Document Analysis of John Brown's Address to the Virginia Court

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John Brown’s address to the Virginia Court

Origin:
The address given by John Brown to the Virginia court was his final words before execution on charges of treason. The charges were given because of a raid that he directed with the intent to take federal weapons which is an act of treason. On October 16th-18th, 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led a group of white and black men, including two of his sons, on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown’s goal was to seize the federal arsenal, arm the local slaves, and fight a way into the North as described in this primary source in court. This raid was not surprising because of his abolitionist background and insanity as described by the Robert E. Lee who led the Union Army that suppressed the revolt. The group held up in a fire department and was attacked by Lee’s soldiers. The failed attempt resulted in Brown’s capture, trial, and execution on December 2nd. This episode of slave resistance was the last major rebellion contributing to the secession of the South and, eventually, the Civil War. Purpose:

John Brown had a a few purpose for delivering this address. Obviously, it was given in response to charges accumulated from the raid, and the address also makes several points explaining his defense. Brown stated that he did not intend to fire a single gun but wanted simply to take slaves from plantations and lead them to northern states or Canada. Brown also stated that he did not induce the others involved in the raid to join him which lessened his crime in his mind. To the charges he addressed, “I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection. Though he denied the charges, one can infer that Brown really did want a slave uprising to occur in the South due to his strong abolitionist morals and beliefs. If the raid were to be successful, Brown would not stop with those slaves, but rather continue his forced manumission of...
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