January 22, 2012


Tony Horwitz, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War (New York: Henry Holt, 2011) ("While living underground, the Captain had drafted a constitution and a 'Declaration of Liberty' for the revolutionary government that tonight's action would found." " 'When in the course of Human events, it becomes necessary' for oppressed People to Rise, and assert their natural Rights,; the declaration began. If the opening sounded familiar, the close was not. 'We will obtain these rights or die in the struggle,' the document stated, before concluding" 'Hung be the Heavens in Scarlet." Id. at 102. Regardless of one's thoughts on John Brown, even if one thinks him a little crazy, one has to admire him for being that rare individual who believes that a certain concrete thing, ending slavery, is worth dying for. Even today, with America's all-volunteer military, few of us even have to bother to ask whether the abstraction called "My Country" is worth placing one's life on the line. Remember the lines from a Crosby, Stills and Nash song: 'Find the cost of freedom. Lie your body down.' "But John Brown wasn't a charismatic foreigner crusading from half a world away. He descended from Puritans and Revolutionary soldiers and believed he was fulfilling their struggle. Nor was he an alienated loner in the mold of recent homegrown terrorists such as Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Brown plotted while raising an enormous family; he also drew support from leading thinkers and activists or his day, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Henry David Thoreau. The covert group that funneled him money and guns, the so-called Secret Six, was composed of northern magnates and prominent Harvard men, two of them ministers." Id. at 3-4.).