John Brown 1859

Last Letter to His family

Source: John Brown, The Making of a Revolutionary, edited by Louis Ruchames. New York, Grosset & Dunlap, 1969;
Copy Left: this work is free of copyright;
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.

Charles Town, Jefferson County, Va.
November 30, 1859

My dearly beloved wife, sons, and daughters, every one,

As I now begin probably what is the last letter I shall ever write to any of you, I conclude to write to all at the same time. I will mention some little matters particularly applicable to little property concerns in another place.

I recently received a letter from my wife, from near Philadelphia, dated November 22, by which it would seem that she was about giving up the idea of seeing me again. I had written her to come on if she felt equal to the undertaking, but I do not know that she will get my letter in time. It was on her own account, chiefly, that I asked her to stay back, but I do not know if she got my letter in time. It was on her own account, chiefly, that I asked her to stay back. At first I had a most strong desire to see her again, but their appeared to be very serious objections; and should we never meet in this life, I trust that she will in the need be satisfied it was for the best at least, if not most for her comfort.

I am waiting the hour of my public murder with great composure of mind and cheerfulness; feeling the strong assurance that in no other possible way could I be used to so much advantage to the cause of God and of humanity, and that nothing that either I or all my family have sacrificed or suffered will be lost. The reflection that a wise and merciful as well as just and holy God rules not only the affairs of this world but of all worlds, is a rock to set our feet upon under all circumstances, — even those more severely trying ones in which our own feelings and wrongs have placed us. I have now no doubt but that our seeming disaster will ultimately result in the most glorious success. So, my dear shattered and broken family, be of good cheer, and believe and trust in God with all your heart and with all your soul; for he doeth all things well. Do not feel ashamed on my account, nor for one moment despair of the cause or grow weary of well-doing. I bless God I never felt stronger confidence in the certain and near approach of a bright morning and glorious day that I have felt, and do now feel, since my confinement here. I am endeavoring to return, like a prodigal as I am, to my Father, against whom I have always sinned, in the hope that he may kindly and forgivingly meet me, though a very great way off.

Oh, my dear wife and children, would to God you could know how I have been travailing in birth for you all, that no one of you may fail of the grace of God through Jesus Christ; that no one of may fail of the grace of God through Jesus Christ; that no one of you may blind to the truth and glorious light of his Word, in which life and immortality are brought to light. I beseech you, every one, to make the Bible your daily and nightly study, with a child-like, honest, candid, teachable spirit of love and respect for your husband father. And I beseech the God of my fathers to open all your eyes to the discovery of the truth. You cannot imagine how much you may soon need the consolations of the Christian religion. Circumstances like my own for more than a month past have convinced me, beyond all doubt, of my own great need of some theories treasured up, when our prejudices are excited, our vanity worked up to the highest pitch. Oh, do not trust your eternal all upon the boisterous ocean, without even a helm or compass to aid you in steering! I do not ask of you to throw away your reason; I only ask you to make a candid, sober use of your reason.

My dear young children, will you listen to this last poor admonition of one who can only love you? Oh, be determined at once to give your whole heart to God, and let nothing alter or shake that resolution. You need have no fears of regretting it. Do not be vain and thoughtless, but sober-minded; and let me entreat you all to love the whole remnanat of our once great family. Try and build up again your broken walls, and to make the utmost of every stone that is left. Nothing can so tend to make life a blessing as the consciousness that your life and example bles and leave others stronger. Still, it is ground of the utmost comfort to my mind to know that so many of you as have had the opportunity have given some proof of your fidelity to the great family of men. Be faithful unto death; from the exercise of habitual love to man it cannot be very hard to love his Maker.

I must yet insert the reason for my firm belief in the divine inspiration of the bible, notwithstanding I am, perhaps, naturally skeptical, — certainly not credulous. I wish all to consider it most thoroughly when yo read that blessed book, and see whether you cannot discover such evidence yourselves. It is the putiry of heart, filling our minds as well as work and actions, which is everywhere insisted on, that distinguishes it from all other teachings, that commends it to my conscience. Whether my heart be willing and obedient or not, the inducement that it holds out is another reason of my conviction of its truth and genuineness; but I do not here omit this my last argument on the Bible, that eternal life is what my soul is panting for after this moment. I mention this as a reason for endeavoring to leave a valuable copy of the Bible, to be carefully preserved in remembrance of me, to so many of my posterity, instead of some other book at equal cost.

I beseech you all to live in habitual contentment with moderate circumstances and gains of worldly store, and earnestly to teach this to your children and children’s children after you, by example as well as precept. Be determined to show by experience, as soon as may be, whether Bible instruction is of divine origin or not. Be sure to own no man anything, but to love one another. John Rogers wrote to his children: “Abhor the arrant whore of Rome.” John Brown writes to his children to abhor, with undying hatred also, that sum of all villainies, — slavery. Remember, “he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty,” and “he that ruleth his spirit that he that taketh a city.” Remember also that “they being wise shall shine, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.”

And now, dearly beloved family, to God and the work of his grace I commend you all.

Your affectionate husband and father,
John Brown.