Publication Date: June 8, 2018
Now thoroughly updated and extensively revised for use in today’s history classrooms, this time-honored classic has never been more important than right now. The new edition, Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0, presents an engaging approach to teaching U.S. history that promotes critical thinking and social responsibility. In Volume 1 students investigate 20 significant historical episodes, arranged chronologically, beginning with the colonial era and ending with Reconstruction. Each carefully researched story examines an ethical decision made by an individual or group from the American past, and is guaranteed to excite students’ imaginations and spark lively classroom discussions involving core values of American democracy—liberty, equality, life, property, truth, and diversity. The discussions aim to develop more mature moral reasoning by students while deepening their knowledge of American history. Each chapter contains five types of learning activities: Facts of the Case, Historical Understanding, Expressing Your Reasoning, Key Concepts from History, and Historical Inquiry.
In Volume 1, students can grapple with such ethical dilemmas as:
You can also purchase a comprehensive Instructor’s Manual that includes the rationale for the teaching approach, guidance for selecting chapters, direction for leading classroom discussions of ethical issues, suggestions for assessment and grading, answers for the learning activities, and more!
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: The authors are available, at no fee, to conduct professional development programs for teachers and/or administrators regarding teaching with RDV 2.0. Visit www.rdv2.org for more details, including author contact information. The authors have committed their royalties to teacher education.
Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0, Volume 2: Ethical Issues in American History, 1866 to the Present by David E. Harris, Anne-Lise Halvorsen, and Paul F. Dain
Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0: Ethical Issues in American History Instructor's Manual by David E. Harris, Anne-Lise Halvorsen, and Paul F. Dain
David E. Harris is a retired professor of teacher education at the University of Michigan. Anne-Lise Halvorsen is an associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University, College of Education. Paul F. Dain is a retired government teacher and social studies department chair at Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
“Among the best supplementary materials for U.S. history known to this reviewer. The cases are provocative; they stimulate student interest, they promote a depth of historical understanding often absent from history instructional materials, and they promote important student skills. The curriculum is a fine blend of historical content and thoughtful pedagogy, systematically structured to promote social responsibility among students—one of the enduring instructional goals of social studies education.”
—Social Education (for first edition)
" Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0 is a powerful approach to learning history that is highly engaging for young people. The lively writing of exciting and true stories provides ample background to engage students in discussions of well-framed questions that are perennial and important.”
—Diana Hess, dean, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"I cannot imagine a more valuable or timely resource for teachers of U.S. history. Ethical reasoning is joined with historical reasoning—values with inquiry—in an array of well selected cases. This curriculum belongs in every U.S. history classroom."
—Walter C. Parker, professor, College of Education, University of Washington
“How can American citizens learn to converse across their differences? Part of the answer surely lies in history instruction, which can teach us about divisions that have wracked the nation and--most of all--about how we have bridged them. These superb books will help do exactly that. Clearly organized and eminently balanced, these volumes are suffused with the same democratic spirit they aim to promote.”
—Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of history of education, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania
“These volumes will help build a deeper understanding of significant historical concepts and present wonderful opportunities to engage in critical thinking around complex ethical issues.”
—Amy Bloom, social studies education consultant, Oakland Schools, Oakland County, Michigan
" Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0 enriches learning in social studies classrooms. The chapters not only provide thorough historical accounts, the narratives enhance teachers' and students' understanding of the complexities of decision-making in an imperfect democracy. These books are a useful resource not only in U.S. history classrooms, but also for government, sociology, ethnic studies, and ethics classes."
—LaGarrett King, assistant professor, College of Education, University of Missouri
" Reasoning with Democratic Values 2.0 serves as an important contribution to help students think—and act—as ethical, prosocial members of a democratic society, which is certainly needed in this age of reactive and polarizing political discourse and action. I'm fully behind educators' efforts to inject discussions about ethical issues in the classroom as a way to help students better understand who and what is affected by their decision-making."
