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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Enrichment - John Brown - Analysis



Consider the events involving John Brown from both Kansas and Harpers Ferry, VA. Then, please read the following reading, a letter written by Brown four days prior to his execution for treason. Then, consider the following question and comment: Was John Brown a hero and a martyr OR a madman? 


When commenting, you should provide your own personal insight, from readings, class, 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 19.


For more on John Brown's Raid, the following video was displayed at both the West Virginia and Virginia Historical Societies in 2009, the 150th anniversary of Brown's attempt to confiscate weapons from the arsenal in Harpers Ferry.


11 comments:

Kiersten Sirowich said...

John Brown was not an American hero though his cause was for the right belief there were other ways to preach the end of slavery. John Brown was a complete madman. He led a group of 18 men to go out and kill supposedly on a mission to abolish slavery.Some say he may have been a martyr which is a person who died because of the right reason. A Martyr does not say that his sleep in Jail was "as sweet as that of a healthy joyous infant." If he was a hero he wouldn't be in the Jail for his deeds he would be helping to find other ways to abolish slavery. John Brown believed that this act of violence was justified as a Christian principle. Killing and violence is not in the bible it is wrong, it is what a mad man would do. Jack brown even admits that he is crazy,"Insanity is like a very pleasant dream for me." Although I do support the antislavery group of this time this would not have been the way to approach this situation. John Brown could have been diplomatic and peaceful at first and If he didn't get his way then the civil war would have happened anyways. "I have been one of the worst and one of the best men," John knows that he will not get away with what he has done and lives. John gets hung in December for what he has done and is remembered as a madman and a hero.

Jillian Murphy said...

John Brown was not a hero, although his intentions were to better America. John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry was meant to provide slaves with the tools to start an uprising. His cause was respectable, however the way in which he approached the situation was not beneficial to his cause. A madman is defined as someone who is "an extremely foolish or reckless person" (Google Definition). The incident at Harpers Ferry was not thought over carefully before executing of the the task at hand. John Brown is clearly a madman because of his incompetence and inability to see reason while pursuing the common goal of abolishing slavery. During his raid he was responsible for the murder of many innocent individuals. In John Brown's letter to his pastor he stated," I have been one of the worst and one of the best men." He was absolutley correct because while he murdered innocent people, he had a cause that was important to many Americans. In conclusion, his goal was honorable, but his disgraceful and unacceptable acts makes it impossible to ever call him a hero.

Anastasija Cupic said...

I, under no circumstances, believe that killing is the ‘right thing to do’. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, as well as Pottawatomie Creek, led to the killing of many innocent people; but were they really innocent? To John Brown they were not: they supported the crime of slavery.
There were more peaceful ways of solving the the issue of slavery, but after so many years, they still were not working. Frederick Douglas had tried political action, Harriet Beecher Stowe had written “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, and William Lloyd Garrison had even burned the Constitution! None of it had worked. Realistically, such issues can not be solved without battle. It was, in some sense, logical for John Brown to go to this extent to get his point across.
It was wrong of Brown to do what he did, and he admits that : “...I have been one of the worst and one of the best of men”. He must have been a true believer in ‘the ends justify the means’ to go through with his raids.
Brown’s abolitionism and his will to stand behind his beliefs is truly heroic, and this is why many honored him for his actions, making him a martyr to those people. Actions are a big part of how one views a person; although I respect John Brown, I do not respect killing, so unfortunately I can not call him a hero. But I will say that he was a man driven to madness by his will to abolish slavery.

Anastasija Cupic said...

Kiersten,
You say “If he was a hero he wouldn’t be in jail”. Although, in many situations, this is true, it does not necessarily apply to Brown. Whenever people try to change something that many people believe in, they are viewed as threats to those people’s way of life, and therefore a threat to society. We must take into consideration the place where Brown was jailed: Virginia! They were proslavery and their economy depended on it, so of course they would view Brown as a terrorist.
We can also take a look at the late Nelson Mandela. His cause was similar to Brown’s, and even though he executed it peacefully, he was still jailed for 27 years! As with Brown, the threatening of people’s ways of life applies as the reason behind the jailing, not necessarily the person being a criminal.
I agree with you that John Brown is not a hero, but he is definitely not a lunatic, as people such as Nathaniel Hawthorne thought. Hawthorne says that “no man was even more justly hung”, but at least John Brown had a motive that could be viewed positively, unlike some people nowadays. I believe that this was not worth Brown’s life, but he definitely should have been jailed for many years following the event. With that said, it is up to everyone to decide for themselves how they feel about John Brown.

Kiersten Sirowich said...

Ana,
First, I agree with you killing is not the right thing to do, and that he should have been more diplomatic. I agree with you that he was trying to do the right thing to abolish slavery but he could have made a more memorable way of saying that slavery was bad. Although his act was only significant because it was an act of violence.
Secondly, I understand your point about he was being held in a proslavery jail because of his act. Then again I still believe that if the north thought he was a true hero wouldn't they help him get out of jail? Wouldn't that be the right thing to do considering his acts were the way of abolishing slavery?

Emily Wrogg said...

