The Trial of John Brown: A Commentary
20 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2007
Date Written: 2007
The arrest, trial, and execution of John Brown in the fall of 1859 came at a critical moment in United State history. According to historian David S. Reynolds in his biography, "John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights" (2005), Brown's actions and statements following his failed attempt to begin a slave insurrection near Harper's Ferry, Virginia so polarized northern and southern opinion on the slavery issue as to ensure Abraham Lincoln's election and cause the Civil War to occur perhaps two decades earlier than it might have otherwise. Reynolds is quick to point out that not only was Brown right on slavery and other racial issues of his day, but that his conduct - in causing the Civil War to begin in 1861 rather than, say, 1881 - potentially saved hundreds of thousands of lives that could have been lost in a war fought in a time of much greater population and more deadly weaponry and, at the same time, might well have spared an entire generation of African-Americans the humiliating experience of human bondage.
Keywords: Famous Trials, Trial, John Brown, Harpers Ferry, Civil War, Slavery, Slaves, Abolitionist, Abolitionism, Pottawatomie
JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation