John Brown’s Raid ‘Pregnant Sign of the Times’
On Oct. 18, 1859, fiery abolitionist John Brown was captured, ending his raid on the United States Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, (West) Virginia—a failed attempt to lead an armed rebellion to free the South’s slaves. Brown and most of his 21 followers were killed or captured (five escaped). Though order had been restored and the insurrection ended, one Southern newspaper warned that Brown’s raid was “a prelude to what must and will recur again and again” unless the South changed its “tame and passive policy.” Here is the editorial printed by the Charleston Mercury (Charleston, South Carolina) on the front page of its October 19, 1859, issue:
The Harper’s Ferry Insurrection
The telegraph has informed us that this bloody outbreak is, by confession of its northern ringleaders, a concerted movement of abolitionists and their black victims in southern States, and has its ramifications in Washington, Alexandria, and in Baltimore. It is stated that apprehension and excitement exist. We are satisfied there is exaggeration. While we can see no cause for present alarm, none can blind their eyes to the audacity of the attempt, or fail to regard it as a pregnant sign of the times—a prelude to what must and will recur again and again, as the progress of sectional hate and Black Republican success advances to their consummation. And what will be the effect? Are occurrences like these calculated to strengthen the institution of slavery in the border States, by adding to its advantages and value in the appreciation of the public there? Is not the condition of things to which we submit inevitably tending to render slave property in the neighborhood of Mason and Dixon’s line a dangerous and troublesome nuisance? Slaves can neither be kept nor managed. By our tame and passive policy, the Cotton States, which are vitally interested in the institution, are actually allowing slavery to be carried out of the border States. The continuance of this policy will slowly but surely build up an Abolition party in States that now are strongly pro-slavery, and ready to back us in resistance to the ever recurring aggressions of the North and of her people. The march of events is onwards. Let the signs of the times be read and interpreted aright.
Click here for more articles about John Brown and Slavery: Precursor to the Civil War.
Click here for more articles about the American Civil War.