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,
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. 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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30 thoughts on “John Brown Quotes

  1. You need more quote, quotes that give Brown a positive and a negative side. quotes about John Brown by other people

  2. Thank you for your comment, Conner Bruce.

    Did you read the “Quotes about John Brown” section? It does have some positive and negative quotes regarding John Brown that were made by others.

    There are certainly other quotes that could be added, you are welcome to please contribute more John Brown quotes as comments!

    • This post about John Brown is not meant to be a comprehensive study of John Brown. It is more like a snapshot, than a movie. These are quotes which I have found interesting about John Brown. There are many books and other resources about John Brown which may provide you with postive information regarding this individual. I urge you to read about and research John Brown, then I invite you to please return to and share with my blog readers positive quotes or facts about John Brown you have discovered. Share with us the John Brown information you included in your report!

  3. excuse me sir, but there is a contradictary sentence in this article on the biography of john brown near the top it says john brown was hanged december 9th but almost directly below it under a quote it says he ways hanged december 2nd! can somebody please explain this to me becuse my report is due very soon and i need to know this information!

  4. john brown was a hero, He gave his life for the liberty of the downtrodden and oppressed people victomized and terrorized by the evil system of this institution of slavery, the very system that they fled from, they imposed it on people here.I thank God that he had the courage to take a stand against that evil.

    • I thank god for giving me the opportunity of knowing the facts surrounding John Brown. It helps me keep the faith. Somehow, somewhere, some americans are capable of overcoming the miseries and the spiritual enslavement imposed upon it by the plutocracy running the country today. Brown, Snowden, PFC Manning, Mr. Snowden….. thanks for your courage…
      Glory, glory. Allelujah, his truth is marching on!

      • Thank you for your comment, Kenny Williams.

        John Brown is a controversial figure to say the least. He once lived in Hudson, Ohio (Hudson was an abolitionist hotbed in the Western Reserve) and I’m from a nearby township of Hudson’s, so I’ve been aware of John Brown’s story nearly all my life. I consider John Brown a hero, but he is a complicated figure and he did some very ugly things. Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz is a book I recommend about John Brown.

  5. Please let me know the source of your quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne. Where was it published? We know he was a racist, but is the quote merely an ‘urban legend’?

  6. buddy mack, there were many people who eventhough they supported his cause, didn’t agree with his plan to raid the armory at Harpers Ferry.It was bloody and many died. Some slaves even oppposed his idea. Finding quotes from people of that time who supported John Brown is challenging. Some showed him sympathy but the majority were southerners who were terrified of there being another John brown and their slaves killing them under his influence. That’s also one of the main reasons she south formed the confederacy.

  7. I thought it was really helpful in telling us what John Brown was really like in his life and some of what he thought about the world around him. Plus i liked the video at the end…. “His truth still marches on!” 😀

    • Johnny k, I’m glad you found my John Brown quotes helpful. Old John Brown is a controversial character! Some regard him as a hero, and some believe him to be a scoundrel. I think it would have been interesting if Brown had lived, what else might he have said and done during the Civil War? Imagine what he could have written about in an autobiography. One thing is for sure, John Brown believed in, and was dedicated to abolition.

  8. I was wondering why the full quote from his jail cell is rarely used? I always used the quote: “I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done. ” I think the full quote is a little more telling.

    • Thanks Robert, this is the first time I’ve ever read the full quote from John Brown’s jail cell. It sure gives a wider view of what he was saying.

  9. Why do some people see injustice and act on it and some see the same injustice and justify it? Is it a weakness of the human spirit to take advantage of the weak and justify it by saying that one is superior to other? It is amazing why John Brown took the route he took even though he knew it will get him in trouble and as a white person he did not have to do anything to help his fellow human beings. What an insight and a great American to me John Brown should have a bigger status in American History books.

  10. This website really helped me with my John Brown story for school. So thank you guys so much, and keep making great websites! 😀

  11. I’m an E.L.P. kid and i want to thank whoever made this. I need a lot of quotes for history day and this one alone should about cover it!

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