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

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Saturday, December 08, 2012

"The Tribunal": A New John Brown Reader!

Following Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising, the release of yet another acclaimed John Brown book, The Tribunal, may suggest that the Old Man may be getting more attention than all the Civil War sesquicentennial can attract, even with the release of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."  It is almost as if--and I write this with a great measure of delight--historians cannot get beyond 1859.  This time around, the publication of The Tribunal promises to be a wide lens blockbuster in which the editors, John Stauffer and Zoe Trodd, have returned with what promises to be a definitive reader.  I have not yet gotten my copy, but I'm happy to report that our friend and fellow biographer, David Reynolds, has written a good review in The Wall Street Journal, excerpted here. "The Tribunal," Reynolds writes,
"demonstrates just how central John Brown was to the cultural and political life of his time. Included in the book are powerful writings about Brown by some of the century's most notable people: Walt Whitman, Henry Ward Beecher, Jefferson Davis, Herman Melville, Stephen Douglas, Louisa May Alcott, Victor Hugo and Karl Marx, to name a few. Brown's name echoed among thousands of average folk too. Little wonder that Julia Ward Howe's "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was inspired by a tune sung by Union troops as they tramped southward that contains the memorable words: "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, / But his soul is marching on." 
The Tribunal doesn't whitewash Brown. To the contrary, it recognizes his flaws and provides a broad sampling of just criticism. But it reveals as well that those most hostile toward Brown were pro-slavery types who felt threatened by his forward-looking views. Some of Brown's strongest defenders were people like Thoreau, who had formerly espoused nonresistance but who came to realize that only violence could uproot an institution so deeply entrenched as slavery. . . .  There are a few unfortunate omissions in The Tribunal, such as a letter and an article in which the novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who had formerly gained fame for her portrayal of the nonresistant slave Uncle Tom, signaled a turnaround when she praised Brown for attacking slavery "with fire and sword." But, all in all, Mr. Stauffer and Ms. Trodd should be commended for making available so many documents that were formerly hard to find and that reveal so much about this key figure in American history. The Tribunal confirms what has become increasingly clear in recent years: To understand America fully, we would do well to reflect on John Brown—on what he stood for and the ideals he embodied for some of the nation's deepest thinkers." (David S. Reynolds, "The Other Great Emancipator."  The Wall Street Journal, 3 Dec. 2012)
The book is a whopping 570-pages and looks like an embarrassment of riches with respect to post-Harper's Ferry statements about John Brown.  Harvard University Press can hardly be exaggerating when it declares that Stauffer and Trodd "have assembled an impressive and wide-ranging collection of responses to Brown’s raid: Brown’s own words, northern and southern reactions, international commentary, and reflections from the Civil War and Reconstruction era. Represented here are all the figures one would expect to see (Lincoln, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass), many surprises (John Wilkes Booth, Karl Marx, Giuseppe Garibaldi), as well as free and enslaved blacks and white citizens. The result is a book that views Brown from multiple vantage points."

The publisher's website continues:

The Introduction describes the panic that Harpers Ferry created in the South, splitting the Democratic Party along sectional lines and altering the outcome of the 1860 presidential election. Without Brown, it speculates, the Civil War and emancipation would have been delayed by another four years—probably more—which in turn might have disrupted emancipation movements in Brazil, Cuba, and even Russia. The Tribunal is essential reading for anyone interested in the Civil War era and the history of social protest movements."

I provide here the entire table of contents, which is most impressive, and includes a substantial amount of Brown's own writing in Part 1.