—Paul Barnwell, education consultant and former teacher, Jefferson County, Kentucky Schools
Tentative Table of Contents
PART I: THE COLONIAL ERA (1607-1775)
Chapter 1. Stamp of Approval: Father Junipero Serra and Spanish Settlement of California
Chapter 2. The Blame and Shame of It: Salem Witch Trials
Chapter 3. Defending the Redcoats: John Adams and the Boston Massacre
Chapter 4. A Luxury We Can’t Afford: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery
PART II: THE NEW NATION (1776-1800)
Chapter 5. Not One Morsel: The Petition of an Enslaved African Woman
Chapter 6. Washington for the British: Harry Washington and a Question of Loyalty
Chapter 7. The Power of a Fraction: James Wilson and the Three-Fifths Compromise
Chapter 8. A Little Rebellion Now and Then: The Whiskey Rebellion
PART III: NATION BUILDING (1801-1828)
Chapter 9. Chilling Effect: The Greenleafs and Freedom of the Press
Chapter 10. Back to Africa: All Will be Well: The American Colonization Society and Daniel Coker’s Mission to Settle West Africa
Chapter 11. Gerry’s Salamander: Governor Elbridge Gerry’s 1812 Redistricting of Massachusetts
Chapter 12. A Bowl with One Spoon: Chief Tecumseh and the War of 1812
PART IV: MANIFEST DESTINY (1829-1849)
Chapter 13. A Woman’s Place is in the Factory: The Lowell Mill Strikes and Labor Reforms
Chapter 14. The Will of the People: Cherokee Removal
Chapter 15. Foreigner in My Native Land: Juan Seguín and the Texas Revolution
Chapter 16. A Different Drummer: Henry David Thoreau
PART V: A HOUSE DIVIDED (1850-1865)
Chapter 17. The Bloodhound Law: The Fugitive Slave Law and Northerners' Resistance
Chapter 18. Blow Ye the Trumpet: John Brown: Antislavery Zealot
Chapter 19. Tears of Blood: Robert E. Lee and the Civil War
Chapter 20. Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Andrew Carnegie and the Civil War Draft
About the Authors
Blow Ye the Trumpet
John Brown: Antislavery Zealot
The poet Julia Ward Howe's classic "Battle Hymn of the Republic" was inspired by and written to the same tune as the most popular marching anthem of Union soldiers during the Civil War, "John Brown's Body":
John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
His soul is marching on!
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on!
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save,
But though he lost his life in struggling for the slave,
His truth is marching on.
Born in 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut, John Brown was the fourth of eight children. The Brown family was deeply religious. Its ancestry traced back to the 17th century English Puritans. John Brown claimed that one of his ancestors, on his father's side, arrived with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.
Brown was true to his Puritan heritage. He studied the Bible constantly and was a strict Calvinist. Calvinism (also called Reformed Christianity) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the teachings of 16th-century European theologian, John Calvin. The Puritans were Calvinists. In America, Congregational and Presbyterian churches are Calvinist in origin.
Calvinists believe that all people are sinful and incapable of believing in God on their own. God elects people to be faithful. According to this belief, all those whom God has chosen, the elect, will come to faith. Only the elect receive salvation. This doctrine that all is foreordained is called predestination. John Brown believed that God predetermined everything.
Like other devout Calvinists, Brown believed that the elect could be known by their conduct. They would be faithfully vigilant against sin. Calvinist ministers preached that to hold humans in bondage (enslaved) was a sin against God.
John Brown's father shared that view and became a fervent abolitionist (one who believed that slavery should be abolished). From early in his life, at church and at home, John Brown was taught to be zealous against the sin of slavery.
His zeal was deepened by a childhood experience. While traveling with his parents on a trip, he befriended an enslaved boy his own age owned by a family hosting the Browns. John was deeply disturbed when he witnessed the ways the boy was mistreated. His master beat him with household tools and made him sleep in the cold, wearing only rags. The experience was seared in John's memory. While still in his youth, he came to believe that battling the evils of slavery was his God-given destiny.
Later, Brown would use the promise of equality in the Declaration of Independence to justify his antislavery views. Tracing the Golden Rule to the Bible, he also invoked it against slavery: Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. His parents taught him that the Golden Rule applied to people of all races.
When John was 5 years old, his family moved from Connecticut to Ohio. Three years later, his mother died. His father operated a successful tannery (a place where animal hides are tanned into leather), and John learned the trade. In his teens, he was sent east for schooling in New England. He wanted to become a minister. An eye inflammation interfered with his studies, and funds for school ran out. At age 17, he returned to Ohio and abandoned study for the ministry.
At age 18, John was tall and lean with dark hair brushed straight back. His chiseled face, with hollow cheeks, sharp jaw, and glittering blue-gray eyes gave him a fiercely determined look. He was a captivating figure.
