Article Title

Pardon for John Brown.


Newspaper Title


Publication Date


Publication Place

New Orleans, Louisiana

Event Topic

John Brown

Political Party



slave state


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Some such answer will Virginia give to the clamorous outcry that comes to her from the free States for mercy to John Brown.

Document Type

Article (Journal or Newsletter)

Full Text Transcription

A story of the middle ages is, somewhere,told after this fashion: In those times, whenecclesiastics were sometimes of the churchmilitant, and did not shun their share in deedsof arms, or, at times, of rapine -- a band,assailing a fortress for the purposes ofplunder, were captured, and sentenced tosummary execution, as taken with the "red hand."One of them was found to be a monk, and theSuperior of the district sent urgently to requirethat he should be given up, as a son of thechurch. The captor, who had hanged up hisman, sent back the trooper's boots and bloodyclothes in which the priest was taken, withthe grim inquiry: "Be these thy son'sgarments?"

Some such answer will Virginia give to theclamorous outcry that comes to her from thefree States for mercy to John Brown. He hasbeen taken in the flagrant act of a greatpublic crime, desperately but impotently aiming atthe vitals of a State, with hands reeking withthe blood of its citizens, and purposes that involve, as an inevitable consequence of success, the desecration of households, robbery,murder and arson, and a horrid concourse ofkindred crimes. Where he lay whencaptured the ground was soaked with innocentblood of his wanton shedding, for purposeswhich Virginia pronounces to be vile andhateful, but which he still defends, with anaudacity which redeems him from contempt,but which deepeds the hue of the crime.

Now from the free States comes a loud and earnest invocation to Virginia to be mercifulto this man. Journals and public men,unaffectedly desirous to calm down excitement,and professing the most thorough abhorrenceof Brown and his plans, and the most faithfulcoöperation to prevent any recurrence of thelike, make a plea of policy and humanity thatthat sentence should not be carried into effect.They reason that he is only a fanatic, in whathe fervently believed to be right, not naturallybad, but misled by evil teachings, and madedesperate by private wrongs. He has the stuffof a hero, and behaves with a courage whichwins admiration from his enemies. He hasbeen foiled in his plans, is powerless for furthermischief, and may be set at large as too meanan object for the vengeance of a State -- toolow to be the sacrifice for an insulted communityan instrument broken and cast away bythe chief and yet undetected criminals.

To this appeal, when it is well meant, Virginiamay answer in all courtesy, pointing topiles of pikes sharpened for the slaughter, andto the clothes dripping with the blood of herchildren already spilt, and ask whether thesebe proofs or signs of a temper or a purpose tobe forgiven, without signs or penitence orrecantation of error. Whether the marauderwho stands up to avow and justify his deeds,with no other extenuation than that murderis only an incident of his plan, which wassimply to rob and to protect robbery, is a fitsubject for uncommon indulgence, on his meritsas a thorough ruffian, and defying and insolentand uncompromising in his villainies.

These are not pleas likely to have weightwith a Southern constituency, where thesethings have been done, and where the lawswould be inexorably enforced against a meanercriminal convicted of offences of one-tenthof the enormity of Brown's. The atrociouswickedness of the crime comes, then, to be,from its connections with possible politicalcombinations made a ground for special favor;and underneath the whole application, lies thenaked appeal to fear. If Brown is executed,we are warned that a great sympathy willgrow up in the North, that he will be made ahero and a martyr. His name will be thewatchword with which to kindle a fire ofindignation and hatred against the South thatwill utterly consume away all hope ofresisting the popular triumph ofAbolitionism at the polls, and the speedy supremacyof Abolitionism at the North and in theFederal Government. The blood of JohnBrown will be the cement of the RepublicanChurch, and his name the inspiringcall to a complete Republican victory, at everypoll in the North.

Perhaps this may be true in part, althoughwe believe it to be greatly exaggerated. Itis true that the extreme anti-slavery journalsand the most rabid among the lecturers, fanaticsand demagogues of that faith, are beginning to prepare for such a crusade of agitation,and have begun to hold up the Ossawattamieruffian, murderer, and robber, as worthy to beranked with the noblest victims to freedom,and canonized as a saint and martyr.

But we are not persuaded that suchdemonstrations are going to carry off the whole Northin a whirlwind of fury, into the ranks ofpolitical abolitionism; and if there were any suchperil, we should treat it as the sign of a stateof the Northern mind, on Southern subjects, soutterly perverse, as to be hopelesslyincurable -- a proof that there is no longer possibilityto live with them on any terms of amity, morethan with John Brown himself, as a neighborand associate. Instead of fear of rousing theseNorthern proclivities into hostile action, thewarning is much more likely to fix a SouthernState, or Southern Executive, in the determinationnot to yield an iota to the suggested fearsof such a frantic sympathy for a convictedmarauder, boastful from his guilt, not to turn a hair'sbreath aside from the line of duty, topropitiate such a fanatical spirit, but calmly toconfront and defy it; not to be goaded intoinjustice or cruelty, merely to retort injustice, andgive blow for threats, nor into being mercifulby alarms for the exasperating effects onpunishing a dangerous felon.

During the dark days of the AmericanRevolution a British spy was round in the camp;he was arrested and condemned to be hung.The British General sent to demand thisrelease, with the threat of a dreadful retaliation.The answer was brief:

"Your man was caught in my camp as aspy -- he has been tried as a spy -- and he willbe hanged as a spy!

"P. S. He is hanged."

Like this would be the instant response fromany part of the South to a demand for therelease of an arrested Abolition insurrectionist, with warnings of the peril of executing thelaw upon him. He would be hanged forexample while the messenger was waiting.

In the case of Brown, the power of pardondoes not lie with Governor Wise. By theConstitution of Virginia the Executive cannotgrant pardon for such offences as that forwhich Brown is under sentence, but can requite until the Legislature can act. We inferfrom the tone of the Richmond Enquirer,which usually represents the views ofGovernor Wise very exactly, that he has littledisposition to favor the applications for any mitigationof the penalty which the law has pronounced.

Edited/Proofed by

Entered by James Cash. Proofed by Lloyd Benson




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Pardon for John Brown.

Some such answer will Virginia give to the clamorous outcry that comes to her from the free States for mercy to John Brown.