How Thoreau Assembled His Essays Mosaic-Fashion from His Journals

I’m nearing the end of my project of excerpting Thoreau’s journals. I’ve finished , in which Thoreau spoke on several occasions — using the event to try and radicalize the abolitionist movement, which had lately been distracted into electoral politics by forming the anti-slavery Republican Party, and which was unsure whether to embrace Brown as a martyr or to reject him as an embarrassment, leaning toward the latter.

For those with an appreciation for obsessive-compulsive concordances, I give you a table showing how Thoreau assembled A Plea for Captain John Brown from the raw material he wrote in these journal entries. I find it interesting to see how he worked, mosaic-fashion, jotting down useful bits of rhetoric as he crafted them, and then fitting them together into a coherent whole.

Plea ¶# ¶#s ¶#s ¶#s
¶1¶13¶26 ¶54
¶2¶33
¶3¶28 ¶34
¶4¶36
¶5¶33
¶6¶11¶56 ¶69–71
¶7¶8
¶8
¶9¶3 ¶40 ¶43
¶10¶3 ¶40 ¶41
¶11¶6
¶12¶7 ¶53 ¶59
¶13¶35
¶14¶58
¶15¶2
¶16¶28 ¶29
¶17¶65
¶18
¶19¶5¶26 ¶42 ¶50
¶20¶2 ¶5 ¶17¶15¶24
¶21
¶22¶13
¶23¶7 ¶15 ¶24
¶24¶10–12
¶25¶7
¶26¶29¶1
¶27¶28 ¶30¶23
¶28¶4¶68
¶29¶16 ¶19 ¶23¶31 ¶69
¶30¶20¶10
¶31¶20
¶32¶64
¶33¶21
¶34¶8¶61
¶35¶9
¶36¶25–26¶10¶72
¶37
¶38
¶39¶27¶13
¶40¶28
¶41¶1 ¶12¶55 ¶62
¶42¶4 ¶23
¶43¶14
¶44
¶45¶3¶52
¶46¶72
¶47
¶48
¶49¶1 ¶6 ¶8 ¶30¶5 ¶10
¶50¶25¶21
¶51¶9 ¶31¶24
¶52¶3
¶53
¶54¶31¶3 ¶24
¶55¶3 ¶4 ¶60
¶56¶9 ¶14–15 ¶17–18
¶57¶5¶29 ¶31¶16 ¶27 ¶45 ¶74
¶58¶19 ¶71
¶59¶75 ¶78 ¶80
¶60
¶61¶77 ¶79 ¶81
¶62¶67
¶63¶63 ¶66
¶64¶83
¶65¶83
¶66¶25 ¶46 ¶76
¶67¶46–49
¶68¶18
¶69¶9 ¶39
¶70¶16
¶71¶17
¶72¶18
¶73¶19
¶74
¶75¶20
¶76¶22
¶77¶12

Using paragraph #57 from the essay as an example:

A Plea for Captain John Brown Sources
It was his peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave. I agree with him.…
…They who are continually shocked by slavery have some right to be shocked by the violent death of the slaveholder, but no others. Such will be more shocked by his life than by his death.… They who are continually shocked by slavery have some right to be shocked by the violent death of the slaveholder, but no others. Such will be more shocked by his life than by his death. [ ¶31]
…I shall not be forward to think him mistaken in his method who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave.… I do not complain of any tactics that are effective of good, whether one wields the quill or the sword, but I shall not think him mistaken who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave. [ ¶29]
…I speak for the slave when I say that I prefer the philanthropy of Captain Brown to that philanthropy which neither shoots me nor liberates me.… I speak for the slave when I say that I prefer the philanthropy of John Brown to that philanthropy which neither shoots me nor liberates me. [ ¶27]
…At any rate, I do not think it is quite sane for one to spend his whole life in talking or writing about this matter, unless he is continuously inspired, and I have not done so. A man may have other affairs to attend to.… At any rate, I do not think it is sane for one to spend one’s whole life talking or writing about this matter, and I have not done so. A man may have other affairs to attend to. [ ¶45; see also Resistance to Civil Government in which he wrote: “It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him…”]
…I do not wish to kill nor to be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by me unavoidable.… I do not wish to kill or to be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both of these things would be by me unavoidable. [ ¶74]
…We preserve the so-called peace of our community by deeds of petty violence every day. Look at the policeman’s billy and handcuffs! Look at the jail! Look at the gallows! Look at the chaplain of the regiment! We are hoping only to live safely on the outskirts of this provisional army. So we defend ourselves and our hen-roosts, and maintain slavery.… They preserve the so-called peace of their community by deeds of petty violence every day. Look at the policeman’s billy and handcuffs! Look at the jail! Look at the gallows! Look at the chaplain of the regiment! We are hoping only to live safely on the outskirts of this provisional army. So they defend themselves and our hen-roosts, and maintain slavery. [ ¶5]
…I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the only righteous use that can be made of Sharp’s rifles and revolvers is to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think that for once the Sharp’s rifles and the revolvers were employed for a righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them. For once the Sharp’s rifles and the revolver were employed in a righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them. I know that the mass of my neighbors think that the only righteous use that can be made of them is to fight duels with them when we are insulted by other nations, or hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them. [ ¶16]
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