Saturday, December 12, 2015

From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Socialist Future

From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Socialist Future

Logo Of The Communist Youth International

Click below to link to a Communist Youth archival site

Sam Eaton, once he got “religion” on the questions of war and peace after a close high school friend in Carver was killed in the jungles of Vietnam in 1968, and Ralph Morris, once he had served in Vietnam after having become totally disenchanted with the war effort and had been discharged back to Troy, New York in 1970 were both very interested in left-wing anti-war politics, in studying about how previous generations fought against the highly-charged war blood lust currents that periodically burned over the American landscape. Sam, exempt from the military draft since he was the sole support of his mother and four younger sisters after his father had passed away suddenly of a heart attack in 1965, who had been prior to his friend Jeff Mullin’s death been very political in a conventional way but somewhat indifferent to the war blazing all around him in this country as well as in Vietnam and Ralph who was as gung-ho as any naïve young soldier before the “shit hit the fan” (his expression) when he went into Vietnam had met down in Washington, D.C.  

Had met under frankly odd circumstances, circumstances which kind of came with the times when people who ordinarily would not run into each other did so as they came to oppose the war in Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, home of the Washington Redskins football team after they had been arrested in different incidents during the May Day 1971 actions. The idea behind those actions by those like Sam and Ralph who were enraged by the continuation of the war was to attempt to close down the government if it did not close down the war. For their efforts, Sam trying to help close down Massachusetts Avenue a main thoroughfare and Ralph at an action at the White House (which his group never got close to), along with thousands of others were placed in the bastinado for several days without much food or shelter and without the quick release demanded by law for such minor infractions (they had actually just walked out of a side exit one day and nobody stopped them). They had met in some forlorn line when Ralph noticed that Sam had a Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) button on his lapel and had asked him whether he was a member. Sam told him why he was a supporter of VVAW after Ralph told him he was a member and had taken part in a couple of actions on the streets that made people freeze in their tracks when they saw the long lines of anti-war veterans, some on crutches and others in wheelchairs silently marching as was a tactic of the time. That meeting in any case formed a lifelong friendship as Ralph recently had mentioned to Sam when they met for one of their periodic Boston meetings when Ralph came to town.          

That May Day event more than any other of the actions which they had participated in during those years was pivotal in bringing them to an understanding that if you were going to take on the government then you had better have more than a few thousand committed souls with you and better be better prepared, damn better, when the “shit hits the fan” (again Ralph’s expression). So they both started to hit the books, to read old time left-wing Socialist and Communist literature to get a fix on things that went wrong with May Day (although Ralph admitted he was not much of a reader of such materials he did plod through the stuff and still remembered a fair amount of it). They would talk about what they had read between themselves and even began to attend study classes provided by a collective in Cambridge (the Red Book collective if anybody is asking) where both young men were staying for the summer of 1972.

Sam and Ralph were especially intrigued by the work that left-wing political organizations did in recruiting young people to the cause, a task that would have made it far easier for them to get involved if such organizations had existed in their respective growing up towns of Carver, Massachusetts and Troy, New York. So for a while they were all abuzz with thoughts of the Socialist and Communist youth organizations, especially when they read about Spain the 1930s and the key role left-wing youth played there and on the battle fronts. Although both would slide away from 24/7 type politics that had driven them early in the decade later in the decade as the aura of 1960s confrontation faded back into “normalcy” and they began careers and families they for a time considered themselves “left-wing youth,” maybe even communist youth although that designation was a tough dollar to swallow given their backgrounds. During that period Sam, more of a writer than Ralph, wrote up some materials about their experiences. He more recently in the age of the Internet got involved with a blog, American Socialist History, which was accumulating stories about anything related to socialist youth in the 1960s and Sam had written another short piece for that publication. Here is what he had to say:

“One of the declared purposes of this blog is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past, spotty and incomplete as they may be, here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-socialist and communist wing. And particularly how to draw the young into the struggle. Historically these lessons would be centrally derived from the revolutions of 1848 in Europe, especially in France, the Paris Commune of 1871, and most vividly under the impact of the Lenin and Trotsky-led Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, a world historic achievement for the international working class whose subsequent demise was of necessity a world-historic defeat for that same class. To that end I have made commentaries and provided some archival works in this space in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over.

More importantly, for the long haul, and unfortunately given that same spotty and incomplete past the long haul is what appears to be the time frame that this old militant will have to concede that we need to think about, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common socialist future. An education that masses of previous generations of youth undertook gladly but which now is reduced to a precious few.  That is beside the question of numbers in any case no small or easy task given the differences of generations (the missing transmission generation problem between the generation of ’68 who tried unsuccessfully to turn the world upside down and failed, the missing “in between” generation raised on Reagan rations and today’s desperate youth in need of all kinds of help; differences of political milieus worked in (another missing link situation with the attenuation of the links to the old mass socialist and communist organizations decimated by the red scare Cold War 1950s night of the long knives through the new old New Left of the 1960s and little notable organizational connections since); differences of social structure to work around (the serious erosion of the industrial working class in America, the rise of the white collar service sector, the now organically chronically unemployed, and the rise of the technocrats); and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses (today’s  computer, cellphone, and social networking savvy youth using those assets as tools for organizing).

There is no question that back in my youth in the 1960s I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available on-line at the press of a button today. When I developed political consciousness very early on in my youth, albeit a liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view.

As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically worrying more about a possible cushy career on the backstairs of politics. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I vaguely knew they were around from my readings but not in my area. In any case the aura of the red scare was still around so it is a toss-up if I had known about those that I would have contacted them.   

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me on-line and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a left-wing youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become radicals with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.


Third Congress of the Communist International

The Communist International and the Communist Youth Movement

Source: Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congress of the Third International, translated by Alix Holt and Barbara Holland. Ink Links 1980;

Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

12 July 1921

1 The young socialist movement came into existence as a result of the steadily increasing capitalist exploitation of young workers and also of the growth of bourgeois militarism. The movement was a reaction against attempts to poison the minds of young workers with bourgeois nationalist ideology and against the tendency of most of the social-democratic parties and the trade unions to neglect the economic, political and cultural demands of young workers.

In most countries the social-democratic parties and the unions, which were growing increasingly opportunist and revisionist, took no part in establishing young socialist organisations, and in certain countries they even opposed the creation of a youth movement. The reformist social-democratic parties and trade unions saw the independent revolutionary socialist youth organisations as a serious threat to their opportunist policies. They sought to introduce a bureaucratic control over the youth organisations and destroy their independence, thus stifling the movement, changing its character and adapting it to social-democratic politics.

