The "Black Dream" of
New York Abolitionist
BY JOHN R. McKlVlGAN AND MADELEINE LEVEILLE
Library Associates Courier
Volume XX. Number 2 (Fall 1985)
In October 1859, John Brown and twenty-one followers undertook a daring
raid on the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West
Virginia). Brown later claimed that he had planned to capture weapons at the
arsenal to establish a base in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the
southern states from which slaves could be assisted to escape to freedom. Within
two days, Brown was captured and most members of his small band were either
killed or had fled. Virginia authorities discovered among Brown's possessions
documents revealing that a small group of northern abolitionists had financed
One of the northerners implicated was Gerrit Smith, a wealthy landholder
from Peterboro, New York. When the demand for a thorough investigation into the
conspiracy behind the Harpers Ferry incident rapidly swelled, Smith was
committed by his family to the New York State Insane Asylum at Utica. Only eight
weeks later, after Brown was executed by Virginia authorities and the public
outcry for revenge diminished, Smith was released and allowed to return to his
home and business. Until his death in 1874, Smith steadfastly refused to admit
any intimate connection with the planning of the Harpers Ferry raid.
Both contemporaries and historians have commented on Smith's behavior in
this affair, but no consensus exists regarding whether the abolitionist truly
suffered a psychological breakdown or feigned one in an attempt to escape
prosecution as an accomplice of Brown. Research in the vast collection of
Smith's correspondence at the George Arents Research Library at Syracuse
University and in surviving case notes in the Utica asylum archives sheds
considerable light on this issue and offers a tentative answer to an intriguing
Gerrit Smith was born in Utica, New York, in March 1797, but resided for
practically his entire life in the small community of Peterboro in Madison
County, New York. Gerrit's father, Peter Smith, was a partner of John Jacob
Astor in the fur trade and land speculation ventures and eventually acquired
nearly a quarter-million acres of undeveloped land scattered across the states
of New York, Vermont, Michigan, and Virginia. The younger Smith graduated from
Hamilton College in 1818 and soon thereafter received responsibility for the
management of much of his father's landholdings. In the late 1830s, the Smith
fortune was endangered by a nationwide financial depression, but Gerrit
ultimately survived the crisis richer than ever. In the 1840s and 1850s, Smith's
annual income from his landholdings typically exceeded $60,000.
Smith's great fortune allowed him to become one of the leading
philanthropists of the early nineteenth century. Although he was antisectarian
in his personal religious beliefs, Smith gave generously to the American Bible
Society, the American Tract Society, and the American Sunday School Society. He
also devoted much of his time and fortune to assisting numerous reform movements
popular in upstate New York's famous "Burned-Over District" during the
1830s, 1840s, and 1850s. Smith became a leader and major financial sponsor of
state and national organizations promoting temperance, prison reform, women's
rights, international peace, and land reform.
The cause that captured the greatest portion of Smith's attention was the
campaign to end slavery. At first Smith had been a supporter of efforts to
colonize slaves in Africa, but in 1835 he joined the more militant abolitionist
movement that demanded the immediate, complete, and uncompensated emancipation
of the slaves. He also supported self-improvement efforts of northern free
blacks as a means of combatting the pervasive racial prejudice. Following a
series of fissures in the antislavery movement in the 1840s, Smith became the
leader of a small faction of uncompromising political abolitionists who
nominated him for President of the United States in 1848, 1856, and 1860. In
1852, a coalition of abolitionists and more moderate antislavery voters elected
Smith to Congress. Smith experienced considerable frustration in promoting his
abolitionist program in Washington and eventually resigned his congressional
seat before his term expired. Smith's growing despair concerning the failure of
political antislavery tactics made him more inclined in the 1850s to consider
other approaches to free the slaves.
Events during the 1850s helped convert Smith into a proponent of violent
abolitionist tactics. Smith strongly detested the Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850,
which required northern citizens under penalty of law to assist public officials
in the recapture of runaway slaves. In September 1851, he joined a mob in
Syracuse, New York, that stormed a police station and freed an escaped slave,
Jerry McHenry, who was awaiting rendition to the South. Smith and twenty-five
others were indicted for their role in the "Jerry Rescue", but only
one was convicted; and the other cases, including Smith's, were later dismissed.
For the remainder of the decade, New York State abolitionists gathered annually
to celebrate this bold action and Smith was prominent among them.
Sectional turmoil in the Kansas territory following passage of the
Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854 also helped persuade Smith of the need to use force
to combat slavery. Settlers entering that territory who opposed the admission of
slavery into Kansas encountered violent harassment from armed proslavery "Border
Ruffians" from neighboring Missouri. Smith joined many other northerners in
forming "emigrant-aid" societies to settle antislavery families in the
Kansas Territory and to provide them with sufficient arms to defend their
homesteads against proslavery forces. In 1856, Smith wrote a letter to the
Syracuse Journal, proclaiming, "Hitherto, I have opposed the bloody
abolition of slavery. But now, when it begins to march its conquering bands into
the Free states, I and ten thousand other peace men are not only ready to have
it repulsed with violence, but pursued even unto death, with violence."
Smith eventually contributed an estimated $16,000 to various free-state groups
in Kansas and let it be known that he had no objection to the money being used
to purchase weapons for self-defense.
The most important influence on Smith's conversion to the use of violent
antislavery tactics was his friendship with John Brown. On 1 August 1846 Smith
advertised that he would divide 120,000 acres of undeveloped land in the
Adirondack Mountains of northern New York into lots for blacks to farm. A year
and a half later, John Brown approached Smith and requested permission to settle
among these blacks "to aid them by example and precept". Smith was
immediately impressed by Brown's self-reliance, religious nature, and commitment
to aiding the blacks and sold him a 244-acre tract at North Elba, Essex County,
New York, for a bargain price of $1 an acre. Brown lived on that farm from 1849
to 1851 and settled his wife and daughters there in 1855 before he moved to
Kansas to join the free-staters' struggle. Although Smith originally advised
Brown to remain at North Elba, he presented his friend's cause to a Syracuse
political abolitionist convention in 1855 and collected $60 to assist him in
migrating to Kansas. In June 1857, Brown met Smith in Chicago where Smith gave
him $350 and loaned him another $110 to help finance the campaigns of a small
band of free-state guerillas that Brown had recruited.
