John Brown

Abolitionist Reformer (1800-1859)

Quotes of John Brown

"When I strike, the bees will swarm, and I want you to help hive them." - John Brown's words to Frederick Douglass
"If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments- I submit; so let it be done." - John Brown on November 2nd, 1859 during sentencing to be hanged in the gallows

Concepts John Brown is known/famous for

  • Standing up against slavery
  • Leading an unsuccessful raid in Harpers Ferry (led to his capture)
  • Believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the U.S.
  • Commanded forces at the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie
  • Pottawattomie Massacre
  • Claimed to be America's first "domestic terrorist"

Timeline of John Brown's life

May 9th, 1800: John Brown is born in Torrington, Connecticut. He was son of an antislavery tanner.

1820: Brown marries his first wife, Dianthe Lusk (who dies in 1832).

  • May 1856: After a series of attacks on antislavery settlers in Lawrence, Kansas, Brown and his sons retaliate by slaughtering five local pro-slavery farmers near Pottawattomie Creek in Franklin County, Kansas. The incident becomes known as the "Bloody Pottawattomie". This signals a new level of violence in the growing crisis over slavery.

  • 1857: John Brown begins to make up his plan to raid the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, spark a slave rebellion, and establish a new free state governed by a constitution of his own devising.

  • July 3rd, 1859: Brown arrives in Harpers Ferry.

  • August 1859: John Brown meets with the famous antislavery activist and former slave Frederick Douglass in an abandoned quarry near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to discuss Brown's plans to raid the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Douglass refuses to accompany Brown into Virginia, predicting that the plan will end in disaster.

  • Oct. 16th–18th, 1859: Brown and 21 other raiders attack Harpers Ferry and capture the U.S. Arsenal in an attempt to start a slave rebellion. 5 men are killed (4 white and 1 black). 90 United States Marines, under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee, capture Brown, who is wounded in the struggle.

  • Oct. 17th, 1859: A group of 90 U.S. Marines arrive in Harpers Ferry at 11 p.m. to put an end to Brown's raid.

  • Oct. 18th, 1859: Marines under Lieutenant Israel Greene break through the door to "John Brown's Fort" to capture Brown and his raiders. Brown is injured in the fight.

  • Dec. 2nd, 1859: After a hard-fought trial held in Charles Town, Brown is found guilty of conspiracy, inciting servile insurrection, and treason against the state. He is hanged.

  • Comparison Timeline of Historical Events

    1800: 1.) The U.S. capital is moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

    2.) Electors meet in their states and cast votes for the next president of the United States. 3.) There is a tie vote between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. 4.) This throws the election into the House of Representatives which addresses the matter on February 11, 1801.

    1801: 1.) February 11th- The electors' votes for president are officially opened and counted in Congress. The House of Representatives meets separately and continues balloting for 6 days. On February 17th, on the 36th ballot, Jefferson is elected president and Aaron Burr becomes V.P. 2.) New York passes Emancipation Act. 3.) Population of U.S. is 5.3 million (1 million of African decent).

    1802: 1.) Ohio outlaws slavery. 2.) James Callender makes the accusation that Thomas Jefferson has for many years kept one of his own slaves, Sally Hemings. It is published in the Richmond Recorder that month, and the story is soon picked up by Federalist presses around the country. Callender, a Republican, has previously been an investigator of Federalist scandals. In 1798, Jefferson helped pay for the publication of Callender's pamphlet The Prospect Before Us, which claimed to expose John Adams as a monarchist. However, when Jefferson, becomes President, fails to reward Callender with the office of postmaster in Richmond, Virginia, Callender turns on him.

    1803: 1.) Louisiana Purchase; Jefferson asks Congress for funds for an expedition to explore the Mississippi River and beyond in search of a route to the Pacific. Meriwether Lewis, Jefferson's private secretary, begins planning the expedition, which forms late in 1803. Robert Livingston, ambassador to France, and James Monroe, special envoy, conclude a treaty of cession in Paris in which the U.S. purchases from France the whole of the Louisiana territory for $15 million. The territory almost doubles the size of the United States.

