1850 Fugitive Slave Law

An Ugly Law Of Compromise To Satisfy Southern Slaveholders

A Ride for Liberty - The Fugitive Slaves

A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 meant that if you were an escaping slave or a slave who had escaped to a free Northern state, then you could be hunted down by slaveowners or paid slavecatchers, and returned to slavery in the South. The law required local governments in the free Northern states to cooperate with and not prevent, the efforts of the slaveowners and slavecatchers. If you were a fugitive from slavery, it did not matter how long you had lived in Northern freedom, you could be legally pursued, tracked down, captured, and returned to slavery.

Under the Fugitive Slave Law, if you were a white or free black person and you aided a runaway escaped slave, perhaps by providing food, clothing, care, or shelter, then you were guilty of a federal crime and could be given a heavy fine of $1000 and imprisonment of six months. Citizens had to cooperate with the Fugitive Slave Law. People were required: “to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of this law, whenever their services may be required.”

Note: The names “Fugitive Slave Act” and “Fugitive Slave Law” are interchangeable.

An office of federal commissioners was created by the law and the commissioners determined if a black person captured by slaveowners or slavecatchers was in fact, a runaway slave. These commissioners acted without regard or constraint of state and local laws. By the Fugitive Slave Law there was no trial by jury or the right to habeas corpus for captured runaways. A rigged bounty system almost assured that you would be determined to be a runaway slave because the commissioners were paid $10 for each slave returned to slavery, but only $5 if they determined you to not be runaway slave. Both runaways and freed slaves were returned to slavery by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, sometimes even entire free black families were said to be runaways by the slavecatchers and commissioners. Blacks who had been born free had little or no proof of their right to freedom and were accused of being runaways, they would find themselves taken South to toil as slaves. James Phillips was a free black man in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he lived and worked for fourteen years, but by the Fugitive Slave Law he was arrested in May, 1852. It was nothing but kidnapping.

Frederick Douglass Regarding The Fugitive Slave Law

Frederick Douglass, circa 1860s.

Frederick Douglass, circa 1860s.

“The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter is to make half a dozen or more dead kidnappers. A half dozen more dead kidnappers carried down South would cool the ardor of the Southern gentlemen, and keep their rapacity in check… A black man may be carried away without any reference to a jury. It is only necessary to claim him, and that some villain should swear to his identity. There is more protection there for a horse, for a donkey, or anything, rather than a colored man–who is, therefore, justified in the eye of God in maintaining his right with arm.”

How The Fugitive Slave Law Came About- The Compromise of 1850

The Mexican War lasted sixteen months (1846-1848) and under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, a vast amount of territory was added to the United States. This territory would eventually become the states of California, Nevada, and Utah, most of the state of Arizona, and parts of the states of Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Besides adding new territory to the United States, the Mexican War also added new political debate and conflict within the country. Would the new territory be slave or free?

Matters came to a boil when California was admitted to the Union as a state in 1850. Even then, California had a huge population and if it became a free state, then the political representative balance between North and South would be upset. The North already held an advantage in the House, and if California became free then it meant the North would also have a Senate majority. This launched a contentious and explosive political debate. California’s status, and also the rest of the newly acquired territory, of being made free or slave would shift political power dramatically in a country already strongly divided over slavery.

Henry Clay.

Henry Clay.

Senator Henry Clay was a Whig from Kentucky and he was an experienced politician whose career had included time as congressman, senator, secretary of state, and as a presidential candidate. Clay had the art of compromise in his bones, earlier when the United States had faced severe division between the political parties of North and South Henry Clay had devised compromises in the forms of the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise Tariff. Clay’s efforts of compromise worked and disunion was prevented with these measures.

In 1850, Henry Clay was seventy-three-years old but the white-haired Kentucky senator had another compromise up his sleeve. Clay drafted a compromise to ward off the threat of disunion between North and South brought about by whether or not California and the other lands acquired from Mexico would be free or slave. Henry Clay’s Compromise of 1850 at first failed to pass, but then Democrat Stephen Douglass of Illinois by Clay’s guidance arranged the Compromise of 1850 into five smaller acts, and then it narrowly passed.

