Cincinnati and Chicago papers offer up their opinions on the Harper's Ferry affair and the looming conflict between free and slave states.
"Where the Responsibility Belongs"
from the Cincinnati, Ohio Enquirer October 19, 1859
The attempt of the Chicago Times to place the responsibility of the Harper's Ferry affair upon the Republican Party, is a resort to the rogue's trick of crying "stop thief, stop thief," for the purpose of diverting attention from the really guilty party. Holding to the doctrines of the Revolutionary fathers and the earlier statesmen of this country on the subject of slavery -- that it is a moral, social and political evil; that it is a creature of local law, to be controlled exclusively by the States, in which it exists, and that its area ought not to be extended, for its accompanying evils be fastened upon our new frontier communities -- the Republican Party depreciates, no less than these worthies would have done, everything looking towards violent measures for the enfranchisement of the slaves of the South. The opposition to slavery is based upon moral and economic considerations, and the only action it proposes or that it would countenance, with respect to the institution, is to confine it to its present limits, leaving the problem of "what will they do with it?" to the solution of the people of the slaveholding States.
The Democratic Party, however proposes to increase the chances for insurrection, bloodshed and all the horrors of servile war, by extending the area of slavery indefinitely and by re-opening the African slave trade. It would have the bloody scenes of Harper's Ferry re-enacted in the new States to be carved out of our territories, and it would transmit to generations yet unborn the unspeakable dread arising from constant exposure to midnight carnage and the accompanying nameless horrors of insurrection.
As respects the attempt of an insane old man and his handful of confederates to excite a negro insurrection in Virginia and Maryland, it is easy to determine where the responsibility really belongs. That act is but a part of the legitimate fruit of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. In another part of this paper, in a sketch of the life of the leader of the attempted insurrection, will be found a statement of some of the wrongs heaped upon old Brown by the minions of that power at whose command and for whose benefit the compromise was broken down -- wrongs which entered his soul and made him what he is -- a monomaniac who believes himself to be a God-appointed agent to set the enslaved free. Upon the heads of those who repealed that compromise and who sanctioned the lawless violence and bloodshed which grew out of it on the plains of Kansas, rests the blood of those who fell at Harper's Ferry. Through a chain of events, the one inseparably connected with the other, the last-named tragedy goes back to the first-named violation of plighted faith as its cause, including among its intermediate steps a series of outrages and wrongs which taken together, make up the blackest page of our National history. No one has a clearer appreciation of this fact than the Chicago Times; no one understands more clearly that the popular verdict will accord with the historical statement. Hence, in its zeal to save itself, its master, and its party from the consequence of their own acts, it falsely lays the blame upon those whose policy it is to diminish the chances of the recurrence of such tragedies, who deplore the crime whenever it is committed as a sore calamity, and who have no sympathy for the criminal by whom it is instigated. The public intelligence will not be imposed upon by the effort of the Times to shirk a responsibility which belongs to itself and its political associates.
"The Cloud in the Distance No Bigger then a Man's Hand - The First Battle of the 'Irrepressible Conflict.'"
from the Chicago, Illinois Press and Tribune October 20, 1859
We give full particulars to-day of the late extraordinary proceedings at Harper's Ferry, Va. They will attract general attention, and create great sensation in all parts of the Union. It will be seen that more detailed and authentic accounts sustain entirely the view we yesterday took in commenting upon it. It was an abolition plot to free the negroes of Maryland and Virginia at the point of the bayonet. The leader of it was so-called "Ossawatomie Brown," one of the abolitionists who figured with LANE and MONTGOMERY in the murderous forays in Kansas. Men may well be surprised at the reckless boldness and daring of this operation: He must have taken courage from the late elections in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and supposed that he would have not only the moral, but the physical backing of these two great states in stirring up a servile war in the two states of Maryland and Virginia.
The "irrepressible conflict" of the free and slave states, which is preached by the Republican leaders as an orthodox doctrine, is well calculated to lead to such results. This affair at Harper's Ferry is but the "cloud in the distance no bigger than a man's hand," but it is the presage of the future storm, that shall desolate the whole land, if the people give this abolition doctrine their approval. It necessarily tends to servile insurrection, civil war and disunion. BROWN and his followers are but the advance column of the partisan disciples of SEWARD and CHASE, who are burning to make a practical application of the "irrepressible conflict doctrine. They stand ready to deluge the land in blood to carry out their fanatical views; and the momentous question is, do the majority of the people of the free states sympathize with them?
The danger of having a Republican-abolition President can now be readily appreciated. Such a President, having his sympathies with the insurrectionists, would be slow to move in arresting their outrages. Delay, indecision and coldness would encourage the very parties against whom he should exert promptly the physical and moral power of the government. And the very fact that there was a President with such sympathies would encourage insurrection all through the slave states. It is for the people, North and South, to say if those things shall be.
Visit the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE John Brown's Holy War website for more information on the events at Harper's Ferry.
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