Skip to main content

tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  February 21, 2016 8:00am-9:21am EST

8:00 am
>> historian dennis frye describes the reaction of both southerners and northerners in the wake of abolitionist john brown's 1859 raid on harper's ferry, and his resulting execution. using quotes from period newspapers and letters, mr. frye sets the stage for the nations divided sentiments are ahead of 1860 which was won by abraham lincoln. his talk was hosted by shepherd university. it is about one hour, 20 minutes. host: good evening. thank you very much for coming to the last installment before christmas. it has been a great success. shepherd university is ending on a high note and we have a
8:01 am
further surprise in the form of tonight's speaker. a person who many of you probably know quite well. dennis frye is the chief historian of the harpers ferry historic park. this is a homecoming of sorts. he graduated with a ba in history. we are extremely excited to have him back here this evening. he has had a very long, very, and prestigious career. if i were to recite his entire cv, we would be here until 7:00 this evening. this will be a shortened version of his accomplishments. he is a writer, a lecturer, a guide, and a preservationist. he is a prominent civil war historian. he has had numerous appearances on pbs, the history channel, the discovery channel, and a&e as a
8:02 am
guest historian and he helped produce and the award-winning winning programs such as, abolitionists john brown and marilyn during the civil war. he is also a leading civil war battlefield preservationist. he is cofounder and first president of the save historic antietam foundation and he is cofounder and former president of today's civil war trust. from whom he received the trust's highest honor, the shelby award. he has also earned the prestigious award for his lifetime achievement in the civil war community. he is a tour guide in great demand, leading tours for organizations such as the smithsonian, national geographic, numerous colleges and universities and civil war roundtables. he is also a well-known author.
8:03 am
he has published remarkably 95 articles and nine books. "harper's ferry under fire," received the national book award from the association for partners of public lands and "lincoln's union in peril" was awarded the 2012 book price for distinguished scholarship in writing on the military and political history of the war. he has written for civil war magazines such as civil war times illustrated, america's civil war, lou and green magazine, north and south magazine and hallowed ground. he has also served as a guest contributor to the washington post. he resides nearby at the antietam battlefield where he and his wife sylvia have restored the home that was used by general burnside as his post antietam headquarters.
8:04 am
it gives me tremendous pleasure to welcome this evening, dennis frye. [applause] mr. frye: it is a great pleasure to return here to shepherd. when he is talking about decades, plural, i was not even finished my second decade when i started here as a 17-year-old. and it was 40 years ago, 1975. 40 years ago that i began here. i was reminiscing earlier this afternoon as i was sitting here at the school -- we had a great football team then, we did not go undefeated but we had a great team. we had an excellent basketball team. one year i was here we went 33-3, when of the best college one of the best college records in the united states. we had great academic professors here at the time, one reason why
8:05 am
i selected shepherd. i am a homegrown boy. i live just across the river in washington county. i grew up only a few miles from the antietam battlefield in harper's ferry and when i was a young man and would play war, quotation marks, as most kids do at some point, i would play war at the real fortifications that were built by the union army in 1962 and 1963. we did not have to build our forts, they did it for us 100 hundred years earlier. shepherd university has always been special to me and it is great to return here this evening. to be here in the senator byrd center. i knew senator birdwell. -- byrd well. i did a number of doors for him. senator byrd became a big ally in us helping to preserve civil war battlefields, not only at the national level but also
8:06 am
specifically here in jefferson county and harpers ferry. really a great honor to be here at shepherd university, i -- my home school. i am so thankful that 40 years ago, i was taking finals and i have not had to take finals in 36 years. [laughter] mr. frye: it is really good to be back in this prestigious byrd center sharing with you about this story that happened right here. this title of the program is very interesting. did john brown elect lincoln? i want you to think about that for a moment. did john brown elect abraham lincoln? of course, the first thing that would come to mind is -- how could that be? brown is dead. he cannot vote. how could he possibly have anything to do with the election of 1860?
8:07 am
before we finish this evening i think you will see that john brown, the ghost of john brown, the memory of brown, was very influential in what happened in that election. that watershed election in american history that ultimately gave us america's greatest president. a few days ago, december the second, december the second, three days ago, 156 years ago, here in jefferson county, something very important happened. a hanging. an execution. you here in shepherdstown would have known about the execution. everyone knew about it.