The Compromise of 1850 was successful in avoiding secession and a Civil War… until 1860. However, the Fugitive Slave Law of the Compromise of 1850 left the country with an ugly law that only the bloodshed of a Civil War would remove.

The Compromise of 1850

  • California would be a free state. (pro-free)
  • Slave trade (But not slavery!) would be abolished in the District of Columbia. (pro-free)
  • The citizens of Utah and New Mexico would decide by popular sovereignty whether their territories were to have slavery. (pro-slave)
  • Texas (a slave state) would not further expand at the expense of New Mexico territory, and the Federal government would award $10 million to Texas to settle claims of its national debt. (pro-slave)
  • The Fugitive Slave Law was created. (pro-slave)

Steal Away – Reverend Pearly Brown

The Fugitive Slave Act 1850

Section 1


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the persons who have been, or may hereafter be, appointed commissioners, in virtue of any act of Congress, by the Circuit Courts of the United States, and Who, in consequence of such appointment, are authorized to exercise the powers that any justice of the peace, or other magistrate of any of the United States, may exercise in respect to offenders for any crime or offense against the United States, by arresting, imprisoning, or bailing the same under and by the virtue of the thirty-third section of the act of the twenty-fourth of September seventeen hundred and eighty-nine, entitled “An Act to establish the judicial courts of the United States” shall be, and are hereby, authorized and required to exercise and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act.

Section 2


And be it further enacted, That the Superior Court of each organized Territory of the United States shall have the same power to appoint commissioners to take acknowledgments of bail and affidavits, and to take depositions of witnesses in civil causes, which is now possessed by the Circuit Court of the United States; and all commissioners who shall hereafter be appointed for such purposes by the Superior Court of any organized Territory of the United States, shall possess all the powers, and exercise all the duties, conferred by law upon the commissioners appointed by the Circuit Courts of the United States for similar purposes, and shall moreover exercise and discharge all the powers and duties conferred by this act.

Section 3

And be it further enacted, That the Circuit Courts of the United States shall from time to time enlarge the number of the commissioners, with a view to afford reasonable facilities to reclaim fugitives from labor, and to the prompt discharge of the duties imposed by this act.

Section 4


And be it further enacted, That the commissioners above named shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the judges of the Circuit and District Courts of the United States, in their respective circuits and districts within the several States, and the judges of the Superior Courts of the Territories, severally and collectively, in term-time and vacation; shall grant certificates to such claimants, upon satisfactory proof being made, with authority to take and remove such fugitives from service or labor, under the restrictions herein contained, to the State or Territory from which such persons may have escaped or fled.

Section 5


Am I Not A Man And A Brother?

Am I Not A Man And A Brother?


And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of all marshals and deputy marshals to obey and execute all warrants and precepts issued under the provisions of this act, when to them directed; and should any marshal or deputy marshal refuse to receive such warrant, or other process, when tendered, or to use all proper means diligently to execute the same, he shall, on conviction thereof, be fined in the sum of one thousand dollars, to the use of such claimant, on the motion of such claimant, by the Circuit or District Court for the district of such marshal; and after arrest of such fugitive, by such marshal or his deputy, or whilst at any time in his custody under the provisions of this act, should such fugitive escape, whether with or without the assent of such marshal or his deputy, such marshal shall be liable, on his official bond, to be prosecuted for the benefit of such claimant, for the full value of the service or labor of said fugitive in the State, Territory, or District whence he escaped: and the better to enable the said commissioners, when thus appointed, to execute their duties faithfully and efficiently, in conformity with the requirements of the Constitution of the United States and of this act, they are hereby authorized and empowered, within their counties respectively, to appoint, in writing under their hands, any one or more suitable persons, from time to time, to execute all such warrants and other process as may be issued by them in the lawful performance of their respective duties; with authority to such commissioners, or the persons to be appointed by them, to execute process as aforesaid, to summon and call to their aid the bystanders, or posse comitatus of the proper county, when necessary to ensure a faithful observance of the clause of the Constitution referred to, in conformity with the provisions of this act; and all good citizens are hereby commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of this law, whenever their services may be required, as aforesaid, for that purpose; and said warrants shall run, and be executed by said officers, any where in the State within which they are issued.

