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Was he a Traitor to the White Race?

God's Angry Man
as author Leornard Ehrlich titled him

Harboring a fury that was fueled by profound religious devotion, John Brown carried his hatred of slavery into action. Scorning the unending compromises made by Whigs and Democrats in their desperate attempt to save the Union, and placate the slave lords, Brown had consecrated himself himself to the utter eradication of slavery, yet seemed to cherish a vague and surely naive notion that the mere symbolic act of taking a stand would suffice to accomplish the entire objective. Perhaps like Moses, who, facing the Red Sea, was told by Jehovah simply to step forward, rod in hand, ... and as soon as his foot touched the water, the Sea parted miraculously...

The Lithograph
John Brown
John Steuart Curry
1940, Associated American Artists
Beach Museum of Art, 1992.125


See Moses :: America's Prophet


I have, may it please the court, a few words to say.

In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted: of a design on my part to free slaves. I intended certainly to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter, when I went into Missouri and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moving them through the country, and finally leaving them in Canada. I designed to have done the same thing again on a larger scale. That was all I intended. I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection.

I have another objection, and that is that it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved - for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case - had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so called great, or in the behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right. Every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

This court acknowledges, too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to the instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done, in behalf of his despised poor, I did not wrong but right. Now, if it is 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 say let it be done.




In charge of the operation that apprehended Brown was General Robert E. Lee, the respected aristocrat.

Brown's demeanor on the day of his execution was such that even enemies seemed temporarily awed. Stonewall Jackson wrote of him that he face death with "unflinching firmness."

As John Brown stepped to the gallows, a woman thrust a pen and paper into his hand for an autograph, or a blessing. Brown scribbled a moment, and handed the paper back. It said:

I, John Brown, am now quite certain
that the crimes of this guilty land
will never be purged away
but with blood
...

This was John Brown's final public statement. The hour was about midday, December 2, 1859. Not one year later, November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President, having repudiated the violence and mission of John Brown. Within two months of the election of Lincoln, seven slave states had seceded from the Union, led by a Charleston mood that saw Lincoln pilloried, the union damned, the Constitution shredded, the flag burnt.

Constitutions were hastily written with one common refrain: SLAVERY WOULD NEVER be abolished. Such was "southern" devotion to liberty. Lincoln had assured southerners "you can have no war without yourselves being the aggressors." On April 12, 1861, Charlestonians became aggressors. Fort Sumter was attacked, and forced to surrender. Lincoln had also said his oath to uphold the Constitution included the obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. For four years following, taking care that the laws be faithfully executed would become an all-consuming task. The "blood" that John Brown had prosphesied .... would flow.

John Brown had died the ignominous death of the gallows, while the aristocrat Lee looked on. Scarcely a year later, Lee broke his own oath as an officer and a gentleman to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. He turned his back on the Flag and, perhaps with reluctance, undertook a war to defend slavery no matter what the cost in American blood and lives and fortunes. People say Robert E. Lee was a man of courage and character.

Robert E. Lee turned his back on the Flag he claimed he loved, to fight a Nation he claimed he loved, and to defend a system of cruel slavery. A system where a privileged few lived lives of parasites off the blood and toil and tears of a brave people of darker skin, but hearts no less human in their hopes and yearnings. John Brown gave his life to deliver a Nation he loved from a slave system worthy of extinction. One day this nation will say the word courage, they will say the word character, and it will be John Brown they think of.

Was John Brown Crazy? "Mad" John Brown may have been the one sane mind in that whole hour. In that whole day.

Civil War Links A nice collection from Shepherd College

More Resources on God's Angry Man -- These are from Univ. of Connecticut site

The many incarnations of the song Before it became Battle Hymn of the Republic (John Brown's Body)

How ironic that the first man killed at Harper's Ferry was a free black man Hayward Shepherd, well beloved by the townsfolk, who served at the station handling baggage and looking after it. He heard the noise, and was merely checking to see what the commotion was all about.

written by Robert Shepherd -
upper Sacramento Valley CA



Battle Cry of Freedom
Stephen Oates quotes of John Brown that "the death of no man in America has ever produced so profound a sensation. A feeling of deep and sorrowful indignation seems to possess the masses." {referenced in "To Purge This Land"}

All across the land the fence-sitters turned closer toward anti-slavery sentiments. A wave of sympathy for Brown had swept the land. Herman Melville called Brown a Meteor. Henry David Thoreau called Brown a crucified hero. Dozens of editors hailed him as a martyr, some called him a saint. The Song "John Brown's Body lies a smouldring in the grave" was put to a camp meeting song music by William Steffe. (That tune is still in circulation but as "Mine Eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." Current words by Julia Ward Howe.) The "free-soil" Lincoln, equivocating, seemed to temporize, condemning Brown while making excuses (so it seemed) for slavery. Lincoln, inexplicably, seemed to want to keep both slave states and free states happy; rejecting Brown while calling slavery a moral but not political wrong.



Black Patriots

Provocative Site

two souls

"John Brown, The Thundering Voice of Jehovah" (Stan Cohen)