In A Plea for Captain John Brown, Thoreau writes:
“Served him right”—“A dangerous man”—“He is undoubtedly insane.” So they proceed to live their sane, and wise, and altogether admirable lives, reading their Plutarch a little, but chiefly pausing at that feat of Putnam, who was let down into a wolf’s den; and in this wise they nourish themselves for brave and patriotic deeds some time or other. The Tract Society could afford to print that story of Putnam. You might open the district schools with the reading of it, for there is nothing about Slavery or the Church in it; unless it occurs to the reader that some pastors are wolves in sheep’s clothing. “The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions” even, might dare to protest against that wolf. I have heard of boards, and of American boards, but it chances that I never heard of this particular lumber till lately. And yet I hear of Northern men, and women, and children, by families, buying a “life membership” in such societies as these. A life-membership in the grave! You can get buried cheaper than that.
I have done some research, yet the following remain unclear to me:
Who is Putnam, what was his feat, and of what wolf's den does the author speak?
What is the Tract Society?