Script No. 107 - January 9, 1999
Title: The Other One
Most us are familiar with John Steuart Curry's painting of Abolitionist
John Brown, looking like an Old Testament flame-eyed deity, with arms thrust
wide, a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other. But he was not the first
John Brown to demand freedom, just the noisier of the two.
To meet the first John Brown (with an e) we have to travel back to Long
Island in the early 1660s. He lived in Flushing with his Quaker wife and
year-and-a-half-old daughter. It was on September 1st of 1662 that the unexpected
pounding on the door came. New Amsterdam sheriff Resolve Waldron and a company
of armed soldiers entered the farmhouse and arrested Browne. The men had
been sent out from Manhattan Island on orders of Pieter Stuyvesant as part
of the governor's attempt to stamp out Quakerism in his colony. It's not
known if Browne had converted to his wife's religion yet, but he had allowed
worship services in their home.
In his own quiet way, the farmer-businessman rebelled. From his jail cell
in New Amsterdam he requested an audience with Stuyvesant. He was told that
before he could see the governor he'd have to remove his hat. He refused,
and the next day, hat still perched on his head, he was granted his audience
- in the governor's court. When he fused to remove the offending article
of clothing it was taken from his head and tossed onto the floor.
He was asked if he denied the charges. He refused to deny or affirm them.
He told the court he was in their power and they could do what they liked
with him, he had broken no law. He picked up his hat, put it back on, and
was returned to his cell. By now Stuyvesant was beginning to be sorry that
he'd started the whole business. Although under arrest, Browne's cell was
often left unlocked. He was given a three day leave, obviously in the hopes
that he'd flee the colony. He voluntarily returned to jail early. Finally,
on the last day of the year, the quiet rebel was put on a ship to Holland.
On his arrival he asked to see the directors of the West India Company.
When he eventually got in to see them, he hauled out a copy of a patent
signed by Kieft, Stuyvesant's predecessor in 1645, granting religious freedom
to the colonists. Without letting Browne know, the directors wrote to Stuyvesant,
calling him on the carpet for discouraging settlement in the still thinly-populated
colony. They told him, "You may therefore shut your eyes, at least
not force peoples' consciences, but allow every one to have his own belief..."
Nearly 19 months after his ordeal began, Browne was put aboard a ship and
returned to his waiting wife and children (she had been pregnant at the
time of his arrest). A few months later, Stuyvesant surrendered his colony
to the English.
For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor
© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte