Article Title

The True Lesson.


Newspaper Title


Publication Date


Publication Place

New Orleans, Louisiana

Event Topic

John Brown

Political Party



slave state


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It is a very careless use of words to describe the Harper's Ferry outbreak as a "negro insurrection," or "slave insurrection," as is frequently done by presses

Document Type

Article (Journal or Newsletter)

Full Text Transcription

It is a very careless use of words to describethe Harper's Ferry outbreak as a "negroinsurrection," or "slave insurrection," as isfrequently done by presses, which are reallydisposed to speak of it in the proper tone ofindignation at the outrage, the actors, andtheir prompters. But these epithets give afalse impression, which is well calculated todo mischief, by spreading perversions of thenature of the transaction in its Southern bearings.It was not a negro insurrection at all --a slave insurrection at all; scarcely aninsurrection at all, inasmuch as insurrection impliesa rising of revolters against their ownGovernment. There were no Virginians, bond orfree, engaged in it; there were no slaves atall, except one or two, who were seized andheld under terror; not one negro or mulatto,except some intruding free negroes, loafingvagabonds from other States, and no whitesbut such as came over the line from variouspoints in the free States, to stir up a dissaffection which they did not find. Instead of aVirginia insurrection, or a slave rebellion inVirginia, it should be more properly describedas an invasion of Virginia by a gang of abolitionists,dupes or emissaries of a treasonablefanaticism, going into a peaceful country toscatter "firebrands, arrows and death."

It is important to a right understanding ofthese transactions, their true character andeffects, that this view should be kept steadilyin mind. There is great power in words, andthe familiar use of words which imply thatthere has been a dangerous domesticdemonstration within the State of Virginia, againstthe slave institutions, is very apt to carry withit the associated idea of internal weakness --the liability to such outbreaks among the slaves -- and , by easy transition, to a generaldoubt of the strength of slave institutionswithin the slave States themselves. It hasbeen so used in the Northern journals; andeven rational and conservative presses speakof the "insurrection" as a sign of the generalweakness of the institution -- an eruption byrupture of an organic disease. The rabidAbolitionists speak of it in a tone ofexultation, and tauntingly proclaim the approach ofspeedy emancipation, extorted from the fearsand demonstrated necessities of the South.

But the facts and the logic are bothperniciously false. As a demonstration againstslavery, the Harper's Ferry foray was a total failure. The slaves on the border,among whom eager proselytes were expectedto welcome the invaders, were found to beunshakenly faithful. Among the wholepopulation not a pulse, except that of alarm forthemselves from the fatal friendship of theruffian liberator, was found to respond. Nota willing slave came out to welcome theconspirator -- even in the darkness, to whichhe confided his secret approaches. Whenthe end came, and the white desperadoeswere all shot or captured, the survivors wereconstrained to avow that they were self-invited-- missionaries of a creed to whichthey had disciples yet to find. They werenot liberators of a complaining race. Theymeant to camp somewhere, in secrecy, and propagate the sedition, by degrees, out ofwhich they might construct a civil war hereafter, and occupy themselves in the meantimewith stealing away as many as they could seduce or corrupt.

They found no insurgents. They made noconverts, and the revolt they attemptedwhich depended for its success on the hope ofan accession of multitudes of their own sortfrom other States, left them abandoned andhelpless, suddenly overwhelmed by numbers,slain in the heat of a just wrath by an outragedcommunity, or reserved for the deathof unpitied felons on the gallows. They willdie without having freed a single slave ormade an impression on the loyalty of the slave population, or demonstrated for the useof successors in villainy a weak spot or ahopeful chance for renewing the madenterprise hereafter.

Such an abortive foray is erroneously andmischievously misrepresented when it isheralded as a slave insurrection and made thetext of abolitionists triumphing, as havingdemostrated the weakness and the terror ofthe South for its internal safety.

It is not therefore is in its Southern aspectand its present influences on the South thatthis affair is to be studied. The South isstrong and capable of making itself strongerif not invulnerable against this class ofassaults; it is for the North to considerwhether we shall have their co-operation, orbe constrained to take measures for self-protection,on the faith that the whole Northis an enemy against whom we must guardourselves, without reserve or discrimination.The aggression comes from the North. Thewhole body of invaders of Southern soilcomes from the North. The leaders are all of the school of popular fanaticism taught inNorthern pulpits; inculcated by Northernorators; laid down in the platforms of Northernparties; promulgated and enforced infervent harangues by favorite Northernstatesmen. The men, the promptings, thetheories, the money, and the applause fortheir deeds, come from the North. The Southstands on her defence to repel these assaults,and although she may treat this irruptionwith disregard as a feeble and impotentdemonstration, it becomes essential to herfuture conduct, to her sense of self-respect,and her assurance of self protection, that sheshould know the extent of the combinations,the power of the sentiment, and the degree of co-operation for or against her, which she isto look for, and be guarded by in her policyfor herself and towards the North.

It is not that that outbreak gives us presentalarm for the spread among us of the disordersforcibly obtruded into Virginia; but thespirit that prompted this is a monster to bemet and throttled, or there can be no peacebetween us and our adversaries. And it is,above all things, necessary for us to knowwho are our enemies, and how many andstrong they are. Here is a demoniac plotdiscovered, which daringly undertakes to propagatediscord by bloodshed and riot, into peacefulcommunities, and though it be baffled, andthe leaders crushed out, rumor connects with the plot the names of several potent publicmen of the North. They generally disclaimand denounce the insurrection, but there is amystery still unexplained, as to the degree ofcomplicity, the source of the of the means, and theamount of guilty confidence, which a thoroughexposure of all the ramifications of the conspiracy would develop. But what we doknow is that violent journals at the North dosympathise with these ruffians; and what wecannot fail to see is, that this incendiaryattempt, though rejected as unwise, andbewailed as a blunder, is the legitimate result ofthe teachings of Northern pulpits, the platformsof Northern politicians, and the ferventdeclamations of favorite Northern statesmen.

Now it is not of so much importance to knowwho favored directly the plot that has failed,and is repudiated as a failure, as it is to knowwho is for the continuance of this warfare, inits widest sense, who are disposed to go on, andhow far, in this anti-Southern crusade, whichheats up desperate minds to such shocking excesses; how far the judgment, the conscience, and the patriotism of the North willpermit them to tolerate the class of men astheir leaders who have voluntarily, byparticipation, or connivance, by actual aid or criminal silence, encouraged the atrocious scheme ofrobbery, sedition and murder, the saturnaliaof blood and rapine, which Brown sought tocreate in Virginia; and how far they willcontinue to permit themselves to be misled bythe demagogues of the pulpit, the stump, andthe legislative chambers, by whose visionarydoctrines, wild, exhortations, and fierydenunciations, the popular mind has been heated toa frenzied hatred of the South, and their ignorantand desperate followed made to believe that they are doing a righteous work, andearning great rewards, besides the littleprivate gains they can pick up for themselvesin the disorders they create.

Here is the real lesson to be drawn fromthe Harper's Ferry outbreak: It is a solemnappeal to the North to consider well what itowes to the South, to the constitution, and toour common country, in its dealings with theHarper's Ferry rioters, and their councellors,abettors and teachers.

The response thus far, to this inquiry, isencouraging to the hope that the great bodyof the Northern people are awaking to theperil of the position into which they havebeen unwittingly drawn, by unprincipled andselfish men. May the event justify the hope,in the dismissal of the mischief makers fromthe post of leaders, and the restoration of aconstitutional rule of order, for the factionand frenzy which has brought the countryinto its present state of discord of danger.

Edited/Proofed by

Entered by James Cash. Proofed by Lloyd Benson




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Event Location


The True Lesson.

It is a very careless use of words to describe the Harper's Ferry outbreak as a "negro insurrection," or "slave insurrection," as is frequently done by presses