Weighing John Brown

Weighing John Brown John J. Miller]

Comments are rolling in on articlemy WSJ about Harpers Ferry, John Brown, and Stephen Vincent Benét’s poem about it all.
This one came by e-mail:
Hmm, how to weigh Stephen Vincent Benét? The same as anyone else that romanticizes a violent terrorist.
This one is posted on the WSJ site:
John Brown you made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of America’s slaves! RIP brave sir!!!
Both are right, both are wrong — John Brown is one of the most compelling and complicated men in American history. That’s why Benét wrote about him, that’s why we keep arguing about him a century and a half later.

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John Brown was a man who laid down his life for his beliefs and in the anti-slavery cause. I admire him for that, and some of my ancestors went to battle singing: “John Brown’s body lies a-molding in the grave…but his truth goes marching on.”

Unfortunately, John Brown was unrealistic in his efforts, misled by the sort of fanaticism that can come with unbridled religious fervor. So, while I salute his courage and conviction, I cannot admire his strategy.
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