Extract from the Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson Coolidge

October 24. We hear of the first act which was the forerunner of our Civil War. John Brown of Kansas notoriety attempted, with fifteen men and five negroes, to take forcible possession of the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. They defended themselves for a day or two, but were killed or taken prisoners. Osawatomie Brown is to be hanged the second or third of December, and Governor Wise of Virginia has called out the militia to prevent a rescue, which appears to be threatened from Ohio. The state of excitement is frightful and almost all my Southern relations have joined various bodies of militia. My Uncle Jeff wrote to have the “Advertiser” I send him stopped as too violent. He despairs of the Union. Here there are meetings in sympathy with Brown, and Wendell Phillips and Ralph Waldo Emerson pour out their vials of wrath.

December 8. The conservative party called a meeting at Faneuil Hall to remonstrate against the violence of the abolitionists. It was very crowded and enthusiastic. Mr. Everett took the platform and delivered a beautiful speech of an hour in length. General Cushing succeeded him. He began his speech in the most eloquent and masterly manner. I think I never heard greater power in manner, tone, and expression than he showed the first five minutes, but he afterwards became personal and abusive.

Published in The Autobiography of T. Jefferson Coolidge, 1831–1920 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1923), 16–17.
Thomas Jefferson Coolidge
Date Range
October 24, 1859
Autobiography of T. Jefferson Coolidge