"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Support for Brown at Pottawatomie

On July 28, The Capital-Journal published my guest column about John Brown's actions during the 1856 attack on proslavery settlers in the Pottawatomie area. The column drew reaction from readers who questioned whether Brown was justified.

Since none of us lived during the time of the "massacre," let's note the words of those whose lives were directly affected by the event.

Gov. Charles Robinson wrote, in February 1878: "I never had much doubt that Capt. Brown was the author of the blow at Pottawatomie, for the reason that he was the only man who comprehended the situation, and saw the absolute necessity of some such blow and had the nerve to strike it."

Judge Hanway, in a statement dated Feb. 1, 1878, accurately summarizes the progress of public opinion in the neighborhood of the crime, saying "so far as public opinion in the neighborhood where the affair took place is concerned, I believe I may state that public opinion was considerably divided; but after the whole circumstances became known, there was a reaction in public opinion and the Free State settlers who had claims on the creek considered that Capt. Brown and his party of eight had performed a justifiable act, which saved their homes and dwellings from threatened raids of the proslavery party."

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, in his Cheerful Yesterdays states: "In regard to the most extreme act of John Brown's Kansas career, the so-called 'Pottawatomie massacre' of May 24, 1856, I can testify that in September of that year, there appeared to be but one way of thinking among the Kansas Free State men. ... I heard of no one who did not approve of the act, and its beneficial effects were universally asserted, Gov. Robinson himself fully endorsing it."

All of this information courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society.

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