Frederick Douglass, Henry D. Thoreau, and Harper’s Ferry

November 4, 1859

Here is notice that the Fifth Fraternity Lecture promised by Douglass did not occur.  “Mr. Douglass, however, did not appear, and the explanation of his absence by the Committee gave us to understand that he does not now consider himself safe in any part of the United States, in consequence of his alleged implication in the Harpers’ Ferry invasion.”   ….”The vacancy thus made at the late hour had been filled by the voluntary offer of Henry D. Thoreau of Concord, who took for his subject one in whom all mankind are now interested, ‘Captain John Brown of Ossawattomie’.  This exciting theme seemed to have awakened ‘the hermit of Concord’ from his usual state of philosophic indifference, and he spoke with real enthusiasm … bestowing hearty praise upon the enterprise at Harper’s  Ferry….”

A comment by the editor, says that Thoreau had distorted Garrison’s early word that the attempt at Harper’s Ferry was insane, into a charge that he, Garrison, had represented Brown himself as insane.