8:08 am
because john brown was climbing the scaffold. to be executed in charlestown, less than 10 miles down the road. in your county seat. it was not a public execution. you would not be invited. in fact, you would not be invited because you are under martial law. yes, you live here, yes this is your home, but right now, jefferson county is occupied. occupied. by more than 2000 soldiers. which is about -- more than the population of your town. what was it jim in 1860, roughly? 1200. you have 2000 people here in uniform who were here to defend you and protect you. from your perspective, you have just experienced an attack. an assault. on the people of jefferson county, the people of shepherdstown, the people of charlestown.
8:09 am
the event happened in harper's ferry -- harper's ferry. it goes beyond the boundaries of jefferson county. this assault, or the word that the people of jefferson county are using and the word that is being used throughout virginia and the rest of the south -- you have been invaded. this was an invasion. it was not a simple assault or attack, it was an invasion. over the last several months, you have been here in this community, in a constant state of fear.
8:10 am
fearful to go out at night. fearful to walk down the street. fearful to leave the community you are familiar with. you are totally afraid of any stranger, anyone you do not know is here for dubious reasons. and is here to harm you. this community has been gripped by paranoia. you have every reason to fear this fear. because your neighbors, the militia here from shepherdstown, most of them have been gone now for almost two weeks. you have not seen them. the young men, your neighbors who are serving as a militia unit to protect you and defend you -- they have been here in jefferson county along the border between maryland and virginia.
8:11 am
they have been in harpers ferry and shepherdstown -- they have been witnesses of the execution which took place a couple of days ago. even with that execution, and now brown is dead, you do not feel any safer. you do not feel any more secure. you have discovered that you are on the border of what appears to be a war. what appears to be a war that has been launched against you with you as the target. what is interesting about this war is that the outsiders are americans. they are us. they are who we are.
8:12 am
yes -- you have been attacked by fellow americans. 156 years ago. what i want to do this evening is something i almost never do. i almost never used notes. we have friends here from c-span this evening and as we were getting set up, i asked them if i could move around a little bit because i do not like to stand behind a lectern. that is not my style. that is not how i like to give a presentation. what is important about tonight is that i want you to hear what is not my words or my words but their words. what were they saying.
8:13 am
what they are saying is much more powerful, more meaningful, more dramatic, and traumatic than anything i could say. and so, to help us understand what their words will be, in your mind for a moment, think about your own words silently, consider your own words, that would describe how you feel about our current situation. in 2015. and the events which happen to us here in our country.
8:14 am
by other americans. only a few days ago, december 2 i think. what is coming to mind are words, but you know what is really coming to mind are not words but emotions. what is coming to mind is what you are feeling. what are we feeling? that is what i want to share with you this evening is what were they feeling. i cannot tell you what they are feeling because i was not there. none of us can go to 1859 and say -- this is what they felt. feeling must be experienced. you must be part of it. it cannot be informed, it cannot be told, you must be a participant to feel. and so, over the next few minutes, i would like to share with you what they left the hind -- behind for us that is their feelings. about john brown. i think it is appropriate to begin with the president.
8:15 am
of the united states. a former president, one who you probably would have voted for if you could as a male citizen, with voting property here in virginia and white. in the 1840's. john tyler of tidewater, virginia. tyler had been keeping careful watch on what had happened here in harper's ferry. as brown had been imprisoned in charlestown, was about to go on trial, it is possible that one of your neighbors would have been in the courtroom on the jury that is going to be trying john brown. tyler had this to say about the situation -- these words are feelings. they also have relevance to what you may be feeling in 2015.
8:16 am
former president tyler -- virginia, he is referring to you as virginians and the state, virginia, is arming to the teeth, more than 50,000 stands of arms already distributed and the demand for more weapons daily increasing. succession as voices as you might expect, delighted in john brown's attack at harpers ferry. the leading voices of secession, had this to say, with respect to brown and the cause of his union. there is no more piece for the south in this union.
8:17 am
and the richmond inquirer, a newspaper that would have circulated in these parts, noted less joyfully that brown's raid at harpers ferry -- and as might be expected, a fellow virginian of yours you would be familiar with, at been rough and rejoiced in brown's outrageous moves because they would stir the sluggish blood of jefferson county elected, the officials would have known this man well. outh. when the virginia delegation would come together in richmond and meet in the building there in richmond, the capital building that thomas jefferson had designed.
