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


As we celebrate the start of the sesquicentennial the the American polite War, it is worthwhile come 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 because that his raid ~ above Harpers Ferry, Virginia, plenty of saw him together the harbinger the the future. For Southerners, he was the embodiment that all their fears—a white guy willing to die to finish slavery—and the many potent symbol however of aggressive north antislavery sentiment. For plenty of Northerners, he to be a prophet that righteousness, bringing under a devastating swift sword versus the immorality that slavery and also the haughtiness of the Southern understand class.

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

During that bicentennial year, a number of historians and others talked around whether john Brown to be America"s very first terrorist. Was he a version for the cowards who planted bombs at clinics, in windy parks, or in buildings? Significantly, at the very least one modern-day terrorist, Paul Hill, compared himself to john Brown ~ he was arrested because that murdering two human being who worked at a women"s clinic in Florida.

A year ~ Brown"s bicentennial, the United says was challenged with lot of terrorist strikes on September 11, 2001. The an interpretation of terrorism had actually changed. It to be no longer the an outcome of random strikes by an separation, personal, instance or two. Currently it was tied come a global conspiracy, combination overseas and meticulously planned. The American solution was a "war top top terror." In period of rising cases of terrorism, numerous scholars, and much more important, lot of the general public, have actually again inquiry if man Brown to be America"s "first terrorist."

Some definitions of Terrorism

There space no finish or details definitions that terrorism. Terrorists seek to "terrify" people and strike are afraid in the minds of those at whom your terror is directed. This, however, is not a finish definition. After all, few would consider soldiers in warfare terrorists, yet surely they shot to make their opponent "fearful" the them. Beginning with world War II, large-scale battle has been a truth of contemporary warfare, but bombing of military targets is surely no an act of terrorism, even though the civilian populace may be harmed or terrorized.

This facet of war is hardly new. Siege war of the ancient and medieval people surely terrorized those within castles or towns. Similarly, the long sieges of the polite War, and decisions by both political parties to strike at civilian targets the aided the battle effort, certain terrorized populations. The trench warfare and artillery duels of human being War i terrorized countless civilians, yet this to be not essentially terrorism.

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

For terrorists, the "terror" itself, the action of violence, is the goal quite than merely the method to an end. Terrorists might hope for political change, however what they regularly want is to simply strike earlier at and harm those they oppose. The act of terror becomes the goal, v no expectation the anything else will certainly follow.

This renders terrorism various from other kinds the illegal activity or violence. A kidnapper desires a ransom; a hostage taker usually has actually "demands" that have to be met; a robber simply wants money or goods and might be ready to kill for them. But the terrorist regularly has no demands and also no goals other 보다 to terrorize. Timothy McVeigh and also Terry Nichols made no demands; they want nothing other than come kill and also destroy. Those who assaulted the human being Trade Center and the Pentagon just wanted come kill, destroy, and terrorize. They made no demands, asked for nothing, and also by your own style would not have also been lively to negotiate for whatever they might have wanted.


Another hallmark of terrorists is indiscriminate killing; the helps spread terror. Terrorists generally do not treatment who lock kill—adults, children, old people, women, men—although sometimes assassinations space an exemption to this.

Terrorists are not concerned around collateral damage. Planting a bomb or shooting indiscriminately is a key indicator the terrorism. That does not also matter if several of those who die space sympathetic to the terrorists or that their own ethnic group. A number of American Muslims passed away in the assault on the people Trade Center because that is wherein they worked, yet these collateral deaths were of no repercussion to those who planned the attack. For terrorists, indiscriminate death helps spread out terror. Similarly, for terrorist killers over there is no factor to spare stays or minimize death—every life is a legitimate target.

Terrorists usually attack nonmilitary targets and also those who space unable to protect themselves. Often their victims room what can be called noncombatants in whatever ongoing battle there is. One common facet of terrorists is that they avoid direct contact and confrontation with those who space armed, especially the military. Tied to this, many terrorists setup their plot to have actually the greatest impact and to kill the most people.

