Rochester, N. Y., Jan. 30, 1858.
My Dear Wife And Children, Every One, — I am (praised be God!) once more in York State. Whether I shall be permitted to visit you or not this winter or spring, I cannot now say; but it is some relief of mind to feel that I am again so near you. Possibly, if I cannot go to see you, I may be able to devise some way for some one or more of you to meet me somewhere. The anxiety I feel to see my wife and children once more I am unable to describe. I want exceedingly to see my big baby and Ruth's baby, and to see how that little company of sheep look about this time. The cries of my poor sorrow-stricken despairing children, whose “tears on their cheeks” are ever in my eyes, and whose sighs are ever in my ears, may however prevent my enjoying the happiness I so much desire. But, courage, courage, courage! — the great work of my life (the unseen Hand that “guided me, and who has indeed hidden my right hand, may hold it still,” though I have not known him at all as I ought) I may yet see accomplished (God helping), and be permitted to return, and “rest at evening.”
O my daughter Ruth! could any plan be devised whereby you could let Henry go “to school” (as you expressed it in your letter to him while in Kansas), I would rather now have him “for another term” than to have a hundred average scholars. I have a particular and very important, but not dangerous, place for him to fill in the “school,” and I know of no man living so well adapted to fill it. I am quite confident some way can be devised so that you and your children could be with him, and be quite happy even, and safe; but God forbid me to flatter you into trouble! I did not do it before. My dear child, could you face such music if, on a full explanation, Henry could be satisfied that his family might be safe f I would make a similar inquiry of my own dear wife; but I have kept her tumbling here and there over a stormy and tempestuous sea for so many years that I cannot ask her such a question. The natural ingenuity of Salmon in connection with some experience he and Oliver have both had, would point him out as the next best man I could now select; but I am dumb in his case, as also in the case of Watson and all my other sons. Jason's qualifications are, some of them, like Henry's also.
Do not noise it about that I am in these parts, and direct to N. Hawkins, care of Frederick Douglass, Rochester, N. Y. I want to hear how you are all supplied with winter clothing, boots, etc.
God bless you all!
Your affectionate husband and father,
SOURCE: Franklin B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown, p. 440-1