thumbnail of American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with historian Paul Finkelman, 2 of 5
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fire way to squeeze in a stimulating so we're talking about the world is the world around engineers sure is there's really no sense of democracy the great problem of kansas is the majority of the people who live there by the time brown gets there are from the north and they do not want slavery the national government in washington once slavery and the national government appoints territorial governor's you were trying to impose slavery on a majority of doesn't want it that's one piece of that the other problem is that a state legislature the other problem is that the territorial legislature is elected by rigged elections with thousands of people coming from missouri to
vote for pro slavery legislators who passed laws that are repressive to free speech freedom of expression and really make it a crime to be opposed to slavery so john browne comes to a place where by definition he's a criminal he's a traitor because the law say he cannot publicly oppose slavery but of course northerners are moving to kansas some simply cause it's good land and it's cheap others because no one who oppose slavery many for both reasons this is a violent place and this is very violent kansas is the frontier and more than that it's made violent by the fight over slavery and the fact that thousands of missourians who live in missouri where they have farmers where they have weapons crossing to kansas to terrorize the free state settlers
so wherever brown goes he is facing the possibility that he might be attacked that he might be killed we remember the pot a lot in the killings were brown is responsible for the death of five pro slavery settlers but before apollo enemy at least six free state settlers have been gunned down by missourians and the law had done nothing about that no people who shot three settlers were ever arrested were ever tried to the lawyers all stacked against three state senators he is or from for free state senators are being killed or being harassed right near john brown says settlement on the pot when the creek are some pro slavery people who brag about how they're going to kill all the free state people how they're going to push them away and tears tack on lawrence which is the most famous example in literally over a thousand missourians come charging across the border on
horseback shooting off their rifles drinking their whiskey at the same time a real dangers band of people ryan to lawrence kansas learn much of the town destroy the printing presses which of course is one of the big focuses of the anti slavery movement people in the east and in the north are most paul probably the first thing these missourians do is go after the printing presses they also break into the tavern and steal all the whiskey they burned part of the town the federal government does nothing the army is not there to protect a free state settlers even though they're in the majority and so the free state senators have to protect themselves they have to defend themselves and because this is really a civil war and brown walks right into middle of the civil war it's a location or they're only been five or six deaths by the time brown gets there but clearly the threats are there the violence is there and the government is in the hands of the minority pro slavery southerners
that's just one piece of his neighbors worry and that ultimately these are not innocent people just one state that one who worries that is how god i assume he'll he'll give the name so sure brown's name brand cup ottawa to me is mostly a free state sen settlement but there are some pro slavery people there who are elected to the pro slavery legislature who passed laws to prohibit people like brown from speaking out against slavery and we're constantly throwing their weight around asserting that they're going to shoot people that they're willing to kill people they threaten people it gave many of these people would be arrested simply for threatening to kill people all the time and these are john brown's neighbors they're not innocent aisle when john brown drake is one of the men out of the scabbard his wife says he hasn't officially shut up and not talked so much we wouldn't be in this
mess and they understand what they're about and they're involved in a civil war ok what happens a lot and is pretty gruesome brown's men and then chile killed with broadswords five pro slavery settlers too late twentieth century ears and eyes it's pretty horrified what's interesting is is that almost no one ever talks about the free state people who've already been murdered in kansas and almost no one talks about the three people are murdered every policy no one talks very much about the sacking of lawrence kansas we focus on the brown killings perhaps because he use swords rather than guns perhaps because it seems more bloody let me explain the least two theories of using the swords one is if you use a sword simply disable what's
this may seem silly to us but this is a time when brown and his men are financing their own defense and every bullet counts everybody's expensive later on into firefights some of his men ran out of ammunition swords are handy they're cheap and of course you don't waste bullets secondly shooting a bullet off in the middle of the night on the kansas prairie is likely to cause alarm the brown dollars shoe one gun in this killing spree and pot a lot of me but one by flu shot or one pistol shot is not going to arouse the neighborhood a whole bunch of them what have so in terms of strategy what had in terms of tactics on the kansas prairie said night using sorts makes a great deal of sense you're hitchhiking
