The Plan of Insurrectionists.

                        New York, October 27.

   The Herald publishes a series of letters of Col. Forbes's, the author of the instruction books for a guerrilla warfare, found at Brown's house, to various Republicans, principally to F. B. Sanborn, Secretary of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society, and Dr. S. G. Howe, of Boston. One letter addressed to the latter, dated May, 1858, is prefaced by the following memorandum: "Please show to Messrs. Sanborn, Lawrence and Co. Copies will be sent to Gov. Chase, who found money, and Gov. Fletcher, who contributed arms, and to others interested, as quickly as possible."

   The letter gives the plans of Forbes and Brown for an insurrection. Forbes's plan is as follows: With carefully selected colored and white persons to organize, along the northern slave frontier of Virginia and Maryland especially, a series of stampedes of slaves, each one of which would carry off, in one night, and from the same place, some twenty to fifty slaves, this to be effected once or twice a month, and eventually once or twice a week, along contiguous parts of the line, if possible without conflict, only resorting to force if attacked. Slave women accustomed to field labor would be nearly as useful as men, everything being in readiness to pass on to the fugitives. They could be sent with such speed to Canada that pursuit would be hopeless. In Canada preparations were to be made for their instruction and employment. Any disaster which might befal a stampede would at the utmost compromise those only who might be engaged in that single one; therefore, we were not bound in good faith to the abolitionists. As we did not prejudice that interest to consult more than those engaged in the very project against the chance of loss by occasional accidents, should be weighed the advantages of a series of successful runs.

   Slave property would thus become untenable near the frontier. That frontier would be pushed more and more southward, and it might reasonably be expected that the excitement and irritation would impel the pro-slaveryites to commit some stupid blunders. The Missouri frontier being so far from the habitable part of Canada, and the political parties anti and pro-slavery being in that State so nearly balanced, suggested a peculiar action in that quarter, which would depend in a great measure on affairs in Kansas.

   Brown had a different scheme. He proposed, with some twenty-five or fifty colored and white men, well armed and bringing with them a quantity of spare arms, to beat up a slave-quarter in Virginia. To this was objected that no preparatory notice having been given to the slaves, no notice could with prudence could be given them. The invitation to rise might, unless they were already in a state of agitation, meet with no response, or a feeble one. To this he replied that he was sure of a response. He calculated that he could get on the first night from two to five hundred. Half or thereabouts of the first lot he proposed to keep with him, mounting one hundred or so of them, and make a dash at the Harper's Ferry manufactory, destroying what he could not carry off. The other men, not of this party, were to be sub-divided into three, four, or five distinct parties, each under two or three of the original band, and would beat up slave-quarters, whence more men would be sent to join him.

   The burden of Forbes's letters are gravious complaints for not receiving the aid promised for his services, which was to be sent to Paris for the support of Forbes's family.

   In one letter he says: On the first of May, 1858, I had an interview with Senator Wm. H. Seward, of New York. I went fully into the whole matter, in all its bearings. He expressed regret that he had been told, and said that he, in his position, ought not to have been informed of the circumstances. In part I agree with him, and in part I differ. I regret that the misconduct of the New Englanders should have forced me to address myself to him, but being now enlightened on the subject, he can not well let this business continue in its present crooked condition.

   A cotton speculation was devised by Brown, but objected so by Forbes. Brown told him that Amos Lawrence, of Boston, had promised him $7,000 when hostilities had actually commenced. 

   All these letters were written in 1858.


"The Plan of the Insurrectionists," Cincinnati (OH) Daily Press, October 28, 1859, p. 2

Related Escape / Stampede
Coverage Type
Via Wire Report
Location of Coverage- City
Location of Coverage- State
Contains Stampede Term