Was Frederick Douglas involved in the Harpers Ferry Raid?

major bill

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#1
Frederick Douglas had known John Brown for some time before the Harpers Ferry Raid. The had recently met in Detroit and then again in Chambersburg Pennsylvania just before the raid. It would appear that Douglas at the very least had general knowledge about the upcoming raid.

Would his pre knowledge of the raid have made Douglas a criminal? One could argue that in the modern view Douglas could be a co conspirator. Did Douglas commit a crime and should of he been tried?
 

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#2
Frederick Douglas had known John Brown for some time before the Harpers Ferry Raid. The had recently met in Detroit and then again in Chambersburg Pennsylvania just before the raid. It would appear that Douglas at the very least had general knowledge about the upcoming raid.

Would his pre knowledge of the raid have made Douglas a criminal? One could argue that in the modern view Douglas could be a co conspirator. Did Douglas commit a crime and should of he been tried?
How so? Douglass knew what Brown wanted to do and accomplish but he tried to persuade him from going through with the plan. I don't know how you could consider F.D. a co-conspirator regardless of what Henry Wise and his ilk believed.
 

major bill

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#3
Although Douglas did not support the raid himself and tried to talk Brown out of it, the co conspiracy would be if Douglas did anything to assist in the raid. This could include introducing Brown to people who helped provide money for the raid, introducing Brown to people who might go on the raid.
 

archieclement

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#4
Frederick Douglas had known John Brown for some time before the Harpers Ferry Raid. The had recently met in Detroit and then again in Chambersburg Pennsylvania just before the raid. It would appear that Douglas at the very least had general knowledge about the upcoming raid.

Would his pre knowledge of the raid have made Douglas a criminal? One could argue that in the modern view Douglas could be a co conspirator. Did Douglas commit a crime and should of he been tried?
Would think depending on jurisdiction he could have been an accessory, he had knowledge a crime was going to be committed and did nothing to prevent it, and people died from his inaction
 

wbull1

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#5
A number of people knew about the raid. Harriet Tubman at one point said she would go with Brown but she was ill when the raid took place. I suspect once she knew the particulars she would have refused to go. Douglass described the plan as "a perfect steel trap."
 
#6
Although Douglas did not support the raid himself and tried to talk Brown out of it, the co conspiracy would be if Douglas did anything to assist in the raid. This could include introducing Brown to people who helped provide money for the raid, introducing Brown to people who might go on the raid.
But if my timeline is correct, Douglass delivered $25 that was gift from a Brooklyn minister to Brown and introduced Seth Greene to him, all before he became aware of the Harper's Ferry plans. Now I agree that had Douglass been captured by Governor Wise's bloodhounds, that Douglass would have at the very minimum been charged as a co-conspirator and would have never left Virginia alive.
 
#7
Would think depending on jurisdiction he could have been an accessory, he had knowledge a crime was going to be committed and did nothing to prevent it, and people died from his inaction
Maybe the laws were different during the 19th Century but I am unaware that failure to report a crime or a planned crime has ever been against the law until recently in just a couple of states. If one does something intentionally to conceal the crime after it has been committed and help the actors to evade arrest, that is a different matter and definitely subjects the person to arrest and prosecution.
 

major bill

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#8
In 1859 the legal term "accessory before the crime" was probably the standard. Most jurisdiction now use the "joint principal" concept. We are all much more informed on one being a "participator" or "principal" or "joint principal". With out a deeper understanding of how "accessory before the crime" was legally viewed in 1859, I am not sure we can reach a sensible answer.

I, like most here, have lived under the Model Penal Code use of "principal" (OK Michigan did not fully adopt the Model Penal Code but did adopt much of it) and thus view this kind of thing through modern eyes. If the raid at Harpers Ferry was a terrorist attack, and one had knowledge of a planed terrorist attack, one would have a certain obligation to report it.
 
#9
In 1859 the legal term "accessory before the crime" was probably the standard. Most jurisdiction now use the "joint principal" concept. We are all much more informed on one being a "participator" or "principal" or "joint principal". With out a deeper understanding of how "accessory before the crime" was legally viewed in 1859, I am not sure we can reach a sensible answer.

I, like most here, have lived under the Model Penal Code use of "principal" (OK Michigan did not fully adopt the Model Penal Code but did adopt much of it) and thus view this kind of thing through modern eyes. If the raid at Harpers Ferry was a terrorist attack, and one had knowledge of a planed terrorist attack, one would have a certain obligation to report it.

