Secession Era Editorials Project

The Execution of John Brown.

Albany, New York, Evening Journal [Republican]

(1 December 1859)

We regret that Gov. Wise persists in his determination to hang John Brown. Neither the dignity nor the safety of the State of Virginia requires any such sanguinary termination of the insane raid at Harper's Ferry. The exercise of "Justice tempered with Mercy" would prove far more effective in correcting public sentiment and in mollifying public sympathy. But the temper of the people and of the Executive of Virginia forbids the hope of any such thing. John Brown, and his associates, will all be hung. Instead of being remembered as imprisoned criminals, they will be shrined as martyrs; and their acts, instead of being characterized as insurrectionary and murderous, will be tortured into deeds of chivalric heroism. Their execution will greatly increase the sympathy felt for them, and do more to intensify "agitation" than the arrest and imprisonment of ten thousand men, insane and criminal enough to attempt to run off negroes from the South.

Already, the muttered thunder of a pent-up sympathy is heard. The pulpit, the platform and the press, have already spoken with most intense emphasis. We publish, in other columns to-day, a few specimens of what has been said. But should John Brown be hung, the feeling will be augmented an hundred fold; and hatred of Slavery will become the predominant emotion in the breasts of millions who have thus far had neither fellowship nor sympathy with those who seek to goad the South into just such exhibitions of weakness and folly as these executions will afford.

This termination of this criminal foray is to be depreciated. Wiser counsels should have prevailed. But they have not; and Gov. Wise will, by his sanguinary persistence, feed a flame which the exercise of mercy and common sense would have effectually smothered.

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