Was John Brown a Traitor? (Poll)

Was John Brown a Traitor?

  • Yes

    Votes: 59 60.8%
  • No

    Votes: 35 36.1%
  • Don't Know

    Votes: 3 3.1%

  • Total voters
    97

Nytram01

First Sergeant
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Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
I voted no, though he committed a crime by attacking a federal arsenal, it wasn't to wage war against the government..

Technicality. His intention was to cause a widespread armed insurrection against the South States of the country he claimed citizenship of, that is no less an act of a treason than the secession of the Southern States themselves. By his intentions and his actions he was guilty of treason, I dont see how that can be refuted.
 
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John Brown was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia. I don't understand how a noncitizen of a state can commit treason against it, but I'm not familiar with the law.

Did John Brown commit treason by attacking the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry and by fighting with the federal forces, led by Robert E. Lee? I honestly don't know. Not everyone who resists arrest by federal authorities or commits murder on federal property is automatically a traitor.

This is obviously leaving, aside that Brown had already murdered people in Kansas, and his group was responsible for multiple deaths at Harper's Ferry.
 

Nytram01

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Or the federal government might have just given him up to placate the Southern rage over the incident...

Then it would still be a failure of the Federal government to do its duty, to do its job. Being tried in Virginia or the Federal court would not matter as far as the matter of his guilt is concerned - when he attacked and seized Federal property and fired upon Federal troops that matter was beyond debate - but perhaps the punishment would have changed from execution to imprisonment. This would have been intolerable to the Southern States, I grant you, and probably have done little to nothing to calm the volatile political situation, but the Federal government would have done its job and would not have passed the buck solely onto the shoulders of Virginia.
 

wilber6150

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John Brown was convicted of treason against the state of Virginia. I don't understand how a noncitizen of a state can commit treason against it, but I'm not familiar with the law.

Did John Brown commit treason by attacking the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry and by fighting with the federal forces, led by Robert E. Lee? I honestly don't know. Not everyone who resists arrest by federal authorities or commits murder on federal property is automatically a traitor.

This is obviously leaving, aside that Brown had already murdered people in Kansas, and his group was responsible for multiple deaths at Harper's Ferry.
That was my thought, his attack on the arsenal was to gain weapons for use against private citizens not against the government itself..Sort of like someone robbing a member of the armed service for their money are they committing treason?
 

wilber6150

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[
Technicality. His intention was to cause a widespread armed insurrection against the South States of the country he claimed citizenship of, that is no less an act of a treason than the secession of the Southern States themselves. By his intentions and his actions he was guilty of treason, I dont see how that can be refuted.
No not against Southern states, technically he was behind a plan for a armed theft of privately owned propery.. His intent was never to go against the state government itself, only Southeners who held slaves.. I can think of a whole list of crimes he could be charged with but treason? Don't see it..
 

brass napoleon

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Yes, he was a traitor. On his own initiative, he attacked a federal armory. So legally, he was indeed a traitor. On a personal level, I also believe he was a traitor, because he, again on his own initiative, subverted the democratic process. For the first time in this country's history there was a powerful and growing political party with the aim of stopping the expansion of slavery in the belief that it would lead to its ultimate extinction. John Brown should have let the political situation play out and abided by the rule of law.
 

wilber6150

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Yes, he was a traitor. On his own initiative, he attacked a federal armory. So legally, he was indeed a traitor. On a personal level, I also believe he was a traitor, because he, again on his own initiative, subverted the democratic process. For the first time in this country's history there was a powerful political party with the aim of stopping the expansion of slavery in the belief that it would lead to its ultimate extinction. John Brown should have let the political situation play out and abided by the rule of law.
There was no guarantee that a political party just being formed was going to have any hope against slavery as any others..And lead to ultimate extinction? what a 100 years 200 years? How long should have people waited to see slaves set free before they act on their own initiative? Is everyone who attempts to rob government property guilty of treason?
 

brass napoleon

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There was no guarantee that a political party just being formed was going to have any hope against slavery as any others..And lead to ultimate extinction? what a 100 years 200 years? How long should have people waited to see slaves set free before they act on their own initiative? Is everyone who attempts to rob government property guilty of treason?