    1804: 1.) The expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark departs, moving up the Missouri River. 2.) Alexander Hamilton dies after being shot the previous day by Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. 3.) Jefferson is re-elected president. He receives the votes of all state electors except those in Connecticut, Delaware, and 2 from Maryland. George Clinton becomes Vice President.

    1806: 1.) Jefferson nominates James Monroe and William Pinckney as joint commissioners to Great Britain. 2.) British warships have been boarding and searching American ships and seizing American and British seamen, claiming that they are British deserters. 3.) Jefferson hopes to resolve the issue and maintain American neutrality in the conflict between Great Britain and France.

    1808: 1.) James Madison is elected President. Throughout his first term, Madison was preoccupied by disputes with France, Great Britain, and Spain. By 1810, France had repealed its commercial restrictions, and in the same year Madison seized the province of West Florida from Spain; Americans controlled of the Gulf Coast.

    1812: 1.) War of 1812 with Britain.
    1814: 1.) The British burn the Capitol building in Washington.

    1815: 1.) Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo.

    1818: 1.) Georgia prohibits Manumission. 2.) Karl Marx is born in Germany.

    1819: 1.) Alabama is admitted as slave state, bringing the number of slave states and free states to equal numbers.

    1820: 1.) Missouri Compromise- admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. Maine immediately gives right to vote and education to all male citizens. The compromise also prohibited slavery in the remainder of the Louisiana Purchase, north of 36°30'N latitude (southern boundary of Missouri).

    1821: 1.) New York gives free Blacks the right to vote.

    1824: 1.) Mexico becomes a republic and outlaws slavery. 2.) In disputed election, John Quincy Adams (John Adams’ son) is elected President, defeating Andrew Jackson.

    1825: 1.) Erie Canal is completed- major transportation achievement which made New York and New York City ascend commercially.

    1827: 1.) Slavery becomes illegal in NY.

    1828: 1.) Andrew Jackson is elected President.

    1830: 1.) “Underground Railroad” is established.

    1835: 1.) Texas declares its independence from Mexico.

    1836: 1.) Martin van Buren is elected President.

    1846: 1.) War with Mexico.

    1848: 1.) Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. 2.) Zachary Taylor becomes President.

    1850: 1.) Millard Fillmore is elected President.

    1852: 1.) Uncle Tom’s Cabin published. 2.) Franklin Pierce becomes President.

    1855: 1.) 5 slavery supporters are killed in a Kansas raid led by John Brown. 2.) James Buchanan is elected President.

    1857: 1.) Dred Scott Supreme Court Decision.

    1859: 1.) John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, VA

    Significance of this American Reformer

    • John Brown was a outstanding abolitionist of his time. He stood against all odds to try and secure rights to ALL Americans, including the slaves.
    • Brown tried several attempts of raid in both Kansas and Harper's Ferry. His thought was the only way to overthrow slavery was with armed insurrection. In Kansas, Brown wasn't hesitant to kill many in his way to do what was right in the end. Although he fought hard, Brown and his "makeshift" troops were ordered out of Kansas by Gov. John W. Geary, along with the trail of blood left behind. Later in 1859, Brown and 21 other men headed for Harper's Ferry, hoping to make a large statement. In the beginning, Brown's raid was successful upon entering the local town of Harper's Ferry, collecting muskets and ammunition for his men and local slaves. However, news of Brown's whereabouts were soon heard by many in the town of Baltimore, and a series of U.S. Marines were called in to seize Brown and his men. On October 18, 1859, the Marines broke into Brown's hideout and took control of both Brown and his men. Refusing to give in to the system, Brown told the Marines he'd rather die for his cause than surrender under the circumstances. 10 of Brown's men died in the raid; 5 escaped. Brown was later hanged.
    • Although the Kansas and Harper's Ferry weren't very successful in the end, John Brown opened up the eyes of many Americans concerning slavery in the United States. Brown's Harper's Ferry raid also began to light the fire underneath the Civil War between the Union and Confederate states.
    John Brown's Raid in American Memory