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Furman University Department of History
|HOME > John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry>New Orleans, Louisiana, Times-Picayune [Democratic] (30 October 1859)|
The True Lesson.
New Orleans, Louisiana, Times-Picayune [Democratic]
(30 October 1859)
It is important to a right understanding of these transactions, their true character and effects, that this view should be kept steadily in mind. There is great power in words, and the familiar use of words which imply that there has been a dangerous domestic demonstration within the State of Virginia, against the slave institutions, is very apt to carry with it the associated idea of internal weakness -- the liability to such outbreaks among the slaves -- and , by easy transition, to a general doubt of the strength of slave institutions within the slave States themselves. It has been so used in the Northern journals; and even rational and conservative presses speak of the "insurrection" as a sign of the general weakness of the institution -- an eruption by rupture of an organic disease. The rabid Abolitionists speak of it in a tone of exultation, and tauntingly proclaim the approach of speedy emancipation, extorted from the fears and demonstrated necessities of the South.
But the facts and the logic are both perniciously false. As a demonstration against slavery, the Harper's Ferry foray was a total failure. The slaves on the border, among whom eager proselytes were expected to welcome the invaders, were found to be unshakenly faithful. Among the whole population not a pulse, except that of alarm for themselves from the fatal friendship of the ruffian liberator, was found to respond. Not a willing slave came out to welcome the conspirator -- even in the darkness, to which he confided his secret approaches. When the end came, and the white desperadoes were all shot or captured, the survivors were constrained to avow that they were self-invited -- missionaries of a creed to which they had disciples yet to find. They were not liberators of a complaining race. They meant to camp somewhere, in secrecy, and propagate the sedition, by degrees, out of which they might construct a civil war here after, and occupy themselves in the meantime with stealing away as many as they could seduce or corrupt.
They found no insurgents. They made no converts, and the revolt they attempted which depended for its success on the hope of an accession of multitudes of their own sort from other States, left them abandoned and helpless, suddenly overwhelmed by numbers, slain in the heat of a just wrath by an outraged community, or reserved for the death of unpitied felons on the gallows. They will die without having freed a single slave or made an impression on the loyalty of the slave population, or demonstrated for the use of successors in villainy a weak spot or a hopeful chance for renewing the mad enterprise hereafter.
Such an abortive foray is erroneously and mischievously misrepresented when it is heralded as a slave insurrection and made the text of abolitionists triumphing, as having demostrated the weakness and the terror of the South for its internal safety.
It is not therefore is in its Southern aspect and its present influences on the South that this affair is to be studied. The South is strong and capable of making itself stronger if not invulnerable against this class of assaults; it is for the North to consider whether we shall have their co-operation, or be constrained to take measures for self-protection, on the faith that the whole North is an enemy against whom we must guard ourselves, without reserve or discrimination. The aggression comes from the North. The whole body of invaders of Southern soil comes from the North. The leaders are all of the school of popular fanaticism taught in Northern pulpits; inculcated by Northern orators; laid down in the platforms of Northern parties; promulgated and enforced in fervent harangues by favorite Northern statesmen. The men, the promptings, the theories, the money, and the applause for their deeds, come from the North. The South stands on her defence to repel these assaults, and although she may treat this irruption with disregard as a feeble and impotent demonstration, it becomes essential to her future conduct, to her sense of self-respect, and her assurance of self protection, that she should know the extent of the combinations, the power of the sentiment, and the degree of co-operation for or against her, which she is to look for, and be guarded by in her policy for herself and towards the North.
It is not that that outbreak gives us present
alarm for the spread among us of the disorders
forcibly obtruded into Virginia; but the
spirit that prompted this is a monster to be
met and throttled, or there can be no peace
between us and our adversaries. And it is,
above all things, necessary for us to know
who are our enemies, and how many and
strong they are. Here is a demoniac plot
discovered, which daringly undertakes to propagate
discord by bloodshed and riot, into peaceful
communities, and though it be baffled, and
the leaders crushed out, rumor connects with
the plot the names of several potent public
men of the North. They generally disclaim
and denounce the
Now it is not of so much importance to know
who favored directly the plot that has failed,
and is repudiated as a failure, as it is to know
who is for the continuance of this warfare, in
its widest sense, who are disposed to go on, and
how far, in this anti-Southern crusade, which
heats up desperate minds to such shocking
excesses; how far the judgment, the conscience,
and the patriotism of the North will
permit them to tolerate the class of men as
their leaders who have voluntarily, by
participation, or connivance, by actual aid or
criminal silence, encouraged the atrocious scheme of
robbery, sedition and murder, the saturnalia
of blood and rapine, which
Here is the real lesson to be drawn from the Harper's Ferry outbreak: It is a solemn appeal to the North to consider well what it owes to the South, to the constitution, and to our common country, in its dealings with the Harper's Ferry rioters, and their councellors, abettors and teachers.
The response thus far, to this inquiry, is encouraging to the hope that the great body of the Northern people are awaking to the peril of the position into which they have been unwittingly drawn, by unprincipled and selfish men. May the event justify the hope, in the dismissal of the mischief makers from the post of leaders, and the restoration of a constitutional rule of order, for the faction and frenzy which has brought the country into its present state of discord of danger.[<<Previous Editorial][Next Editorial>>]