Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog post #3- McPherson “The Revolution of 1890”

In the reading “The Revolution of 1860”, Author James McPherson, Introduces the famous abolitionist James Brown during the Civil War Era in the late 1850s. Throughout the intro of the excerpt, The reader is introduced to the Revolutionary Acts of James Brown. McPherson starts off with describing Brown’s idea of a raid into the Appalachian foothills of Virginia, where Brown would later move southward along the mountains attracting slaves to his banner. Later on, Brown would journey with 11 white followers to a community of former slaves in Chatham, Canada. Furthermore, in the excerpt, the reader is introduced to Brown’s belief, that in order to win the fight against slavery, violence must play in contrast. McPherson depicts Brown’s strategies by comparing the violence used in the 1850s, where the southwest won from Mexico solely through the threats of violence by southern congress. In more depth of Brown’s Belief, McPherson includes Brown’s singular phrase for his violence attack for the fight of freedom for the slaves where he states” Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin”(McPherson 203) which comes Brown’s Favorite New testament passage (Hebrews 9:22). 


Furthermore, McPherson includes Brown’s efforts into creating the abolitionist group the “Secret six” ,The ‘Secret six’ Involves six men following the scheme of  Brown’s intended invasion of the South. The men involved within the group range from A young educator (Franklin B. Sanborn), A Philanthropist of upstate New York (Gerrit Smith),Transcendental clergyman (Thomas Wentworth Higginson), Leading intellectual light of Unitarianism (Theodore Parker), A physician of international repute for his work with the blind and deaf (Samuel Gridley Howe),and a prosperous manufacture (George L Stearns). McPherson empathizes with the occupations of these men, to give the reader a sense of group members’ community ties. In more depth, To include the the group members’ daily lives don’t necessarily involve the expectations of being apart of the Harper ferry’s invasion for abolishment of slavery, However, They were participants in the resistance to the fugitive slave law, where the particular reform brought most them together to later form the “secret six”. 


Brown’s intended invasion on Harpers Ferry was extinguished as a “suicidal mission” according to Fredrick Douglas, in where, Brown had assigned a guerilla warfare invasion on harpers ferry with only 22 recruited men to ignite his small army. McPherson translates Brown’s immediate plan by empathizing with Brown’s step by step blueprint on Harpers Ferry, However, This plan would only take Brown so far, McPherson states “It was almost as if he knew that failure with its ensuing martyrdom would do more to achieve his ultimate goal than any “success ” could have done”(206). McPherson issues a foreshadowing moment where the reader is introduced to the failed invasion in Harpers Ferry in 1859. Additionally, McPherson depicts a pessimistic outcome on Brown’s intended plan by rehearsing that agony did more in Brown’s favor, than success of his ultimate goal.

All in all, McPherson includes Lincoln’s victory on his presidency as a prologue factor of the abolishment of slavery which would later pass as a law (13th amendment). McPherson recognizes “whether or not the party was revolutionary, Antislavery men concurred that a revolution had taken place”(233), identifying that though not all reinforcements of abolishment had succeed in grace, However, all acts of abolishment made a impact (factor) into the reform of the 13th amendment. 






One thought on “Blog post #3- McPherson “The Revolution of 1890””

  1. John Brown, not James Brown—he was famous for something quite different! Other than that, a very thorough write-up, although there are still some problems with clarity, especially towards the end. Why does McPherson seem to lay so much emphasis on Brown’s failed raid? Which does he consider to have been the “revolution” of his chapter’s title, Brown’s raid or the election of Lincoln the following year?

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