Two guns and a bowie knife

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

The Free State’s editor accused G.W. Brown of scaring people away from Kansas. Brown took to his own paper flush with indignation over the fact that the source of the charge, a private letter of his, made it into the St. Louis papers. He explained that he intended the letter for the eyes of its recipient alone and that he wrote it at a particularly dire time. Proslavery men then ran amok even in Lawrence and Brown had endured shots fired into his home and an attempt to burn it down with him inside. Understandably, this put a grim cast on his private enthusiasm for Kansas. Since then, the free state men had formed some kind of mutual protection arrangement.

Instead of censuring us for writing such letters, any person but an apologist of the slave power, a panderer to their prejudices, and the warm personal friend of nearly or quite every pro-slavery man in the country, and, as a consequence, lacking the confidence of free State men, would compliment us.

Since the letter had gone public all the same, Brown defended it further as truthful in every respect. He then printed it himself so his readers could judge:

How long before I shall be an exile I know not. Daily the clouds look more portentious. I can hear their thunders; they appear near at hand. The lightnings, their flash is seen along the sky! When the blow comes if I fall in the fray I pray you to find an arm to fill my place. Do not mind the sacrifice, or the cost.-As long as there is a dollar of means belonging to my estate, I pray it may be used in prosecuting this war.

Brown continued with instructions on who to reach to continue his paper should something happen to him. He had, at time of writing, nearly received a challenge and expected to get a proper one with his next edition. He expected to drive the proslavery men wild. But George Brown came prepared:

I do not pretend to appear in the streets without two revolvers and a bowie-knife. Seven men set upon me the other night, and attempted to drive me from my position. If profane words and fists swinging in the air, could have accomplished anything, I should have been annihilated. I stood with my hands in my breeches pocket and told them: ‘Threaten as long as you please, but don’t strike.’

This all proved that Brown had literally committed his last dollar to Kansas, to follow the “near six thousand” he had already spent. If that didn’t prove Brown’s loyalty to freedom’s cause, what would?

Brown would have his readers believe that the Free State’s interest in his purity went only so far as its name. He told them that he knew the paper had taken twelve hundred dollars from proslavery men to keep itself afloat. It denounced the Herald of Freedom and the Emigrant Aid Company. The search for suspect motives should thus begin not at Brown’s door, but with the Free State:

It may be true that [the Free State’s editor] is a devoted, self-sacrificing anti-slavery worker, but if so he has a singular way of showing it.

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