An Interesting Tidbit on John Brown
“He is a bundle of the best nerves I ever saw. Cut and thrust and bleeding and in bonds. He is a man of clear head, of courage, fortitude, and simple ingeniousness. He is cool, collected and indomitable and it is but just to him to say that he was humane to his prisoners”.
Henry A. Wise, Governor of Virginia on John Brown
John Brown is a polarizing figure amongst the people I interact with most on Twitter. He is right up there with William T. Sherman. Many of my fellow defenders of Southern history tend to be more knowledgeable than I, so they influence my thinking. Which I guess is only natural. These same people are well read, and I rarely find that they hold a view that does not have a sound basis.
I have been listening to David M. Potter’s The Impending Crisis and his section on the John Brown raid provided a perspective that I found interesting. He claims that many in Virginia admired John Brown’s courage and boldness.
Don’t get the wrong idea. They still thought he should be tried and punished if guilty, but in many quarters, there was some admiration. This should not be surprising. If 19th century was not a tool of modern politics, we would enjoy the nuance. It is only human nature that Brown would have been a fascinating figure.
Today the tendency is to see characters in history as we need to see them to further our agenda or to protect our heritage. In the case of Southern heritage, it is under attack, so the tendency is to defend. History becomes like a court battle where there is a winner and a loser. We find the best evidence and hold on for dear life. In the face of hyper pseudo-moral presentism, we present the best evidence only. I get it. Yet, I don’t want to become them. I am going to embrace the nuance and enjoy history more.