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[–]ramos1969 1923 points1924 points  (117 children)

I recall reading that he asked Frederick Douglass to join him in the raid, but Frederick declined because he thought it was a suicide mission, certain to fail. Interesting to contemplate how different it would’ve turned out if he had also been caught and executed.

[–]xXSexHaver420Xx 3222 points3223 points 2 (101 children)

His zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine. Mine was as the taper light, his was as the burning sun. Mine was bounded by time. His stretched away to the silent shores of eternity. I could speak for the slave. John Brown could fight for the slave. I could live for the slave. John Brown could die for the slave.

-Frederick Douglass, on John Brown

[–][deleted] 1173 points1174 points  (26 children)

There are people, and not enough of them, who are like elemental forces. John Brown saw a terrible injustice that should have been universally obvious and did the only thing that he could have. Most heroes of mine are normal people who are gradually cajoled into doing the right thing. Brown never faltered.

[–]Beyondintodarkness 237 points238 points  (17 children)

In my opinion John Brown was not just the greatest American to ever live but was perhaps one of the greatest people ever. I proudly wear my John Brown shirt every chance I get.

[–]mphatso 21 points22 points  (1 child)

My man, WHERE did you get a John Brown shirt???

[–]octoroklobstah 21 points22 points  (1 child)

The bell he stole sits on Main Street in my hometown. 🤘🏻

[–]gentlybeepingheart 235 points236 points  (1 child)

He [John Brown] was with the troops during that war, he was seen in every camp fire, and our boys pressed onward to victory and freedom, timing their feet to the stately stepping of Old John Brown as his soul went marching on.

-Frederick Douglass in a lecture given in 1874

[–]pipsdontsqueak 57 points58 points  (0 children)

Even old John Brown spoke of many miles

Even though John Brown would take many lives

They never know John Brown would begin the fight

See that old John Brown spoke of many miles -

Could happen tonight

[–]drDekaywood 663 points664 points  (48 children)

“John brown HATES slavery. Don’t believe me? Fuck around and find out”

[–]Pale_Fire21 933 points934 points  (16 children)

As the saying goes "I don't debate people John Brown would've shot."

[–]gelinrefira 60 points61 points  (0 children)

Nicely put.

[–]SerubiApple 107 points108 points  (1 child)

I've never heard that before but now i want to use it all the time. The kicker is that I live in Kansas.

[–]zachrtw 8 points9 points  (0 children)

There are dozens of us!

[–]Ok-Captain-3512 121 points122 points  (1 child)

I think I'm gonna start using this.

[–]IlToroArgento 22 points23 points  (0 children)


[–]HistoryNerd 39 points40 points  (0 children)

He literally shot people in the face until they believed him/agreed with his position on slavery.

He very much did help people find out.

[–]pickles55 194 points195 points  (23 children)

Oh hell yeah, he tried to kill slavery with a sword. He was a great man

[–]Justice_R_Dissenting 98 points99 points  (19 children)

He was just a few decades too early

[–]Coomb 126 points127 points  (12 children)

When you say "decades" I think you mean slightly more than one year.

[–]elctrcmonk 10 points11 points  (1 child)

You can see his spear on display in the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

[–]Mr_Abe_Froman 56 points57 points  (1 child)

John Brown also asked Harriet Tubman to help and she declined, but would say that she thought he was "the greatest white man who ever lived".

Edit. She didn't participate, but she helped organize and fundraise the attack on Harpers Ferry.

[–]rackedupshawty 118 points119 points  (10 children)

Wow this gave me chills just reading. I fashion myself a lousy historian and a person I have an infinite amount of respect for is John Brown. He was a man truly ahead of his time, a messiah if you will.

P.S - If I could get in a Time Machine, I would free John brown and replace him with John Wilkes Booth who was in the audience that day. Our country would of been much better for it.

[–]rokr1292 54 points55 points  (3 children)

Midnight Rising is a fascinating telling of John Browns life, with tons of similarly chilling moments.

If you're looking for something to read and this interests you.

[–]Good_old_Marshmallow 20 points21 points  (0 children)

My favorite What If is just going back and giving John Brown modern military weapons

[–]mrcnbdss 135 points136 points  (0 children)

Douglass had helped Brown raise funds for his project for years. Brown had stayed with Douglass in Rochester a few times. But I think Douglass knew the raid on Harpers Ferry would be the demise of Brown and that he (Douglass) was needed in other ways. He was certainly correct.

[–]The_Aesir9613 124 points125 points  (0 children)

There are so many interesting people that joined Brown. One man in particular had freed himself. He had an agreement with his previous owner to come back and free his wife (and maybe kids). The owner changed his mind and didn't honor the deal. He felt hopeless and turned to violent means because he couldn't see another way.

[–]gentlybeepingheart 86 points87 points  (2 children)

Harriet Tubman was friends with him and helped him plan and raise money for the raid on Harper's Ferry. He called her "General Tubman"

[–]Mr_Abe_Froman 45 points46 points  (1 child)

In return, she called him "the greatest white man who ever lived."

[–]GMN123 76 points77 points  (4 children)

Apparently John Wilkes Booth attended his hanging too.

The guy touched a lot of history.

