On November 2, 1859, John Brown faced the court and heard his sentence of hanging from the neck until dead. His sentence was scheduled to be carried out on December 2, 1859. When asked if he had any words for the court, Brown stood and addressed the court with what many feel is the second most important speech of the antebellum era, surpassed only by Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.
“In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted, of a design on my part to free the slaves. I intended, certainly, to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter when I went into
Missouriand there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moved them through the country, and finally leaving them in . I designed to have done the same thing again, on a larger scale. That was all I intended to do. I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite the slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection…. This court acknowledges, too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done – as I have always freely admitted I have done – in behalf of His despised poor is no wrong but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments – I say, let it be done!” Canada
For the next thirty days Brown sat in his cell in Charlestown, Virginia where he conducted what may have been one of the earliest PR media blitzes. He gave interviews to both Northern and Southern journalists, greeted and spoke to almost all of his visitors, wrote prolific amounts of letters, and refused to even consider plans to break him out of prison. He had come to realize that his death, as a martyr, at the hands of the government of Virginia, would be the best way for him to strike a blow against slavery.
Now 150 years later, we see that his martyrdom did in fact bring the conflict into the light of day, and was a catalyst for the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, but did not bring about the end of the horror of slavery.
Today you have a chance to do something. Join one of the great organizations listed below; boycott products that use indentured workers, particularly children; participate in the United Nations International Abolitionist Day; JUST DO SOMETHING.