2 As a result of the imperialist war and the positions taken towards it by social democracy almost everywhere, the contradictions between the social-democratic parties and the international revolutionary organisations inevitably grew and eventually led to open conflict. The living conditions of young workers sharply deteriorated; there was mobilisation and military service on the one hand, and, on the other, the increasing exploitation in the munitions industries and militarisation of civilian life. The most class-conscious young socialists opposed the war and the nationalist propaganda. They dissociated themselves from the social-democratic parties and undertook independent political activity (the International Youth Conferences at Berne in 1915 and Jena in 1916).

In their struggle against the war, the young socialist organisations were supported by the most dedicated revolutionary groups and became an important focus for the revolutionary forces. In most countries no revolutionary parties existed and the youth organisations took over their role; they became independent political organisations and acted as the vanguard in the revolutionary struggle.

3 With the establishment of the Communist International and, in some countries, of Communist Parties, the role of the revolutionary youth organisations changes. Young workers, because of their economic position and because of their psychological make-up, are more easily won to Communist ideas and are quicker to show enthusiasm for revolutionary struggle than adult workers. Nevertheless, the youth movement relinquishes to the Communist Parties its vanguard role of organising independent activity and providing political leadership. The further existence of Young Communist organisations as politically independent and leading organisations would mean that two Communist Parties existed, in competition with one another and differing only in the age of their membership.

4 At the present time the role of the Young Communist movement is to organise the mass of young workers, educate them in the ideas of Communism, and draw them into the struggle for the Communist revolution.

The Communist youth organisations can no longer limit themselves to working in small propaganda circles. They must win the broad masses of workers by conducting a permanent campaign of agitation, using the newest methods. In conjunction with the Communist Parties and the trade unions, they must organise the economic struggle.

The new tasks of the Communist youth organisations require that their educational work be extended and intensified. The members of the youth movement receive their Communist education on the one hand through active participation in all revolutionary struggles and on the other through a study of Marxist theory.

Another important task facing the Young Communist organisations in the immediate future is to break the hold of centrist and social-patriotic ideas on young workers and free the movement from the influences of the social-democratic officials and youth leaders. At the same time, the Young Communist organisations must do everything they can to ‘rejuvenate’ the Communist Parties by parting with their older members, who then join the adult Parties.

The Young Communist organisations participate in the discussion of all political questions, help build the Communist Parties and take part in all revolutionary activity and struggle. This is the main difference between them and the youth sections of the centrist and socialist unions.

5 The relations between the Young Communist organisations and the Communist Party are fundamentally different from those between the revolutionary young socialist organisations and the social-democratic parties. In the common struggle to hasten the proletarian revolution, the greatest unity and strictest centralisation are essential. Political leadership at the international level must belong to the Communist International and at the national level to the respective national sections.

It is the duty of the Young Communist organisations to follow this political leadership (its programme, tactics and political directives) and merge with the general revolutionary front. The Communist Parties are at different stages of development and therefore the Executive Committee of the Communist International and the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International should apply this principle in accordance with the circumstances obtaining in each particular case.

The Young Communist movement has begun to organise its members according to the principle of strict centralisation and in its relations with the Communist International – the leader and bearer of the proletarian revolution – it will be governed by an iron discipline. All political and tactical questions are discussed in the ranks of the Communist youth organisation, which then takes a position and works in the Communist Party of its country in accordance with the resolutions passed by the Party, in no circumstance working against them.

If the Communist youth organisation has serious differences with the Communist Party, it has the right to appeal to the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

Loss of political independence in no way implies loss of the organisational independence which is so essential for political education.

Strong centralisation and effective unity are essential for the successful advancement of the revolutionary struggle, and therefore, in those countries where historical development has left the youth dependent upon the Party, the dependence should be preserved; differences between the two bodies are decided by the EC of the Communist International and the Executive Committee of the Communist Youth International.

6 One of the most immediate and most important tasks of the Young Communist organisations is to fight the belief in political independence inherited from the period when the youth organisations enjoyed absolute autonomy, and which is still subscribed to by some members. The press and organisational apparatus of the Young Communist movement must be used to educate young workers to be responsible and active members of a united Communist Party.

At the present time the Communist youth organisations are beginning to attract increasing numbers of young workers and are developing into mass organisations; it is therefore important that they give the greatest possible time and effort to education.

7 Close co-operation between the Young Communist organisations and the Communist Parties in political work must be reflected in close organisational links. It is essential that each organisation should at all times be represented at all levels of the other organisation (from the central Party organs and district, regional and local organisations down to the cells of Communist groups and the trade unions) and particularly at all conferences and congresses.

In this way the Communist Parties will be able to exert a permanent influence on the movement and encourage political activity, while the youth organisations, in their turn, can influence the Party.

8 The relations established between the Communist Youth International and the Communist International are even closer than those between the individual Parties and their youth organisations. The Communist Youth International has to provide the Communist youth movement with a centralised leadership, offer moral and material support to individual unions, form Young Communist organisations where none has existed and publicise the Communist youth movement and its programme. The Communist Youth International is a section of the Communist International and, as such, is bound by the decisions of its congresses and its Central Committee. The Communist Youth International conducts its work within the framework of these decisions and thus passes on the political line of the Communist International to all its sections. A well-developed system of reciprocal representation and close and constant co-operation guarantees that the Communist Youth International will make gains in all the spheres of its activity (leadership, agitation, organisation and the work of strengthening and supporting the Communist youth organisations).

When The Bourgeoisie Was In Full Flower- With The French Painter Caillebotte In Mind

When The Bourgeoisie Was In Full Flower- With The French Painter Caillebotte In Mind 


From The Pen Of Sam Lowell


Yeah, the Baron, Baron Haussmann if you need a name to go with the damage, the social damage done, had done a good job, a damn good job of breaking up beloved Paris with his squeaky clean street lines and wide boulevards. Yeah, changed the face of Paris, the Paris of squalid throw your leavings out the window and heaven help who is below, and heaven help what awful thing was thrown down to the trash-filled streets. The Paris of funny crooked cul de sac streets, which reflected the add-ons over centuries to make a great city from the piss-pot small town back in the Middle Ages when the university was the center of attraction and the good bourgeois in embryo were trying to hold off the barbarians, the wayward no account peasant drifters who snuck off the land, or tried to in order to sulk and menace in the shadows down by the Seine, the river of life and of intrigue. The Paris of the small craftsman working his trade in some lonely workshop, maybe an indentured apprentice by his side if the craft was skilled enough to warrant such service, his “home” and hearth in the back rooms where the dutiful wife and undutiful screaming children scratched out their pitiful existence. Said craftsman working furiously always brow-beaten worrying about being edged out by Monsieur So and So with plenty of capital and fifty men in his employ underselling him by virtue of economy of scale (or just plain greed at having anybody even a single slave craftsman in his “invisible hand” market place). The Paris too of the jack-roller, the pick-pocket, the wharf rats, the tavern-dwellers, the drifters, the grifters, and the midnight sifters along the shallow shadows of that same beloved Seine     