On a visit to Smith's home in February 1858, Brown revealed the general
outlines of an even bolder plan to combat slavery than the skirmishing with
Border Ruffians in Kansas. As described to Smith and a few other trusted
abolitionists, including Franklin B. Sanborn of Massachusetts, Brown's rough
plan involved seizing a federal arsenal in the South (Harpers Ferry was only one
of several named as possibilities) and using the weapons captured there to
establish a stronghold deep in the Appalachian Mountains from which to strike at
nearby plantations and liberate their slaves. Those slaves who did not wish to
remain in the mountain fortress to help rescue additional slaves would be
assisted to escape to the North, and ultimately, Canada. Smith's somewhat
reluctant acquiescence to this visionary project was revealed in his statement
You see how it is; our dear old friend has made up his mind to this course,
and cannot be turned from it. We cannot give him up to die alone; we must
support him. I will raise so many hundred dollars for him; you must lay the case
before your friends in Massachusetts, and ask them to do as much. I can see no
Sanborn, in fact, returned to Massachusetts and recruited a few
collaborators from among previous contributors to the Kansas free-state
campaign. Organized in great secrecy, this small group included physician Samuel
Gridley Howe, industrialist George Luther Stearns, and two Unitarian ministers,
Theodore Parker and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in addition to Smith and
Sanborn. Of this group dubbed the "Secret Six", Stearns and Smith were
by far the largest financial backers of Brown's plan.
Smith's contributions to Brown, however, should not be regarded as evidence
that Smith had resolved all doubts about the propriety of violent antislavery
tactics. Like the other early abolitionists, Smith originally had hoped that "moral
suasion" would influence the southern slaveholders to emancipate their
slaves. However, what he perceived as aggression by the South in the Fugitive
Slave Law and in the Kansas territorial controversy convinced Smith that violent
means would be required if slavery were ever to be ended. Nonetheless, Smith's
pacifistic religious values remained at odds with the concept of inciting a
slave insurrection. One way Smith dealt with his ambivalence regarding violence
was to insist that he not be informed by Brown of the specific details regarding
how his contributions would be spent. On several occasions, Smith even
considered disassociating himself entirely from Brown's plot. Ambivalence as
well as erratic and impulsive behavior, such as his resignation from Congress,
was noticed repeatedly during Smith's public life to the delight of his enemies
and the exasperation of his friends.
The first indication of Smith's unsteady commitment to Brown's violent
methods occurred when the conspiracy almost became exposed more than a year
before Harpers Ferry. In June 1857, Smith gave $150 to Hugh Forbes, a British
mercenary, who was engaged to train Brown's Kansas followers in military
tactics. Brown and Forbes soon fell to quarreling over money and over the best
tactics to be used in the contemplated invasion of the South. Forbes parted from
Brown and traveled to Washington, where he revealed to a number of Republican
politicians what he knew of Brown's plot and its backing by wealthy
abolitionists. In the spring of 1858, Smith and most of the conspirators
persuaded Brown to delay the attack and temporarily return to Kansas to create
doubts about the British mercenary's revelations. Smith's panic at that time was
acute, and he wrote Sanborn that he "was never convinced of the wisdom of
this scheme" and that to continue under the circumstances would be
madness. In July 1858, Smith even told Sanborn that he wanted no more
information about Brown's activities. That fall, Smith's faith in political
means to end slavery revived somewhat during his campaign for the office of
governor of New York. Despite delivering more than fifty speeches and spending
over $5,000 in the campaign, however, he received only a few thousand votes.
Smith's anger at his poor showing in the fall 1858 election helped to
rekindle his interest in Brown's plot. At roughly the same time, members of the
Secret Six recovered their confidence in Brown following his daring raid into
Missouri in December 1858, which liberated eleven slaves. Smith restated his
support for Brown during the latter's final visit to Peterboro in April 1859. At
a public meeting in the village during that visit, Smith pledged another $400 to
aid Brown and declared to the audience: "If I were asked to point out--I
will say it in his presence--to point out the man in all this world I think most
truly a Christian, I would point out John Brown. I was once doubtful in my own
mind as to Captain Brown's course. I now approve of it heartily, having given my
mind to it more of late.''[l4] After this April meeting, Smith continued to
forward to Brown additional large sums of money.
As Brown proceeded during the summer and fall of 1859 with the final
preparations for his attack on Harpers Ferry, Smith's public statements showed
little evidence of any remaining ambivalence toward the use of violence. In
August 1859, he declined to take his usual place as principal speaker in the
annual celebration of the Jerry McHenry rescue in Syracuse. Smith addressed a
letter to the event's organizers to persuade them that more militant tactics
were needed if slavery was ever to be overthrown. Smith's letter revealed that
he had lost faith in the abolitionist movement and believed that the slaves must
act to free themselves. Bloody slave insurrections would soon break out in the
South, Smith predicted: "It is, perhaps, too late to bring slavery to an
end by peaceable means, --too late to vote it down. For many years I have
feared, and published my fears, that it would go out in blood. These fears have
grown into a belief."
On the evening of Sunday, 16 October 1859, John Brown and twenty-one
followers, including three of his sons and five black men, launched their attack
on the Harpers Ferry arsenal and armory. Both sites and the principal
transportation lines in and out of the small valley community were in the
raiders' hands by the following dawn. Brown sent a small party into the
countryside to liberate slaves, but only twelve were brought back and none
voluntarily joined the insurrection. By the following evening, local militia
units and armed townsmen had cut off Brown's party from all potential escape
routes to the surrounding mountains. A detachment of United States Marines
arrived by train from Washington, and by noon on Tuesday Brown and six surviving
raiders were captured. In the two days of fighting, Brown's insurgents killed
five men, including one marine, and lost ten of their own numbers. Brown was
quickly brought to trial for treason and sentenced to death on 2 November.
Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise rejected all pleas for clemency, and Brown was
executed on 2 December. The other captured raiders were also speedily tried and
Within a few days of the raid the nation's press carried descriptions of
documents found among Brown's possessions, which implicated various members of
the Secret Six and other supporters of the plot, such as the black abolitionist
Frederick Douglass. Among those items were a letter from Smith to Brown written
on 4 June 1859 and a canceled bank draft from Smith to Brown for $100, dated 22
August 1959. In addition, a letter from Brown to one of his sons describing some
of Smith's past financial contributions stated that "G. S." would be
good for one-fifth the costs of the planned slave insurrection to be incited by
the raid on Harpers Ferry.
While in captivity awaiting trial, Brown refused to name any individual who
had assisted in his scheme. Very damning evidence against Smith, however, came
from John E. Cook, one of the captured Harpers Ferry raiders, who revealed many
of the details of the conspiracy in the vain hope that he might be spared the
death sentence. Cook gave the names of Smith and three Massachusetts
abolitionists, Sanborn, Howe, and Thaddeus Hyatt, as the principal financial
backers of Brown's plot. The New York Times, the New York
Herald, and other newspapers published accounts by Hugh Forbes, the British
mercenary who had deserted Brown's company more than a year earlier, charging
that Smith had been a principal financial backer of the conspiracy and had
personally paid Forbes to travel to Kansas to train Brown's men. The press also
remembered Smith's earlier prediction of slave revolts and deemed it further
evidence that Smith had prior knowledge of Brown's intentions.
