John Brown's Insanity.
New York, New York, New York Tribune [Republican]
(25 November 1859)
It seems that by the law of Virginia, even after
trial and conviction, upon a suggestion made of
insanity, a prisoner may have that point tried by a
Jury. To give the counsel of John Brown an
opportunity to have such an issue framed and tried an
application has been made to Gov. Wise to
postpone the execution of the sentence; and as a basis
for his action in the premises a collection of
affidavits taken in Ohio among the relatives and early
acquaintances of Brown has been submitted to him.
We have had an opportunity of examining these
affidavits. It appears from them that Brown had
resided the greater part of his life in Hudson,
Summit County, Ohio, of which his father was one of
the original settlers. Brown was absent many
years since, for a few years, in Pennsylvania, but
returned again to Ohio, whence he removed some
four or five years ago to Essex County New-York.
It is abundantly shown by these affidavits that
on the mother's side Brown belonged to a family in
which insanity was hereditary. His maternal
grandmother was insane for six years and died insane.
Three of her children, a brother and two
sisters of Brown's mother, suffered from the same
disorder, and another brother who himself escaped,
had three insane children, cousins of John Brown.
The only sister of John Brown was also liable to
attacks of insanity, as were a child of hers, and two
children of John Brown himself.
a brother of John Brown's first wife states that
at the time of her death, some twenty-four or five
years ago, the conversation and conduct of Brown
strongly impressed his relatives with the idea of
insanity on his part; and it is the opinion of this
brother-in-law that ever since, at intervals, the
mind of Brown has been more of less disordered.
An uncle of Brown's, who might be supposed to
have some knowledge of the symptoms of insanity,
as his own mother and three of his children were
the victims of that disorder, states that he has
regarded Brown, for twenty years, as subject to
periods of insanity, not of a very marked type, but
partaking of the character of monomania. Similar
testimony is given by several persons who describe
themselves as acquainted with John Brown
from early childhood. A physician of Hudson,
who has known Brown since 1812, has esteemed
him subject to attacks of insanity, and has at times
been fully convinced that such was his condition.
A lawyer whom Brown was in the habit of
consulting about his business affairs, considered him of
a very excitable temperament and as constitutionally
predisposed to insanity. Several of his old acquaintances,
who say him after his return from Kansas,
state that there was something in his manner and
conversation, and especially, the idea with which he
seemed to be impressed, and of which he often spoke,
that he was an instrument, in the hand of God for
the overthrow of Slavery, which strongly impressed
them with the idea that his mind was disordered.
The whole history of John Brown for the last
two years, so far as it has come to light, and all the
incidents of his famous foray upon Harper's Ferry,
have never appeared to us, from the first, as
consistent with soundness of mind. we have no doubt
that, if the issue could be tried, a very strong case
might be made out. it would, however, be too
mortifying to the pride of the Virginians to admit
that they had been so frightened by a crazy man,
and Gov. Wise will no doubt dispose of this
application as summarily as the Court of Appeals did of
the application for a new trial.
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