Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History


No Title.

Frankfort, Kentucky, Commonwealth [Opposition]

(11 November 1859)

[Pointing Finger] The following article from the Richmond Whig in the main expresses our own views so exactly that we adopt them. We do not doubt but that John Brown conscientiously believed he was doing right in his mad attempts to excite an insurrection in Virginia, but he like other men must be responsible when his opinions develop into acts which violate the laws. He is certainly a monomaniac, but death is the only mode by which such a peculiar idiosyncrasy can be cured. The Whig says, "Thomas Carlyle in all of his fierce assaults on the 'shams' and 'wind bags,' never struck a harder blow or one more needed than the one he dealt to that sympathy for criminals, which, in late years, has characterized the English people. In the good times of honest loves and honest hates, this precious fruit of civilization -- this sympathy for crime -- had no place in the breasts of men. To love the good and to hate the hateful, was the simple rule. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth was the old law; and though a milder creed has obtained under a better dispensation, it were folly and perversion Christianity to expend sympathy only upon the most hardened criminals as has become the practice of modern times."

"Take for example the case of John Brown. With folly unparalleled, the Northern papers and people are trying to make a hero of this wretched outlaw.-- Except in its atrocity, we see but little in the crime which he committed to distinguish it from other crimes, or in the criminal, except a maniacal hardihood and unbearable insolence, anything to distinguish him from other criminals. No amount of morbid sympathy can shield him from the fate which awaits him, nor from the condemnation of posterity as a brutal ruffian. The crime he meditated embraced all other crimes -- murder, robbery, arson, treason, and another, worse than all, too hideous to be named, too revolting to be thought of. The great and almost the only significance of the event, at Harper's Ferry, to our thinking, is the fact that those who participated in it should have received any sympathy whatever. This sentimental madness argues badly for the peace of the country, and the safety of our institutions. The occasion seems to us to call for a more emphatic expression of the conservative feeling of the North than we have yet had. Shall we not have it?"

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