Reference Entry

Brown, John

in American National Biography Online


Published online February 2000 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697

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revolutionary war soldier, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Brown and Mehitabel Sanford. When he was eight years old his parents moved to Sandisfield, Massachusetts. In 1771 he graduated from Yale College, then the following year studied law with Oliver Arnold, his brother-in-law, in Providence, Rhode Island. Admitted to the New York bar in late 1772, he opened a law office in Caghnawaga (now Johnstown), New York, and that same year was appointed king’s attorney. Also in 1772 he moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where (apparently) he met and married Huldah Kilbourne. He quickly gained a reputation for ardent advocacy of American rights in the growing quarrel with Britain and was chosen in June 1774 to serve on the Pittsfield Committee of Correspondence. A month later he helped write nonintercourse proposals that were adopted by a convention at Stockbridge, Massachusetts; in October he was elected to the Provincial Congress. In February 1775 he was sent to Canada by Boston patriots to encourage Canadians to revolt and to establish communications with others who were inclined to do so. Although he pretended to be a horse dealer during his unsuccessful two-month sojourn in the province, Canadian citizens thought it singular that he purchased not one steed.

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