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John Brown a Hero- -yet the South are Traitors

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by WhatWouldJacksonDo, Mar 11, 2017.

  1. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson 1st Lieutenant

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    Hi Bruce,

    I have to disagree a bit with you on it being just a "few small cliques"...........

    "When John Brown was hanged at Charlestown, Virginia, on December 2, 1859, the organized expressions of sympathy in the North reached startling proportions. Church bells tolled, black bunting was hung out, minute guns were fired, prayer meetings assembled, and memorial resolutions were adopted. In the weeks following, the emotional outpouring continued; lithographs of Brown circulated in vast numbers, subscriptions were organized for the support of his family, immense memorial meetings took place in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, a memorial volume was rushed through the press, and a stream of pilgrims began to visit his grave at North Elba, New York. The death of a national hero could not have called forth a greater outpouring of grief."
    Source: The Impending Crisis 1848 – 1861, p. 378, by David Porter



    Respectfully,
    William

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  3. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson 1st Lieutenant

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    And who were those "feds" who led the way?.............None other than Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart, Virginians and later members of the C.S.A........................


    Respectfully,
    William

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  4. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    We need to be careful in reading too much into that though. A couple of points: most of the celebrations in honor of John Brown were abolitionist groups and black groups, who although very vocal and sincere, represented a small minority of the Northern population. Further, most of the abolitionists who celebrated John Brown condemned his methods, but honored his cause and the heroic way he conducted himself in the face of Virginia's frenzied rush to judgment.

    There was another side to this story too:

    It is pleasing to observe the reaction which is rapidly taking place in Northern sentiment. The sympathizers with the mad act of John Brown and his deluded followers, though few in numbers, made a great deal of noise at first, and almost convinced some too credulous Southern men that their ravings were a fair reflection of Northern feeling. But now that the excitement of the moment has passed, the strong undercurrent of genuine Northern patriotism is beginning to be felt. Conservative Union meetings, at which resolutions condemnatory of the Virginia invasion and of all incendiary attempts to excite the slaves against their masters are passed, are being held throughout the entire North.

    - Frankfort (Kentucky) Commonwealth, Dec 17, 1859

    Source: http://history.furman.edu/editorials/see.py?sequence=jbmenu&location= John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry&ecode=kyfcjb591217a
    Probably the best indicator was the reaction of Republican politicians, who fell all over themselves trying to put distance between themselves and John Brown, concerned about the impact he would have on their election chances.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
  5. MattL

    MattL First Sergeant

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    Conversely we might ask why is John Brown considered a traitor to those that didn't consider the Confederates traitors?

    I think you'll find plenty of hypocrites on both sides of the fence.
     
  6. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson 1st Lieutenant

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    Hi BN,

    I agree there are 2 sides, but why should we be careful not to put too much into the one source, without not doing the same with the other ?

    I also agree the best indicator was the reaction of Republican politicians, such as one reaction you posted earlier....

    ""Old John Brown has been executed for treason against a State. We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right. So, if we constitutionally elect a President, and therefore you undertake to destroy the Union, it will be our duty to deal with you as old John Brown has been dealt with. We shall try to do our duty. We hope and believe that in no section will a majority so act as to render such extreme measures necessary."

    - Abraham Lincoln, speech in Kansas, December, 1859

    This part of Lincoln's statement seems very much like a "but"......"even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. In other words...........We condemn his actions but...............


    Respectfully,
    William

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  7. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson 1st Lieutenant

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    Hi MattL,

    I whole heartily agree.

    I must ask how is it that many people can see Brown as a hero and martyr, by overlooking the murder and treason committed by Brown. They can separate the good from the bad when dealing with Brown but refuse to do the same when dealing with Confederates.

    You are truly right when saying there are plenty of hypocrites on both sides of the fence.

    Respectfully,
    William

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  8. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    Not saying that we should put too much into the other, William. We need to balance them against each other.

    Yes, it is indeed a "but". Nevertheless he seems very clear to me, that even though he agrees with Brown "in thinking slavery wrong", he believes "that cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason".

