produced this selection.


Excerpted from

A History of the American Nation


Andrew C. McLaughlin, 1899

pp. 407, 408

John Brown's raid.

The Southern people had for many years declared that the agitation of the slavery question was a menace to their safety. They had declared, too, that the real intent and wish of the abolitionists was to arouse a slave insurrection and to bring woe and devastation to the whole South. An event now happened that seemed to them to prove them right in all their charges and suspicions. This was the famous raid of John Brown into Virginia. Brown was a New Englander by birth, who had taken an active part in the bloody struggle in Kansas. In fact, among "border ruffians" and fierce


Free-State men the old Puritan had distinguished himself for fearlessness and violence. Now that Kansas was secured, he hoped to strike a more effective blow for freedom. His design was to seize the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, free the blacks in the neighborhood, and retreat to some strong-hold in the mountains. Thence he would make incursions into the neighboring regions, and make his name a terror to the whole South. He hoped, indeed, to force the emancipation of the slaves, not perhaps by inciting a general revolt, but by gathering them up from time to time and by making property in slaves insecure. It was the scheme of a mad-man. But Brown can hardly be charged with insanity; some of the ardent antislavery men to whom he confided his plan seemed to have had faith in its success. In the autumn of 1859 he seized the national arsenal at Harper's Ferry and began to free the slaves in the neighborhood.

Its failure.

Troops were soon hurried to the spot and the little band was overpowered. Some of the men mere shot in the struggle. Brown himself, with several others, was captured. They were speedily brought to trial, convicted, and hanged. The whole country was stirred by this event. The South believed, as never before, in the wickedness of the North. The moderate people of the Northern States condemned the act; but, wild as the plan had been, the devotion of Brown to his sense of duty, the calmness with which he met his fate, his readiness to die in the cause of freedom, won the attention even of the scoffer and gave a certain amount of dignity to abolitionism.

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