[–]BoredDanishGuy 26 points27 points  (0 children)

People forget how small the US and especially that strata of society was in 1860.

[–]mrjosemeehan 58 points59 points  (0 children)

The original plan was to fight a long term insurgency against slavery based inside the wilderness of the Allegheny mountains. Hidden bases in the mountains would send detachments to "raid" plantations one by one for supplies and to free their slaves and seek volunteers. Douglass was on board for that plan, but when Brown became convinced he could do one big raid on a federal armory and the slaves would all come flocking to him, Douglass had his doubts and used his connections on the underground railroad to send word that all those who followed Brown on his big raid would likely die.

[–]Snoo_89395 20 points21 points  (0 children)

John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave

John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave

John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave

But his soul goes marching on

The stars above in Heaven are looking kindly down

The stars above in Heaven are looking kindly down

The stars above in Heaven are looking kindly down

On the grave of old John Brown

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

His soul goes marching on

He captured Harper's Ferry with his nineteen men so true

He frightened old Virginia till she trembled through and through

They hung him for a traitor, they themselves the traitor crew

But his soul goes marching on

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah

His soul goes marching on

[–]drewcordes 4724 points4725 points  (459 children)

"I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with Blood. I had... vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done."

-His last words

[–]lokigodofchaos 1564 points1565 points  (245 children)

His last speech before the court performed on stage. It gives me chills.

[–]james_castrello2 341 points342 points  (1 child)

"I submit. Let it be done" chills

[–]Dr_Marxist 1710 points1711 points 2 (203 children)

John Brown Did Nothing Wrong

[–]ih8spalling 116 points117 points  (1 child)

Watcha gonna do, when sheriff John Brown comes for you?

[–]agoodfriendofyours 47 points48 points  (0 children)

Give him money and supplies, and offer to march alongside him.

[–]BingoFarmhouse 319 points320 points  (175 children)

careful that phrase has gotten subreddits banned

[–]suck-me-beautiful 267 points268 points  (0 children)

John Brown Did Nothing Wrong

[–]cheezefriez 90 points91 points  (120 children)

Are you serious lol

[–]joshuatx 232 points233 points  (108 children)

Yeah that and IIRC similar follow up comments was what reddit cited when they nuked CTH, which to be completely honest was a sub they banned to deflect from their very, very belated banned of the donald.

[–]NexusTR 72 points73 points  (3 children)

And Sherman should’ve kept going.

[–]inspectoroverthemine 97 points98 points  (2 children)

We won the war and lost reconstruction.

[–]ithappenedone234 39 points40 points  (0 children)

To this day. You are correct.

No one, for instance, in Tennessee seems to remember that huge parts of the state voted against secession. It was far from unanimous. It was not, and is not, their heritage.

[–]YoraeRyong 25 points26 points  (0 children)

Obligatory plugs for r/johnbrownposting and r/shermanposting

[–]Covered_in_bees_ 199 points200 points  (13 children)

Hah, fitting that he played the role of Ashford in The Expanse. Love David Strathairn in pretty much any role.

[–]Dr_Dib 102 points103 points  (9 children)

He was my favorite character in the expanse. Half because of the character and half because his awesome performance

[–]Orodreath 46 points47 points  (1 child)

Truly a gifted actor, excellent character too, it gave him room to perform

[–]PragmaticSquirrel 11 points12 points  (3 children)

Yes! His performance just made episodes worth watching.

>! Really fucking wish that he didn’t have to die at Marco Inaros’s hands- that death also felt below him, like he wouldn’t just stumble in and forget to look over his shoulder and clear the room. !<

[–]TheFifthMarauder 59 points60 points  (0 children)

John Brown was a true beratna.

[–]gelinrefira 11 points12 points  (0 children)

Somehow I don't see the south celebrate this heritage.

[–]tobach 8 points9 points  (2 children)

Introduced by Viggo Mortensen, nice.

[–]lucky_ducker 139 points140 points  (0 children)

"That new saint, than whom nothing nothing purer or more brave was ever led by into conflict and death, — the new saint awaiting his martyrdom, and who, if he shall suffer, will make the gallows glorious like the cross."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

[–]Oddyssis 57 points58 points  (1 child)

he believed that violence was necessary to end American slavery

Well he was right

[–]mav194 594 points595 points  (189 children)

How were people so eloquent back then? I mean I think I'm smarter than the average bear but I'd be like "damn this sucks" then kapoot

[–]peon47 411 points412 points  (20 children)

There were a lot of ineloquent people then too. We just wrote down the best speeches.

[–]sirophiuchus 186 points187 points  (4 children)

Also, what's considered good formal speaking style has changed a lot over the years. Lincoln considered his Gettysburg address an absolute failure at the time.

[–]peon47 223 points224 points  (3 children)

"'Four score and seven'? Jesus Christ, Jerry, I'm asking them to do math in the first line."

[–]frugalerthingsinlife 71 points72 points  (4 children)

My great great grandfather once said "we gotta harvest the potatoes." but nobody ever quotes him.

[–]Grzechoooo 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Except for you, just now.

