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History As It Happens

Sep 8, 2022

Americans not only expect more political violence. Polls show that a growing number of Americans, though still a minority, believe violence against the government is acceptable in certain circumstances. Ours is a country simmering with rage and mistrust toward wrongs real and perceived. In late 1859, a fanatical abolitionist believed in the righteousness of his cause so deeply that he sought war against the government by inciting a slave revolt in the Virginia mountains. John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry accomplished nothing, but Brown became a symbol meaning different things to different people over time. But in our post-January 6 climate, Brown may serve as a cautionary tale of the dangers of unhinged belief in a crusade against injustice, real or imagined.