He had resumed working at his father’s tannery, but would later go into business for himself. He worked hard and skillfully as a tanner, and later as a surveyor, farmer, land speculator (one who invests in land with the hope of gain but risk of loss), horse breeder, and wool dealer.
True to his convictions about slavery during these years, John aided runaway slaves. The first time occurred shortly after he returned to Ohio from school in the East. A fugitive slave approached him and begged for help in evading a band of whites pursuing him. Brown hid the fugitive safely in his cabin. For the next two decades, John Brown chose this kind of direct aid to individual fugitives. He was an active worker in Ohio for the Underground Railroad (the network of secret links from the South to the far North or Canada helping escaped slaves flee to freedom).
In 1820, John married Dianthe Lusk, a quiet woman of deep piety, at the Congregational Church in Hudson, Ohio. She was a guiding influence in John’s life during their years together.
In 1826 John moved with Dianthe and their three children to New Richmond, Pennsylvania where four more children were born to them. They moved so that John could establish a tannery of his own and the family could work a new farm. New Richmond was a wilderness when the Browns arrived, filled with bears, wolves, deer, and wild turkeys. In 4 months, Brown created a homestead. He cleared 25 acres of timberland and built a log house, barn, and a tannery. He founded a community at New Richmond and became its first businessman and postmaster. He established New Richmond’s first church and its first school.
Dianthe Brown died during childbirth in 1832 at age 31. Already grieving over the death of his 4-year-old son the previous year, John was deeply grief-stricken by the loss of his wife and unborn child. He was left to tend to five surviving children while running the tannery. In 1833, he married a second wife, 16-year-old Mary Day. The daughter of a nearby blacksmith, Mary had little education. She impressed John as a practical, hard-working woman. She proved to be a rock of stability for John. They were married until John’s death and had 13 children together, only six of whom survived to adulthood.
Mary cared both for her own children and her five stepchildren. Families were large in America at the time. The average household had nine children. At a time before modern medicine, many died young of childhood illnesses, as did six of the Brown children. Four of the youngest died from dysentery (a bacterial infection of the intestines) in a single year, and Brown's son reported that his father never fully recovered from those deaths. Many children did not survive long after birth, and some died from accidents. One of the Brown children, for example, was scalded to death in a kitchen accident.
Although Brown was a stern and strict father, he was beloved by his children. He would sing with them at bedtime, recite fables to them, and he cared for them when they were sick. He was gentle to animals. His children both respected and feared him. He punished them severely for lying, speaking sacrilegiously, and for disobedience, sometimes lashing them. Brown's strict Calvinistic religion, unwavering belief in racial equality, and antislavery passion were all instilled in his children.
The Brown family rose before sunrise. Each morning after breakfast, John led the family in a religious service, often reciting from memory sayings from the Bible. One of his favorites was: "Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them." While in New Richmond, Brown built a special room in the barn that served as a hiding place for fugitive slaves fleeing north along the Underground Railroad.
John Brown was aware of antislavery activity in the United States at the time, but he was not inspired by it. He did not approve of the methods of leading abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, the Boston editor of the The Liberator, an influential abolitionist weekly. The most prominent abolitionists believed in nonresistance, that by persuasion alone slaveholders would abandon slavery. They rejected violence. If persuasion failed, Garrison and other abolitionists favored separation of the North from the South. John Brown favored preservation of the Union, and he did not reject the possibility that violence might be necessary to end slavery.
Slave revolts inspired John Brown. Most admired by him were the revolts of Nat Turner and Cinques. Both were designed to terrorize whites through violence as a means of liberation from slavery.
Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831 was the most violent of the many slave revolts. Enslaved on a Virginia plantation, Turner spread a plan among nearby slaves for a violent takeover of Southampton County. The revolt began the last Sunday night of August. Turner, along with six others, armed with swords and axes, went from plantation to plantation-killing men, women, and children, some while they slept. After more than 50 had been killed, whites organized a pursuit. Hundreds of blacks, many who took no part in the revolt, were slaughtered in the chase. Turner was captured 2 months later, tried, and hanged. Sixteen other blacks who had joined the revolt were also hanged.
Cinques led a rebellion in 1837 of 53 enslaved blacks who were being transported from Cuba to Spain on the Spanish ship Amistad. The slaves broke free of their chains and snuck up to the main deck where they killed the captain and three crewmembers. The ship was directed to America and came ashore on Long Island. The rebels were brought to trial. The United States Supreme Court exonerated them on the basis of America’s prohibition of the international slave trade.
