Short History of the American Negro - Benjamin Brawley

Slavery a National Issue

39. Character of the Period.—The period 1820-60 was characterized by a career of constant aggression on the part of the slave power. This aggression was marked by five great steps:

  1. the Missouri Compromise (1820),
  2. the annexation of Texas (1845),
  3. the Fugitive Slave Law (1850),
  4. the Kansas-Nebraska. Bill (1854),
  5. and the Dred Scott Decision (1857).

In addition to these measures in which it succeeded, the South also attempted to acquire Cuba and did actually revive the slave-trade. The mere enumeration of these measures but emphasizes the fact that slavery is the greatest subject not only in the history of the Negro race in America, but even in that of the American nation itself.

40. Missouri Compromise.—When in 1818 Missouri applied for entrance into the Union as a slave state, a great amount of debating resulted, lasting two years. In the meantime Alabama (in 1819) and Maine (1819) also applied for admission. Alabama was admitted without much discussion, as she made equal the number of slave and free states. Maine, however, brought forth more talk. The Southern men would have been perfectly willing to receive this as a free state if Missouri had been admitted as a slave state; but the North felt that this would have conceded altogether too much, as Missouri from the first gave promise of being unusually important. At length, largely through the influence of Henry Clay, there was adopted a compromise whose main provisions were as follows: (1) Maine was to be admitted as a free state; (2) in Missouri there was to be no prohibition of slavery; but (3) slavery was to be prohibited in other states that might be formed out of the Louisiana Purchase north of the line of 36 30'. While the South really accomplished more than the North by the Missouri Compromise, the measure served to allay the strife for some years. It is debatable now, however, if it was a piece of wise statesmanship, and if it might not have been better to fight the battle out then once for all rather than postpone the contest for forty years. Public opinion, however, was not yet ripe on the subject of slavery.

41. Mason and Dixon's line.—This phrase was first used during the debates on the Missouri Compromise to indicate the dividing line between the slave and the free states. The Mason and Dixon's Line was really only the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland along the parallel of 390 43' 26.3", the line of which was run in 176367 by two English surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, to settle a dispute between the Penn and Baltimore families. The real dividing line between the slave and the free states followed not only the southern Pennsylvania boundary, but also the Ohio River to the Mississippi, and then, with the exception of the state of Missouri, the parallel of 36 30' established by the Compromise. Even to-day, however, the phrase Mason and Dixon's Line is sometimes used to designate the line between the North and the South, and it is unfortunate that it should ever have been coined thus to divide the country geographically.

42. The Abolitionists. Lundy, Garrison.—The Abolitionists were those opponents of slavery who, on the ground that the system was wrong, advocated its instant extinction by any means whatsoever and without compensation to slave owners. Their movement, begun in a spirit of humanitarianism, continued until slavery no longer existed in the country. As early as the second decade of the century Benjamin Lundy, a Quaker, advocated abolitionist principles. This man was one of the most unselfish friends the slave ever had. He worked at his trade as a saddler in Wheeling, Va. (now W. Va.), and later published at various places a paper called The Genius of Universal Emancipation. "Infirm, deaf, unimpressive in speech and bearing, trudging on long journeys, and accepting a decent poverty, he gave all the resources of a strong and sweet nature to the service of the friendless and unhappy." The abolitionist movement really became aggressive, however, with the establishment in Boston January 1, 1831, by William Lloyd Garrison, of a newspaper called The Liberator. Garrison, one of Lundy's converts, became the leader of the agitation. In his salutatory editorial he said: "I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think or speak or write with moderation . . . I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch and I will be heard!" Quoting Isaiah xxviii, 18, he termed the Constitution "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell;" and his arraignment of the national document made enemies for him in the North as well as in the South. The Abolitionists weakened their position by their absolute refusal to countenance any laws that recognized slavery, thus repelling many conservative men; but they gained force when Congress denied them the right of petition and when President Jackson refused them the use of the United States mails. In the South they were detested and Nat Turner's insurrection was ascribed to their influence. In January, 1832, they established the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and in December, 1833, the American Anti-Slavery Society, which was not dissolved until 1870. The more conservative men, those who believed in using the governmental machinery in the work of abolition, organized in 1840 the Liberty party, which in 1 848 became an element of the Free-Soil party, which in turn became fused in the Republican party in 1854-56.

