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John Brown: Hero or Terrorist (or both)?

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21 replies to this topic

#1
Trotsky

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Most of our debates here have been about contemporary issues, though for an interesting change up, we are going to talk about someone from the 1800's. One of my favorite historical figures, and someone who I consider to be a great man, John Brown is a controversial abolitionist. Going much further than the underground railroad, he advocated armed violence against those who practiced slavery, and carried it out himself. He was responsible for more than a dozen killings, and led some battles on the anti-slavery side in the not very well known state skirmishes that eventually led up to the American Civil War.

Knowing now, accepting almost universally that slavery is a heinous crime against humanity, what do we think about something who used such radical tactics? Was it justified? Was it effective? These are questions that need to be answered.

Links for context:

http://en.wikipedia...._(abolitionist)

http://www.civilwarh...ohnbrownbio.htm


More questions - could any of his victims really have been considered "innocent"? After all, slavery was a lawful, state-sanctioned institution. I don't know what rationalizations slave owners used for their own conscience, but they were in truth indoctrinated by hundreds of years of pseudo-science and believed in the lie of racial superiority. Many slave owners believed slaves had a better life on their plantations than they ever could have in their homelands in Africa, and some slave owners treated their slaves somewhat decently. But they were still aiding evil, whether they were aware of this or not, might be irrelevant to some.

Is terrorism ever justified? For every perceived evil misguided terrorists believe they are fighting, aren't some fighting real evil too? Post your thoughts here, this should be a good one. :)

#2
chewychorizo

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I predict many of the answers will be ''he did good because slavery was so bad''.

#3
Trotsky

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I predict many of the answers will be ''he did good because slavery was so bad''.


Well then offer a contrary answer.

Let me be clear, he didn't just break open fences and cut slaves free, he hunted down slave owners and put them down like dogs. People need to read the background info and make an informed decision.

#4
chewychorizo

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I'm pretty uneducated on the guy, and it's 3am right now, so my answer is not ~ready as yet. I would probably lean more towards justified actions, although by reading his tactics I'm pretty sure they're a little extreme, and so my answer is completely pussified and ''sitting on the fence''. Great topic for debate, I was just pointing out the predictability of this board's replies. It would be more fun if someone came in and said something like ''he was bad cause slavery is amazing''. :P Something to spice it up a little.

#5
Frank's Penis

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he was bad cause slavery is amazing
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#6
Drop Dead Hideous

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He's a hero for me. It was never right to have slaves and to be a racist person. Though his tactics are violent, it did solve the problem of slavery in America seeing that his actions led to the Civil War and ended slavery once and for all.



Let me be clear, he didn't just break open fences and cut slaves free, he hunted down slave owners and put them down like dogs. People need to read the background info and make an informed decision.


My answer to this is the statement John Brown said before he was hanged. I'll quote a part of it

"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."

#7
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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I remember spending some time on John Brown and his contributions to "Bleeding Kansas" in my American History courses. I'll have to dig into the back story again as I'm a little sketchy on the details, but I seem to recall my thoughts on the issue being that I admired the guy for standing up for his beliefs in such a dramatic manner. That said, he was still a terrorist by the definition of the word, and effectively became a martyr for the cause (which I suspect was his intention all along).

#8
Drop Dead Hideous

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I remember spending some time on John Brown and his contributions to "Bleeding Kansas" in my American History courses. I'll have to dig into the back story again as I'm a little sketchy on the details, but I seem to recall my thoughts on the issue being that I admired the guy for standing up for his beliefs in such a dramatic manner. That said, he was still a terrorist by the definition of the word, and effectively became a martyr for the cause (which I suspect was his intention all along).



He was branded a terrorist because at that time, most american officials even the clergy are supporters of slavery.

#9
Johnny.

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Hmm, well of course I'm against slavery, and support that side of him - but I suppose you have to look at the context; in that time EVERYONE who was rich and white owned slaves, a lot of the time to do labor work. Perhaps that could mean that not all slave owners were bad people, just doing what we all do and going with the mass?

#10
Kayfabe

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Without his actions, would the Civil war have ever properly gotten underway, and would the North have won?

#11
Drop Dead Hideous

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Hmm, well of course I'm against slavery, and support that side of him - but I suppose you have to look at the context; in that time EVERYONE who was rich and white owned slaves, a lot of the time to do labor work. Perhaps that could mean that not all slave owners were bad people, just doing what we all do and going with the mass?


since when doing the bad thing because the majority was doing it became right :D

#12
Johnny.

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no im not saying at all that it was right, what im saying is that its good to think of the time and the mindset that it had.

#13
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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He was branded a terrorist because at that time, most american officials even the clergy are supporters of slavery.

