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John Brown – a Slavery Abolitionist with Terrorist Methods

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“Terrorism: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”. John Brown was a slavery abolitionist who used violence as his method of eradicating slavery. He grew up very religious and was taught by his father to hate slavery because they believed it violated God’s commandments. His opinions being ingrained in him at such a young age strengthened and fueled his passion for the cause. However, just because his motives were correct, his methods of achieving these goals were wrong. His raids and rebellions killed and injured numerous people. Although stemming from a good cause, Brown’s logic was unlawful and broke many laws establishing him as a treasoner and murderer. John Brown, the slavery abolitionist, was a terrorist due to his unlawful method in pursuit of political purposes which were exemplified through the events of Bleeding Kansas and his raid on Harpers Ferry.

John Brown defended his actions by saying they were for a noble and holy purpose. In his eyes, by using violence, he was doing God’s work by punishing evil men for their sins. Using this methodology, Brown planned to spark a Southern slave revolt by arming slaves and allowing them to rebel against their owners. Although the abolitionist movement was an immensely valuable campaign that had to be made and enforced, Brown’s practice violated laws making his actions illegal no matter what the cause. Brown violently and destructively took the law into own hands instead of following proper legal channels to achieve his goal. It was not John Brown’s place/position to (take the law into his own hands) in order to pursue his political beliefs, and this concept Brown paved the path for, others in the future to wrongly use Brown and his actions as model and justification for their use of violence. An example of this was seen recently in the Trump election. In response to the Trump election, a popular Hollywood writer and director, Paul Schrader, communicated his discontent towards the outcome of the election and voiced that people should turn to violence to rebut this situation. Schrader specifically stated, ‘We should finance those who support violent resistance. We should be willing to take arms. Like Old John Brown, I am willing to battle with my children.’ Schrader’s direct reference to John Brown establishes his profound impact left behind and how his misguiding methodology influences people and strays them away from legal ethical actions. Deciding to use violence in approaching political goals was founded by John Brown and causes people to follow his lead in justifying their immoral and illegal actions. This idea is articulated through a modified version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The song states, “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave, But his soul goes marching on”. His example still inspires modern radicals, who justify violence upon the innocent if the cause is ‘just.’

Bleeding Kansas

Bleeding Kansas refers to the events resulting the Kansas-Nebraska Act. As a way of compromising pertaining to slavery states, it was established that when two states enter the Union, one must declare to be a free state and one must be a slave state, in order to keep equal representation of slave and free states. The next two states, Kansas and Nebraska, allowed their citizens to vote whether they wanted to be a free or slave state. Nebraska declared itself a slave state, meaning in order for the two of them to be able to join the Union, Kansas had to declare itself a free state. The reliance on the Kansas vote, created much conflict among the people. People on both sides of the slavery issue tried to affect the outcome of the vote in Kansas. Slavery supporters from neighboring Missouri came to Kansas in large numbers. These ‘border ruffians,’ as they were called, voted illegally and used violence to intimidate their opponents. Within the chaos, a pro slavery group attacked, fired upon, and burned homes, which caused Brown to “to take revenge for the attack on Lawrence”. Brown’s vow further highlights how he bestowed responsibilities onto himself that were not his job to respond to, and instead should have allowed the legal system to punish the lawbreakers, instead of becoming a lawbreaker himself. Brown’s revenge was They captured five men who supported slavery and brutally hacked them to death in front of their wives and children. Afterward, each side followed with more violent acts of retaliation. Over the summer of 1856, more than two hundred people died in what became known as ‘Bleeding Kansas.’ Brown became the focus of a great deal of fear and hatred among Southerners. Brown’s unnecessary violence was depicted through the his revenge he took upon five men he believed wronged him and the slavery movement. Overall, in the slavery riots, violence was used by numerous people for their political pursuits, and John Brown acted against those who used violence for causes that conflicted his, contributing to the misuse of violence.

Harpers Ferry

John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry Plan to seize town and federal arsenal, Brown planned to seize the town and the federal arsenal, armory, and rifle manufactory. As news of his actions spread, he expected thousands of slaves and sympathetic whites to join him. Once they were armed, he would strike south across Virginia into Tennesseeand Alabama, attracting more rebellious slaves and dispatching parties to spread the insurrection. The overwhelmed planters would be forced to free their slaves, but if opposition proved too strong, Brown planned to establish runaway slave communities in the mountains and hold out indefinitely. In the ensuing confusion killed the railroad station’s baggage master, a free black.

Contrary to Brown’s beliefs that he was acting of holy purposes and fulfilling God’s duties, his use of violence against those who disagreed with him, caused him in a sense to become what he was fighting against. Due to the radicality of Brown’s actions, many slavery foes regarded Brown as an embarrassment to their movement. One of Brown’s peers, Colonel Hugh Forbes, felt specifically apprehensive about his plans. Forbes was big confidant to John Brown and his plans. As Brown began to further develop and outline his ideas and goals, Forbes started doubting Brown’s plan. He still agreed with the beliefs as an abolitionist but did not think Brown’s plan would successfully ignite the end to slavery. In response to these newfound doubts, Forbes began leaking information to antislavery parties. The idea that one of Brown’s closest associates saw the flaws within Brown’s plans and morals heavily promotes that John Brown’s actions were ethically wrong and illegal to use violence in support of his cause. Furthermore, another colleague of Brown, in favor of the slavery abolitionist movement was William Lloyd Garrison. In reaction to Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Garrison exclaimed that Brown was “misguided, wild, and apparently insane”. Garrison’s description of John Brown critique his techniques and imply that Brown must be “insane” in carrying out his plans, thinking they are right. Garrison’s expression of concern and distaste towards Brown and his activities substantiates the erroneous ways Brown has taken up in order to pursue his cause. Overarching disapproval and concern by Brown’s peers who still supported the abolition of slavery thoroughly validates that he was wrong in the way her pursued approaching and enforcing his political views.

Each moment seems an hour, and some of the people, unable to restrain an expression of their sense of the outrage, murmur ‘Shame!’ ‘Shame!’ By some measures, John Brown could be considered a terrorist. He had vowed to use violence to achieve a political goal — the abolition of slavery — and had taken civilians hostage in Harpers Ferry. His raid failed to draw support, however; even fellow abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison declared that the raid in Virginia (now part of West Virginia) was ‘insane.’ Charged with murder, treason, and inciting a slave revolt, Brown was tried in Charles Town, Virginia, on October 27. He was found guilty, and on December 2 was hanged. His actions inflamed existing tensions between the North and South and helped to bring on the Civil War.

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