After months of planning, John Brown and his twenty-one soldiers marched into the strategically located town of Harpers Ferry with the goal of starting a slave revolt which would lead to the abolishment of the institution of slavery. Within hours Brown and his followers had taken several hostages, and gained control of the armory, the arsenal, and the engine house. The following days consisted of skirmishes with the towns people and the arrival of the United States Marines. After a brief confrontation the Marines easily captured Brown and his few surviving followers. On October 27 the trail of John Brown began. Only five days later the trial came to a rapid conclusion, with the jury finding Brown guilty on all charges. Two days later Brown was sentenced to death. His execution followed precisely one month later, on December 2nd. Clearly, Governor Wise and the state of Virginia acted justly and fairly when they tried John Brown and executed him for his deeds at Harpers Ferry.
John Brown was born on May 9, 1800 in Torrington Connecticut. When he was about five years old, his father moved the family to Hudson Ohio. There, John was filled with the heavy anti-slavery sentiment that was present in that area. This, combined with personal observations of the maltreatment of blacks and the influence of Calvinism, started John Brown on his crusade to abolish slavery. While still living in Hudson he married Dianthe Lusk and began to raise a large family. To support his family he worked as a farmer, tanner, and surveyor. In 1849, John Brown moved with his second wife Mary Ann Day, and their seven children to North Elba. He planned to aid the free blacks living in Garrit Smith s colony, dubbed Timbucto , adjust to the hardships of farming in the Adirondacks. After realizing the impossibility of this task, John left, and followed the abolitionist movement to Kansas where five of his sons were already stationed. Here in Kansas, Brown continually struggled to become financially secure, but gained a reputation as a ferocious opponent of slavery (John Brown s Raid). This reputation was greatly enhanced when Brown and his sons led a brutal mission against the proslavery population, which resulted in five innocent proslavery settlers being mutilated and murdered. After staying in Kansas for a while longer, Brown returned to the North where he gave many speeches and fund raising meetings based on the abolishment of slavery. By early 1858, Brown was designing a plan of launching a direct assault on Southern slavery…to overthrow slavery in a large part of the country. (John Brown s Raid). This planning and scheming eventually lead to the raid on Harpers Ferry
Brown s planning and actions could have never risen to such intolerable levels without the financial support and aid of several foremost abolitionists known as the Secret Six. These supporters provided money and support for Brown to amass weapons and recruits. The night before the raid, John Brown outlined his plan to his followers. The revolt would begin in Virginia. Form there it would quickly spread like a raging brushfire across the entire South. (John Brown s Raid). Brown chose to attack the specific town of Harpers Ferry for several reasons. Firstly, its main industry was arms manufacturing. This, he reasoned would provide more than enough ammunition for the revolt to proceed successfully. Secondly the town had many government run buildings, such as an arsenal, armory, and a fire-engine house. The take-over of these key buildings ran flawlessly, with Brown s men easily over-powering the watchmen who guarded them. By dawn the alarm had spread. The townspeople reacted to the takeover will violence of their own. Their rifle fire kept the raiders pinned in the armory and the engine-house and blocked Brown s escape routes. On Tuesday, October 18, the US Marines arrived at Harper s Ferry. The well-trained and well-armed Marines easily broke into the engine-house and quickly overpowered Brown and his few surviving followers, thus stomping out the revolt. However, it was not stopped before much blood had been shed. Seventeen people had died including two slaves, three townspeople, one slave holder, and one marine: and ten of Brown s men, including two of his sons. (John Brown s Raid). Taken to Charleston for trial, Brown faced charges of murder, conspiracy to provoke a slave revolt, and treason against the State of Virginia.
The trial was speedy and concluded rapidly. Brown s lawyer, Lawson Botts, attempted to convince the jury that Brown was insane, hoping to commit Brown to an insane asylum, thus saving his life. However, Brown would have nothing to do with this idea due to the fact that he saw the trail as a way to proclaim to the public his ideas and concepts upon the issue of slavery. The prosecutors job was easy – the evidence was clear – Brown had clearly started an slave uprising and revolt, committed treason and was the cause of in deaths. After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury found Brown guilty of all charges. Several days later he was sentenced to death. He served his execution one month later.
As can be seen, the Governor and the state of Virginia acted wisely, justly, and fairly, when they tried John Brown and executed him for is deeds at Harpers Ferry. He was given the right to a speedy trial, an able lawyer was appointed to defend him, just and un-bias procedures were followed in court, and the appropriate sentence was given for his actions.