Wednesday, May 10, 2017

John Brown to John Brown Jr., [February 1858?]

Dear Son John, — Forbes's letter to me of the 27th of January I enclose back to you, and will be glad to have you return it to him with something like the following (unless you can think of some serious objection), as I am anxious to draw him out more fully, and would also like to keep him a little encouraged and avoid an open rupture for a few weeks, at any rate. Suppose you write Forbes thus: —

“Your letter to my father, of 27th January, after mature reflection, I have decided to return to you, as I am unwilling he should, with all his other cares, difficulties, and trials, be vexed with what I am apprehensive he will accept as highly offensive and insulting, while I know that he is disposed to do all he consistently can for you, and will do so, unless you are yourself the cause of his disgust. I was trying to send you a little assistance myself, — say about forty dollars; but I must hold up till I feel different from what I now do. I understood from my father that he had advanced you already six hundred dollars, or six months' pay (disappointed as he has been), to enable you to provide for your family; and that he was to give you one hundred dollars per month for just so much time as you continued in his service. Now, you in your letter undertake to instruct him to say that he had positively engaged you for one year. I fear he will not accept it well to be asked or told to state what he considers an untruth. Again, I suspect you have greatly mistaken the man, if you supple he will take it kindly in you, or any living man, to assume to instruct him how he should conduct his own business and correspondence. And I suspect that the seemingly spiteful letters you say you have written to some of his particular friends have not only done you great injury, but also weakened his hands with them. While I have, in my poverty, deeply sympathized with you and your family, who, I ask, is likely to be moved by any exhibition of a wicked and spiteful temper on your part, or is likely to be dictated to by you as to their duties?

“I ask you to look over your letter again. You begin with saying, ‘With a little energy, all will yet be right.’ Is that respectful? and does it come with a good grace from you to the man you thus address? Look it all over; and if, after having done so, you wish him to have it, — go on! you can do so. But as a friend I would advise a very different course.”

As I conclude Forbes does not hold you as deeply committed to him, he may listen to you; and I hope he will. I want to see how a sharp but well-merited rebuke will affect him; and should it have the desired effect, I would like to get a draft for forty dollars, payable to his order, and remit him at once. I do not mean to dictate to you, as he does to me; but I am anxious to understand him fully before we go any further, and shall be glad of the earliest information of the result. . . .

Your affectionate father,
John Brown.

SOURCE: Franklin B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown, p. 432-3

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