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Edmund Burke Whitman to Franklin B. Sanborn

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Lawrence Feby 26, 1859
Friend Sanborn
I have been intending for some time to write you but some developements made within the last few days which concern you as well as me hastens the fulfillment of that intention.
I have been engaged this winter during my leizure moments, in preparing the materials for a public report of my transactions in connection with the relief matters and in arrangements for the collection of funds to meet my obligations incurred in Boston and here in the discharge of my duties as Agent.
Many of the Agents whom I have employed in different parts of the territory had neglected to forward to me their reports and accounts when sent and I commenced visiting them or sending special messengers to obtain the materials needful for my report and to see what could be done toward making some collections this spring. While doing so I have made some discoveries in connection with John Brown’s proceedings that have utterly astonished me. During a debate in the Legislature this Winter it was charged by a Democrat that John B was subsisting upon proceeds of notes given for seeds & clothing. Mr Hutchinson & myself denounced the whole statement as a malicious slander and without any foundation. I asserted that very many

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of the notes were in my possession and the balance in the hands of sub Agents directly responsible to me and that the business had been so conducted that none of them would dare to give them up to any one except on my order and that I had done no such thing. Judge then of my surprise and mortification a few days after on calling upon an Agent for his report and a delivery of the notes to be shown the following paper signed by the veritable John Brown
“ J. M. Dunn Sir You are hereby notified that I have claims upon any and all property placed in your possession by the National Kansas Committee or any it’s agents or any effects, or notes or accounts or money accruing from such property which are good against any person whatever or against the said Committee and that I have the authority as Agent to take possession of the same wherever they may be. You will therefore retain such property as you may have above described in your possession, delivering the same to no person whatever without further notice from me.
Burlingame Oct. 5. 1858 John Brown Agt Nat Kan Com”
This was served on Mr Dunn while in Burlingame and he stated that similar ones were given to the Agent there and that Brown stated that he should serve

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a notice on all the agents of the same kind. [Fish?] gave up his notes & rendered his account. Dunn further stated that Brown showed records of a meeting of the National Kansas Com. held in New York the past summer or late in the fall, purporting to be a full meeting, some printed & some manuscript, signed by Hyatt as Pres. and some one as Secty. By then it appeared that E B Whitman had been deposed and John Brown elected in his stead with full power to take charge of all property belonging to the Com in the territory appropriating to himself $5000 [$50.00?] and holding the balance subject to order.
You may well judge of my surprise, having been at Chicago New York and Boston, all subsequent to date of this proceeding, and yet in each place being treated as in full standing, not a [lisp?] being uttered of any such proceeding. You know that the Com had placed all their property subject to my control and given me full power of Attorney to make collections and settle up affairs here, all for the purpose of securing those to whom I had become liable. They had authorized me to pay debts of Mr Arny’s & Hyatts contracting to the amt of about $2000 after having paid those of my own incurring & current expenses. With these assets in my hand I feel now, sooner or later, of making all my engagements good though subjecting myself to great trouble and anxiety.
I have also been collecting and arranging materials for a public report of the doings under my

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administration and depended upon the accountability of agents to me to enable me to do so. While puzzling over the affair and trying to make some explanation of the movement I accidentally learned that Mr Conway had in his possession documents that would throw some light upon the matter and when examination, [surely?] what should I find deposited with him for safe keeping –(or his refusal to collect) notes and accounts for seeds & clothing in the amount of about $3000 - at least, the charges on my books against the persons thus accounting to him amount to that sum. Some [new?] receipts for notes left for collection and others notes given directly to John Brown for balances due the Com, from Agents – the results of cash sales – Conway confirmed in part the statement of Dunn.
Upon reference to Wm Hutchinson I learn that Brown has from time to time been to him the past summer and made minute enquiries about my method of transacting business and who my sub-agents were – the intent of which he did not then understand – he never intimated to him any thing of the kind spoken of by the other gentleman or asked any thing of him save a few articles of bedding & clothing – which he received signing himself “Agt Nat Kan Com” on the strength of a sentence in

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his order – reading “ or any Agent of the Nat. Com.” which Brown persisted in reading as an Agent of the Nat. Kan. Com. He further stated to Mr H. and before witnesses that what he let him have was the first and all he had ever received from the Com. Now to my knowledge 100 suits complete of good clothing was taken from the boxes in St Louis and forwarded to him at Tabor. On such occasion at Chicago I gave him my individual note for $250 which Gerritt Smith discounted to him and on my return I sent Realph to him with $150 and when he arrived in the territory I furnished him or one of his men [Tidd?] for him, with all the bedding he asked for and clothing also tents and cash $500 – I have even desired to assist and aid him and really felt hurt that he did not call upon me oftener.
There must be some iniquity at the door of some one and I am unwilling to believe that it lies at the door of our old and tried friend B. yet it does not seem possible for him to be ignorant that he is doing wrong. He has seemed all summer to avoid an interview with me thus all the accts & papers of every description belonging to the Committee are in my possession and if he is what he claims to be should be in his and in his interviews with the Sub Agents he has not made the same demands upon all, having his claims according to his knowledge of individuals

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and the opportunities they might have either of knowing the truth or of communicating with me. I will hold the receipts of every agent of when he has received notes and shall hold them accountable or publish in my report the fact that they have made no returns. – What do you make of all this? Can you throw any light upon the mystery? I should have replevined the property from Mr Conway at once had he not promised not to deliver it up to any one without notifying me and when it is sought for I shall forbid it to be touched & take the person presuming to touch it, as I now understand the matter on a criminal charge of obtaining money under false pretences, be it who it may. At present I do not wish to raise any stir or suspicion that there has been any conflict of jurisdiction for the effect will be to prevent the payment of any part of the demands to any one. I am very seriously involved in this matter, to some parties legally to others honorably and my only security against utter ruin presumably is confidence being maintained in all parties concerned –
Brown has left the territory but where he now is I do not know – or I should write at once to him. I have communicated these facts to the Chicago Com and would like the advice of you gentlemen in Mass who are interested.
Answer immediately & very truly yours
E B Whitman

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