Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?>The Public Response>Richmond Daily Enquirer

A Suggestion for Governor Wise

Richmond Daily Enquirer, November 2, 1859

Under this head, the "New York Commercial Advertiser," a Black Republican Free soil sheet, puts forth an argument to show that Brown is an "ultra fanatic" "little better than insane," "with mind and heart alike too warped for him to discern evil from good. Under these circumstances, the "Advertiser," argues that it would not be good policy for Virginia to hang Brown and his fellow murderers....

. . . A cunning policy does the "Advertiser" suggest. Pardon the principal and permit the accessories to escape! Extend clemency to Brown and forgiveness to Seward, Hale, Giddings, Smith and Greeley!- The "Advertiser" begs the Executive of Virginia not to make a martyr of Brown; that being a fanatic he is insane certainly to some degree, and our New York contemporary fears direful consequences will spring from his execution. That as the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church, so from the grave of John Brown the "Advertiser" fears a crop of armed fanatics may spring up destructive to Virginia and the South. It would perhaps have been more to the point to have shown that the pardon of Brown would have lessened the number of existing fanatics rather than by suggesting their increase from a due course of justice. But we apprehend the Executive of Virginia will not turn an attentive ear to suggestions coming from such a source as the New York Commercial "Advertiser." The Republican party, of which the "Advertiser" is an organ, is too deeply implicated in the actions of their chief leadersto offer suggestions with regard to the just punishment of one of their numbers. . . .

Violated laws and murdered citizens demand a victim at the hand of justice, if Brown is a crazed fanatic, irresponsible either in morals or law, there are yet guilty parties. He is then the agent of wicked principals. Northern people believe Brown insane ..what punishment is due to those who have poisoned his mind with the "irrepressible conflict" an spurred his fanaticism to deeds of blood and carnage. He may be insane, but there are other criminals, guilty wretches, who instigated the crimes perpetrated at Harper's Ferry.

Bring these men, bring Seward, Greeley, Giddings, Hale and Smith to the jurisdiction of Virginia, and Brown and his deluded victims in the Charlestown jail may hope for pardon. In the opinion of Virginia the five Republican leaders, above mentioned, are more guilty than even John Brown and his associates. An ignorant fanaticism may be pleaded in paliation of the crime of Brown, but the five Republican leaders would spurn such a stultifying plea! They would not compromise their intelligence even at the cost of their morality. Let the friends of Brown, let all who believe him to be insane, and all who intend to represent him as a crazy fanatic, for whose folly no party is responsible, deliver up Seward, Greeley, Giddings, Smith and Hale. A fair trial, at their own time, with their own counsel, will be freely given them, and if Virginia does not prove them guilty, they too shall go unhurt.

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