[Marxism] Re: Happy Birthday, John Brown "It would be in vain to kill him."

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Tue May 10 09:07:45 MDT 2005


When I was young I read Thoreau. And even reread him a few times. But I 
never read this essay until I became an active socialist.

I had read of it in a biography of him, and it had slipped to the back 
of my mind. I recalled it when reading the differences between Martin 
Luther King and Malcolm X. It was claimed that MLK was inspired by 
Gandhi and Thoreau's pacifist essay "On the Duty of Civil 
Disobedience."

But I knew that Thoreau was not a pacifist and that he had defended 
John Brown. So I began looking for the essay. I found seven collections 
of essays by Thoreau. Only one of them had his defense of Brown. The 
other collections presented Thoreau as a pacifist and each discussed 
his influence, along with Gandhi, on pacifism. Two referred to his 
influence on MLK.

If you haven't read this essay before, perhaps these quotes will lead 
you on. To present Thoreau in extracts is almost a physical violation. 
However, it is all available on the Internet.

1859
A PLEA FOR CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN
by Henry David Thoreau
[Read to the citizens of Concord, Mass., Sunday Evening, October 30, 
1859.]

[Compared to American Revolutionists]
He was like the best of those who stood at Concord Bridge once, on 
Lexington Common, and on Bunker Hill, only he was firmer and higher 
principled than any that I have chanced to hear of as there. It was no 
abolition lecturer that converted him. Ethan Allen and Stark, with whom 
he may in some respects be compared, were rangers in a lower and less 
important field. They could bravely face their country's foes, but he 
had the courage to face his country herself, when she was in the wrong.

[His Education]
He did not go to the college called Harvard, good old Alma Mater as she 
is. He was not fed on the pap that is there furnished. As he phrased 
it, "I know no more of grammar than one of your calves." But he went to 
the great university of the West, where he sedulously pursued the study 
of Liberty, for which he had early betrayed a fondness, and having 
taken many degrees, he finally commenced the public practice of 
Humanity in Kansas, as you all know. Such were his humanities and not 
any study of grammar. He would have left a Greek accent slanting the 
wrong way, and righted up a falling man.

[Not an ABBer]
He was one of that class of whom we hear a great deal, but, for the 
most part, see nothing at all,--the Puritans. It would be in vain to 
kill him. He died lately in the time of Cromwell, but he reappeared 
here. Why should he not? Some of the Puritan stock are said to have 
come over and settled in New England. They were a class that did 
something else than celebrate their forefathers' day, and eat parched 
corn in remembrance of that time. They were neither Democrats nor 
Republicans, but men of simple habits, straightforward, prayerful; not 
thinking much of rulers who did not fear God, not making many 
compromises, nor seeking after available candidates.

[On Being in a Minority]
The newspapers seem to ignore, or perhaps are really ignorant of the 
fact, that there are at least as many as two or three individuals to a 
town throughout the North who think much as the present speaker does 
about him and his enterprise. I do not hesitate to say that they are an 
important and growing party. We aspire to be something more than stupid 
and timid chattels, pretending to read history and our Bibles, but 
desecrating every house and every day we breathe in.

["the present form of slavery shall be no more here"]
I foresee the time when the painter will paint that scene, no longer 
going to Rome for a subject; the poet will sing it; the historian 
record it; and, with the Landing of the Pilgrims and the Declaration of 
Independence, it will be the ornament of some future national gallery, 
when at least the present form of slavery shall be no more here. We 
shall then be at liberty to weep for Captain Brown. Then, and not till 
then, we will take our revenge.

http://www.transcendentalists.com/thoreau_plea_john_brown.htm
OR http://makeashorterlink.com/?C29351D0B

from Brian Shannon





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