Secession Era Editorials Project

The Harper's Ferry Affair.

Concord, New Hamphire, New Hampshire Patriot [Democratic]

(26 October 1859)

The public mind throughout the country, during the past week, has been much agitated by the most deplorable events at Harper's Ferry, Va., an account of which we give in another part of this paper. The circumstances were of a nature to strongly attract public attention. A quiet community, in the night time, was startled by an insurrection in its very midst. The suddenness of the alarm, with the uncertainty of the nature and extent of the danger, at first paralyzed the people for any resistance, and the insurgents, being fully armed, gained possession of the place. But after a bloody conflict, resulting in the loss of twenty-one lives in all, the insurrection was quelled and order returned.

In this atrocious affair there were peculiar features to excite alarm, not only in the community where is occurred, but also throughout the country. Although the proposed object of it was the release of the slaves, yet it now clearly appears that they had no part in it. In fact, one of the first victims was a colored man, shot by the insurgents because he refused to join them. The chief actors, and by far the greater number, were white men. Neither was it a sudden outbreak, occasioned by some occurrence of the moment; but it was in pursuance of a plan deliberately considered and formed by men elsewhere, who had gone to that place for the very purpose of making preparations and carrying it into execution. These are the circumstances which render this insurrection of more than ordinary importance and deserving reflection.

Notwithstanding the melancholy result in the loss of so many lives, these events will not be without advantage to the country, if they shall serve to recall the public mind from prejudice and excitement to a clear and honest consideration of the dangerous tendencies of the pernicious doctrines which, during a few years past, have been so zealously taught and advocated by political leaders and partisan preachers here at the North. It is not a long time since not only on the stump, but even from the pulpit, "Sharpe's rifles" were recommended and applauded as the proper and best means for the relief of "bleeding Kansas." We then denounced those principles as deserving the severest condemnation, not more, certainly, on account of the circumstances of the particular case to which they were applied, than for their dangerous and fatal tendencies, if ever admitted as proper in practice. We could not admit violence or force as, in any case, a necessary or proper recourse, in this country, for the establishment of any political principles, or for relief from political evils. But we did not then expect so soon to see so striking a proof and illustration of the correctness of our views, as is now offered by these tragical events at Harper's Ferry. They are the natural and perfect fruit of the seed sown in Kansas. The instigator and leader at Harper's Ferry was Capt. John Brown of Kansas notoriety; his confederates here were his associates there, and the arms used were the very same "Sharpe's rifles" furnished for use in Kansas. It seems appropriate that it should have been so, and we may add, almost providential that these circumstances should thus concur to connect and identify the one transaction with the other. Gerrit Smith, in his letter to Brown enclosing funds to aid him in carrying into execution his nefarious schemes at Harper's Ferry, very truly and correctly calls it "Kansas work." It was, in principle, the same.

Those black republicans who have heretofore been so loud in their applause and instigation of the work of violence and bloodshed in Kansas, now seek to relieve themselves from the unfavorable consequences in the public mind of their recent "Kansas work" on another field, by stigmatizing Brown and his associates as fools and maniacs. It is true that extreme folly and madness are apparent in this Harper's Ferry affair; but that folly and madness were not so much error on their part with regard to the principle of the "Kansas work," as in the hopeless circumstances for success under which they undertook to carry it into practice. But in what position does this new view by these defenders of black republicanism, place that party? If Brown and his confederates were fools and madmen at Harper's Ferry, may they not have been such in Kansas also? And if so, who shall say how much of the wrong in that unfortunate territory is justly to be charged against those who were the instigators of these fools and madmen, and who placed in their hands the weapons for violence and bloodshed!

In the developments made by Brown and others since their capture, are many things for consideration. We have not time or room now to refer to them particularly. We hope the people of this State will carefully read the accounts of them for themselves. We wish, however, to call attention to the statement by Brown of his motives for going to Kansas -- that it was not for the purpose of making his home there, but to take part in its troubles. We all know how conspicuous and violent a part he took. -- This shows how true is the charge, which has been so persistently denied by our opponents, that many of the misfortunes of that Territory have been owing to the interference and instigation of those abroad who really had no interest in or care for it, except so far as it could be use for political and partisan purposes.

Let us not be misunderstood. We do not intend to charge all the members of the black republican party as being responsible for this deplorable affair at Harper's Ferry. On the contrary, we know that most of them will denounce it in as strong terms as we do, and as it deserves. But we ask them to consider whether, if not the fair and natural consequence, it is not at least the probable effect of the principles and doctrine of arms and violence advocated by the black republican leaders for the relief of Kansas, and of the doctrine of "irrepressible conflict" which they are now urged to make the sum and substance of their political faith. For if such be their view of it, we know the people of this State will not support a party from whose principles or acts results so fatal, not only to the peace but even to the continuance of the Union, are in any degree likely to follow.


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