"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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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bell & Howl IV--
Swint Responds to Brodeur (Updated Sept. 6)

Yesterday I featured an op-ed piece written by a citizen of Marlborough in criticism of Howard Swint's efforts to return the "John Brown Bell" in that fair city to the site of its origin.  In fairness to Mr. Swint, I post his follow-up comments as follows.  This presents the final entry on this topic, unless I find more persuasive reason for following up.(LD)


            Allegations of “legal blackmail” being employed in an attempt to have the John Brown Bell returned to its rightful owner are both intellectually dishonest and purposely misleading. After having been denied the opportunity to present my research findings, as well as those of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, to the City of Marlborough, First Church of Marlborough and the shell organization that claims ownership, legal recourse is what these organizations compel for remedy. It is a form of due process reserved for those seeking fair and equal justice under law when denied in the pursuit of good faith efforts to right a wrong and in this instance, denial of the opportunity to even speak formally and to present a compromise. As to "slander" Brodeur is also both intellectually dishonest and factually wrong as the anecdotal accounts by those who took the bell were false and misleading and they in effect impugned them themselves when they contrived their accounts during the Civil War and falsified provenance thirty years afterwards. Brodeur must know this or he would otherwise support a forum where the facts could be established based on historical record. And if silence is the language of complicity, then the aforementioned who deny the opportunity to be presented these findings share in the dishonor of allowing material possessions stand before that of their country. The John Brown Bell belongs to the United States government and if obstructionist policies necessitate legal action to quiet the title then it will be their decision to have these findings heard in the courtroom as I have been denied the requested forums.

            After having been denied the opportunity to present my research findings, as well as those of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, to the City of Marlborough, First Church of Marlborough and the shell organization that claims ownership, legal recourse is what these organizations compel for remedy. I seek and have been denied the opportunity to act in good faith the opportunity to even speak formally and to present a compromise. My point rests with the fact that those who took the bell manufactured accounts that were false and misleading. They contrived orders and authorization during the Civil War and falsified provenance thirty years afterwards. I'd much rather present in a forum where the facts could be established based on historical record. The John Brown Bell belongs to the United States government. Obstructionist policies in Marlborough will necessitate legal action to quiet the title. And it will be their decision to have these findings heard in the courtroom as I have been denied the requested forums.  Howard Swint


September 6, 2011


Brodeur Responds


In a recent article of his hometown Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail (Civil War dispute still rings in Charleston, Aug. 16, 2011), Mr. Howard Swint is quoted as saying, "As much as I regret threatening a legal path, this seems like the only way to get their attention." In his recent oped piece in the MetroWest Daily News, (Howard Swint: Who owns John Brown's Bell?, Aug. 3, 2011), Mr. Swint uses the word 'profiteer' three times when referring to soldiers who lost their lives or limbs in defense of the Union despite the fact that no one has ever proved (nor, before Mr. Swint, even suggested) that a single dime of 'profit' was made in connection with the Bell. From these sources, I maintain my position that Mr. Swint has used legal blackmail and slander and leave it to others to judge.

No one in Marlborough (or anywhere else) has denied Mr. Swint from presenting his research findings. Indeed, the MetroWest Daily News has given him ample opportunity to present his case and propose compromises, which he has done on more than one occasion. That his arguments fall on deaf ears is no new experience for Mr. Swint having been similarly rejected in his home state for proposing the removal of the statue of Civil War hero Stonewall Jackson from the West Virginia state capitol, (the Charleston Gazette, Howard Swint: W.Va. Capitol no place for Confederate memorial, May 28, 2011).
The issue of the Bell is a matter between the National Parks Service and the John A. Rawlins Bldg. Assoc. The people of Marlborough fully recognize this reality and wish that repeated controversialist Mr. Swint put his talent as a historian to more productive use.
PAUL BRODEUR, Marlborough

1 comment:

Alice Keesey Mecoy said...

Lou,

I find the entire "Bell Controversy" perplexing. John Brown had nothing to do with the bell - the only connection is that it hung in the fire house (now known as John Brown Fort) in Harper's Ferry when John Brown was there. He did not ring it, he did not touch it, I doubt he even gave it a passing thought. So why are people so insistent that "it must be brought home to Harpers Ferry?"

I am proud to show off my "John Brown treasures" - a piece of the Adair house, John Brown Jr's military manual, Annie's photograph. But why is the bell linked to my ancestor? Why is it so important to Swift, and others to return the bell?

I did quite a bit of research on the "John Brown Bell" when I first heard about it. I thought it was an interesting story and one that I could publish easily, since at the time, I thought it was a wide open subject. While researching the bell, I found the wonderful little publication by Joan Abshire, "The John Brown Bell
The journey of the second-most important bell in American history,
from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia,
to Marlborough Massachusetts."

From what I have read about the bell, it is well respected and treated with honor. Probably more honor and respect than any bell in America, other than the Liberty Bell.

The bell is just a bell to me, no more and no less than that. I do not see any connection to Grandpa, or any need to return to it to Harpers Ferry.

Alice Keesey Mecoy
Great, great, great Granddaughter of John Brown