Saturday, May 17, 2008
Hero or Villain
By Richard E. Noble
John Brown was an abolitionist (anti-slavery advocate) who was hung by the neck until dead in the year 1859. He became a symbol for the cause of the abolitionist and was made into a folk hero of sorts by many prominent writers and the people of his day. Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the famous attorney for the damned, Clarence Darrow, all write of John Brown in glowing terms. "One of the purest and bravest and highest-minded patriots of any age," says Mister Clarence Darrow. Clarence goes on to compare John Brown with other famous personages of the past, among them; Oliver Cromwell, Mahomet, John Calvin, and even Jesus Christ.
John Brown may have a legitimate comparison with John Calvin, Mahomet, and Oliver Cromwell, but John Brown was no Jesus Christ. John Brown was no advocate of peace. John Brown is quoted as saying that if any man came between him and what he felt to be the will of his God, he would kill him. John Brown was a murderer. John Brown is a man that took the law into his own hands, made himself the judge and jury and without any right to appeal, he slaughtered people as he saw fit. Clarence Darrow claims that John Brown was doing God's work, the work of programmed Destiny. He was fighting the abomination of slavery. This sounds rather ludicrous coming from a man who in another essay gives one of the most cogent defenses of atheism that I have ever read. Clarence Darrow was obviously a lawyer first and a philosopher and moralist second.
Lawrence Kansas, a non-slave community, was sacked and burnt to the ground by a band of bandits who advocated slavery, and in Washington D.C. in 1856 an abolitionist Senator by the name of Charles Sumner was nearly beaten to death right on the Senate floor by a pro-slave advocate, a Senator Andrew Butler. John Brown, incensed by these atrocities, decided that revenge was justice. He and his sons with knives and sabers in hand went on a killing spree. Their goal was to kill any pro-slavers in their neighborhood. And if they happened to get an innocent person by mistake, here and there, oh well nobody's perfect.
John Brown then decided that the only way to solve this slavery problem was by way of war and/or revolution. He decided to raid the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, steal all the weapons, start his own army and overthrow the government. If you like John Brown and his methods, then you would probably also like some of these people today who in the name of Jesus go around blowing up abortion clinics or shooting doctors through their kitchen windows in front of their wives and children. You would probably also like the Oklahoma bomber, and these other terrorist who kill first and ask for justice later. History is full of murders and killers who think that the end justifies the means.
John Brown was no Jesus Christ. He was no Mahatma Gandhi. He was no Martin Luther King. He was a man filled with murder, hate, self righteousness, and religious fanaticism. The problems, injustices, and hatreds promoted by slavery were not solved by the violence of John Brown or by the Civil War for that matter. As far as I can see no war in history has ever solved the problems and disagreements that precipitated them. Minds must be informed, enlightened and convinced in order to produce change. Beatings, bombs and bullets just don't seem to hold up under the tests of time. If John Brown was a hero then I suppose Osama bin Laden is also.