Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the term. It is true, gentlemen, that it was published in my paper; that I am sole editor and printer, and that I was at home at the time; but it is equally true that the publication was made by Elias Buel, as manager, and James Lyon, as clerk of Col. Lyon's lottery; and that, if any consequences flowed from it, both they and I rationally expected they must bear them.

If either of you, gentlemen, should publish in a newspaper, that you would reward in a pecuniary manner any person who should perform a certain business, could a person performing claim his reward of the printer? If either of you, being sufficiently responsible, should publish, with your name, anything that operated to your neighbor's injury, could an action lie against a printer?

If he could not, gentlemen, in the case stated, call on the printer for his reward, due in consequence of another person's publication, on what grounds of reason can a printer be called on in a case affecting not merely interest, but personal liberty, the dearest privilege of life, for a publication avowed by responsible men, and accompanied with their names.

But even allowing that I was the publisher of the advertisement on which I stand indicted, I believe it will be admitted by you all, gentlemen, as a principle founded on the reason and fitness of things, that no inference ought to be drawn from a passage on which a citizen is indicted, that does not clearly flow from the premises; that the plain and obvious meaning of the written or printed words, ought not in any wise to be evaded; nor any construction to be put upon it, in order to criminate the citizen, but what it will clearly and unequivocally bear, much less should any innuendo or exemplification be admitted that does not spring spontaneously from the writing itself.

With this impression, gentlemen, I must beg you to read with attention the first section of the advertisement published by Major Buel and James Lyon, as aforesaid, on which I stand indicted; I mean from the beginning to the first close or partial close of a sentence; that is, to the first semicolon. If you can do this, and on your oaths declare that Major Buel

and Mr. Lyon as publishers, of myself as their humble agent, meant to call in question the authority of the United States, and did not mean to refer to an assumption of power, and undue vigor, in the marshal and his agents, solely and exclusively, I shall acknowledge myself more deceived with respect to the general application of meaning to printed and written language, than I ever remember to have been at any former period of my life.

I am persuaded, gentlemen, that whatever may be your judgment with respect to the meaning of the clause in question, and the intention of its authors, when you attend to the evidence of Mr. Hicks, of Mr. Fitch himself, that you will be sensible that I had conceived the idea that a federal officer had usurped a power of adding to the vigor of the law, by unnecessary severity, a total failure of politeness, and ungentlemanlike behavior, and in this idea, whether true or false, I was fully confirmed by his conduct subsequent to the letter I wrote to him, relative to the sentiment of a judge of this honorable court.

JUDGE PATTERSON charged the jury that, though the statute had benignly altered the common law, in so far as to permit the truth to be given in evidence, yet, unless the justification came up to the charge, it was no defense. Here it was for the jury to determine whether the violent language applied to the marshal as descriptive of his treatment of Colonel Lyon, had been sustained by the evidence. If it had not, no defense had been made out. As to the charge against the administration of selecting Tories "who shared in the desolation of our homes," etc., no attempt at justification has been made. If the jury, therefore, believe, beyond reasonable doubt, that the intent was defamatory, and the publication was made, they must convict. Nor was it necessary that the defendant should have written the defamatory matter. If it was issued in his paper, it is enough.

The Jury, after a short deliberation, returned a verdict of guilty.

The COURT sentenced the Prisoner to a fine of two hundred dollars, and an imprisonment of two months,

THE TRIAL OF JOHN BROWN FOR TREASON AND INSURRECTION, CHARLESTOWN, VIRGINIA, 1859.

THE NARRATIVE.

The little town of Harper's Ferry lying in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, boasted a United States Arsenal and Armory as its principal attractions to tourists and visitors. In October, 1859, its peaceable citizens and the well-to-do farmers of the neighborhood no more feared an armed invasion than does the quietest and sleepiest New England village today.1 But entirely unsuspected by them, a farm a few miles distant which had been rented three months before by a man calling himself Isaac Smith, was the meeting place of a band of northern Abolitionists who had already made themselves notorious in the Kansas and Missouri struggle. No one thought that the gray headed farmer and his sons had any other disposition than stock raising and farming. But here its members assembled and to it munitions of war, contributed by northern supporters, were being carried. And in the early morning of Sunday, October 16, 1859, their leader, John Brown,2

1 Villard, p. 430.

2 BROWN, JOHN. (1800-1859.) Born Torrington, Conn., his ancestors on both sides having served in the Revolutionary war. His father moved to Ohio in 1805 and engaged in farming and cattle raising. Young Brown grew up on the farm and from fifteen to twenty worked at the tanners' trade, and afterwards as a cattle raiser and wool dealer. In 1840 he engaged as a surveyor in the neighborhood of Harper's Ferry, Va., thus acquiring knowledge of that country and perhaps there hearing the remark which had been attributed to George Washington, that the mountains around Harper's Ferry would serve as a stronghold for the Continental Army in the event it were repulsed by the English. Subsequently, Brown expressed the opinion that these same mountains were designed by the Almighty as a refuge for the fugitive slaves. In 1845 he en

led his men down the mountains and crossed the river into Virginia.3

(1) Brown's reasons for choosing Harper's Ferry were: the presence of a large slave population, (2) the proximity of

gaged in the manufacture of wines on a considerable scale. In 1846 Gerrit Smith, a great land owner of New York, set aside 120,000 acres of his large estate in New York to be given to "worthy colored people," who would clear and cultivate it, and Brown made a proposal which was accepted, to settle himself on the land and aid the negroes in their efforts to acquire homes. He was given a piece of land at North Elba upon which he moved with his family, and which he ever afterwards regarded as his home.

