The Civil War

Many historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid was to the Civil War what the Boston Massacre had been to the American Revolution. They were both incendiary events. Defenders of the union generally condemned Brown and called the raid "the work of a madman." Everywhere the threat of slave insurrections fed fears, and the uproar strengthened the hand of secessionists who argued that the South needed to rid itself of northern influence. The eventual view in the " living" North that John Brown was a martyr, combined with the abhorrence of Brown by the masses in the South showed that a Civil War was imminent.

The North and the South had an ideological difference about the practice of slavery. What the North considered incorrigibly evil, the South considered a positive good. The conflict between the North and the South sprung from the slavery issue and men like John Brown were part of the causes of the war. To his men and to Frederick Douglass, Brown made clear that he intended nothing less than to provoke a slave insurrection. All evidence points to that motive. Brown constantly warned his conspirators that such a raid might fail; yet even in failure he hoped a sectional crisis would unfold leading to the destruction of slavery. Brown's contradicting statements has provoked speculation over the man and his hidden motives. Some saw Brown as an insurrectionist, others as a self-deluded martyr, and still others as insane. (Document A) The way Brown conducted the raid was disappointing to many intellectuals in the North, as they saw that violence was not the answer to the slavery question. However, men like the transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, (Document B)s saw Brown's raid as a confirmation of the "living" North's commitment to the egalitarian roots of the new nation. Although he had conducted the raid on Harper's Ferry with the intent of starting a Civil War and freeing the slaves…

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