Posts tagged John Brown

John Brown, Insane? Does it matter?

So on the question of  trying to figure out if he was insane…this brings me to the question of sanity and its relevance.

Is the sanity of a historical figure relevant to understanding his choices and actions.

John Brown must have felt insane, living in a society that preached liberty but shackled slaves. The hypocrisy would have driven me crazy…

But I don’t know if it would have driven me to kill..

I think that John Brown’s contemporaries were grateful to have him around. He had the balls to act on the movement to destroy slavery. John Brown and his men declared war on slavery, and so they fought…

He was so outraged and he had the foresite to understand that an attack in the heart of Dixie at Harper’s Ferry would play to the severe anxieties of slaveholders in the South that it would spark a civil war…

The Harper’s Ferry Raid in 1859, and the election of an anti-slavery president in 1860, led to the sucession of South Carolina, and the other soon to be confederate states soon followed.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation was only declared two and a half years into the fighting, and it only freed slaves in states that Lincoln didn’t have any technical jurisdiction over, it did lead to the total abolition of overt slavery.

Lincoln was strategic in his proclamation, and did so in attempt to heal the Union as soon as possible. He could not afford to alienate the border slave states that were still Union by freeing their slaves. The politics and intricacies of the war are far more interesting and complicated than I would have thought.

It is not as easy as- ‘Lincoln freed the slaves,’ or the opposite, ‘Lincoln didn’t care about slaves, was a racist, and only freed them to help break the confederate states.” It is somewhere in between…

Lincoln’s actions cannot be understood in short platitudes, nor can John Browns

It almost does not matter if either of them were ‘insane.’ But their role in America’s history is so undoubtedly important, this is for certain.

I think it is interesting to analyze the sanity of historical figures, and I do believe that John Brown was crazy, but he was crazy brave, and he was willing to do what many others were not, and if anything our nation is just as indepted to his legacy as Abraham Lincoln’s in abolishing slavery. Their roles were certainly different, and John Brown got the short stick in what roles they played. But ultimately if I were to pick which was my true hero, I might pick Brown because he was absolutely against slavery and was willing to go to any means necessary, and Lincoln was tepid if best about the absolute abolition of slavery…

I could go on and on…

but for now… here is a clip of Johnny Cash playing John Brown and the attack on Harper’s Ferry

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John Brown quotes

John Brown on not seeing an end to slavery without blood shed…

“I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.”

John Brown on adding his own blood to the pool of blood as the result of human bondage…

“. . . 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…”

 

On his way to the gallows…

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John Brown

 

John Brown

John Brown

I have a fascination with John Brown. He was an abolitionist of the most radical breed and most beloved relationships were with black men…hmmm…he was tormented and utterly disgusted with slavery, much more so than other white abolitionists. He felt that slavery was an act of war and violent in itself, so he had the right to act as if in war. He organized the raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 killing four men and wounding nine, he was later tried and hung for his raid.

He did this two years prior to the Civil War. It is of great interest to me how Northern men, acting on the behalf of the Union Army could legally and heroically kill confederates and wound them, but just two years prior, it was an act called a murderous rage… I feel like in retrospect, the Civil War might have been fought to end slavery (this can be disputed) and so John Brown acted on the victors side of history. But killing with the law and military on your side, and killing on your own are two very different things. I admire John Brown’s conviction. He was deeply religious and thought that slavery was an act of evil against God. So he took that evil into his own hands. He knew that slavery would never be abolished peacefully. And history tells us that it wasn’t. So Brown, a few years ahead of the country, violently acted against slavery. He wanted to instigate a slave rebellion…to destroy the stability of slavery actively in his lifetime. 

Ultimately, I believe that african-american tendency towards nonviolent tactics have been to their favor, violence is marginalized, demonized, and really only instigates more resentment and violence. 

 

John Brown is an american hero in a sense, but I’m not sure he should be my hero. He thought slavery justified murder, and his basis for this was his religious christian convictions. This means of justification is not unlike jihadism, which I am no proponent of. This leads me to my ongoing questioning of revolution, change, violence, and peace. If ultimately I want world peace, I have to be for peace, not violence, and not justify violence on any occasion, yet…i don’t believe the american brand of slavery would have ended without violence, I just don’t…

 

this theme of justified violence for a better world will be brought up frequently…

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