Often termed as father of American Terrorism, John Brown was a very disputable figure. While some regarded him a saint and a revolutionary, others were not charitable enough when they called him a ‘murderer’, a ‘terrorist’ or a ‘zealot’. He was thought to be a martyr and a hero by the abolitionists and a madman by those who were pro-slavery. The spinning of John Brown is still on with no clear definition of who he was. He draws comparisons to anarchists, leftist revolutionaries, and right-wing extremists (Chowder 2000), but his personality doesn’t fit under any of these categories.
John Brown was born into a deeply religious family in Torrington, Connecticut, in 1800. His family, headed by his father who himself had strong anti-slavery thoughts; moved to Ohio later, a district that became later famous for his antislavery views (Riley 2012). Right from his childhood Brown believed that slavery was a form of exploitation, a belief that later prompted him to kick-start an anti-slavery movement. Though, it was the introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that became the prime reason that made John Brown do what he did. The act allowed each territory to decide the issue of slavery on the basis of popular sovereignty (USHistory, 2013). The act led to an all out war between both the lobbies, leading to widespread exploitation of abolitionists by pro slavery Missourians in 1855. This incident was the straw that broke camel’s back. John retaliated in 1856 by killing proslavery people in Pottawatomie Creek, an incident also known as Pottawatomie massacre.
John Brown and his tactics often invite sharp, distinct and disparate reactions. But the most ardent of his followers believed that he was a very bad strategist. He often failed at apprehending the consequences and his actions were mired by overconfidence and overt fearlessness. He was a bad leader and was not at all calculating. Having said that it cannot be concluded that he was ‘crazy’ either, he knew what he wanted to do and achieve, it was just that he believed that with his small force of men he could overthrow a system that was in place for ages and this eventually lead to his fall. As Paul Finkelman says, ‘Brown is a bad technician, he’s a bad strategist, he ‘s a bad planner, he’s not a very good general- but he’s not crazy (Chowder 2000).’
There are two important views about John Brown that have often been in place right through the history. One of this views terms John a ‘Madman’ while the other holds him a ‘Hero’. There were several reasons behind why he was termed a Madman. John’s claim that he could talk to God, his act of cold murder in Pottawatomie and the attack on US Government at Harpers Ferry with less than two-dozen men are some of the reasons. Old John Brown’s failed attempt to launch a “war” against slavery just after dawn on October 18 in a bloody rout on the grounds of the federal armory at Harpers Ferry. Virginia (McGlone 2009). The act cemented the belief among the detractors of John that he was a ‘Madman’. Though his acts might signify sheer insanity to many, he was often considered a ‘Hero’ too. It is widely believed that John Brown started the civil war, which liberated and led to freedom of millions of Americans. He was believed to be the main push, which lead to massive Anti-Slavery revolution which ultimately freed US of a menace and gave it its rightful place as a democratic and equal country in the world. The song, John Brown’s Body, commemorating the Harper’s Ferry raid, was a highly popular marching song with Republican soldiers during the American Civil War (Spartacus 2013). This proves that he indeed was inspired millions as their Hero.
Ken Chowder is a famous and distinguished writer based England who has produced many marvelous and incredible pieces of works on variety of topics like art and literature, Science, and Sports. ‘The Father of American Terrorism’ is indeed a masterpiece, which very successfully covers a long disputed context in a very coherent and organized manner. He has been awarded with many prestigious prizes including Harper-Saxton Prize and Oregon Arts Commission Grant.
Chowder, Ken. ”The Father of American Terrorism.”
Forbes. Pp. 81-91. 7 April 2013. Web. 2000.
McGlone, Robert E. ”The Madness of John Brown”
History Net, 7 April 2013. Web. 2009.
Riley, Brown. ”John Brown: American Hero and American Terrorist?”
Biographies of the Nation, 7 April 2013. Web. 2012.
Spartacus. ”John Brown”
Spartacus Educational, 7 April 2013. Web. 2013.
USHistory. ”The Kansas-Nebraska Act”
US History, 7 April 2013. Web. 2013.