8:18 am
they would all hear this speech. you would read it. these are some of the most famous words that describe the attitude of virginians in the immediate aftermath of the assault here on you in jefferson county and harpers ferry. i will share these words with passion because i think if you share them, you cannot say them without. these are words of anger, these are words of -- that represent violation, these are words that are defensive, and these are words of action. you are not going to stand for this. you're not. these words describe how most of you would feel, coming from an
8:19 am
elected official. you will recognize the name because a few years later, he would become a very famous confederate general. these words would echo off the walls of a rotunda in the virginia capital. virginia -- will stand forth as one man in its face of fanaticism. whenever you advance a hostile. on our soil, we will welcome you with bloody hands and hospitable graves. james l kemper, confederate brigadier, the charge in july 3, 1863. those are words, not to be heard, but to be felt. none of you should be surprised by this southern outpouring of
8:20 am
outrage. a petersburg virginia newspaper called the express would refer to brown and his men as the fruit of satanic doctrine. implicated by the rapid and unprincipled teachers of the garrison and seward school, all of whom were top-ranked republicans at the time. john tyler, former president, fellow virginian, summed up well the response to john brown when he would state -- but one sentiment pervades the country, security. for the whole union or separation. let us move from south of the potomac to the north. you might expect a certain reaction in the north because we have been taught that this is where brown hails from, this is where his support was from and
8:21 am
this is where his fellow abolitionists reside. but the initial reaction to john brown was not pleasant and was not supportive. we view the actions of brown and his associates as none other than as bloody murderers. right the new york carroll, the chicago tribune out in the midwest, lincoln country would write that brown and his men were a band of fanatics, guilty of the most incomprehensible stupidity. folly. unpardonable criminality. and then the tribune to conclude would write this dark mad enterprise was the product of addled brains. another chicago newspaper, very concerned about the impact of brown on the fledgling republican party and the reputation of the republicans had this to say -- the old
8:22 am
idiot. the quicker they hang him and get him out of the way, the better. that might surprise you. this is not what we would expect from the north. this is what you may expect the northern reaction to be. let us start with ralph waldo emerson from his home in concord, massachusetts. west of boston. emerson new brown personally. he had hosted him. emerson did not see brown in the same way that the new york carol and the chicago tribune did. he would write that john brown is a pure idealist of artless goodness. louisa may alcott, his neighbor, a younger protege of emerson also knew john brown. she and her father had also dined with him. she would write that john brown
8:23 am
is -- saint john the just. william lloyd garrison, a name familiar to you as the quintessential abolitionist, compared his effort at revolution at harpers ferry with that of the fight for independence, american independence from the british. he would proclaim -- john brown is justified in his attempt. washington was not his. wendell phillips, an outspoken minister in boston, also alluded to the revolution of 1776 when he preached that -- harpers
8:24 am
ferry is the lexington of today. perhaps, henry david arose summarized best, new england's intellectual thought on john brown when he would state that john brown was the best news america has ever heard. what is going on here? all of these people are americans. they do not see john brown the same way. they do not react to brown in the same manner. they have attitudes, thoughts that are extreme, but there seems to be no compromise. what is happening to us? as a nation? as a people? what is going on here? in 1859. i will not dwell on brown and his biography.
8:25 am
i think it is only important to note that he is a lifelong abolitionist, he is 59 years on, he has moved from place to place. he had been involved in many different businesses. he has not succeeded as a businessman but he has succeeded as a fighter. he has succeeded as a warrior. and he has as his foundation, a belief that god has chosen him, john brown, that his purpose, his destiny had been determined by god in that he is an instrument of god, placed here in our country, our nation, for the purpose of ridding this land
8:26 am
of what he considers its greatest evil, slavery. and brown is tired of talk. he is tired of no action by politicians. he is tired of policy. he is tired of supreme court that in 1857 and the dred scott decision determines that a slave is a slave is a slave and is property forever, anywhere. regardless of law passed otherwise. brown believes that his nation has failed him. at the nation has not been true to the principles of the declaration of independence and that it has violated the
8:27 am
constitution of the united states of the people. brown feels frustration. desperation. hopelessness. what makes him most different from any other abolitionist is that john brown is willing to use violence. to bring about the end of slavery. not persuasive. that has not seemed to work. violence. his violence is justified in his mind and in his heart and in his soul because he has a special connection and a special direction from god. i think we can best summarize john brown with just a few words.
8:28 am
these are words of passion. these are words that are included in his provisional constitution, a provisional constitution of the united states created by brown and others in chatham, canada in 1858. in the preamble, it is simply stated what john brown is. and what his mission is. in this provisional constitution it says -- whereas slavery, throughout its entire existence in the united states is none other than a most barbarous, unprovoked, unjustifiable war of one portion of it citizens against another portion.