He, Jean Villon, was called Jean-bon out of respect for his courage under fire in the hell-hole barricade days of 1848  when he and his neighbors, all working-men, held out to the last when the vicious petty-bourgeois who would have benefited most from victory deserted the barricades and he and his took to their fallen losses and jail cells with equanimity (he and his comrades ever after called ‘48ers and no further explanation was necessary, none what-so-ever in any street or boulevard in the town). And for his general good humor when he was not talking politics or scheming the next plot that would bring on the newer world that he and his brethren were seeking. This morning he had had to laugh about the changes in the Rue Madeleine, the urine-laned street where he grew up, about the smell to high heaven of tanning chemicals, rough blacksmith coals, clothe dyes, slaughtered cattles and poultries. Laughed too that in those days, the days before the Baron got the itch (Baron dreams prodded on by ’89 dreams of san-culottes crowds demanding his head on a platter, or maybe just his head any way they could get it preferably via the people’s justice of the guillotine and more recent close calls in ‘48) none of the government’s men dared to enter those quarters even to look for the treasonous or seditious whoever was in power was always nervously pacing the floor about (it did not matter-king-premier-emperor-they all nervously paced their respective floors).


Yeah, back then nothing but crooked little streets leading to harmless little cafes, where he, workingman Villon held “court” with the riff-raff so-called of the old society. Calmly and cautiously quartered when no king’s men would bother to penetrate for they might not come back. Villon descended in some cousin-age degree never quite figured out back to the 15th century from the outlaw poet mad monk bastard saint Francois Villon who wrote longing exile in his own country verse with one hand and stole whatever was not nailed down with the other a fact which Jean never tired of pointing out when back in the day, back in ‘48 on the barricades when it counted comrades would wonder whether his revolutionary energies were flagging and he would drag out his pedigree to small-mouthed scoffs and tittles.


Yeah, the Baron was a slick one tearing down the old quarters to let the rising petty-bourgeois have their elegant apartments tucked away from the steamy stinking markets, the riff-raff cafes, the shadow men of the Seine. Let the bourgeoisie laugh in their clubs about how the riff-raff, meaning their working-men, those who slaved for them, those they had fired for being what some wag called “master-less men” for their habit of robbing said masters whenever the shadows fell, and the once innocent peasant girls who followed in their train and cast their fate with the lot, would get a belly-full of lead from the phalanx encircling infantry the next time they tried to pull up brick number one in order to build a barricade.


Although for a while when Thiers, that wizened troll who never uttered anything but treacherous remarks and never stopped for one minute to give the orders to  send whatever troops against the barricades which remained loyal to keep him in power. Rammed those troops against the brave Paris communards of blessed memory back in 1871 when the frightened bourgeoisie realized that the barricades could still be constructed when the working-men rose up in righteous anger at the betrayals put upon them. (Those communards like their earlier brethren of ’48 called communards and no further explanation was necessary, none what-so-ever in any street or boulevard in the town.)

But those days were long gone now. The Baron had won, had won his victory over the riff-raff and Jean-bon Villon knew it would be a long time before the blood of the communards dried.


Now the picture before Villon as he walked along Rue Madeline a place foreign to his eyes this rainy Sunday morning is that of prosperous petty bourgeois walking under the shadows of their handsome umbrellas along the well-trodden brick-laid slippery street taking in the sullen airs of the day. Each pair, male and female from a rough look at the scene, in their own world heading perhaps to some café breakfast (under awnings this morning) maybe going to the gardens up the road. Villon, the old revolutionary, looking down and noticing that every spattered brick had been inlaid (although that never stopped them from tearing them up in the old days), noticed that  as one wag put it that now the streets were big enough for all of Paris without regard to class to walk and fete wherever they cared to. Here is the waggish joke though, except for some ragman with his cur of a dog his sort were nary to be seen on these wet streets and intersections. Yeah, the Baron did his work well.      

Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning In Boston Saturday December 19th

Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning In Boston Saturday December 19th 

Free Chelsea Manning - President Obama- Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!

Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning In Boston Saturday December 19th 

In honor of Chelsea Manning’s 28th birthday (December 17th) this December 19th 2015, responding to a call from the Chelsea Manning Support Network, Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike, long-time supporters of freedom for Chelsea Manning from the Boston Chelsea Manning Support Committee, Veterans For Peace, the Committee for International Labor Defense along with the weekly Saturday vigil at Park Street organized by the Committee for Peace and Human Rights will celebrate Chelsea’s birthday. We invite you to join us. Currently actions are planned for London and other cities.

Supporters are encouraged to also organize an event in their area, and The Chelsea Manning Support Network and Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike will publicize it.  Write to or for more information and to share details of your event.

Boston vigil details:

1:00-2:00 PM Saturday, December 19

Park Street Station Entrance on the Boston Common

Imprisoned in 2010 and held for months under torturous conditions, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in August 2013 for releasing many military secrets about US crimes in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan among other things. If this stands, she’ll be out in 2045. We cannot let this happen- we have to get her out! We will not leave our sister behind. Join us and encourage others to attend and sign the petition for a presidential pardon from Barack Obama in this important show of support to Chelsea Manning  

Free Chelsea Manning Now-We Will Not Leave Our Sister Behind 

The following short remarks were addressed to group of fellow veterans and other peace and social activists at a Boston Armistice Day commemoration by Frank Jackman.

I am proud today as a member of Veterans for Peace to be giving this update on the situation of heroic Wiki-leaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning now serving a thirty-five years sentence out in the prairies of Kansas at Fort Leavenworth for telling the American people the truth about the atrocities and other nefarious actions of the military and of the government. Today, we should take a moment to speak for the anti-war resisters as well as the fallen in battle. Speak out in support of the resisters in this the 100th anniversary year of the beginning of the organized anti-war movement to World War I when a few brave people told their respective leaders to take their wars and go to hell. Add the name Chelsea Manning into that mix these days.  
Last year when I updated Chelsea’s case on this occasion I noted that once all the hoopla of the trial and sentencing was over the case would fall under the radar as the appellate process and other legal actions ran their long courses. That continues to be the case. I have to report this year that her appellate counsel are still diligently working on reading the transcripts, the trial if you will recall was the longest and produced the most paperwork in Army history, and developing the issues to present to the Army Court Of Criminal Appeals the first crucial step in the long appeals process that may very well wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course appeals like every other aspect of the justice system cost money, and plenty of it. This year when things were financially dicey an appeal went out which raised the two hundred thousand dollars necessary for the attorneys to go forward. Thanks to all who helped out with this aid. 