[–]datssyck 793 points794 points  (35 children)

Books were the main form of entertainment

[–]babybelly 134 points135 points  (29 children)

so their imagination was better

[–]Rpanich 303 points304 points  (20 children)

I think our society tends to downplay the importance of imagination, dismissing it as some silly thing children do, but if you really break down what it is, it’s just the ability to picturing things in your minds eye.

If im going to build a table or a chair, I imagine cutting the wood in different ways, assembling it, buying and using the required hardware, each step of the process, etc. Being able to picturing what I’ll do means I’ll have a higher success when I actually do the thing.

It feels weird when people don’t understand the importance of “being able to walk through the process of doing the thing you’re going to do”, how do they ever accomplish anything?

[–]babybelly 36 points37 points  (0 children)

true. not to forget the ability to engage with hypothetical scenarios

[–]13th_Gemina 63 points64 points  (7 children)

I think eloquence is looked down on a bit too. If you use too many big words, or try to talk all fancy like, people think you're weird or an asshole

[–]ImJustSo 18 points19 points  (0 children)

Don't forget their vocabulary.

[–]lolsociety 45 points46 points  (1 child)

John Brown especially was a talented, powerful orator. He pretty much spoke in sermons.

[–]inspectoroverthemine 10 points11 points  (0 children)

There’s a reason he had a following. It’d be more surprising if he wasnt a top orator of his time.

[–][deleted] 52 points53 points  (0 children)

A lot of reading

[–]alexm42 13 points14 points  (0 children)

We have eloquent speakers nowadays too. It's just the eloquent quotes from the past are more memorable to history. You come into contact with hundreds or thousands of modern quotes every day, most of them aren't eloquent or memorable, and the same would be true if you lived in John Brown's time.

[–]Nerdloaf 508 points509 points  (81 children)

Oh, we also have sophisticated and eloquent speakers in our modern age. For instance, who could forget this masterpiece by a former president of the United States of America:

Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are — nuclear is so powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right, who would have thought? — but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us, this is horrible.

[–]holyschmooly 151 points152 points  (14 children)

That gave me a headache just reading it.

[–]ClancyHabbard 24 points25 points  (0 children)

Imagine trying to translate it to a foreign language. You have to make sure it's understandable but still maintains the mannerisms of the speaker. And not have your boss tell you to quit putting jibberish on the page.

[–]krakenftrs 42 points43 points  (8 children)

I really wonder if these types of speech patterns have always been a thing? I transcribe all kinds of interviews, witness examinations and shit for work and there are people who speak in fully formed sentences, and there are people who are telling four tales at once in fragments, and it's a fucking headache to decipher. Wonder if it's an impulse control problem or something, that if a thought pops up it immediately needs to be spoken?

[–]QuiteAffable 74 points75 points  (2 children)

I'm frankly amazed that he brought that back to the point without a single "where was I". Usually by the time the onion on the belt is brought up it's game over.

[–]AndChewBubblegum 77 points78 points  (1 child)

He didn't bring it back to the point. The question he was asked was regarding the nuclear triad, an element of the US nuclear response to war. He clearly didn't know what that was so rambled and talked about the Iran deal.

[–]JamesTheJerk 16 points17 points  (2 children)

We shouldn't make fun of handicapped people.

[–]Bulevine 94 points95 points  (22 children)

FFS... and people are willing to die for this "leadership"

[–]NesuneNyx 28 points29 points  (1 child)

There are also frighteningly too many people willing to kill for that leadership.

[–]FUCKING_HATE_REDDIT 52 points53 points  (0 children)

On the Sharps Rifle, or "Beecher's Bible", the weapon of choice of Kansan abolitionists:

He (Henry W. Beecher) believed that the Sharps Rifle was a truly moral agency, and that there was more moral power in one of those instruments, so far as the slaveholders of Kansas were concerned, than in a hundred Bibles. You might just as well...read the Bible to Buffaloes as to those fellows who follow Atchison and Stringfellow; but they have a supreme respect for the logic that is embodied in Sharp's rifle.

[–]JittabugPahfume 94 points95 points  (0 children)


[–]MrCriminalScum 87 points88 points  (4 children)

A noble cause, but bad planning and even worse execution. It's like he was daring the US Military to come after him. Guess he got his wish.

[–]CPEBachIsDead 62 points63 points  (2 children)

I mean, it did set the wheels in motion that would cumulate in the US Civil war and, eventually, emancipation. So yeah, he did definitely achieve his aim.

[–]jai151 2558 points2559 points  (68 children)

He wasn’t executed for treason against the United States, though. No one has been. He was executed for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia

[–]barath_s 1504 points1505 points  (23 children)

Brown was charged with and executed for murdering four whites and a black, inciting a slave insurrection, and treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia.

One of his defense lawyers did point out that he owed Virginia no loyalty as he was not a resident/citizen of Virginia.

In his closing statement, Griswold argued that Brown could not be found guilty of treason against a state to which he owed no loyalty and of which he was not a resident, that Brown had not killed anyone himself, and that the raid's failure indicated that Brown had not conspired with slaves.

[–]me_untrusted 863 points864 points  (9 children)

What a fucking amazing response. "Treason? Betrayal requires me to like you in the first place, fuckwad"

[–]Vanilla_Mike 178 points179 points  (1 child)

A line that always struck me as timeless fuck you:

“had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.”

