John Brown: Martyr or Madman?                                       A Homily in Four Parts                                ...
other ways in which individuals have, throughout history, resisted systems of oppression.Whether through deep introspectio...
happened to Brown that reinforced his belief that his father was right—that slavery was anabomination. While delivering a ...
if necessary, die in the fight 3 Are you with me? he asked his children and one by one, all of      them said “yes, Father...
slavery and remains controversial to this day: the slaughter of proslavery settlers nearPottawatomie, Kansas on May 24, 18...
Victorian dining room sat some of the greatest minds of Concord, and others, hearing about thisdinner, wanted to meet this...
who has the smarts and the guts to do what we may not be able to do—to pick up arms, tocommander an army, to force a socia...
John Brown was put on trial for treason, murder and inciting slaves to insurrection on October27. On November 2, he was se...
Some jurists have appealed to something called “the law of nations,” such as in the1500’s when Spanish jurists Francisco d...
It is not against me, Becket, that you strive.               It is not Becket who pronounces doom,               But the L...
higher law: God’s Law. Perhaps this person can convince others, even if only a few, that he andGod are right and it is inc...
Yet, violence has an ugliness all its own as well. The men that Brown murdered atPottawattamie Kansas were not innocents. ...
Unlike the law, that, while having its own surprises, follows a code of ethics developed over timeby a rational society. O...
simply find him—a man—a human being, terribly driven by a sense of injustice and blind to theways of how his gifts, not hi...
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Brown jan27sermon

  1. 1. John Brown: Martyr or Madman? A Homily in Four Parts Sunday, January 27, 2008 West Shore Unitarian Universalist ChurchPart I: Meet John BrownWho was John Brown—really? Like most controversial figures in history, we, the inheritors ofthat history, hear different interpretations. Brown was a harsh Calvinist and whipped his sons forinfractions; Brown was a family man who sang songs to his infant daughter and tenderly caredfor his wife when she fell ill. Brown was a zealot/fanatic, who lost all sense of reason; he was amartyr for a cause that proved to be righteous and just. When Brown was in prison awaiting hissentence, Ralph Waldo Emerson called him "that new saint, than whom none purer or morebrave was ever led by love of men into conflict and death— the new saint awaiting hismartyrdom." Others have written that the belief in Brown’s madness was actually a disbeliefthat a white man could lay down his life for blacks. Malcom X once said about Brown: “JohnBrown . . . was a white man who went to war against white people to help free slaves. And anywhite man who is ready and willing to shed blood for your freedom—in the sight of other whites,he’s nuts.”1 So, saint or sinner? Martyr or Madman? Perhaps the chief reason for the way that history has viewed Brown has been his use ofviolence as the means to end slavery. By the 1840s and ’50s a growing number of antislaveryfighters felt that more emphatic means than argument were necessary, and Brown was one ofthem. When he met the ex-slave and eloquent abolitionist Frederick Douglass, with whom hebecame close friends, the two engaged in a long and searching colloquy on how to overthrowslavery. Perhaps, offered Douglass, the slaveholder might still be converted by peaceful means.“No,” Brown almost shouted. “I know their proud hearts. They will never be induced to give uptheir slaves until they feel a big stick about their heads.”2 This month we have looked at three1 http://www.americanheritage.com/people/articles/web/20060831-john-brown-harpers-ferry-abolitionism-slavery.shtml2 Ibid.