In 1835, after 9 years in New Richmond, the Brown family moved back to Hudson, Ohio. A wealthy businessman had invited John Brown to run a tannery there with him.
The remote village of Hudson was a hub of antislavery activity. For many fugitives the road to freedom passed through Hudson. Fines for helping fugitive slaves were high—$1000 (around $25,000 today) for each one assisted. John Brown became a busy conductor for the Ohio branch of the Underground Railroad. He established a new station in Hudson, again constructed a hiding place in his barn, and regularly transported fugitives to stations farther north.
Brown was not content to confine his antislavery efforts to the Underground Railroad. Events on the national stage during the mid-1830s spurred him to greater militancy. Leading abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison, had tried to deliver an anti-slavery address in Boston. He was seized by a proslavery mob, bound, and pulled by a rope through the city’s streets to a chorus of "Lynch him!" In 1837, the Illinois antislavery editor, Elijah P. Lovejoy was murdered by a mob.
John Brown heard about the murder of Lovejoy at a prayer meeting in his Congregational church. There were several speeches condemning the murder. When they ended, Brown stood and loudly proclaimed, "Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery." His children recall that shortly thereafter, he openly declared his commitment to antislavery violence, and he persuaded family members to pledge themselves to armed warfare against slavery.
At first Brown was successful in business, but he lacked tact and flexibility. Those shortcomings, stubbornness, and steep economic downturns kept him from prospering. He borrowed huge sums to speculate in land shortly before the Panic of 1837, a major economic depression that caused land values to plummet. Brown defaulted on his debts. Lawsuits were filed against him in four states, and they plagued him for the rest of his life. His farm tools, furniture, and livestock were auctioned off. His farm was taken away. By the end of 1842, Brown was bankrupt and poor.
For a fresh start after declaring bankruptcy, Brown moved his family to Springfield, Massachusetts where they lived during the 1840s.
In 1847, the famous writer, Frederick Douglass, who had escaped slavery 9 years earlier to become the era's leading black abolitionist, visited John Brown at his family home in Springfield. After dinner Brown revealed to his guest a plan to emancipate the slaves of the South.
Brown's plan called for a group of 25 men to be stationed in small groups along a southward line in the Appalachian Mountain range of Virginia. These small groups would periodically raid nearby plantations, liberate enslaved blacks expected to flock to their liberators, arm them, and retreat with them to mountain hideaways. From there, the revolution would spread to major slave plantations southward through, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other slave states. Brown insisted that he intended to reform, not overthrow, the government of the United States. Mindful of Nat Turner, whom he greatly admired, John Brown's goal was to weaken the institution of slavery by terrorizing slaveholders. Brown told his visitor that he was "not averse to the shedding of blood."
Douglass admired Brown, but he considered Brown’s plan doomed to failure. He declined to participate in carrying it out. Two years after their meeting, however, Douglass expressed a kind of endorsement. In 1849, he said that he would welcome news that blacks had arisen in the South, and were engaged in spreading "death and destruction there."
Brown's commitment to black people and his opposition to slavery fascinated Douglass. The prominent black abolitionist wrote, "Brown believed that slave holders had forfeited the right to live and that the slaves had the right to gain their liberty in any way they could."
John became interested in a large area of land in upstate New York. A wealthy antislavery reformer, Gerrit Smith, set aside a huge area there for an experiment. He hoped to establish a community of freed slaves and had opened the area to settlement by free blacks and fugitive slaves. At very low cost, Brown purchased from Smith 244 acres. The settlement was located in the isolated village of North Elba, a remote but beautiful place below the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid.
Brown moved his family to North Elba. He built a house for them there and, with black settlers, established a community. He surveyed the settlers' properties and guided them in farming.
Although a harsh, isolated place, North Elba was a kind of paradise to John Brown. There he could support and be the head of his family. He could live as an equal among free African Americans, while also working actively for the overthrow of slavery.
White visitors were struck by the respect and dignity he showed toward his black neighbors. He addressed them as Mr. or Mrs./Miss and dined with them in his house and in theirs. All of this was extraordinary for a white person in the middle of the 19th century. Even most white abolitionists held to racial stereotypes of the time and lived apart from black people. Not John Brown. His black neighbors grew fond of him.
