The Tragedy at Harper’s Ferry

We have devoted a large portion of our present number to the publication of such particulars of the well-intentioned but sadly misguided effort of Capt. John Brown and his score of confederates, at Harper’s Ferry, to liberate the slaves in Virginia, and ultimately throughout the South, as have been received; with the comments of various Democratic and Republican journals upon this outbreak, which are characterized by an equal mixture of ferocity and cowardice. (¶ 1)

As to the plot itself, it is evident that few or none were privy to it, except the little band directly engaged in it; for though Capt. Brown had many to sympathize with him, in different parts of the country, in view of his terrible bereavements, perils and sufferings in Kansas, in defence of the freedom of that territory against Border Ruffian invasion, and were disposed to contribute not only to relieve his necessities, but also to facilitate the escape of slaves through his instrumentality to Canada, still an enterprise so wild and futile as this could not have received any countenance in that direction. (¶ 2)

As to Capt. Brown, all who know him personally are united in the conviction that a more honest, conscientious, truthful, brave, disinterested man, (however misguided or unfortunate,) does not exist; that he possesses a deeply religious nature, powerfully wrought upon by the trials through which he has passed; that he as sincerely believes himself to have been raised up by God to deliver the oppressed in this country, in the way he has chosen, as did Moses in relation to the deliverance of the captive Israelites; that when he says, he aims to be guided by the Golden Rule, it is no cant from his lips, but a vital application of it to his own soul, remembering those that are in bonds as bound with them; that when he affirms, that he had no other motive for his conduct at Harper’s Ferry except to break the chains of the oppressed, by the shedding of the least possible amount of human blood, he speaks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and that if he shall be (as he will speedily, beyond a peradventure) put to death, he will not die ignobly, but as a martyr to his sympathy for a suffering race, and in defence of the sacred and inalienable rights of man, and will therefore deserve to be held in grateful and honorable remembrance to the latest posterity by all those who glory in the deeds of a Wallace or a Tell, a Washington or a Warren. Read his replies to the interrogatories propounded to him by Senator Mason and others! Is there another man, of all the thirty millions of people inhabiting this country, who could have answered more wisely, more impressively, more courageously, or with greater moral dignity, under such a trying ordeal? How many hearts will be thrilled and inspired by his utterances! Read, too, his replies in court with a reference to his counsel! Where shall a more undaunted spirit by found? In vain will the sanguinary tyrants of the South, and their Northern minions, seek to cover him with infamy— (¶ 3)

Courts, judges can inflict no brand of shame,
Or shap of death, to shroud him from applause. (¶ 4)

For, 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. (¶ 5)

It will be a terribly losing day for all Slaveholders when John Brown and his associates are brought to the gallows. It will be sowing seed broadcast for a harvest of retribution. Their blood will cry trumpet-tongued from the ground, and that cry will be responded to by tens of thousands in a manner that shall cause the knees of the Southern slave-mongers to smite together as did those of Belshazzar of old! O that they might avoid all this by a timely repentance! (¶ 6)