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OF THE UTMOST RARITY (SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) [BROWN, JOHN.] Provisional Constitution and Ordinances for People of the United States. 16 pages, self-wrappers, sewn; a fine, wide, untrimmed copy. [St Catherine, Ontario, 1858]
first and only printing. John Brown's "Provisional Constitution" was printed on a small hand press in a remote little shack in St Catherine, Ontario by author and journalist, William Howard Day (1825-1900). Day printed the Constitution early in 1858, and soon after left for England where he became involved with Martin R. Delany, Robert Campbell and Henry Highland Garnett. Day, while sympathetic to Brown's plan, had no intention of participating in the raid on Harper's Ferry. Unlike Brown and his followers, Day, Delany and others had decided on immigrating to Africa. On his arrival in England, Day began immediate fund-raising for a fugitive slave settlement at Buxton, and The African Aid Society which was to send Delany and Campbell to explore the Niger Valley later in the Fall of 1858. The plan was to find suitable territory for settlement by African Americans. The Preamble to Brown's Constitution opens with a reference to the Dred Scott Decision (1857): "We, Citizens of the United States, and the Oppressed People, who by a recent decision of the Supreme Court are declared to have no rights which the White Man is bound to respect; together with all other people degraded by the laws thereof, Do for the time being ordain and establish for ourselves, the following PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION, and ORDINANCES, the better to protect our Persons, Property, Lives, and Liberties; and to govern our actions." This Provisional Constitution was introduced in Brown's trial by his defense attorney, Samuel Chilton, who suggested that Brown's actions at Harper's Ferry were not treasonous, but rather evidence of insanity. Chilton called the constitution "ridiculous nonsense--a wild, chimerical production" that "could only be produced by men of unsound minds." Clearly, Chilton was not really doing much of a job of defending Brown, though the obviously the most one could possibly hope for was clemency based on insanity. OCLC locates nine copies. Not cited by Sabin. No copy of this Constitution has been recorded at sale at any time as long as records have been kept.
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