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|HOME > John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry>New Orleans, Louisiana, Times-Picayune [Democratic] (25 October 1859)|
Where is the Responsibility?
New Orleans, Louisiana, Times-Picayune [Democratic]
(25 October 1859)
The mails are just beginning to bring us the details as published in the Northern journals, by the hourly despatches from the scene of conflict of the outbreak at Harper's Ferry, the sudden rising and instant suppression of that incomprehensible revolt.
They are very copious, but they add little
to our knowledge of the extent of the
conspiracy or the degree of support which it had
from other quarters. Much remains
unexplained and mysterious, especially the
possession of arms and ammunition, which, if they
are correctly described, must have cost large
sums, and been transported from a considerable
That there has been collusion with, or at least a guilty knowledge of the intended insurrection, among persons in various parts of the country, is apparent, but the number and station of the confederates, their weight in society and their power over public opinion, are difficult matters, in regard to which the evidence is very slight, and we must deal with presumptions and probabilities.
The attempt was so rash in all its aspects; the place was so ill adapted to success, where an overwhelming force could be brought against any possible number of insurgents in the shortest possible time; the means provided were so absurdly inadequate to any possible results, and the whole conduct was so imbecile, that it is difficult to believe the revolt to have been part of a conspiracy, countenanced by rational men anywhere, or anything more than the freak of hot-brained individuals of disordered minds, desperate fortunes and revengeful passions. The anti-slavery party of the North, while it breeds such men, and furnishes the aliment which strengthens, and the stimulants which excite them, it too wise in its generation to link itself with proceedings which are so foolish, so certain to fail, and so sure to rouse the conservative feeling of the country, North and South, against the excesses to which fanaticism leads, and against the men and the theories, which, involantarily or not, beget such pupils and such report that any considerable number of responsible, or influential persons in the Northern States, can be found to have been identified, as consenting or advising parties to this insurrectionary movement.
Enthusiasts and desperadoes may brave the popular indignation by proclaiming their sympathy with the revolters and their purposes, but these will be few, and they will be repudiated by the honest sentiments of the mass of all parties. Even the policy of the anti-slavery leaders will prompt them to repudiate as an inexcusable folly, what they will not join in denouncing as a crime against virtue, humanity and justice -- against society and government. And in this point of view, in presenting to the Northern eye a vivid picture of the effects upon the ignorant, the deluded and the wicked, of the preachings and theories, which, designed merely to catch a popular current, and thereby reach power and office, lead to sedition, social conflicts, hopeless insurrection and bloody retribution -- it is to be hoped that eventual good may come out of a great and frightful calamity.
The insurgents at Harper's Ferry may be repudiated as madmen or fools, but who made them insane? What misled them if they were misled? or inspired them with such absurd expectations and frantic hopes, if they really had thoughts of overthrowing the institutions of a great State by such feeble means, and with such wretched implements?
The insurgent leader --
Now this is the very serious question,
which the men of the North who are not
incurably touched with the same madness --
and these constitute, we believe, a large
numerical majority -- will be apt to put to
themselves and to each other, when they
read of such things as have transpired at
Harper's Ferry. These wanton disturbances
of the peace of a great community, fearfully
aggravated by the uncertainties which thicken
with unimagined terrors, about a subject in
which so many of tenderest interests of
life are concerned; these scenes of disorder
suddenly provoked, and crushed out with
such stern necessity of bloodshed; these cruel
sedections of the victims of the false
philanthropy into suffering and punishment for the
guilty, and increased
There is no apprehension in the Southern States that the designs of their enemies can be accomplished by such means as those of which the Harper's Ferry revolt is an example. Forewarned, they are capable of perfect self-protection against this species of assault. But they are unwilling to be put to the universal necessity of the rigorous measures of precaution which this state of things if continued and extended, would require, and they are anxious to live in peace with their Northern countrymen, instead of being entrenched against them as natural enemies. If we are to live together in kindness, the temper and practices which have incited the disorders must be changed, and those who indulge in them or countenance them, and to whose rash teachings the insane excesses are distinctly traceable as their sources, must be rebuked by public opinion, in that way in which a rebuke will be most keenly felt, in the overthrow of their political fortunes, and their banishment from station, as the exponents of Northern opinions.
If such a consummation is ever to be effected, and we have our hopes that it is within the reach of a full, earnest and honest struggle, by the constitutional men of the North acting together, it must be rapidly advanced by such developments as those in Virginia, of the tendencies of the doctrines which are taught in the journals of the extreme partisan press, and proclaimed by the anti-slavery press; and thus out of the present evil may be plucked the germ of a great good.[<<Previous Editorial][Next Editorial>>]