As for Chelsea’s personal situation as a woman in a man’s prison according to Jeff Patterson from Courage to Resist, the organization which has been the central organizer of the political and legal efforts on Chelsea’s behalf, she is doing well, has friends out in Fort Leavenworth and has after a successful ACLU suit been given her hormonal treatments. Thus far however her request to wear her hair at Army style woman’s length has been denied.
Reflecting the marvels of modern communication and publication Chelsea Manning has not been left without resources even in prison. She is a contributor to the Guardian on-line and writes a blog for Medium. She also has a Twitter account which you can access from the Chelsea Manning Support Network site. Recently she wrote up a proposal to reform the FISA courts, not an easy task to either write about or an organization to reform.   

Locally over the past year we commemorated Chelsea’s fifth year in the government’s dungeons in May and her birthday last December and will do so again this coming December at one of the Park Street weekly vigils. We have also taken every occasion like this one to keep her case before the public as well as by marching in events like the Pride parade in June with a banner as well as urging all to sign the Amnesty International/Courage to Resist on-line petition for President Obama to pardon Chelsea before he leaves office. We will continue to support freedom for Chelsea until she is released- we will not leave our sister behind. Free Chelsea Manning Now!




***I Hear The Voice Of My Arky Angel-Once Again-With Angel Iris Dement In Mind

***I Hear The Voice Of My Arky Angel-Once Again-With Angel Iris Dement In Mind

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman  



(c) 1992 Songs of Iris/Forerunner Music, Inc. ASCAP

Sweet forgiveness, that's what you give to me

when you hold me close and you say "That's all over"

You don't go looking back,

you don't hold the cards to stack,

you mean what you say.

Sweet forgiveness, you help me see

I'm not near as bad as I sometimes appear to be

When you hold me close and say

"That's all over, and I still love you"

There's no way that I could make up for those angry words I said

Sometimes it gets to hurting and the pain goes to my head

Sweet forgiveness, dear God above

I say we all deserve a taste of this kind of love

Someone who'll hold our hand,

and whisper "I understand, and I still love you"


(c) 1992 Songs of Iris/Forerunner Music, Inc. ASCAP

There'll be laughter even after you're gone

I'll find reasons to face that empty dawn

'cause I've memorized each line in your face

and not even death can ever erase the story they tell to me

I'll miss you, oh how I'll miss you

I'll dream of you and I'll cry a million tears

but the sorrow will pass and the one thing that will last

is the love that you've given to me

There'll be laughter even after you're gone

I'll find reason and I'll face that empty dawn

'cause I've memorized each line in your face

and not even death could ever erase the story they tell to me

Every once in a while I have to tussle, go one on one with the angels, or a single angel is maybe a better way to put it. No, not the heavenly ones or the ones who burden your shoulders when you have a troubled heart but every once in a while I need a shot of my Arky angel, Iris Dement. Now while I don’t want to get into a dissertation about the thing, you know, that old medieval Thomist argument about how many angels can fit on the end of a needle or get into playing sides in the struggle between pliant god-like angels and defiant devil-like angels in the battles in the heavens over who would rule the universe that the great revolutionary English poet from the time of the 17th century  English revolution of blessed memory, John Milton, when he got seriously exercised over that notion in Paradise Lost I do believe we our faced, vocally faced with someone who could go mano y mano with whoever wants to enter into the lists against her.

Yes, and I know too that that “angel,” earthly material five feet plus of flesh and bone angel thing has been played out much too much in the world music scene, the popular music scene, you know rock and roll in the old days and now mainly hip-hop. You could hardly live a 1950s childhood extending into a 1960 coming of age teenage-hood  without being bombarded by every kind of angel every time you put your quarter in the jukebox especially if the other hand attached to that quarter, as it usually was your everlovin’ dreamy date who just had to hear you compare her to the Earth Angel of the then currently popular song. On a more sober note when some poor by the midnight telephone (now cellphone, okay Smartphone) girl was beside herself when her Johnny did not call at nine like he said he would and she wanted to deny reality, a reality pointed out to her by her best friend one Monday morning before talkfest that her Johnny Angel just couldn’t keep one girl happy but had to play the field (including an almost successful run at that best girlfriend).  Going to the distaff side (nice old-fashioned word, right) some honkey-tonk angel who was lured into the night life, who went back to the wild side of life where the wine and liquor flowed and she was just waiting there to be anybody’s darling who would eventually be done in by her own her own hubris, Hank’s morbid angel of death that seemed to hover over his every move until the big crash out, until the lights flickered out.

There’s my favorite, no question, though showing just how recklessly secular the angel angle could spin on a platter, no question, Teen Angel. And this will put paid to the notion that the teens in those days were any smarter in going about the business of being a teenager than today’s crop. Let me give few details and if you don’t believe me then just God Google the lyrics and be done with it. Some, I don’t know how else to say it although I will give advanced apologies to the rest of women-kind, some maybe sixteen year old bimbo of unknown intelligence but you decide and of unknown looks whose boyfriend’s car got stuck on a railroad track one Friday date night after a full course down at the local beach, the boyfriend got her out safely and yet she went running back, running back to get his two-bit class ring, a ring that he had probably given to half the girls in school before her, and did not come out alive. Of course the guy was broken up about it, probably personally wrote the words to the song for the guy who sang the song for all I know but let’s leave it at this since I don’t like to speak unkindly of the dead, even the reckless dead, RIP, sister, RIP.


So that off my chest.  No, that fleet of angle-tipped songs are strictly from nowhere, I will take my sensible Arky angel, take her with a little sinning on the side if you can believe there is any autobiographical edge to some of the songs she sings, take her with a little forlorn lilt in her voice, take her since she has seen the seedy side of life. Seen “from hunger” days and heart hurts. Yeah, that is how I like my angels. Alive as hell and well.                 

Every once in a while when I am blue, not a Billie Holiday blue, the blues down in the depths when you have to just hear her, flower in hair, maybe junked up, maybe clean, hell, it did not matter, when she hit her stride, and she “spoke” you out of your miseries, but maybe just a passing blue I needed to hear a voice that if there was an angel heaven voice Iris would be the one I would want to hear.    

I first heard Iris DeMent doing a cover of a folksinger-songwriter Greg Brown’s tribute to Jimmy Rodgers, the old time Texas yodeler discovered around same time as the original Carter Family in the late 1920s out in some Podunk town in Tennessee in the late 1920s when the new-fangled radio and the upstart small independent record companies were desperate for roots music to feed their various clienteles whatever soap, flour, detergent, deodorant their hungry advertisers had to sell, on his tribute album, Driftless. I then looked for her solo albums and for the most part was blown away by the power of Iris’ voice, her piano accompaniment and her lyrics (which are contained in the liner notes of her various albums, read them, please). It is hard to type her style. Is it folk? Is it Country Pop? Is it semi-torch songstress? Well, whatever it maybe that Arky angel is a listening treat, especially if you are in a sentimental mood.