  2. 2. other ways in which individuals have, throughout history, resisted systems of oppression.Whether through deep introspection as we experienced in the journals of Etty Hillesum; theprophetic witness of Sojourner Truth, or the ability to resist oppression through organizing, asseen in the life of Cesear Chavez, all of these methods have been peaceful and non-violent.Although violence surrounded these individuals, or was always a threat, violence itself was notthe means to an end—the end, being liberation from oppression. With the story of John Brown,known best for his failed attempt to incite a slave insurrection, hanged as a traitor, we have toconsider if there are instances in our life—in the life of the world—that requires us to take uparms and to be prepared to commit violence—murder even. Throughout the course of thissermon, I want to raise both sides of the issue for our consideration, because these issues withwhich Brown and some of our Unitarian forebears struggled—is still our struggle. Thetemptation to use violence is still a war both in our hearts, our government and our nation andraises difficult questions for us today. At what point, when it seems that other means have failed,do you resist injustice by taking up arms? This month’s sermon series has been exploring thetheme of resistance through the personal lives of women and men—because we feel strongly thatall theology begins with biography. So, is my hope that what you get out of this morning is notan interesting talk about John Brown, or our Unitarian ancestors who financed his efforts to endslavery, but will consider a deeper question that still resonates for us today. Is the use ofviolence justified? Is it an appropriate means to serve the greater ends—peace or justice orfreedom from oppression? . We need to know something about the man himself to understand why he thought hecould free the slaves only by the use of violence. John Brown was born on May 9, 1800, inTorrington, Connecticut into a strict Calvinist family. His father, Owen, did not hide the fact thathe hated slavery and felt that holding humans in bondage against their will was a sin againstGod. When he was five years old, the family moved to Hudson, Ohio, their home in Hudsonserving as one of the stations of the Underground Railroad. At twelve years of age, something 2
  3. 3. happened to Brown that reinforced his belief that his father was right—that slavery was anabomination. While delivering a herd of cattle, he stayed with a man who owned a boy slave—the same age as the young John Brown. The boy was beaten with a shovel by the slave-ownerbefore Brown’s eyes. That early injustice set him on the path for which he is now famous. In 1820, he marries his first wife, Dianthe Lusk, who bears him seven children, then dieson August 10, 1832. Brown tries his hand at a number of businesses, working in a tannery,served as postmaster, land speculation, in 1844, formed a partnership with Simon Perkins, ofAkron, Ohio, managing flocks of sheep on two of Perkins’ nearby farms. As a businessman,John Brown was a failure. He was constantly in debt, running from creditors, trying to make aliving and support his still-growing family. In 1833, he took a second wife, Mary Ann Day andshe bore him 13 children. Out of his twenty children, only seven survived. Although Brown’sbusiness instincts often failed him, his growing sense of urgency and concern over what hebelieved to be the further entrenchment of slavery did not. He had begun to lose interest in business because his mind was roiling with anger at thefact that slavery not only still existed, but seemed to be expanding. What was this business, hethought to himself—of tending sheep? What good did that do for the slave, for the oppressed?There was to be no peaceful way to end slavery. He summoned all his courage and commitmentat hand, and one night gathered his family around him. His wife Mary, pregnant with their fifthchild drew all the Brown children around their father. Standing in front of the fireplace, hisfierce black eyes burning, Brown and his family and told them “slavery was nothing but the most diabolical and cowardly form of warfare that human beings had devised.. It was war of the strong on the weak, war on women and children as well as on men, war to kill the soul before the body. Non-resistants could never bring this unholy war to an end. Those who wielded words alone could never end it. Only force could end slavery— force brought by white men as well as black who were willing to take up arms against it, and 3
  4. 4. if necessary, die in the fight 3 Are you with me? he asked his children and one by one, all of them said “yes, Father.” After the last affirmation, Brown nodded and sank abruptly to his knees. The boys exchanged glances, startled. He had never knelt to pray before. In a moment, Mary had lowered herself gingerly off her chair. Lifting and cradling her belly with her hands, she knelt beside Brown. The others followed.” Brown’s fate was sealed. This was a declaration of war.II. The Secret SixJohn Brown was running out of money. That was not an unusual state of affairs for Brown—hewas often long on wind but short on cash, but this time, it was different. He needed money toprop up his failing businesses or pay off past debts, or even to feed his wife and still smallchildren. This time he needed money, he said, to buy two hundred Sharp’s rifles and $30,000dollars