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John Brown (abolitionist)

American abolitionist
These men are all talk; What is needed is action — action!

John Brown (9 May 18002 December 1859) was an American abolitionist who advocated and practiced insurrection as a means to the abolition of slavery.

Contents

QuotesEdit

  • I bring you one of the best and bravest persons on this continent — General Tubman as we call her.
    • Introducing Harriet Tubman to Wendell Phillips, as quoted in The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom (1898) by Wilbur Henry Siebert, p. 185
  • You had better — all you people at the South — prepare yourselves for a settlement of this question, that must come up for settlement sooner than you are prepared for it. The sooner you are prepared the better. You may dispose of me very easily, — I am nearly disposed by now; but this question is still to be settled, — this negro question I mean; the end of that is not yet.

Speech to the Court (1859)Edit

Speech to the Court at his Trial, after his conviction (2 November 1859)
  • In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted, the design on my part to free the slaves.… I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection.
  • " [...] 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 with 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!

Quotes about BrownEdit

  • While I cannot approve of all your acts, I stand in awe of your position since your capture, and dare not oppose you lest I be found fighting against God; for you speak as one having authority, and seem to be strengthened from on high.
    • Letter from "Christian Conservative" in West Newton, Mass., quoted in the Annual Report of the American Anti-Slavery Society (1861)
  • I looked at the traitor and terrorizer with unlimited, undeniable contempt.
  • One of the most marked characters, and greatest heroes known to American fame.
  • His zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine. Mine was as the taper light, his was as the burning sun. Mine was bounded by time. His stretched away to the silent shores of eternity. I could speak for the slave. John Brown could fight for the slave. I could live for the slave. John Brown could die for the slave.
  • His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine - it was as the burning sun to my taper light - mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.
  • That new saint, than whom nothing nothing purer or more brave was ever led by into conflict and death, — the new saint awaiting his martyrdom, and who, if he shall suffer, will make the gallows glorious like the cross.
  • [...] Politically speaking, the murder of John Brown would be an uncorrectable sin. It would create in the Union a latent fissure that would in the long run dislocate it. Brown's agony might perhaps consolidate slavery in Virginia, but it would certainly shake the whole American democracy. You save your shame, but you kill your glory. Morally speaking, it seems a part of the human light would put itself out, that the very notion of justice and injustice would hide itself in darkness, on that day where one would see the assassination of Emancipation by Liberty itself. [...]
    Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus.
  • Victor Hugo in an open letter Actes et paroles written December 2, 1859, published in New York Times and quoted in a biography by his daughter Adèle
  • You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it, and what is your proof? Harper's Ferry? John Brown? John Brown was no Republican, and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it, and especially for persisting in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the proof. You need to be told that persisting in a charge which one does not know to be true, is simply malicious slander. Some of you admit that no Republican designedly aided or encouraged the Harper's Ferry affair, but still insist that our doctrines and declarations necessarily lead to such results. We do not believe it. We know we hold to no doctrine, and make no declaration.
  • Ideas made the opposite impact in the Confederacy. Ideological contradictions afflicted the slave system even before the war began. John Brown knew the masters secretly feared their slaves might revolt, even as they assured abolitionists that slaves really liked slavery. One reason his Harpers Ferry raid prompted such an outcry in the South was that slave owners feared their slaves might join him. Yet their condemnations of Brown and the 'Black Republicans' who financed him did not persuade Northern moderates but only pushed them toward the abolitionist camp. After all, if Brown was truly dangerous, as slave owners claimed, then slavery was truly unjust. Happy slaves would never revolt.
  • He done more in dying, than 100 men would in living.
    • Harriet Tubman, as quoted in Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (2004), by Kate Larson.
  • If John Brown were still alive, we might accept him.
    • Malcolm X, when asked if white people could join the Organization of African Unity. [1]

John Brown's BodyEdit

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.

Chorus:
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
Glory, glory, hallelujah,
His soul goes marching on.

He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
His soul goes marching on.

Chorus:

John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back,
John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back,
His soul goes marching on.

Chorus:

John Brown died that the slaves might be free,
John Brown died that the slaves might be free,
His soul goes marching on.

Chorus:

The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down,
The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down,
His soul goes marching on.

Chorus:

  • John Brown by William W. Patton

Old John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave,
While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
But though he lost his life while struggling for the slave,
His soul is marching on.

John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave,
And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save;
Now, though the grass grows green above his grave,
His soul is marching on.

He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,
And frightened "Old Virginny" till she trembled through and through;
They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew,
But his soul is marching on.

John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see,
Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be,
And soon throughout the Sunny South the slaves shall all be free,
For his soul is marching on.

The conflict that he heralded he looks from heaven to view,
On the army of the Union with its flag red, white and blue.
And heaven shall ring with anthems o’er the deed they mean to do,
For his soul is marching on.

Ye soldiers of Freedom, then strike, while strike ye may,
The death blow of oppression in a better time and way,
For the dawn of old John Brown has brightened into day,
And his soul is marching on.

    • Some versions, instead of "nineteen men so few" sing "nineteen men so true." Some versions sing "themselves the traitor crew" as "themselves the traitorous crew." Some versions sing "with its flag red, white, and blue" as "with its flag o' red, white, and blue" and some read "of" instead of "o'". The word soul is sometimes replaced with truth. [3]

External linksEdit