8:29 am
the only condition to wish our perpetual imprisonment, hopeless servitude, and absolute extermination. and utter disregard of the eternal and self-evident truths that were put forth in the declaration of independence. therefore, we the citizens of the united states and the oppressed people who buy the decision of the supreme court have been declared to have no right which the white man is bound to respect -- and then he continues to say -- we create this constitution to better protect our persons, property, lives and liberties and to govern our actions. that is the john brown who was inspired to come here. you know why he came. you know why he chose jefferson county. because you happen to be the home of a national defense
8:30 am
installation. the united states armory is here. a united states arsenal is here. only two hours from here. travel time in 1859. there is the united states arsenal here. only two hours from here, the travel time. there are 100,000 weapons in your backyard. brown needs weapons. harpers ferry was an easy target. you would think they would be well guarded. there were no guards. brown seizes the armory and arsenal, seizes the weapons, holds the installation. unfortunately for him, brown, word will get out quickly that harpers ferry has been taken. militia will be called into action, including the guard from shepherdstown and militia will begin to swarm towards jefferson county. thus in 12 hours after brown's raid, brown's war to end slavery commences.
8:31 am
john brown is completely surrounded at harpers ferry by your neighbors, local. militia he's trapped. can't get out. word comes to washington, the president, james you can -- buchanan looks around for the nearest regulars that he discovers the marines who are sent to baltimore and then to sandy hook. they marched to harpers ferry where they meet lieutenant colonel robert e. lee. you know the rest of the story. brown will be trapped in the fire engine house. it will be charged by the marines. brown will be captured, the hostages will be freed. brown will be brought to charlestown, placed on trial. thus in two weeks after his capture, by the 2nd of november, 1859, john brown is found guilty, two weeks, by a jury of your peers, not his.
8:32 am
found, guilty of murder treason and inciting slave insurrection, all three of which are potential death penalty crimes. brown has failed. he failed. he came to harpers ferry to commence a war he did not lead. he is an abject failure. people died. the mayor of the town was killed. other citizens were killed, people were wounded. brown's army was decimated. he was an abject failure. brown himself believes it is -- but
8:33 am
i think the interesting thing about brown is, he did not die at harpers ferry. that sword blade that marine thrust in him did not penetrate the body but bounced off. most of you know the story. the blade, the marine who strike him, that was a kill thrust. was not designed to put him out of commission. it was designed to kill him. but when the blade came forward, it struck a breastplate or belt buckle and it bounced off his body. john brown will tell you that was the hand of god.
8:34 am
in the courtroom, virginia treated brown well. virginia wanted the world to know that virginians were not barbarians, but brown was. brown used this to his advantage. he saw now stripped of the sword the magic and power of the word. and brown used those weeks between his sentencing and his execution, four weeks exactly, november 2 to december 2 to preach to the people of the united states and to the world against the evils of slavery. he became a very competent man. as a prisoner. in fact, he would write a letter to his wife, and i quote "i have been whipped as the saying is but i am sure i can recover all the lost capital occasioned by my disaster by only hanging a few minutes by my neck." virginians were warned by some not to execute brown. they might say, why not?
8:35 am
i mean, certainly in jefferson county, it did not take you, the peers, long to determine he was guilty. why would you not execute him for three capital offenses? murder, treason, and inciting rebellion. the "new york journal of commerce" the predecessor of "the wall street journal," had this to say and was asking virginians to consider. "to hang a fanatic is to make a martyr of him. better to put these creatures into the penitentiary than so make of them miserable -- and so make of them miserable felons." in a graphic warning to the south, the editor of "the new york journal of commerce" had
8:36 am
this simple sentence. "monsters are hydra-headed and decapitulation of the monster only quickens its vitality and its powers of reproduction." but despite these warnings against executing brown, judge richard parker of winchester, presiding judge at circuit court in jefferson county, determined the best response to john brown is the noose. brown will be given a decision on november 2, and will be asked if he has anything to say to the court. he was not prepared to do so. he was still suffering from his wounds. he had spent his entire trial reclining on a cot in pain with bandages but he did get enough strength to stand with some assistance and addressed the court.
8:37 am
it was a five minute oration. is it is considered to be one of the most famous text him for a nearest presentations in american history. i am not going to give you five minutes. i'm going to give you a couple of sentences that will give you the tone of what john brown had to say. keep in mind, that at this time, in that courtroom, which is packed, not by people like you. you are not allowed to be there. but there are reporters, journalists from newspapers all across the nation, north, south, west, midwest, who are recording live the words of brown to telegraph to their hometown papers. so, these words go national for all americans to read. it is addressed to the court.
8:38 am
brown would say, " i never did intend murder or treason or the destruction of property or incite slave rebellion or to make insurrection, had i so interfered on behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called "great," or behalf of any of their friends, it would have been all right. i believe that you have interfered as i have done, as i have always freely admitted i have done on behalf of his despised poor is no wrong but right."