in cash. To find that kind of money, he knew that he had to seek out not only those whowere sympathetic to his cause, but those who had the financial means to help, and for that, heheaded straight for Boston, Massachusetts, where liberal Unitarians and other abolitionists wereappalled at the turn of events in their own country. When we think of the Civil War, we tend tothink of the North vs. the South, and never the twain shall meet. But the stain of slaverypermeated both the north and the south, as runaway slaves made their way to New England, andas free black slaves attempted to make a living in the philosophically tolerant, but in practice,racist—North. Tensions were high, not only on the east coast in civilized cities like Boston andNew York, but out west, even past the Western Reserve, into the frontier land of Kansas, whichbecame the first battleground of a civil war that had not yet been formally declared. In 1854, the infamous Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the western territories to slavery.The next year, Brown followed three of his sons to Kansas, hoping to do whatever he could toprevent the state from falling into the slavery column. Events of the first half of 1856 radicalizedBrown and pointed him toward the incident that changed the terms of the national debate over3 Carton, Evan. Patriotic Treason: John Brown and The Soul of America. (Free Press: New York, 2006), pg. 86-87 4
  5. 5. slavery and remains controversial to this day: the slaughter of proslavery settlers nearPottawatomie, Kansas on May 24, 1856. The details of the murders by Browns band at Pottawatomie are well known. Brown andsix others set out from Ottawa Creek on May 24 with rifles, revolvers, and swords headingtoward proslavery territory. Around ten oclock the following night Browns men, announcingthey were from the Northern Army, broke into the homes of proslavery activists and hackedthem to death. He believed that executing these pro-slavery men, who were responsible forterrorizing the abolitionist communities, would serve two purposes: it would eliminate the sourceof intimidation, and would send a message that the abolitionists were not all talk—but meantbusiness. After these attacks, Brown and his sons managed to escape and no one could quite pin themurders on Brown, though there was much speculation. When he arrived in New England, hereassured the good men of Concord that he had nothing to do with that business in Kansas, butthat he intended to raise a company of well-armed men who would resist any further aggression.He befriended a young Franklin Sanborn, a Harvard graduate who moved to Concord to open apreparatory school, and who quickly became the young darling of the Transcendentalist ofConcord. Sanborn knew that Unitarian minister Theodore Parker was an ardent abolitionist, so,around this time of year, in 1857, he introduced him to Parker. Parker was sufficientlyimpressed with Brown to offer to host a reception for him. It was the kind of soiree that JohnBrown hated. Brown was painfully uncomfortable, nervous and out of place, sitting in his cheapand worn corduroy suit, with dirt under his fingernails and the hairs on his head seeming to shootstraight up, as if he had absorbed an electrical shock. “His energetic, nervous eyes wanderedquickly from one fancy gentleman to another—all of these finely dressed and manicured dandieswhom he needed to seduce into supporting his revolution.4There, in Theodore Parker’s lush4 Renehan, Edward J. Junior. The Secret Six, pg 111. 5
  6. 6. Victorian dining room sat some of the greatest minds of Concord, and others, hearing about thisdinner, wanted to meet this John Brown. Sanborn introduced John Brown to George LutherStearns, an industrialist and merchant, whose financial resources might come to Brown’s aide, aswell as another Unitarian minister, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an activist minister. SamuelGridley Howe, whose wife, Julia Ward Howe, famous author of “The Battle Hymn of theRepublic,” was also there. The three of them, Sanborn, Howe and Parker stood apart from therest of the dinner party for a time, discussing in earnest the real reason why John Brown hadventured into this strange territory. All three men shared the view that only civil war, first inKansas and then countrywide, could bring an end to slavery. But Brown had not ventured intothe plush parlors of Concord for idle chat. He was a man of action. He planned to hit up theseBostonian and Concordian Brahmins for as much money as they could give, buy guns, arm 100men, go back to Kansas and start an armed insurrection—a war if you will, against the pro-slavery forces. Everything hinged on the success of Kansas. In February 1857, John Brown came back to Concord and met with Ralph WaldoEmerson and Henry David Thoreau, discussing once again the evils of slavery. Finally, awealthy philanthropist, Gerrit Smith became convinced that John Brown’s methods were soundand his cause noble and just. Together, these six men, Theodore Parker, Samuel Howe, CharlesSanborne, Gerrit Smith, George Stearns and Thomas Higginson, called “The Secret Six,” bandedtogether for clandestine meetings to plot, scheme and, finance, a plan to if not overthrow slavery—at least push the necessity of its abolition to the forefront, and possibly, even start a Civil War. Now for some of you this will be either a fascinating slice of history, that includes ourforebears, Unitarian ministers or--this may have been the point at which you found yourselfnodding off, not unlike a well-fed Transcendentalist who indulged in too much after-dinnersherry. History is important because it repeats itself. The noble, liberal ideals of these men—who became the Secret Six, could have been, I suspect, any one of us. Tired of talking, and ofhaving interesting discussions about a real societal evil—here, right in front of us, is someone 6
