John Brown

Owen Brown was an abolitionist
John was Owen’s son
He grew up in New England
He was born in Torrington
John Brown was a tanner
And a man of many skills
He stood up for the workers
Who toiled in the mills
He stood up for the Indians
He stood up for the women
For the oppressed and the exploited
This good man stood with them
So when Kansas was bleeding
He went and joined the fray
If the slave-trade wanted Kansas
Then the slave traders had to pay

Riding through the Kansas prairie
With a fine and loyal band
Glory, Hallelujah Beecher’s Bible in his hand

With two thousand of New England’s
Best and bravest sons
Captain Brown fought in Kansas
With a Bible and a gun
When Free Lawrence was on fire
Lighting up the night
The ruffians would flee
John Brown would stand and fight
Lincoln called him a fanatic
And he was a Christian who
Thought you should do unto others
As you’d have others do unto you
Christ said love your neighbor
And if your neighbor’s held in slavery
He was one who felt his duty
Was to fight to set them free


He drove the slave trade out of Kansas
Then went to bordering Missouri
Raided the plantations
No compromise, said he
Broke the chains and shackles
Rode at night to Canada
Out of the nightmare
The devil’s friend, America
He was caught in Harper’s Ferry
His family lying dead
They questioned him for hours
As he lay there and bled
They hanged him on the gallows
And laid him in his grave
John Brown was a Christian
And he died to free the slave


Sheet music:
John Brown

“John Brown” originally appears on the 2009 solo acoustic CD, Ten Thousand Miles Away.  In 2010 it appeared on my “history in song” CD, Troubadour.  In 2011 it got the band treatment on Big Red Sessions, and in 2016 it appears on Live in Rostrevor.

The “Beecher’s Bible” is a gun.  The abolitionists active in the 1850’s during the period known as Bleeding Kansas such as John Brown referred to their rifles as Beecher’s Bibles because some of them had come to them in boxes marked “Bibles,” secretly sent to them by the abolitionist minister by that name from New England.  John Brown is much better known for the failed slave revolt he attempted to foment in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (which later became West Virginia) in 1859 that led to his execution.  The armed abolitionist campaign in Kansas before that was much more successful, and resulted in Kansas entering the United States as a “free” (that is, stolen in its entirety from the indigenous population, but free of the institution of slavery) state.