Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog post #3

Before reading, I had a recollection of what I believed John Brown was known for. He was an abolitionist that chose to eradicate slavery with acts of violence. However, “The revolution of 1860” by James McPherson helped me acquire even more knowledge about all of John Browns endeavors and what actions he took as an abolitionist. Unlike other well-known activists like Dred Scott, Brown revolved his actions by a “lawlessness” kind of mindset. He chose to act on his beliefs with violence because of the god he worshipped that claimed, “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin”. Often when he would go to anti-slavery meetings he would exclaim “Talk, Talk, talk” to insinuate that in his eyes people should be taking more action and target those that have done them wrong. Others began to change their mentalities on the nonviolence movement as well after the 1850s. Frederick Douglass for instance, was a pacifist before and when the fugitive slave law was passed on the New Testament he claimed “slave-holders…tyrants and despots have no right to live”. In fact, one of his favorite sayings was” who would be free must himself strike the blow”. To be honest it doesn’t surprise me that the oppressed would resort to violence to “earn self -respect and the respect of their oppressors”, I’m not entirely sure I can justify the ones that believed in “moral force”. When one has been wronged so many times, sometimes returning the favor can be the solution. I do believe that there are times when violence is the only answer and maybe some of Browns actions could have made sense. Regardless they did lead to a civil war that didn’t have many good outcomes. The author goes on to talk about how anti-slavery activists meet over time to act together. Overall, I would say this reading did teach me something and reassured my thoughts about how we view violence as a means to an end.

One thought on “Blog post #3”

  1. A thoughtful post, I’m glad you learned something about Brown and that it prodded you to think a little more deeply about non-violent vs. violent approaches and when the latter are justified. To complicate things a bit further, is it possible to draw a distinction between the kind of armed resistance that Douglass advocated in response to the Fugitive Act?—or even between the kind of violent uprising by enslaved people against their enslavers that Brown hoped to inspire and what he actually accomplished, a seemingly quite futile act of violence.

    To be fair, too, most abolitionists didn’t insist on strict pacifism or obedience to the law—in fact, they often resisted or defied slaveholding laws, including the Constitution, in acts of what we would today call “civil disobedience.”

    To complicate things even further, why do you say the Civil War didn’t have many good outcomes? Didn’t it result in the destruction of slavery? Others have pondered the question of whether the deaths of 750,000 men in the war was worth the liberation of 4 millioned enslaved people… what do you think?

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