Lydia Maria Child to Henry Alexander Wise, October 26, 1859

    Source citation
    Lydia Maria Child to Henry Alexander Wise, October 26, 1859, in Letters of Lydia Maria Child with a Biographical Introduction by John G. Whittier and Appendix by Wendell Phillips (Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1883), 280.
    Date Certainty
    Adapted by Michael Blake, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following transcript has been adapted from Letters of Lydia Maria Child (1883).

    Wayland, Mass., October 26, 1859.

    Governor Wise,--I have heard that you were a man of chivalrous sentiments, and I know you were opposed to the iniquitous attempt to force upon Kansas a Constitution abhorrent to the moral sense of her people. Relying upon these indications of honor and justice in your character, I venture to ask a favor of you. Inclosed is a letter to Captain John Brown. Will you have the kindness, after reading it yourself, to transmit it to the prisoner?

    I and all my large circle of abolition acquaintances were taken by surprise when news came of Captain Brown's recent attempt; nor do I know of a single person who would have approved of it, had they been apprised of his intention. But I and thousands of others feel a natural impulse of sympathy for the brave and suffering man. Perhaps God, who sees the inmost of our souls, perceives some such sentiment in your heart also. He needs a mother or sister to dress his wounds, and speak soothingly to him. Will you allow me to perform that mission of humanity? If you will, may God bless you for the generous deed!

    I have been for years an uncompromising abolitionist, and I should scorn to deny it or apologize for it as much as John Brown himself would do. Believing in peace principles, I deeply regret the step that the old veteran has taken, while I honor his humanity towards those who became his prisoners. But because it is my habit to be as open as the daylight, I will also say, that if I believed our religion justified men in fighting for freedom, I should consider the enslaved everywhere as best entitled to that right. Such an avowal is a simple, frank expression of my sense of natural justice.

    But I should despise myself utterly if any circumstances could tempt me to seek to advance these opinions in any way, directly or indirectly, after your permission to visit Virginia has been obtained on the plea of sisterly sympathy with a brave and suffering man. I give you my word of honor, which was never broken, that I would use such permission solely and singly for the purpose of nursing your prisoner, and for no other purpose whatsoever.

    Yours respectfully, L. Maria Child.

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