While in North Elba he created a new station for the Underground Railroad. With his black neighbors, he helped fugitive slaves flee to safety in Canada.
In 1850, Brown focused on Virginia as the main target for his plan. Harpers Ferry was a town of some 2,500 people, snugly located where the Potomac River meets the Shenandoah in what is now West Virginia.
A hub of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Harpers Ferry was home for a major federal armory that produced weapons used by the military forces of the United States. The arsenal contained 100,000 muskets and rifles. It was from a raid on the arsenal that Brown expected to seize rifles and munitions for liberated slaves who would join him in carrying out his plan to abolish slavery.
Meanwhile, the national conflict over slavery was heating up. As part of the Compromise of 1850, Congress passed, and President Millard Fillmore signed into law, a new and much tougher Fugitive Slave Act. The law gave slave catchers the authority to hunt down runaway slaves anywhere. Moreover, federal officials were required by the new law to aid in the capture and return of runaways.
The Fugitive Slave Act infuriated John Brown. It seemed to him that the "Slave Power" ruled the nation. In Washington, proslavery advocates controlled the Senate, the White House, and the Supreme Court. Slavery was expanding in the Deep South. "King Cotton" had become wildly profitable, due in part to the cotton gin and slave labor. Southern cotton production boomed, supplying most of the world's demand. The value of cotton exports was greater than all other American exports combined. Abolitionists despaired, and John Brown fumed.
A new term had emerged for slavery: "the peculiar institution." It implied that slavery was "peculiar" or distinctive to the South. In 1850, President Millard Fillmore said, "We must endure it and give it such protection as is guaranteed by the Constitution."
Brown's rage grew in response to another federal law: the Kansas-Nebraska Act, signed into law by President Franklin Pierce in 1854. It ignited a firestorm. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had excluded slavery from the North, including the vast territories (lands owned by the United States but not states) of Kansas and Nebraska. The Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and gave settlers in Kansas and Nebraska the power to decide by vote whether to be slave or free. This new authority to choose was called popular sovereignty.
In response to popular sovereignty, proslavery and antislavery forces competed for supremacy in Kansas. First proslavery settlers went there to cast election ballots for slavery. Five thousand Missourians, known as "Border Ruffians," crossed into Kansas Territory, seized the poling places, and created their own proslavery legislature.
Abolitionist settlers, known as "Jayhawkers," flocked from the East for the purpose of making Kansas a free state. Five of John Brown’s sons decided to homestead in Kansas where they hoped to defeat slavery with the ballot.
Exhausted from his travels to settle persisting lawsuits over his debts and, at age 55 (considered elderly at the time) Brown remained in North Elba. Events in Kansas, however, were soon to beckon him.
The antislavery forces in Kansas were outnumbered and outgunned. John Brown, Jr. sent an urgent plea to his father asking for weapons to arm the Kansas antislavery settlers. Soon after he received the letter from his son, John Brown gathered every weapon he could and departed for Kansas.
In October of 1855, Brown arrived at his sons' Kansas homestead, a place called Brown's Station, located along Pottawatomie Creek. He was dismayed at the desperate conditions. His sons were ill with fever and starving. They had little shelter. Brown swiftly built sturdy log cabins and brought order to Brown’s Station.
The Kansas winter that year was especially snowy and bitter. In January a Free State (antislavery) man was hacked to death. The murderers tossed his body on the man’s icy doorstep. News of the murder and of other proslavery violence brought money and guns into Kansas from all over the North. The fight between proslavery and antislavery forces intensified.
In May of 1856, hundreds of Border Ruffians marched on Lawrence, Kansas and sacked the town. The antislavery inhabitants did not fight back. The news from Lawrence reached John Brown and his sons, stoking a desire for vengeance.
Very soon afterward, inflammatory news from Washington also reached them. After delivering an impassioned antislavery speech entitled "The Crime Against Kansas," abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts had been viciously attacked on the floor of the United States Senate. Offended by the speech, a South Carolina Congressman, Preston Brooks beat the senator nearly to death with a heavy, gold-handled cane.
The sack of Lawrence and the beating of Sumner motivated John Brown to act. Believing that he was an avenging instrument of God, he took revenge. He said that it was time to "fight fire with fire” to “strike terror in the hearts of the proslavery people." Brown directed his four sons, son-in-law, and two others to sharpen their swords on the grindstone. Late on the moonlit night of May 24, 1856, he led the men, armed with their swords, rifles, and revolvers, to nearby cabins along Pottawatomie Creek. They were headed for the residences of men who were not slaveholders but were known to be proslavery advocates of Kansas as a slave state.