Northern newspapers carried stories contending that Governor Wise was
actively seeking the extradition of Smith, Sanborn, Howe, and Douglass. Rumors
spread that southern agents, aided by sympathetic federal authorities, were
seeking to capture anyone guilty of assisting Brown. The New York Herald,
the state's leading Democratic newspaper and a longtime virulent critic of Smith
and all abolitionists, even editorialized in favor of Smith's extradition to
Virginia. Another Democratic newspaper, the Rochester Union and
Advertiser, branded Smith guilty of treason and called on the governor of
Virginia to move more aggressively to arrest and punish all of Brown's
accomplices. Such threats unnerved practically all of Brown's backers. Of
the five Massachusetts members of the Secret Six, Parker was already traveling
in Europe for health reasons, and Sanborn, Howe, and Steams all felt
sufficiently in danger to flee to Canada for a time. Only Thomas Wentworth
Higginson remained immune to the growing panic among the conspirators.
In late October the upstate New York press carried stories contending that
Smith had been advised to flee the country rather than risk extradition to
Virginia. According to the Hamilton Union: "On the reception of the
news from Harper's Ferry, reports say that this gentleman conferred with Hon.
Timothy Jenkins [Smith's attorney] about what he had better do, who advised him
to leave the country. Rumor says GERRIT is about to start for Canada."
Other newspaper accounts claimed that armed guards had been stationed around
Smith's Peterboro mansion for his protection. Not only Peterboro, but most towns
in Madison County were reported to be in a highly agitated state, and
preparations were made to resist any attempt by authorities to arrest Smith.
The best indication of Smith's panicked state of mind following news of
Harpers Ferry was his action to destroy all evidence connecting himself to
Brown. Smith burned all letters in his possession that bore on the plot. Charles
D. Miller, Smith's son-in-law, also traveled to Massachusetts and Ohio to find
and destroy letters from Smith to the Secret Six and members of Brown's family.
Smith was also reported as having privately denied involvement in the Harpers
Ferry conspiracy. The Syracuse Journal carried a story credited to one
of Smith's business associates who visited with him at Peterboro after the
Harpers Ferry incident and was told that the $100 draft to Brown was intended to
be used for "Kansas work" alone. This individual claimed that "Mr.
Smith says distinctly that he had no knowledge or the least suspicion that Brown
was engaged in planning an insurrection."
The New York Herald dispatched a special reporter to visit Smith at
Peterboro in late October to obtain more information concerning the
abolitionist's ties to Brown and the Harpers Ferry raid. The only statement the
reporter could get from Smith was this remark: "I am going to be indicted,
sir, indicted! You must not talk to me about it. . . . If any man in the Union
is taken, it will be me." This reporter had covered Smith's gubernatorial
campaign the previous fall and made some very interesting comments upon the
changes in Smith since that time. Concerning the controversy which followed the
raid, the reporter observed:
[It] has not only impaired his health, but is likely to seriously affect
his excitable and illy-balanced mind. . . . His calm, dignified, impressive
bearing has given place to a hasty, nervous agitation, as though some great fear
was constantly before his imagination.
The Herald reporter concluded from his visit with Smith:
He is in evident alarm and agitation, inconsistent with the idea that his
complicity with the plot is simply to the extent already made public. I believe
that Brown's visit to his house last spring was immediately connected with the
insurrection, and that it is the knowledge that at any moment, either by the
discovery of papers or the confession of accomplices, his connection with the
affair may become exposed, that keeps Mr. Smith in constant excitement and
The Herald account was only one of several reports of Smith's
increasing state of agitation in late October and early November. The Rochester
Daily Express reported that Smith had been "constantly wringing his
hands and bemoaning the fate of poor Brown" and that the abolitionist's
friends were "apprehensive that his reason would give way under the load of
grief and anxiety. . . ." The Albany Argus related that a
visitor to Smith's home shortly after the time of the raid reported that "his
eye was wild and his appearance haggard, and his motion spasmodic and uncertain,
but unceasingly restless". Smith's sleep and eating habits became
increasingly erratic. He was despondent and his family feared he might attempt
suicide. He even talked of going to Virginia to share John Brown's fate.
Finally, on 7 November, friends and family members were able to persuade Smith
to accompany them to the state asylum at Utica by assuring him that he was on
his way to Virginia.
The public reactions of contemporaries to news of Smith's hospitalization
came swiftly. What is most striking about those statements is how little
skepticism was voiced at that time regarding the timing of Smith's mental
collapse. Both friends and enemies pointed to long-existing traits in Smith's
personality that they felt had brought on the breakdown.
Several newspapers published reports that Smith's insanity might have been
hereditary. The New York Evening Post wrote: "Mr. Smith is said to
have an hereditary disposition to insanity. His father, Peter Smith, though the
possessor of an immense estate, and surrounded by every circumstance of
property, was subject to fits of profound despondency, during which he was under
the impression that he would die a beggar. . . . The late Peter Sken. Smith, the
brother of Gerrit, was for some time an inmate of a lunatic asylum though when
he died he was generally regarded as in possession of his reason.
Other newspapers commented on other evidence of Smith's long-standing
instability. The Republican New York Tribune
praised Smith's benevolence and intellect but then declared that "he
lacked practical common sense, was credulous to the last degree, and wholly
devoid of that robust personal courage and strength of character essential to
useful action or even successful endurance". A columnist of Smith's
longtime foe, the New York Herald, commented that the abolitionist's
mind was "never exempt from a tendency to be unhinged".
The Democratic party press led by the New York Herald attempted to use Smith
to tie the Republican party to the Harpers Ferry plot, but Republican editors
responded that Smith was an abolitionist, not a Republican. Most Republicans
were eager to dissociate themselves from the violence of Brown's actions and so
were quite willing to dismiss him and his supporters as mad. For example, the
Utica Herald observed: Never was an enterprise more rashly undertaken--never
was an essay at once more wild and hopeless. It had not the method of the
madness of Hamlet. It had no consistency of plot or purpose. It was simply the
rushing upon destruction of men whose passion had completely swamped their
reason. . . . Granted that Gerrit Smith and others are implicated, what does it
prove? Simply that there are madmen North as well as South.
