By Ken Chowder
Many historians believe that the pre-Civil War antislavery activist John Brown would be considered the first American domestic terrorist. Terrorism is defined as using fear through violence to achieve a goal, especially for political purposes. It is obvious that Brown had these qualities. Even before coming into light as an antislavery extremist he had an incident at his home where he barricaded himself and two of his sons with muskets to avoid losing the home. In this example no shots were fired, but this would not be the case in the future. After a string of failures in the work force, Brown began having fantasies about being “God’s messenger, a latter-day Moses who would lead his people from the accursed house of slavery.” (Pg. 355) He began working in the Underground Railroad and giving public sermons about abolishing slavery by any means. But it wasn’t until the Pottawatomie Massacre that Brown could have been dubbed a terrorist. This and Harpers Ferry were the two major acts that history remembers John Brown for. These actions would classify Brown as a domestic terrorist during the pre-Civil War era. But of course he was not the only one, and he diffidently wasn’t the first. There are accounts of American domestic terrorism stretching all the way back to the American Revolution. Even in his own time, John Brown cannot be rightly classified as the Father of American Terrorism. There were others like Nat Turner, Thomas Higginson, and even Preston Brooks could have all been considered American terrorists. Many of these people used their connection with God as reasoning for their actions, just as Brown did. So this would classify Brown as a terrorist, but not necessarily the Father of American Terrorism itself.