"I don't know," Becky said clutching her candle nervously. "We could get into a lot of trouble doing this."
"I say there's something shifty about that reverend," Tom insisted, pulling the tarp off the the wagon. "I think he's up to no good! I want to see what's really in these boxes!" He jammed his crowbar into one of the long boxes marked "BIBLES" and pried off the cover. Becky flinched at the noise of the wood creaking and the lid rattling as it fell onto the ground; but no one came.
"Don't think Miz Watson's gonna approve of these kinda bibles," Tom said with a grim laugh. As Becky brought her candle closer the light of it glinted off the cold metal barrels of carbine rifles. The crates of "bibles" were actually full of guns!
Henry Ward Beecher was a fiery abolitionist preacher and a well-known orator of the mid-1800s. He advocated sending rifles to Kansas Territory in order to help Free State settlers fight against the Pro-Slavery forces. In an 1856 article he wrote, referring to slavery advocates: "You might just as well… read the Bible to buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle."
As a result of this, the Sharps carbine became known as a "Beecher's Bible". Abolitionists encouraged the nickname by labeling the crates of rifles they smuggled into Kansas as "Bibles".
Game and Story Use
- A historical or time travel adventure set in pre-Civil War Kansas is bound to encounter Beecher's Bibles.
- Perhaps the PCs are smuggling these rifles into Kansas to help abolitionist settlers resist pro-slavery settlers.
- In other settings, it has become traditional for gun-runners to smuggle weapons in crates with innocuous or even ironic labels, such as "Bibles".
- This works with other types of contraband as well; in the movie The Living Daylights, at one point a shipment of drugs was being smuggled out of Afghanistan disguised as Red Cross supplies.
- Or Get Out Of Jail Free -- Monopoly's Hidden Maps
- The abuse of "priviledge" involved in disguising war materials as humanitarian supplies usually goes down very badly in "international" law1 and is usually a good characteristic to give to a villain. It's not even particularly heroic when The Resistance do it and can be used to add some moral ambiguity to resistance characters.
- For an ironic subversion, consider hiring - or playing - gun runners importing Bibles disguised as crates of guns into some despotic regime where the former is more heavily controlled than the latter (Saudi Arabia for example).