Thurlow Weed, one of the more conservative New York State
Republican leaders, was inclined to believe Smith had gone insane due to his
excessive zeal for reforms such as abolitionism. Weed editorialized in his
Albany Evening Journal that: With those who have known Gerrit Smith longest
and most intimately, his present melancholy condition is more a matter of regret
than of surprise. His mind has hovered upon the borders of insanity for more
than a quarter of a century. His physical health was destroyed, many years ago,
by his peculiar habits in regard to temperance and diet. . . . His giant mind,
ever too active, wildly possessed by ONE IDEA, has finally, by various "declensions,"
Joshua Giddings, a Republican congressman from Ohio, who was
more sympathetic to the abolitionists than most in his party, visited Smith's
family in mid-November and publicly reported that friends of the Peterboro
abolitionist had been alarmed at his "monomania" and acute dyspepsia
several months prior to the time of the Harpers Ferry raid. Giddings also
related that: Everybody now speaks well--indeed, they speak in the highest
terms--of Gerrit Smith. I have not heard an individual express any other than
profound respect for him, for his manly virtues, for his pure religious life,
his nobleness of character. All men throughout the State mourn over this sad
affliction which now rests upon the community.
Another individual with some prior knowledge of the Harpers Ferry
raid, the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, expressed sorrow rather than
surprise at the reports that his longtime friend and financial benefactor had
gone insane. After having himself fled the United States to Canada to avoid
possible arrest, Douglass wrote back to his own newspaper in Rochester: I
have learned from the New York papers that my great hearted friend Gerrit
Smith's health has broken down, and that his mind has become deranged. The
thought that "oppression maketh a wise man mad" came home to me with
tenfold force when I saw this sad telegraphic announcement. I cannot but think
that the good man has been under far too great restraint about this Harpers
Ferry insurrection. He should have been allowed to pour out his whole mind
concerning it. His is a mind that has never known the fetter, and those who have
fettered him must take the responsibility for the present--God grant that it may
have ere this passed away--affliction and disturbance of mind. Mr. Smith has
done nothing in his relation to dear old Ossawatomie Brown for which posterity
will not bless his name and memory.
Perhaps the most immediately significant reaction to Smith's
hospitalization came from Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise. In a letter to Andrew
Hunter, the state's special prosecutor at the trials of the Harpers Ferry
prisoners, Wise declared: "Gerrit Smith is a stark madman, no doubt! Gods,
what a moral, what a lesson. Whom the gods wish to make mad they first set to
setting others to destroying." Wise's belief in Smith's insanity
probably explains why Virginia did not push harder for his arrest.
Scholars have disagreed considerably regarding whether Gerrit
Smith's insanity was genuine and, if so, what had provoked it. Octavius B.
Frothingham, who wrote a biography of Smith only four years after his subject's
death in 1874, was extremely solicitous toward the family's desire to preserve
Smith's reputation. After praising Smith's many philanthropies, Frothingham
conceded that the abolitionist had been an "enthusiast", subject to
frequent "oscillations" of mood, and uncritically accepted the
diagnosis of the abolitionist's psychological breakdown following Harpers
Writing in the 1930s, Ralph V. Harlow, Smith's only modern biographer,
concluded that the abolitionist was "temporarily insane", but admitted
that "while the fact of the illness is easy to establish, the cause or
causes are not so clear". Denying that Smith's physical health had been
exceptionally poor in the years or months immediately before Harpers Ferry,
Harlow would not credit the "organic" explanation of the
abolitionist's insanity provided by the Utica asylum. Harlow instead believed
that the breakdown was a consequence of "what moralists would call a guilty
conscience and . . . a terrific nervous strain resulting therefrom".
Later commentators relied heavily on Harlow for factual
information concerning Smith's illness, but most were less charitable concerning
the causes of his hospitalization. One John Brown biographer, for example,
accused Smith of "willing himself into insanity as a means of escaping the
responsibility that was his". Another Brown biographer accused Smith of
seeking a "safe haven" in the Utica asylum. Many historians noted
Smith's sufficient presence of mind to attempt to destroy all evidence linking
him with Brown and expressed skepticism regarding the speed of his recovery once
the danger of arrest had passed.
The most recent student of the activities of the Secret Six, Jeffery
Rossbach, was one of the few historians to disagree with Harlow's contention
that Smith was suffering from "temporary insanity" while at the Utica
hospital. Rossbach conceded that Smith might have experienced a "breakdown
under pressure" but doubted that actual insanity occurred. Rossbach gives
equal weight to the possibility that Smith and his family decided that the "asylum
was the perfect sanctuary in which to avoid any proslavery retribution and to
await the conclusions of those who were investigating the possibility of
The considerable disagreement between nineteenth- and twentieth-century
assessments of Smith's behavior following Harpers Ferry presents a difficult
problem to those seeking a better understanding of this abolitionist's
character. Fortunately, a large body of materials has survived from the time of
Smith's hospitalization at Utica that makes it possible to offer some informed
speculations upon his psychological state at the time.
The New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, today known as the Utica-Marcy
Psychiatric Centers, was created by an act of the state legislature in 1836. Its
main building was a massive Greek Revival structure of grey limestone, which
cost what was then considered an astounding sum of $285,000 to construct. The
asylum received its first patients in 1843. By the late 1850s, the average
number of patients on the grounds reached over 500, about one-third of them
private admissions. The main building had been severely damaged by a fire in
1857 but was completely restored by 1859. The hospital conditions by decade's
end were reported to be crowded.
John Perdue Gray, M.D., the medical superintendent of the asylum, was one
of the most prominent psychiatrists of the day, and he personally oversaw the
treatment of Gerrit Smith, a private patient. Born 6 August 1825 in Half Moon,
Pennsylvania, Gray received his medical degree from the University of
Pennsylvania in 1845. In 1850, he was made assistant superintendent at the Utica
asylum, and in 1854, at the age of twenty-nine, he was appointed superintendent,
a position he held until his death in 1886. At first he continued the "moral
treatment" of patients as established by his predecessors, in which
patients were treated kindly, with respect, and without undue restraint. Gray
instituted the systematic recording of case notes, postmortem examinations, and
other scientific research at the asylum. In his later years, Gray's
contributions to medicine and psychiatry were acknowledged by his colleagues,
who elected him to the presidency of many professional organizations.