Section 6


Runaway slave.

Runaway slave.

And be it further enacted, That when a person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the United States, has heretofore or shall hereafter escape into another State or Territory of the United States, the person or persons to whom such service or labor may be due, or his, her, or their agent or attorney, duly authorized, by power of attorney, in writing, acknowledged and certified under the seal of some legal officer or court of the State or Territory in which the same may be executed, may pursue and reclaim such fugitive person, either by procuring a warrant from some one of the courts, judges, or commissioners aforesaid, of the proper circuit, district, or county, for the apprehension of such fugitive from service or labor, or by seizing and arresting such fugitive, where the same can be done without process, and by taking, or causing such person to be taken, forthwith before such court, judge, or commissioner, whose duty it shall be to hear and determine the case of such claimant in a summary manner; and upon satisfactory proof being made, by deposition or affidavit, in writing, to be taken and certified by such court, judge, or commissioner, or by other satisfactory testimony, duly taken and certified by some court, magistrate, justice of the peace, or other legal officer authorized to administer an oath and take depositions under the laws of the State or Territory from which such person owing service or labor may have escaped, with a certificate of such magistracy or other authority, as aforesaid, with the seal of the proper court or officer thereto attached, which seal shall be sufficient to establish the competency of the proof, and with proof, also by affidavit, of the identity of the person whose service or labor is claimed to be due as aforesaid, that the person so arrested does in fact owe service or labor to the person or persons claiming him or her, in the State or Territory from which such fugitive may have escaped as aforesaid, and that said person escaped, to make out and deliver to such claimant, his or her agent or attorney, a certificate setting forth the substantial facts as to the service or labor due from such fugitive to the claimant, and of his or her escape from the State or Territory in which he or she was arrested, with authority to such claimant, or his or her agent or attorney, to use such reasonable force and restraint as may be necessary, under the circumstances of the case, to take and remove such fugitive person back to the State or Territory whence he or she may have escaped as aforesaid. In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence; and the certificates in this and the first [fourth] section mentioned, shall be conclusive of the right of the person or persons in whose favor granted, to remove such fugitive to the State or Territory from which he escaped, and shall prevent all molestation of such person or persons by any process issued by any court, judge, magistrate, or other person whomsoever.

Section 7


And be it further enacted, That any person who shall knowingly and willingly obstruct, hinder, or prevent such claimant, his agent or attorney, or any person or persons lawfully assisting him, her, or them, from arresting such a fugitive from service or labor, either with or without process as aforesaid, or shall rescue, or attempt to rescue, such fugitive from service or labor, from the custody of such claimant, his or her agent or attorney, or other person or persons lawfully assisting as aforesaid, when so arrested, pursuant to the authority herein given and declared; or shall aid, abet, or assist such person so owing service or labor as aforesaid, directly or indirectly, to escape from such claimant, his agent or attorney, or other person or persons legally authorized as aforesaid; or shall harbor or conceal such fugitive, so as to prevent the discovery and arrest of such person, after notice or knowledge of the fact that such person was a fugitive from service or labor as aforesaid, shall, for either of said offences, be subject to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, and imprisonment not exceeding six months, by indictment and conviction before the District Court of the United States for the district in which such offence may have been committed, or before the proper court of criminal jurisdiction, if committed within any one of the organized Territories of the United States; and shall moreover forfeit and pay, by way of civil damages to the party injured by such illegal conduct, the sum of one thousand dollars for each fugitive so lost as aforesaid, to be recovered by action of debt, in any of the District or Territorial Courts aforesaid, within whose jurisdiction the said offence may have been committed.