Part I: In His Own Words
“Sambo’s Mistakes,” 1848
“League of Gileadites,” January 15, 1851
“Dear Wife and Children, Everyone,” June 1856
“Old Brown’s Farewell,” April 1857
“To Mr. Henry L. Stearns,” July 15, 1857
“Provisional Constitution and Ordinances for the People of the United States,” May 8, 1858
“A Declaration of Liberty by the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America,” 1859
“Interview with Senator Mason and Others,” October 18, 1859
“Last Address to the Virginia Court,” November 2, 1859
“Prison Letters,” October–December, 1859
John Stauffer, Harvard University

Part II: Northern Responses
Horace Greeley, “Tribune Editorial,” October 19, 1859
Boston Courier, “A Lesson for the People,” October 20, 1859
Illinois State Register, “The ‘Irrepressible Conflict,’” October 20, 1859
Anonymous, “To the Clerk of Court, Charlestown,” October 23, 1859, and “To Friend Wise,” December 2, 1859
The Patriot, “The Harper’s Ferry Affair,” October 26, 1859
Lydia Maria Child, “Dear Captain Brown, ” October 26, 1859, and “The Hero’s Heart,” January 26, 1860
E.B., “To John Brown,” October 27, 1859
Joshua R. Giddings, “The Harper’s Ferry Insurrection,” October 28, 1859
Friends’ Review, “The Riot at Harper’s Ferry,” October 29, 1859
Salmon P. Chase, “To Joseph H. Barrett,” October 29, 1859
New York Evening Post, “A New Version of an Old Song,” October 29, 1859
Henry Ward Beecher, “The Nation’s Duty to Slavery,” October 30, 1859
Henry David Thoreau, “A Plea for Captain John Brown,” October 30, 1859, and “The Last Days of John Brown,” July 4, 1860
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Courage,” November 8, 1859, and “Remarks at a Meeting for the Relief of the Family of John Brown,” November 18, 1859
Frederick Douglass, “Capt. John Brown Not Insane,” November 1859
Edmund Clarence Stedman, “How Old Brown Took Harper’s Ferry,” November 12, 1859
William Dean Howells, “Old Brown,” November 1859
John Andrew, “Speech at Tremont Temple,” November 18, 1859
Charles Langston, “Letter to the Editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer,” November 18, 1859, and “Speech in Cleveland,” December 2, 1859
Theodore Parker, “To Francis Jackson,” November 24, 1859
Henry Clarke Wright, The Natick Resolution, December 1859
Albany Evening Journal, “The Execution of John Brown,” December 1, 1859
“Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Cleveland Resolutions,” November 29 and December 2, 1859
Henry Highland Garnet, “Martyr’s Day,” December 2, 1859
J. Sella Martin and William Lloyd Garrison, “Speeches at Tremont Temple,” December 2, 1859
Fales Henry Newhall, “The Conflict in America,” December 4, 1859
Anne Lynch Botta, “To Henry Whitney Bellows,” December 6, 1859
Wendell Phillips, “Eulogy for John Brown,” December 8, 1859
Edward Everett and Caleb Cushing, “Speeches at Faneuil Hall,” December 8, 1859
Charles Eliot Norton, “To Mrs. Edward Twisleton,” December 13, 1859
Charles Sumner, “To the Duchess of Argyll,” December 20, 1859
John Greenleaf Whittier, “Brown of Ossawatomie,” December 22, 1859
Thomas Hamilton, “The Nat Turner Insurrection,” December 1859
William A. Phillips, “The Age and the Man,” January 20, 1860
Louisa May Alcott, “With a Rose That Bloomed on the Day of John Brown’s Martyrdom,” January 20, 1860
Stephen Douglas, “Invasion of States,” January 23, 1860
Richard Realf, “John Brown’s Raid,” January 30, 1860
Abraham Lincoln, “Address at the Cooper Institute,” February 27, 1860
William H. Seward, “The State of the Country,” February 29, 1860, and “The National Idea,” October 3, 1860
John S. Rock, “Ninetieth Anniversary of the Boston Massacre,” March 5, 1860
William Henry Furness, “Put Up Thy Sword,” March 11, 1860
Carl Schurz, “The Doom of Slavery,” August 1, 1860
Pennsylvania Statesman, “Old Brown’s Argument,” October 20, 1860
Lucretia Mott, “Remarks to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society,” October 25, 1860
Osborne P. Anderson, A Voice from Harper’s Ferry, early 1861