During the time of Smith's hospitalization, Gray's ideas regarding the
causes of mental illness were shifting from the position that mental
disturbances were caused by a combination of moral weakness and physical illness
to one in which insanity was regarded as springing primarily from physical
disturbances that might be exacerbated by inherited predispositions to disease
and by environmental stresses. According to Gray, emotional disturbances
could aggravate mental illness, but they alone could not induce insanity. At an
annual meeting of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American
Institutions for the Insane, Gray noted that mania and melancholia are two of
the most common disorders that develop over time. Smith's case certainly
fit Gray's views. He had suffered from typhoid in 1857 and continued to suffer
from chronic alimentary-tract disturbances. The onset of his illness and his
recovery were not immediate. Although Smith was admitted to the asylum on 7
November 1859, three weeks after John Brown's raid, Gray's case notes indicate
that Smith began to show serious manic symptoms during the spring of 1859, and
was hypomanic for some time before that. As reported in the case notes, Smith on
arrival was agitated, unable to sleep, delusional, and experiencing
In a letter to Smith's nephew dated 16 December 1859, Gray wrote
about Smith: The fact is the cause or causes of his present attack go back
beyond the Harpers Ferry affair. That shock was but "the last straw".
He never fully recovered from the attack of fever in New York. Following
convalescence there he had dropsical limb and other indications of impaired
Constitution--The swelling of his limbs subsided and in a few months returned
and gave him trouble. The part he took in the last gubernatorial contest imposed
upon him for months excessive labor, and immediately afterward he was attacked
with serious indigestion and sympathethic disturbances of the action of the
heart. He, however, rather increased than diminished his labors, both physical
and mental, and aggravated dyspepsia and greater impairment of health was the
consequence. He realized his depreciating strength but not the probable end. For
months before he came here he had periods of depression and intellectual
exaltation only to be accounted for on the theory of then existing cerebral
disturbance and the approach of serious brain trouble. Indeed in carefully
reviewing his case and condition I am inclined to think the Harpers Ferry shock
only hastened the development of a disease which at no very remote period would
have appeared in a more unfavorable form.
Smith's treatment at the hospital included rest, isolation from stimulation,
special diet, and restricted visitation by his family, whose presence
contemporary theory suggested would lead to associations that would propel
regression. Smith was cared for by his own personal attendant, who had been
one of his servants at Peterboro. Although the psychological theory of the day
called for isolation, Smith was permitted visitors. It is reported in the case
notes that he failed to recognize one visitor, E. A. Wetmore, one of his
business agents[.52] Smith's wife visited him and had Thanksgiving dinner with
him. As Smith's health improved, Gray took the highly unusual move of
bringing the patient to live in the superintendent's own home on the asylum
Gray's case notes indicate that as Smith's mania was subsiding and the
depression becoming more pronounced he was afraid to mix with the other
patients. Reports in The Opal, the magazine edited by the patients of the
asylum, however, indicate that at least some patients were aware of Smith's
institutionalization and the raid on Harpers Ferry. A column entitled "The
Editor's Table" remarked that "facts elicit the unquestioned
complicity of numerous leaders of the Anti-Slavery party". The next
paragraph identified Smith as a member of this party.[57 ]
An unsigned article in the American Journal of Insanity written near the
time of Smith's hospitalization prescribes cod liver oil, brandy, essence of
beef, and mechanical restraint as part of the "moral treatment" in the
case of a patient suffering mania with spiritual delusions. Although it is not
known if Gray wrote that article, as editor of the journal he had the reputation
of seldom giving "a hearing to those who disagreed with him". The
case notes on Smith indicate that his treatment was similar to that described in
this article. Patients today experiencing a manic episode initially would be
given an antipsychotic medication such as chlorpromazine followed by extended
administration of the chemical lithium as well as psychotherapy and
environmental support; Smith was given cannabis, which is commonly referred
to today as marijuana, apparently to calm him. Later he was given morphine.
The diagnosis Smith was given by the hospital was acute mania. During the
nineteenth century the term mania frequently referred to a patient who was wild
and out of control. Such violent behavior today would most likely be
identified as some form of psychosis. Psychosis involves a mental disorder that
is sufficiently severe as to result in personality disorganization and loss of
contact with reality. According to the case notes, when Smith was brought to
the institution he was loud, histrionic, agitated, incoherent, and charging
conspiracy against his person by the hospital staff. Clearly his behavior had
crossed the bounds of normality.
Smith's behavior shortly before his admission and during his hospital stay
is suggestive of a bipolar disorder, more commonly referred to as
manic-depression. Smith's increased loquacity, sleeplessness, and grandiosity,
while in the asylum, are typical symptoms of this mood disorder. Furthermore, as
indicated in correspondence between his family and Gray, Smith wanted to attend
John Brown's trial. Preoccupation with activities that have a high potential
for painful consequences, which are not recognized by the patient, also is
diagnostic of a bipolar disorder. Smith's own description of his illness
highlights his depression as well as his manic behavior. In a letter to Charles
Sumner, Smith portrays this period as a "black dream". Five months
after his re- lease from the asylum, he wrote to William Goodell, the editor of
the New York Principia, a monthly antislavery magazine, that "his wildness
was gone" and that during the hospitalization he "sank so low as not
to know one of the persons around me". He reported having felt utterly
unworthy of others' kindnesses. Smith further reported to Goodell that
for years before the hospitalization he experienced physical and neurotic
complaints such as dyspepsia, vertigo, and heart palpitations despite a robust
and healthy appearance. In a short autobiography penned in the mid-1850s,
Smith described himself during his congressional term as "drivingly busy"
and as plagued by anxieties such as fear of "falling in the streets".
While it is possible that Smith was malingering merely to avoid prosecution
for his complicity in the John Brown affair, as some historians have insinuated,
the consistency of his symptoms, his long-standing preoccupation with bodily
functions, and his periods of enormous activity alternating with periods of
dormancy and bed rest give credence to a psychiatric disability.
Also to be considered is the fact that psychological research has shown
bipolar disturbances to be familial. Smith's father, Peter, had the
reputation of being "queer" or peculiar in his later years and was
said to have suffered periods of despondency. He relinquished the management of
his vast land to Gerrit when he (the father) was only fifty-one and the son was
twenty-one; this was shortly after the death of Gerrit's mother to whom both he
and his father were extremely attached. Alcoholism, often a reaction against
depression, plagued Smith's brother Peter Skenandoah Smith, who had been treated
earlier at the Utica asylum. A younger brother, Adolphus Lent Smith, manifested
serious, chronic psychological problems that made him unable to care for
himself.[7l] There is some argument that bipolar disorders are more common in
people from the upper socieconomic classes, with the hypothesis that the energy
associated with mania drives people to succeed financially. Psychoanalytic
theory suggests that manic individuals have strong narcissistic needs which they
attempt to fulfill by amassing power, money, and recognition. Smith
certainly drove himself to attain financial success and fretted that his family
would become penurious whenever he experienced financial setbacks. He became the
most successful member of his family, surpassing even his father in wealth and
fame. He apparently set higher standards for himself and his family, and
complained to John Gray when his son Green was not living up to the ideals that
he had established 
Other facets of the Smith case are consistent with current research on the
bipolar disorders. For example, the peak age of admission for persons suffering
from manic-depressive episodes is between forty-five and sixty-four. Gerrit
Smith was sixty-two at the time of his admission to Utica. The average duration
of a manic episode is between 53.7 days and four months, and Smith spent 52 days
at Utica. Environmental stress often precedes a manic attack, and mood
and energy changes in bipolar patients precede the development of the first
definite affective illness by some years. The Harpers Ferry incident was a
definite source of stress for Smith, who was displaying mood and energy changes
for several years before this affair, in fact at least as early as his days as a
congressman in Washington. Smith resided at the asylum and Gray's home for
approximately eight weeks. He was released and allowed to return to Peterboro on
29 December 1859. Gray apparently had misgivings about letting Smith return to
Peterboro so soon. In letters to Smith and his family after Smith's return to
Peterboro, Gray repeatedly cautioned against over-exertion and warned of the
dangers of a relapse. As he noted in a letter to Elizabeth Miller, Smith's
daughter, "I cannot conceal the fact that this staying at home greatly
reconciles me to his being at home." In fact, he advised Charles
Miller, Smith's son-in-law, that Smith not be permitted to go to Washington to
appear before a congressional committee investigating Harpers Ferry.