Naturally when I find some talent that “speaks” to me I grab everything they sing, write, paint, or act I can find. In Iris’ case there is not a lot of recorded work, with the recent addition of Sing The Delta just four albums although she had done many back-ups or harmonies with other artists most notably John Prine. Still what has been recorded blew me away (and will blow you away), especially as an old Vietnam War era veteran her There is a Wall in Washington about the guys who found themselves on the Vietnam Memorial without asking knowing what the hell they were fighting for in that hellish war, probably one of the best anti-war songs you will ever hear. That memorial containing names very close to me, to my heart and I shed a tear each time I even go near the memorial when I am in D.C. It is fairly easy to write a Give Peace a Chance or Where Have All the Flowers Gone? sings-song type of anti-war song. It is another to capture the pathos of what happened to too many families when we were unable to stop that war.

The streets of my old-time growing up neighborhood are filled with memories of guys I knew, guys who didn’t make it back, guys who couldn’t adjust coming back to the “real world” and wound up in flop houses, half-way houses, and along railroad “jungle” camps and also guys who could not get over their not going into the service, in retrospect, to experience the decisive event of our generation, the generation of ‘68.

Other songs that have drawn my attention like When My Morning Comes hit home with all the baggage working class kids have about their inferiority when they screw up in this world. Walking Home Alone evokes all the humor, bathos, pathos and sheer exhilaration of saying one was able to survive, and not badly, after growing up poor, Arky poor amid the riches of America. (That may be the “connection” as I grew up through my father coal country Hazard, Kentucky poor.)  

Frankly, and I admit this publicly in this space, I love Ms. Iris Dement. Not personally, of course, but through her voice, her lyrics and her musical presence. This “confession” may seem rather startling coming from a guy who in this space is as likely here to go on and on about Bolsheviks, ‘Che’, Leon Trotsky, high communist theory and the like. Especially, as well given Iris’ seemingly simple quasi- religious themes and commitment to paying homage to her rural background in song. All such discrepancies though go out the window here. Why?

Well, for one, this old radical got a lump in his throat the first time he heard her voice. Okay, that happens sometimes-once- but why did he have the same reaction on the fifth and twelfth hearings? Explain that. I can easily enough. If, on the very, very remotest chance, there is a heaven then I know one of the choir members. Enough said. By the way give a listen to Out Of The Fire and Mornin’ Glory. Then you too will be in love with Ms. Iris Dement.

Iris, here is my proposal, once again. (I have made the offer in other spaces reviewing her work more seriously.) If you get tired of fishing up in the U.P., or wherever, with Mr. Greg Brown, get bored with his endless twaddle about old Iowa farms and buxom aunts, about the trials and tribulations of Billy from the hills, or going on and on about Grandma's fruit cellar just whistle. Better yet just yodel like you did on Jimmie Rodgers Going Home on that Driftless CD. Okay.

Honor John Brown -Frederick Douglass, “John Brown: An Address at the Fourteenth Anniversary of Storer College” (May 1881)

Frederick Douglass, “John Brown: An Address at the Fourteenth Anniversary of Storer College” (May 1881)