    One thing that has become very disheartening to me in the 21st century is that we seem to have lost the ability to recognize shades of gray. We insist on seeing the world in stark black and white, good and evil. Our ancestors could see those distinctions, but it's an ability we appear to have lost.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2017
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  9. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson 1st Lieutenant

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    Good morning BN,

    I believe that we should put stock into each and/or all sources, and as you said, balance them with each other. One source has us seeing "startling proportions, the other has us seeing "few in numbers". One is a researched book, one is a newspaper article of the time. One source has it as few involved in "celebrating" John Brown, and but for a short time. The other has "startling proportions and existing for "weeks", long enough to rush a memorial volume through the press............................I am wondering how the newspaper of that time measured "northern sentiment" throughout the North? Or was it more of a "localize" view?

    I do not believe the entire north was in a positive sentiment for Brown, never have thought so, but I feel it was a larger number showing sentiment for Brown than a few, and many more than history and some historians wish to show it to be.

    I do agree with your assessment of the 21st century on it's loss of being able to see the world in other than black and white, good and evil. I am glad you mentioned that. It appears we (21st century society) can see certain issues and people in views of other than black and white, good and evil, such as John Brown, but we can't do that with Confederates, monuments, statues, memorials, or the CBF...............

    BN my brother, it is, as always, good to discuss with you, issues of the American Civil War/War Between the States, civilly, and for that I thank you immensely.



    Respectfully,
    William

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  10. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson 1st Lieutenant

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    A prophet?................IMO, anyone can predict an explosion, when they are holding a match and surrounded by explosive material.



    Respectfully,
    William
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  11. W. Richardson

    W. Richardson 1st Lieutenant

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    He talks on John Brown's Raid...................

    Respectfully,
    William
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  12. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    The governor received not only the pleas of northerners for mercy, many southerners were advising him, of the dangers of making John Brown a martyr to his cause.

    IMO, A classic example of there being none so blind or deaf, as those who will not see or hear.
     
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  13. Hoseman

    Hoseman Private

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    I think the biggest impact that Brown had was not necessarily his actions at Harper's Ferry nor any of his actions or beliefs in general. The biggest impact was the reaction from the northern populace and the shock thereof by the south. Southern reaction to his attempted slave insurrection was of course condemned throughout the south and dealt with swiftly and Brown executed promptly. Southerners took it for granted that Brown would be considered a villain throughout the entire country but when many in the north spoke positively of his actions or called him a martyr southerners were in disbelief that anyone could possibly defend him in any manner. The northern reaction shocked the south and I believe this is a critical point in history where many southerners who may have previously been "on the fence" immediately took a more pro-secession stance. They believed that there was just too much difference between the people of the north and wanted to separate themselves from them by forming their own government. This cemented their resolve, was "the straw that broke the camel's back" or the tipping point so to speak.
     
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  14. SquirrelHudson

    SquirrelHudson Corporal

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    I usually try to stay away from flammable threads like this.

    Others said it before me but you can't justify his means of doing what he did but the ultimate goal of abolition wasn't evil.
     
  15. Bee

    Bee 1st Lieutenant

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    Those who see life as black and white are missing the gray matter in-between :smile:
     
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  16. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    The only ones shocked would have been those completely divorced from what had been going on in the country, concerning slavery, or were being willfully deaf and blind.

    The real shock, was Taney's Dred Scott Decision, that opened all of the United States to Slavery.
     
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  17. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    As much as I'm a huge fan of David Potter, and I think that book is one of the best all-time about the causes of the Civil War, it is in fact a secondary source, not a primary source, and he is of course human, and I have caught him making some exaggerated claims elsewhere in the book. I notice that he doesn't provide any primary source references for this passage, which raises a lot of red flags with me, even with such a distinguished historian. It seems very clear that the secessionist Southern press at the time was doing everything they could to exaggerate John Brown's raid and the Northern reaction to his death in order to push their secessionist agenda. I think it's very possible that Potter may have been unduly influenced by that. I live just 15 miles from the hometown of two of the men who died with John Brown at Harpers Ferry, and I can tell you from my research that the reaction in this area was nothing like what Potter described, and that although Brown was considered a hero by many for his cause and his courage, his methods were roundly condemned.

