Thesis: John Brown Trial 1859

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John Brown Trial (1859)

The Virginia vs. John Brown trial involved the pro-slavery state of Virginia judging and convicting rebellious leader John Brown to death for his taking part in the murdering of several people during the Harper's Ferry raid. The trial lasted approximately a week, with everyone participating in it becoming aware of the fact that there had been little chances for the convicted man to receive a small penalty for his crimes. Prejudice had been a common thing all across the trial, with the jurors and the judge himself being pro-slavery people trialing a free-soiler for the crimes that he had committed against them.

The trial accused Brown on various cases involving murder, treason, and instigating a revolution. The charged man should have normally been tried in Washington, considering the fact that his crimes had occurred on Federal property, and not on Virginia's territory. In spite of that, the Virginians arranged so that he would be judged on their territory, wanting to be certain that he would receive a death penalty for his crimes. The trial lasted from October 25, 1859, and until November 2, 1859. Fairness had not been present during the hearing, as Brown received a harsh treatment all across it.

Even with the fact that people in the southern states associated freedom of slaves with something unnecessarily and certainly unattainable, there have also been some looking forward to the concept and even struggling to have it possible. It had practically been suicidal for someone to declare their anti-slavery convictions to such a public. While most people that had been against slavery felt that they had their hands tied and did not act in favor for the exploit to be abolished, others left their fear aside and performed various actions in opposition to slave-holders.

A large part of Brown's determination to have freedom present in the south had been fueled by his interaction with the revolutionaries having came from Europe consequent to 1948. Astounded by the news coming from Europe, Brown himself went there in 1949, interested in opening a business first, and, later, concerned about European revolutionaries and guerilla warfare.

Brown considered revolutionaries to be more than simple people craving for independence, as he believed "that God is carrying out his eternal purpose in them all." (Von Frank) His anti-slavery beliefs had moved him even further to the point where he considered guerilla warfare to be one of the only solutions to abolish slavery in the South. A series of events had influenced free-will people to stand up for their principles. Individuals were beginning to observe that more and more countries had abolished slavery systems within their borders as a result of parties rebelling against the abuse.

Political figures such as Abraham Lincoln sprang out of obscurity, encouraging freedom for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds. Moreover, such claims even encouraged secession, with people being positive that the act would bring benefits for the Northerners, whereas the Southerners could continue to pursuit their ideals.

Having already gathered experience in his previous campaigns against the southerners during the Bleeding Kansas period, Brown considered that he could seize the opportunity of getting control over the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry in 1859. Considering the fact that he had not been successful on a professional level, some had been amazed to observe that John Brown had had resources for sustaining guerrilla campaigns in the South. Apparently, he had issued a call for people from all of the states to support him "by contributions of pecuniary aid either as counties, cities, towns. villages, societies, churches, or individuals." (Robert M. De Witt) a great number of people seemed to be supportive toward Brown's actions and worked together in providing him with the materials that he needed to continue his operations.

The rebel's plan had been to get control over the Arsenal with the small party that he commanded, and, later, to arm all the slaves present in the surrounding region. In spite of the perceived cunningness of Brown's plan, nothing seemed to be going as he wished, with little slaves actually expressing their desire to join the revolution, as they had been certain that such an action would have little chances of success.

Everything appeared to work according to plan on October 16, with the rebels capturing the armory without encountering serious resistance from the town's people. On the second day, however, matters turned into worse, as the town's militia pressured Brown's party up to the point where they vainly attempted to surrender. The rebels were virtually being butchered by a mob of angry and drunk people determined to have victory.

Matters calmed with the coming of Colonel Robert E. Lee at the scene, and, on the eighteenth of October, Lee's marines quickly took over the fort that Brown had been holding at the time, imprisoning all the survivors. From the very first minutes consequent to his capture Brown began to talk freely to people inquiring him concerning his apparent crimes. He did not attempt to repent, since he considered his actions to have been perfectly justified, with the victims having been nothing else than casualties of war. Lee concluded that the rebellion had been set off by a man that had not been sane, and, furthermore, that his very plan proved to be against him, with the slaves being unwilling to raise arms against their oppressors.

None of the prisoners taken by Brown's men considered that they had received an ill treatment. Brown had apparently taken special care of his guests, as he had been aware that they had been extremely valuable when considering the ransom that he could receive for them. Being wounded as a result of the marines taking hold of him, Brown had been obliged to attend his trial without receiving proper medical attention.

Even from the first moments of the trial, it had been clear that Brown would not benefit from a fair judgment, as the defense counsel himself confessed that he had not been happy to defend a rebel. Both parties involved in the case did not manage to find any arguments that would be in favor of Brown's crimes. Despite of the fact that most of his supporters had abandoned him, Brown still benefited from the help of abolitionist John W. Le Barns, who had appointed defense counsel George H. Hoyt to support brown during the last days of the trial. Regardless of the fact that the defense had attempted to slow the process by invoking reasons such as the defendant being physically restrained to attend the trial because of his wounds, none of their demands had been met.

It had been virtually impossible for someone to succeed in bringing evidence that would support Brown's activities, as he and his people had started a revolution and fought against state and federal authorities. In a desperate try to ameliorate matters, the defense called upon demands such as allowing Brown to be tried in the north, by the federal government. None of the attempts made by the defense counsels had achieved its purpose, with the jury virtually remaining motionless at all the cries made by the defense.

One of the pleas made by Brown's counsels had brought sorrow in the rebel, with the defense claiming that Brown cannot be accused of having led a slave rebellion, since no slaves had actually joined his party. Another controversial claim made by the defense had been that the militia in Virginia did not accept Brown's initial attempt to surrender, with the two men that he had sent to carry the white flag having been shot on sight.

The pressures made by the defense in order to insure a just trial for Brown had been ineffective. Not only did the jury have witnesses claiming that Brown had shot several people,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"John Brown Trial 1859."  Essaytown.com.  October 28, 2009.  Accessed July 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/john-brown-trial-1859/4216.