The Full Text

Address by Frederick Douglass

MAY 30, 1881

In substance, this address, now for the first time published, was prepared several years ago, and has been delivered in many parts of the North. Its publication now in pamphlet form is due to its delivery at Harper's Ferry, W. Va., on Decoration day, 1881, and to the fact that the proceeds from the sale of it are to be used toward the endowment of a John Brown Professorship in Storer College, Harper's Ferry - an institution mainly devoted to the education of colored youth. That such an address could be delivered at such a place, at such a time, is strikingly significant, and illustrates the rapid, vast. and wonderful changes through which the American people have been passing since 1859. Twenty years ago Frederick Douglass and others were mobbed in the city of Boston, and. driven from Tremont Temple for uttering sentiments concerning John Brown similar to those contained in this address. Yet now he goes freely to the very spot where John Brown committed the offense which caused all Virginia to clamor for his life, and without reserve or qualification, commends him as a hero and martyr in the cause of liberty. This incident is rendered all the more significant by the fact that Hon. Andrew Hunter, of Charlestown, - the District Attorney who prosecuted John Brown and secured his execution, - sat on the platform directly behind Mr. Douglass during the delivery of the entire address and at the close of it shook hands with him, and congratulated him, and invited him to Charlestown (where John Brown was hanged), adding that if Robert E. Lee were living, he would give him his hand also.
Not to fan the flame of sectional animosity now happily in the process of rapid and I hope permanent extinction, not to revive and keep alive a sense of shame and remorse for a great national crime, which has brought its own punishment, in loss of treasure, tears and blood, not to recount the long list of wrongs, inflicted on my race during more than two hundred years of merciless bondage; nor yet to draw, from the labyrinths of far-off centuries, incidents and achievements wherewith to rouse your passions, and enkindle your enthusiasm, but to pay a just debt long due, to vindicate in some degree a great historical character, of our own time and country, one with whom I was myself well acquainted, and whose friendship and confidence it was my good fortune to share, and to give you such recollections, impressions and facts, as I can, of a grand, brave and good old man, and especially to promote a better understanding of the raid upon Harper's Ferry of which he was the chief, is the object of this address. In all the thirty years' conflict with slavery, if we except the late tremendous war, there is no subject which in its interest and importance will be remembered longer, or will form a more thrilling chapter in American history than this strange, wild, bloody and mournful drama. The story of it is still fresh in the minds of many who now hear me, but for the sake of those who may have forgotten its details, and in order to have our subject in its entire range more fully and clearly before us at the outset, I will briefly state the facts in that extraordinary transaction. On the night of the 16th of October, 1859, there appeared near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, a party of nineteen men - fourteen white and five colored. They were not only armed themselves, but had brought with them a large supply of arms for such persons as might join them. These men invaded Harper's Ferry, disarmed the watchman, took possession of the arsenal, rifle-factory, armory and other government property at that place, arrested and made prisoners nearly all the prominent citizens of the neighborhood, collected about fifty slaves, put bayonets into the hands of such as were able and willing to fight for their liberty, killed three men, proclaimed general emancipation, held the ground more than thirty hours, were subsequently overpowered and nearly all killed, wounded or captured, by a body of United States troops, under command of Colonel Robert E. Lee, since famous as the rebel Gen. Lee. Three out of the nineteen invaders were captured whilst fighting, and one of these was Captain John Brown, the man who originated, planned and commanded the expedition. At the time of his capture Capt. Brown was supposed to be mortally wounded, as he had several ugly gashes and bayonet wounds on his head and body; and apprehending that he might speedily die, or that he might be rescued by his friends, and thus the opportunity of making him a signal example of slave-holding vengeance would be lost, his captors hurried him to Charlestown two miles further within the border of Virginia, placed him in prison strongly guarded by troops, and before his wounds were healed he was brought into court, subjected to a nominal trial, convicted of high treason and inciting slaves to insurrection, and was executed. His corpse was given to his woe-stricken widow, and she, assisted by Antislavery friends, caused it to be borne to North Elba, Essex County, N. Y., and there his dust now reposes, amid the silent, solemn and snowy grandeur of the Adirondacks. Such is the story; with no line softened or hardened to my inclining. It certainly is not a story to please, but to pain. It is not a story to increase our sense of social safety and security, but to fill the imagination with wild and troubled fancies of doubt and danger. It was a sudden and startling surprise to the people of Harper's Ferry, and it is not easy to conceive of a situation more abundant in all the elements of horror and consternation. They had retired as usual to rest, with no suspicion that an enemy lurked in the surrounding darkness. They had quietly and trustingly given themselves up to "tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep," and while thus all unconscious of danger, they were roused from their peaceful slumbers by the sharp crack of the invader's rifle, and felt the keen-edged sword of war at their throats, three of their number being already slain. Every feeling of the human heart was naturally outraged at this occurrence, and hence at the moment the air was full of denunciation and execration. So intense was this feeling, that few ventured to whisper a word of apology. But happily reason has her voice as well as feeling, and though slower in deciding, her judgments are broader, deeper, clearer and more enduring. It is not easy to reconcile human feeling to the shedding of blood for any purpose, unless indeed in the excitement which the shedding of blood itself occasions. The knife is to feeling always an offence. Even when in the hands of a skillful surgeon, it refuses consent to the operation long after reason has demonstrated its necessity. It even pleads the cause of the known murderer on the day of his execution, and calls society half criminal when, in cold blood, it takes life as a protection of itself from crime. Let no word be said against this holy feeling; more than to law and government are we indebted to this tender sentiment of regard for human life for the safety with which we walk the streets by day and sleep secure in our beds at night. It is nature's grand police, vigilant and faithful, sentineled in the soul, guarding against violence to peace and life. But whilst so much is freely accorded to feeling in the economy of human welfare, something more than feeling is necessary to grapple with a fact so grim and significant as was this raid. Viewed apart and alone, as a transaction separate and distinct from its antecedents and bearings, it takes rank with the most cold-blooded and atrocious wrongs ever perpetrated; but just here is the trouble - this raid on Harper's Ferry, no more than Sherman's march to the sea can consent to be thus viewed alone. There is, in the world's government, a force which has in all ages been recognized, sometimes as Nemesis, sometimes as the judgment of God and sometimes as retributive justice; but under whatever name, all history attests the wisdom and beneficence of its chastisements, and men become reconciled to the agents through whom it operates, and have extolled them as heroes, benefactors and demigods. To the broad vision of a true philosophy, nothing in this world stands alone. Everything is a necessary part of everything else. The margin of chance is narrowed by every extension of reason and knowledge, and nothing comes unbidden to the feast of. human experience. The universe, of which we are a part, is continually proving itself a stupendous whole, a system of law and order, eternal and perfect. Every seed bears fruit after its kind, and nothing is reaped which was not sowed. The distance between seed time and harvest, in the moral world, may not be quite so well defined or as clearly intelligible as in the physical, but there is a seed time, and there is a harvest time, and though ages may intervene, and neither he who ploughed nor he who sowed may reap in person, yet the harvest nevertheless will surely come, and as in the physical world there are century plants, so it may be in the moral world, and their fruitage is as certain in the one as in the other. The bloody harvest of Harper's Ferry was ripened by the heat and moisture of merciless bondage of more than two hundred years. That startling cry of alarm on the banks of the Potomac was but the answering back of the avenging angel to the midnight invasions of Christian slave-traders on the sleeping hamlets of Africa. The history of the African slave-trade furnishes many illustrations far more cruel and bloody. Viewed thus broadly our subject is worthy of thoughtful and dispassionate consideration. It invites the study Of the poet, scholar, philosopher and statesman. What the masters in natural science have done for man in the physical world, the masters of social science may yet do for him in the moral world. Science now tells us when storms are in the sky, and when and where their violence will be