Per dictionary.com:
terrorism
noun
1.
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

The virtue of the cause does not define whether someone is or is not a terrorist; the method of pursuing the goal does. I don't think anyone on GDC would try to argue that John Brown was wrong for fighting against slavery, but he, like it or not, was a terrorist. And to suggest that most American officials supported slavery is a flat-wrong assertion. Most were strongly against slavery by that point in time.

Without his actions, would the Civil war have ever properly gotten underway, and would the North have won?

The seeds of the Civil War were sewn from the very beginnings of the United States. The 1820 Missouri Compromise was one of the major contributing factors, as it was the first time slaveholders had been told that they did not have a right to pursue slavery in every state. The 1846 Wilmot Proviso was another hot-button cause, even though it never went into law, as it effectively abandoned the Missouri Compromise line and banned slavery south of it. Throw in the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which essentially made the entire US slavery-friendly (if not slavery-permissive), and you now have the North pissed as hell at the South slapping them in the face.

The (idiotic) decision to allow for popular sovereignty to decide the free v. slave question in new states only served to increase tensions, which came to a head in Kansas in 1854. Frankly, the Civil War should have happened in 1854 because of the extreme anger on both sides of the aisle at how the Kansas-Nebraska Act ended up being written, and because of the resulting violence in Kansas.

There had also been political and economic divisions not related to slavery, lingering since the beginning of the United States. One very important issue was the failure of the South to ever industrialize, something that the South partially blamed the North for. Lincoln's election in 1860 was the final nail, as electing a President who had sworn to abolish slavery was like driving a knife into the heart of the South's slave-based economy. In a way, the Civil War was a economic conflict for the South, and a moral conflict for the North.

So, to answer the question, yes, the raid of John Brown did contribute in a meaningful way to the Civil War, but it was not a major cause of it. History plays Brown up because he ended up being a martyr to the abolitionist crowd, but the war would've happened regardless of his actions, and it would have happened exactly when and how it did.

Oh, and to answer the debate question, both.

#14
Drop Dead Hideous

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technically, yes he is a terrorist but as for the forefathers who built america. How are they viewed now? Heroes right? It just comes down to your values and your intentions :)

#15
ChuckTaylors

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I think there is a mural of this guy in my state's capitol building. I guess in my opinion he would be both a hero and terrorist. In Kansas, I think he is a symbol of a hero though.

Edit: yeah there is http://farm2.staticf...31565994c_z.jpg

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#16
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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technically, yes he is a terrorist but as for the forefathers who built america. How are they viewed now? Heroes right? It just comes down to your values and your intentions http://www.greendaycommunity.org/public/...

To that point, keep in mind that the victors write the history books, and despite the North winning the war, the history books are still unsure of whether Brown is a hero or a terrorist.

I'd also draw a line and say that the founding fathers were not terrorists. They were the leaders of a populist rebellion against an oppressive government. In my mind, the line between terrorist and revolutionary is very blurry, but the founding fathers were definitely on the "revolutionary" side of it. They had been attempting civil reform through negotiation tactics (including, yes, throwing tea off of a ship) for well over a decade before they decided to break free of English rule. A terrorist, by comparison, would most likely not attempt civil discourse before resorting to violence.

#17
Trotsky

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All I know is that props should be given to whatever man decided that lining up with muskets and shooting each other across an open space was not the best way to wage war. Insurgent tactics are usually the start of an evolution in warfare. The people who said "fuck honor, let's actually win." Smart.

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#18
Tre's Busted Drumkit

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All I know is that props should be given to whatever man decided that lining up with muskets and shooting each other across an open space was not the best way to wage war. Insurgent tactics are usually the start of an evolution in warfare. The people who said "fuck honor, let's actually win." Smart.

According to a bad movie I saw once, that was 100% Mel Gibson's idea.

#19
spark in the night

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I used to be fascinated with the Civil War. And the events that led to it. My brain is a little fuzzy right now since I haven't thought of the Civil War much since 11th grade, but I'll get back to this.

#20
Guest_Billy_*

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Anyone ever heard of the Pattawatomie Massacre? Well, just take a read.
http://en.wikipedia....atomie_Massacre

While I wouldn't label Brown as a terrorist, he clearly was a murderer. If someone ideologically disagrees with me, I don't kill him or her. Violence never changes someone's opinions.

After the Vietnam War, an American colonel made the comment to General Tu, leader of the Vietcong forces, "You know you never defeated us on the battlefield." General Tu replied to him, "That may be so, but it is irrelevant."



#21
captain peroxide

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Both, in my mind. He used terrorist tactics to pursue a heroic cause.

#22
Frank's Penis

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