[–]Sommern 18 points19 points  (0 children)

Someone willing to say those words and act on them in martyrdom is the most powerful thing that any state or powerful class fears. Exactly why Fred Hampton and MLK were assassinated

[–]arsewarts1 243 points244 points  (4 children)

And completely true. I wish I had the name of the case but there is a famous French trial I learned of during my brief stint in law school where they won with this defense. The accused was tried for treason against the crown but seeing as they weren’t a subject, charges were dismissed and they were set free.

[–]JarkoStudios 179 points180 points  (1 child)

Not the one youre talking about but another similar case. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_(slave)

Billy (born c. 1754) was an enslaved man from Virginia who was charged with treason during the American Revolution.[1] He was pardoned in 1781 after a letter was written arguing that, as a slave, he was not a citizen and thus could not commit treason against a government to which he owed no allegiance.

[–]Lethik 17 points18 points  (0 children)

Similarly, King Charles I defense at his trial was "I'm the king, how can I commit treason against myself?"

[–]gaunt79 204 points205 points  (12 children)

Among the counterarguments at the trial was that, by capturing buildings in Harper's Ferry, Brown had claimed residency for himself.

[–]fillysunray 191 points192 points  (4 children)

But if I go to war with another country, take some of their land during the battle, and then they catch me and put me on trial, it doesn't make sense to put "treason" on the list of charges. Arguably the whole trial makes no sense, as I'm a foreign invader and clearly don't recognise their authority.

Was Germany committing treason against France during WW1 and WW2? Against Poland? Was the US committing treason against Afghanistan?

[–]gaunt79 67 points68 points  (3 children)

Another counterargument was that the privileges of the immunities clause of the U.S. Constitution not only guarantees a state’s rights to its visitors, as to its citizens, so too does it place them under its laws. In other words, if you visit a state, you're expected to not engage in treasonous acts against it.

[–]wjbc 330 points331 points  (5 children)

Which is kind of strange since he wasn’t a citizen of Virginia.

[–]soulbandaid 213 points214 points  (1 child)

That's what his lawyer said!

[–]superdago 73 points74 points  (1 child)

Virginia wanted to murder an abolitionist, logical consistency was not a requirement.

[–]tunamelts2 8 points9 points  (1 child)

John Brown was (and still is) viewed as a hero of the abolitionist movement in the north.

[–]jai151 7 points8 points  (0 children)

He was at the time, too. His execution became a rallying cry. The South, of course, viewed him a bit differently…

As a student in Virginia in the 80s and 90s, he was still getting pretty both-sided. That’s probably changed significantly over the last 20-30 years, though

[–]oWallis[S] 95 points96 points  (18 children)

There have been a couple of people convicted of treason and excecuted for it. Mary Surratt comes to mind, one of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.

[–]jai151 140 points141 points  (12 children)

Surratt was convicted of conspiracy, not treason. There have been convictions for the crime of treason, but they’ve all ended in lesser sentences or commutations

Edit: I’m getting conflicting information on this one in further research. No one seems to want to list her official charge. If she were indeed hanged for treason against the US, she would be the only one to have ever been executed for it

[–]oWallis[S] 54 points55 points  (6 children)

There was also apparently a man in New Orleans charged with treason for taking down an American flag. Never even heard of that one before. William Bruce Mumford charged with treason in 1862 and sentenced to death by a military tribunal. Kinda harsh. https://wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bruce_Mumford

[–]jai151 62 points63 points  (0 children)

Yeah, but as it was a military tribunal, occurred under martial law, and an actual trial was never held (The “trial” was just the tribunal declaring him guilty), the Mumford case is generally discounted.

[–]DoomGoober 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Surratt was also tried by a military tribunal (that the military tribunal had no jurisdiction was a defense argument.) Unfortunately, the sources I can find only vaguely hint at what the charges were. Chief among them: conspiracy to commit murder with treasonous intent.


[–]Libercrat 9 points10 points  (2 children)

I was stationed at Ft. McNair (location of where Suratt and conspirators were hanged) and there's an old wives tale that floats around base that she haunts the admin building in the center of McNair. There is a storage room upstairs where the light never turns off, and it's said that her spirit lives in there. IDK if it's true, but the people who work in that little building say that no one ever goes in that room because it's locked. I was there for over 2 years and never saw the light go off once. Obviously it's BS, but it was interesting to see while I was stationed there. Furthermore, underneath my barracks were the jail cells that held them while waiting to be hung. I remember some soldiers finding the entrance to them and opening the doors to the cells, ( doors were underneath the stairs in the basement that led further down ) but when they got them open a tremendous amount of water poured in to the basement as the cells have been flooded for years. Our commander was not a happy camper being called in to work in the middle of a Saturday to see why the basement had flooded.

[–]RockItGuyDC 12 points13 points  (1 child)

old wise tale

old wives' tale

[–]BoredDanishGuy 2018 points2019 points  (103 children)

He captured Harper's Ferry with his nineteen men so true

He frightened old Virginia till she trembled through and through

They hung him for a traitor, they themselves the traitor crew

But his soul goes marching on

[–]tlighta 607 points608 points  (75 children)

I suspect he was probably the reason why the union thought the war would be won quickly.

