Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Amos Bronson Alcott, May 8, 1859

Concord, May 8, 1859.

This evening I hear Captain Brown speak at the town hall on Kansas affairs, and the part taken by him in the late troubles there. He tells his story with surpassing simplicity and sense, impressing us all deeply by his courage and religious earnestness. Our best people listen to his words, — Emerson, Thoreau, Judge Hoar, my wife; and some of them contribute something in aid of his plans without asking particulars, such confidence does he inspire in his integrity and abilities. I have a few words with him after his speech, and find him superior to legal traditions, and a disciple of the Right in ideality and the affairs of state. He is Sanborn's guest, and stays for a day only. A young man named Anderson accompanies him. They go armed, I am told, and will defend themselves, if necessary. I believe they are now on their way to Connecticut and farther south; but the Captain leaves us much in the dark concerning his destination and designs for the coming months. Yet he does not conceal his hatred of slavery, nor his readiness to strike a blow for freedom at the proper moment. I infer it is his intention to run off as many slaves as he can, and so render that property insecure to the master. I think him equal to anything he dares, — the man to do the deed, if it must be done, and with the martyr's temper and purpose. Nature obviously was deeply intent in the making of him. He is of imposing appearance, personally, —tall, with square shoulders and standing; eyes of deep gray, and couchant, as if ready to spring at the least rustling, dauntless yet kindly; his hair shooting backward from low down on his forehead; nose trenchant and Romanesque; set lips, his voice suppressed yet metallic, suggesting deep reserves; decided mouth; the countenance and frame charged with power throughout. Since here last he has added a flowing beard, which gives the soldierly air and the port of an apostle. Though sixty years old, he is agile and alert, and ready for any audacity, in any crisis. I think him about the manliest man I have ever seen, — the typo and synonym of the Just. I wished to see and speak with him under circumstances permitting of large discourse. I am curious concerning his matured opinions on the great questions, — as of personal independence, the citizen's relation to the State, the right of resistance, slavery, the higher law, temperance, the pleas and reasons for freedom, and ideas generally. Houses and hospitalities were invented for the entertainment of such questions, — for the great guests of manliness and nobility thus entering and speaking face to face:—

Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man
Commands all light, all influence, all fate.
Nothing to him falls early or too late:
Our acts our angels are, — or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows, that walk by us still.

SOURCE: Franklin B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown, p. 504-5

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