For the remainder of his life, Smith adamantly denied any fore- knowledge of
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry and twice brought suits against individuals
who publicly accused him of having been a conspirator along with John Brown. In
October 1859, an ad hoc group of Democrats, calling themselves the New York
Vigilant Association, accused Smith of being part of a secret band that had
planned the Harpers Ferry raid. These Democrats had no solid evidence regarding
the conspiracy, however, and recanted their claim rather than engage in an
expensive legal battle with Smith, who threatened them with a libel suit after
he was released from the Utica asylum. In 1865, the Chicago Tribune published
articles insinuating that Smith had actively aided Brown in the Harpers Ferry
raid and had feigned insanity in order to avoid prosecution as an accomplice of
John Brown. Smith issued a denial of any specific knowledge of Brown's attack
and sued the newspaper.
John Gray served as an important ally of Smith's in the long
court battle with the Tribune. After Smith's discharge from the asylum, he and
Gray maintained a correspondence that extended through the remainder of Smith's
life. These letters indicate that Smith continued to turn to Gray for medical
advice, and that Gray prescribed medications and regimens to aid Smith's
digestion and cautioned Smith against overexertion. Letters from Gray and
his wife to Smith show that they benefited from Smith's generosity, and called
upon Smith to use his influence to counter a negative editorial regarding
When asked, Gray indicated his willingness to testify regarding
Smith's mental state after the Harpers Ferry incident as part of the libel suit
against the Chicago Tribune. During the Civil War, Gray had gained a reputation
as a medical expert at trials. For example, testifying at the trial of Dr. David
M. Wright, who had killed a Lieutenant Sanborn in Norfolk, Virginia, he
concluded that Wright was not insane. He argued that insanity does not
instantly manifest itself nor instantly disappear. In a later trial Gray
testified that the defendant Lorenzo C. Stewart was eccentric, not insane. He
noted that "insanity cannot be predicated on any manifestations of moral
depravity or intellectual peculiarity, not the offspring of disease. Insanity is
a changed state, an abnormal condition, caused by disease alone." In
these and other cases, Gray expressed serious reservation about using the
insanity defense to absolve people of responsibility for their actions. He
wrote, "The excuse of moral insanity could be used in court only if the
defendant were shown to be suffering from impaired reason." Otherwise,
a person should be punished for his actions. After more than two years of
legal maneuvering, the Tribune finally published a retraction. The newspaper
acknowledged that competent medical evidence existed proving that Smith had gone
insane following Harpers Ferry. Gray wrote Smith congratulating him on the
agreeable outcome of the suit.
The honorable and satisfactory settlement of the suit has given me great
relief--I did not dread a journey to Chicago, in fact it would have been a
pleasure & I have become, in a measure accustomed to appearing in court but
I did feel unhappy at the thought of detailing the symptoms of insanity of a
friend in open court to be published in newspapers and talked over. All the more
too, knowing how you would feel it.
The fact that Gray was willing to testify publicly on Smith's behalf in
the suit against the Chicago Tribune is one final piece of evidence that he
truly believed that Smith had been insane.
Historians and Smith's contemporaries have been amazed at Smith's persistent
denial of his involvement with John Brown. Unkind critics have recalled Brown's
remark to Higginson that he believed that Smith was a "timid man".
Frothingham speculates that Smith maintained his innocence regarding Harpers
Ferry because he was afraid that dwelling on his behavior at the time of the
incident would lead to a recurrence of his insanity. This interpretation
agrees with the psychoanalytic view of bipolar disorders. Finally, it agrees
with Smith's own views of his behavior. Writing to an abolitionist friend, he
stated, "What is unhappiest in my case is, that I have to avoid looking
back upon the year 1859, not only because a part of it is full of darkness to my
eye and of anguish to my heart, but because of the painful uncertainty and
confusion which overhang other and larger parts of it."
Although a conclusive diagnosis is impossible without the opportunity for
personal observation of the patient, surviving evidence contradicts charges that
Smith had feigned a breakdown to prevent his arrest and punishment as an
accomplice of John Brown. Instead, the greatest part of this material supports
the conclusion that the stress which Smith felt following Harpers Ferry had
triggered a psychological episode that required hospitalization for what today
would be called a bipolar disorder.
1. Ralph Volney Harlow, Gerrit Smith: Philanthropist and Reformer (New York:
Henry Holt and Co., 1939), 1-45; L. M. Hammond, History of Madison County, State
of New York (Syracuse: n.p., 1872), 717-26; Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land
With Blood: A Biography of John Brown (New York: Harper & Row, 1970),193.
2. Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 46-192; Jeffery Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators:
John Brown, the Secret Six, and a Theory of Slave Violence (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 96-100, 208-09; Merton L Dillon, The
Abolitonists: Growth of a Dissenting Minority (1974; New York: W. W. Norton,
3. Richard O. Boyer, John Brown: A Biography and a History (New York: Knopf,
1973), 37; Stanley W. Campbell, The Slave Catchers: Enforcement of the Fugitive
Slave Law, 1850-1860 (1968; New York: W. W. Norton, 1972), 27, 155-57.
4. Syracuse Journal, 31 May 1856; Oates, To Purge This Land, 231; Boyer,
John Brown, 8.
5. Boyer, John Brown, 111; Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 96.
6. Louis Ruchames, ed., John Brown: The Making of a Revolutionary (New York:
Grosset & Dunlap, 1969), 27.