Brown banged on the door of one of those cabins while those inside were asleep. He ordered the men inside to come out. As women and children watched from inside the cabin, Brown's men split open heads and cut off arms, executing three of the men. John Brown watched as the men were hacked to death, and he fired a single bullet into the head of one of the men after he was dead. Brown’s men proceeded to two more cabins. With Brown watching, they dragged out and murdered two more men. With horses and other property confiscated from their victims, Brown's party departed.
News of these events spread quickly. They became infamously known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. They ignited an all out war between proslavery and antislavery factions in the territory, nicknamed "Bleeding Kansas." A force of proslavery border ruffians attacked the antislavery town of Osawatomie. John Brown led 40 men in defending the town. Outnumbered, they fought desperately, but the town was burned to the ground. John Brown's son, Frederick, was killed in the fighting. For his valiant, albeit unsuccessful stand, Brown became known famously as "Captain Brown of Osawatomie" and "Osawatomie Brown."
In 1857, news from Washington bolstered Brown’s conviction that slave interests controlled the U.S. government. The Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in support of slavery. Known as the Dred Scott case, it affirmed the legal right of slave owners to take their slaves into western territories.
A new territorial governor succeeded in calming the violence in Kansas. The steady buildup of northern settlers ultimately succeeded in excluding slavery by ballots rather than bullets. Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1858 as a Free State.
For John Brown, however, the battle against slavery continued beyond Kansas. Four million people remained enslaved in the United States. Osawatomie had stiffened his resolve to liberate them. He said then, "There will be no more peace in this land until slavery is done for."
Brown’s exploits in Kansas drew national attention to him. A reporter interviewed him in Kansas after Osawatomie. The newspaper reports made Brown famous in the North. He became legendary as a ferocious enemy of slavery—a northerner who fought back. A New York play entitled Osawatomie Brown celebrated him on Broadway.
In John Brown's mind, the Fugitive Slave Act was God’s trumpet calling him to military action. His favorite religious hymn was "Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow." In the Bible story, Gideon is inspired to take up his sword when the angel of the Lord blows his trumpet. God then instructs Gideon to have his small force go into battle against the wicked Midianites while blowing their trumpets. Frightened by a deafening sound, the enemy scatters in fear, and Gideon triumphs. The Bible story embodied John Brown’s belief that a small band of the righteous could bring divine wrath upon the wicked.
The fighting in Kansas had temporarily diverted Brown from his plan to attack Harpers Ferry. He now sought help to carry out that plan. For the next 2 years he traveled widely to raise money and weapons for a direct assault on slavery in the heart of the South.
On his travels during these 2 years, he met with wealthy abolitionists, pillars of eastern society, who opposed violence, but nevertheless supported him financially. Learned men, novelists, and prominent clergymen idolized him and gave him money for guns. They were ready for what many called "The Second American Revolution."
By the summer of 1859, Brown was ready to act on his plan to attack the federal armory at Harpers Ferry. In July, he rented a Maryland farmhouse 5 miles from the town. For 3 months it was his hideout. The 198 rifles and 200 revolvers Brown had acquired were stored at the farm, as well as nearly 1,000 wooden pikes. Brown had procured the pikes as practical weapons for slaves whom he expected to join him, but who would be unaccustomed to handling firearms.
Brown recruited 21 men, including fugitive slaves, college students, free blacks, three of his sons, and a neighbor from North Elba. One of the insurgents, a free black man named Dangerfield Newby, had a personal reason to join Brown. Virginia born, he had been freed in 1858 when his owner moved to Ohio. His wife and children, however, remained enslaved near Harpers Ferry. Newby feared that they would soon be sold further south and that he would never see his family again.
In August, Brown met again with Frederick Douglass in hopes of convincing him to join the war. To the brilliant writer and abolitionist, John disclosed the details of his imminent plan to raid Harpers Ferry, capture the guns at the arsenal, and prompt an army of nearby slaves to join him.
Douglass refused Brown's invitation to join the raid on Harpers Ferry, tried to dissuade him, and criticized it afterward. He believed that by attacking the federal government Brown was headed into "a trap of steel" from which escape would be impossible. His admiration for Brown, however, was affirmed. Later he wrote, ". . . though a white gentleman, [Brown] is in sympathy a black man, and as deeply interested in our cause as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery."
