More Harper’s Ferry Disclosures.
Two Years’ Secret History of Abolitionism
A batch of some five columns of letters, written during [illegible] by one Col. Hugh Forbes, appears in the New York Herald of Yesterday, purporting to disclose the fact that for the last year and a half, at least, the project of the Harper’s Ferry outbreak was known to Senators Seward, Sumner, Hale, Gov. Chase of Ohio, and others, and that they suffered the project to ripen and the bear the disastrous fruit that it has borne, without effort to the contrary. The whole, however, rests on the assertions of the aforesaid Col. Forbes. The Herald gives the leading statements from the correspondence as follows:
Colonel Forbes, an old comrade of Garibaldi’s [illegible], and since then a refugee in this country, was induced to go to Kansas a couple of years since to co-operate with Ossawatamie [Osawatomie] Brown, and to impart to his raw levies a little instruction in the art of war. Forbes and Brown pulled together well enough for some months, until there came to be a misunderstanding in regard to the pay. Forbes appealed from Brown to the general abolition commissariat in the East, but found that he was doomed to go unpaid all round. – Horace Greeley, when appealed to, fell back on the strict letter of the law, and plead that he was not bound by Forbes’ contract with Brown. – Sanborn, who was the secretary of the Massachusetts Emigration Aid Society, and Howe, a well-known abolitionist of Boston, kept paltering with Forbes until, in the words of one of his own letters, his family’s credit was stopped at the French or Italian restaurant where they used to get their meals, in Paris. Forbes became indignant against Brown and the humanitarians, as he styled them, and denounced them all in pretty round terms. But still the troubles of his family did not wean him altogether from the work to which he had lent his hand. On the contrary, he devised a plan, which he submitted to his abolitionist friends North, to perform effectually the “Kansas work” that Gerrit Smith speaks of in his letters.
Forbes’ plan was simply an organized system of stampeding slaves along the border States, and thus gradually driving the institution further South. Brown’s project was declared – so long ago as May, 1859, to be identically that which has had such a miserable failure at Harper’s Ferry. Forbes was too experienced a stager not to see the inevitable result of such a ridiculous project, and much of his correspondence is taken up with denunciations of Brown’s crazy idea, and of appeals to the leading republicans to stop Brown or to denounce him.
It appears by his correspondence that among the persons to whom he denounced the Harper’s Ferry project a year and a half ago, was Senator Wm. H. Seward. He had an interview with that Senator in Washington city, in may, 1858, and, as appears by one of his letters, he went fully into the whole matter. Again, he had interviews with Sumner and Hale also in Washington.
Forbes’ letters indicate another thing, and that is that speculation in the rise of cotton had something to do with the Harper’s Ferry outbreak. The correspondence says Old Brown told Forbes that a member of the house of Lawrence, Stone & Company, (celebrated for the $ 87,000 free-wool movement in Congress, a few years ago,) had promised him $8,000 if he succeeded in his Harper’s Ferry dash. But Forbes denounced the project.
The first letter is addressed to “F.B. Sanborn, Concord, Mass.” – the “F. B. S.” from whom Brown acknowledged several remittances of money, and who is, or was, the secretary of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society. The folloing head note is prefixed to the letter:
“On the 27th December I wrote to Senator Chas. Sumner, at Boston, requesting him to see what could be done in the case. The copy was not taken. Mr. Sumner transmitted the letter through Dr. Howe to Mr. Sanborn, who replied (1st Jan.,) alleging ignorance of my engagement with Capt. Brown.”
The next letter is to the same person, and is prefaced by the following head note:
“On the 15th of January Mr. Sanborn replied to mine of the 9th. He explained that he had done much to aid the cause; that he had caused $3,000 in money and arms to be given to Capt. B., also $5,000 to be voted to him by the Chicago committee, of which he had received $500; also, had done many other things of a similar nature – as $600, recently, for a “secret service” – adding that, if he had known of the engagement between Captain B. and myself, he would have supported my wife and children, rather than allow what has happened to take place.
It appears that Brown and Forbes were brought en rapport by one of the reverend editors of the New York Independent –that is Rev. Joshua Leavitt. It is due to Senator Seward to add that Forbes, in reference to his having gone into the whole matter to that senator, says he (the senator) expressed regret that he had been told, and said that he in his position [illegible] to have been informed of the circumstances." To Senator Hale, in his interview at Washington, Forbes says he did not enter into the details of John Brown’s projects, but did of the other matters. Forbes says he sent letters to Governor Chase, who found money; and Gov. Fletcher, who contributed arms.