I have long been fascinated by the life and death of John Brown, who was like a monkey wrench thrown by God into the machinery of a sinful slave-holding society. He was a man who lost every battle and major effort of his life yet succeeded after his death in his greatest objective.
I've blogged about Brown here over and over through the years, usually around the time of his raid (October) or his hanging (December).
How's this for historical irony: his trial and execution took part in a part of the state of Virginia that would soon become West Virginia, in large part as a result of a chain of events Brown started.
Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I realized that he was born on this date 217 years ago.
So once again, here's an excerpt from his last speech, given while on trial for his life:
Had I interfered in the manner which I admit...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.
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 thing 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 upon 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, 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!