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A Plea for Captain John Brown - Read to the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts on Sunday evening, October thirtieth, eighteen fifty-nine by Henry David Thoreau
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A Plea for Captain John Brown

by Henry David Thoreau

[Read to the citizens of Concord, Mass., Sunday Evening, October 30, 1859.]

I trust that you will pardon me for being here. I do not wish to
force my thoughts upon you, but I feel forced myself. Little as I
know of Captain Brown, I would fain do my part to correct the tone
and the statements of the newspapers, and of my countrymen generally,
respecting his character and actions. It costs us nothing to be
just. We can at least express our sympathy with, and admiration
of, him and his companions, and that is what I now propose to do.

First, as to his history. I will endeavor to omit, as much
as possible, what you have already read. I need not describe his
person to you, for probably most of you have seen and will not
soon forget him. I am told that his grandfather, John Brown, was an
officer in the Revolution; that he himself was born in Connecticut
about the beginning of this century, but early went with his
father to Ohio. I heard him say that his father was a contractor
who furnished beef to the army there, in the war of 1812; that he
accompanied him to the camp, and assisted him in that employment,
seeing a good deal of military life,--more, perhaps, than if he
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