another question always comes up is brown and a killer is your homicidal maniac i don't think so i i think he's a man who is involved in a civil war he has a job to do but two things have just occurred and one is that senator charles sumner the summer has been and it has seen olympians so ok ok let me get a different take people always wonder is john brennan and killers a homicidal maniac it had been a homicidal maniac he would have killed all of the pro slavery sellers he would've killed that women he would've killed the children it is going after a particular men who've been involved in pro slavery activities who have been threatening their neighbors who are dangerous to the very survival of the free state settlers in the area and in fact i think john brown probably correctly
sees that this is a situation that is very moved quickly moving towards kill or be killed his neighbors have been threatening him for a while if this sacking of lords he feels he better act because if they can get away with a second large which they have done they're already six three soldiers killed in kansas his neighbors may think well they can get away with a wiping out the browns so the browns strike first it's a preemptive assault in what is already a civil war in the area where people have already been shot people been shot at and people will continue to be shot at don't think after time in your brain cell research unit says that was easy you know ok i know the thing
about pot a lot of mean it's interesting is that after the parents even the northerners who were disgusted by what he did think he's a hero he is the main is taking action he's saving the community against the slave owners who were threatening the community so you only have to seep ottawa to me in the context of the fighting in kansas and that brown is the guy who's taking action a number of his neighbors you'd think that it was wrong the killings without the necessary at that moment don't condemn brown along and on the chew which one another runaway way okay it really let me just give you what i think the other thing that happens is brown you're right right potter water me is the beginning of the making of the myth of john brown tide james read beth a scottish newsman comes to brown's camp again begins to ride with brown
excuse me discusses the year james brad radke at the scottish news ok james read at the scottish newspaper man comes to brown's can't use lead to this wildly shoot looters but they're on tape and james redd here i scottish newspaper man comes to john brown he's led it in the camp blindfolded going round and round through the trees in the woods so he doesn't know where he is it's all very secret and of course this excites rebecca great deal because it's very dramatic and red beard begins to write back to the east about john brown john brown begins to get headlines new york a couple of weeks after potter wanna meet there's actually a broadway play colossal army brown which is on broadway a couple weeks after pot a wannabe a play opens on broadway called asa wannabe brown which exonerates brown for the killings of ottawa i mean blames his enemies and
this i think is the is that the post potter wannabe brown we seeing mubarak on a brown who begins to understand the value of propaganda of public relations i read it in a sense becomes his official spokesman and so he has a very good journalist who's out there writing stories glorifying brown and brown becomes bigger than brown he becomes bigger than life is after potter why media people begin to talk about browns being a big man even though he's only five nine and so a poem is really a turning point in this respect and read beth showing up is part of the turning point there are two brown plays after the first us ahwahnee brown opens up and brown is becoming a key role in the east he says why old aida rugby and toff man fighting for freedom against the misery rafi and said it's a very dramatic very charismatic thing to be
doing that's for these phones says this year's drought has tried to say i will do what i need to throw word something if you want until brown comes along anti slavery people northerners had pushed around by what seemed to be a violent south southerners were always challenging people to jules and congress southerners carried weapons into congress' southerners beat up charles sumner caning him until it passes out on the floor of the senate and then background bursts upon the scene in kansas and suddenly there's a northerner who fights back now this goes against the pacifist wing of the abolitionist like william lloyd garrison would not even own gear since followers are pacifists wendell phillips had never been a pacifist and of course people like frederick douglass understood that you had to be armed to defend yourself against slave owners there'd
been some violence in the north in the sense of the fugitive slave rescue a mob rescues a slave in syracuse another one in boston i've heard even been one fugitive slave who killed his master in christiana pennsylvania but brown is different brown is a leader brown is a man of action abolition had been people of words until brown comes along and suddenly they have a man of action man of the answer to the chivalrous enough to be in quotation marks southerners who are always brandishing their weapons and always being tough northerners now have somebody they can follow who stands up and fights back we might note by the way on the eve of the civil war that mothers talk about john brown in the context of their own suns elizabeth cady stanton says she's ready to see her five sons go off to war in the spirit of john brown on the eve of the civil war and that becomes a symbol for the generation