8:39 am
as one northerner wrote," john brown has become a conquering prisoner of charlestown's jail." december 2, 1859, was a day like today, cool, comfortable, no breeze, sunshine, heavy frost in the morning. almost identical to today. at 11:30 a.m. on december 2, is when the execution is scheduled to occur. before that the jailer will place the hood over brown's head, he will be brought to the scaffold, the rope will be adjusted, and the ax will sever the rope and brown will fall to the trap door. -- through the trap door.
8:40 am
it is quiet. you hear nothing. there are 2000 virginians, soldiers in a square formation surrounding that scaffold with their rifles loaded and artillery holding every road, every avenue entering charlestown. and it's quiet. but soon as brown falls through the trap door, there would be one voice that would rise that morning over the shenandoah valley. the voice of jtl preston who is the president of the virginia military institute and this is what you were here if you had been the guard there this morning, the only voice upon
8:41 am
john brown's execution, these words you would hear. "so perish all such enemies of virginia, all such enemies of the union, all such foes of the human race." john brown was dead but he did not die. just a few responses in the aftermath of the execution. our friends thoreau would write this, "these men in teaching us how to die have at the same time taught us how to live." emerson would declare brown "the saint whose death has made the gallows glories like the cross."
8:42 am
thoreau claimed that john brown no longer was ole brown anymore, but now "an angel of light." many intellectuals were in agreement with the statement. i quote," as christ had died to make men holy, john brown had died to make men free." in the south, the response can be summarized probably best with an editorial that appeared in a newspaper in savanna. the savanna daily morning news. this is how it defined brown's execution. "the notorious horse thief, murderer, insurrectionist, trader has expiated his guilt. there are thousands of white necks in new england and the
8:43 am
northern states today that are as deserving of john brown's tie as john brown himself." others viewed the northern sympathy for brown as justification for secession. let's go to one of those great voices, jefferson davis. a united states senator from mississippi who, upon brown's execution, would go onto the floor of the senate and give a speech. it is not long, it is not rambling, it is direct.
8:44 am
there's one sentence that echoes across the senate chamber. listen to these words. again, these are not words to be heard. these are words you feel. jefferson davis. "have we no right to allege that to secure our right and to protect our honor that we will desever the ties that bind us together even if it rushes us into a sea of blood." charleston mercury would announce and i quote" the day of compromise has passed. the southwest control her old nest any -- south must control her own destiny." and the richmond inquirer would
8:45 am
note, "the harper's ferry invasion has advanced the cause of this union more than any other event since the formation of our government." so, in conclusion, what is the legacy? i haven't mentioned abraham lincoln at all. what is the legacy of john brown? do you feel what these people were feeling? america in 1859, the winter of 1860, is not a nation of thoughtful people. we are a nation of people who are reacting to our feelings. we're not spending time intellectualizing about john brown. we are responding. to john brown. we are responding to an attack on us.
8:46 am
but for a reason, someone think, and a reason that is justified, some would think. and here is where asked the question -- what is brown? not who is he? what is he? what words come to mind? think for a moment. that's one opinion. yes? freedom fighter. i do not need to hear anything more. we have two people from the same community who have very different opinionse two that are on far reaches of the planet with those words. terrorist, freedom fighter. we can go on and on with the words. the word theer was agitator -- there was agitator. america was certainly agitated. the democratic party and the republican party were certainly agitated.
8:47 am
the legacy of brown went from the battlefield of harpers ferry and the courtroom of charlestown into the newspapers of the united states, and the newspapers of the united states were c-span. they were cnn. they were fox news. they were msnbc. that was the only form of mass communication in this country in 1859, were the newspapers. unlike today's newspapers who like to claim neutrality, with respect to politics, many of them, or even our various cable stations that sometimes like to say we are really neutral about this. [laughter] newspapers did not make any pretense about neutrality. newspapers were organs, the voices of political parties and everybody knew it. you knew when you read a certain
8:48 am
newspaper what political bent, what that political party was that it was representing. and so the newspapers go to war with each other, because of the war that john brown has launched. they were the voices. and they were just as loud and fierce and ferocious as voices we sometimes hear today. and there was no agreement. americans were polarized by john brown. there was no single opinion shared, unless you want to think of opinion as sectional. there were not people in the south who supported brown. perhaps for those people in the south the word terrorist would
8:49 am
be apropos. for people on the north, there are lots who supported brown. on the day have his execution, church bells would rein in his -- ring in his honor. sermons were given in his memory. newspaper editorials praised him. we're all americans. brown had so much influence on the body politics that when it came time for the parties to nominate their candidates something very important happened. we all know the republican party in 1860 is a new party. it has only been on the national ballot once, 1856. they did not win. this is the second time, the second presidential election, that a republican party is on the ballot.
