November 18, 1836

Sir,

- Having observed in the column of various newspapers, different accounts of the circumstances connected with the death of the late Mr. O’Neil, <sic> of this place, and finding that my name has been introduced by some directly, in others by insinuation, as connected with and concerned in that melancholy occurrence, I trust I may be permitted to offer a few remarks in vindication of myself and my conduct as well as to show the object of those who seek to implicate me in the matter. It is now unknown to you, Mr. Editor, that for several years past, I have been the subject of an unprincipled and relentless persecution, to those who have suffered their invidious or malevolent feelings to be exerted into action, at the sight of my hard earned prosperity. The humble though successful endeavors <sic> which I have always employed, to promote the interests of Port Hope (in which my whole property is invested, and in which I hoped to end my days in peace), have uniformly been met with a spirit of opposition and enmity, which reflects but little credit upon those in whom it has been manifested. Applications have been repeatedly made to the government, to erase my name from the commission of the peace, and thereby to blast my character abroad, while at home I have been met, step by step, in every matter of public importance or general utility, with the most perverse opposition.

I would here observe, once for all, that the persecution that has been so actively and malignantly raging against me, is the result, principally of my unflinching and indefatigable exertion in constructing the harbour and wharf at this place, and that my principal opponents have been those who from their deliberate withdrawal from the Company as I shall presently show, have at length been compelled to pay wharfage and Harbor <sic> duties to me as the Treasurer of the Company, and who discovering their error, when too late to be remedied, are now determined that no means shall be left unemployed to excite public feeling against me, and if possible to ruin me, not only in my dearly earned fortune, but in my family and reputation.

I will take for example the circumstances connected with the construction of the Harbour and wharf in this place, in order to show the spirit with which I have been met upon all occasions. When the act of incorporation was obtained in 1829, in order to manifest the deep interest which I felt in the undertaking, I at once became a subscriber, to the amount of a hundred shares and upwards, in the stock of the Company. It would naturally be inferred from that fact alone that no one felt or could feel more sensibly than I did, the great advantages that would be conferred upon our town by immediately carrying into effect the object contemplated by the Charter. But what was the conduct on that occasion, of those who ought to have been foremost in the undertaking ?

Why Sir, the Merchants of Port Hope almost to a man immediately withdrew from the Company, alleging as a reason for doing so, that I was seeking to obtain an undue influence in its affairs ! and thus I was left to proceed almost alone, in so important and expensive an undertaking. In defiance however of this disheartening occurrence, I determined to commence the work, and in the face of a violent and continued opposition after expending £10,000. of my own private property, have succeeded in constructing a Harbour, which with a fortnights assistance from a dredging machine, may be rendered inferior to none on Lake Ontario. Well Sir, it so happened that those very persons, who had thus deserted me in the outset, began to discover their error, and in consequence, every obstacle that could be devised, was thrown in its way during the progress of the work. My timber was wantonly burned and destroyed, my boats, scows and raft turned a-drift, and so far was the feeling carried, that last winter a petition was presented to the Legislature, Praying them to take the work out of my hands, and thus deprive me of the fruits of seven years labor <sic>. The House of Assembly perceiving the injustice of the proposition, refused to entertain the petition, and the consequence has been that during the past season, every effort has been made to compel me to give up my interest in the work. To such an extent was their determination carried, that about four weeks ago, I was violently assaulted and beaten on the pier by some persons in the employment of Mr. Crawford, one of the Merchants of the place, and on the same evening my nephew was so severely beaten by the same persons, that for several days his life was despaired of.

The fact of several of the Magistrates joining against me in this clamor <sic> and outcry, can only be attributed to the part last winter took in preventing them from being chosen to the situation of Township officers, under the provisions of the last set; in this respect, I can only say, that as far as this goes, and what my conduct was upon that occasion, it has, after a strict and tedious investigation, received the approbation of the Legislature, and the praise of the farmers and other inhabitants of the town and Township; and above all, with the “flattering unction” that can only be derived from an approving concience <sic>.

Such has been the reward that has met all my endeavors <sic> to promote the prosperity of the town of Port Hope, to enhance the value of property therein, and thereby to serve the interests of every one of its inhabitants. The envy of some and malice of others, prompted them first to desert, then to oppose me, and finally has moulded that appreciation into an organised system of persecution of so malignant a character, as to declare itself unsatisfied, with anything short of the disgrace of myself, and the ruin of my family. Of this the violent and intemperate remarks contained in the editorial columns of the last Port Hope Gazette, are sufficient evidence; the Editor of that paper forgetful of the pledge (to hold private character sacred), with which he came before the public, has poured forth his wrath upon my devoted head, in an article unequalled in venom or virulence by any production that ever defiled the columns of a public journal. In so doing he has outstripped the bounds of propriety - of prudence, and rendered him amenable to those Laws, from which (if I have erred) it would better become him to seek redress. To those laws I shall appeal for that protection which is the birthright of every man, and so long as justice and impartiality are found in the land, I shall not fear the results.

I have the honor to be &c

JOHN BROWN

Next - The Murder Trial of John Brown



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