The Press and Misinformation on John Brown
Brown consistently denied his role as an insurrectionist and the facts bear this up. However, slave holders made no distinctions insofar as he was endeavoring to free their enslaved "property." Any act of armed effort to liberate enslaved people was deemed "insurrection," although the nature of insurrectionary violence is distinct, and Brown clearly wanted to avoid insurrectionary violence--that is, the categorical killing of slaveholders and their families, whether in armed conflict or not. Brown was no Spartacus, not withstanding the famous allusion made by Victor Hugo.
Finally, the idea that Brown was guilty of treason was a device of Brown's prosecutors. His defense sought to overturn the charge, but Hunter and the State of Virginia pushed the idea that because Brown had received legal protection, technically, as a guest of the state, then any act of subterfuge against Virginia could be called "treason." The authority on the trial, Brian McGinty, says the point was arguably true, and conservatives in the North supported the treason conviction. However, in the most logical sense, the charge of treason was self-serving for Virginia to kill Brown. It signified how the State of Virginia had already endeavored to supersede the federal power, and such a charge reflects the hubris of the slaveholders that ultimately led to secession. Indeed, Brown had broken the law to liberate men, while they would commit insurrection and treason against the government in 1861 for the most ignoble reason of keeping men and women in slavery and profiting from their labor and stolen bodies.
It is a point worth noting, that even an unidentified AP writer can continue to miseducate the public with only a few short, ill-informed and prejudiced lines.