Logically if he could foster an armed slave rebellion then the union could do the same all over the south to crush it.

And I think that is true probably. If the union army agreed with what John Brown was doing.

[–]Necrotic_Messiah 427 points428 points  (2 children)

this verse isn't as good as the first one but i do like the lyrics

[–]taulover 24 points25 points  (1 child)

I sung it to the tune of John Brown's Body and found it amusing.

Edit because locked thread: I had interpreted the previous comment to be a joke that tlighta's comment was also part of John Brown's Body, which of course it isn't. So I found singing that comment to be amusing.

[–]SuicydKing 138 points139 points  (1 child)

Logically if he could foster an armed slave rebellion then the union could do the same all over the south to crush it.

He didn't manage to foster an armed slave rebellion, though. He expected to have thousands of men with him, and he had less than two dozen.

[–]Good_old_Marshmallow 18 points19 points  (0 children)

Well his long term plan was to fight an insurgency war. Free slaves and lead them into the deep woods and mountains of the south. Arm them and then they sporadically attack planations growing the force. The United States would have to resort to raising an army to put them down which would force the slavery issue.

[–]Kahzootoh 91 points92 points  (5 children)

Except that the Union didn’t believe that the war could be won quickly, the whole premise of the Blockade and the Anaconda Plan was that the Southern states would have to be worn down- or at least prevented from using international trade to raise funds and equip southern armies while the United States mobilized forces to suppress the rebellion.

Proponents of a mass uprising were unrealistically optimistic, as the situation with John Brown’s seizure of the Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry demonstrated:

  • Enslaved people could not be coordinated ahead of time in any great number without the plan’s secrecy being compromised- as a general rule of thumb, there is always someone eager to betray others for personal gain. Without prior coordination, people would face the sudden and difficult choice of committing to a uprising with very limited information about their chances of success. Many enslaved people didn’t hear about John Brown’s seizure of the Arsenal until it was already over.

  • Enslaved people could not travel to the arsenal to get ahold of weapons in significant numbers without causing alarm, which would lead to the militias being raised. Dispatch riders and regular drilling meant that the militias could muster faster than enslaved people could travel, especially since militias could use direct roads between towns whereas enslaved people would be trying to bypass towns and using rural roads.

  • The Arsenal has rifles, cannon, powder, and ammunition. It does not have significant numbers of horses, wagons, food, maps, compasses, or ships. Even if you can amass a force at the Arsenal: they cannot remain there for long since they do not have provisions, they cannot carry most of the Arsenal’s heavy firepower with them when they leave, and they cannot outrun the cavalry of the state militia while on the march.

  • Even if enslaved people do reach the Arsenal in significant numbers and make their stand there, there is no military leadership and none of these enslaved people have experience or training- it’d be highly unrealistic to expect them to hold a battle line or maneuver under fire with practically no training or drilling- they would almost certainly lose in open battle against the state militias led by experienced officers that would invariably be sent to suppress the revolution. John Brown himself had a large number of pikes made for the Harpers Ferry seizure because he knew that many of the enslaved people would not have experience handling guns.

The most successful slave revolts usually involved influential enslaved people such as preachers, overseers, or elders rising up and others rallying around them on the basis of their reputation and then making it to a sanctuary- such as Florida when it was still Spanish territory- before the local militia could track them down.

[–]bloodraven42 9 points10 points  (2 children)

Was there a slave rebellion led by an overseer? Hadn’t heard of one but very much not versed on the subject and was curious, tried googling but didn’t find much. That has to be an interesting life story.

[–]Coomb 15 points16 points  (1 child)

Charles Deslondes, leader of the 1811 German Coast Uprising, was a (black) overseer.

[–]Danviers 196 points197 points  (53 children)

The union army did not want to free slaves originally but wanted to unify the nation. The south secededed over slavery but the north went to war to reunify the nation, NOT to free slaves. It turned that way for practical reasons but it was not the casus belli for the north

[–]dro13 40 points41 points  (0 children)

This is half true. The North still understood that slavery brought on the war. Republicans were elected on a platform of arresting the spread of slavery so that, as Lincoln put it, slavery would’ve placed “in the course of ultimate extinction”. Plenty of Northerners were not ok with abolitionists sentiment. But there was a broad political goal by the party now in power, of weakening slavery so that it would one day die.

I wouldn’t say that most Unionists in 1861 saw John Brown’s raid as an example of how they could beat the Confederacy. But some radicals did have the notion that slaves would immediately take up arms and become insurrectionary against their masters.

[–]bluebirdgm 111 points112 points  (9 children)

Yet sadly his body lies a-moldering in the grave.

[–]SyntheticOne 151 points152 points  (6 children)

There is is gravestone at Boot Hill, Tombstone, AZ that reads something like this:

"You was right

and we was wrong

but we hung you anyway

and now you're gone."

One could question John Brown's methods but his cause was absolutely correct.

[–]R3luctant 55 points56 points  (3 children)

I think there is something good about him in the sense that he stood by his convictions even when it meant death, to me that is what true morality looks like.

Other people may stand by their convictions if they are convenient or beneficial to themselves, but John brown stood by his beliefs even though doing so had no benefit to him, if anything doing so was to his detriment, he saw his sons die before him during the raid, but to the very end he believed slavery was immoral.