Part III: Southern Responses
Henry Wise, “Comments in Richmond, Virginia,” October 21, 1859
Republican Banner and Nashville Whig, “The Harper’s Ferry Riot,” October 24, 1859
Robert Barnwell Rhett, “The Insurrection,” October 31, 1859
Richmond Daily Enquirer, “A Suggestion for Governor Wise,” November 2, 1859
Southern Watchman, “The Harper’s Ferry Insurrection,” November 3, 1859
D.H. Strother, “The Late Invasion at Harper’s Ferry,” November 5, 1859, and “The Trial of the Conspirators,” November 12, 1859
Sarah Frances Williams, “To My Dear Parents,” November 7 and 11, 1859
Margaretta Mason, “To Lydia Maria Child,” November 11, 1859
Arkansas Gazette, “The Harper’s Ferry Insurrection,” November 12, 1859
Richmond Whig, “Editorial,” November 18, 1859
Natchez Courier, “Forewarned, Forearmed,” November 18, 1859
Mahala Doyle, “To John Brown,” November 20, 1859
Edmund Ruffin, “Resolutions of the Central Southern Rights Association,” November 25, 1859, and Anticipations of the Future, June 1860
Susan Bradford Eppes, “Diary,” October–December 1859
Amanda Virginia Edmonds, “Diary,” November and December 1859
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, “Dear Friend,” November 25, 1859, and “The Triumph of Freedom—A Dream,” January 1860
Thomas J. Jackson, “To Mary Anna Jackson,” December 2, 1859
John Preston, “To Margaret Junkin Preston,” December 2, 1859
Raleigh Register, “The Execution of John Brown,” December 3, 1859
Moncure Conway, “Sermon,” December 4, 1859
Reuben Davis, “The Duty of Parties,” December 8, 1859
Anonymous, “A Woman’s View of a Woman’s Duty in Connection with John Brown’s Crimes,” December 11, 1859
Andrew Johnson, “Remarks to the Senate,” December 12, 1859
James A. Seddon, “To R.M.T. Hunter,” December 26, 1859
Anonymous, “Old John Brown, a Song for Every Southern Man,” ca. December 1859
Mann Satterwhite Valentine, “The Mock Auction,” 1860
George Fitzhugh, “Disunion within the Union,” January 1860
C.G. Memminger, “The South Carolina Mission to Virginia,” January 19, 1860
Alexander Boteler, “Speech on the Organization of the House,” January 25, 1860
John Tyler, Jr., “The Secession of the South,” April 1860
National Democratic Executive Committee, The Great Issue to Be Decided in November Next, September 1860
Howell Cobb, “Letter to the People of Georgia,” December 6, 1860
William Gilmore Simms, “To a Northern Friend,” December 12, 1860
John Wilkes Booth, “Philadelphia Speech,” December 1860
Richard K. Call, “To John S. Littell,” February 12, 1861
James Williams, “To Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux,” February 1861
Dr. Zoe Trodd, University of Nottingham

Part IV: International Responses
The Times, “Editorial,” November 2, 1859
Joseph Barker, “Slavery and Civil War,” November 1859
L’Univers, “Editorial,” November 24, 1859
Cyprian Kamil Norwid, “To Citizen John Brown” and “John Brown,” November 1859
Victor Hugo, “A Word on John Brown,” December 2, 1859; “To M. Heurtelou,” March 31, 1860; and “To the Memory of John Brown,” October 21, 1874
Ottilie Assing, “John Brown’s Execution and Its Consequences,” December 1859
Harvey C. Jackson, “An Address to the Colored People of Canada,” December 7, 1859
Glasgow Herald, “The Outbreak at Harper’s Ferry,” December 19, 1859
Aberdeen Journal, “A Martyr or a Criminal?” December 21, 1859
Manchester Examiner and Times, “The Execution of John Brown,” December 24, 1859
Harriet Martineau, “John Brown; South’s Political Posturing,” December 24, 1859, and “The Puritan Militant,” January 28, 1860
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, “Captain John Brown,” December 25, 1859
Caledonian Mercury and Daily Express, “A New Year’s Reverie,” January 2, 1860
Anti-Slavery Reporter, “The Harper’s Ferry Tragedy,” January 2, 1860
Argus, “A Revolt in America,” January 10, 1860
Karl Marx, “To Friedrich Engels,” January 11, 1860
Feuille du Commerce, “John Brown,” January 21, 1860
Joseph Déjacque, “To Pierre Vésinier,” February 20, 1861
William Howard Russell, “Diary,” April 20 and August 17, 1861
J.M. Ludlow, “A Year of the Slavery Question in the United States (1859–60),” December 1862
Louis Ratisbonne, “John Brown,” February 1863
Giuseppe Garibaldi, “To President Lincoln,” August 6, 1863
W.T. Malleson and Washington Wilks, “Speeches to the Emancipation Society,” December 2, 1863
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, 1873
Hermann von Holst, “John Brown,” 1878

