John Brown's Body

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by Dr. Bob, Dec 2, 2004.

  1. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
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    Hero or lunatic, the man was hung on Dec 2, 1859.

    Thoughts on him and the abolitionist mania of the Unitarian cult that swept America are in order.

    (More on the cultic Unitarian influence on another thread on Christmas Carols)
     
  2. Debby in Philly

    Debby in Philly
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    Sometimes a hero has to be a bit of a lunatic.
     
  3. Dr. Bob

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    Most hoped this would be the END of the abolitionist's activities and its extremism would be decried by the society in Philadelphia or Boston.

    Sadly, he was looked upon as a martyr and his just execution only added fuel to the fire. A year later, Lincoln was elected and the nation plunged into the abyss.
     
  4. Stratiotes

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    Brown himself was Persbyterian but I agree on the Unitarian cult influence in the abolitionist movement.

    Brown was a man who had great zeal for a good cause but his zeal was misdirected...much like the abortion clinic bombers of recent times. His story should forever put to rest the notion that good intentions are justification in themselves. As the old saying goes about the road to perdition being paved with good intentions...
     
  5. Turpius

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    Rule #1 Never give them a martyr (i.e.John Brown, Joseph Smith,the fellow at Ruby Ridge, the wacko at Waco, etc.)
     
  6. mioque

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    John Brown was a man of action -- a man who would not be deterred from his mission of abolishing slavery. On October 16, 1859, he led 21 men on a raid of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His plan to arm slaves with the weapons he and his men seized from the arsenal was thwarted, however, by local farmers, militiamen, and Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Within 36 hours of the attack, most of Brown's men had been killed or captured.
    John Brown was born into a deeply religious family in Torrington, Connecticut, in 1800. Led by a father who was vehemently opposed to slavery, the family moved to northern Ohio when John was five, to a district that would become known for its antislavery views.
    During his first fifty years, Brown moved about the country, settling in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, and taking along his ever-growing family. (He would father twenty children.) Working at various times as a farmer, wool merchant, tanner, and land speculator, he never was finacially successful -- he even filed for bankruptcy when in his forties. His lack of funds, however, did not keep him from supporting causes he believed in. He helped finance the publication of David Walker's Appeal and Henry Highland's "Call to Rebellion" speech. He gave land to fugitive slaves. He and his wife agreed to raise a black youth as one of their own. He also participated in the Underground Railroad and, in 1851, helped establish the League of Gileadites, an organization that worked to protect escaped slaves from slave catchers.
    In 1847 Frederick Douglass met Brown for the first time in Springfield, Massachusetts. Of the meeting Douglass stated that, "though a white gentleman, [Brown] is in sympathy a black man, and as deeply interested in our cause, as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery." It was at this meeting that Brown first outlined his plan to Douglass to lead a war to free slaves.
    Brown moved to the black community of North Elba, New York, in 1849. The community had been established thanks to the philanthropy of Gerrit Smith, who donated tracts of at least 50 acres to black families willing to clear and farm the land. Brown, knowing that many of the families were finding life in this isolated area difficult, offered to establish his own farm there as well, in order to lead the blacks by his example and to act as a "kind father to them."
    Despite his contributions to the antislavery cause, Brown did not emerge as a figure of major significance until 1855 after he followed five of his sons to the Kansas territory. There, he became the leader of antislavery guerillas and fought a proslavery attack against the antislavery town of Lawrence. The following year, in retribution for another attack, Brown went to a proslavery town and brutally killed five of its settlers. Brown and his sons would continue to fight in the territory and in Missouri for the rest of the year.
    Brown returned to the east and began to think more seriously about his plan for a war in Virginia against slavery. He sought money to fund an "army" he would lead. On October 16, 1859, he set his plan to action when he and 21 other men -- 5 blacks and 16 whites -- raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
    Brown was wounded and quickly captured, and moved to Charlestown, Virginia, where he was tried and convicted of treason, Before hearing his sentence, Brown was allowed make an address to the court.


    . . . I believe to have interfered as I have done, . . . in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it be deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit: so let it be done."
    Although initially shocked by Brown's exploits, many Northerners began to speak favorably of the militant abolitionist. "He did not recognize unjust human laws, but resisted them as he was bid. . . .," said Henry David Thoreau in an address to the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts. "No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature. . . ."
    John Brown was hanged on December 2, 1859.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1550.html
     
  7. Roy

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    My understanding of John Brown is that he was a thief who would steal livestock and horses from farms and plantations, but would free the slaves in those places in order to gain sympathy and sanctuary in the free states.

    Roy
     
  8. mioque

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    It is ofcourse possible that the pro-slavery people besmirched Brown's reputation after his death.
    Or that the anti-slavery crowd whitewashed it after his martyrdom.
     
  9. Stratiotes

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    I think the facts speak for themselves. The means are not justified by the "rightness" of the cause. We can admire his zeal for a righteous cause but not excuse his methods. Murder is murder whether in the act of ending an injustice or not - one equal act of lawlessness is not excused by another. In his zeal he seemed to forget that our war is not against flesh and blood, nor are its weapons to be carnal.
     
  10. fireweed59

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    .... Guess our founding patriots were misguided too. It is difficult to judge the ways of the world which, I suppose, is why God reserves judgement to Himself. I think that in human experience judgement falls, through the means of human intervention whether that intervention is "christian" or not. That which it falls upon is often also unchristian or misguided. So one could make the argument that in the least, they are equal, one no worse or better, however in some cases one could reason a qualitative difference. This is a problem with black and white thinking. For example, to the person who takes up arms and deadly force against, say, an abortionist, which is worse, the killing of one or the butchering of hundreds? With John Brown it is similar. Many voices may condemn him strongly but where were those voices when thousands were sold and treated as subhuman and given no respect or dignity.

    Personally, I think John Brown was a deeply righteous thinking person who became consumed by this issue just as some today do. When he could take inaction no more, he acted. This is the natural outcome of extremism in the culture, there are people who lose their ability to cope and act. We, today have such a culture brewing in our society and if and when it breaks lose to this sort of thing people will ask why? Seems obvious to me eshew evil, hold fast to that which is good.
     
  11. Dr. Bob

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    I've studied his life and material from both sides and found him as fanatical in his beliefs and his actions as Hitler.

    Arming negroes for a slave rebellion against the unarmed wives and children on the plantations is not the thinking of a "hero".
     

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