AFAIK the only criminal prosecution for failure to report a crime in Michigan and probably most other states is the mandatory reporting by "professionals" of child abuse and suspected child abuse. Michigan afaik, does not criminalize any other failure to report a crime. It was that way for the years I was an LEO and I'm pretty sure its still is. Just a couple of states in the last 20 to 40 years have made it a criminal offense for failure to report certain felonies such as murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. I went through a couple of sites that had the Virginia statutes from the 1840s and 1860 but so far have been unable to locate a failure to report crime statute. I'm not saying it's not there but so far I cannot find it.
 
#10
Since 1948 it has been a Federal offense to not report a Federal felony:

"Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 684; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(G), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)

I don't want to derail this thread any further than I have so I'll post no more on the subject of "failure to report a crime." I'd be curious though if somebody does come up with a 19th century Virginia statute that criminalizes the "failure to report."
 
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#11
I don't want to derail this thread any further than I have so I'll post no more on the subject of "failure to report a crime." I'd be curious though if somebody does come up with a 19th century Virginia statute that criminalizes the "failure to report."
Interesting thread...

On this, since Douglass met with Brown outside of Virginia, does a Virginia statute have much play here or the state where the meeting took place?
 

archieclement

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#12
Since 1948 it has been a Federal offense to not report a Federal felony:

"Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 684; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(G), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)

I don't want to derail this thread any further than I have so I'll post no more on the subject of "failure to report a crime." I'd be curious though if somebody does come up with a 19th century Virginia statute that criminalizes the "failure to report."
I noted depending on jurisdiction, and prefer accessory to conspirator because not aware how much he personally conspired or contributed, but be being aware beforehand and not doing anything can be a crime. And the OP specified "in the modern view".....And fact is his not doing anything to prevent it after being made aware of the plan, contributed to deaths of civilians, soldiers, and the conspirators and could/would be illegal with todays modern view.
 
#13
Interesting thread...

On this, since Douglass met with Brown outside of Virginia, does a Virginia statute have much play here or the state where the meeting took place?

Virginia's Governor Wise used a two year old note (but concealed the note's December 7, 1857 date) found on John Brown that asked him to come with Douglass's son Fred to his home [in Rochester NY] and "take a mouthful" with him, to convince President Buchanan that he was a co-conspirator involved in "inciting servile insurrection."
 
#14
I noted depending on jurisdiction, and prefer accessory to conspirator because not aware how much he personally conspired or contributed, but be being aware beforehand and not doing anything can be a crime. And the OP specified "in the modern view".....And fact is his not doing anything to prevent it after being made aware of the plan, contributed to deaths of civilians, soldiers, and the conspirators and could/would be illegal with todays modern view.
Yes, under Federal law it would.
 

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#15
Who would have indicted and tried Douglass? Virginia indicted and tried Brown and his co-conspirators who they 'caught in the act'. Others who had known Brown and may have known of his plans were out of Virginia's reach- if they could put together a case for their involvement. That never happened.
We only know Douglass was aware of Brown's general plans because in later years Douglass said so.
 
#16
Who would have indicted and tried Douglass? Virginia indicted and tried Brown and his co-conspirators who they 'caught in the act'. Others who had known Brown and may have known of his plans were out of Virginia's reach- if they could put together a case for their involvement. That never happened.
We only know Douglass was aware of Brown's general plans because in later years Douglass said so.
Douglass had to flee to Canada because Governor Wise had convinced President Buchanan that he was a co-conspirator and sent a couple of Federal Marshals out to pick him up and bring him back to Virginia for trial.
 

gary

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#18
By California criminal standards if Frederick Douglas assisted in organizing including procuring supplies, equipment, providing transportation, food or financing or housing for the raid with knowledge and purpose of furtherance of the raid, he'd be guilty of conspiracy. Knowledge alone does not impute guilt.

He'd be a fool to participate in it and it would be a loss to the nation if he was hung with John Brown.
 
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archieclement

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#19
Who would have indicted and tried Douglass? Virginia indicted and tried Brown and his co-conspirators who they 'caught in the act'. Others who had known Brown and may have known of his plans were out of Virginia's reach- if they could put together a case for their involvement. That never happened.
We only know Douglass was aware of Brown's general plans because in later years Douglass said so.
Think the key part of the OP is "in the modern view" which would include what we know today and by todays legal standards, least that's how I took it, more then a historical what if
 
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#20
Think the key part of the OP is "in the modern view" which would include what we know today and by todays legal standards, least that's how I took it, more then a historical what if
I found Virginia's current law regarding misprision of Treason and since John Brown was charged with treason against the State of Virginia...

§ 18.2-482. Misprision of treason.
If any person knowing of such treason shall not, as soon as may be, give information thereof to the Governor, or some conservator of the peace, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony.

Code 1950, § 18.1-419; 1960, c. 358; 1975, cc. 14, 15.

But as @huskerblitz pointed out in post #11, "since Douglass met with Brown outside of Virginia, does a Virginia statute have much play here or the state where the meeting took place?"
 

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