John Brown was not a martyr or hero of any sort, no matter what his intentions had been. He killed based on people's personal opinions of slavery, which is considered an act of terrorism. His first attwempt at promoting antislavery shocked the country. Brown participated in "Bleeding Kansas," leading a mob into Pottawatomie Creek for the sole purpose of killing pro-slavery families. Though his motive was to spread aboliionist ideals, there was no justifiable reason for his bloody actions. Brown had opportunities to spread his beliefs peacefully, if he followed the lead of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass. Douglass was an escaped slave whose 1845 autobiography demonstrated slave life in a civil manner. He verbalized his opinions, whereas Brown expressed his through anger, fear, and murder. Brown's second attempt at Harper's Ferry was even less successful. He and his followers stole munitions and planned to hand the guns out to slaves, giving them a chance to rise up. No slave did so. The first man to be killed from this raid was, ironically, a free black man. Brown wanted his opinions to be heard, and mass murdering sprees seemed to be the only way he saw to get his point across. With this, we can safely say he was, in fact, an extremist and foolish mad man. In a letter to his pastor from prison, Brown reflected on his actions, writing: "I have been one of the worst and one of the best men." This displays his acknowlegdement of a noble cause, yet repercussions of his unforgivable murders. He also states: "Insanity is like a very pleasant dream for me." He knew exactly what he was doing by committing the crimes and that anybody would think him to be crazy. Maybe he was, and admitted the fact to his pastor. Brown seemed to be an intelligient mad man, because we would never dream of going to this extreme level, but since he did, he got his point (antislavery, emacipation, rebellion) across and became one of the most known men of his time.
Jilly, I agree with you completely that Brown's goal was honorable, but the way he tried to accomplish it was disgraceful. I feel that there were other ways to help the slavery issue, without participating in murder. If he was going to be extreme and very passionate about the cause,he could have followed William Lloyd Garrison's intense ways of spreading abolition.

Ty Sirowich said...

John Brown was a martyr and a hero. All his actions were performed for the better of mankind. He believed that "all men were created equal with certain unalienable rights." When he led the attack on Pottowattomie Creek, he did it because he felt God has asked him to. Many people say he was a madman, but was he as sick minded as all the slave owners who would torture, beat, and force the slaves to be separated from their families. John Brown said, "He was permitted to die for a cause." John Brown's acts were to get the slaves to revolt against their masters. John Brown might have used violence, but he killed fewer people than the amount of innocent slaves who have been killed. John Brown led a revolution based on the acts of god to help the lowest social class revolt. John Brown is more of a hero and saint than a madman. He did what so many people were afraid to do.

Julia Pietruszka said...

Although the measures John Brown took to achieve his goals were not admired by all, he was a hero and a martyr. Some may say he was driven solely by insanity; but, in the process, he pursued a noble cause-eliminating slavery to provide equality. A hero is, by definition, a brave individual who is recognized for their great accomplishments and noble characteristics. John Brown would not have been a hero if he hadn't taken strong action against the morally wrong institution of slavery. Although people spoke out against slavery for years, it didn't produce the desired effect. People like Frederick Douglass, founder of the North Star, pushed the anti-slavery movement in the right direction, but the South stood on solid ground with their claims to slavery and would not budge. Some may say that by taking human lives at Pottawatomie Creek and Harper's Ferry, John Brown was by default not a hero. However, Brown's actions were intended to save lives by freeing them from their masters. Since slaves were willing to risk their lives in attempts to escape, some of them may have seen death as an option if they could not be free. Every hero has their faults, and John Brown simply would not rest with slavery intact, thus leading him to take affirmative action that would (in his mind) garner more attention than any previous attempts. Brown reaffirms the idea that his actions were for a noble cause, saying: "It is a great comfort to feel assured that I am permitted to die for a cause." John Brown did not kill those people without reason. He knew exactly what he was doing and simply hoped that his violent actions would make the South realize that he meant war. He was not a peaceful negotiator, and if he had been he wouldn't have caused so much controversy. Controversy is good for him in this case because that was exactly what Brown wanted- to draw the South's attention to how far abolitionists like him were willing to go to eliminate slavery. By taking a few lives, he tried to save so many others'. This makes him a hero; and since he did not die in vain, he also was a martyr.

Julia Pietruszka said...

Emily,
I understand why you would see John Brown as somewhat of a terrorist; he did, after all, kill people for their beliefs in slavery. However, does his noble cause of eliminating slavery not outweigh the loss of a few lives? This is a moral question; I am simply curious as to your defense for your stance. This is obviously not a black and white topic- I see both points of view as reasonable, but by instinct I would kill a few to save many.

Zachary Wiacek said...

Although John Brown relied on violence to put an end to slavery, he was an American hero and martyr. Brown saw from god that slavery was evil and he had to move to put an end to it. Without Brown's actions to abolish slavery with violence, he wouldn't be renowned as hero to some people today. He gave the ultimate sacrifice of his life to continue his cause by being a martyr to many abolitionist groups. Even at the loss of a good amount of lives, Brown's actions were not nearly as bad as the cruel punishments of slaves from the southern plantation owners. Brown "was happy that he died for a cause" and that his death was not in vain but for the freedom of slaves so that it can be true that all men are created equal to each other. John Brown was one of the many who had the courage to do what so many others would not do because of the price that would have to be paid as a result of their actions.

Zachary Wiacek said...

Dear Jill,
I agree with your comments that John Brown was reckless and murdered innocent people at Harpers Ferry. However, I think John Brown was a hero and a martyr. It takes a few innocent lives to perish to accomplish hard goals and end up with results. He was heroic for standing up for human beings who were being persecuted because of their race.