Ohio History Journal

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Reviews, Notes and Comments 217

Reviews, Notes and Comments             217



The time will never come, perhaps, when there will

not be conflicting opinions in regard to John Brown

and his mission. It is remarkable, however, how well,

without any special advocate, his character stands the

test of time. In spite of the critical portions of the

biography written by Oswald Garrison Villard and the

severe attack, occupying an entire volume, by Hill

Peebles Wilson, written for a consideration said to have

been $5,000, the fame of the old anti-slavery warrior

survives. In a carefully written survey of his life by

Gamaliel Bradford, in his recent volume entitled

Damaged Souls, after considering all the evidence to

date, the author concludes with this interesting estimate:

Something magnetic in his obsession touched men of the

most diverse temperaments and powers, roused them to think

and feel and work as he did.

Take his immediate followers, take that group of boys, or

little more than boys, who gathered about him with unquestioning

loyalty in the last desperate venture. They were not especially

religious. Even Brown's own sons did not adopt his orthodox

interpretation of the Bible. But every man of the company had

imbibed the spirit of sacrifice, every man was ready to give his

life for the cause their leader had preached to them, every man

believed that what he said should be done must be done. "They

perfectly worshiped the ground the old fellow trod on," said a

Southern observer who had no sympathy with them except in the

admiration of splendid courage.

Nor was it only over those who came under his immediate

command that Brown exercised the magnetism of inspiration and

stimulus. After his capture and during his imprisonment he

was surrounded by bitter enemies. But they grew to respect

him and some apparently to have a personal regard for him.

Even when they condemned his cause, they esteemed his spirit

of sacrifice and his superb singleness of purpose. In the years

before the crisis came he met some of the keenest and most

intelligent men in the United States and they saw and felt in

him a man of power, a man of will, a man of ideals above and