Part V: Civil War and U.S. Postwar Responses
Various Authors, “John Brown’s Body,” May 1861
Elizabeth Van Lew, “Occasional Diary,” 1861
Mary Boykin Chesnut, “A Diary from Dixie,” November 28, 1861
Wilder Dwight, “Letters,” July 30, 1861, and March 4 and 8, 1862
George Michael Neese, “Diary,” January 3 and 26, 1862
Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Chiefly about War Matters. By a Peaceable Man,” July 1862
John Sherman, “To William Tecumseh Sherman,” September 23, 1862
Charlotte Forten, “Diary” and “Letter,” November 1862
Moncure Conway, The Golden Hour, 1862
Adalbert Volck, “Worship of the North” and “Writing the Emancipation Proclamation,” 1863
John H. Surratt, “Diary,” January 16 and 20, 1863
Anonymous, “John Brown’s Entrance into Hell,” March 1863
J. Sella Martin, “Speech to the Emancipation Society,” December 2, 1863
William Henry Hall, “Oration on the Occasion of the Emancipation Celebration,” January 1, 1864
John Wilkes Booth, “Remarks on Lincoln and Brown,” November 1864
Walt Whitman, “Year of Meteors (1859–60),” 1865
Joseph G. Rosengarten, “John Brown’s Raid: How I Got into It and How I Got Out of It,” June 1865
C. Chauncey Burr, “History of Old John Brown,” July 1865
Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, “Dear Mrs. H—,” July 27, 1865
Charles Sumner, “The National Security and the National Faith,” September 14, 1865
James Buchanan, Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion, 1866
Herman Melville, “The Portent (1859),” 1866
Gerrit Smith, “John Brown,” August 15, 1867
John Milton Hay, “Diary,” September 10, 1867
Richard Henry Dana, Jr., “How We Met John Brown,” July 1871
Henry S. Olcott, “How We Hung John Brown,” 1875
Colored Citizen, “Wanted, a Few Black John Browns,” January 4, 1879
Eli Thayer, “To G. W. Brown,” January 13, 1880
Frederick Douglass, “John Brown,” May 30, 1881
George Washington Williams, “John Brown—Hero and Martyr,” 1883
David N. Utter, “John Brown of Osawatomie,” November 1883
Mark Twain, “English as She is Taught,” April 1887
Frank Preston Stearns, “Unfriendly Criticism of John Brown,” 1888
T. Thomas Fortune, “John Brown and Nat. Turner,” January 12 and 29, 1889

Not having seen the book, my only concern is that the editors have provided solid citations and contextualization when necessary, something Professors Stauffer and Trodd did not do in their less successful prior John Brown reader.  However, they are thoughtful scholars and I am optimistic that The Tribunal will be an excellent resource for the John Brown shelf.  Certainly, Stauffer and Trodd deserve our salutation and best wishes at the completion of such a mammoth challenge.


Rea Andrew Redd said...

Wow! Thanks for the update! Writing Santa today! As I wear my John Brown 2009 NPS Conference teeshirt under my John Brown NPS Conference sweatshirt, and sit under my John Brown NPS Conference framed poster, I'send hours with this book!

Louis A. DeCaro, Jr. . . said...

Always great to hear from full-blooded Browniacs. Ye are the salt of the American history earth.