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John Brown (abolitionist) -

"Historians agree John Brown played a major role in the start of the Civil War. David Potter (1976) said the emotional effect of Brown's raid was greater than the philosophical effect of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and that his raid revealed a deep division between North and South.[5] Brown's actions prior to the Civil War as an abolitionist, and the tactics he chose, still make him a controversial figure today. He is sometimes memorialized as a heroic martyr and a visionary and sometimes vilified as a madman and a terrorist. Some writers, such as Bruce Olds, describe him as a monomaniacal zealot, others, such as Stephen B. Oates, regard him as "one of the most perceptive human beings of his generation." David S. Reynolds hails the man who "killed slavery, sparked the civil war, and seeded civil rights" and Richard Owen Boyer emphasizes that Brown was "an American who gave his life that millions of other Americans might be free." For Ken Chowder he is "at certain times, a great man", but also "the father of American terrorism."[6] The song "John Brown's Body" became a Union marching song during the Civil War."

John Brown (abolitionist) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

S
o i'm trying to find some reason to dislike Henry David Thoreau (don't ask why, its an autism thing) and the only thing i can come up with is his admiration for and, apparently, unqualified defense of John Brown of Torrington and Pottawatamie.  His willingness to use violence to try to destroy an unjust, but legal institution is controversial, but the overflow of that violence onto persons who merely stood in his way, crosses the line between militant and criminal and allows the charge of terrorism.  He thus becomes a precursor of the twentieth and twenty-first century terrorists.  I once argued that the first modern terrorist was Stavrogin. a character invented by Dostoyevsky  for his novel, The Devils, because there was no historical character on which to model Stavrogan save the autocratic imagination of the author.  Yet John Brown could well have provided the Russian author with a model.

I believe in crossing and challenging categories, but the category "terrorist and martyr" is a little bit too much for me.  Terrorists should not be confused with martyrs; and, more important, martyrs should not be confused with terrorists.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
madman101
Apr. 29th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
although i am in no condition to do much thinking/writing, i hope i can help you

it was not john brown's violence which influenced towards war. it was the evolving abolitionists becoming infatuated with his writings from jail. i too have pondered the violence behind brown, and so the abolitionists. it seems perplexing and paradoxical now. but i can see thoreau becoming entranced more by browns writing, and rather his moralistic ideas, as thoreau was a bit naive and something of a bookworm with a puritanical background.

there were bigger forces behind the war, which people still don't see. and that was the influence of Pullman and the railroads behind the new republican party, their desire to fight the railroad union, and (with other industrial corporations) to feast on an influx of cheap black labour from the south.

i'm not sure if i've tagged it, but i did at least one post a long time ago about how many progressives and transcendentalists were (or became) so very often puritanical prudes, disrupting native americans, imposing prohibition, even some leaning towards euthanasia. these contradictions have been a bother for me to deal with too, but those were different times

all fascinating nevertheless
bobby1933
Apr. 29th, 2012 02:27 am (UTC)
Right. My interest here was not big historical issues, but a "righteous" man who came to point of threatening to murder his own sons because their zeal was not up to his standards, and why other righteous people would defend, not so much his ideas as, his actions.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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