Shortly after locating in New York Brown became very hostile to all slave owners. He denounced slavery in language fierce and bitter, declaring that slave holders had forfeited their right to live, and that the slaves had the right to resort to any means to rid themselves of their masters and gain their liberty. In 1854 five of Brown's sons moved to Kansas, attracted by the double inducement of finding desirable homes and of lending their aid to the effort to make Kansas a free State. In 1855, John Brown himself went to Kansas and played no small part in the stirring scenes which occurred in that State.

During this time Brown's idea as to the best method by which to accomplish his object materially changed. As early as 1847 he had consulted with Frederick Douglass and secured his approval of a scheme for transporting fugitive slaves into a free country, and protecting them until such transportation could be accomplished. In August, 1859, he had a meeting with Douglass, to whom he told of his Harper's Ferry scheme: "Through Harry Watson, a colored Chambersburg agent of the Underground Railroad, of great service at this time, Douglass soon found the appointed rendezvous, in an old stone quarry, and here Douglass, Shields Green, Kagi and Brown sat down to talk over the enterprise. The colored orator vehemently opposed the taking of the arsenal, when that plan was unfolded to him, and, according to his own story, characterized it as assuredly fatal to all engaged. 'It would be an attack upon the federal government, and would array the whole country against us. I told him. that all his arguments, and all his descriptions of the place, convinced me that he was going into a perfect steel trap, and that once in he would never get out alive.' Finally, Douglass said that, as the plan was so completely changed, he should return home, and turning to Shields Green, a negro he had brought from Rochester with him, asked him what he should do. Shields Green promptly answered, 'I b'lieve I'll go wid de ole man.' Brown could not conceal his disappointment at Douglass' defection. 'I will defend you with my life,' he said. 'I want you for a special purpose. When I strike the bees will begin to swarm, and I

the Blue Ridge range of mountains, where in their rocky recesses and along their densely wooded slopes, he would be comparatively safe from pursuit and better able to protect himself from attack; (3) the location at Harper's Ferry of the

shall want you to help me hive them.' Douglass' withdrawal subjected him to considerable criticism, not only for his change of mind, but because of the way he withdrew and of what he afterwards said and wrote about the raid." Villard, p. 412.

John Brown now made up his mind that the way to free the slaves was by force. Several of his northern friends, notably Gerrit Smith of New York, gave him money to buy arms, and in June, 1859, Brown and two of his sons rented a farm in the neighborhood of Harper's Ferry, under the name of Smith. His supporters to the number of twenty-two had collected there, part of a regular organization made at a convention of negro spmpathizers which met at Chatham, Ontario, in May, 1858, and which framed a constitution, John Brown being elected Commander in Chief of the Army. On Sunday morning, October 16, 1859, the raiders descended on Harper's Ferry, captured the arsenal, made prisoners of prominent citizens, and killed several of them. They kept in possession of the engine house for a couple of days, when they were captured (most of them being wounded or killed) by the United States marines. After Brown's execution his body was taken to North Elba, N. Y., where it was buried.

3 John Brown's band consisted of twenty-one men besides himself, sixteen white and five black. John H. Kagi was adjutant; his three sons, Oliver, Owen and Watson, as well as Aaron D. Stevens, John E. Cook, Charles P. Tidd, William Thompson and Jeremiah G. Anderson, were captains. Edwin Coppoc, Dauphin Thompson, Albert Hazlett, William H. Leeman, were lieutenants. Stewart Taylor, Barclay Coppoc and Francis J. Meriam were privates, as were the negroes Shields Green, Lewis Leary, John Copeland, Osborn Anderson and Dangerfield Newby.

The oldest was Newby, 44; Owen Brown was 35; all the others were under 30. Oliver Brown, Barclay Coppoc and Leeman were under 21. All except Taylor, who was a native of Canada, were born in the United States, and except the negroes, were of old American stock. Only four of them escaped death as the result of the raid. Kagi was shot as he was swimming across the river in an attempt to escape. Oliver and Watson Brown were killed in the fight; Oliver in the engine house and Watson as he was going out with a flag of truce. Stevens and Cook were hanged. William Thompson was shot by Harry Hunter and Chambers after he was taken prisoner. J. G. Anderson was killed in the engine house; Edwin Coppoc was hanged; Dauphin Thompson was killed in the engine house. Hazlett was hanged; Leeman was shot trying to escape across the Potomoc; Taylor was killed in the engine house. Green was hanged. Leary was

« PreviousContinue »