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Union or Secession
  • Editorial condemning "reckless and restless tools of the Northern Abolitionists"
On November 22, 1859, the editor of the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, praised Governor Henry A. Wise for taking measures to prevent abolitionists from rescuing John Brown from jail.
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  • Thomas Greene Broughton (1786–1861). Image courtesy of Charlotte Shepard.
    Thomas Greene Broughton
« Return to 1859 Raid on Harpers Ferry

Editorial condemning "reckless and restless tools of the Northern Abolitionists"

Editorial in Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, November 22, 1859.

After John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry on October 19, 1859, Governor Henry A. Wise ordered Virginia militiamen to Charles Town, where Brown was being held in the county jail, to preserve the peace and prevent abolitionists from attempting to rescue him. Wise received many letters from men and women who sympathized with Brown. "If the reckless and restless tools of the Northern Abolitionists, such as Brown and his Harper's Ferry colleagues," wrote Thomas Greene Broughton, editor of the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, "were not over-awed by a force too powerful for them to make a contest with, there cannot be a doubt that an effort at a rescue would be made, and though defeated, many lives might be lost, and many more names of hired ruffians added to the catalogue of Abolition saints and martyrs."

Editorial in Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, November 22, 1859.
We have served up to our readers to-day a rare medly of telegraphic despatches of rumors and counter-rumors from Charlestown and thereabout, of movements of "border ruffians" for the rescue of the old pirate-hero, Brown, which, though they amount to nothing definite and tangible, are well calculated to call forth measures of precaution to put down any such attempt should it be made. Under different circumstances we might smile at the idea of such vast preparation for an attempt of this sort; but when we see Abolitionism rampant in the leading States of the North and West; when we see the most treasonable and cut-throat doctrines deliberately endorsed by large multitudes in those States in their popular meetings and by their daily public press, and fulminated from their pulpits, against the South, with the inveterate and settled purpose of producing a servile war in her midst; and when we mark the mad fanaticism which impels them to hollow them most atrocious means to obtain the end of his deliverance from the hand of justice—we may when we see all this, it does not require the stimulus of false rumors and imaginary fears to convince us of the strict propriety of the measures taken by Governor Wise to defeat the naturally-to-be expected efforts of the Abolitionists to rescue from the gallows the hoary traitor, murderer and insurrectionist, John Brown. If the reckless and restless tools of the Northern Abolitionists, such as Brown and his Harper's Ferry colleagues, were not over-awed by a force too powerful for them to make a contest with, there cannot be a doubt that an effort at a rescue would be made, and though defeated, many lives might be lost, and many more names of hired ruffians added to the catalogue of Abolition saints and martyrs. Gov. Wise we are glad to see has taken the proper steps to prevent all this, and insure the strict execution of old Brown's sentence on next Friday week.
Editorial in the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, November 22, 1859, ten days before John Brown was hanged in Charlestown, Virginia, following his conviction for treason for leading the raid on Harpers Ferry on October 16, 1859.