John Brown 1857

Speech on conditions in Kansas

Source: Kansas Memory Archives;
Date: Around March, 1857;
Copy Left: this work is free of copyright;
Transcribed: by ObscureAudioHistory.

I propose in order to make this meeting as useful; & interesting as I can: to try; & give a correct idea of the condition of things in Kansas, as they were; while I was there; & as I suppose they still are; So far as the great question at issue is concerned & here let me remark that in Kansas the question is never raised of a man: Is he a Democrat? Is he a Republican? The questions there raised are Is he a Free State man? Or is he a proslavery man? The machinery of a territorial government not yet in motion. The proslavery settlers from the slave states, many of them turned to be the most determined Free State men; & fighting in all their Battles. The comparitive strength of the parties; as regards numbers, inteligence, Industry, & good habits generally.

Tell my own errand from the territory. Get the means of supporting my family, of supporting men finding them equipage etc. The kind of men, & emigrants I want to find. The effect of good or bad Pioneer emigration on new settlements.

Statement of facts within my own knowledge.

I saw while in Missouri in the Fall of 1855 large numbers on their way to Kansas to vote; & also returning after they had so done as they said.

I together with Four of my sons were called out to help defend Lawrence in the Fall of 1855 & traveled most of the way on foot; & during a dark night a distance of 35 miles: where we were detained with some 500 others or thereabouts from 5 to 15 days: Say an average of 10 days at a cost to each pr day of $1.50 as wages to say nothing of the actual loss & suffering it occasioned. Many of them leaving their families at home sick, their crops not secured, their houses unprepared for Winter & many of them without houses at all. This was the case with myself, & all my sons; who were unable to get any house built after our return. Loss in that case as wages alone; would amount to $7500, Loss & suffering in consequence cannot be estimated. I saw at that time the boddy of the murdered Barbour; & was present when his Wife, & other friends were brought in to see him as he lay in the clothes he had on when killed. No very plasant sight. I went in the Spring of last year with some of my sons amongst the Buford men; in the character of a Surveyor, to see & hear from them their business into the territory. This took us from our work I and numerous others in the Spring of last year traveled some 10 miles or over on foot, to meet & advise as to what should be done to meet the gathering storm. This occasioned much loss of time.

I also with many others about the same time traveled on foot a similar distance to attend a meeting of Judge Catos Court; to find out what kind of Laws he intended to enforce. This occasioned further loss of time.

I with Six Sons; & a SoninLaw were again called out to defend Lawrence May 20th & 21st and traveled most of the way there on foot: & during the night; being 35 miles. From that date neither of us could do any work about our homes; but lost our whole time until we left in Oct last; excepting one of my sons, who had a few weeks to devote to the care of his own & his Brothers family who had been burned out of their houses while the two men were prisoners.

From about the 20th of May of last year Hundreds of men like ourselves lost their whole time: & entirely failed of securing any kind of crop whatever. I believe it safe to say that 500 Free State men lost each 120 days at $1.50, pr day, which would be to say nothing of attendant losses $$90,000 Dollars.

I saw the ruins of many Free State mens houses, at different places in theTerritory; together with Stacks of grain wasted, & burning to the amount of say $50,000 Dollars. Making in lost time & destruction of property more than $150,000 Dollars. On or about the 30th May last two of my sons with several others were imprisoned without other crime than opposition to Bogus enactments; & most barbarously treated for a time. One being held about one month; the other about Four months. Both had their families in Kansas; & destitute of homes; being burned out after they were imprisoned. In their burning; all the Eight were sufferers; as we all had our effects at the Two houses. One of my sons had his oxen taken from him at this time & never recovered them. Here is the chain with which one of was confined after the cruelty, sufferings, & anxiety he underwent had rendered him a maniac. Yes a maniac.