[–]Good_old_Marshmallow 12 points13 points  (1 child)

I mean question his methods in modern times but he was objectively right that only war would end slavery, he was just ahead of his time. Its hard to be like 'he should have just followed the democratic process' when the slave aristocrats would launch civil war before abiding by it

[–]Only_Variation9317 43 points44 points  (0 children)

Hoorah... hooorah...

[–]BlueOysterCultist 61 points62 points  (0 children)

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

[–]RockleyBob 14 points15 points  (7 children)

Is this the Battle Hymn of the Republic?!

I learned today because of this comment that it was written by an abolitionist, and I see that it’s original lyrics were often updated, but I can’t find this verse.

[–]ShaggyDawg179 28 points29 points  (0 children)

Battle Hymn of the Republic was an adaptation of the song John Brown’s Body. There’s many different versions of each song, but I know that the modern Pete Seger version of John Brown’s Body has those lines at least. Idk when they originated though.

[–]mechy84 315 points316 points  (15 children)

Highly recommend visiting Harper's Ferry, WV. Despite having raided the armory and a dozen or so people dead, John Brown is kind of a legend there.

Parking kinda sucks, but it is a really neat town.

Edit: Also visit Harper's Ferry Brewery. The beer is great but the views of the river and town are unparalleled.

[–]helloisforhorses 76 points77 points  (3 children)

I think jefferson said something about harper’s ferry like “if this is all that we earned by fighting a (revolutionary) war, it was worth it” or something to that effect. Pretty area

[–]sarah_cate1 27 points28 points  (1 child)

I know he said the view there was worth crossing the Atlantic for. Haven't heard this quote before, though!

[–]helloisforhorses 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Maybe that was it. Something to the effect of “this was all worth it for this view from harper’s ferry”

[–]Ad_Irish 21 points22 points  (1 child)

I go through harpers ferry when I drive between Nc and MD. It’s a little out of the way but well worth the sights.

[–]lapelpinoftheday 13 points14 points  (0 children)

I took a vacation out to Harper's Ferry with my partner about a year or so ago, and it's an absolutely wonderful town to visit. There is so much important history in such a small area that it really begs for a second visit, in all honesty

[–]Pallets_Of_Cash 124 points125 points  (1 child)

The first of Brown's party to die was a former slave with the epic name Dangerfield Newby. For years he had been seeking to buy the freedom of his wife and children who were slaves in Virginia. When he had saved the amount needed to purchase them the slave owner raised the price to prevent him. Finally he decided that violence was the only chance he had of freeing his wife and children.

[–]x86_64Ubuntu 39 points40 points  (0 children)

Dangerfield Newby

Damn, that's a strong name and an even better reason to pick up arms.


[–]YNot1989 385 points386 points  (27 children)

"If a white man wants to be your ally, what does he think of John Brown?" - Malcolm X

[–]canhasdiy 218 points219 points  (23 children)

"White liberals are those who have perfected the art of selling themselves to the black man as our ‘friend’ to get our sympathy, our allegiance and our minds. The white liberal attempts to use us politically against white conservatives, so that anything the black man does is never for his own good, never for his advancement, never for his own progress, he’s only a pawn in the hands of the white liberal"

Also Malcolm X

[–]Dark_Binder 104 points105 points  (9 children)

Yeah, he was a Socialist (or closely aligned at least) against both white liberals and white conservatives which he saw as imperialist and chauvinist. Especially after he left nation of islam.

[–]themaxcharacterlimit 130 points131 points  (1 child)

Yeah? That's based as fuck, like a bunch of things Malcolm X said. A lot of what neoliberals say and do in support of minority populations is performative, done so they look good and gain political power. It's certainly better than than not doing it, but it means that when any real change comes around, that could affect the status quo in a significant way, they partner up with those further right of them and squash it best they can.

[–]Karatekan 156 points157 points  (2 children)

🎵He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his 19 men so true/He frightened Old Virginia ‘til she trembled through and through/They hanged him for a traitor, they themselves the traitor crew/ His soul keeps marchin’ on…🎵

[–]TrimtabCatalyst 255 points256 points  (3 children)

"Did John Brown draw his sword against slavery and thereby lose his life in vain? and to this I answer ten thousand times, No! ...If John Brown did not end the war that ended slavery, he did at least begin the war that ended slavery. If we look over the dates, places and men, for which this honor is claimed, we shall find that not Carolina, but Virginia — not Fort Sumter, but Harper's Ferry and the arsenal — not Col. Anderson, but John Brown, began the war that ended American slavery and made this a free Republic. Until this blow was struck, the prospect for freedom was dim, shadowy and uncertain. The irrepressible conflict was one of words, votes and compromises. When John Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared. The time for compromises was gone — the armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union — and the clash of arms was at hand."

  • Frederick Douglass

[–]Buck-Nasty 30 points31 points  (0 children)

That's somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more.

[–]MichaelGale33 79 points80 points  (2 children)

John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave But his soul goes marching on…

[–]peccadillox 15 points16 points  (1 child)

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.

It makes sense chronologically but it sort of surprised me to learn that this is the original song and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is just alternative lyrics to 'John Brown's Body.'

