Page:Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II Dec 1859 to June 1860.pdf/119

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[January 28, 1860.

did any historical student or any poet dream that there could ever again be a revival of the old type,—a real Puritan confessor and martyr living and dying, acting and suffering in the genuine old spirit, but using the language, and wearing the manners of the ordinary daily life of the latter half of the 19th century. Such a phenomenon we have before us in the leader of the Harper’s Ferry invasion—John Brown.

John Brown was a Connecticut man: and Connecticut was Judaic even beyond the other New England States—its laws being taken bodily out of Deuteronomy, with as little variation as could be permitted. This circumstance—of the man’s birth-place—should be borne in mind, though he was early removed into Ohio. The associations which surround the first years of life in Connecticut may well impress the character for life.

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I am not going to relate the life of John Brown; for we are less supplied with particulars of it than we shall be some months hence, when the Americans will send us a full biography of the most remarkable man of their generation. I wish merely to offer such traits of character as may show how the old type has been revived for a very special occasion. I will only say, in regard to his history, that his ancestry was thoroughly puritan and militant.

John Brown was sixth in descent from one of the veritable Pilgrim Fathers—Peter Brown, who landed from the Mayflower, on Plymouth Rock, in Massachusetts Bay, on the 22nd of December, 1620. Peter’s great-grandson—John’s grandfather—was a gallant soldier in the Revolutionary war. He led out the Connecticut company of which he was captain to the conflict when its seat was New York; and he died in camp in the year of the Declaration of Independence, 1776. One of his many children was a judge in Ohio. One of his grandsons was for twenty years the president of a New England university. Owen, one of the sons of the captain, and father of John, married into a family as good as his own—his father-in-law having been the officer in charge of the prisoners when General Burgoyne’s army surrendered. Thus John inherited a military spirit from both lines of ancestry.

He seemed framed for a military existence: but the religious tendency prevailed in the very years when martial ardour is strongest. He desired to be in the Church; and he went from Ohio back into Connecticut for the sake of a college education to fit him for the pulpit. Inflammation of the eyes, which became chronic, prevented study, and compelled him to give up his wish. But he was, in his temper of mind and domestic and social character, a minister of the Gospel, as he understood it, through life.

He had a large family; and as the sons grew up they pushed westwards from Ohio, in the pioneering fashion of the far west, moving with their waggons and farm-stock, and settling down