Kansas Nebraska Act Essay
John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in October 1859, was one of the most important and explosive catalyst within the country, which for a number of years, continued to tread closer and closer towards a civil war. Both the North and the South had experienced a contentious relationship for many decades. This went back to even before the inception of the country when the issue of slavery, discussed at the First and Second Constitutional Conventions, created such a stir, that the issue was set aside in the hopes of avoiding any further troubles.
The slavery question was left for future generations to answer. In the 1850’s, it seemed obvious to many people, that the question was going to be answered in blood, although many remained hopeful that such horrors could still be avoided. The 1854 Kansas Nebraska Act, one which infuriated Abraham Lincoln so much that it brought him out of political retirement, the inception of a new political party: the Republican Party, as well as a revived Fugitive Slave Law, all combined to help bring the country to a civil war.
Brown took a hard line against slavery and stated that he would be perfectly willing to lay down his life for the eradication of what he considered to be an evil institution and one which insulted God. As a result, such beliefs incited within Brown, an absolute belief that slavery was wrong and that he was going to be instrumental in the ending of slavery in America.
John Brown, before his 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry was put into motion, had made himself a name in the community as a hard liner against slavery when he attacked and killed a number of squatters located in Kansas. The 1854 Kansas Nebraska Act stated that these territories, in which statehood was just around the corner, would be named either a slave state or a free state depending upon the vote of the people.
This was called popular sovereignty and was one of the chief ideas of Stephen Douglas in his 1858 Senatorial debate. Not only did the abolitionists fear that these states would become slave and disrupt the delicate balance that was present in Congress between the slave and free states, but when thousands of people came in droves, to the two territories in an attempt to disrupt the numerical divide between the slave and free citizens, such actions incited a great deal of objection from the North and the abolitionists.
John Brown, and a number of his sons, went to Kansas and simply murdered a number of people believed to me squatters in the state who had come to Kansas in order to further prevent the state from becoming a slave state. It was here that the name of John Brown begun to be spread across the country. Many believed Brown to be crazy; others saw him as a hero. The entire country would be able to decide for them by the end of the decade as the name of John Brown would quickly be spread from ocean to ocean where all of the 31 million inhabitants of the country, would have a feeling on the actions of John Brown.
It is therefore, not a coincidence that his actions served as one of the most important catalysts in the beginning of the Civil War? Brown arrived at Harper’s Ferry on July 3, 1859. A few days later, under the alias of Isaac Smith, Brown rented a farmhouse in nearby Maryland and waited for his recruits. Despite numerous signs that even his initial plans were not going according to schedule, he continued with his desires. At this time, only a small percentage of his recruits actually presented themselves as willing participants to the plan.
In late August, Brown traveled to Pennsylvania where he revealed the specifics of the plan to the people who had shown up and had shown themselves as willing participants to the plan and the main objective. In the early months of 1859, the famed and celebrated abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, was told, by Brown, about his plans to incite a riot in which he hoped that the slaves would be set free. Douglas believed the plan to be folly from the beginning and attempted to dissuade blacks from joining.
However, Douglas always held a highly respected opinion of Brown and even believed that his desire to free the slaves exceeded even his own. Brown’s initial plans called for more than 4500 men. In reality, as was the case with most of Brown’s plans in her personal life, the reality of the situation fell well short. Brown had in his company, only 21 men. They included 16 white men and 5 black men of which three were free blacks, one a free slave and one a fugitive slave. Twelve of the men had been with Brown in his raids in Kansas.
Despite the small percentage of his estimates coming to fruition, Brown still proceeded with the plans. On October 16, 1859, Brown, while leaving three men behind to watch guard, attacked Harper’s Ferry Amory. In doing so, Brown obtained two hundred guns. The Armory was placed in the radar of Brown since it housed more than 100,000 guns and with such ammunition, Brown, from thief testimony of his family at the trial which followed, stated that Brown hoped to incite a riot in which every slave in Virginia would come to join in the fight.
“His strategy was to deplete the state of its slaves. This, Brown hoped, would cause a collapse of the economic institutions which had depended so heavily upon slavery until the movement spread to the South and continuing to spread havoc economically and socially, on every slave state in the Union. ” This, as Brown was about to find out, would not be the reality of the situation.
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