most felt. Why may we not yet know with equal certainty when storms are in the moral sky, and how to avoid their desolating force? But I can invite you to no such profound discussions. I am not the man, nor is this the occasion for such philosophical enquiry. Mine is the word of grateful memory to an old friend; to tell you what I knew of him - what I knew of his inner life - of what he did and what he attempted, and thus if possible to make the mainspring of his actions manifest and thereby give you a clearer view of his character and services. It is said that next in value to the performance of great deeds ourselves, is the capacity to appreciate such when performed by others; to more than this I do not presume. Allow me one other personal word before I proceed. In the minds of some of the American people I was myself credited with an important agency in the John Brown raid. Governor Henry A. Wise was manifestly of that opinion. He was at the pains of having Mr. Buchanan send his Marshals to Rochester to invite me to accompany them to Virginia. Fortunately I left town several hours previous to their arrival. What ground there was for this distinguished consideration shall duly appear in the natural course of this lecture. I wish however to say just here that there was no foundation whatever for the charge that I in any wise urged or instigated John Brown to his dangerous work. I rejoice that it is my good fortune to have seen, not only the end of slavery, but to see the day when the whole truth can be told about this matter without prejudice to either the living or the dead. I shall however allow myself little prominence in these disclosures. Your interests, like mine, are in the all-commanding figure of the story, and to him I consecrate the hour. His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine - it was as the burning sun to my taper light - mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him. The crown of martyrdom is high, far beyond the reach of ordinary mortals, and yet happily no special greatness or superior moral excellence is necessary to discern and in some measure appreciate a truly great soul. Cold, calculating and unspiritual as most of us are, we are not wholly insensible to real greatness; and when we are brought in contact with a man of commanding mold, towering high and alone above the millions, free from all conventional fetters, true to his own moral convictions, a "law unto himself," ready to suffer misconstruction, ignoring torture and death for what he believes to be right, we are compelled to do him homage. In the stately shadow, in the sublime presence of such a soul I find myself standing to-night; and how to do it reverence, how to do it justice, how to honor the dead with due regard to the living, has been a matter of most anxious solicitude. Much has been said of John Brown, much that is wise and beautiful, but in looking over what may be called the John Brown. literature, I have been little assisted with material, and even less encouraged with any hope of success in treating the subject. Scholarship, genius and devotion have hastened with poetry and eloquence, story and song to this simple altar of human virtue, and have retired dissatisfied and distressed with the thinness and poverty of their offerings, as I shall with mine. The difficulty in doing justice to the life and character of such a man is not altogether due to the quality of the zeal, or of the ability brought to the work, nor yet to any imperfections in the qualities of the man himself; the state of the moral atmosphere about us has much to do with it. The fault is not in our eyes, nor yet in the object, if under a murky sky we fail to discover the object. Wonderfully tenacious is the taint of a great wrong. The evil, as well as "the good that men do, lives after them." Slavery is indeed gone; but its long, black shadow yet falls broad and large over the face of the whole country. It is the old truth oft repeated, and never more fitly than now, " a prophet is without honor in his own country and among his own people." Though more than twenty years have rolled between us and the Harper's Ferry raid, though since then the armies of the nation have found it necessary to do on a large scale what John Brown attempted to do on a small one, and the great captain who fought his way through slavery has filled with honor the Presidential chair, we yet stand too near the days of slavery, and the life and times of John Brown, to see clearly the true martyr and hero that he was and rightly to estimate the value of the man and his works. Like the great and good of all ages - the men born in advance of their times, the men whose bleeding footprints attest the immense cost of reform, and show us the long and dreary spaces, between the luminous points in the progress of mankind, - this our noblest American hero must wait the polishing wheels of after-coming centuries to make his glory more manifest, and his worth more generally acknowledged. Such instances are abundant and familiar. If we go back four and twenty centuries, to the stately city of Athens, and search among her architectural splendor and her miracles of art for the Socrates of today, and as he stands in history, we shall find ourselves perplexed and disappointed. In Jerusalem Jesus himself was only the "carpenter's son" - a young man wonderfully destitute of worldly prudence - a pestilent fellow, "inexcusably and perpetually interfering in the world's business," - "upsetting the tables of the money-changers" - preaching sedition, opposing the good old religion - "making himself greater than Abraham," and at the same time "keeping company" with very low people; but behold the change! He was a great miracle-worker, in his day, but time has worked for him a greater miracle than all his miracles, for now his name stands for all that is desirable in government, noble in life, orderly and beautiful in society. That which time has done for other great men of his class, that will time certainly do for John Brown. The brightest gems shine at first with subdued light, and the strongest characters are subject to the same limitations. Under the influence of adverse education and hereditary bias, few things are more difficult than to render impartial justice. Men hold up their hands to Heaven, and swear they will do justice, but what are oaths against prejudice and against inclination! In the face of high-sounding professions and affirmations we know well how hard it is for a Turk to do justice to a Christian, or for a Christian to do justice to a Jew. How hard for an Englishman to do justice to an Irishman, for an Irishman to do justice to an Englishman, harder still for an American tainted by slavery to do justice to the Negro or the Negro's friends. "John Brown," said the late Wm. H. Seward, "was justly hanged." "John Brown," said the late John A. Andrew, "was right." It is easy to perceive the sources of these two opposite judgments: the one was the verdict of slave-holding and panic-stricken Virginia, the other was the verdict of the best heart and brain of free old Massachusetts. One was the heated judgment of the passing and passionate hour, and the other was the calm, clear, unimpeachable judgment of the broad, illimitable future. There is, however, one aspect of the present subject quite worthy of notice, for it makes the hero of Harper's Ferry in some degree an exception to the general rules to which I have just now adverted. Despite the hold which slavery had at that time on the country, despite the popular prejudice against the Negro, despite the shock which the first alarm occasioned, almost from the first John Brown received a large measure of sympathy and appreciation. New England recognized in him the spirit which brought the pilgrims to Plymouth rock and hailed him as a martyr and saint. True he had broken the law, true he had struck for a despised people, true he had crept upon his foe stealthily, like a wolf upon the fold, and had dealt his blow in the dark whilst his enemy slept, but with all this and more to disturb the moral sense, men discerned in him the greatest and best qualities known to human nature, and pronounced him "good." Many consented to his death, and then went home and taught their children to sing his praise as one whose "soul is marching on" through the realms of endless bliss. One element in explanation of this somewhat anomalous circumstance will probably be found in the troubled times which immediately succeeded, for "when judgments are abroad in the world, men learn righteousness." The country had before this learned the value of Brown's heroic character. He had shown boundless courage and skill in. dealing with the enemies of liberty in Kansas. With men so few, and means so small, and odds against him so great, no captain ever surpassed him in achievements, some of which seem almost beyond belief. With only eight men in that bitter war, he met, fought and captured Henry Clay Pate, with twenty-five well armed and mounted men. In this memorable encounter, he selected his ground so wisely, handled his men so skillfully, and attacked the enemy so vigorously, that they could neither run nor fight, and were therefore compelled to surrender to a force less than one-third their own. With just thirty men on another important occasion during the same border war, he met and vanquished four hundred Missourians under the command of Gen. Read. These men had come into the territory under an oath never to return to their homes till they had stamped out the last vestige of free State spirit in Kansas; but a brush with old Brown took this high conceit out of them, and they were glad to get off upon any terms, without stopping to stipulate. With less than one hundred men to defend the town of Lawrence, he offered to lead them and give battle to fourteen hundred men on the banks of the Waukerusia [sic] river, and was much vexed when his offer was refused by Gen. Jim Lane and others to whom the defense of the town was confided. Before