Oct. 16, 2019

October 16, 1859 John Brown's Raid On Harper's Ferry Federal Armory

160 Years Ago This Insurrection Occurred That Gripped This Nation Towards An Inevitable Split

On October 16, 1859, John Brown attempted to motivate an insurrection of enslaved African Americans by rallying a legion of his followers which included his sons and a band of escaped slaves to overtake the Federal Armory located in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Although, the attack on the armory would fail. The actions of John Brown would live long past this date in history. Because of this act of courageous militancy less than 18 months later, a breach in the nation would take effect a Civil War that would erase the stain of slavery. The attack on Harper's Ferry Federal Armory was to include both Frederick Douglass and Harriett Tubman but neither participated in this failed venture. Although both Tubman and Douglass supported this act of rebellion.

Today I present today in Frederick Douglass's words his feeling about the raid and how that raid affected the eventual election of Lincoln as President in 1860. The first reading is a letter to the editor in which Frederick Douglass rejects the notion that he failed to be involved in the raid because of cowardice. The second reading is how that raid denied William Seward the opportunity to win the Republican nomination in 1860 because he lost his moral principles by relenting to those southern slave-holding states in denouncing the actions of John Brown on the United States Senate floor.

If you need to know the source of both of these reading they come from the book edited by the noted Harvard History Scholar, Henry Louis Gates, The Portable Frederick Douglass. John Brown was hung on December 2, 1859, for treason against the United States in a failed attempt to promote a racial uprising by enslaved blacks. The failed raid on the War Department's Arsenal occurred on October 16, 1859. John Brown was tried and hung within 2 months.