DBQ: John Brown’s Raid
To what extent was John Brown’s Raid Successful?
Does He deserve to be called a martyr?
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry (also known as John Brown's raid or The raid on Harpers Ferry; in many books the town is called "Harper's Ferry") was an attempt by the white abolitionist John Brown to start an armed slave revolt in 1859 by seizing a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
Abolitionist John Brown dedicated his life to ending slavery in the United States. He was a deeply religious man, but he did not hesitate to use violence to achieve his goals. To what extent was John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry successful?
Use your knowledge of the era, and documents A, B, C, and D to answer the questions at the bottom and the essential question below.
“I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.”
—John Brown, December 2, 1859
“Though it convert the whole Northern people, without an exception, into furious, armed abolition invaders, yet old Brown will be hung! That is the stern and irreversible decree, not only of the authorities of Virginia, but of the PEOPLE of Virginia, without a dissenting voice. And, therefore, Virginia,
and the people of Virginia, will treat with the contempt they deserve, all the craven appeals of Northern men in behalf of old Brown’s pardon. The miserable old traitor and murderer belongs to the gallows, and the gallows will have its own.”
—Richmond “Whig” newspaper editorial quoted in the Liberator, November 18, 1859
“But the question is, Did John Brown fail? . . . And to this I answer ten thousand times, No! . . . When John Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared. The time for compromises was gone—the harmed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union—and the clash of arms was at hand. The South staked all upon getting possession of the Federal Government, and failing to do that, drew the sword of rebellion and thus made her own, and not Brown’s, the lost cause of the century.”
—Frederick Douglass, May 30, 1881
1. How do Documents A, C, and D portray John Brown?
2. What does Document B predict about Brown’s execution?
3. According to Frederick Douglass, what did John Brown’s raid achieve?
4. Writing Task To what extent was John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry a success or a failure? Consider different points of view when constructing your answer. Use your knowledge of the time period and specific evidence from the primary sources above to support your answer.