John Brown's Push for Secession

Essay by Brooks BlakeyUniversity, Bachelor'sB, December 1996

download word file, 7 pages 4.8

On 16 October 1859 John Brown and a small band of men invaded the town of Harpers Ferry Virginia, took over the federal armory and attempted to stir up a revolt among the slaves of the surrounding plantations. Brown easily took the armory for it was not heavily guarded but a slave revolt was virtually non existent. C. Van Woodward tells that the South's initial reaction to the raid was rather mild for it was suppressed rather quickly, slaves remained loyal to their masters, and it was a complete failure. However, this nonchalant mood did not last long when secessionist and Southern newspapers caught wind of the raid for they exploited it and used it as propaganda for secession. Brown's raid on the armory was more than the work of a madman for the outcome of it was tremendous. His raid confirmed the worst fears and suspicions that the South had concerning abolitionists and through exploitation, propaganda, Southern and Northern opinion, John Brown's raid pushed the South to secession.

Adrinne Phillips agrees with Woodward that the South took the raid lightly in the beginning. However, in the Journal of Mississippi History she asserts that as the papers began to publish information and Northern opinion on the raid, public fears in the South increased greatly concerning abolitionists. When Southern papers published information on Brown's raid, they did so in a fashion that would strike total horror in the reader. Phillips cited an example out of the Vicksburg Whig in which the paper described pikes used by Brown and his men during the raid:

It is as ugly an instrument for murder as one could be devised, and in the hands of a stout Negro, might be made to do merciless execution. The blade is about twelve inches long, very stout at...