How long should people wait? Well, seeing as slavery had been in America for over 200 years at that point, I would say waiting a few more years to get things going wasn't unreasonable, especially considering the massive change in public sentiment in the previous 5 years. Since when does ONE person get to decide the timetable for an entire country? (Other than in a dictatorship, that is)
 

Nytram01

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Location
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
[
No not against Southern states, technically he was behind a plan for a armed theft of privately owned propery.. His intent was never to go against the state government itself, only Southeners who held slaves.. I can think of a whole list of crimes he could be charged with but treason? Don't see it..

You believe the distinction would be made? That targetting "slave-owners" would not be seen as an attack against the Southern States themselves? Given the fact that the South had itself linked almost inexorably to the institution of Slavery and based its economy largely on the use and exploitation of that institution its seems very unlikely that targetting individuals would not be seen the same as targetting the institution and the States that utilized it. Had he been successful he would have been attacking the defining institution of the Southern States, and they would have retaliated, then he would have been nothing more than an outlaw fighting running battles with government troops and militia until his rebellion inevitably came to end, he was killed, captured or fled and labled a traitor. He would be like Nat Turner a footnote of history and a cult icon instead of the Abolitionist Martyr Saint he became through his trial.

Regardless, his intention was to cause a widespread armed inssurection and operate outside the jurisdiction of State or Federal Law and his acts were to attack and seize Federal property and fire upon Federal troops. Any man who plans to spark an armed insurrection against a lawful government is guilty of treason, and that was certainly his intent, though, thinking on it now, his actions may be nothing more than gun fight between officers of the law and an outlaw but the intent, the plan behind his actions, remain treasonous.
 

wilber6150

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How long should people wait? Well, seeing as slavery had been in America for over 200 years at that point, I would say waiting a few more years to get things going wasn't unreasonable, especially considering the massive change in public sentiment in the previous 5 years. Since when does ONE person get to decide the timetable for an entire country? (Other than in a dictatorship, that is)

Well considering it took a civil war I would say that it was going to take a while before slavery was abolished..Thousands of people were deciding on the timetable everytime they assisted runaway slaves.. It easy to sit back and say that he should have just waited and be content for the legislative process to work, but how many times had the slave owning oliarchy ignored or circumvent the process..He saw how well the slavers treated the democratic process in Kansas, its easy to understand his failure to trust the system..He saw and heard firsthand the evils that were being done to people that he considered his equals and had to act..
 

wilber6150

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You believe the distinction would be made? That targetting "slave-owners" would not be seen as an attack against the Southern States themselves? Given the fact that the South had itself linked almost inexorably to the institution of Slavery and based its economy largely on the use and exploitation of that institution its seems very unlikely that targetting individuals would not be seen the same as targetting the institution and the States that utilized it. Had he been successful he would have been attacking the defining institution of the Southern States, and they would have retaliated, then he would have been nothing more than an outlaw fighting running battles with government troops and militia until his rebellion inevitably came to end, he was killed, captured or fled and labled a traitor. He would be like Nat Turner a footnote of history and a cult icon instead of the Abolitionist Martyr Saint he became through his trial.

Regardless, his intention was to cause a widespread armed inssurection and operate outside the jurisdiction of State or Federal Law and his acts were to attack and seize Federal property and fire upon Federal troops. Any man who plans to spark an armed insurrection against a lawful government is guilty of treason, and that was certainly his intent, though, thinking on it now, his actions may be nothing more than gun fight between officers of the law and an outlaw but the intent, the plan behind his actions, remain treasonous.

