May 9, 2013
me+ME:  On John Brown
1.  On John Brown
2.  John Brown's last recorded speech
About ME/CFS


I am still paying back my walk of over a week ago, so I am still not feeling very well, though today I am feeling a bit better.

Yesterday, my subject was a late and relatively little known piece by Thoreau, namely "A plea for Captain Brown". Today there is a little more on John Brown, since I know some more about him, and since he was today born 213 years ago, on May 9, 1800.

1. On John Brown

But I am not going as far as I did yesterday, and indeed only have two pieces: A photograph, and his last recorded words. First the photograph:

 John Brown in 1856
I have several reasons to include it that include these four:
  • It's over 150 years old.
  • There are not many photographs as old.
  • He was an extra-ordinary man.
  • The clothing.
Indeed, you may well ask why I am concerned with the clothing, especially as there is not much clothing in the above picture. I'll come to that in a moment, after dealing with the other points.

Clearly, since he died on December 2, 1859, the picture must be over a 150 years old, but more importantly, also since - Wikipedia - "
Daguerre took the first ever photo of a person in 1838", this is really is a quite early instance of photography (a word dating back to 1839). Indeed, there is a daguerro-type of John Brown dating back to 1846.

That he was an extra-ordinary man I illustrated yesterday. So now the clothing...

Actually, this has little to do with John Brown, but much with his time: When you look carefully at the clothes people wore in the 19th Century, you'll find these were somewhat different from what clothes are now, though men's clothing did not differ that much in cutting.

But there were no artificial threads (nylon etc.) and especially the washing must have been a lot more difficult to do, and probably happened rather less, which is the reason that, when well considered, even the clothes of noble gentlemen of the 1870ies, say, often look baggy.

I don't mind in the least: I merely remark upon it because I noticed it and never saw it remarked upon before.

2. John Brown's last recorded speech

It still is discussed whether John Brown was "a terrorist", which is another reason to pay attention to him.

Here are his final words to the court that had sentenced him to die:

I have, may it please the court, a few words to say. In the first place, I deny everything but what I have all along admitted -- the 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 Missouri and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moved them through the country, and finally left them in Canada. I designed to have done the same thing again on a larger scale. That was all I intended. I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection.

I have another objection; and that is, it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case)--had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends--either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class--and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment. [1]

This court acknowledges, 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. That 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. [2] 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 was not 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 submit; so let it be done! [3]

Let me say one word further.

I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my trial. Considering all the circumstances it has been more generous than I expected. [4] But I feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated that from the first what was my intention and what was not. I never had any design against the life of any person, nor any disposition to commit treason, or excite slaves to rebel, or make any general insurrection. I never encouraged any man to do so, but always discouraged any idea of that kind. [5]

Let me say also a word in regard to the statements made by some of those connected with me. I hear it has been stated by some of them that I have induced them to join me. But the contrary is true. I do not say this to injure them, but as regretting their weakness. There is not one of them but joined me of his own accord, and the greater part of them at their own expense. A number of them I never saw, and never had a word of conversation with till the day they came to me; and that was for the purpose I have stated. [6]

Now I have done.


[1] I think he was quite right.

[2] This also seems quite right to me: "That [Bible - MM] 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."

Then again, it is true that it is doubtful Jesus would have agreed, but not impossible, seeing there was continuous slavery in the United States, for 83 years since 1776 at that point in time.

[3] Two of his sons had been killed besides him, during their last fight.

[4] It seems to me that John Brown, had he lived today, probably would have been treated worse, if he had tried to do anything comparable.

[5] This seems - more likely than not - not quite true. He killed people or had people killed, and the other parts of the statement - "I never had any design against the life of any person, nor any disposition to commit treason, or excite slaves to rebel, or make any general insurrection" - likewise may be doubted, though indeed he may have been speaking the strict truth with regards to the events of Harper's Ferry, for whiich he was hanged.

[6] As far as I recall, everyone on Brown's site who survived, was killed judicially, though not on the same day as Brown.

Finally... where do I stand in this, one may ask. Before I answer this, there is this final reflection:

While John Brown died this year 154 years ago, his fate is quite contemporary, seeing the decline of civilization, of equity, of justtice and of law in the present US.

But I make no predictions, and conclude that I am mostly but not wholly with Henry David Thoreau:

One may disagree with Brown, but it surely is riight that it is probable millions more people would have been in slavery for a longer time had he not acted as he did (there were 4 million slaves then, in the US, "home of the free": within 1 1/2 years of Brown's hanging, the US civil war started); that he acted as he did because he saw that neither the Constitution of the US nor the central teachings of the Bible had been practised for 83 years with regard to black people; that one must weigh his acts relative to the slavery of 4 million men that he opposed; and that those who classify him with McVeigh or Bin Laden seem quite deluded, if honest: He did not kill innocent men and he did not kill - by far - as many men, to quote just two of many relevant differences.


About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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