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Was John Brown Insane?

In defending him against the charges from the raid, his lawyer offered the court a telegram giving reason to doubt Brown's sanity. The telegram was sent by AH Lewis of Ohio and read:

John Brown, leader of the insurrection at Harper's Ferry, and several of his family, have resided in this country for many years. Insanity is hereditary in that family. His mother's sister died with it, and a daughter of that sister has been two years in a lunatic asylum. A son and daughter of his mother's brother have also been confined in the lunatic asylum, and another son of that brother is now insane and under close restraint.

John Brown was not consulted on bringing this telegram forth as evidence, for when his lawyer used it to attempt to put in a plea of insanity for him, Brown was offended and chose to address the court:

.....I look upon it as a miserable artifice and pretext by those who ought to take a different course in regard to me, if they toook any at all, and I view it with more contempt then otherwise. As I remarked to Mr. Green, insane persons, so far as my experience goes, have but little ability to judge of their own sanity, and, if I am insane, of course I should think I know more then the rest of the world. But I do not think so. I am perfectly unconscious of insanity, and I reject, so far as I am capable, any attempt to interfere on my behalf on that score.

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Copyright Digital History 2016