7. Hill Peebles Wilson, John Brown, Soldier of Fortune: A Critique
(Lawrence, Kansas: Hill P. Wilson, 1913), 38-39, 75, 181, 215-16; James C.
Malin, John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six (Philadelphia: The American
Philosophical Society, 1942), 5; Oates, To Purge This Land, 65-67, 85, 90-91
207; Boyer, John Brown, 392-93, 460, 526; Ruchames, John Brown, 94.
8. Gerald Sorin, Abolitionism: A New Perspective (New York: Praeger, 1972),
96; Rosshach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 139-45.
9. Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, Life and Letters of John Brown: Liberator of
Kansas, and Martyr of Virginia (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1891), 458-59; William
Elsey Connelley, John Brown (Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Co., 1900), 318-19;
Oswald Garrison Villard, John Brown, 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After
(1909; New York: Knopf, 1943), 321-22; Oates, To Purge This Land, 227, 231.
10. Richard J. Hinton, John Brown and His Men (New York: Funk & Wagnalls
1894) 130-31; Oates, To Purge This Land, 238; Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators,
146, 205-07, 210, 214.
11. Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 128-29, 139-45; Harlow, Gerrit Smith
12. Oates, To Purge This Land, 249-50; Villard, John Brown, 287, 298, 340;
Connelley, John Brown, 321.
13. Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 179-80; Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 377-82.
14. Octavius Brooks Frothingham, Gerrit Smith: A Biography (New York: G. P.
Putnam's Sons, 1878), 237-38; G. Murlin Welch, Border Warfare in Southeastern
Kansas, 1856-1859 (Pleasanton, Kansas: Linn County Historical Society, 1977),
191-99, 208, 219-21; Villard, John Brown, 395; Wilson, John Brown, 248;
Connelley, John Brown, 320; Oates, To Purge This Land, 261-65, 269, 282.
15. Utica Daily Observer, 2 November 1859; Wilson, John Brown, 353-54;
Oates, To Purge This Land, 285; Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 208-09;
Dillon, Dissenting Minority, 228-231.
16. Oates, To Purge This Land, 274-80, 290-302; Boyer, John Brown, 8-9,
17. New York Tribune, 20, 21 October 1859; Philadelphia Public Ledger, 21
October 1859; Utica Daily Observer, 27, 28 October 1859; New York Herald, 20, 21
October 1859; Otto J. Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist
Movement (New York: Times Books, 1979), 292-93; Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 407-08.
18. New York Tribune, 10 November 1859; The New York Times, 10 November
1859; Richard Webb, The Lives and Letters of Captain John Brown (London: n.p.,
1961), 371-72; Hinton, John Brown, 329; To Purge This Land, 306.
19. The New York Times, 20, 28, 31 October 1859; New York Herald, 20, 29 Oc-
tober and I December 1859; Utica Daily Observer, 2 November 1859; Wilson, John
20. New York Herald, 21, 24, 26 October 1859, 11 November 1859.
21. Rochester Union and Advertiser, 25 October 1859.
22. Oates, To Purge This Land, 312-15.
23. Hamilton Union, as quoted in the Utica Daily Observer, 21 October 1859.
24. Utica Daily Observer, 15 November 1859; New York Tribune, 17 November
1859; Douglass' Monthly 2 (December 1859): 185; Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 408-11.
25. Syracuse Journal, n.d., quoted in New York Tribune, 28 October 1859; New
York Herald, 29 October 1859; The New York Times, 31 October 1859; Harlow,
Gerrit Smith, 407; Oates, To Purge This Land, 313.
26. New York Herald, 2 November 1859.
27. Rochester Daily Express, n.d., quoted in The New York Times, 11 November
28. Albany Argus, n.d., quoted in New York Herald, 12 November 1859; Utica
Daily Observer, 9, 19 November 1859.
29. Utica Daily Observer, 9, 19 November 1859; New York Tribune, 17 November
1859; Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 227; Frothingham, Gerrit Smith, 245;
Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 411.
30. New York Evening Post, 11 November 1859; also New York Evangelist, as
quoted in Utica Daily Observer, 12 November 1859.
31. New York Tribune, 11 November 1859.
32. New York Herald, 10, 11 November 1859.
33. New York Herald, 10 November 1859; Utica Morning Herald, 22 October
1859; Albany Argus, 11 November 1859.
34. Utica Morning Herald, 24 October 1859.
35. Albany Evening Journal, quoted in The New York Times, 15 November 1859.
36. Ashtabula Sentinel, 14 November 1859, quoted in Douglass' Monthly 2
(December 1859): 192.
37. Frederick Douglass Paper, 16 December 1859.
38. Villard, John Brown 521-22; Jules Abels, Man on Fire: John Brown and the
Cause of Liberty (New York: Macmillan, 1971), 340.
39. Frothingham, Gerrit Smith 245-51.
40. Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 411-13.
41. Boyer, John Brown, 17, 160; also see Alice Felt Tyler, Freedom's
Ferment: Phases of American Social History from the Colonial Period to the
Outbreak of the Civil War (1944; New York, Harper & Row, 1962, 541; Allan
Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
1950), 93-95; Louis Filler, The Crusade Against Slavery, 1830-1860 (New York:
Harper & Row, 1960), 269.
42. Abel, Man on Fire, 340.
43. Oates, To Purge This Land, 65, 313; Scott, Secret Six, 299-300, 312-13,
44. Rossbach, Ambivalent Conspirators, 227-28. Several recent historians
have represented highly complimentary accounts of Smith's character. Their
research, however, skirted the specific question of Smith's collapse after
Harpers Ferry. Lawrence J. Friedman, Gregarious Saints: Self and Community in
American Abolitionism, 1830-1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982),
98-102; Gerald Sorin, The New York Abolitionists: A Case Study of Radicalism
(Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1970), 26-38.
45. Henry J. Cookinham. History of Oneida County, New York, From 1700 to the
Present Time, 2 vols. (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1912) vol. 1,
401-06; Managers of the State Lunatic Asylum Eighteenth Annual Report (Albany,
New York: n.p. 1860), 16, 46-48; History of Oneida County, New York
(Philadelphia: Everts & Fariss, 1878), 234-237.
46. Cookinham, History of Oneida County, vol. 1, 403-04; T. Wood Clarke,
Utica for a Century and a Half (Utica: The Widtman Press, 1952), 201; J. B.
Andrews Eugene Grisson and J. H. Callender, In Memoriam: John P. Gray, M.D.,
LL.D. (n.p., 1887); M. M. Bagg, ed., Memorial History of Utica, N.Y. From Its
Settlement to the Present Time (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1892), 20-25.
