Thursday, October 18, 2012

Richard O. Boyer's "The Legend of John Brown"

Here I go again, getting a little off subject, although John Brown was active prior to the Civil War and I consider him part of Western folklore in that he raised more Hell in Kansas and Missouri and elsewhere than about anyone else in his time as the West was being opened up.

I have no love for Communists and according to some people, Richard O. Boyer was a Communist who wrote articles for the Daily Worker, the Communist paper, and took the Fifth Amendment while being questioned by Congress in the 1950's. But this is not mentioned in the jacket bio on the book. As a journalist he wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New York Herald-Tribune, the Boston Herald and the Dallas Times-Herald in a long career. He died at the age of 70 in 1973.

That being said, I can put my feelings aside and take an objective look at The Legend of John Brown when I get around to reading it. The way the leftists obfuscate their real beliefs in the news and elsewhere, I have no idea how much Communist propaganda is in the book, if any, but I do have an interest in John Brown from a family viewpoint that I have mentioned once or twice before. Brown had a close friend in Lora Case, a distant relative long time deceased, and wrote one of his last letters to him as follows from The Hudson of Long Ago, Reminiscences by Lora Case:

"In the month of December [1859], John Brown, J. E. Cook, E. Cople, N. D. Stevens, A. Hazlett, five white men and J. A. Copeland and S. Green, colored, died on the scaffold at Harper's Ferry, and eleven others were put to death for their efforts to let the oppressed go free. On the morning of his execution John Brown wrote me the following letter.

     "Charlestown, Jefferson, Co Va, 2d, Dec, 1859, Lora Case, Esqr

     "My dear Sir

          Your most kind and cheering letter of the 28th Nov is received. Such an outburst of warm hearted sympathy not only for myself, but also for those who "have no helper" compells me to steal a moment from those allowe me, in which to prepare for my last great change to send you a few words. Such a feeling as you manifest make you to "shine (in my estimation) in the midst of this wicked;  perverse generation as a light in the world." May you ever prove yourself equal to the high estimate I have placed on you. Pure & undefiled religion before God & the Father is" as I understand it: an active (not a dormant) principle. I do not undertake to direct any more about my children. I leave that now entirely to their excellent mother from whom I have just parted. I send you my "salutation with my own hand." Remember me to all yours, & my dear friends. 
                                                           Your Friend
                                                                   John Brown"

"John Brown, son of Owen Brown, was born May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut. When he was five years old his father and mother with three brothers and one sister moved to Hudson [Ohio], July 27, 1808.

"I was born in Granby, Connecticut, Nov. 18, 1811. When I was two-and-a-half years old my father, mother, three sisters and one brother came to Hudson July 4, 1814, and, from what I saw and heard him [John Brown] say, our dress and experiences were similar in some respects. For a necktie we wore a piece of morocco leather to hold up our shirt collar called a stock, and we both wore buckskin pants with leather suspenders. He said he never attempted to dance or ever learned to know one card from another and I was as ignorant in that respect as he was.

[Skipping some narrative, we continue.]

"The first time I ever heard of John Brown raising his voice against slavery was in the church prayer meeting one Thursday afternoon. We got the news that morning that the pro-slavery men had shot Lovejoy while standing in his doorway and demolished his press. The death of Lovejoy was the topic of the meeting. (There was then strong prejudice in the church and throughout the state against the anti-slavery movement.) Owen Brown and his son, John, were present at the prayer meeting. After some remarks on the sad news of Lovejoy's death, Esq. Brown arose and made a very earnest prayer, and in his plea for help, especially in the matter before them, it seemed as though he had the help of Him who sits on the mercy seat to carry their case to the Court of Heaven for a decision, and it seemed by his expressions as we listened to his prayer that he felt as though the Judge of all the earth was at the door of his heart.

"After his father's prayer, John arose and in the his calm, emphatic way says: "I pledge myself with God's help that I will devote my life to increasing hostility towards slavery." The history of his life from that time to its tragic end gives him the honor of living and dying to maintain that pledge."

Reading the Legend of John Brown will be like reading the story of an old family friend who set his sights on the stars and got lost in the search and I keep putting it off even though I know the outcome..


  1. An enigmatic figure, for sure. A lightning rod for all kinds of emotions. I watched a show on him not long ago. I'd like to read some more history about him though.

    1. Whether he helped or hurt the anti-slavery movement I don't know, but maybe I'll learn a little bit when I read the book.