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The most dangerous madmen are those created by religion, and … people whose aim is to disrupt society always know how to make good use of them on occasion… Diderot


Three-quarter length portrait of Brown accompanies text describing the insurrection at Harper’s Ferry. Caption under Brown’s picture: John Brown, now under sentence of death for treason and murder, at Charlestown, Va. From a photograph taken one year ago by Martin M. Lawrence, 381 Broadway, N.Y.

The secret six : the true tale of the men who conspired with John Brown Edward J. Renehan, Jr. Columbia : University of South Carolina, 1996 Softcover. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG

They are almost without exception dilettantes – one carries the soubriquet Chevalier for his attraction to romantic causes – who could not gain public office even with all their wealth [one was the largest landowner in the United States]. Neither their wealth nor the positions as doctors, teachers and preachers made them immune from the false logic of American messianic thought that derived from transcendentalism and they suffered in equal parts from the mad visions of John Brown and their cynical desire to use his madness to press their own goals – so long as they did not have to share the traitor’s scaffold with him. Their sort has contaminated this country since its founding and continues to contaminate it during its current confounding and the only shortcoming in Renehan’s work is that he does not bring them to history’s scaffold!


Photograph shows a head and shoulders portrait of Higginson in civilian clothing. He was an Abolitionist in Worcester, Mass., working as an Underground Railroad operator.


Historic American Buildings Survey COPY OF EXTERIOR PHOTO PUBLISHED IN HIGGINSON, MARY THATCHER, THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON, THE STORY OF HIS LIFE (BOSTON AND NEW YORK, 1914), OPP. p. 30. Gift of Cambridge Historical Commission – Stephen Higginson Jr. House, 7 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, Middlesex County, MA


Theodore Parker, 1810-1860, half-length portrait, standing behind pulpit, lecturing in New York, facing right. Wood engraving in the Illustrated London News, September 27, 1856, p. 314.







Issued in the North during the Civil War, the melodramatic portrayal of an apocryphal incident from the life of John Brown must have had unmistakable propagandistic overtones. In actuality a violent antislavery fanatic, Brown was convicted in 1859 of treason, inciting slave rebellion, and murder in his abortive attempt to seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and ignite an armed slave insurrection in the South. Yet through his trial and execution at Charles Town, Virginia, in December 1859, Brown became for many Northerners a martyr of the abolitionist cause. Here the artist shows Brown calmly descending the steps of the Charles Town jail, hands tied behind his back. “Regarding with a look of compassion a Slave-mother and Child who obstructed the passage on his way to the Scaffold. –Capt. Brown stooped and kissed the Child–then met his fate.” The strikingly madonna-like slave woman is seated on a stone railing, holding an equally Christ-like infant. One of Brown’s guards reaches forward, about to push her away. In the foreground a mustachioed and elegantly uniformed soldier waits impatiently, hand on his sword hilt. Behind Brown a figure from the American Revolution, wearing a tricornered hat emblazoned “76,” watches with concern. The flag of the state of Virginia with the motto “Sic semper tyrannis” flies prominently above Brown’s head. A statue of Justice, with its arms and scales broken, stands forgotten behind the railing at left.


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