8:50 am
you know the nominee, he was not the first choice. but on the third ballot to the convention lincoln becomes the nominee. the republicans nominated a conservative. abraham lincoln. a conservative. he was not seward. he was not sumner. he was not bates. these people were much, much more progressive than lincoln who was a conservative republican. but it did not make any difference. the very idea that the republicans are a national party
8:51 am
is a threat to the south, unified south and it was unified. it was all unified as democratic, but the democrats became disunited principally over the issue of union secession, protection, property and how do we ensure no more abolitionist invasion? they became so disunited, the democrats, that in the first convention interest in, south charleston, south carolina, they could not decide on a candidate, a single candidate. the one who was, whose turn it was to become their presidential candidate, stephen douglas, got no support from the south, being from illinois, being totally distrusted, disliked, the father of kansas, nebraska which had been a complete failure -- a horrible disaster. douglas got no support from the southern democrats. there would be another convention in baltimore in june of 1860 where the southerners would nominate their own democrat.
8:52 am
the current vice president of the united states, john c. breckenridge would become the southern democratic candidate. ultimately in the 1860 election we were so divided that were would be four candidates and four parties running for president. lincoln and the republicans, douglas in the northern democrats, breckenridge and a southern democrats, and then an independent party, middle-of-the-road party, that would today appeal to what we refer to as independents, which would be the constitutional union party led by a man from tennessee named john bell. four candidates. the democrats had been unified and there was no independent candidate. would lincoln have been elected? abraham lincoln received in that election 39% of the popular
8:53 am
vote. 39%. the other candidates received almost 61% of the popular vote. did john brown elect abraham lincoln? i want to finish with a few words. first the words of brown, his final words. and these become a legacy. before his execution he will write a note and tuck it away and at some point he delivers this note to the jailer.
8:54 am
it's not opened, they are busy. they of the hanging to conduct. after the execution, the jailer remembers he gave me this. and he pulls it out of his coat. and reads brown's final words in writing. this is what it said. "i, john brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood."
8:55 am
prophecy? you people here in shepherdstown prophecy better than anyone. your graveyard was small in 1859. it won't be soon very small. five miles from brown's headquarters, antietam happened. 10 miles from brown's attack, antietam happened. 16 miles from where brown is executed, antietam happened. you go to antietam this evening. see for yourself what happened. that's a legacy.
8:56 am
i, john brown, am now quite certain crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. another legacy was many of these men who put on the militia uniform in october, november, december of 1859, and onto january, february of 1860 when all of the executions were completed of other brown men, these men would put the uniform on again, wouldn't that? -- they? the guard would become part of company b, second virginia infantry which would become part of the first virginia brigade which soon to become famous as the stonewall brigade. the war was supposed to last 90 days. according to the political
8:57 am
leaders. many of those boys, many of those men, many of those neighbors, your sons, your brothers, your father's, your cousins, your nephews, they did not come home. ever. that is what john brown did to us. or did we do something else to us, that john brown was simply a reaction to what we had done? when brown was executed, a poem was written, very short, very powerful. by one of america's great writers of the 19th century. herman melville. he put a simple title on this poem. but it is a title that is very foreboding.
8:58 am
very dark. called "the portent." the portent. and as i share these very short versus with you, i would like for you to visualize the poetry, the words of the poem, not me. maybe even close your eyes as you listen to these words, because then you can see it with your eyes closed. "the portent," by herman melville. "hanging from the beam slowly swaying such the wall. gaunt the shadow on your green, shenandoah.