43. Other Leaders.—Prominent among the Abolitionists were Elijah P. Lovejoy, Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Lydia Maria Child. Lovejoy, a martyr if ever there was one, in 1837 lost his life in Alton, Ill., in an attack by a mob on a building in which he published an anti-slavery paper. Wendell Phillips of Boston was one of the most polished and forceful of American orators. Working often against mobs, he delivered many speeches in behalf of the Negro. One of his most finished orations is that on Toussaint L'Ouverture. He closed his law office because he was not willing to swear that he would support the Constitution; he relinquished the franchise because he did not wish to have any personal responsibility for a government that countenanced slavery; and he lost sympathy with the Christian church because of its compromising attitude toward the system. Theodore Parker, also of Massachusetts, was a Unitarian minister who inspired many noble men and women by the courage with which he applied the principles of his religion to current political issues.

Whittier was the poet of the anti-slavery cause. Such a poem as The Slave Ships showed forth the horrors of the slave-trade, and one like The Farewell  showed the iniquity of separating children from their parents. Lydia Maria Child was a noble woman whose Appeal for that Class of Americans called Africans  (1833) was the first anti-slavery book published in the United States. She ably defended John Brown's exploit at Harper's Ferry. In this connection mention should also be made of the Appeal of David Walker, a Negro of Boston, which appeared in 1829. This work was addressed to the slaves, being a recital of their wrongs and a protest against proscription. Its incendiary tone created great excitement in the South, the governors of Georgia and Virginia sending to their legislatures special messages about it. Representative of the more conservative anti-slavery sentiment was William Ellery Charming, the New England idealist and scholar, advanced Unitarian and social reformer. In 1835 he published his Slavery, which with lofty spirit showed that the institution was out of harmony with the upward movement of humanity. In restraint and pose, in logic and diction, the little book is classic.

44. Southern Sentiment against Slavery. While no one in the South took such radical ground against slavery as the Abolitionists (except here and there perhaps a character like the sturdy and independent Cassius Clay of Kentucky), there were many individuals in this section who for one reason or another desired to be relieved of the system of slavery. We have seen that in the Revolutionary War the sentiment of many representative patriots was opposed to slavery, and that as early as 1778 Virginia attempted to abolish it. The efforts in this state were most prolonged, new attempts being made as late as 1829 and. 1831-32. These would have succeeded if it had not been for the state's unfair system of representation, of which Jefferson so frequently complained. From some petitions of 1776 to the Constitutional Convention in the state, it is to be seen that North Carolina also made efforts in the same direction, renewing in 1835 her attempt for gradual abolition. Here, however, as in Virginia, the "interests," represented by the large owners and planters, had never allowed to the anti-slavery people fair representation. In South Carolina the "up-country" was likewise opposed to slavery; but the subject did not succeed in getting a real hearing until after 1808. In 1819, Hayne leading the reform, it was only by a majority of 3 in the Senate that the state decided not to prohibit the importation of slaves from other states. It seems that the Charleston capitalists, with Hayne as their spokesman, desired to check importation for two reasons, one to make their own slave property more valuable, and the other to start in South Carolina other industries than cotton and rice production. However selfish the motive, such a movement would have had beneficent results, and other men as well as Hayne realized the benefits that would accrue to South Carolina from a well-grounded industrialism. Generally it was the Scotch-Irish people in the "up-country" of the state who favored the overthrow of slavery in order that they might control their states as well as because many of them actually opposed slavery on moral grounds. It was this "up-country" element in Virginia (then largely in what is now West Virginia) that fought and largely won the Revolution, and that thus had much reason to control the state.

45. State Rights.—While, however, there was some sentiment in the South for the freedom of the slaves or the amelioration of their condition, more and more the dominant thought in this section became crystallized in what was known as the doctrine of State Rights. This term designates those rights of government and administration which a state that has become a member of a federal union may still exercise, and within the sphere of whose activity the central government may not legally intrude. It was claimed by the advocates of the principle that while the federal government was given specific powers by the Constitution, each state retained exclusive control of matters relating to the everyday life of its people. Calhoun was the foremost expounder of the view, and the theories of Nullification and Secession were based upon it.

