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HI 300 Harpers Ferry

HI 300 Harpers Ferry - 1 Matthew Gulledge Dr Kalinga HI 300...

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Matthew Gulledge Dr. Kalinga HI 300 February 1, 2007 Final Paper Harpers Ferry On October 16, 1859 John Brown along with a small band of men attacked the United States armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in the hope of arming and inciting a slave rebellion. The attack failed and all the men involved were eventually tried and hung for their crimes, but their actions had repercussions that few could scarcely imagine. During this time period the United States was growing more and more divided over the issue of slavery and the morality of its practice. This event at Harpers Ferry was a clear indication of the lengths to which some people were willing to go to see this issue resolved. While many people of the time could agree that Brown’s intentions were virtuous, they still questioned whether the ends justified the means. Some people idolized and revered him, while others hated and despised him. Everyone was forced to take a side creating a rift within the country. 1 John Brown’s attack on Harpers Ferry increased sectional tensions between the north and south and was in many aspects a precursor to the Civil War. Brown despised slavery from its expansion to its practice. He was a devotedly religious man and did not allow profanity of any kind to be used in his presence. 2 Brown felt that Republican leaders of the time were becoming too conservative on the issue of slavery and that their lack of action was making the larger population apathetic to the 1 Hammond p.62 2 DeWitt p.14 1
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misery of the southern slaves. In the summer of 1859 Brown came to the conclusion that all “moral and political actions against slavery had failed.” 3 He felt it was now necessary to become more radical in his approach to slavery in order to bring the issue back to the center stage and the only option left was force. 4 Before the turmoil of Harpers Ferry, John Brown had lived a fairly normal life. He had lived in several places and worked many different professions. He had been a businessman, a tanner, and a farmer. Every business venture he tried eventually ended up in failure, but he was a man who never quite, and was always willing to try something new. 5 In Kansas Brown was forced to fight for his life on a daily basis for his antislavery beliefs. Around him his neighbors were being murdered, his house was burned down, even his son Fredrick was killed. He was forced into a war of self defense. 6 On one account a group of five men told Brown he had three days to leave the territory, and if he did not comply they would kill him. Brown replied to them “You will not find me here gentlemen” implying that he would comply and leave. The next morning all five of the men were dead. 7 During a break in the fighting in Kansas, Brown returned east in order to try and raise funds, arms, and support from people of the northern states. While there he became increasingly annoyed and frustrated by the local abolitionists. Even though they supported the cause of freedom for all men, they were unwilling to act on their 3 Proehl p.107 4 DeWitt p.15 5 DeWitt p.8-9 6 DeWitt p.11 7 Hammond p.62 2
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convictions.
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