the Concord MagazineJune '98

In the Writing Tradition:
The "Kidnapping" of Frank Sanborn (Part 1)

By Tom Foran Clark, from a work in progress, The Significance of Being Frank: The Life and Times of Franklin Benjamin Sanborn.He has a particular fondness for New England and the great gifted nineteenth century New England authors. A former public library director, he is the owner of Ameribilia Books and Collectibles.

Forcing Sanborn into a carriage --Sanborn was nearly kidnapped, Louisa May Alcott informed a friend. -- Great ferment in town. Annie Whiting immortalized herself by getting into the kidnapper's carriage so that they could not put the long legged martyr in. One of the rascals grabbed her and said, Get out. I won't, said Annie. I'll tear your clothes. Tear away, they said. We'll whip up the horses and make them run away if you don't get out. So Let them run to the devil, I won't stir. The smart little woman didn't budge until the riot was over. Sanborn's schoolboys rushed about like heroes.

-- After so long an interval, Sanborn wrote of it, -- with no effort at arresting me, I had fairly concluded the Senate officials had given up their idea of taking me to Washington. This they would have done, had they been wise. But on the evening of April 3rd, after I had been out making calls in the village of Concord, and was sitting quietly in my study on the first floor, after nine o'clock, my door-bell rang. Julia had gone to bed. Sarah was in her room. Without anticipating any harm, I went down into the front hall in my robe and answered the bell. A young man presented himself, and handed me a note, which I stepped back to read by the light of the hall lamp. It said the bearer was a person deserving charity. I am satisfied that he would be so before he ever got away from Concord that night.

-- When I looked up from reading the note, Sanborn continued, -- four men had entered my hall. One of them came forward and layed his hand on me, saying, I arrest you. I said, By what authority? If you have a warrant read it, for I will not go with you unless you show your warrant. He began to read the order of the Senate for my arrest. Sarah, who had feared, as I did not, what this visit meant, now rushed down the stairs, opened the other door of the hall, and began to cry out to the neighbors. Seeing they were likely to be interrupted in their mission, my five callers slipped a pair of handcuffs on my wrists and forced me from the house.

the longlegged sanborn-- I was young and strong, Sanborn wrote, -- and I resented this indignity. They had to lift me and carry me to the door, where my sister stood, screaming. I braced my feet against the doorposts and delayed them. I did the same at the posts of the veranda. The church bells were ringing a fire alarm, the people were gathering by tens. I braced my feet against the stone posts of the gateway, checking their progress once more. When the four rascals lifted me to insert me, feet foremost, in their covered hack, an anxious driver on the box, I braced myself against the sides of the carriage door and broke them in. They then realized it was my unfettered feet that made all this trouble, so one of the four grasped my feet and brought them together, so that I could no longer use them in resistance.

-- God Almighty's tongs, a farmer had called Sanborn's long legs when he'd first seen the schoolmaster striding over a stage, performing in one of Louisa May Alcott's plays. Those long legs served Sanborn well now.

(part 2 continued next month -- available after June 15th)

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annie-I won't stir

The Setting for this Story

Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, born and raised in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, moved to Concord, Massachusetts in 1855. He had just graduated from Harvard University and, upon receiving an invitation from Ralph Waldo Emerson, moved to Concord to start a school there. Sanborn became immersed in abolitionism, eventually becoming one of "The Secret Six" New England intimates of John Brown. After the capture and hanging of Brown following his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia officials came north to locate Sanborn, to take him south to answer questions about his apparent complicity in Brown's activities. When Virginia deputies arrived to "kidnap" Sanborn , just about the whole town turned out, to see to it he stayed right where he was in Concord.


Text: ©1998 Tom Foran Clark
Illustration and hand calligraphy: ©1998 Kristina Joyce

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