    Always enjoy discussing these matters with you too, William. :smile:
     
  18. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    It was the prompt execution of Brown, and the rush to judgment at his trial, that turned him into a martyr in the North. When news initially broke of his attack on Harpers Ferry, he was roundly condemned throughout the North, even by staunch abolitionists. But when Virginia dragged him into court on a pallette without even giving him an opportunity to recover from his wounds, Northern opinion changed. Not only were they impressed with how stoically he handled the situation, but they began to believe that Virginia was trying to cover something up with their "shocking" haste (as Dr. David Potter described it). They began to truly believe John Brown when he said that he wasn't trying to start an insurrection and that he was only trying "to free slaves."

    This is strictly conjecture, but I have to wonder if Virginia's Governor Wise, who was an ardent secessionist himself, deliberately rushed through the trial and deliberately played up Brown's courage with the full intention of making him a martyr in the North.
     
  19. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    In the passage above, Potter talks of "immense memorial meetings" that "took place in New York" and other cities. I went to New York's radical Republican, borderline abolitionist newspaper, the Tribune, the day after Brown's execution, to see if I could find mention of it. The first mention I found of John Brown was on page 6. Here are some excerpts from the article:

    'Slavery has killed John Brown. We state the fact as a fact simply, and not by way of complaint. We have discouraged all appeals by others than Virginians at the clemency of the Slave Power in the premises... We have not seen how Slavery could spare the life of John Brown without confessing the iniquity of its own existence. We believe Brown himself has uniformly taken this view of the matter, and discountenanced all appeals in his behalf for pardon or commutation, as well as everything savoring of irritation or menace. There are eras in which death is not merely heroic but beneficent and fruitful. Who shall say that this was not John Brown's time to die.

    We are not of those who say, "If Slavery is wrong, then John Brown was wholly right." There are fit and unfit modes of combating a great evil; we think Brown at Harper's Ferry pursued the latter... And, while we heartily wish every slave in the world would run away from his master to-morrow, and never be retaken, we should not feel justified in entering a Slave State to incite them to do so, even if we were sure to succeed in the enterprise. Of course, we regard Brown's raid as utterly mistaken and, in its direct consequences, pernicious.

    But his are the errors of a fanatic, not the crimes of a felon. It were absurd to apply to him opprobrious epithets or wholesale denunciations. The essence of crime is the pursuit of selfish gratification in disregard of others' good; and that is the precise opposite of Old Brown's impulse and deed... Let whoever would first cast a stone ask himself whether his own noblest act was equal in grandeur and nobility to that for which John Brown pays the penalty of a death on the gallows.

    And that death will serve to purge his memory of any stain which his errors might otherwise have cast upon it... John Brown dead will live in millions of hearts - will be discussed around the homely hearth of Toil and dreamed of on the couch of Poverty and Trial...

    Admit that Brown took a wrong way to rid his country of the curse, his countrymen of the chains of bondage, what is the right way? And are we pursuing that way as grandly, unselfishly as he pursued the wrong one? If not, is it not high time we were? Before censuring severely his errors, should we not abandon our own?

    Yes, John Brown dead is verily a power... still routing the foes he bravely fought while he lived...


    - "John Brown Dead", New York Tribune, Dec 3, 1859, p. 6

    Source: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1859-12-03/ed-1/seq-6/
     
  20. Hoseman

    Hoseman Private

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    The division between the people of the north and south had been building for decades but it was not something that most would have been willing to push them over the edge to have the desire to actually go through with secession. The reaction from the north IMO was the final straw for southerners. This was the spark that pushed them over the edge to a point of no return. From that point forward, things began to happen rapidly and states soon began to secede shortly thereafter. People who had been following what had been going on in the country thought and hoped that some sort of compromise could be reached and cooler heads would prevail but, after John Brown, southern popular opinion swayed solidly towards forming their own government where they could chose their own government that best represented their interests both politically and socially.
     
  21. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    States did not begin to secede until 14 months after - in response to the election of a Republican President, as they had been threatening for years, and not to John Brown. (See Post #106)
     

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