John Brown

John Brown
John Brown
  • Born: May 9, 1800
  • Died: December 2, 1859
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John Brown was an American abolitionist who believed in and advocated armed insurrection as the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. He first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of 1856. He was dissatisfied with the pacifism of the organized abolitionist movement: "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!" In May 1856, Brown and his supporters killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre, which responded to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces. Brown then commanded anti-slavery forces at the Battle of Black Jack (June 2) and the Battle of Osawatomie (August 30, 1856).

Quotes About
Author Quote
Ralph Waldo Emerson Brown’s execution will make the gallows as glorious as the cross.
Anonymous Old John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save; But though he lost his life in struggling for the slave, His truth is marching on..
Herman Melville Weird John Brown / The meteor of war.
Anonymous John Brown of Kansas: he dared begin; he lost, but losing, won.
John Albion Andrew John Brown was right, because he denied the validity of unrighteous and tyrannical enactments, and maintained the supremacy and binding obligation of the `Higher Law.' John Brown was right, in all that he did--in his spirit and object, in his measures and warlike instruments … if Washington and Hancock and Warren were right--if Putnam, and Prescott, and the soldiers under them, on Bunker Hill, were right--if the Revolutionary struggle was right--if Wallace, and Tell, and Wrinkelreid, and Leonidas were right, in resisting tyranny unto blood!
Frederick Douglass I could live for the slave. John Brown could die for him.
Henry David Thoreau He is not Brown any longer. He is an angel of light.
Henry David Thoreau He wrote in prison, not a History of the World, like Raleigh, but an American book which I think will live longer than that. I do not know of such words, uttered under such circumstances, and so copiously withal, in Roman or English or any history.
Tennessee Republican Banner and Nashville Whig Nashville This attempt to excite an insurrection among the slaves is one of the natural results of the agitation of the slavery question, originated and so persistently kept up by designing politicians, both of the North and the South for partisan purposes. It can be traced to no other cause, and unless the people of both sections rise in the majesty of their strength and put an end at once to this mischievous agitation, the page that records the bloody events of the last two days, will be but a preface to the history of a civil war in which the same scenes will be re-enacted on a larger scale, and end in the dissolution of our glorious Union.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper In the name of the young girl sold from the warm clasp of a mother's arms to the clutches of a libertine or profligate,—in the name of the slave mother, her heart rocked to and fro by the agony of her mournful separations,—I thank you, that you have been brave enough to reach out your hands to the crushed and blighted of my race
John Albiooltn Andrew After having met Captain Brown one Sunday evening at a lady's house, where I made a social call with my wife, I sent him twenty-five dollars as a present. I did it because I felt ashamed, after I had seen the old man and talked with him, and come within the reach of the personal impression which I find he very generally made on people, that I had never contributed anything direct towards his assistance, as one who I thought had sacrificed and suffered so much for the cause of freedom and of good order and good government in the Territory of Kansas. He was, if I may be allowed to use that expression, a very magnetic person, and I felt very much impressed by him. I confess I did not know how to understand the old gentleman fully, because when I hear a man talk upon great themes, touching, which I think he must have deep feeling, in a tone perfectly level, without emphasis and without any exhibition of feeling, I am always ready to suspect that there is something wrong in the man's brain. I noticed that the old gentleman, in conversation, scarcely regarded other people, was entirely self-poised, self-possessed, sufficient to himself, and appeared to have no emotion of any sort, but to be entirely absorbed in an idea which preoccupied him and seemed to put him in a position transcending an ordinary emotion and ordinary reason. In parting with him, as I heard he was a poor man, I expressed my gratitude to him for having fought for a great cause with earnestness, fidelity, and conscientiousness, while I had been quietly at home, earning my money and supporting my family in Boston, under my own vine and fig-tree, with nobody to molest or make me afraid.... I am constitutionally peaceable, and by opinion very much of a peace man, and I have very little faith in deeds of violence, and very little sympathy with them, except as the extremest and direst necessity. My sympathy, so, far as I sympathized with Captain Brown, was on account of what I believed to be heroic and disinterested services in defense of a good and just cause, and in support of the rights of persons who were treated with unjust aggression.
Herman Melville Weird John Brown The meteor of the war.