Section 8


And be it further enacted, That the marshals, their deputies, and the clerks of the said District and Territorial Courts, shall be paid, for their services, the like fees as may be allowed for similar services in other cases; and where such services are rendered exclusively in the arrest, custody, and delivery of the fugitive to the claimant, his or her agent or attorney, or where such supposed fugitive may be discharged out of custody for the want of sufficient proof as aforesaid, then such fees are to be paid in whole by such claimant, his or her agent or attorney; and in all cases where the proceedings are before a commissioner, he shall be entitled to a fee of ten dollars in full for his services in each case, upon the delivery of the said certificate to the claimant, his agent or attorney; or a fee of five dollars in cases where the proof shall not, in the opinion of such commissioner, warrant such certificate and delivery, inclusive of all services incident to such arrest and examination, to be paid, in either case, by the claimant, his or her agent or attorney. The person or persons authorized to execute the process to be issued by such commissioner for the arrest and detention of fugitives from service or labor as aforesaid, shall also be entitled to a fee of five dollars each for each person he or they may arrest, and take before any commissioner as aforesaid, at the instance and request of such claimant, with such other fees as may be deemed reasonable by such commissioner for such other additional services as may be necessarily performed by him or them; such as attending at the examination, keeping the fugitive in custody, and providing him with food and lodging during his detention, and until the final determination of such commissioners; and, in general, for performing such other duties as may be required by such claimant, his or her attorney or agent, or commissioner in the premises, such fees to be made up in conformity with the fees usually charged by the officers of the courts of justice within the proper district or county, as near as may be practicable, and paid by such claimants, their agents or attorneys, whether such supposed fugitives from service or labor be ordered to be delivered to such claimant by the final determination of such commissioner or not.

Section 9


And be it further enacted, That, upon affidavit made by the claimant of such fugitive, his agent or attorney, after such certificate has been issued, that he has reason to apprehend that such fugitive will he rescued by force from his or their possession before he can be taken beyond the limits of the State in which the arrest is made, it shall be the duty of the officer making the arrest to retain such fugitive in his custody, and to remove him to the State whence he fled, and there to deliver him to said claimant,
his agent, or attorney. And to this end, the officer aforesaid is hereby authorized and required to employ so many persons as he may deem necessary to overcome such force, and to retain them in his service so long as circumstances may require. The said officer and his assistants, while so employed, to receive the same compensation, and to be allowed the same expenses, as are now allowed by law for transportation of criminals, to be certified by the judge of the district within which the arrest is made, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.

Section 10


Slave kidnap poster. Boston, 1851.

Slave kidnap poster. Boston, 1851.

And be it further enacted, That when any person held to service or labor in any State or Territory, or in the District of Columbia, shall escape therefrom, the party to whom such service or labor shall be due, his, her, or their agent or attorney, may apply to any court of record therein, or judge thereof in vacation, and make satisfactory proof to such court, or judge in vacation, of the escape aforesaid, and that the person escaping owed service or labor to such party. Whereupon the court shall cause a record to be made of the matters so proved, and also a general description of the person so escaping, with such convenient certainty as may be; and a transcript of such record, authenticated by the attestation of the clerk and of the seal of the said court, being produced in any other State, Territory, or district in which the person so escaping may be found, and being exhibited to any judge, commissioner, or other office, authorized by the law of the United States to cause persons escaping from service or labor to be delivered up, shall be held and taken to be full and conclusive evidence of the fact of escape, and that the service or labor of the person escaping is due to the party in such record mentioned. And upon the production by the said party of other and further evidence if necessary, either oral or by affidavit, in addition to what is contained in the said record of the identity of the person escaping, he or she shall be delivered up to the claimant, And the said court, commissioner, judge, or other person authorized by this act to grant certificates to claimants or fugitives, shall, upon the production of the record and other evidences aforesaid, grant to such claimant a certificate of his right to take any such person identified and proved to be owing service or labor as aforesaid, which certificate shall authorize such claimant to seize or arrest and transport such person to the State or Territory from which he escaped: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed as requiring the production of a transcript of such record as evidence as aforesaid. But in its absence the claim shall be heard and determined upon other satisfactory proofs, competent in law.