  7. 7. who has the smarts and the guts to do what we may not be able to do—to pick up arms, tocommander an army, to force a social change. And, better yet—we don’t have to be the onesgetting dirty or shot at. All we have to do is to give money Although it may be easy to portray these six men as pacifist parlor generals, we cannotoverlook the power of their intellect and the contributions they did make from their ivory towers,or their minister’s study. In a sermon delivered shortly after the enactment of the Fugitive SlaveLaw, which made it illegal to harbor a runaway slave, Parker gave his first public endorsement toviolent resistance: “The man who attacks me to reduce me to slavery—in that moment of attackalienates his right to life, and if I were the fugitive, and could escape in no other way, I wouldkill him with as little compunction as I would drive a mosquito from my face.” 5 Meanwhile, John Brown, emboldened by the Kansas massacre and raid, thought ofanother plan, which he may or may not have shared, with the Secret Six. Brown believed that itwas now time for an all-out assault on slavery, and he proposed something that no one had everconceived of before. He planned to liberate slaves and recruit them to be part of an army thatwould lead an armed insurrection. Brown told Frederic Douglas:. “God will be my guard and 6shield, rendering the most illogical movements into a grand success.” The raid was not a great success; in fact, it was an abysmal failure. The freed slaves whowere supposed to swarm around Brown like bees to a hive, never materialized. Brown neglectedto tell them anything about the plan—they were supposed to intuitively understand that this long-bearded, wild-eyed white man was going to free them, and that they would willingly join hisarmy to fight against other white men. Most of them ran or went into hiding. Although Brownwas successful at overtaking the arms cache at the Armory, he had not counted on the liquoredup mobs of armed citizens and militia men who were itching for a fight. They swarmed thearmory and cried for blood. The battle was gruesome. Brown’s own two sons were killed, andBrown himself stabbed and beaten senseless. In what was then Virginia—now West Virginia,5 The Secret Six, pg. 306 The Secret Six, pg. 139 7
  8. 8. John Brown was put on trial for treason, murder and inciting slaves to insurrection on October27. On November 2, he was sentenced to die on the gallows on December 2, 1859. Up north in New England, the news of John Brown’s raid spread throughout thehouseholds of the Secret Six. All of the Secret Six except for Theodore Parker were named.Gerrit Smith’s mind gave way within two weeks of Harper’s Ferry, he suffered a mentalbreakdown and was committed to an asylum for the insane. Our own Unitarian hero, TheodoreParker, was in Europe trying to recover from what was to become a fatal case of tuberculosis.From the safe distance of Florence, Italy, Parker wrote: Parker wrote at the time of the HarpersFerry attack, "One held against his will as a slave has a natural right to kill everyone who seeksto prevent his enjoyment of liberty." Samuel Howe and George Stearns hightailed up to the Canadian side of the Niagara Fallsto avoid a federal subpoena. Eventually Sanborn followed writing to Higginson “there are athousand better ways of spending a year in warfare against slavery than by being in aWashington prison.” Only Higginson openly said that he would not retreat to Canada, and thatif summoned, he would go to Washington and speak the whole truth bravely.7 Four out of theSecret Six would pay frequent homage to John Brown’s grave—buried in North Elba, NewYork. Each man was deeply touched and profoundly changed by their relationship with oldOsawatomie Brown, who took the law into his own hands for what he and they believed was arighteous and just cause.Part II. There is a Higher Law—written by Thomas Selby, Worship Associate Throughout this argument over the abolition of slavery, one constantly encountersreferences to a Higher Law, a law affecting not only local laws but also the Constitution itself.This concept was far from new. Philosophers from Aristotle to St. Augustine to John Lockehave debated what to do if the laws of a government are unjust.7 The Secret six, pg. 247 8