Nathaniel Hawthorne I shall not pretend to be an admirer of old John Brown any farther than sympathy with Whittier's excellent ballad about him may go; nor did I expect ever to shrink so unutterably from any apothegm of a sage, whose happy lips have uttered a hundred golden sentences, as from that saying, (perhaps falsely attributed to so honored a source,) that the death of this blood-stained fanatic has "made the Gallows as venerable as the Cross!" Nobody was ever more justly hanged. He won his martyrdom fairly, and took it firmly.
William Lloyd Garrison … a misguided, wild and apparently insane act
Louisa May Alcott Living, he made life beautiful. Dying, he made death divine
Henry Alexander Wise The strongest argument against this unnatural war upon negro slavery in one section by another of the same common country, is that it inevitably drives to disunion of the states, embittered with all the vengeful hate of civil war.
Henry David Thoreau I foresee the time when . . . at least the present form of Slavery shall be no more here. We shall then be at liberty to weep for Captain Brown. Then, and not till then, we will take our revenge.
William Lloyd Garrison Better to be always in a minority of one with God — branded as madman, incendiary, fanatic, heretic, infidel — frowned upon by "the powers that be," and mobbed by the populace — or consigned ignominiously to the gallows, like him whose "soul is marching on," though his "body lies moldering in the grave," or burnt to ashes at the stake like Wickliffe, or nailed to the cross like him who "gave himself for the world," — in defense of the RIGHT, than like Herod, having the shouts of a multitude crying, "It is the voice of a God, and not of a man!".
William Lloyd Garrison … by the logic of Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill, and by the principles enforced by this nation in its boasted Declaration of Independence, Capt. Brown was a hero, struggling against fearful odds, not for his own advantage, but to redeem others from a horrible bondage, to be justified in all that he aimed to achieve, however lacking in sound discretion. And by the same logic and the same principles, every slave-holder has forfeited his right to live, if his destruction be necessary to enable his victims to break the yoke of bondage; and they, and all who are disposed to aid them by force and arms, are fully warranted in carrying rebellion to any extent, and securing freedom at whatever cost.
Quote Topics Cited
… it would be perfectly right for anyone to interfere with you so far as to free those you wilfully and wickedly hold in bondage. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
Abolitionists are wicked and abominable …. The nation is being led to civil war. Many bloody wars have ensued from less beginnings. A little fuel has sometimes kindled a great fire. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Caution. Caution is nothing but cowardice! Leaders & Leadership ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Come with me, Douglass, I will defend you with my life. I want you for a special purpose. When I strike the bees will begin to swarm, and I shall want you to help hive them. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
God is my judge. We were justified under the circumstances. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Here before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
I am worth now infinitely more dead than I am worth alive. Miscellaneous
I believe that to have interfered as I have done—in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
I can recollect no one place at present from whence the cotton can come, but from the labour of the slaves Business, Commerce & Finance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
I consecrate my life to the abolition of slavery. Freedom & Liberty ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
I have huge debts, and know of no other way to resolve them than to re-enter the slave trade. Discrimination & Prejudice ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
I pity the poor in bondage that have none to help them: that is why I am here; not to gratify any personal animosity, revenge or vindictive spirit. It is my sympathy with the oppressed and the wronged, that are as good as you and as precious in the sight of God. Freedom & Liberty
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done. [He was executed.] Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
It is a war to the death between good and evil. We must fight fire with fire. War & Peace ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Sir, the people of the northern states are cowards. Slavery has made cowards of them all. The whites are afraid of each other, and the blacks are afraid of the whites. You can effect nothing among such people Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Slavery has beene permitted by the Supreeme Governour of all things for time Immemorial, and whenever I am Convinced as you are, that its Wrong in the Sight of God, I will Immediately Desist, but while its not only allowed by the Supreeme Governour of all States but by all the Nations of Europe...I cannot thinke this State ought to Decline the trade. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Slavery is right, just, and lawful and consequently practiced every day. Freedom & Liberty ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
The two most important documents in the world are the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. It is better that a whole generation pass away by violent death, than they be violated. Constitution / Bills & Declaratiobns of Rights
There will be no peace in this land until slavery is ended. War & Peace ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
These men are all talk; What is needed is action — action! Compliments, Insults & Rebukes ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Trafficking Negroes is right, just and lawful. In my opinion there is no more crime in bringing off a cargo of slaves than in bringing off a cargo of jackasses. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
We can set the spark that lights the fire. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
You had better — all you people at the South — prepare yourselves for a settlement of this [slavery] question, that must come up for settlement sooner than you are prepared for it. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade