Secession Era Editorials Project

The Riot at Harper's Ferry

Nashville, Tennessee, Union and American [Democratic]

(21 October 1859)

We publish to-day full telegraphic particulars of the riot at Harper's Ferry, a briefer outline of which had heretofore appeared in our columns. The first report attributed the riot to the fact that a contractor on the Government works had absconded, leaving his employees unpaid, who had seized the arsenal with the purpose of securing Government funds and paying themselves. Later accounts seem conclusive that it was a concerted attempt at insurrection, aided by leading Northern Abolitionists. The papers of Brown, the leader, are said to have fallen into the hands of Gov. Wise, and to include among them letters from Gerrit Smith, Fred Douglass and others. We shall hear more in a few days, when, no doubt, the whole plot will be disclosed.

In the mean time, the facts already before us show that Abolitionism is working out its legitimate results, in encouraging fanatics to riot and revolution. The "harmless republicanism" out of which there is serious talk even here of making a national party, to defeat the Democracy, fosters and sustains, and is formidable only from the zeal of, the class within its ranks who incited this insurrection. Of the capacity of the South to defend and protect herself, we have no doubt. But when called on to do this, as at Harper's Ferry, she must know who are her friends and who are her enemies. She can have no political association with men who are only watching a safe opportunity to cut the throats of her citizens. It will not do for Northern Republicans to attribute this outbreak to the fanaticism of a few zealots. The Republican party of the North is responsible for it. It is the legitimate result of Sewardism. It is the commencement of what Seward spoke of as the "irrepressible conflict." The South will hold the whole party of Republicans responsible for the blood-shed at Harper's Ferry. For the fanatics engaged there would never have dared the attempt at insurrection but for the inflammatory speeches and writings of Seward, Greeley, and the other Republican leaders. Waiting for the details before saying more, we refer the reader to the accounts of the insurrection published in another place in this paper.

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