American Legends: The Life of John Brown

A Theatrical Manager:John Brown and the Radical Politics of the American Makeover Mythos
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American Legends: The Life Of John Brown.

Hitchens argues that his attacks against slavery's proponents were not senseless and bloodthirsty rampages, but part of a calculated—and successful—effort to signal to the South that the abolitionists would not bend so easily after all. This in turn, Hitchens explains, "made it harder and harder for the invertebrate Lincolnians to keep the issue of slavery under control. In , Franklin Sanborn, a regular Atlantic contributor and one of six men from Massachusetts who secretly funded John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, wrote two articles that detailed Brown's relationship with his Massachusetts supporters.

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Both articles were published without Sanborn's byline, and they described his role in the scheme in the third person. His decision to remain anonymous likely reflects the fact that the Harpers Ferry raid had proved highly controversial among those who had supported it. After the raid's unsuccessful outcome, some wished to be entirely dissociated from Brown, others proudly took credit for having attempted to promote the cause, and still others expressed remorse for having sent Brown off on a doomed mission.

In "Three Interviews with Old John Brown" December , William Addison Phillips, a radical anti-slavery journalist and politician, recounted interviews he had conducted with Brown during the s while working in Kansas as a special correspondent for the New York Tribune.

John Brown

Phillips went on to fight in the Union Army and by the time of this article's publication was a congressman from Kansas. The talks described here provide a rare and respectful portrait of Brown during his time in Kansas, and they reveal Phillips's own ambivalence toward Brown's violent brand of activism. More than forty years later Gamaliel Bradford, a Boston-based biographer, wrote "John Brown" November , an article that sought to look past the hyperbolic myths and legends about Brown to discern what kind of man Brown really was.

Bradford reviewed Brown's life story, analyzing his actions, his relationships with his family, and even the stubborn set to his face. Brown was not insane, Bradford concluded. But he was a man obsessed. But his restlessness and the contradictions of his personality were only, in heightened form, those of the whole generation of Yankees who took the Bible and the plow from the seaboard townships of New England to found a continental empire. Like so many of his contemporaries, he was religious to the point of fanaticism.

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He loved nothing so much as to sing hymns with his children round the fireside, and to read theology by candlelight after the long days of manual labor which hardened his lean, muscular body so that in his fifties he was as wiry as a boy. Love, in that culture was sober business.

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*Includes pictures of Brown and important people and places in his life. *Includes Brown's jailhouse interview and courtroom statement after being convicted and. for few historians have attempted to place John Brown's life in a broader context Brown ultimately turned to violence, the American people were doing the.

His first wife worked herself to death, and his second—who came to his house as a servant —was specially chosen for her plainness. Conjugal love resulted in 20 children, 10 of whom he lived to bury.

John Brown

Yet he longed also to be rich in this world's goods; but he was a hopeless businessman. He got into his first venture as much out of Yankee pride as Yankee greed. He couldn't bear the idea that the sleeping partner in his tannery should tell him what to do, merely because he had money in the venture.

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The wool project was a failure on a grander scale. The story ended sordidly, with Brown helping himself to a loan from a partner's till.

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Only the victim's charity, and some sense that Brown was no ordinary thief, saved him from prosecution as a common embezzler. Boyer traces how Brown's hatred of slavery hardened into an implacable, arrogant resolve to strike the hated system down. He first came to understand what slavery was when he made friends with a black boy of his own age during the War of His father was associated with the abolitionist community centered around Oberlin College.

As early as , Brown outlined to the black leader Frederick Douglass a plan that had strategic logic as well as daring.

His idea was to send guerrilla bands of whites and blacks down the spine of the Appalachians. His plan was to encourage runaways, sending noncombatants to Canada, and recruiting those who would fight to his guerrillas.

The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005)

Runaways on the scale he proposed to encourage, Brown calculated, would drive down the price of slaves all over the South, and strike a blow at the precarious economics of the peculiar institution. Even more important would be the psychological effect.

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The meeting with Douglass surely casts a new light on the Harper's Ferry adventure. The fact that 12 years earlier Brown had cooly discussed the psychological, economic and strategic damage that could be done to the slave empire by 25 determined guerrillas, living off the land, makes his invasion of Virginia with 21 followers look something rather different from the foredoomed and foolhardy escapade it has usually been presented as.

Boyer's book is more than a life of John Brown.