Approved, September 18, 1850.

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John Brown Quotes

I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.

John Brown was the “The meteor of the war,” as author Herman Melville called him. John Brown was an abolitionist, and a religious fanatic. Some say that John Brown is a martyr. Brown believed he was an instrument of God.

Abolitionist John Brown in 1856.

Abolitionist John Brown in 1856.

Before the Civil War began, Brown’s abolitionist actions stirred and heated the boiling cauldron of events leading to the war. In May of 1856, John Brown and four of his sons shot and hacked to death five pro-slavery settlers at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas. In 1859, Brown and a band of 21 men seized the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown was hanged for this on December 2, 1859 at Charles Town, Virginia. John Brown’s Gallows’ site can still be toured today in Charles Town, West Virginia.

It should be noted that West Virginia became the 35th state of the Union on June 20, 1863. At the time of John Brown’s activities at Harpers Ferry, this part of West Virginia still belonged to the state of Virginia.

John Brown Quotes

I have only a short time to live, only one death to die, and I will die fighting for this cause. There will be no peace in this land until slavery is done for.“– John Brown, Kansas Territory, 1856.

Talk, is a national institution, but it does not help the slave.” — John Brown.

Caution, Sir! I am eternally tired of hearing that word caution. It is nothing but the word of cowardice!
— John Brown, discussing matters with a neighbor, after the neighbor saw a need to give warning to John Brown.

I don’t think the people of the slave states will ever consider the subject of slavery in its true light till some other argument is resorted to other than moral persuasion.
— Abolitionist John Brown’s words of October, 1859. On December 2, 1859 John Brown was hanged for treason after seizing the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry – part of Brown’s plan to present “some other argument” to the slave states.

When I strike, the bees will begin to swarm, and I want you to help hive them.
— John Brown’s words to Frederick Douglass before Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in October, 1859. Brown did strike, but unfortunately for him, the “bees” never did begin to swarm. The United States Marines, commanded by Robert E. Lee, did swarm and ended Brown’s siege of Harpers Ferry.

Had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of their friends…and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference…every man in this court would have deemed it worthy of reward rather than punishment.
— John Brown, speaking on November 2, 1859 during his sentencing.

TREASON! Capt. John Brown

TREASON! Capt. John Brown

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, speaking on November 2, 1859 during his sentencing. John Brown would be hanged.

I have been whipped, as the saying is, but I am sure I can recover all the lost capital occasioned by that disaster; by only hanging a few moments by the neck; and I feel quite determined to make the utmost possible out of a defeat.
— John Brown, to his wife. On December 2, 1859 John Brown was hanged by the neck (and perhaps for more than “a few moments”) for treason.

This is a beautiful country.
— Spoken by John Brown while seated on his coffin, as he rode to his execution on the gallows.

I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.
— John Brown said nothing on the gallows, but handed a note containing these words to a guard. The outbreak of the Civil War in April, 1861 proved John Brown prophetic.

John Brown’s Address To The Virginia Court Before His Death Sentence

John Brown’s trial began only ten days after his capture at Harpers Ferry. Brown and his men were charged by the state of Virginia with murder, treason, and inciting a slave insurrection. There was no doubt as to what John Brown’s fate would be. John Brown would hang. It took the jury only forty-five minutes to find John Brown guilty as charged. Brown’s sentencing was set for November 2, 1859. At his sentencing John Brown was asked if he had anything to say as to why his sentencing should not be pronounced. He stood and responded:

I have, may it please the Court, a few words to say.

In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted, the design on my part to free slaves. I intended certainly to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter, when I went into Missouri and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moved them through the country, and finally left them in Canada. I designed to have done the same thing again, on a larger scale. That was all I intended. I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection.

I have another objection; and that is, it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved–for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case,–had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.

John Brown

John Brown

This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the Law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that, “All things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them.” It teaches me, further, to “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.” I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but RIGHT.

Now, 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!