  9. 9. Some jurists have appealed to something called “the law of nations,” such as in the1500’s when Spanish jurists Francisco de Vitoria and Francisco Suarez argued that this “law ofnations” prevented the Spanish crown from treating Native Americans as sub-human with nolegal rights. The Spanish king ignored them. It was also under such a concept that the Alliedpowers tried the Nazi defendants at Nuremberg, thus countering the German argument that, sincethe racial purity laws of the Third Reich were legally enacted, those laws were morally, as wellas legally, correct. However, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, a man known to all as “Mr.Republican,” pointed out that the US Constitution contained no mention of the “law of nations”and, since the passage of such laws would be unconstitutional ex post facto laws, Taft questionedthe legality of the Nuremberg Trials vis a vis US law. Needless to say, Taft was soundlydenounced by most of the country. In Profiles In Courage, John F. Kennedy documents some ofthe blistering denunciations that were heaped upon Taft for his stand upon supremacy of the USConstitution and how it helped defeat his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1948. But in the vast majority of instances, when one appeals to a higher law, one is appealingto God’s law and the belief that it trumps any law made by those of us here below. CharlesFinney, minister and president of Oberlin College, asserted that obeying Ohio’s Black Laws was“highly immoral”; and that “no man, by any promise or oath, or resolution, can make it right, orlawful, for him to do that which is contrary to the law of God.” And the years leading up to theCivil War are certainly rife with more of such appeals from Unitarian saints. Theodore Parkerwrote President Fillmore regarding the Fugitive Slave Act, “I would rather lie all my life in jail,and starve there, than refuse to protect one of these parishioners of mine…I must reverence thelaws of God, come of that what will come.” In T. S. Elliot’s powerful play “Murder in the Cathedral” Archbishop of CanterburyThomas a Becket tells the knights who are about to slay him, “It is not I who insult the King, And there is a higher than I or the King, It is not I, Becket from Cheapside, 9
  10. 10. It is not against me, Becket, that you strive. It is not Becket who pronounces doom, But the Law of Christ’s Church, the judgment of Rome.”Pretty heady stuff; and a most effective argument. Now, I must say that I am not talking about most actions taken against unfair laws. I amnot arguing against the actions of Gandhi or King or countless others who have written,preached, marched, petitioned, or even demonstrated in opposition to laws which they deemedunfair. What I am speaking against is the calling upon God’s higher laws to justify actions bythe mobs such as in Boston, Massachusetts and Wellington, Ohio. A jury of a less adoring pressand historians would term the tumult in those cities to be riots or even revolts. Federal marshalswere killed in the performance of their duties. Imagine the response if a few years ago, whenfederal authorities returned Adrian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba, if the Cuban Americancommunity of Miami with their Anglo supporters, had turned out with knives, torches, clubs andfirearms to violently prevent that reunion. The problem with an appeal to a higher law is not the appeal itself but, rather, who isdoing the appealing. If we as religious liberals are on the side of the angels and can appeal to ahigher law in defense of that which we consider good and proper and even holy, abolition, peace,equal rights, equal justice, then is not anyone else entitled to make a similar appeal? Might notthose appeals be anathema to us and our personal visions of a higher law? Just two weeks agoGovernor Huckabee expressed a belief that the US Constitution should be amended to conformto God’s laws. I seriously doubt that he was referring to mixing meat and milk or whether or notone may pull his ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath. His appeal to God’s Law would be quite at avariance to our appeal to the same source. A person looks at a situation in this country, something that is entirely legal andconstitutional by decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, but that person decides thatthe Court and the Congress have gotten it all wrong. How does he know this? He perceives a 10
  11. 11. higher law: God’s Law. Perhaps this person can convince others, even if only a few, that he andGod are right and it is incumbent on this person and his followers to do what God desires. ObeyGod’s Higher Law, whether it is sending guns and money to John Brown or being a suicidebomber in Iraq or shooting a doctor who performs abortions. Lastly, let us not forget that it is a very, very short step from “I am on God’s side” to“God is on my side.” Although history is rife with people who had that conviction, my premierexample would be General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He was a devout Presbyterian withcomplete belief in God’s will. He believed that if he were too happy, God would punish him.Jackson did not drink whiskey or eat butter with his bread because it tasted good. He was aloving husband and father. He secretly, and illegally, taught slaves to read so that they couldunderstand the Bible. He cared deeply for the men under his command and they, in turn, lovedhim, knowing that he would not needlessly sacrifice them. And he could look out over theslaughter at Fredericksburg and calmly remark to his aides, “God has been very good to ustoday.”Part IV. Do the Ends Justify the Means?In case you had not already guessed, I’ve become deeply moved by the story of John Brown andmy Unitarian colleagues, known as The Secret Six. Too often when an issue that I consider asocietal evil comes to the foreground, there seems to be little I can do. Oh sure, I can preachabout them from this pulpit. I can write letters, call my senator and representative, educatemyself about how to combat it. And I can fully understand and sympathize with the men of theSecret Six, three of whom were Unitarian ministers, whose deepest convictions were offended bythe persistence of slavery. I can even understand John Brown, who became so fed up with all thetalk and intellectual discussions about the evil or necessity of slavery, who finally just snappedand decided that violence was the way to force the nation to look at its own ugliness. 11