47. John P. Gray, Insanity: Its Dependence on Physical Disease (Utica, New
York: Roberts, 1871); John P. Gray, Thoughts on the Causation of Insanity (n.p.,
48. Anon., "Annual Meeting of the Association of Medical
Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane", American Journal
of Insanity 20 (July 1863): 72.
49. Utica-Marcy Psychiatric Centers, "Case Notes of Gerrit Smith"
(7 November 1859). (Hereinafter cited as Case Notes).
50. John P. Gray to John Cochrane, 16 December 1859, Gerrit Smith
Papers, George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University. Unless otherwise
noted, all letters cited in this article are from the Smith Papers.
51. Eighteenth Annual Report of the Superintendent of the New York
State Lunatic Asylum, for the Year Ending November 30th, 1860 (Utica, New York:
n.p., 1860), 17.
52. Case Notes (7 13 November 1859.
53. Gray to Mrs. Smith, 19 December 1859.
54. Conversation with Lyle Engell, Utica-Marcy Psychiatric
Centers archivist, 26 August 1985.
55. Case Notes (25 November 1859).
56. Anon., "Editor's Table", The Opal 9 (December 1859):
277-279; Anon., "Dissolution of the Union", The Opal 10 (January
1860): 25-28; Anon., "Dissolution of the Union: Number Two", The Opal
10 (June 1860): 41-49; Anon., "Dissolution of the Union: Number Three",
The Opal 10 (November 1860): 61-64.
57. Anon., "Editor's Table", The Opal 9 (December
58. Anon., "Case of Mania with Spiritual Delusions", The
American Journal of Insanity 16 (January 1860): 321-40; Norman Dain, Concepts of
Insanity in the United States, 1789-1865 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers
University Press, 1964), 56-57.
59. Arthur Rifkin and Samuel G. Siris, "Drug Treatment of Mania"
in Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders: Biology and Drug Treatment, ed. Arthur
Rifkin (Boston: John Wright-PSG Inc., 1983), 79-94.
60. Case Notes (7, 11 November 1859).
61. Dain, Concepts of Insanity, 6-7.
62. Robert G. Meyer and Paul Salmon, Abnormal Psychology (Boston: Allyn &
Bacon, 1984), 519.
63. Gray to Charles D. Miller, 9 April 1860.
64. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, 3rd ed. (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric
Association, 1980), 208- 210. 65. Smith to Sumner, 7 June 1860.
66. Smith to William Goodell, 1 May 1860, reprinted in Douglass' Monthly 3
(June 1860): 280.
67. Smith to Goodell, 1 May 1860, reprinted in Douglass' Monthly 3
(June 1860): 280.
68. John R. McKivigan and Madeleine L. McKivigan, "'He Stands Like
Jupiter': The Autobiography of Gerrit Smith", New York History 65 (April
69. Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 35-36, 37, 308, 318-19, 376-77, 409-13, 423, 425,
70. J. H. Boyd and M. M. Weissman, "Genetics" in Handbook
of Affective Disorders, ed. E. S. Paykel (New York: Guilford Press, 1982), 122.
71. Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 3.
72. Boyd and Weissman, "Genetics", 12.
73. Dov R. Aleksandrowicz, "Psychoanalytic Studies of Mania" in
Mania: An Evolving Concept, eds. Robert H. Belmaker and H. M. van Praag
(Jamaica, New York: SP Medical & Scientific Books, 1980), 317; Dinshah D.
Gagrat and Herzl R. Spiro, "Social, Cultural, and Epidemiologic Aspects of
Mania" in Mania: An Evolving Concept, eds. Robert H. Belmaker and H. M. van
Praag (Jamaica, New York: SP Medical & Scientific Books, 1980), 291-308.
74. Gray to Smith, 6 May 1860.
75. Gagrat and Spiro, "Social, Cultural, and Epidemiologic
Aspects of Mania", 296.
76. W. Coryell and G. Winokur, "Course and Outcome", in
Handbook of Affective Disorders, ed. E. S. Paykel (New York: Guilford Press,
77. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,
78. S. Tryer and B. Shopsin, "Symptoms and Assessment of Mania"
in Handbook of Affective Disorders, ed. E. S. Paykel (New York: Guilford Press,
79. Gray to Elizabeth Miller, 13 January 1860.
80. Gray to Charles Miller, 9 April 1860.
81. Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 414-21, 450-54; Scott, Secret Six, 315-16.
82. Gray to Smith, 6 May 1860, 6 May 1864, 27 August 1866, 20 March
1869, 29 March 1870, 27 November 1873, 1 February 1874, 18 February 1874, 3
April 1874, 24 May 1874, 27 November 1874.
83. Mrs. Gray to Smith, 13 April 1860, 18 April 1860; Gray to
Smith, 16 April 1860, 29 November 1868, 1 February 1874.
84. Anon., "The Case of David M. Wright: For the Murder of Lieutenant
San- born--Plea, Insanity", The American Journal of Insanity 20 (July
85. Anon., "Homicide: Plea, Insanity: Case of Lorenzo C. Stewart",
The American Journal of Insanity 21 (January 1865): 385-386.
86. Anon., "Annual Meeting of the Association of Medical
Superintendents for the Insane", The American Journal of Insanity 20 (July
1863): 63-106. Two decades later Gray became a national celebrity when he
testified at the trial of Charles Guiteau, who had assassinated President James
A. Garfield. In retaliation for his testimony that the defendant was sane, Gray
was shot by a friend of Guiteau. This injury so weakened Gray that it led to his
eventual demise in 1886 at the age of sixty-one. Memorial History of Utica, 20.
87. Harlow, Gerrit Smith, 450-54; Villard, John Brown, 46; Scott,
Secret Six, 315-16.
88. Gray to Smith, 13 July 1867.
89. Robert Penn Warren, John Brown: The Making of a Martyr (New
York: Payson and Clarke, 1929), 286.
90. Frothingham, Gerrit Smith, 246-66.
91. Aleksandrowicz, "Psychoanalytic Studies of Mania",
92. Smith to Goodell, 1 May 1860, reprinted in Douglass' Monthly 3 (June
The authors thank the following individuals for their assistance: Lyle
Engell, archivist of the Utica-Marcy Psychiatric Centers, the staff of the
George Arents Research Library at Syracuse University, and Gwen G. Robinson of
About the authors: John R. McKivigan, Ph.D.,
is a lecturer in the history department at Yale University and also the
associate editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers at the same university. He has
written several articles on abolitionism, and his book, The War Against
Proslavery Religion, was published recently by Cornell University Press.
Madeleine Leveille, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in private practice; she
also is employed as a counselor at Greater New Haven State Technical College,
North Haven, Connecticut. Their earlier article, "'He Stands Like Jupiter':
The Autobiography of Gerrit Smith", appeared in New York History, April