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For Southerners, Brown to be the embodiment the all their fear--a white guy willing to dice to finish slavery. For plenty of Northerners, he was a prophet of righteousness. (111-BA-1101)


As us celebrate the beginning of the sesquicentennial the the American civil War, it is worthwhile to remember, and contemplate, the most important figure in the struggle versus slavery instantly before the war: man Brown.

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When Brown was hanged in 1859 for his raid top top Harpers Ferry, Virginia, numerous saw him together the harbinger of the future. For Southerners, he to be the embodiment that all your fears—a white guy willing to die to end slavery—and the many potent symbol yet of aggressive northern antislavery sentiment. For plenty of Northerners, he was a prophet that righteousness, bringing down a disastrous swift sword versus the immorality that slavery and the haughtiness of the Southern master class.

In 2000, the joined States marked the bicentennial the Brown"s birth. At that time, residential terrorism to be a farming problem. Bombings, ambushes, and also assassinations had actually been directed at women"s clinics and physicians in a variety of places; a bomb planted in Atlanta"s Centennial Olympic Park throughout the 1996 summer Olympics had killed one person and also wounded an ext than a hundreds people; in 1995 a pair that right-wing extremists had actually planted a bomb in ~ the Alfred A. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, death 168 people and injuring more than 680 others.

During that bicentennial year, a number of historians and others talked about whether man Brown was America"s first terrorist. To be he a model for the cowards who planted bombs in ~ clinics, in windy parks, or in buildings? Significantly, at least one modern-day terrorist, Paul Hill, contrasted himself to john Brown after he was arrested for murdering two people who operated at a women"s clinic in Florida.

A year after Brown"s bicentennial, the United says was confronted with many terrorist strikes on September 11, 2001. The definition of terrorism had actually changed. It was no much longer the result of random attacks by an separation, personal, instance or two. Now it was tied come a global conspiracy, combination overseas and meticulously planned. The American solution was a "war top top terror." In an er of rising incidents of terrorism, countless scholars, and much more important, lot of the basic public, have actually again asked if john Brown to be America"s "first terrorist."

Some definitions of Terrorism

There room no complete or particular definitions that terrorism. Terrorists seek to "terrify" people and strike fear in the mental of those at whom their terror is directed. This, however, is not a complete definition. After all, couple of would take into consideration soldiers in warfare terrorists, yet surely they try to make their enemy "fearful" of them. Beginning with human being War II, large-scale bombing has been a fact of modern-day warfare, but battle of armed forces targets is surely not an act of terrorism, also though the civilian population may be harmed or terrorized.

This facet of warfare is hardly new. Siege warfare of the ancient and medieval civilization surely terrorized those inside castles or towns. Similarly, the long sieges the the civil War, and decisions by both sides to strike in ~ civilian targets that aided the war effort, for sure terrorized populations. The trench warfare and also artillery duels of people War i terrorized millions of civilians, yet this was not essentially terrorism.

So, what beyond scaring or frightening people constitutes terrorism? how do we specify the "terrorist?"

For terrorists, the "terror" itself, the act of violence, is the goal fairly than simply the way to an end. Terrorists may hope for political change, but what they frequently want is to merely strike earlier at and harm those lock oppose. The plot of terror i do not care the goal, with no expectation that anything else will follow.

This provides terrorism different from various other kinds of illegal task or violence. A kidnapper wants a ransom; a hostage taker usually has actually "demands" that have to be met; a robber just wants money or goods and also might be ready to death for them. But the terrorist often has no demands and no objectives other than to terrorize. Timothy McVeigh and also Terry Nichols do no demands; they wanted nothing various other than come kill and destroy. Those who struck the civilization Trade Center and the Pentagon only wanted come kill, destroy, and terrorize. They do no demands, asked for nothing, and by their own style would not have even been lively to negotiate for every little thing they could have wanted.


Another hallmark of terrorists is indiscriminate killing; that helps spread terror. Terrorists usually do not care who castle kill—adults, children, old people, women, men—although occasionally assassinations room an exception to this.

Terrorists room not concerned around collateral damage. Planting a bomb or shoot indiscriminately is a key indicator of terrorism. That does not also matter if several of those that die room sympathetic come the terrorists or of their own ethnic group. A variety of American Muslims died in the assault on the people Trade Center because that is where they worked, however these collateral deaths to be of no repercussion to those who planned the attack. For terrorists, indiscriminate death helps spread terror. Similarly, because that terrorist killers there is no factor to spare resides or minimize death—every life is a legitimate target.