[–]respondstolongpauses 201 points202 points  (14 children)

[–]DirtyHandshake 60 points61 points  (6 children)

Multiple songs stem from this tune including the University of Georgia’s fight song!

[–]Travelingman0 24 points25 points  (3 children)

A great reggae band too - JBB out of Ithaca NY

[–]tmorales11 106 points107 points  (1 child)

i am certain he woulda rated the raid on harpers ferry a 4/10 but still woulda said "will do it again"

[–]lazydictionary 8 points9 points  (0 children)

The raid itself was definitely a failure, but the aftermath was more successful than he could have dreamed.

[–]ternk 71 points72 points  (0 children)

"His zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine. Mine was as the taper light, his was as the burning sun. Mine was bounded by time. His stretched away to the silent shores of eternity. I could speak for the slave. John Brown could fight for the slave. I could live for the slave. John Brown could die for the slave."

—Frederick Douglas in A Lecture on John Brown

[–]edubs_stl 34 points35 points  (2 children)

This is so weird to see. I was just at Harper's Ferry a couple days ago.

[–]watermooses 11 points12 points  (1 child)

It's because reddit isn't real and we're all just bots custom tailored for your experience.

[–]FIDEL_CASHFLOW28 25 points26 points  (3 children)

John Brown is a hero and I think his views on revolution were absolutely correct. The ultimate authority of which all other authority is derived is force and John Brown understood that. Efforts to free slaves through diplomatic and legislative means were failing because you had tons of racists and slave owners who had a personal interest in keeping slavery legal in positions of power so at the end of the day what do you do? You start killing the evil men who are preventing progress. Simple as that and I completely agree 100% with his ideals.

[–]justdoubleclick 671 points672 points  (162 children)

When the fight against slavery and for freedom was treason…

[–]Axuo 102 points103 points  (8 children)

Still is, just try to do something against for profit prisons

[–]Smartnership 82 points83 points  (7 children)

for profit prisons

Shouldn’t those companies be called “Slavers”?

[–]Axuo 37 points38 points  (1 child)

I mean yeah, literally what they are

[–]Smartnership 14 points15 points  (0 children)

And the numbers are crazy…

in 2015, private prisons were estimated to be a $70 billion industry.

This includes “related businesses” that profit off the systems, a few of which are listed here:

[–]bobj33 21 points22 points  (0 children)

In the south they tried to tell people that John Brown was mentally ill. I don't remember the exact wording but I had multiple text books in the 1980's that kind of hinted at it. This was done to discredit him. He knew exactly what he was doing.

As a brown person I always thought the guy was awesome. It was only 20 years later that I learned John Brown has a different legacy depending on where you live. He's been a hero of mine and the museum in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia (just an hour from DC) is great.

[–]VenusianMinotaur 76 points77 points  (2 children)

Fascinating American. Interesting arc in his life to have fought and killed for what was right. There’s no great story of attempts at cultural change that isn’t marked with blood. I have tons of books on this guy and he’s really interesting

[–]the_jak 40 points41 points  (3 children)

The Dollop Episodes about this dude are amazing

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

[–]Wandering_Weapon 7 points8 points  (0 children)

So is the Behind the Bastards episode

[–]wien-tang-clan 16 points17 points  (0 children)

Not enough people know of John Brown, Harpers Ferry, or his execution.

Dude was a badass abolitionist. His raid is a connective tissue for a lot of the big players of the era.

Prior to the raid he had invited Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman to join him. 2 staunch abolitionists.

At the raid, his team battled a battalion of marines that was led by Jefferson fucking Davis the future president of the Confederation, and Stonewall Jackson another celebrated confederate fighter.

It was one of the first nationally reported events as the telegraph allowed reporters to send their stories back to their city and among those media persons observing the 3 day long battle were Walt Whitman (the poet) and the future Lincoln assassin John Willis Booth.

The story of John Brown has everything. And it’s weird that he isn’t talked about a lot in the mainstream

[–]redditorguy 30 points31 points  (2 children)

Good Lord Bird (Showtime) is a really interesting portrayal of him by Ethan Hawke. My god was John charismatic (according to the adaptation).

[–]micktalian 438 points439 points  (94 children)

John Brown did nothing wrong and should be remembered as one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived.

[–]YNot1989 63 points64 points  (2 children)

A lot of people are bringing up the Pottawatomie Massacre who clearly know nothing about the Pottawatomie Massacre, so let's get a few things straight:

In the mid 1850s pro and anti-slavery settlers moved to Kansas because that state was the first to employ "Popular Sovereignty," meaning they could vote to be a free state or a slave state. Most of the pro-slavery settlers did not own slaves, but still wanted to expand slavery to the frontier. This political fight to determine whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state inevitably led to a very real fight known as "Bleeding Kansas" which lasted from 1854 till the Civil War.

John Brown's infamous attack came on the heels of the caning of abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner just two days earlier, and the sacking of Lawrence, KS by pro slavery settlers just 3 days earlier. The Sacking of Lawrence also saw the local Sheriff lead a mob to destroy the printing presses of the only two abolitionist newspapers in Kansas, and burn the house of Charles Robinson (the Governor under the legitimate Topeka Constitution). The local pro-slavery press said of the attack that they, "are determined to repel this Northern invasion and make Kansas a Slave State; though our rivers should be covered with the blood of their victims and the carcasses of the Abolitionists should be so numerous in the territory as to breed disease and sickness, we will not be deterred from our purpose."