On the 2nd of June last my son in Law was terribly wounded; supposed to be mortally; & two other Free State men at BlackJack. On the 6th or 7th of June last one of my sons was wounded by accident in camp supposed to be mortally; & may prove a cripple for life. In Aug last I was present & saw the mangled & shockingly disfigured boddy of the murdered Hoyt of Deerfield, Mass: brought into our camp. I knew him well. I saw several other Free State men who were either killed or wounded whose names I cannot now remember. I saw Dr Graham who was a prisoner with the Ruffians on the 2nd of June last & was present when they wounded him, in an attempt to Kill him as he was trying to save himself from being murdered by [xxx] during the fight of Black Jack. I know that for much of the time during the last Summer the travel over a portion of the Territory was entirely cut off: & that none but bodies of armed men dared to move at all, I know that for a considerable time the mails on different routes were taped: & that notwithstanding there were abundant U S troops at hand to escort the mails, that such escorts were not furnished as they might; or ought to have been. I saw while it was standing; & afterward saw the ruins of a most value house full of good articles & stoves: which had been burned by the Ruffians, for a highly civilized, intelligent, & most exemplary Christian Indian: for being suspected of favoring free state men. He is known as Ottawa Jones; or John J Jones. In Sept last I visited a beautiful little Free State Town called Stanton on the North side of the Osage or Meridezene river as it is called: from which every inhabitant had fled (being in fear of their lives) after having built them at a heavy expense a strong Block House or wooden fort for their protection many of them had left their effects liable to be destroyed or carried off not being able to remove them.

This was a most gloomy scene; & like a visit to a vast sepulcre. During last Summer, & fall deserted Houses, & Cornfields were to be met with in almost every direction South of the Kansas river I saw the burning of Osawatomie by a body of some 400 Ruffians, & of Franklin afterwards by some 2700 men. The first named on Aug 30th; the last named Sept 14 or 15. Gov Geary had been for some time in the territory; & might have saved Franklin with perfect ease. It would not have cost the U S one Dollar to have saved Franklin. I with five sick, & wounde sons, & SoninLaw; were obliged for some time to lie on the ground without shelter, our Boots, & clothes worn out, destitute of money, & at times almost in a state of starvation; & dependent on the charities of the Christian Indian, & his Wife: whom I before named. I saw in Sept last a Mr. Parker who I well know; with his Head all bruised over, & his throat partly cut; having before been draged sick out of the house of Ottawa Jones the Indian (when it was burned;) & thrown for dead over the bank of the Ottawa Creek. I saw three mangled bodies of three young men, two of which were dead; & had lain on the open ground for about 18 Hours for the flies to work at: the other living with twenty Buck shot, & Bullet holes in him. One of those two dead was my own son. I know that many others whose names I cannot now remember suffered terrible hardships, exposures, privations & cruelties such as I have named. I well know that on or about the 14th Sept last a large force of Missourians; & other Ruffians numbering 2700 (as stated by Gov Geary) invaded the territory, burned Franklin; & while the smoke of that place was going up behind them: they on the same day, made their appearance in full view of & within about a mile of Lawrence. & I know of no possible reasons why they did not attack, & burn that place except that about 100 free State men volunteered to go out on the open plain before the town. & there gave them the offer of a fight: which they declined after getting some few scattering shots from our men; & then retreated back towards Franklin.

I saw the whole thing. The government troops at this time were with Gov Geary at Lecompton: a distance of Twelve Miles only from Lawrence; & notwithstanding several runners had been to advise him in good time of the approach, or of the setting out of the enemy; who had to march some Forty Miles, to reach Lawrence; he did not; on that memorable occasion get a single soldier on to the ground, untill after the enemy had retreated back to Franklin: & had been gone for more than Five Hours. He did get the troops there about midnight afterwards, & that is the way he saved Lawrence as he boasts of doing; in his message to the Bogus Legislature. This was just the kind of protection the Administration & its tools have afforded the Free State settlers of Kansas from the first.

It cost the U S more than half a million for a year past to harrass poor Free State settlers, in Kansas, & to violate all Law, & all right, moral, & Constitutional for the sole, & only purpose, of forcing Slavery uppon that Territory. I chalenge this whole nation to prove before God or mankind to the contrary. Who paid this money to enslave the settlers of Kansas; & worry them out? I say nothing in this estimate of the money wasted by Congress in the management of this horribly tyrannical, & Damnable affairs.

Answer Questions

I am trying to raise from $20, to 25000, Dollars in the Free States to enable me to continue my efforts in the cause of Freedom. Will the people of Connecticut my native State afford me some aid in this undertaking? Will the gentlemen & ladies of Hartford where I make my first appeal in this State: set the example of an earnest effort? Will some gentlema or Lady take hold & try what can be done by small contributions from Counties cities towns, societies or Churches or in some other way? I think the little beggar children in the streets are sufficiently interested to warrant their contributing if there was any need of it to secure the object. I was told that the newspapers in a certain City were dressed in mourning on hearing that I was killed & scalped in Kansas; but did I not know of it untill I reached the place. Much good it did me. In the same place I met a more cool reception that in any other place where I have stoped. If my friends will hold up my hands while I live: I will freely absolve them from any expense over me when I am dead I do not ask for pay but shall be most grateful for all the assistance I can get.