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Posted on September 4th, 2012, by

John Brown was one of the first leaders of the abolitionist movement. He made a considerable contribution in the development of abolitionism in the USA. At the same time, his views were substantially influenced by leading European philosophers as well as progressive American philosophers. John Brown was very concerned with the position of slaves who were treated as commodities by their masters.

Such an attitude to people was absolutely unacceptable for John Brown, who grew up in a religious family. In such a way, his education and beliefs he had since his childhood naturally rejected the idea of the severe exploitation of slaves by white master and this rejection of slavery was a natural protest of John Brown against the maltreatment of people. In addition, he was influenced by ideas of humanism which were popular in Europe and among leading American philosophers. The slavery was treated by humanists as a savage practice that should be eliminated because it leads to the dehumanization of society and degradation of basic humanistic values.

In such a way, abolitionist ideas were deep-rooted in the consciousness of John Brown because they contradicted to his personal beliefs which he had shaped since the early childhood. At the same time, John Brown developed his personal philosophy which rejected the idea of slavery as unjust and unacceptable for civilized society. As a result, he became an ardent abolitionist, although he radicalized the idea of abolition of slavery, being unable to keep pace with the persistent injustice he observed in the real life.

Question 2

John Brown was not the only man in who stood on the abolitionist ground. The idea of the abolition of slavery grew more and more popular in the USA at the epoch. Gradually, the idea of abolitionism had started to evolve from the spontaneous and rare protest toward an organized movement. One of the manifestations of such organized abolitionist movement was the League of Gileadites, which became an influential abolitionist organization. At the same time, it should be said that the League of Gileadites was the organization which aimed at the assistance to slaves and their liberation. On the other hand, the League of Gileadites did not really aimed at the organized, military struggle against slavery. Instead, the organization stood on the ground of social protests and the organization of help to slaves, who escaped from their masters. In fact, the League helped many slaves to escape from their master to Canada, where they could live in safety. The assistance of the League of Gileadites was very important but its members were not prepared to the Revolution, which John Brown was a convinced supporter of. As a result, the League of Gileadites did not really support the raid on Harper’s Ferry and this attack did not meet the original goals of the organization. To put it more precisely, it met the goal of the League in regard to the liberation of slaves, but the League did not accept the method of John Brown and did not support the raid on Harper’s Ferry.

Question 3

The Kansas-Nebraska Act influenced consistently the policy of the state in regard to slavery. In fact, it was a significant victory of Southern states in the national politics. At the same time, effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act provoked a strong opposition from the part of abolitionist and, eventually it resulted in the military struggle of abolitionists against slavery and the state. John Brown headed the military struggle which he inspired and which he appealed to since he believed in the revolutionary way of the abolition of slavery. However, the outcomes and reaction of people on the guerilla war was quite contradicting. On the one hand, many people did not understand goals of the abolitionists. The narration of Mahala Doyle and Louisa Jane Wilkinson proves the fact that they did not share ideas of abolitionists and for them abolitionist personified evil power that caused personal tragedies in their lives. At the same time, their narration reveals the fact that the guerilla war resulted in the useless casualties since people died for nothing. At this point, their narration was different from the position of John Brown, who believed that his army struggled for the noble goal. At the same time, he agreed with Mahala Doyle and Louisa Jane Wilkinson in regard to numerous casualties and cruelty of the war. His army suffered from huge losses and many families in Kansas suffered from the war and lost many relatives in this war.

Question 4

The raid on Harper’s Ferry became a turning point in the guerilla war headed by John Brown. In this respect, the description of the raid by Osborne Anderson is very important because he describes the raid from the perspective of a participant. He pointed out that the raid was carefully planned and well-organized, but the guerillas failed to accomplish the raid successfully because they attained their principal goal to take the arsenal, but they did not expect to carry on the struggle. At the same time the first signs of defeat provoked panic among the guerillas who were not professional soldiers, many of them were idealistic and not trained to a persistent struggle.

Question 5

At the same time, the position of John Brown in relation to the raid on Harper’s Ferry was particularly significant because it was him who was the leader of the guerilla army and who was the main inspirer of the raid and the entire war. On analyzing goals of John Brown, it should be said that he aimed at taking the arsenal to get weapon that could be distributed among the guerilla army. But this was a short-term goal, while in a long-run perspective the success of the raid on Harper’s Ferry would lead to the consistent change in the guerilla war since the weapon taken at Harper’s Ferry could enlarge consistently the revolutionary army. As a result, he supposed to get the strategic advantage in the war against the governmental troops and slavery.

Question 6

However, the raid on Harper’s Ferry organized by John Brown provoked an extremely negative reaction in media, especially Southern ones. Newspapers, such as Petersburg, Virginia Daily Express, criticized severely the raid. In fact, the newspaper interpreted the raid on Harper’s Ferry as a rebellion of outlaws against the regular army and the authorities of the USA. In fact, the raid was perceived as betrayal of national interests because the raid was the direct attack on the American army, while the defeat of the army would wreak havoc nationwide, especially if slaves got the weapon and joined the army. In addition, the newspaper viewed the attack as well as the entire was as illegal action.

Question 7

Unlike Southern newspapers, David Thoreau supported the raid on Harper’s Ferry. He justified the raid and actions of John Brown by the goal he wanted to achieve. To put it more precisely, David Thoreau believed in natural rights of people. In such a context, the slavery was a direct abuse of natural rights of slaves, while the slavery was the offense to the civilized society because it contradicted to the basic principles of natural laws. On the other hand, David Thoreau did not support the revolutionary struggle but he agreed that at the epoch the revolution was the only way to change the social system of the USA and eliminate slavery.

Question 8

John Brown was treated as a radical abolitionist. Many specialists believed his methods were absolutely unacceptable. At the same time, it is obvious that the abolitionist movement was too weak at the epoch to force the society and the government to change policies consistently and put the end to slavery. In contrast, supporters of slavery were too strong to oppress any kind of civil opposition. Moreover, they proved to be able to oppress the military struggle of abolitionist as well. In such a situation, it is obvious that the military struggle was the only way for John Brown to meet his goals. In this respect, his revolutionary struggle was extremely important to the USA because it had changed the view of the entire nation on the problem of slavery. However, it is hardly possible to justify the military struggle because the slavery could be eliminated in an evolutionary way, since the North had outpaced consistently the South. Hence, slavery proved to be ineffective and it would be eliminated.

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