John Brown: the Ultimate Martyr

John Brown is very well known by Americans for the attacks he carried out at Pottawatomie Creek and Harpers Ferry. While it can easily be shown that John Brown was one of the biggest short-term contributing causes, let us first talk about the morality of the actions he took and whether or not he should be celebrated as a martyr for the cause of abolition or as a terrorist who attempted to rebel against the government.

There are many more arguments for the anti-slavery side, so let us examine that side first. One can argue that he was a terrorist given that he attempted to incite fear in innocent citizens of the United States; he used fear as a means of coercion. Additionally, one can argue that Brown’s actions were very radical and extreme and that anyone truly wanting to help remove slavery from the country should have voiced his opinions as a politician. However, the arguments for this side really end there; furthermore, neither of them are necessarily true.

John Brown definitely cannot be justified as a terrorist on the grounds that he was radical and extreme. Very few white people if any were as passionate about abolition as John Brown was and denouncing this passion as extremism is doing an injustice to the actions he took. Additionally, John Brown’s purpose was not to arouse fear in innocent Americans; his intentions were to start a rebellion against slavery. When he felt that no was taking action against slavery, he decided that he needed to do something himself. Moreover, it is important to identify and deplore the real terrorists of this time period: the majority of white slaveholders in the South. These people were really the ones using fear as a means of coercion: in attempts to discipline their slaves, many gave them harsh punishments for “offenses” that were not even real. The ideology behind this disciplining is that slaves would become scared to commit such “offenses” in the future, and thus would become more complacent and docile. It is truly disgusting to see people call John Brown, a terrorist. If they want someone to condemn, they should choose the thousands of people that held slaves in the South as their victims.

If John Brown had taken the actions he did later during the Civil War, he would have undoubtedly been remembered as a hero by the North. Then why is this man not being honored properly? Some people actually do still honor him in the present day. An example are the residents of Osawatomie, Kansas, who have commemorated him by naming the winner of their annual high school pageant, the new “John Brown Queen”. These people truly appreciate John Brown’s actions as he kept their town free of slavery as they should; it is remarkable that a man who was nearly 60 was so zealous about his cause. Why don’t all American citizens remember him in this way? Because it led to the Civil War in which the Southerners were rightfully defeated and most of inhabitants of the South are still salty about losing the war.

John Brown: the Ultimate Martyr

Sources:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/brown/peopleevents/pande01.html

http://www.npr.org/2011/10/22/141564113/the-harpers-ferry-rising-that-hastened-civil-war

http://www.civilwar.org/hallowed-ground-magazine/Fall-09/john-browns-smoldering-spark.html

http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/aap/aapchamp.html

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2 thoughts on “John Brown: the Ultimate Martyr

  1. I agree that calling John Brown a terrorist is too simple a description but at the same time, there’s no labeling right or wrong in this case. John Brown can be considered “right” since his intentions to end slavery were pure but he can be considered “wrong” because he murdered people. The Civil War can also be considered “right” because it ended slavery and the Southerners “wrong” for their treatment of the slaves. However, “right” and “wrong” is actually just a matter of opinion. What people believe as right and wrong depends on what the majority of people believe. There’s no set definition for them. Remember a time in the past when slavery was considered “right.” When the time of the Civil War came, it’s just that the majority of people changed their opinions to think it’s “wrong.” The common belief that there are things that are “right” and things that are “wrong” is all just an illusion hiding the fact that it’s the majority deciding if it’s right and wrong. I mean if the majority of the people decided slavery was right and we were raised that way, we would think it was right, too. It’s the same with John Brown and Civil War, it just depends on the general opinion of all people at the time.

  2. Wow, this is definitely an interesting theory about John Brown’s actions during the early years of the Civil War. Although he was a martyr in the fact that he died for a cause, he was also a terrorist. I agree with your point about fear. I know that is the dictionary definition of terrorism, but I think it says alot about this man. He murdered an entire family just because they went against his cause. This reminds me of a sort of dictatorship, a conform or die situation. These are definitely not aspects of a martyr, someone who does actions that are right and just and then is persecuted. I enjoyed this piece, but I still think it was wrong to look at John Brown as just a hero and not a man who tried to raid a federal reserve and killed 5 people.

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