8:59 am
the cut is on the crown, lo john brown, and the stabs shall heal no more. hidden in the cap is the anguished none can draw. so your future veils its face, shenandoah. but the streaming beard is shown , we're john brown. the meteor of a war. the meteor of the war. in conclusion, what legacy has brown left us with today? it is obvious we still have
9:00 am
feelings about john brown. it's pretty apparent that we still get emotional when his name is mentioned. it's pretty apparent that we still get emotional when his name is mentioned. in fact, brown has continue to live in the american consciousness, the american soul, the american mind for a century and a half. i'm not sure the passion has diminished. the cause certainly ended in a war that did end. so brown ultimately was the victor. but i don't know that john brown has left any of us. perhaps john brown is still a part of every american, all 310 million of us. i do know this, 100 years after, one century later on the front page of one of the most
9:01 am
distributed weekly magazines in the world is john brown. in 1959. and isn't it interesting that some of the highest paid people that used to work in this field are not the people that wrote the articles but the people that wrote the headlines? because the headlines sold the magazine. somebody, some editor, selected john brown over a gallows. and isn't it interesting that in bright yellow it says space, missiles, but will always be second best with a very important competition with the
9:02 am
russians in the cold war, but at the bottom, in 1959, 100 years later it said, "john brown's raid, the spark still smolders." that is legacy. if you come to harpers ferry and you walk into the genre museum, museum which iwn as a historian had a great pleasure researching and seeing many of the exhibits that are there and helped to write many of those exhibits -- when you walk into the john brown museum in harpers ferry, the first thing you see is an image of brown. and then you see these words,
9:03 am
and this is a fitting introduction to john brown and also an apt conclusion of brown. these are words written by stephen vincent vennet, in his famous poem, "john brown's body." i read these when i was a freshman here at shepherd. i read them when i was in the civil war class at shepherd. dr. shaw's class. i read this couplet. it has a significant influence on my life, and when you walk into the john brown museum, those are the first words you see. the challenge to you, any visitor, challenge to me. they would write, "playing off
9:04 am
the song john's browned body like a smoldering in the grave, he would write, "you can weigh john brown's body well enough. but how? and in what balance? weigh john brown? you can weigh john brown's body well enough, but how? what balance do you weigh john brown?" it has been a great pleasure. thank you all very much. if anybody has any questions, which we are willing to entertain, all they ask is that you come here and speak into the
9:05 am
microphone because they want to record your questions, and if you have any questions, please make it a question, not a lecture. does anybody have a question? don't be bashful. don't pay any attention to the camera. now, i have never done one of these programs on john brown without a question. we are not leaving until somebody comes and asks a question. [laughter] you are all my hostages. i need a question. you do, jim. come on up here. >> i don't know if anyone is supposed to know the alleys of the election, but i was thinking of the significance of just above the mason-dixon line, how much of that vote did lincoln get? maybe stephen douglas and the others?
9:06 am
dennis frye: i anticipated your question. a little research on that in preparation for that question. a very good question dealing with what in the world were the counts? in jefferson county, you all voted for -- here in jefferson county, we voted for john bell, constitutional union party. you went right down the middle. you would represent the independent voter who does not want to be on one extreme or the other extreme, right down the middle, which is what the constitutional -- what a great title for a party. constitutional union party. that is john bell, here in jefferson county. your neighboring county, berkeley county also voted for him. loudoun county as well. park county, they voted for breckenridge as their principal
9:07 am
candidate. overall the state of virginia voted for john bell, voted for the fourth party candidate. virginia went for bell. kentucky did not even go for its own, they went for bell. john bell had a good showing. the moderate in the middle, the south moderation, tamper down all this extremism from both sides. but bell did not win the election. across the river, john bell. but maryland did not vote bell. maryland is a slave state, so breckenridge. the southern democrat was the candidate from maryland.
9:08 am
as you might expect, where did lincoln get his votes? he did not get any votes around here. in fact, in jefferson county, the vote tally for abraham lincoln is zero. [laughter] zero. so where did lincoln get his votes? new england, the mid-atlantic states, pennsylvania, new york, new jersey actually voted for douglas. douglas won in new jersey. and we moved to the west, ohio, illinois, indiana, the upper midwest went for lincoln. you know how today on the television screen the might show red and blue? you see solid blocks in the south, and a solid block in the northeast?
9:09 am
that is about right. it was very solid blocks. for lincoln, against lincoln. in the south, principally breckenridge, but virginia with the meeting electoral states, in order to have the electoral college, virginia went bell, not breckenridge. that hurt breckenridge dramatically that he did not win in virginia. the popular vote was about 60-40. lincoln got 39% and the other candidates got 61% of the popular vote. the electoral vote, which we note determines an election where the constitution, abraham lincoln had 180 electoral votes. there were a total of 303 available. you needed 152 to win.
9:10 am
and lincoln got 180, electoral votes. it was not a landslide, but it was a massive victory for lincoln with that many electoral college votes. one reason for that is the most populous states, which provide the highest number of electoral votes are in the north. new york had a massive number of electoral votes, the electoral college coming out of new york, 35 in new york. pennsylvania is second, most in the country. ohio was number three in 1860. 23 electoral votes. massachusetts 13, illinois 13 -- pardon me, indiana 13, illinois 11. the biggest state, the most populous in the south for the electoral college, -- if new york with 35, virginia had 15. 15 electoral votes.
