John Brown and the Secret Six
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 broke the Missouri Compromise by leaving it to a vote of the inhabitants to decide whether a state formed from the Kansas territory would be slave or free. In Boston, emigrant aid societies publicly appealed to colonists to win the battle for the territory at the ballot box, while in secret, these same members shipped “special supplies”—Colt revolvers and Sharps rifles—to Kansas.
The legend of “Captain” John Brown—murderous fanatic and/or heroic defender of the antislavery cause—was born in “Bleeding Kansas.” By 1859, with financial support from Northern abolitionists, including five members of the “Secret Six” who lived in the Boston area, Brown began to plan direct action against the South, in the form of an attack on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
The "Secret Six", a group of abolitionists that offered financial support to John Brown and the insurrection at Harper's Ferry, Virginia were: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Samuel Gridley Howe, Theodore Parker, Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, Gerrit Smith, and George Luther Stearns. All but Smith were active in the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts. Smith was a reformer and politician from New York state.