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http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2011/spring/brown.html| While in Harpers Ferry, the raiders killed a railroad baggage handler, who ironically was a free black, when he refused their orders to halt. In a firefight they killed a few townsmen, including the mayor. At one point Brown stopped a passenger train, held it for a while, and then released it. The train continued on to Washington, D.C., where the crew dutifully reported to officials that Brown had seized Harpers Ferry. The next day, October 18, U.S. marines, under the command of Army Brevet Col. Robert E. Lee, captured Brown in the engine house on the armory grounds. By this time, most of the raiders were either dead or wounded.| A year after Brown's bicentennial, the United States was faced with multiple terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The meaning of terrorism had changed. It was no longer the result of random attacks by an individual or two. Now it was tied to a worldwide conspiracy, coordinated overseas and meticulously planned. The American response was a "war on terror." In an age of rising incidents of terrorism, numerous scholars, and more important, much of the general public, have again asked if John Brown was America's "first terrorist."| "die for the slave.""I am worth inconceivably more to hang than for any other purpose."| Brown's actions in Kansas and at Harpers Ferry were clearly violent. He killed people or at least supervised their death. But was he a terrorist? At neither place do his actions comport with what we know about modern terrorists.| *

Larger Version * In 1858 Brown wrote a constitution for the revolutionary state he hoped to create. (Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's—1917)| The Harpers Ferry raid was his most famous act. Brown held Harpers Ferry from late Sunday night, October 16, until he was captured on the 18th. He was in possession of almost unlimited amounts of gunpowder and weapons. He had captured prominent citizens, most famously Colonel Washington. He stopped a train full of passengers and freight.| Brown's trial in Charlestown, Virginia, began in October 1859. He was charged with and convicted of treason, murder, and conspiring with slaves to revolt. Severely wounded during his capture, Brown had to be carried into court and lay on a stretcher. (Harpers Ferry National Park)| This makes terrorism different from other kinds of illegal activity or violence. A kidnapper wants a ransom; a hostage taker usually has "demands" that should be met; a robber simply wants money or goods and might be willing to kill for them. But the terrorist often has no demands and no goals other than to terrorize. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols made no demands; they wanted nothing other than to kill and destroy. Those who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon only wanted to kill, destroy, and terrorize. They made no demands, asked for nothing, and by their own design would not have even been alive to negotiate for whatever they might have wanted.| When Brown was hanged in 1859 for his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, many saw him as the harbinger of the future. For Southerners, he was the embodiment of all their fears—a white man willing to die to end slavery—and the most potent symbol yet of aggressive Northern antislavery sentiment. For many Northerners, he was a prophet of righteousness, bringing down a terrible swift sword against the immorality of slavery and the haughtiness of the Southern master class.| n 2000, the United States marked the bicentennial of Brown's birth. At that time, domestic terrorism was a growing problem. Bombings, ambushes, and assassinations had been directed at women's clinics and physicians in a number of places; a bomb planted in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 summer Olympics had killed one person and wounded more than a hundred people; in 1995 a pair of right-wing extremists had planted a bomb at the Alfred A. Murrah Federal...
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