Harriet Tubman, another prominent black abolitionist attempted to support Brown's raid. Brown had met with her in Ontario, Canada in a community of blacks, many of whom had fled to freedom along the Underground Railroad. From Canada, Tubman had tried to recruit Canadian blacks, but none volunteered.
Several of the 21 men that Brown had recruited waited at the Maryland farmhouse near Harpers Ferry where they were hiding out. They hoped for more recruits, but none came.
Late into the chilly, drizzly night of October 16, 1859, John Brown, fiery-eyed and now with a long, white beard, formed his recruits into pairs and marched them into Harpers Ferry. At first they were successful. The arsenal had only one guard who quickly surrendered.
Soon, however, things went awry. While approaching town, a train stopped. The baggage master at the Harpers Ferry train station ran out to find out why the train had halted. Brown's men shouted at him to halt. When the baggage master did not stop, they shot him dead. He, a free black man, was the first victim of the raid. News of the raid traveled immediately by telegraph to Richmond, the Virginia capital, and to Washington. Local townspeople took up arms against the invaders. Virginia militia approached the arsenal where the raiders were now scattered. On the way, they shot and killed Dangerfield Newby. An angry mob mutilated his dead body. In his pocket there was a letter from the wife he had hoped to set free. Two other insurgents were also shot and killed. John Brown’s revolution was quickly unraveling.
Brown gathered those of his men who were left and took refuge, with 11 hostages, in the small fire-engine house of the armory. The mob and militia surrounded the fire-engine house and fired their weapons at its windows and brick walls. Two of Brown’s sons, Oliver and Watson, lay mortally wounded on the floor of the engine house. Oliver, curled up in great pain, begged his father to kill him. Brown replied, "You must be a man. You must die like a man." 20-year-old Oliver died before sunrise. His older brother Watson died 2 days later.
By morning a company of 90 U.S. marines, commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee, was lined up in the armory yard. The engine house was completely surrounded. Brown was told that the lives of the insurgents would be spared if they surrendered. Brown refused. Marines stormed the building. Brown was wounded and struck unconscious. The marines took control of the engine house. The raid had lasted 36 hours.
As Brown lay wounded on the stone floor of the engine house, reporters were allowed to interview him. Their reports transformed him into an instant celebrity. He now had the attention of the world, and he understood the value of that attention. He seized the opportunity to get his ideas out to the public through the reporters.
Seven days after the raid, the wounded Brown was carried to the courthouse in nearby Charlestown, the county seat, for a trial that lasted less than 5 days. Brown's lawyer recommended that he plead insane. Believing that plea would be false, Brown refused. He pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. During the trial he lay on a cot because of his wounds, standing only when he addressed the court. There was no dispute over the facts of the case. Under Brown’s leadership, the insurgents had seized the armory, taken hostages, armed slaves, killed five men, and wounded many others.
It took the jury only 45 minutes to reach a unanimous verdict. They found Brown guilty of murder, treason, and of inciting slave insurrection. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
In an interview before the trial, Brown was asked, "How do you justify your acts?" He replied:
I say my friend you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity . . . It would be perfectly right for anyone to interfere with you, so far as to free those you willfully and wickedly hold in bondage . . . I think I did right, and that others will do right who interfere with you at any time, and at all times. I hold that the golden rule, do unto others as you would that others should do unto you, applies to all who would help others to gain their liberty.
The day before John Brown’s execution, his wife, Mary, visited him in jail for a final, tearful farewell. The next day, December 2, 1859, John Brown sat atop a long wooden box in the back of a horse-drawn wagon rolling to the gallows. Calmly, Brown was escorted up the scaffold. A hood was placed over his head and a noose around his neck. The trap door atop the gallows was released and he dropped to his death.
The wooden box contained his coffin. He was transported north in it and, on December 9, he was buried in North Elba. As the coffin was lowered into the grave, Brown’s African American friend, Lyman Epps, sang Brown’s favorite hymn: "Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow."
John Brown's hanging became much more than the execution of a criminal. To some he was a bloodthirsty madman. To others, he was a hero who had killed for a just cause. The South rejoiced in his execution. In the North, church bells tolled for him. The raid on Harpers Ferry and Brown’s execution polarized Americans on opposite sides of the slavery divide and propelled America to civil war.
