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Monday, November 15, 2010

Primary Source Analysis: John Brown-Post Harper's Ferry

Please read and comment on the following reading.  When commenting, you should provide your own personal insight, and comment on another person's response, tell whether you agree or disagree with that person, be sure to describe what about somebody else's previous comments do you agree/disagree with; base it on evidence.  Connect your responses to the content of chapter 20.

20 comments:

cvalenti2 said...

After reading this letter of John Brown (4 days before his execution) to his pastor, D. R. Tilden, the labled accusation of John Brown being crazy becomes more controversal to me. The book claims he is crazy and this is supported through his actions of revolt in Kansas and Harper's Ferry. However, his composed writing in this letter gives him the appearance of no lunatic qualities and a generally normal man. When Brown says, "I feel myself to be most unworthy of so great destinction" in the case of his dying for the cause of anti-slavery, this shows how modest Brown is for not deserving to die for such a great cause. This evidence (his modesty and eloquent, calm writing) goes against the book's statement of him being crazy.
However, this claim of an unsound mind can be seen towards the end of the letter where he states that he sleeps easy like an infant and thinks not of all the men he killed. This is because after all that he has done, he has to be a crazy man not to think of the lives he has taken and not to be panicing that he is going to die in 4 days. The actions he committed do not settle easy in the mind of a normal person - they just don't forget what they have done. This, in a way, shows he is in denile of his execution, and this ease of thinking was also exemplified in the book when observers noted that John Brown walked up the scaffolding steps to his death without flinching. Then again, this sign of crazyness could simply be a confident state of mind for a man proudly dying for his cause of slavery not being enforced in Kansas.
Therefore, reading this letter and the book struck controversy of wondering, was John Brown really crazy or just a determined man for a cause?

Mike said...

This letter of John Brown to his pastor, D.R. Tilden was rather deep and gloomy in a sense. John Brown, most likely due to his insanity, was probably the happiest he had ever been. Yet, when you think about it, that is really sad. A man being so crazy as to actually be ecstatic when he is only four days away from the death sentence is rather odd and depressing. As Sarah had mentioned, "he has to be a crazy man not to think of the lives he has taken and not to be panicking" which I completely agree with. There are tons of signs in this letter pointing to him being fully insane. I don't believe he was overly confident with what he had done, such as the revolt at Harper's Ferry, to give this false sense of satisfaction that he was going to die. I genuinely believe that he was just an insane man. However, his intentions, although being insane, were great. Also, just out of curiosity. Does the book that Pags is getting these letters from just spellcheck and grammar check these letters or are they actually that grammatically correct?

jessalves10 said...

okay so this time, Im just giong to comment on the part of Sarah thinks Brown wasn't insane. I think he would have to be insane to think that being locked up in a cel, awaiting his death, is the happiest time of his life. He says that he's lucky to die for such a just cause, and I kind of agree. When you believe in something as strongly as he belives in abolitionism, then I think you'd be willing to do anything to try to solve the problem.
Although being devoted to a cause isn't insanity, i do think he had crossed over into being a little bit mad. To be som comfterable with hos death awaiting is unnatural. It's different from accepting that he's going to die. He's actually excited about it.

smurftastic44 said...

In addition to what Jess and Sarah were saying, I must say that I lean more towards Jess's opinion. John Brown's devotion was admirable, but he did begin to snap, and I have doubts about his sanity. However, I don't think he was completely mad, but he certainly had some mental health issues.
I think Brown was in denial. It seems as if he understood that what he did was wrong, no matter how noble his intentions were. He just had a hard time owning up to that fact. The way he said things made his tone seem strained, almost as if he was trying to convince himself that he was happy to die. Of course, there's the possibility that he truly was excited, and obviously he's a very religious man so there's probably a 50-50 chance either way.
Regardless, John Brown had excellent long-term intentions, but the way he went about carrying them out was seriously flawed. He was extremely dedicated to the abolitionist cause, which was his redeeming feature as well as his downfall.
~Christine Murphy

Krista said...

