Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History



Charleston, South Carolina, Mercury [Democratic]

(4 November 1859)

The New York Tribune, the leading organ of the abolition party, in noticing the late proceedings at Harper's Ferry, says:

"There will be enough to heap execration on the memory of these mistaken men. We leave this work to the fit hands and tongues of those who regard the fundamental axioms of the Declaration of Independence as 'glittering generalities.' Believing that the way to universal emancipation lies not through insurrection, civil war, and bloodshed, but through peace, discussion and quiet diffusion of sentiments of humanity and justice, we deeply regret this outbreak; but, remembering that, if their fault was grievous, grievously have they answered it, we will not, by one reproachful word, disturb the bloody shrouds wherein John Brown and his compatriots are sleeping. They dared and died for what they felt to be the right, though in a manner which seems to us fatally wrong. Let their epitaphs remain unwritten until the not distant day when no slave shall clank his chains in the shades of Monticello or by the graves of Mount Vernon."

It will be seen that the Tribune considers the act of Brown as the act of a patriot, which future ages will admire and extol. This is evident from its closing allusion to him -- the sentiment of which is borrowed from the last speech of Robert Emmett, the Irish patriot, when sentence of death was about to be pronounce on him. To become a hero and a martyr, in the Tribune's estimation, is to go to the South and excite the slaves to rise and cut the throats of their white masters. Their bloody shrouds it will not disturb by one reproachful word. Kind and considerate Tribune.

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