History, Research, and Current Themes

"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Bothers Me About John Brown

I well remember a conversation that I had with the late Ed Cotter, back in October 2000, during a visit to Lake Placid, N.Y. and the North Elba farm and burial site of John Brown.  Cotter was the director of the John Brown farm from the mid-1960s, and had studied the Old Man for years, likewise corresponding with JB greats Boyd Stutler and Clarence Gee.  It surprised me, then, when Mr. Cotter responded in the negative when I asked him if he would like to have met John Brown.  I cannot quote him exactly, but he explained that he did not think that Brown would have been very easy to get along with, and that he would have found his personality less than appealing.   Of course, that was Mr. Cotter’s opinion and he was entitled to it if anyone was, given the years he had devoted to studying John Brown.

 "Our fanatics are heroes; theirs are psychopaths,” the late Murray Rothbard noted in his libertarian discussion about the malignant use of psychohistory—which includes a reasonable defense of John Brown against his many critics.

[The complete entry is available only in the forthcoming book, John Brown: Emancipator]


Anonymous said...

What a remarkable blog, I only wish I'd encountered it earlier. I just finished teaching "The Higher Law"-- a collection of Thoreau's writings-- and we focused to an extent on John Brown, screening scenes from Santa Fe Trail to show the persistence of anti-Brown sentiment, and reading Emerson's and Douglass's remarks about him.

James said...

Whether the "life of the party" or not, Brown is at the top of my short-list of people I would like to sit down to a long, conversational meal with. His religion, convictions and morals are something I would love to hear him expound on at length.