Terrorists also act in secret and shot to prevent anyone learning who they are. They frequently wear masks and in other ways try to hide your identity. The classic American terrorist is the sheeted Klansman, v his confront covered, killing, beating, mutilating, burning, and raping, come terrorize those who supported racial equality and black suffrage. Since they room violent and seek to kill, maim, or damage property, terrorists naturally should be secretive. After their acts, however, castle are most likely to open (but anonymously) brag around their crimes.

Terrorism also has a politics context. This is an especially important come see when we shot to make the distinction between terrorism and revolution. In the declaration of Independence, cutting board Jefferson set out a collection of values that justified violent fall of the government. One to be a "long train of abuses."

Even more important because that Jefferson and his colleagues was the absence of access to the political process to readjust things peacefully. From the American perspective, in 1776, there was not a political solution to the crisis since Americans had actually no voice in the british government. In addition, the American change was a an answer to attacks initiated by the British.

Thus, whereby there space no political opportunities for change, violence—such together the American troops firing at the British—becomes revolution. But where the political processes are open, violence i do not care terrorism. This was also true because that the 9-11 terrorists. Nothing prevented lock from politically organizing, demonstrating, and educating the American public about the alters they wanted. Their choice was to short-circuit the political choices in favor of violence and also terrorism.

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

What Brown Did

Brown is linked to terror for two occasions in his life: the Pottawatomie raid in the Kansas are in 1856 and also his raid ~ above Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1859. Both affiliated violence and killing. Both have actually led some human being to claim Brown was 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 males to Pottawatomie Creek. Because that the most part, this raid was unplanned and virtually spontaneous. Brown action in retaliation because that a raid on the totally free state negotiation at Lawrence, the killings of complimentary state settlers in Kansas, and persistent hazards by the proslavery settlers along Pottawatomie Creek. Brown and also his men gone into three cabins, interrogated a variety of men, and also eventually killed five of them, all v swords and also knives. Some were killed quickly, while others, that resisted, were reduced in many places. Brown and his men then departed.

Significantly, return Brown and his men killed 5 proslavery settlers, castle did not kill every the Southern settlers they encountered. Castle spared the life that the wife and also teenage son of among the males they killed, even though these civilization could have established the raiders. At another cabin, they interrogated 2 men and also let castle go, persuaded they had not threatened complimentary state inhabitants or been associated in violent actions against the cost-free state settlers. In ~ a 3rd house they also spared the wife of one man, even while they killed him.

Three and a half years later, ~ above the evening of October 16, 1859, man Brown and also 18 "soldiers" seized the U.S. Arsenal in ~ Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown"s plans were fantastic—some would say insane. That would usage the arms in the arsenal—as well as old-fashioned pikes he had actually had especially manufactured—to start a guerrilla war against slavery. The main point of his army would be the mainly white band of raiders who seized the arsenal. Yet soon, that hoped—he believed—he just knew—that hundreds or even thousands of servants would sign up with him in the fight versus the "peculiar institution." the predicted that when word of his raid gained out, servants from transparent the an ar would appear at his side, together bees "swarm come the hive."

During his raid, Brown and his guys had recorded a variety of slave owner in the area, including Lewis Washington, the great-grand-nephew of president George Washington. Brown did no kill any kind of of these recorded men, and he went the end of his means to safeguard them and also make certain they were no harmed.

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While in Harpers Ferry, the raiders eliminated a rail baggage handler, that ironically was a cost-free black, when he refused your orders to halt. In a firefight they eliminated a couple of townsmen, consisting of the mayor. In ~ one suggest Brown stopped a passenger train, organized it because that a while, and also then released it. The train ongoing on come Washington, D.C., wherein the crew dutifully report to officials the Brown had seized Harpers Ferry. The following day, October 18, U.S. Marines, under the command of military Brevet Col. Robert E. Lee, captured Brown in the engine home on the armory grounds. By this time, many of the raiders to be either dead or wounded.