9:11 am
the southern population smaller. a large slave population, but it did not count the same way as the free white population in the north. it was over. there was a dramatic shift that occurred in the political formula. and as a result of regionalism and sectionalism, it was not hard to see into the future that the republican party was going to be the dominant party. the democrat party was not going to win another election. hence, one reason why such fears interest in secession. the south knew they had lost the white house because of breckenridge. so, good question. i was ready for it. yes, sir? come on up.
9:12 am
>> i was wondering if you would comment on how unique john brown was. i ask that because in our nation, the number of firsts was quickly followed by the seconds, two weeks later. darwin was published because he was under pressure someone else would publish that. it was not john brown, it would have been someone else another month later? dennis frye: no, and i will tell you why. brown was unique -- not as an abolitionist, there were thousands of those. but where brown stood apart and everybody knew it, john brown was willing to go to war, start a war. kill people, if necessary to bring an end to slavery. brown believed that the real killers, murderers were those
9:13 am
people that were literally taking people's lives and freedom. so those were people that were killing the mind, the soul, freedom of choice, freedom of expression, freedom of movement. slavery for brown was like death, living death. true shackles where you could not move and had no freedom whatsoever. so for brown, violence -- he in his mind justified violence because he felt that every slave every day endured violence to the very institution of slavery. others were not willing to go there, not go there at all. frederick douglass, the leading african-american voice, a former slave himself, certainly the best known african-american in the united states north and south.
9:14 am
brown met with him in august 1859. he was already gathering followers. he had come to the kennedy farm in washington county and established that as his front. his forward position for his invasion into virginia. and so brown met with douglass in chambersburg in franken county, pennsylvania and asked him to join him. douglass said no. douglass would later write that he did not join brown because he thought that brown was walking into what douglass referred to as a perfect steel trap. but that was written after years of reflection. we don't know what douglass thought at the time. we have not discovered that yet, it may be out there. he said i will not join you. so brown was committed.
9:15 am
he was fervent, and he believed god, this was the moment. he truly believed that this was the moment that brought opportunity for best success. and john brown was absolutely committed to his firm belief that god was calling him, directing him, supporting him, and would need him wherever -- lead him wherever. he was very unique in comparison to other abolitionists. because he was willing to use violence. and he already had to use violence. violence has been utilized in kansas. kansas was a very violent place. that is where the civil war really starts.
9:16 am
and brown went out there to ensure that slaves and slaveholders were not brought into that territory, and they engaged in battle. was willing to use violence to get his -- to stress his point. he was an experienced veteran fighter. most men that came with him were experienced veteran fighters. anybody else, another question? yes, sir? jim. thank you. >> can you further elaborate on what exactly how brown started his legacy between the time of the capture of harpers ferry and his death in december? that would appeal to a great number of people and start portraying those events or it can you elaborate what his campaign was, how he was trying to actively crown more meaning in the event.
9:17 am
dennis frye: he did several. he did interviews to newspapers, newspaper writers, and virginia allowed this. they permitted this. virginians wanted to show that they were the people who maintained the law, and brown was the violator of the law. and so they did not want to shield him, keep them separate, apart. they did not want him not to be hurt. they thought every word he said gave him a bad position. and so used newspaper editors and journalists, letters that he would write. he was able to write letters without censorship.
9:18 am
the court room more ration, which was widely spread throughout north and south. the immediate interview done after his capture, he specifically said that the real criminals were not him, they were people like the governor of virginia, senator mason of virginia, congressman faulconer of virginia, and virginians that permitted slavery to exist, you are the criminals, not himself. and 24 hours after his capture, that is his report. each one of these becomes a step in the direction of making brown something other than a violent, crazed person. for those who did not want to accept him as a violent, crazed person. every word he said reinforced what he thought in a very negative way.
9:19 am
in the north, brown gained allies. he gained friends. much of this was a result of southern reaction to john brown, which northerners found outrageous. and so, brown did a good job of really carving a king of opinion, a grand canyon of opinion between north and south. there was no bridge that was ever going to span that canyon that he had just carved. did john brown want civil war? i will say there were two sentences in the last note that he wrote. the first when you already heard. the second sentence was this, and i quote, "i now vainly flatter myself that without very
9:20 am
much bloodshed is my work done." it has been a real pleasure, thank you all very much. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> this weekend, vietnam hearings from february 1966 the senate foreign relations committee chaired by fulbright gives equal time to critics of the war and members of the johnson administration and hearings that were televised live to the nation. here is a preview. 150th6 marked the anniversary of the friedmans bank. it was for newly freed slaves in


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on