46. Liberia.—It is now time to record the progress of an attempt by some enlightened Americans to solve the problem of the free Negro, who labored under so many disabilities. As early as 1787 Sierra Leone in Africa had been founded by the English as a colony for free Negroes, some of whom had gained their freedom in consequence of Lord Mansfield's decision in 1772, more of whom had been discharged from the British army after the American Revolution, and all of whom were leading in England a more or less precarious existence. In 1787 about four hundred were taken to a district purchased from the king of Sierra Leone, and five years later twelve hundred Negroes who had escaped from the United States to Canada were also taken thither. England cared with wisdom for the Negroes, giving them a daily allowance for the first six months, then assigning lands to them, and generally seeking to bring them under the influence of religious education. As early as 1783 it had been proposed that such a colony as this should be established for free American Negroes; but it was not until 18'6 that the American Colonization Society was formed, and not until 1822, after a treaty with certain native princes had been concluded, that active settlement began under the direction of the heroic Josiah Ashmun, each man being allotted a tract of thirty acres with the means of cultivating it. After a while, however, the agents of the society became discouraged at the difficulties that had to be overcome and returned to America with a few faint-hearted colonists. Others rallied around a spirited and determined Negro, Elijah Johnson, and remained, enlarging the colony by the purchase of new tracts of land. The trials were many, but in spite of deprivations, dissensions, and the threatening attitude of native chiefs, Liberia continued to exist. In 1847 the country was officially left to its own resources, becoming an independent republic. In 1833, in his pamphlet entitled Thoughts on African Colonization, Garrison showed the futility of the whole plan as a means of solving the problem of slavery in the United States; and time has justified his view, for Liberia has had no abiding influence on the position of the Negro in America.

47. Abolition Abroad.—While this experiment was still in its early stage, and while the Abolitionists were just forming their organizations, news came in 1833 that at last England had freed her slaves. This she had done in a typically English way, paying 20,000,000 to the slave-owners in her dominions and keeping the slaves under a system of apprenticeship for a term of years. Garrison now brought an English orator to America, and generally the achievement excited interest. It is well to observe the progress of abolition in other countries also. Denmark in 1792 had been the first European power to abolish the slave-trade. Sweden abolished the traffic in 1813, Holland abolished the trade in 1814 and slavery itself in her colonies in 1846, and Portugal formally forbade the trade in 1836. The experience of France in Santo Domingo has already been sketched. In 1818 the abolition of the slave-trade was effectually accomplished in this colony, and the independence of the island was formally recognized by France in 1825. The South American countries generally abolished slavery as they emancipated themselves from Spain. Throughout this period, however, in spite of all these efforts for reform, there was an illicit slave-traffic on the high seas, and overtures for an international right of search were constantly made between the great nations. These efforts did not really succeed until Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States. In 1860 the three representative systems of slavery in the New World were those in the United States, in Cuba, and in Brazil.

48. Annexation of Texas.—In 1821 Mexico revolted from Spain. At first she tried an imperial form of government, but in 1824 became a federal republic. Texas, then a part of Mexico, was joined with two other provinces into a state. Here American immigration increased so rapidly that Mexico, becoming alarmed, established military rule and passed anti-slavery laws. Texas revolted, and an attempt to reduce her to submission resulted in her gaining her independence in 1836 under the lead of General Sam Houston. Independence was followed by a desire for annexation to the United States; but the North feared such an addition to slave territory. In 1844 the question was the leading one in the presidential election, and James K. Polk came into office on a platform pledged to annexation. The Mexican War which followed, growing out of a dispute between Mexico and Texas with reference to the boundary line, was generally regarded in the North as a contest waged in behalf of slavery, and it did much to embitter the sections against each other.

49. Compromise of 1850. Fugitive Slave Law.—Various new matters now demanded legislation. The fact that some Northern people assisted slaves to escape was generally obnoxious to Southern minds. Moreover, aside from Texas, other territory in the Southwest had been acquired for the nation by the Mexican War. The North, by a bill known as the Wilmot Proviso, sought to enact that slavery should be prohibited in this territory; and the South contended that it should be free from federal interference. Moreover, California, that had grown up all in a year as a result of the discovery of gold, was now seeking admission as a free state, without even having been a regularly organized territory. Accordingly, early in 1850 Henry Clay introduced in the Senate some new compromise resolutions. These resulted in two bills whose provisions, as finally agreed on, were in substance as follows:

  1. California was to be admitted as a free state;
  2. Utah and New Mexico were to be organized as territories with no provision as to slavery;
  3. the boundaries of Texas were to be fixed substantially as they are at present, and $10,000,000 was to be paid this state for her relinquishment of boundary claims on the nation for the payment of her public debt;
  4. the slave-trade was to be prohibited in the District of Columbia; and
  5. a new and stringent fugitive slave law was to be passed.