The only thing that I can agree with from the comments above is when Sarah said that by they way Brown composed his letter he did not seem crazy. I do not agree that he was mad at all because I interpreted the letter as a message that he had no regrets, not that he thinks going around killing people is alright. I think he wasn't sad about his death because he strongly believed in what he was fighting for. No one called Nathan Hale crazy when he said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” I think Hale and Brown felt the same way. After the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre and Harper's Ferry Brown was painted to be a lunatic going on killing sprees, but he had direction. He fought to avenge the attack of Lawrence and to stop slavery. Another thing that could prove that he was sane was he wrote, "I may be very insane; and I am so, if insane at all" because don't crazy people not know how crazy they are, and it shows he knew his actions could be considered insane by others and most mentally unstable people can realize that. I do not approve of the man slaughter he took part in, but I think he should be viewed as a very very very strong willed abolitionist, not as a lunatic.

Diana said...

I agree with Krista that Brown probably doesn't regret what he has done to make his death happen. Brown is proud of what he did even if it leads to death. When he says,"it is great comfort to feel assured that I am permitted to die for a cause", you can see that he was okay with dieing for what he has done. To what sarah had to say about whether Brown was crazy ro just determined for a cause, I think that he didn't seem that crazy, but just wants people to know how determineded he was to ban slavery as an abolitionist and the extreme measures that he will take to get what he wants. Even though some people considered Brown's ideas as crazy and insane, it is just the way Brown proposed them and determinded to win his cause in the Harpers Ferry incident. This incident is also related to the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre inwhich John Brown's revolt showed how determined he was to stop slavery when members kill 5 proslavery men.

amanda said...

Alright well I love John brown. I think he was a very inspiring man and if i felt strongly about a cause I can only hope to have the strength to do whatever I could to fight for it. (I don't mean murder) If you fight for nothing you'll fall for anything. John was not insane, he was simply a man determined to make a difference (just like many others we've studied); he just had a different approach.

Becky said...

I can see where sarah says that John Brown isn't crazy because even though as Jess pointed out he does say he is the happiest hes ever been being locked in a cell awaiting death because he is dying for what he believes and the common man just dies because its natural he atleast goes down with a purpose. This shows clear thought,but it goes against what everyone else thinks is rational. I don't know if thinking differently than everyone makes you crazy,but murdering unarmed people does. Also,saying he doesn't know if he's insane, but if he is he likes it... doesn't really scream of sanity. Our book calls him insane and i can't help but agree. If it's possible i think he is smart and organized but crazy.

BigBri said...

Throughout discussion in class, readings from the book, and through this letter, I feel that John Brown is quite normal. I do not believe that he is insane because like all people with a cause, he fights for what he believes is right, and that is not having slavery in the U.S. Which, I believe he is fighting for the right side because like Martin Luther King Jr said "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live". And I believe this statement is true, if John Brown did not fight for what he believed in, there would be no reason for him to live. In my opinion, if you say John Brown is insane for fighting for what he believed in, then you are saying that Martin Luther King Jr. is insane for fighting for equal rights in which he believed?

Caitlin said...

I agree with amanda in saying John Brown was not insane but a driven man. Maybe this was one of the happiest times in his life because he had made a difference; gotten a reaction and attention for an issue he felt very strongly about. Of course Brown was upset about his two sons being killed but at the same time he was probably just as proud to be their father because they were fighting for a good cause.

Ross said...
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Ross said...

believe there is no way that John Brown can be considered anything more than a hero. Sure, he shot and killed men, but he did this on behalf of his god (or so he believed) a god he obviously had the utmost faith in. This letter also proves that John Brown was, in fact, not insane. You can tell by the composure and clarity in which he expresses his ideas to the pastor that he was always a well organized man and that his actions were not of a crazy impulse but more likely of a calculated, carefully though out plan to execute something he thought would help a cause he was willing to die for. In this letter he also outlines the fact that this might be the most cheerful time of his life, and i do agree with Caitlin in the fact that I believe he was so happy and calm because he had realized that what he did was being noticed and his job on earth, as a strong advocate for abolitionism, was complete. Having said all of this, I actually admire the qualities that John Brown shows. If the challenge arose I don't think that I could die for any cause, nevertheless a cause that wouldn't directly affect the well-being of me or my family. John Brown sacrificed his life for a cause that was obviously very close to his heart by ending the lives of men and if we were to classify him as insane for this we would have to classify every single patriot that fired a musket in the revolutionary war as insane as well. Think about it..

Jeanette said...

