John Brown: American Hero or Domestic Terrorist

  • 3 years ago

John Brown: American Hero or Domestic Terrorist

John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry can be regarded as one of the causes of civil war because the raid marked the beginning of an armed revolt against slavery. The raiding of the Harper's Ferry was mainly intended to launch an attack on the slaveholders. These slaveholders were also likely to respond to the attack, leading to a civil war (Eynolds, 2009). John Brown's main intention of raiding the Harper's Ferry was to establish a foundation for a revolt that would elicit civil war.
The acts of John Brown in Kansas could be compared to those of Jesus. First, John Brown went to Kansas in response to his sons' call since they feared an attack from the proslavery settlers. This can be likened to Jesus' act of leaving his heavenly comfort to come to earth to save people. Secondly, John Brown's main intention in leading the Pottawatomie massacre in Kansas was to ensure that Kansa would become a free state rather than a slave state (Griffin, 2009). He had no personal interest in it. This is similar to Jesus' intention of saving people without any personal interest. When John Brown decided to attack the proslavery settlers in Kansas, he mobilized other anti-slavery supporters to help him just as Jesus mobilized disciples for him to accomplish his mission. During the trial, John says, "I did that on behalf of the poor who are despised." This is similar to Jesus' mission of saving the poor. John Brown's act of murdering the proslavery men and taking their property signifies victory in his mission of freeing Kansas, and this can be compared to Jesus' act of conquering death.
Although slavery was horrible in times of John Brown, several tactics and strategies could have been used in the struggle for freedom apart from theft and murder. Non-violent strategies such as petitions, peaceful protests, anti-slavery speeches, and suing in courts of law could have been used to confront slavery (Easley, 1983). Theft and murder were not effective tools of claiming equality by the anti-slavery supporters since it led to more loss of both life and property of both the anti-slavery and proslavery supporters. These losses could have avoided if non-violent tactics had been employed. In addition, it was unwise for the anti-slavery supporters to think that they could challenge slavery by using violent means like murder and theft against the proslavery supporters who were many and strong economically. Therefore, an array of non-violent tools could have been used to fight slavery apart from murder and theft.
The views that John had on the cause of anti-slavery made him more aggressive He regarded the anti-slavery actions as sacred and considered them as one of his earthly missions. He says, "In every generation God has always raised a person to bring sobriety where it lacks, even at the cost of life." According to him, anti-slavery would only be successful if violent strategies were used (Cain, 1994). In his opinion, there was no problem in engaging in violent or non-violent means of claiming equality and freedom.
After reading his testimony, one would think that John was insane, but he was not. No person of unsound mind could have done the things he did. Although his testimony makes some statements that make one doubt his sanity, the statements depict his satisfaction of accomplishing his religious mission of igniting warfare against slavery. For example, he says, "I am contented with the sentence I have received." Brown was not insane. He was concerned about the equality and freedom of the enslaved people. Slavery and racism had been endorsed by the American laws, and the courage to oppose such laws made them think Brown was insane, but he was not (McGinty, 2009).
John Brown is not widely known and celebrated in America today because he used violent tactics in his fight for slavery. These tactics are less celebrated by most people who consider those tactics as ways of inciting conflict. In addition, some history scholars portrayed him as insane, while others portrayed him as a religious fanatic (Griffin, 2009). The image created by such scholars has made him less popular and less celebrated today.


Eynolds, D. S. (2009). John Brown, abolitionist: the man who killed slavery, sparked the Civil War, and seeded civil rights. Vintage.
Easley, L. J. (1983). The Santa Fe Trail, John Brown, and the Coming of the Civil War. Film & History: An Interdisciplinary. Journal of Film and Television Studies, 13(2), 25-33.
Griffin, C. J. (2009). John Brown's" Madness". Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 12(3), 369-388.
Cain, W. E. (1994). Violence, revolution, and the cost of freedom: John Brown and WEB DuBois. In Revisionary Interventions into the Americanist Canon (pp. 305-330). Duke University Press.
McGinty, B. (2009). John Brown's trial. Harvard University Press.