After the Civil War, Frederick Douglass gave a rousing speech celebrating the legacy of John Brown. He told his audience the Union’s armies, "found it necessary to do on a large scale what John Brown attempted to do on a small one." In Douglass’s view, John Brown began the war that ended slavery.
The major sources for this chapter were:
American Experience. “John Brown’s Holy War.” Directed by Robert Kenner. Written by Ken Chowder. Public Broadcasting System, 2000.
Banks, Russell. Cloudsplitter. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.
Horwitz, Tony. Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2011.
Reynolds, David S. John Brown, Abolitionist. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.
LEARNING ACTIVITIES FOR “BLOW YE THE TRUMPET”
Facts of the Case
1. Describe John Brown’s religious background.
2. How did John Brown’s views about racial equality differ from those of most other abolitionists?
3. What did John Brown do in North Elba, New York?
4. Describe the “Pottawatomie Massacre?”
5. What was John Brown’s goal in attacking Harpers Ferry?
6.What were some major effects of John Brown’s conviction and execution?
1. What was popular sovereignty?
2. How did the Kansas-Nebraska Act repeal the Missouri Compromise?
3. What were the major provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850?
4. What is meant by “Bleeding Kansas?”
5. What was the Dred Scot decision?
6. What did the U.S. Supreme Court decide in the case about the Amistad?
Expressing Your Reasoning
Was John Brown justified in attacking Harpers Ferry? Why or why not?
Key Concepts from History
What do the following have in common?
1. The Boston Tea Party was a protest by the Sons of Liberty (a secret society formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight taxation by the British government) in Boston, on December 16, 1773. A group of men, some disguised as Native Americans, in defiance of the Tea Act of 1773, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company. They illegally boarded three British East India cargo ships in the Boston Harbor and threw 45 tons of tea into the harbor. The British government responded harshly, and the episode contributed to the American Revolution. The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America. Colonists objected to the Tea Act because they believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to be taxed only by their own elected representatives and not by a British parliament.
2. On the morning of September 11, 2001 there was a series of four coordinated suicide attacks against the United States carried out by the extremist group Al Qaeda. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in property damage. Four passenger airliners operated by two major U.S. airlines were hijacked. The hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, and they were affiliated with Al Qaeda. Two of the planes were crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Both towers collapsed, with debris and the resulting fires causing partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. A third plane was crashed into the Pentagon (Defense Department headquarters), leading to a partial collapse of the building. The fourth plane initially was steered toward Washington, D.C., but it crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to overtake the hijackers. The attackers were allegedly acting in retaliation for America's support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War, and its continued military presence in the Middle East.
3. On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured in an attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. The attack consisted of a mass shooting and an attempted bombing. The attackers, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were a married couple. They had stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammunition and a dozen homemade pipe bombs in their home. According to the director of the FBI, they were "homegrown violent extremists." Their target was a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and employee Christmas party. Farook was an American-born U.S. citizen and an employee of the county health department. Malik, born in Pakistan, was a lawful permanent resident of the United States. She posted a pledge of allegiance to ISIS (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) on Facebook while the attack was happening. ISIS has called for people worldwide to launch attacks in its name. Its goal is the creation of a "global caliphate" (an Islamic empire ruled by a leader called a caliph) secured through a global war. To that end it aims to replace existing borders across the Middle East and to take its war to Europe and America, and ultimately to lead Muslims toward a battle against the "disbelievers." Four hours after the attackers fled the scene of the attack in San Bernardino, police pursued their vehicle and killed them in a shootout.
After they launched their attack on Harpers Ferry, John Brown and his men were pursued by Virginia militia. A state militia is a military force that is raised from the civilian population to supplement a regular army in an emergency. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Modern debates about the Second Amendment have focused on whether it protects a personal right of individuals to keep and bear arms, or a right that can be exercised only by those belonging to a state militia. Using online and other sources, test the hypothesis that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution permits individuals to own and keep firearms for their personal use. Compose a short essay in which you accept or reject the truth of the claim. Use evidence to support your decision. To begin your investigation, the following search terms will be helpful:
-The Second Amendment
-James Madison and the Second Amendment
-The Right to Bear Arms
-District of Columbia v. Heller
-Firearm Case Law in the United States
Note: During World War I, Congress passed the National Defense Act of 1916, which required the use of the term "National Guard" for the state militias and further regulated them.