  12. 12. Yet, violence has an ugliness all its own as well. The men that Brown murdered atPottawattamie Kansas were not innocents. Several of them were pro-slavery imports whoharassed, threatened and intimidated the abolitionist settlers. Some could argue that themassacres in Kansas ignited the spark that was ultimately to become the Civil War. Thse menwere acting within the guidelines of the law, as slavery was still legal at that time. And yet, thesewere men whose wife and children could only stand helplessly by as Brown and his gangexecuted them. On the other hand, Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, while not accomplishingthe ends that he had hoped, provided the means in that the country woke up to the slumberinggiant of abolitionist sentiment that was no longer able to be contained to New England parlors.So the question still remains—did the ends—the abolition of a great evil—slavery—justify themeans—murder and the use of force? When it comes to a legally declared war, actuallysanctioned by an act of Congress, we accept the fact that there will be “casualties,” though I seenothing casual about the loss of life. But what do we do when we believe the “law” of the landfails us? What about when we choose to take the law into our own hands—is violence justifiedthen? The problem with violence is well known—it begets more violence. There is somethingin us that once a violent act is perpetuated—we want more. It can become almost like anaddiction and with each violent act, we build up justifications which become our law. An eyefor an eye—a tooth for a tooth proponents of violent action are known to quote. And yet, thereason that phrase exists in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy is not a recipe forrevenge or justice. It was created an attempt to mediate violence. Tribal culture would demandviolent retribution for a wrong. The eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth was meant to exact the sameamount of hurt from another that was done to you. So, if someone steals your camel—you stealtheir camel. . We have learned, however, that in truth—this practice doesn’t work. It wasGandhi who quipped that following this practice only makes the world blind and toothless.Violence not only begets more violence, it creates something uncontained and unpredictable. 12
  13. 13. Unlike the law, that, while having its own surprises, follows a code of ethics developed over timeby a rational society. Once you take up arms against your fellow human beings and decide tooperate outside the laws, you cannot predict the consequences of your actions, because violence,by its very nature is unpredictable. John Brown not only freely embraced violence as a means to an end, he did so withoutmuch counsel from others. In other words, he was not “a team player.” He reveled in his quasi-celebrity status and his lone ranger methods. No one could dissuade him, because he knew hiscause was just and his methods were sound and the outcome would justify and vindicate him inthe end. The trouble with that kind of thinking is that it leads to zealotry. Zealotry is a toxiccombination of a righteous cause and a certain amount of narcissism. Rational discourse is futileand for the zealot, failure is not an option. Had Brown worked more closely with the Secret Six,instead of exploiting their liberal religious sensibilities with his promises of slave liberation, hemight have figured out a better plan than to raid an armory in a town that would think no more oflynching John Brown than shooting a squirrel. He might have acted more strategically and lesslike a terrorist. He might have actually lived to see the freeing of the slaves—and what a realand sweet victory that would have been. But that is not what happened. We are left with thousands of letters and materials andhundreds of books written about John Brown, the radical, the abolitionist, the madman or themartyr. Thoreau said of him: "No man in America has ever stood up so persistently andeffectively for the dignity of human nature." John Brown was, he continued "the most Americanof us all." Yet standing in the front room of the John Brown home in Akron, OH, I wonder if thereis another way of understanding him. I don’t think him mad, for he showed calm, rational,military strategy in planning all of his attacks. Nor do I find him a martyr, because the definitionof martyr is someone who is put to death rather than to renounce religious principles. His respectfor the dignity of human nature did not, apparently extend to those who disagreed with him. I 13
  14. 14. simply find him—a man—a human being, terribly driven by a sense of injustice and blind to theways of how his gifts, not his guns, could have been used in service of the Great Cause ofAbolitionism. Brown’s lesson then, is for us all—how terribly, powerfully human we are, andhow the potential for great horrors and great healing, lay squarely in our own hands. May it beso. 14

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