Jeremy Keeshin UNITED STATES HISTORY- DOCUMENT BASED QUESTION- JOHN BROWN The persona of John Brown is a mystery

. His biography reveals a man who was dedicated throughout his life to the cause of equality for African Americans, and he went to the extent of giving his life for it. He was marked as a singular example of a white man who died for the cause of black freedom. His actions, however insecurely they may have been grounded in reason, undeniably made an impact. His consistency in perpetuating the abolition movement by any means was a major reason for pushing the nation into war. The relations between the North and South changed drastically as a direct consequence of his actions between the years 1859 and 1863 because the emotion that John Brown stirred among the citizens of the country ultimately led to the Civil War. John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia in October of 1859 was the culmination of his life’s work as an abolitionist. It is highly likely that Brown knew that his actions would not succeed because the numbers that he had versus the numbers he was facing did not present advantageous odds. Others before him had tried to start a rebellion, but Henry David Thoreau asks the vital question that separates the accomplishments of John Brown apart. “Whence, then, this wonderful difference?” (Document B). The object that sets Brown above the others who had tried to rescue slaves previously was that he was beyond his cause. He saw himself as being sent religiously by a duty that he was mandated to satisfy. This made John Brown quest a nobler cause, and even after it had happened it was attractive to those in the North. Brown had come to a crucial realization about the mindset of the nation regarding the termination of slavery. He realized beforehand that the only way to end slavery was by a civil war, and he was the essential part in getting that war started. His eagerness to utilize violence as a solution to this problem of slavery set him apart from other abolitionists. In his editorial Horace Greeley details the sentiment of the country regarding Brown: “And, while we heartily wish every slave in the world would run away from his master tomorrow and never be retaken, we should not feel justified in entering a slave state to incite them to do so, even if we were sure to succeed in the enterprise” (Document A). The majority of the feeling in the North according to Greeley was that they were for the end of slavery, but they did not agree that going out and seeking violence was the direct answer to it. The documents, as well as outside information, demonstrate how Brown’s undertakings helped the North and South move towards war. Lincoln’s campaign speech tells that the Democrats are resorting to fighting, and blaming it on the Republicans and John Brown (Document E). The natural order of association of groups for the South was to associate Brown with the abolitionists, the abolitionists with the Republicans and the Republicans with the North, all of which meant the growing of the divide between the two regions. Despite the divide between the North and South, the hanging of Brown started to spur abolitionism in the North. Although many were uneasy about it at first, the opinion was that it was a positive step. Frederick Douglass says in his letter to a group of abolitionists that just being in the acquaintance of Brown was an honor (Document F). This meant that he as well as many others were of the opinion that this man was so important in making progress towards the abolition of slavery that even to know him was an honor.

Jeremy Keeshin A significant item to note is that the documents are only covering the years 1859, 1860, and 1863 and they are only from a Northern perspective. This means they are not covering the years 1861 and 1862 and that they do not truly cover the Southern viewpoint. These two facts correlate to the point that during the years where the South is doing well during the Civil War, there are no documents. This proves the statement about how the winners write history and how John Brown’s effect was so far reaching as to propel a war. The documents do not fully cover John Brown’s importance in the changing North and South relations as the gap of years inherently provides, but John Brown’s legacy completely does as it covers the issue of how dedicated each side was to their cause. Emerson once said about Brown that he “would make the gallows as glorious as the cross” because his plight was so dignified and respectable, also restated by the Douglass letter. It was even furthered by the final picture where he was meeting the slave mother on the way to the scaffold (Document H). He was so calm at this point in time as he truly transcended the hanging for his much larger cause of ending black enslavement. Brown was more of a symbol than anything as he helped the North to decide how much it was worth it for them to be fighting and his martyrdom reassured the nation that the fight for emancipation would continue.