Let me say one word further: I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my trial. Considering all the circumstances. it has been more generous than I expected. But I feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated from the first what was my intention and what was not. I never had any design against the life of any person, nor any disposition to commit treason, or excite slaves to rebel, or make any general insurrection. I never encouraged any man to do so, but always discouraged any idea of that kind.

Let me say, also, a word in regard to the statements made by some of those connected with me. I hear it has been stated by some of them that I have induced them to join me. But the contrary is true. I do not say this to injure them, but as regretting their weakness. There is not one of them but joined me of his own accord, and the greater part of them at their own expense. A number of them I never saw, and never had a word of conversation with, till the day they came to me; and that was for the purpose I have stated. Now I have done.

Quotes about John Brown

So perish all such enemies of Virginia! All such enemies of the Union! All such foes of the human race!
— Colonel Preston of the Virginia militia said these words to the crowd that had gathered to see John Brown hang. A member of the Virginia militia who was present, was an actor named John Wilkes Booth. Booth would later make tragic history in April of 1865. Also in the crowd were cadets from the Virginia Military Institute led by Thomas J. Jackson, later to be known as “Stonewall Jackson” of the Confederacy.

Hanging from the beam,
Slowly swaying (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
Shenandoah!
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.

— Herman Melville, “The Portent.”

John Brown died on a scaffold for the slave; Dark was the hour when we dug is hallowed grave; Now God avenges the life he gladly gave, Freedom reigns today!
— This is called “The President’s Proclamation” and you should sing it using the tune from “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Old John Brown…agreed with us thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed, and treason. It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right.
— Abraham Lincoln

John Brown at the gallows.

John Brown at the gallows.

And Old Brown
Old Osawatomie Brown,
May trouble you more than ever, when you’ve
nailed his coffin down!

— Anderson’s “A Voice From Harpers Ferry.” Earlier in his abolitionist career, John Brown was in Osawatomie, Kansas and there he murdered five pro-slavery men with help from four of his sons. This was Brown’s response to the pro-slave raid made on Lawrence, Kansas in 1856.

Nobody was ever more justly hanged.
— Nathaniel Hawthorne on John Brown.

You rejoiced at the occasion, and were only troubled that there were not three times as many killed in the affair. You were in evident glee-there was no sorrow for the killed nor for the peace of Virginia disturbed-you were rejoicing that by charging Republicans with this thing you might get an advantage on us.
— Abraham Lincoln, March 6, 1860. Lincoln was referring to the Democrat opinion of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.

The murderer and robber & fire-raiser so notorious for these crimes in his Kansas career, & now the attempter of the thousand-fold horrors in Virginia, is, for these reasons, the present idol of the north.
— Edmund Ruffin, November of 1859. Ruffin is referring to John Brown, the fanatic abolitionist. Ruffin was a strong secessionist and is credited with firing the first shot at Fort Sumter, but this fact can be questioned. On June 15, 1865 after the Civil War had come to an end, Ruffin committed suicide by shooting himself “because he was unwilling to live under the US government.”

The result proves that the plan was the attempt of a fanatic or madman.
— Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee commenting on John Brown’s raid upon Harper’s Ferry.

The meteor of the war.
— Herman Melville (Moby Dick author) on John Brown.

LearnCivilWarHistory.com presents this excellent rendition of John Brown’s Body by gloriajane1 for your enjoyment. Thank you gloriajean1 and best wishes.

John Brown’s Body

gloriajane1 | September 29, 2009 | 4:29

Back around the time that Christians, abolitionists, free blacks, anti-slavery activists and Kansas land owners first formed the Republican party, John Brown an abolitionist and baptist preacher, gave his life to put an end to slavery. During the civil war northern soldiers sang this old song as they marched off to battle. After “Julia Ward Howe” heard Union troops singing this, the original version of the song, she wrote her own words to it’s tune. Soon after, her version was published in the “Atlantic Monthly” as “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic”…gloriajane1

 

Virginia Historical Society: John Brown’s Raid in American Memory

 

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