Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History


Brown's Foray.

New Orleans, Louisiana, Times-Picayune [Democratic]

(8 November 1859)

Now that John Brown's foray upon Virginia is over and the surviving ringleaders are under doom for their crimes, the agitation which has greatly subsided at the South continues to grow and increase at the North.

The first sensation in the vagueness of a rumored insurrection was naturally very strong among slaveholders, but it was speedily calmed when the abortive effort was seen in its utter impotence. The resulting effect upon the Southern mind was to confirm what has been their faith in the stability of their institutions and the loyalty of their slaves, against all sources of internal disturbance, and their own ability to maintain them against all external attack; to satisfy them that there is no vestige of cause for apprehension from within, and to unite them in one common sentiment of abhorrence and resentment against the foes who, at a safe distance, plot invasions against us, and incessantly propagate the spirit of invasion. The South, not as inferior or suppliant, nor as holding the entire North to be our enemies, designedly and maliciously, turns now to the North, and pointing to the bloody proofs at Harper's Ferry, of what men in the North plotting against us, and what the popular teachings of crafty statesmen and fanatical demagogues incite men to plot against us, asks them to decide among themselves what is to be done for peace, the constitution and the Union. We have no voice in these questions, deeply as they interest us. We can shoot or hang the ruffians they send among us; we can even trust our slaves to help us catch and execute them. But the source, the authors, the promptings, are all outside from us, and among them, and the responsibility is all theirs, for what has been and what may be. If they shall continue to trust the teachers whose violent declamations and fanatical doctrines have stimulated the weak and desperate to these seditious and murderous acts; if they shall, while disclaiming the act as the freak of a madman, continue to encourage and to follow the orators and leaders of party, whose more calculating policy makes men mad and desperate, they cannot escape the moral guilt of what has been done already, and they will be held to be the abettors knowingly of all that may be attempted on the same spirit hereafter. It is for the South to watch steadily, and without being heated to passionate indiscreetness by the sense of wrong, for what the North shall decide upon towards these men, their doctrines and their practices. It is for us to require that the North shall compel its own puritans and demagogues, fanatcs and moral traitors, to let us alone. That we must be guided in our judgment of what we must do for ourselves.

The glaring criminality of this irruption into Virginia has given to this demand a force that cannot honestly be disregarded. Men cannot blind their eyes to such flagrant facts, or close their minds to the irresistible logic. The mind of the North is, therefore, more keenly stirred than it ever was before on such themes. The tongue and the pen discuss them incessantly. The pulpit is abused to the aid of the seditions, but the press comes up in many quarters boldly to the rescue of the truth. Every Sabbath some preacher of a faith, not founded on the gospel of peace, preaches John Brown into a deluded invader or a persecuted martyr. But a large portion of the secular press raises the note of remonstrance against these desecrations of sacred things, and speaks manfully for justice, good faith, the constitution and the country. The controversy wages hot, but the cause of the South is evidently gaining ground. The heart of the community revolts from the excesses into which they are misled to plunge. The mass of the people desire to do no wrong to others, to preserve faith, and live in harmony with their Southern brethren. They do not believe in, or desire the "irrepressible conflict," which is proclaimed from high seats in Northern councils; and we firmly believe that if these questions could be separated from the mere party considerations with which they have been mixed up, and men could be brought up to express their opinions on these topics, unconnected with the fate of political parties and the aspiration of political chieftains, the verdict would be, by immense majorities, for peace and fraternity.

There is a powerful effort going on in the Northern States to bring about this disconnection if possible, and if it cannot be done, to unite all conservative votes against that party which retains as an element of faith or a principle of action sectional hostility to the social institutions of the South. If they cannot extirpate sectionalism from the creeds of party, there is a growing desire and determination and effort to war upon the party which adopts, encourages or councils with these dangerous sectionalisms. These are no new efforts, and if we have to judge of the results of the pleadings of the wisest and most eloquent men of the North, in former days, for peace, we might look upon this new appeal with little hope that it will have better success. But facts and history are stronger than words, however fervently or earnestly spoken. They have a potency of argument which does not belong to the most sincere conviction of the greatest mind, urged with the fire of the most persuasive oratory. What Webster and Choate and Everett have failed to do to reach deluded men, the essential wickedness of abolitionism, the crimes which it instigates and the atrocities which it engenders, are suddenly revealed palpably to the senses by such exploits as those of John Brown. They have an awakened force, which seems, at last, to have stirred up to its depths the conservative feeling of the North. What and how much that is, and what we are to expect of it, are problems to be solved by the events of the future. But there is encouragement in the fact that the conservatism of the North is more strongly aroused than it has been during any of the preceding struggles on these questions; and out of these awakened energies, with the love of country and of union aiding to liberate the judgement from the sway of old prejudices, and an awakened consciousness of the perils and horrors which surround every advancing step of abolitionism, in the nature which it has developed, there are better hopes than there ever were before, of the breaking down of the rule of the factionists.

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