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The Madness of John Brown

There are two extremes that are so different, yet can be separated by such a thin line. They are marked by beliefs held true under two words, martyr and terrorist. Both end up dying and they are both very zealous and passionate about a certain cause. Martyrdom is often associated with religion and doing what is right, while terrorists often fight for something they believe in, but it is often bad and causes death of others as well and is more associated with political news. John Brown, the famous abolitionist, was most defiantly a martyr for his beliefs in free slaves.

John Brown was a man who had already lost his sons in battle. Then he later lost his life because he stood up for a good cause, it was what he believed in, the freedom of slaves in America. He carried out his passion for these beliefs in a rather not-so-brilliant manner. For starters, He led a group of abolitionists to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Then, they collected many weapons together and captured two slave owners to hold as hostages. Finally, he waited for slaves to join him. He wanted them to help to fight for their freedom and the freedom of other slaves. Unfortunately, he had failed to communicate and no one showed up.

John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry helped the cause of the abolitionists. Many thought so and spoke of it. Such as Thoreau said in his speech, “He had the courage to face his country herself, when she was in the wrong.” He was an encouragement and beacon of strength and hope for others. He was willing to die and mingle his blood with “…the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments,…” as he held true in his last speech.

As many people as there were that agreed with John Brown, there were those that disagreed and those that thought his motivation was right, but that his actions weren’t. Abraham Lincoln didn’t think that the raid on Harper’s Ferry had anything to do with the slaves revolting and that they knew how dumb Brown’s plan would be. The Northern Editorial of the time stated, “They dared and died for what they felt to be right, though in a manner which seems to us fatally wrong.” Even though violence seemed to be disagreed with when it was being used to help free slaves, it was perfectly fine when used to keep slaves in line or fight abolitionists. This is the main point as to why I find John Brown to be a martyr for his beliefs.

In summation, John Brown was a good man that was a little over zealous, but did what was right, even if his plan wasn’t well executed. He wanted to get a reaction. He greatly helped the abolitionists in their cause. He was someone that fought for liberty. His example also scared off some Southerners that didn’t think the North was really involved. He was not a terrorist, but a martyr. John Brown definitely showed them otherwise by standing up and being a rock of courage through his times of fear and trial because it was right.

Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau’s Speech, http://www.sascurriculumpathways.com/ProductEntrance/Launch/launch.jsp?unit=33, 12/29/10

John Brown, Brown’s Last Speech, http://www.sascurriculumpathways.com/ProductEntrance/Launch/launch.jsp?unit=33,
12/29/10

- -, Northern Editorial, http://www.sascurriculumpathways.com/ProductEntrance/Launch/launch.jsp?unit=33, 12/29/10



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