As the coffin was lowered into the grave, a clergy man, with prophetic voice, repeated these words of the Apostle Paul:
"I have fought the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me; and not to me only, but unto all that love his appearing."
Franklin B. Sanborn, Life and Letters of John Brown (1885)
Here is touched the secret of Brown's character,--absolute reliance on the Divine, entire disregard of the present, in view of the promised future.
William E. Connelley, John Brown (1900)
W.E.B. DuBois, John Brown (1909)
It is not a full century since this white-haired old man lay weltering in the blood which he spilled for broken and despised humanity. Let the nation which he loved and the South to which he spoke, reverently listen again to-day to those words, as prophetic now as then:
You had better--all you people of the South--prepare yourselves for a settlement of this question. It must come up for settlement sooner than you are prepared for it, and the sooner you commence that preparation, the better for you. You may dispose of me very easily--I am nearly disposed of now; but this question is still to be settled--this Negro question, I mean. The end of that is not yet.
Oswald G. Villard, John Brown 1800-1859 (1910)
Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land With Blood (1970)
Barrie Stavis, John Brown: The Sword and the Word (1970)
From this tiny village, North Elba, situated high in the Adirondack Mountains, six men were lost in the raider on Harper's Ferry; two were the sons of John and Mary Brown. All six wre intertwined into one family, relatives either by blood or by marriage. The women of these intertwined families suffered grievous loss. They stood around the open grave of John Brown and listened to Wendell Phillips, orator and abolitionist:
He has abolished slavery in Virginia. History will date Virginia Emancipation from Harper's Ferry. True, the slave is still there. So, when the tempest uproots a pine on your hills, it looks green for months,--a year or two. Still, it is timber, not a tree. John Brown has loosened the roots of the slave system; it only breathes--it does not live--hereafter.Seventeen months after the hanging of John Brown, the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, ushering in the Civil War. John Brown's apocalyptic statement the morning of his hanging, "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood," had become a tragic reality.
Louis A. DeCaro, Jr., "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown (2002)
Toward the end of the Civil War, John Browns old Adirondack associate Willis Hodges made an investigative tour of Virginia to look into the treatment of ex-slaves by the Union army. When he visited Princess Anne County, he happened to stay at a plantation formerly owned by Henry Wise, the Virginia governor who had been so instrumental in executing Brown in 1859. The Wise family had fled from their secluded plantation when Norfolk fell to the Union army in 1862, and the property was being used by religious groups to house and educate former slaves. Hodges was well aware of the significance of the home, but was overwhelmed when he found that the missionary teachers had a portrait of Brown hanging in what was formerly the Wise family's parlor. "Before me hangs the picture of my old friend John Brown upon the nail which his murderers looking glass once hung," Hodges excitedly wrote home. "How wonderful is the change! How plain one can see the hand of God in this strange work!" Indeed, it seemed a stroke of Providence to him, and as he thought of his old friend, the black man walked along the river in the moonlight, finally falling to his knees under a wild chestnut tree. And turning eastward, Willis Hodges prayed to Him who created the heavens and the earth.
David S. Reynolds, John Brown Abolitionist (2005)
W.E.B. DuBois's startling pronouncement thunders through American history. Indeed, "John Brown was right."
Evan Carton, Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America (2006)
"Whose duty is it to help them? Is it yours? Is it mine? It is every man's, but how few there are to help. But there are a few who dare to answer this call, and dare to answer it in a manner that will make this land of liberty and equality shake to its center." There are never likely, at any given moment, to be more than a few. Most of us have unbroken "household gods" to serve--gods that circumscribe our obligations and our risks, but also, at their best, deepen the human meaning of our lives and are worthy of reverence. Those who answer Brown's or Thoreau's call with immoderate passion and abandon will always be controversial, always be extreme. But their "madness" and "treason" remain necessary. At the least, such radical actors and actions force "sanity" and "patriotism" to define themselves rather than stand exempt from examination and debate. At the most, they reduce suicide, and sustain--perhaps even advance--the hope of fulfilling our revolutionary potential.
Robert E. McGlone, John Brown's War Against Slavery (2009)
For years later, as General William Tecumseh Sherman watched regiments of his army march by him from a hill above Atlanta, flames racing through the city below, a band struck up "John Brown's Body" and the soldiers sang the words lustily. "Never before or since," Sherman remembered years later, "have I heard the chorus of 'Glory, glory, hallelujah!' done with more spirit, or in better harmony of time and place.' To be sure, John Brown did not cause the Civil War. But he hastened its coming. His real legacy to his "guilty land" may have been to make war thinkable if subserved to a Godly purpose. For thousands and ten thousands in the North, John Brown's "martyrdom" sanctified his cause and war itself.
Louis A. DeCaro, Jr., Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia (2015)
During the dreadful years of the Civil War, the orator Wendell Phillips stood once again upon the stage of the Cooper Union in New York. It had been four years since his speech at the John Brown meeting, although he preferred to remind his audience that he “had the honor to assist in giving the body of John Brown to the keeping of the hills he loved.” At the time, Phillips continued, “Selfishness, which calls itself Conservatism,” had sneered at the old man’s life “as a ridiculous failure,” and some of his friends had even sought to excuse him on the grounds of insanity. “We know better now,” the orator nodded, knowing that his audience also understood. “The echoes of his rifles had hardly died away on the banks of the Shenandoah before South Carolina prepared for war in defense of her system. . . . Well might he say, as he did to Theodore Parker, ‘I may fail; I may expiate my rashness on the gibbet; but I open a terrible vial.’”