Lydia Maria Francis Child to Mrs. S. M. Parsons, December 1859, Letters of Lydia Maria Child (Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1883), 280.
Parsons, Mrs. S.M."
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
Wayland, December, 1859.
I thank you very cordially for your affectionate letter, and I am right glad you and your husband were so much pleased with my doings. Recent events have renewed my youth and strength, and filled me with electricity, and one word of apology for slavery makes the sparks fly. What a sublime martyrdom was that of old John Brown! There was nothing wanting in the details of his conduct. There was a grand simplicity and harmony throughout.
I reverenced him for refusing to be prayed over by slave-holding priests; and how my heart jumped toward him, when I read of his kissing the little colored child, on his way to the gallows! In last night's "Liberator" there is a very touching letter, which I received from a colored man in Ohio, about John Brown. You will see it, for I hear you have subscribed for that paper. The colored people in Boston held a prayer-meeting all day, on the 2d of December, and I chose to spend that solemn day with them. There was nothing there to jar upon the tender sadness of my feelings. There was no one to question the old hero's claims to reverence, or to doubt his sanity of mind. All they knew about it was, that he was the friend of their oppressed race, and that he proved it by dying for them. It was very touching to hear them sing appropriate Methodist hymns so plaintively. Some of their prayers were uncouth, of course, because the pride and prejudice of white men have prevented their having a chance for mental culture; but many of them were eloquent, from the simple effect of earnestness. One old black man who informed the Lord that he "had been a slave, and knew how bitter it was," ejaculated with great fervor, "and since it has pleased thee to take away our Moses, oh! Lord God! raise us up a Joshua." To which all the congregation responded with a loud "Amen!" The 16th of December was more painful to me than the 2d. Those other victims were young, and wanted to live; and they had not so many manifestations of sympathy to sustain them as their grand old leader had. If Brown had not taken the arsenal, but had simply taken off such slaves as wanted to go, as he did in Missouri, and had died for that, I should be more completely satisfied with his martyrdom. But he liked Old Testament heroes better than I do. He had his mind filled with the idea of founding a "city of refuge;" and as he acted from his own conscientious convictions, I have no disposition to blame him, though I wish it had been otherwise. The lesson I learn from it is to try to act up to my own standard of duty as faithfully as he did to his. In a moral point of view his failure will prove a magnificent success, worth a thousand such as he planned.
"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform."