Abolitionist John Brown was not justified in his attacks on Harpers Ferry. His methods were extreme and very terrorist-like. He also prepared the South for war, an unintended effect of his brash actions. His intention was morally correct and his action was for a good cause, but this does not excuse the horrible acts done by him to achieve this end. He was also accused and found guilty of treason. John Brown’s rebellion was responsible for speeding up the southern states succession. In the end, by further fanning the flames, he helped the U.S. go into Civil War. Slavery is wrong. It destroys the dignity of human life. We are all created equal regardless of race. We should judge a man by his character, not by if he is white or black. We are all children of God, equal in every aspect.
Many people in the outer southern states did not know why slavery should be abolished. They saw it as a gift they were giving to the men, women and children. After a while, they were considered family. When offered freedom, they often stayed. In the deep South, things were very different. It was basically that no one can hear you scream deep in the woods concept. Far away from the north, slave owners were more brutal to their slaves. John Brown fully started his abolitionist life. “In 1837, in response to the murder of Elijah P. Lovejoy, Brown publicly vowed: ‘Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!” 1 This is a great intention, but his actions made him as detestable as the very thing he fought to abolish.
A hero is someone admired for their brave works and actions. John Brown, however, is someone who will always be known as the first American terrorist. A dead giveaway would be the fact that Brown hacked people to death with swords, not like a hero at all. ‘Biography of John Brown’. War and Reconciliation: The Mid-Missouri Civil War Project. University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. Retrieved 12 December 2016. When Border Ruffians wanted to attack the anti-slavery settlers on Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas, Brown and his family were among the abolitionists in this sharply divided area. Apparently, Brown thought that the sword was mightier than the pen. On the night of May 24th, Brown, with four of his sons and two other men rode to the homes of three pro-slavery settlers near Dutch Henry’s crossing on Pottawatomie Creek. Brown was ready to rid the Pottawatomie of all pro-slavery men he could get his hands on.
They lugged James Doyle and two of his sons, William and Drury, from their farmhouse. When the trio tried a desperate attempt to escape, James Doyle was shot down and his sons hacked to death with short sabers. Brown’s men ignored the pleas of Allen Wilkinson’s sick wife and two children and took Wilkinson away as a prisoner. They decided it wasn’t enough and so, stabbed him repeatedly shortly after. At the third home they visited, Brown’s band killed William Sherman with their swords and threw his body to get lost and never seen again in the rushing water nearby. Other men and a woman found at Sherman’s home were not harmed surprisingly. Through it all, Brown had decided who would die and who would be spared.
He apparently did not do the killing himself but decided to let others do that for him. He acted as if this would keep him clean from the blood of his victims. Giving the order has the same pain and sting of the knife that rips life from the body. Brown yearned to also arm the slaves and start a rebellion on both fronts. The first would be political. The second would be physical, bodied by the slaves fighting for freedom. He did this by raiding a Federal arsenal in October 17, 1859 and by committing treason. They had severed all communications with the capitol and captured a train passing through. Hayward Shepherd, a free black man, consequently was the first casualty of the raid. He was the train bag handler.
Brown then seized the arsenal. His plan was to arm slaves with weapons but the attack was beaten into submission. The few slaves on the farms nearby did not join in the fight. His rallying attempt failed miserably with only Brown’s men at his side. Within 36 hours, Brown’s men had fled, been killed or captured by local pro-slavery farmers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines. That day treason was committed against the state. Many agree that the Harpers Ferry raid escalated tensions that, a year later, led to the Civil War. It also prepared the south more readily for war as they prepared for future rebellions.
Was John Brown justified in his attacks? The Double Effect principle can be applied here. As touched upon in “Catholic Morality” by Fr.John Laux ,M.A, “The action in itself must be good or at least indifferent. The evil effect must not be intended but only permitted”.4 John Brown’s intention was good but not his actions. He caused another evil while trying to eradicate another evil, splitting the country in half. So Brown fought for the freedom and equality of slaves. On the downside, he was tried and convicted for murder, conspiracy to incite a slave uprising, and treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. He also inadvertently gave a wake-up call to the south to prepare for more uprisings. This ultimately led to and sped up the succession of the southern states. He was hung for his actions.
Many people hail him as a hero and martyr because he fought against slavery. Yes, he did fight against slavery and slavery is wrong, but killing slave-owners and anyone in the way, promoting violent rebellions and committing treason is also very wrong. Non-violent ways can be as strong as John Brown’s ways, with the bonus of not losing life. People can also say his intention was good and morally correct. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. John Brown did not help himself by his actions. He relied on the sword and quick brash action.
John Brown was an extreme abolitionist who fought for the end of slavery through murder and treason. He managed to speed up the coming of the South’s succession and the Civil War. That war was the most costly in human lives America has ever fought. Abolitionist, Fredrick Douglass, achieved more than Brown by raising not a sword but a pen. He fought for the end to slavery by giving and writing anti-slavery speeches. The difference was one was a great, personal friend of President Lincoln. The other was hung.
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