Terrorists usually attack nonmilitary targets and those who room unable to defend themselves. Frequently their victims are what might be referred to as noncombatants in everything ongoing battle there is. One common facet of terrorists is the they avoid straight contact and confrontation with those who room armed, particularly the military. Tied come this, most terrorists arrangement their action to have actually the greatest impact and to kill the most people.

Terrorists also act in secret and try to prevent anyone knowing who castle are. They often wear masks and in various other ways try to hide your identity. The standard American terror is the sheeted Klansman, v his face covered, killing, beating, mutilating, burning, and also raping, to terrorize those who supported racial equality and black suffrage. Due to the fact that they are violent and seek to kill, maim, or damage property, terrorists naturally must be secretive. After their acts, however, lock are likely to open minded (but anonymously) brag around their crimes.

Terrorism also has a politics context. This is an especially important to see when we try to do the difference between terrorism and revolution. In the declaration of Independence, cutting board Jefferson collection out a collection of ethics that justification violent overthrow of the government. One to be a "long train of abuses."

Even much more important because that Jefferson and also his colleagues was the absence of accessibility to the political procedure to change things peacefully. Indigenous the American perspective, in 1776, there was no a political equipment to the crisis because Americans had no voice in the brothers government. In addition, the American change was a an answer to strikes initiated by the British.

Thus, where there space no political methods for change, violence—such together the American troops firing at the British—becomes revolution. But where the political processes are open, violence becomes terrorism. This was also true for the 9-11 terrorists. Nothing prevented them from politically organizing, demonstrating, and also educating the American public about the transforms they wanted. Their choice was to short-circuit the political options in donate of violence and terrorism.

With these general understandings, allow us revolve to man Brown, first to recognize what that did, and second to watch if the fits in the paper definition of terrorism.

What Brown Did

Brown is connected to terrorism for two events in his life: the Pottawatomie raid in the Kansas territory in 1856 and his raid top top Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1859. Both involved violence and also killing. Both have led some people to case Brown to be a terrorist.

On the night of may 24, 1856, Brown led a raiding party of 4 of his sons, his son-in-law, and two other guys to Pottawatomie Creek. Because that the most part, this raid to be unplanned and practically spontaneous. Brown action in retaliation because that a raid top top the cost-free state settlement at Lawrence, the killings of cost-free state settlers in Kansas, and also persistent risks by the proslavery settlers along Pottawatomie Creek. Brown and also his men entered three cabins, interrogated a variety of men, and also eventually killed five of them, all with swords and knives. Part were killed quickly, if others, that resisted, were reduced in numerous places. Brown and also his guys then departed.

Significantly, back Brown and also his males killed 5 proslavery settlers, they did no kill every the Southern inhabitants they encountered. Lock spared the life that the wife and teenage boy of one of the guys they killed, also though these human being could have established the raiders. At one more cabin, lock interrogated two men and also let lock go, convinced they had actually not threatened free state inhabitants or been connected in violent actions against the complimentary state settlers. At a 3rd house they additionally spared the wife of one man, also while they killed him.

Three and also a half years later, ~ above the evening of October 16, 1859, john Brown and also 18 "soldiers" seized the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown"s plans to be fantastic—some would certainly say insane. That would usage the eight in the arsenal—as well as old-fashioned pikes he had actually had specially manufactured—to begin a guerrilla war versus slavery. The core of his army would be the largely white band of raiders that seized the arsenal. But soon, that hoped—he believed—he just knew—that hundreds or even thousands of servants would join him in the fight versus the "peculiar institution." that predicted that when word the his raid got out, servants from throughout the an ar would show up at his side, together bees "swarm come the hive."

During his raid, Brown and also his guys had captured a number of slave owners in the area, consisting of Lewis Washington, the great-grand-nephew of president George Washington. Brown did no kill any of these recorded men, and he went out of his method to protect them and also make certain they were not harmed.

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While in Harpers Ferry, the raiders eliminated a railroad baggage handler, who ironically to be a totally free black, when he refused their orders to halt. In a firefight they killed a few townsmen, consisting of the mayor. At one point Brown stopped a passenger train, hosted it for a while, and also then released it. The train ongoing on to Washington, D.C., whereby the crew dutifully report to officials that Brown had seized Harpers Ferry. The next day, October 18, U.S. Marines, under the command of military Brevet Col. Robert E. Lee, caught Brown in the engine residence on the armory grounds. By this time, many of the raiders to be either dead or wounded.