FOUR MEN, Franklin B. Sanborn, Frederick H. Wines, Andrew E. Elmore, and William P. Letchworth, were early credited with responsibilities for setting the pattern of the first meetings of the National Conference, and while there were general, scientific, and economic philosophies stimulating the thinking and action of the times, which may not safely be ignored, some knowledge of these men--and a few others--will throw light upon its beginnings.
Franklin B. Sanborn ( 1931-1917), born in New Hampshire, a descendant of forebears who came to America in the flood of Puritan migration in 1640, was a typical New England intellectual, "determined, democratic, liberty loving, positive, pugnacious," with a quick and caustic wit. After leaving Harvard, he moved to Concord to be near Emerson, spending the rest of his life in that home of distinctly American intellectualism. A transcendentalist, he showed the independence of judgment of that group, combined with a sturdy ethical conviction in human affairs. His lives of Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, and Emerson and his description of the Concord School furnish some of the best records of the personalities and philosophy of that brilliant group of American literary philosophers.
Becoming acquainted with John Brown, he served as secretary of the Massachusetts Free Soil Association. When John Brown told him of his plan to seize Harpers Ferry, Sanborn, reluctant to stand apart from action, even when he thought it