Secession Era Editorials Project

The Trouble at Harper's Ferry

Albany, New York, Evening Journal [Republican]

(18 October 1859)

The telegraph during the past twenty-four hours has brought startling accounts of an "insurrection" at Harper's Ferry. But the details are confused, and the origin of the riot is entirely unexplained. Whether it is a revolt of the slaves, or a strike of the workmen, or a lawless outbreak from some other cause, seems purposely concealed.

Harper's Ferry is a town about the size of Cohoes, situated at the junction of the Shenandoah river with the Potomac, and where the united stream passes through an opening in the Blue Ridge. It is 178 miles north of Richmond, and of course on the line which separates Virginia from Maryland. A United States Armory is situated here, employing 250 hands, and turning out eight or nine thousand small arms annually. There are usually kept on hand some 80 or 90,000 stand of arms, enough to make a mob that has seized them a formidable foe. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road both pass through this place. The latter crosses the Potomac on a bridge 750 long, connecting the town with the Maryland side.

Other despatches received to-day represent that the trouble is caused by dissatisfaction among the workmen, who have been cheated out of their dues by a Democratic Government Contractor, and that with their customary readiness to saddle their own sins on other people, and to turn them to political advantage, Democratic authorities proclaim it to be a rising of Slaves fomented by Abolitionists!

There are but few Slaves in that part of Virginia, and still fewer Abolitionists. It is sheer madness in either to engage in armed conflict with a community overwhelmingly hostile.

This afternoon's report shows that the rioters have been brought to subjection by the strong force sent against them. Probably the affair has been considerably exaggerated both as to its magnitude and as to its purposes.

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