Thursday, December 23, 2010

Was the Notorious John Brown of the Mid-1800’s a Terrorist? A Note to MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

December 23rd, 2010

Subsequent to viewing a few moments of MSNBC’s show “Hardball with Chris Matthews” a few days ago, wherein the host Chris Matthews and an African American guest did their best to ridicule another guest for his support of, and celebration of the anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the Union and the attack on Fort Sumter of 1861, I thought I would take a moment to blog about the further ridiculing of the guest from South Carolina for his classification of the abolitionist John Brown as a terrorist.

Before I continue, let me list my potential credentials for speaking about this subject. To begin with, as a child and long before the days of modern political correctness, I spent a significant amount of time in the Harpers Ferry and Charles Town area of what is now West Virginia. John Brown, of course, had his infamous raid in which he commandeered a U.S. Federal arsenal/armory in Harpers Ferry and then, after capture, was subsequently and quickly tried in a court of law (while on his death bed) and shortly thereafter, executed in the Charles Town area of what was then northwestern Virginia. Not only did I frequent Harpers Ferry, I often relaxed and enjoyed the scenery on the very same grounds (of what is now a national park) where the troops likely mustered in wait to take the arsenal back from Brown during his raid. Furthermore, my grandparents whom I often visited in that area, in turn had grandparents who settled and lived in the Kansas and Missouri Territories (mostly Kansas by that late a year, however) during the time of John Brown’s absurd killing sprees and shenanigans and during all the misery associated with the "Bleeding Kansas" saga. And I recall my grandparents speaking to me of the raids of Brown during the times of my great-great grandparents. As such, I became somewhat versed in the violent endeavors of John Brown. So, I believe myself reasonably qualified to speak on whether or not John Brown was a terrorist.

YES, JOHN BROWN WAS CLEARLY A TERRORIST! Mr. Matthews, if you think such a statement is laughable, as you apparently did on your show, you clearly are ignorant or are trying to rewrite history in the vein of political correctness. Most of the folks John Brown killed in the plains states were likely to be nothing more than simpleton farmers. The majority of the simpleton farmers during the slavery era were not typically slave owners – they could not afford such a luxury as slaves even if they wanted slaves, which most apparently did not want, btw. These folks were merely farmers looking to make a living and support their families, regardless of politics in Washington, DC. The folks reportedly hacked to death in Kansas by Brown's men were killed merely for their potential political viewpoints. So, in fact, the only real point to the killings by John Brown of innocents in the Kansas/Missouri areas of the “Bleeding Kansas” days of our nation’s history was for no other purpose than to intimidate and terrorize the residents of those areas into supporting Kansas’ induction into the Union as a “free state.” Such acts of intimidation are regardless of whether or not Brown viewed his actions as retaliations against pro-slavers and regardless of whether or not his idealic inspiration was just. As a point of interest, according to’s webpage on John Brown, Abraham Lincoln himself had classified John Brown as a “misguided fanatic,” which would equate to calling someone a terrorist in those days, no doubt. (This is supposedly a quote written by Frederick J. Blue in American Historical Review, April 2006, v. 111 p 481-2; but I don't want to pay to verify it. But such a quote would make sense as the Republican Lincoln would seem to want to downplay fellow Republican abolitionists' support of Brown.) Either way, quite frankly, anyone that sets out with the intention of inflicting bodily harm on others is essentially a terrorist - withstanding authorized combat or self defense, neither of which necessarily applies to Brown.

Additionally, Mr. Matthews, your guest and the entire MSNBC network, NO, THE END DOES NOT ALWAYS JUSTIFY THE MEANS. Regardless of whether one’s rationale for action is just, the means of action can still be terroristic in nature. In other words, just because John Brown sought to end the evil of slavery, he had no right to kill innocent civilians in Kansas or Missouri or anywhere else, nor did it give him the right to violently take the U.S. arsenal/armory at Harpers Ferry, [West] Virginia. (As a clear example of my logic, every account tells of the ire and zeal of the local folks in the Harpers Ferry area concerning the locals’ assistance towards the capture of John Brown. Yet with the outbreak of the civil war, these folks broke with the rest of the State of Virginia and stayed loyal to the Union thereby displaying no significant inclination to support the continuation of slavery. Nevertheless, the Harpers Ferryians obviously hated John Brown for his actions as they reportedly shot and killed one of Brown’s sons as he emerged from the engine house under a white flag to converse with the amassed crowd intent on retaking the armory [/engine house] from Brown.) If you believe that the end justified the means, will you some day be telling us that Timothy McVeigh and his fellow terrorist buddies were justified in killing innocents during the Oklahoma City bombing in which he was apparently seeking vengeance and highlighting the unlawful and extreme excesses of the Clinton administration’s absurd handling and tactics related to the Waco, Texas fiasco of the early-mid 1990’s (whereby the Clinton administration likely murdered the Branch Davidians and Dave Koresh on these people’s private property)? I think not. Because, regardless of whether or not the Clinton administration did - in fact - murder the religious zealots in Waco, such injustice gave no right to McVeigh to murder children [or anyone else] in Oklahoma City as a form of protest.

You, Mr. Matthews, and your guest, and your MSNBC network, seem to prefer to laugh at the actions of the infamous John Brown and prefer to classify such actions as not being terroristic in nature because his motivation was to end slavery and therefore all his killings and actions were apparently justified – according to your apparent outlook. Such logic and actions by Brown is surely similar to and in keeping with the logic of the creepy terrorists of our modern times, regardless of their motivations. Are the modern terrorists also not terrorists in your MSNBC world of absolute political correctness because they also believe themselves justified to kill innocent civilians? Are you to pardon the murderous actions of terrorists merely because you agree with the motivation of the terrorists?

Please be aware, Mr. Matthews and the MSNBC Network, that this was not really an easy note to write. No one wants to be ridiculed on your network. No one wants to be ridiculed for pointing out the occasional absurdities, faulty claims, and odd opinions of your network either. Nevertheless, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments about this note. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Adam Trotter / AVT

PS. I posted this note to MSNBC’s website.

See also (though remember what I’ve said about Wikipedia):
(page on “Bleeding Kansas”)