Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?>The Public Response>Chicago Press and Tribune

Who's To Blame?

Chicago Press and Tribune, October 21, 1859

A squad of fanatics whose zeal is wonderfully disproportioned to their sense, and a double handful of slaves whose ignorance is equalled only by their desire for the freedom of which they have been robbed, -all commanded by a man who has for years been as mad as a March hare, unite in making an insurrection at Harper's Ferry. They break into and take possession of an United States Armory, stop a railway train, kill a few citizens, assume command ing positions about the town; and for a few hours meet with none to dispute their right: They are guilty of the most incomprehensible stupidity and folly as well as unpardonable criminality in all these acts; and when their career is arrested, their leader shot down and his followers are dispersed, there is not a public journal of any party, or public man of any shade of opinion found to approve their means or justify their ends. But what matters is that the stark mad enterprise was the product of addled brains: -that in itself is is incontestible evidence of the insanity of its originator; that its chief in his confession claims all the credit and all the criminality for himself; that the purposes of the emeute are foreign to Republican policy; that the means chosen for its consummation are utterly repugnant to Republican sense of right and wrong, in spite of these, the journals of the bogus Democracy have already begun their lying assertions that for the insurrection and its consequences the Republican party are to be held accountable! Human mendacity could go no further.

Who supposes that such an outbreak would have been possible in 1853? . . . What disturbed that era of good feeling? What stirred up the bitter waters anew? What produced that aggression in the South that gives fanaticism like that of Brown a pretext for such deeds as have just been done in Virginia? Are the Republicans responsible? Did they break up the old compact between the North and the South? Did they disregard the policy and forget the traditions of the Fathers? Did they seek out new and strange excuses why the action of the Government should be reversed, and Slavery made paramount to Freedom? Did they contrive that Dred Scott decision by which the civilized world was shocked and four millions of men were cast out of the pale of humanity? Did they renew the war, the agitation, the strife? Did they carry bloodshed to Kansas in the attempt to plant Slavery there by fire and the sword? Did they awaken the passions of hate and revenge by which the country has been torn, and by which slave insurrections with the aid of white men are made possible? Let the Democrats reply! . . .

. . . Brown is no worse, with all his crimes on his head, than Jeff. Davis. He is less a traitor to day. His confederates have not half the criminality of many men who occupy seats in Congress or give advice in the councils of the Democratic party. But we excuse nor justify neither. We class them all together -Black Douglases and white, old Brown and Senator brown, tfe insurrectionists at Harper's Ferry and the secessionists of Mississippi -all disturbers of the public peace howlers who care nothing for country or consequences all traitors dyed in the wool. Brown, braver than the others, has attempted what his compeers in the South only threaten. Dissolution of the Union is the object of all.

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