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His soul is marching on (I hope)

By Michael J. Smith on Friday December 2, 2005 04:50 PM

Today, December 2, is the anniversary of John Brown's execution in 1859.

Somehow, thinking of Old Osawatomie, I just don't feel like saying anything flip or ironical. He deserves better, much better. Better than anything I have the eloquence to say.

But then, as far as I know, no American writer or thinker has even come close to giving Brown his due. Talk about a Founding Father -- and yet so strangely relegated to footnotes, when men a tenth of his stature crowd the pediments of our civic temples.

In the very limited setting of this blog, perhaps I can at least claim Brown as the great, the definitive critiquer of two-party politics. In his day the Democrats had the honor of being the greater evil. But Brown was just as stern, and as unpalatable, to the lesser. Abe Lincoln had to spend a lot of time distancing himself from the terrorist of Harper's Ferry, when his Democratic opponents were as eager to wield the tarbrush as, say, Chuck Schumer is nowadays; and Brown himself saw no hope in Lincoln's party as long as it confined itself to the politics of "yes, but..."

Brown saw to it that "yes, but" was no longer an option.

When will we follow his example?

Comments (1)


Thoreau did not forget John Brown. And when it comes to signifigant American letters, this one commentary may be all the really matters.

Incidentally, wasn't there a John Brown brigade formed to fight in the Spanish Civil War? If so, that too is nearly testament enough.

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