After reading John Brown's letter to his pastor, I realized it is difficult to tell whether he was insane or not. I personally think, along with Jess and others, that John Brown is a little bit insane. He, however, is not sure of his own sanity. Brown wrote, "I may be very insane" and then goes on to say "[I] fancy myself entirely composed". The book also interprets him as a "mad" person, and I can see why. Similar to what Jess said, Brown said he was in a more comfortable and cheerful state of mind than before his confinement, which is strange. He actually had peace of mind in this tough situation (which probably came from him looking up to God).
I support Brown in his thinking of the future, though; how his actions [more like attempts] to rebel and fight for abolition would get more people to realize that what was happening is not right. I also praise his optimism, since he figures it is okay that he is in jail, just as long as it was for a good cause.

C.Slotter said...

So I can't decide whether John Brown's actions prove him to be dedicated to a cause, or just crazy. On one hand, I can see what Sarah's saying when she says he was dedicated. At the beginning of the letter, Brown wrote about his dedication to anti-slavery and his strong believe in this cause. In this case, I don't think Brown is crazy, just religious and strong-willed. However, at the end of the letter, Brown's hallucinations, dreams, and happiness to be in jail make me believe that he is crazy. I agree with Jess when she says that he was a little too dedicated to the cause, and that he went to the extreme. I dislike how Brown killed innocent bystanders and enjoyed it- this makes me believe that he is a little crazy. However, I would like to think that Brown is a hero for being one of the only Americans at the time to make a stand for what he believed in.

mrowl12345 said...

John Brown is an interesting character in history for me. His strong belief and his cause in abolition sets his heart in the right place, but his actions were to extreme and religion guided for him to be good. John brown was an extremelly religious man, and what i imagine to have happened durring the great awakening he was inspired to try and start a rebellion to free the slaves. But his violent tactics turned an entire country against him and readied the south for war. I find it interesting that a religious man who is against slavery is ok with killing people. I also noticed that he refers to his pastor as his "good friend" which shows his extreme devotion to religion. regardless to his motives, john browns actions forshadowed upcoming events in the civil war. So lesson kids, violence is never the solution.

Sukhmeet said...

I believe John Brown wan't insane because he did nothing but fight for what he believed in. Some people make some bad choices in their life, but by making those choices shouldn't mean that you should be classified as crazy. Not only did John Brown fight for what he believed in, he fought for the right cause, which was to end slavery.

matthew said...

I agree with what Ross said about this letter proving John sane. An insane man would not be able to sketch out plans on a raid, rather they would just do it. Also, an insane man would not write as clearly as Brown did in expressing his thoughts to his pastor. The book also says that John Brown is a madman, but clearly this is not true. He just strongly believed that slavery was wrong and that someone had to do something about it. Instead of a madman, I would call Brown a Martyr, or someone who dies for a cause. At the end, Brown says that he has never been this cheerful even though he is in jail about to be executed. This is because people have seen what he has done, and by being executed, anti-slavery groups will become angry, and his cause will become stronger.

mike51095 said...
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mike51095 said...

I found it odd when John Brown said "I have enjoyed remarkable cheerfulness and composure of mind ever since my confinement." If I were in John Brown's shoes I would feel very nervous and terrified. Even though it seems odd to me that John Brown is cheerful while he is on death row I can also understand why this is so. He is happy that he will die for the cause of the abolition of slavery. I wish john Brown were alive today to see that slavery was abolished and that he had died for a valiant cause. In my eyes John Brown is a hero, not an insane criminal. -Mike Signore

jlchacho said...

I agree with Mike that John Brown is heroic. Of all things to hear from a man who awaits his death trial, I would never have expected to hear John Brown so happy and proud to die. Brown admitts he may be insane, but calls out to the man who will recieve this letter that he is proud to die for this cause and is serene and peaceful in the time of his final moments. He says he has never felt more peaceful than now. Although in a sense this letter seem obscure, I agree that it is heroic of John Brown to be proud of his life-long attempts at freeing slaves. It is, if anything, a heroic cause to die for. Brown's fellow nineteenth century 'aquaintances' may have viewed him as corrupt and crazed, but the idea of a man as passionate as Brown fighting to save men, women, and children who deserved more than they had, is quite very a proud and heroic idea.