms to those who couldn’t afford them. The young and infirm would serve as lookouts and messengers. From there the resolutions moved on to administration matters.

Brown got forty-four people to sign on as Gileadites, though it seems they never carried out his advice. Slave catchers never arrived in Springfield to give them cause and local law enforcement declined to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act anyway. His rhetoric made the league into an exceptional example of planned resistance to the law, part of the general northern revulsion toward it that elsewhere resulted in violent fugitive rescues.

A few days after the meeting, Brown wrote to his wife up at North Elba on the same subject. He knew that former slaves lived in the community, some of whom had stolen themselves. Brown told Mary that the relief of fugitives had occupied his mind in Ohio. They suffered “sleepless nights on account of either themselves or their wives and children.” He believed that the Gileadite meeting boosted their spirits, then he underlined in private for his wife what he said in public in the League’s resolutions:

I want all my family to imagine themselves in the same dreadful condition.

Few nineteenth century whites in the United States would bid one another to do any such thing. White abolitionists can come close to it, but their appeals tend to focus more on pity than empathy as such.

John Brown spent the next few years trying to repair his finances from the ruin of his wool business. That involved many trips, and court appearances. Brown fared poorly at the bar, traveling and losing most of his cases everywhere from Boston to Ohio. He finally settled down back in Springfield with empty pockets and ill with malaria. The rest of the family -Mary bore Brown’s nineteenth child in this time- didn’t do much better. The new baby didn’t make it, dying of whooping cough. That made nine children who didn’t survive to date.

Frederick Douglass

But North Elba called. Brown arranged for an in-law to build him a house there. He finally dissolved his wool partnership and aimed to quit Ohio as soon as he could afford it. To manage that, Brown rented three farms and hoped for an adequate payday come harvest. He remained on them when the Kansas-Nebraska Act appeared in the Senate. Brown wrote Frederick Douglass shortly thereafter:

What punishment ever inflicted by man or even threatened by God, can be too severe for those whose influence is a thousand times more malignant than the atmosphere of the deadly Upas-for those who hate the right and Most High.

Brown damned the legislators who voted for proslavery laws “malignant spirits” and “fiends clothed in human form.” He extended the description to everyone who enforced the laws and argued in their favor. Proslavery divines insulted the Almighty directly. What had become of the country, for such people to go on in impunity? He asked Douglass to revise his arguments into suitable form and bring them to public attention.

John Brown’s People: John Brown and the League of Gileadites, Part 2

John Brown

On January 15, 1851, John Brown explained his plan for the League of Gileadites to members of Springfield’s black community. They would band together to fight any slave catchers who came for one of their own. They should prepare and arm themselves and stand ready for swift action. He also offered helpful advice about blowing up proslavery men in court to cause a distraction.

The League of Gileadites affair counted as a public meeting, so Brown had the customary set of resolutions prepared. In this case they read like organization bylaws as much as sense of the group declarations. The first names the group. The second declared

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

In other words, members needed to arm themselves. If anyone wanted to join and couldn’t afford a gun, they should take up a collection. All enrolled would report themselves to a committee “of one or more discreet, influential men”. The resolutions specifically admitted people “whether male or female, whether old or young.”

That posed obvious an obvious problem: What would the Gileadites do with non-combatants who signed up? Nineteenth century more shrank from the idea of women involving themselves in violent matters. Children and the aged could not defend themselves. On the other hand, people of every age and sex faced the horrors of slavery. Brown thought they could serve a vital role in the organization:

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

John Brown’s biographers do not generally praise him as a prose stylist, but he wrote something unusual here and appears to have meant it: our people. Obviously, Brown sees himself as a Gileadite at least ex officio. He probably wrote the resolutions with himself in mind as the chief officer of the group so a form of inclusion makes sense, but few Northern whites would describe black Americans as substantially their own people. Southerners did so to signify both legal ownership and pretend to a familial connection. Brown opposed the former to the utmost. To do that and then declare blacks a part of his extended family deserves recognition as a remarkable statement of solidarity.