Both political parties professed to be satisfied, and Henry Clay once more went home beguiled by the fancy that he had saved the Union. Neither side, however, was really satisfied, and the whole issue was to be brought forth again only four years later by the trouble in Kansas.

The North was especially angered by the Fugitive Slave Law. Gradually the states in that section had succeeded in obstructing the execution of the act of 1793, and in 1842 Pennsylvania by a case at court definitely decided that her state officials could not be compelled to aid in the return of runaway slaves. The new law made possible many gross abuses. It provided for the appointment in each county of a federal commissioner who was to decide without a jury upon the identity of each fugitive brought before him. He was in no case to accept the word of the fugitive, and when he returned a man he was to receive for his fee twice as much money as when he did not return one. The writ for a return moreover was to be executed by United States marshals upon whom a heavy penalty was visited if a slave escaped. Any person could be called to the assistance of a marshal, and anyone who assisted a fugitive was to be heavily punished. All of this was too much for the Northern states, which began to make the act of no effect. In the interval 1854–60 (these dates inclusive) nine states passed what were known as Personal Liberty Laws. These generally forbade state officers to assist in the return of alleged fugitives; secured counsel for the fugitives, who were also to have the benefit of habeas corpus and trial by jury; prohibited the use of state jails for the detention of supposed runaways; and imposed a heavy penalty for the seizure of any free person.

50. The Underground Railroad.—"The Underground Railroad" was the name given to the various means by which those in the North who opposed slavery assisted fugitives in escaping from their masters and in finding their way to places of safety. By the system thousands of persons were enabled to get to Canada beyond the reach of the Fugitive Slave Law. The most favored routes were through Ohio and Pennsylvania. At various places there were "stations," generally private houses where the slaves were kept and fed in garrets or cellars during the day, being sent on their way when night came. The work was done at great personal risk, as it was done in defiance of the law and as Southern legislatures offered large rewards for the delivery of assistants caught south of the Mason and Dixon's line. The magnitude of the operations may be seen from the fact that for years before the Civil War about 500 Negroes annually made trips from Canada to the South to assist their friends in escaping. One Negro woman, Harriet Tubman who had escaped from Maryland, made nineteen journeys into the South and brought away about 300 slaves. Many Northern people suffered in the cause. Levi Coffin, a Quaker of Newport, Ind., was commonly considered the head of the enterprise. Once being asked under oath before a grand jury if he had aided slaves, he replied that he had no legal knowledge of having done so. He had ministered, he said, to certain destitute persons who told him that they had been slaves; but he had only their word for it, and as the word of a slave could not be received in court, he could not reasonably be considered guilty. He was released. Everybody did not fare so well, however. Ruth Shore, of Sandusky, O., paid in fines for assisting runaway slaves a total of $3,000. Thomas Garrett paid $8,000, and Calvin Fairbank served seventeen years in the penitentiary for his work in the cause. In spite of legal pressure, however, the work went on. The investigator of the subject names 3,211 "agents, station keepers, and conductors." Coffin received annually in his house about 100 fugitives, and Garrett helped altogether as many as 2,700 to escape.

51. Renewal of the Slave-Trade.—We have seen that the first national act against the slave-trade was passed in 1794 and that the traffic was nominally abolished in 1807. The measure of the latter year was lacking from the first in any adequate machinery for its enforcement, and before long the national government became aware that an illicit trade was still being carried on. Through such narrow inlets as those near the ports of Galveston and Fernandina, slaves were smuggled in, sometimes in great numbers. From 1820 to 1840, largely as the result of a repressive measure of 1819, the traffic declined greatly. On account of the great development of the cotton industry, however, there grew up in the Southern states after 1820 a great demand for more land and more slaves. The desire for land accounted for the annexation of Texas, and that for more slaves was at first satisfied for the most part by importations from Virginia and Maryland, which states now became joined to the far South by the closest ties of interest.