and in that sense it's very important because he's really laying the groundwork for the civil war from the northern side the troops go off to war marching john brown's bodies are mouldering in a grave says a lot about the way john brown has an impact on northern sensibilities too much to its lowest pace that account for the occasion and politically off on hand ok with this sure from fbi and you may you may get other people to err err it may be able to use better than me but i'll talk about a case he doesn't you know in any aching fifties congress as a violent place the detaining of charles sumner is one example summer gives a speech attacking senator bottler of south carolina and the next day when some are sitting at his desk over son in law congressman comes up and starts beating him with a cane while he's doing
this and other southern congressman pulls out a pistol and holds off anybody from rescuing summer helping of summer passes out all bloody by the way brown later read somewhere in boston and asks to see the coat and actually touched the blood drive and some risk obviously these are holy relics and this is part of the the myth making of the time during the aching fifties congressman and senators are carrying guns to the floor of congress last year during the aching fifties representatives and senators are carrying their weapons to congress there are constant threats of jewels always southerners challenging orders to do those northerners you almost always refusing saying we don't rule that's barbaric finally a bluff then wade was this big six foot the frontiers led from ohio who got out ohio and was just trees except to challenge and says i get to name my weapons right and the southerner says yes he says they will do squirrel rifles at ten paces and immediately the
duelist stopped and allegedly there are no more dr threats of dueling after that but brown as part of this ground as part of the others in increasing violence in america and in congress brown is doing in kansas what is in fact going on in congress at a lower level the petition as bell we i'm sure hear it has this you know ok and just to the ascendency of oysters
cities senators and representatives carry guns to congress there were threats of tools charles sumner was beaten up on the floor of the senate it was a pretty wild time and this is reflective of the nation moved into civil war and the story as well picture it gives out there i go okay i guess someone said at the time feel integrated the in the fifties people were carrying weapons to congress or someone said that the only reason you didn't carry a gun and a knife to congress was if you carry two pistols to congress it was that kind of situation and there were real threats of violence on the floor of the house of representatives are on the senate either country was moving to civil war and in retrospect of course we see this at the time people didn't realize just how violent the nation was
becoming now i want to do is buy time that jim brown and kansas were going ok the nea can fifties people were carrying weapons to congress and so if people are in the aching fifties representatives and senators were carrying weapons to congress so that john brown is out in kansas fighting and swinging swords he is in a sense not much different than the political leaders of the country the country is beginning to unravel the country is like a train without a engineer going downhill towards a violent disaster and brown while he's part of the cause of the violent disaster was part of pushing the country further towards violence he's like throwing calls on the fire of this train to keep going faster nevertheless he's also simply part of the times and it's a time where we are moving towards a
violent confrontation over slavery we do it for five times a year right yeah sure it's the feel a sense that this is you know what kind of time you just how violent displaced colin says the browns he's not that different though when we're that sure sure yet
at sixty five six free state senator killed in kansas by the end of eighteen fifty six the casualty toll is up around two hundred this is a very violent place people who have never before carry firearms except to go hunting now regularly sleep with a gun next to their pillow they sleep with their rifle hand they walk around carrying weapons on both sides and brown is simply part of a very violent world how brown is not the first person to shed blood and he's not the last person to shed blood in kansas he's just the most famous man to shed blood in kansas it is brown is a master of evasion and pot wanted me as an example of this brown never says i did it he says i approved of it he says i knew it was going to have a new light brown never
says i did it at potter wanted me only says i approved of it the best historical analysis is that brown was there he ordered the killings but he didn't do any of the killings people in the east you don't know about this or don't believe that brown did it the play on broadway ocelot i'm a brown blames brown's enemies for the killings i wanted to frame up to try and get the sainted john brown and already had the backup on that on the big people people in the east don't believe that john brown did the pot want the killings the play on broadway ocelot me brown blames brown's enemies for trying to just dispersion people in the east who are the people in the east don't believe the ground is responsible for the killings of ottawa to me the play on broadway us a wannabe brown blames brown's enemies forty percent of these enemies are trying to do essentially his enemies are trying to