Theres a difference between what the crime could be seen as, and what it actually was..He never planned on overthrowing any state or federal government but to steal slaves then funnel them thru a series of armed outposts to the North..Whether the slave states saw the theft of private property as a direct attack on them and their lifestyle is irrelevant to whether he was guilty of treason.
 

brass napoleon

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Well considering it took a civil war I would say that it was going to take a while before slavery was abolished..Thousands of people were deciding on the timetable everytime they assisted runaway slaves.. It easy to sit back and say that he should have just waited and be content for the legislative process to work, but how many times had the slave owning oliarchy ignore or circumvent the process..He saw how well the slavers treated the democratic process in Kansas, its easy to understand his failure to trust the system..He saw and heard firsthand the evils that were being done to people that he considered his equals and had to act..

But there had never been a point in this country's history where the opposition to slavery was so strong. No one person has the right to circumvent the entire democratic process. What are we, a Banana Republic?

There are a heck of a lot of awful things going on in this country even as I type this post. Does that give me the right to go attack a federal arsenal?
 

wilber6150

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But there had never been a point in this country's history where the opposition to slavery was so strong. No one person has the right to circumvent the entire democratic process. What are we, a Banana Republic?

There are a heck of a lot of awful things going on in this country even as I type this post. Does that give me the right to go attack a federal arsenal?
Thats a nice sentiment to have in the 1850's except for one thing, the slavers had already shown no regard at all for the democratic process and were willing to use force to get what they lost politically..Its easy to sit back 150 years later and say he should have waited and not done anything, but we weren't there hearing and seeing the physical effects that slavery had upon people.. I dont know a whole lot of people who after hearing countless tales of rape and torture wouldn't try to do something besides just sit and hope for a change.. Did he take it to an extream yes he did, but at least wasn't just sitting and waiting for a bright sunny day when slavery would just dissappear for 4,000,000 people..
 

brass napoleon

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Thats a nice sentiment to have in the 1850's except for one thing, the slavers had already shown no regard at all for the democratic process and were willing to use force to get what they lost politically...

Huh? While I will totally agree with you that the slavers showed "no regard at all for the democratic process and were willing to use force to get what they lost politically", that was AFTER John Brown's attack, not before it. It certainly doesn't justify John Brown's attack. In fact, John Brown's attack played right into their hands.
 

Nytram01

First Sergeant
Joined
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Location
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Theres a difference between what the crime could be seen as, and what it actually was..He never planned on overthrowing any state or federal government but to steal slaves then funnel them thru a series of armed outposts to the North..Whether the slave states saw the theft of private property as a direct attack on them and their lifestyle is irrelevant to whether he was guilty of treason.

But his plan included a widespread armed insurrection against a people who had committed no crime in the legal sense. His plan was to establish a bastion of abolition in the heart of the South, a place he intented to establish his own State with its own laws and its own government and its own army - read his constitution - he may not have planned to overthrow the governments of the Southern States but he certainly planned to steal their land and create a land of his own, independent of them with its own President. This would have place him and his State at war with the Southern States of the Union, and that was treason as defined by the US Constitution in article 3: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." Thus the intention to create his own State in open opposition to the Southern States and their way of life is a treasonous act.
 

JerseyBart

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But his plan included a widespread armed insurrection against a people who had committed no crime in the legal sense. His plan was to establish a bastion of abolition in the heart of the South, a place he intented to establish his own State with its own laws and its own government and its own army - read his constitution - he may not have planned to overthrow the governments of the Southern States but he certainly planned to steal their land and create a land of his own, independent of them with its own President. This would have place him and his State at war with the Southern States of the Union, and that was treason as defined by the US Constitution in article 3: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." Thus the intention to creat his own State in open opposition to the Southern States and their way of life is a treasonous act.

As is it treasonous to do what the south, Lee and other officers who went south did.
 

brass napoleon

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As is it treasonous to do what the south, Lee and other officers who went south did.

There was much talk in the North about secession also. William Lloyd Garrison and his followers had slogans "No Union with Slaveholders" and "A Free Northern Republic". Were they also treasonous?
 
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