Thus matters drifted until 1850, between which date and 1860 there was so much friction between the North and the South and such an increase in the value of slave labor that the controlling opinion of the South was but voiced in a resolution offered in a commercial convention in Vicksburg in 1859 to the effect that "all laws, State or Federal, prohibiting the African slave-trade, ought to be repealed." In the decade just mentioned there was such a remarkable increase of illicit traffic and actual importations that the movement may almost be termed a re-opening of the slave-trade. The traffic became more and more open and defiant until, as Stephen A. Douglas computed, as many as 15,000 slaves were brought into the country in 1859. It was not until the Lincoln government in 1862 hanged the first trader who ever suffered the extreme penalty of the law, and made with Great Britain a treaty embodying the principle of international right of search, that the trade was effectually checked. By the end of the war it was entirely suppressed, though as late as r866 a squadron of ships patrolled the slave coast.

52. Kansas-Nebraska Bill.—The point of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 is very simple, this measure being merely a repealing of the provisions of the Missouri Compromise in the interest of the slave power. It was largely the act of Stephen A. Douglas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, who contended that the Compromise of 185o had in giving territories the right of option as to slavery annulled the Missouri Compromise. This construction was embodied in a bill for the organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska with limits much larger than those of the present states of Kansas and Nebraska. It provided for "squatter sovereignty," that is, that the people in any territory should be free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. The North felt that it was outraged by the bill, and immediately the Republican party began to be formed.

53. The Anthony Burns Incident.—It was not long before public sentiment began to make itself felt, and the first demonstration took place in Boston. Anthony Burns was a slave who escaped from Virginia and made his way to Boston, where he was at work in the winter of 1853-54. He was discovered, by a United States marshal who presented a writ for his arrest just at the time of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in May, 1854. Public feeling became greatly aroused. Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker delivered strong addresses at a meeting in Faneuil Hall while an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Burns from the Court House was made under the leadership of Thomas W. Higginson, who, with others of the attacking party, was wounded. It was finally decided in court that Burns must be returned to his master. The law was obeyed; but Boston had been made very angry, and generally her feeling had counted for something in the history of the country. The people draped their houses in mourning and hissed the procession that took Burns to his ship. At the wharf a riot was averted only by a minister's call to prayer. This incident did more to crystallize Northern sentiment against slavery than any other except the exploit of John Brown, and this was the last time that a fugitive slave was taken out of Boston. Burns himself was afterwards bought from his master by popular subscription. He became a free citizen of Boston, and ultimately a Baptist minister in Canada.

54. Dred Scott Decision.—One further act was yet to fill the cup of the North to the brim. In 1834 Dr. Emerson, an army officer stationed in Missouri, removed to Illinois, taking with him his slave, Dred Scott. Two years later, again accompanied by Scott, he went to Minnesota. In Illinois slavery was prohibited by state law and Minnesota was a free territory. In 1838 Emerson returned with Scott to Missouri. After a while the slave raised the important question, Had not his residence outside of a slave state made him a free man? Beaten by his master in 1848, with the aid of anti-slavery lawyers Scott brought a suit against him for assault and battery, the circuit court of St. Louis rendering a decision in his favor. Emerson appealed and in 1852 the Supreme Court of the State reversed the decision of the lower court. Not long after this Emerson sold Scott to a citizen of New York named Sandford. Scott now brought suit against Sandford, on the ground that they were citizens of different states. The case finally reached the Supreme Court of the United States, which in 1857 handed down the decision that Scott was not a citizen of Missouri and had no standing in the federal courts, that a slave was only a piece of property; and that a master might take his property to any place he chose within the jurisdiction of the United States. The ownership of Scott and his family soon passed to a Massachusetts family by whom they were liberated; but the important decision that his case had called forth aroused the most intense excitement throughout the country.

55. "Uncle Tom's Cabin."—In the year 1852 appeared a book that had an amazing sale and that stirred the heart of the country on the subject of slavery as it had never been moved before. For some years before the Compromise of 1850 Harriet Beecher Stowe, wife of a theological professor, had been living with her husband in Cincinnati. There she was dose to the system of slavery and saw much of its actual working. In 1850 Professor Stowe accepted a position in Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Me., and removed his family thither. Here in the form of a story with the title Uncle Tom's Cabin, Mrs. Stowe brought together her observations on slavery, first as a serial and then as a book. What the work lacked in literary finish, it more than made up in living interest. Its characters represented strongly the different types of people living in the South. Here was Uncle Tom himself, embodiment of all that was pious in the Negro nature; behind him a long line of plantation Negroes. Here were little Eva, a spirit of light in the sad world around her; her father, the over-indulgent and improvident master; Aunt Ophelia from New England, to whom the whole South was "shiftless"; Cassy, the slave darling fallen on evil days; Simon Legree, the worst type of plantation slave-owner; and George Harris, the ambitious spirit longing to break its bonds. The book was avowedly a novel of purpose, and many people have criticised it as overdrawn. No work, however, that attempts to set forth a great moral wrong can be truly overdrawn, for actual suffering is always greater than any portrayal of it.