discourage john brown's good name brown himself never admits to the killings he always says i was severe or approved of it the fact is he ordered and most historians believe that he ordered a total probably did not do the killings himself forty five degrees yeah yeah well he sees himself as always moving towards a greater truth and as long as he's headed towards the greater truth he is less concerned about the lesser troops along the way so i i think it's easy for brown to be a basic he will not admit to potter wanted me he says i approved of it doesn't say i
ordered it although he probably did in other instances in his life and his business dealings he doesn't lie to people but he's not a hundred percent honest about what he's trying to do when he's raising money for kansas ostensibly but actually for harpers ferry he doesn't tell people what he's really doing is it basically doesn't come out ally he just doesn't give the truth and for brown i think this is acceptable because brown's sees his ultimate goal is making war and slavery and everything is simply a step to let go and so he's perfectly willing to go along with leading people on because he knows that they want to end slavery and he really doesn't believe he can tell them what he's doing at one point by the way when he's called on this at a meeting and people say how are you going to movies comes to kansas what are you going to do he says i am the only one who knows what i'm going to do except perhaps one other which is an implication that his son knows but i'm not telling you just have
to trust me and that meeting like others thoughts to trust him because he mesmerize as people and because he could mesmerize people he is able to evade being pinned down on what exactly he's going to do is also i think they certainly occur there's a certain extent to which is northern supporters don't want to know what he's doing they don't want to know what happened why me they don't want to have to confront the fact that brown may have been involved in something pretty bloody apollo enemy they don't wanna know where he's going with their money and their guns they're just thrilled to have this charismatic guy and they're drawing rooms and in their sit in rooms and in their speakers walls they're willing to give him money and let him go its own way and i ask too many questions he said he's a plotter thought well is in is not very flexible outlet that same persistent
interesting and he says really don't know was there a similar huge stretches ok and i decide to size are like this at night you wanna get me and those are all take help from anybody part of brown's charisma is the fact that he is so absolutely get certain it is right about everything and so he is stubbornness and part becomes his charisma he can walk into room excuse me brown can walk into a room and looked people square in the eye with his piercing eyes and tell them that he knows what he's doing trust me i'm going to get it right i'm going to do what needs to be done and people dont ask questions and so he's very stubborn us his very unwillingness to see new wants his inability to see danger you can is what works for him it works for him and
Series
American Experience
Episode
John Brown's Holy War
Raw Footage
Interview with historian Paul Finkelman, 2 of 5
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/15-mg7fq9r73r
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Description
Martyr, madman, murderer, hero: John Brown remains one of history's most controversial and misunderstood figures. In the 1850s, he and his ragtag guerrilla group embarked on a righteous crusade against slavery that was based on religious faith -- yet carried out with shocking violence. His execution at Harpers Ferry sparked a chain of events that led to the Civil War. Finkelman talks about Kansas - law against free - state settlers, Kansas - free - state settlers being killed, Kansas - low - key civil war, Targets dangerous, pro - slavery men, Redpath, "Osawatomi Brown" , Hero - becoming a hero in the East, Hero - FIGHTS South who beat up Sumner, Hero - Brown a man of action, Sumner - story of caning, Kansas 1855 - very violent, Pottawatomie, Brown evasive, headed to greater truth, Lying - willing to lead people on, Boston - don't want to know, give money, Personality - charisma, stubbornness works for him
Topics
Biography
History
Race and Ethnicity
Subjects
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition
Rights
(c) 2000-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
Media type
Moving Image
Duration
0:27:58
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Release Agent: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
WGBH
Identifier: Barcode173903_Finkelman_02_SALES_ASP_h264 Amex.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 0:27:58
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Citations
Chicago: “American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with historian Paul Finkelman, 2 of 5,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 16, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-mg7fq9r73r.
MLA: “American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with historian Paul Finkelman, 2 of 5.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 16, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-mg7fq9r73r>.
APA: American Experience; John Brown's Holy War; Interview with historian Paul Finkelman, 2 of 5. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-mg7fq9r73r