John Brown (abolitionist)

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Yet each man kills the thing he loves from all let this be heard some does it with a bitter look some with a flattering word the coward does it with a kiss the brave man with the sword.
Oscar Wilde
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"I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right."

John Brown (May 9, 1800 - December 2, 1859) was the first white American abolitionist to advocate and practice insurrection as a means to the abolition of slavery.

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  • In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted, the design on my part to free the slaves... That (refering to the bible in the court room) teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them."... I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, 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 submit; so let it be done! Let me say, also, a word in regard to the statements made by some of those connected with me. I hear it has been stated by some of them that I have induced them to join me. But the contrary is true... There is not one of them but joined me of his own accord, and the greater part of them at their own expense... Now I have done.
  • I am fully persuaded that I am worth inconceivably more to hang than any other purpose.
    • Remark, 2 November 1859. Quoted in The Home Book of Quotations (Burton Stevenson, 1984)
  • I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood.
    • This was writen on a note that he had at his execution, most sources say it was handed to the guard, but some dispute that and claim it was handed to a reporter accompaning him, 2 December 1859. Quoted in John Brown and his Men (Richard Josiah Hinton, 1894)
  • This is a beautiful country.
    • Last Words
  • You may dispose of me very easily. I am nearly disposed of now. But this question is still to be settled, this Negro question, I mean; the end of that is not yet.
  • This question will be settled.
    • On the subject of race relations, 1859 [2]

John Brown's Body

  • There are multiple versions of this song, all to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic

    John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
    John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
    But his soul goes marching on.

    Chorus:
    Glory, glory, hallelujah,
    Glory, glory, hallelujah,
    His soul goes marching on.

    He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
    He's gone to be a soldier in the Army of the Lord,
    His soul goes marching on.

    Chorus:

    John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back,
    John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back,
    His soul goes marching on.

    Chorus:

    John Brown died that the slaves might be free,
    John Brown died that the slaves might be free,
    His soul goes marching on.

    Chorus:

    The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down,
    The stars above in Heaven now are looking kindly down,
    His soul goes marching on.

    Chorus:


  • John Brown by William W. Patton

    Old John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave,
    While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
    But though he lost his life while struggling for the slave,
    His soul is marching on.

    John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave,
    And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save;
    Now, though the grass grows green above his grave,
    His soul is marching on.

    He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,
    And frightened "Old Virginny" till she trembled through and through;
    They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew,
    But his soul is marching on.

    John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see,
    Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be,
    And soon throughout the Sunny South the slaves shall all be free,
    For his soul is marching on.

    The conflict that he heralded he looks from heaven to view,
    On the army of the Union with its flag red, white and blue.
    And heaven shall ring with anthems o’er the deed they mean to do,
    For his soul is marching on.

    Ye soldiers of Freedom, then strike, while strike ye may,
    The death blow of oppression in a better time and way,
    For the dawn of old John Brown has brightened into day,
    And his soul is marching on.

    • Some versions, instead of "nineteen men so few" sing "nineteen men so true." Some versions sing "themselves the traitor crew" as "themselves the traitorous crew." Some versions sing "with it's flag red, white, and blue" as "with it's flag o' red, white, and blue" and some read "of" instead of "o'". The word soul is sometimes replaced with truth. [4]

About John Brown

  • While I cannot approve of all your acts, I stand in awe of your position since your capture, and dare not oppose you lest I be found fighting against God; for you speak as one having authority, and seem to be strengthened from on high.
    • Anonymous letter writen to John Brown while in jail, signed "A conservative Christian" [5]
  • His zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine... Mine was as the taper light; his was as the burning sun. I could live for the slave; John Brown could die for him.
    • Frederick Douglass speaking of John Brown
  • That new saint, than whom nothing nothing purer or more brave was ever led by into conflict and death...will make the gallows glorious like the cross.
  • The gaze of Europe is fixed at this moment on America... will open a latent fissure that will finally split the Union assunder. The punishment of John Brown may consolidant slavery in Virginia, but will certainly shatter the American Democracy. You preserve your shame but you kill your glory.
    • Victor Hugo, about the day of John Browns execution [7]
  • That this nation might have a new birth of freedom, that slavery should be removed forever from American soil, John Brown and his 21 men gave their lives.
  • Ones faith in anything is terribly shaken by anybody who is ready to go to the gallows condemning and denouncing it.
    • Templeton Strong, writen in his diary [8]
  • I am here to plead his cause with you. I plead not for his life, but for his character, his immortal life; and so it becomes your cause wholly, and is not his in the least.
  • This morning, Captain Brown was hung. He is not Old Brown any longer; he is an angel of light
    • Henry David Thoreau, the morning of his execution.
  • It seems as if no man had ever died in America before, for in order to die you must first have lived. These men, in teaching us how to die, have at the same time taught us how to live.
    • Eulogy by Henry David Thoreau [10]
  • A man of clear mind.
    • Governor Wise of Virginia

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