At any rate the South felt itself misrepresented; so that in 1853 Mrs. Stowe published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, setting forth the documents and facts used in the story, and showing, among other things, that the prototype of Uncle Tom was Josiah Henson, a Negro who, born a slave in Maryland, escaped to Canada in 1828, became a lecturer in the United States, and on the last of three trips to England was entertained by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. Mrs. Stowe wrote a great many other books; but, with the exception of Dred, a book ominous with the note of impending disaster, they all pale into insignificance by the side of her great success. Uncle Tom's Cabin, however, was alone strong enough for a life-work, and even to-day it receives frequent presentations on the stage.

56. Henry Ward Beecher.—Of only less service to the cause of the slave than Mrs. Stowe was her brother, Henry Ward Beecher. This remarkable preacher, by his bold support of reforms, made his large and intelligent congregation at Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, one of the most famous in the world. He was untiring in his support of the anti-slavery cause and on one occasion appealed to his audience by bringing a slave girl into his pulpit. His greatest achievement perhaps was a series of speeches in England in 1863 in the delivery of which he was constantly hissed. As the cotton manufacturing industry of England was dependent on the supply from the cotton states, opinion in that country with reference to the Civil War in America was not all on the side of the North; and Beecher did much to win favor for the side of the Union.

57. Charles Sumner.—What Beecher was in the pulpit Charles Sumner was in the United States Senate. This distinguished and scholarly statesman came into prominence in 1845 by a Fourth of July oration denouncing war. In 1851 he was sent to the, Senate, of which he was a member until his death in 1874.. Though not an Abolitionist, he became the leader of the anti-slavery forces, and by his bitter invective and unflinching opposition to the Compromise of 185o and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill he incurred the intense hatred of the South, receiving many threats of personal violence. In 1856 in fact, while writing at his desk in the senate chamber, he was severely assaulted with a cane by Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina. The attack greatly embittered the North. Sumner himself was forced to retire temporarily from public life, and never fully recovered. As early as 1864 he formulated what was known as the "State Suicide" theory with reference to the seceded states, and he became the leader of the opposition to President Johnson's plan of reconstruction. It was due to him more than to any other man that the principle of suffrage, irrespective of race or color, became fixed and universal in the American system.

58. John Brown.—For forty years slavery had been the most important subject before the American people. Garrison had been persecuted, Lovejoy had been killed, Phillips and Douglass had talked, slaves had escaped to Canada, and Mrs. Stowe had written a book; and still slavery had gone on its masterful career, seemingly invincible. At length, however, the tension had reached the point where only a spark was needed—to send the country into flame. That spark was supplied by John Brown.) This man was born in Connecticut in 1800. In his earlier years he made various experiments in business, in all of which he was unsuccessful. After living for years a very unsettled life; in 1855 he joined five of his sons in Kansas; where the opponents and the advocates of slavery were fiercely arrayed against each other. Here, as Wendell Phillips said, he actually began life. He became the leader of the radical anti-slavery men, and on May 24, 1856, he massacred five of his opponents at Pottawatomie. Later in the year, at Ossawatomie, he attracted national attention by the energy with which he repelled a strong invading force from Missouri. All of this was merely the execution of his conviction that as slavery was an unholy cause he was justified in killing slaveholders. The really notable deed of his life occurred in 1859. He conceived a plan to seize, with the aid of an armed force, some strong position in the mountains of Virginia, whence he might sally forth and make the slave power generally insecure. In pursuance of his plan, as a blind he engaged a farm near his objective point, and on October 16, 1859, with nineteen assistants, five of whom were Negroes, he surprised and captured the arsenal at Harper's Ferry. Two days later, after being wounded, he was captured by United States troops under the command of Robert E. Lee. He was convicted of treason and murder, and hanged December 2nd. John Brown's exploit made a profound impression on the country, and he has since been the subject of most conflicting opinion. Some people think of him as a fanatic who committed a criminal deed, while to others he was a man of noble purpose borne by the intensity of his convictions into martyrdom.