John Brown Essay Research Paper Born in

John Brown Essay, Research Paper

Born in Torrington, Connecticut on May 9, 1800, John Brown was the

son of a wandering New Englander. Brown spent much of his youth in

Ohio, where he was taught in local schools to resent compulsory

education and by his parents to revere the Bible and hate slavery. As a

boy he herded cattle for General William Hull s army during the war of

1812; later he served as foreman of his family s tannery. In 1820 he

married Dianthe Lusk, who bore him seven children; five years later they

moved to Pennsylvania to operate a tannery of their own. Within a year

after Dianthe s death in 1831, Brown wed sixteen year old Mary Anne

Day, by whom he fathered thirteen more children.

During the next twenty-four years Brown built and sold several

tanneries, speculated in land sales, raised sheep, and established a

brokerage for wool growers. Every venture failed, for he was too much

a visionary, not enough a businessman. As his financial burdens

multiplied, his thinking became increasingly metaphysical and he began

to brook over the plight of the weak and oppressed. He frequently sought

the company of blacks, for two years living in a freedmen s community

in North Elba, New York. In time he became a militant abolitionist, a

conductor on the Underground Railroad, and the organizer of a

self-protection league for free blacks and fugitive slaves.

By the time he was fifty, Brown was entranced by visions of slave

uprisings, during which racists paid horribly for their sins, and he came

to regard himself as commissioned by God to make that vision a reality.

In August 1885 he followed five of his sons to Kansas to help make the

state a haven for anti-slavery settlers. The following year, his hostility

toward slave-staters exploded after they burned and pillaged the

free-state community of Lawrence. Having organized a militia unit

within his Osawatomie River colony, Brown led it on a mission of

revenge. On the evening of May twenty-third, 1856, he and six

followers, including four of his sons, visited the homes of pro-slavery

men along Pottawatomie Creek, dragged their unarmed inhabitants into

the night, and hacked them to death with long-edged swords. At once,

Old Brown of Osawatomie became a feared and hated target of


In autumn 1856, temporarily defeated but still committed to his

vision of a slave insurrection, Brown returned to Ohio. There and during

two subsequent trips to Kansas, he developed a grandiose plan to free

slaves throughout the South. Provided with moral and financial support

from prominent New England abolitionists, Brown began by raiding

plantations in Missouri but accomplished little. IN the summer of 1859

he transferred his operations to western Virginia, collected and army of

twenty-one men, planned to arm the thousands of chattels who, learning

of his crusade, would flock to his side. Instead, numerous bands of

militia and a company of United States Marines under Bvt. Colonel

Robert E. Lee hastened to the river village, where they trapped the

raiders inside the fire-engine house and on the eighteenth stormed the

building. The fighting ended with ten of Brown s people killed and

seven captured, Brown among them.

During his trial, Brown s last speech attempting to justify himself

infront of the Commonwealth of Virginia in Charlestown goes as


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 – the design

on my part to free the 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, moved

them through the country, and finally left 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 the insurrection.

I have another objection; and that is, 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 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;

and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of

reward rather than punishment.

This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of

God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least

the New Testament. That 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 within them. I

endeavored to act up to that 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 was 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 submit;

so let it be done!

Let me say one word further.

I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my

trial. Considering all the circumstances it has been more generous than I

expected. But I feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated that from the

first what was my intention and what was not. I never had any design

against the life of any person, nor any disposition to commit treason, or

excite slaves to rebel, or make any general insurrection. I never

encouraged any man to do so, but always discouraged any idea of that


Let me say also a word in regard to the statements made by some

of those connected with me. I hear it has been stated by some of them

that I have induced them to join me. but the contrary is true. I do not say

this to injure them, but as regretting their weakness. There is not one of

them but joined me of his own accord, and the greater part of them at

their own expense. A number of them I never saw, and never had a word

of conversation with till the day they came to me; and that was for the

purpose I have stated.

Now I have done.

Brown was, of course, executed for seizing the federal arsenal at

Harper s ferry in October, 1859, for the purpose of arming slaves for an



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