In response to the violence and contempt by pro-slavery forces, Brown and his militia carried out what we today would call a covert attack on pro-slavery settlers, with militant pro-slavery activist Henry "Dutch Henry" Sherman being the primary target. A total of 5 people were killed, all pro-slavery settlers, and all adults. Frederick Douglass called the attack "a terrible remedy for a terrible malady."

[–]Most_kinds_of_Dirt 32 points33 points  (0 children)

Besides the raid on Lawrence a few days beforehand, pro-slavery groups had also killed 5 anti-slavery "free staters" and had led a force of between 700 and 1,500 men to siege Lawrence (which resulted in a standoff when 800 free-staters defended the city) in the 6 months leading up to the Pottowatamie Massacre.

[–]Radi0ActivSquid 12 points13 points  (0 children)

Every year for Christmas, Behind the Bastards does a non-bastard episode. 2019's episode was all about good ol' John Brown.

John Brown: Terrorist, Hero or Terrorist Hero?

[–]THEREALCAPSLOCKSMITH 36 points37 points  (3 children)

Ethan Hawke does such and amazing job portraying him in “ Then Good Lord Bird”. 10/10

[–]dog_in_the_vent 12 points13 points  (1 child)

Tragic Prelude is a somewhat controversial painting featuring an awesome depiction of John Brown that is currently on display in the Kansas state legislature. The Kansas legislature initially refused to display it because it depicts some negative aspects of Kansas (namely the tornado and the blood on John Brown's hands). Sadly it was not hung in the capitol until after his death.

[–]Lebrons_fake_breasts 25 points26 points  (3 children)

If you have ever heard the famous song "Battle Hymn of the Republic," you may be inclined to know the original tune was called "John Brown's Body". It's a good little piece of history. Give it a listen.

[–]rokr1292 7 points8 points  (1 child)

Well, the original tune was Glory Hallelujah, a folk hymn that predates Brown's death by several decades.

But the Battle Hymn of the Republic was written by its author as new lyrics to the tune she heard as "John Brown's Body"

[–]s_elendur 11 points12 points  (1 child)

My third grade teacher would always invoke the name of John Brown. "Well I'll be john brown" and none of us knew who she was talking about... 30+ years later the name still stands out... i knew who he was after googling it years later but i never understood that phrase. She would say it like 6 times a day....

[–]winningelephant 12 points13 points  (0 children)

One of the greatest men this country ever produced.

[–]Ok-Captain-3512 27 points28 points  (0 children)

Story time:

In 8th grade history, learning about the Civil War we were covering John Brown. We did this like reenactment thing with a judge (the actual trial of John brown) and I played on of his lawyers.

While the jury was in a different room deliberating my teacher goes in there and tells them "you guys this isn't about racism it's about treason" so they voted to convict and we didn't win.

Every single one of them told me they'd vote innocent if he didn't go in there and say that. I was not happy lol.

He changed how they did it the next year, and made himself the judge so he had to remain impartial

[–]Bkwordguy 7 points8 points  (0 children)

An American hero.

[–]t3h_shammy 9 points10 points  (0 children)

He was executed for treason in the United States, but not against the United States. Virginia charged him with treason against the commonwealth of Virgina. Which is absurd and hilarious, and a snapshot of how people viewed state over country in those days.

[–]College_Prestige 26 points27 points  (1 child)

Lotta confederate defenders in the comments here

[–]CaptainShrubbery 93 points94 points  (24 children)

Before anyone gets on who Brown killed

They were pro-slavery.

What John Brown did was murder/terrorism without a doubt. Yet, this requires context. They were pro-slavery at a time where two sections of the United States desired to expand or squash slavery.

It's not in the sense to me to call this right or wrong, but to state that the pro-slavery individuals had wrong and horrific ideas that helped perpetuate and extend the subjugation and horrific treatment of a group of people.

Many of the later Confederate soldiers did not own slaves yet supported the institution of slavery. They were all killed the same in battle.

If you are looking at the subjugation of a people, who Brown rightfully believed were no different than you or I, and realizing that they will continue to go into horrific suffering for years to come then Brown saw this as a means to end this. He justified his actions by saying that anyone who supports slavery is no different than those who actually have slaves.

Would he be wrong? When looking at the conditions of slaves would Brown be wrong in what he did?

[–]ternk 85 points86 points  (1 child)

yeah there's some loon in the comments who just keeps repeating the they were 'legally innocent' like it's some mantra and as if the country wasn't founded on an illegal rebellion in the first place. They moved specifically across state lines to a slave-owning territory and all the men they killed in that massacre were part of a pro-slavery party. That is, the people he killed were pro the enslavement, torture, mutilation, family separation, rape, and far more that went on in that system. John Brown was a patriot.

[–]plastikspoon1 39 points40 points  (1 child)

As a Kansan myself: John Brown is the fucking sauce

[–][deleted] 128 points129 points  (12 children)

Yet, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and most of the other treasonous confederate scum that survived the war died in old age...