leaving Kansas, he went into the border of Missouri, and liberated a dozen slaves in a single night, and, in spite of slave laws and marshals, he brought these people through a half dozen States, and landed them safely in Canada. With eighteen men this man shook the whole social fabric of Virginia. With eighteen men he overpowered a town of nearly three thousand souls. With these eighteen men he held that large community firmly in his grasp for thirty long hours. With these eighteen men he rallied in a single night fifty slaves to his standard, and made prisoners of an equal number of the slave-holding class. With these eighteen men he defied the power and bravery of a dozen of the best militia companies that Virginia could send against him. Now, when slavery struck, as it certainly did strike, at the life of the country, it was not the fault of John Brown that our rulers did not at first know how to deal with it. He had already shown us the weak side of the rebellion, had shown us where to strike and how. It was not from lack of native courage that Virginia submitted for thirty long hours and at last was relieved only by Federal troops, but because the attack was made on the side of her conscience and thus armed her against herself. She beheld at her side the sullen brow of a black Ireland. When John Brown proclaimed emancipation to the slaves of Maryland and Virginia he added to his war power the force of a moral earthquake. Virginia felt all her strong-ribbed mountains to shake under the heavy tread of armed insurgents. Of his army of nineteen her conscience made an army of nineteen hundred. Another feature of the times, worthy of notice, was the effect of this blow upon the country at large. At the first moment we were stunned and bewildered. Slavery had so benumbed the moral sense of the nation, that it never suspected the possibility of an explosion like this, and it was difficult for Captain Brown to get himself taken for what he really was. Few could seem to comprehend that freedom to the slaves was his only object. If you will go back with me to that time you will find that the most curious and contradictory versions of the affair were industriously circulated, and those which were the least rational and true seemed to command the readiest belief. In the view of some, it assumed tremendous proportions. To such it was nothing less than a wide-sweeping rebellion to overthrow the existing government, and construct another upon its ruins, with Brown for its President and Commander-in-Chief, the proof of this was found in the old man's carpet-bag in the shape of a constitution for a new Republic, an instrument which in reality had been executed to govern the conduct of his men in the mountains. Smaller and meaner natures saw in it nothing higher than a purpose to plunder. To them John Brown and his men were a gang of desperate robbers, who had learned by some means that government had sent a large sum of money to Harper's Ferry to pay off the workmen in its employ there, and they had gone thence to fill their pockets from this money. The fact is, that outside of a few friends, scattered in different parts of the country, and the slave-holders of Virginia, few persons understood the significance of the hour. That a man might do something very audacious and desperate for money, power or fame, was to the general apprehension quite possible, but, in face of plainly-written law, in face of constitutional guarantees protecting each State against domestic violence, in face of a nation of forty million of people, that nineteen men could invade a great State to liberate a despised and hated race, was to the average intellect and conscience, too monstrous for belief. In this respect the vision of Virginia was clearer than that of the nation. Conscious of her guilt and therefore full of suspicion, sleeping on pistols for pillows, startled at every unusual sound, constantly fearing and expecting a repetition of the Nat Turner insurrection, she at once understood the meaning, if not the magnitude of the affair. It was this understanding which caused her to raise the lusty and imploring cry to the Federal government for help, and it was not till he who struck the blow had fully explained his motives and object, that the incredulous nation in any wise comprehended the true spirit of the raid, or of its commander. Fortunate for his memory, fortunate for the brave men associated with him, fortunate for the truth of history, John Brown survived the saber gashes, bayonet wounds and bullet holes, and was able, though covered with blood, to tell his own story and make his own defense. Had he with all his men, as might have been the case, gone down in the shock of battle, the world would have had no true basis for its judgment, and one of the most heroic efforts ever witnessed in behalf of liberty would have been confounded with base and selfish purposes. When, like savages, the Wises, the Vallandinghams, the Washingtons, the Stuarts and others stood around the fallen and bleeding hero, and sought by torturing questions to wring from his supposed dying lips some word by which to soil the sublime undertaking, by implicating Gerrit Smith, Joshua R. Giddings, Dr. S. G. Howe, G. L. Steams, Edwin Morton, Frank Sanborn, and other prominent Anti-slavery men, the brave old man, not only avowed his object to be the emancipation of the slaves, but serenely and proudly announced himself as solely responsible for all that had happened. Though some thought of his own life might at such a moment have seemed natural and excusable, he showed none, and scornfully rejected the idea that he acted as the agent or instrument of any man or set of men. He admitted that he had friends and sympathizers, but to his own head he invited all the bolts of slave-holding wrath and fury, and welcomed them to do their worst. His manly courage and self-forgetful nobleness were not lost upon the crowd about him, nor upon the country. They drew applause from his bitterest enemies. Said Henry A. Wise, "He is the gamest man I ever met.""He was kind and humane to his prisoners," said Col. Lewis Washington. To the outward eye of men, John Brown was a criminal, but to their inward eye he was a just man and true. His deeds might be disowned, but the spirit which made those deeds possible was worthy highest honor. It has been often asked, why did not Virginia spare the life of this man? why did she not avail herself of this grand opportunity to add to her other glory that of a lofty magnanimity? Had they spared the good old man's life - had they said to him, "You see we have you in our power, and could easily take your life, but we have no desire to hurt you in any way; you have committed a terrible crime against society; you have invaded us at midnight and attacked a sleeping community, but we recognize you as a fanatic, and in some sense instigated by others; and on this ground and others, we release you. Go about your business, and tell those who sent you that we can afford to be magnanimous to our enemies." I say, had Virginia held some such language as this to John Brown, she would have inflicted a heavy blow on the whole Northern abolition movement, one which only the omnipotence of truth and the force of truth could have overcome. I have no doubt Gov. Wise would have done so gladly, but, alas, he was the executive of a State which thought she could not afford such magnanimity. She had that within her bosom which could more safely tolerate the presence of a criminal than a saint, a highway robber than a moral hero. All her hills and valleys were studded with material for a disastrous conflagration, and one spark of the dauntless spirit of Brown might set the whole State in flames. A sense of this appalling liability put an end to every noble consideration. His death was a foregone conclusion, and his trial was simply one of form. Honor to the brave young Col. Hoyt who hastened from Massachusetts to defend his friend's life at the peril of his own; but there would have been no hope of success had he been allowed to plead the case. He might have surpassed Choate or Webster in power - a thousand physicians might have sworn that Capt. Brown was insane, it would have been all to no purpose, neither eloquence nor testimony could have prevailed. Slavery was the idol of Virginia, and pardon and life to Brown meant condemnation and death to slavery. He had practically illustrated a truth stranger than fiction, - a truth higher than Virginia had ever known, - a truth more noble and beautiful than Jefferson ever wrote. He had evinced a conception of the sacredness and value of liberty which transcended in sublimity that of her own Patrick Henry and made even his fire-flashing sentiment of "Liberty or Death" seem dark and tame and selfish. Henry loved liberty for himself, but this man loved liberty for all men, and for those most despised and scorned, as well as for those most esteemed and honored. Just here was the true glory of John Brown's mission. It was not for his own freedom that he was thus ready to lay down his life, for with Paul he could say, "I was born free." No chain had bound his ankle, no yoke had galled his neck. History has no better illustration of pure, disinterested benevolence. It was not Caucasian for Caucasian - white man for white man; not rich man for rich man, but Caucasian for Ethiopian - white man for black man - rich man for poor man - the man admitted and respected, for the man despised and rejected. "I want you to understand, gentlemen," he said to his persecutors, "that I respect the rights of the poorest and weakest of the colored people, oppressed by the slave system, as I do those of the most wealthy and powerful." In this we have the key to the whole life and career of the man. Than in this sentiment humanity has nothing more touching, reason nothing more noble, imagination nothing more sublime, and if we could reduce all the religions of the world to one essence we could find in it nothing more divine. It is much to be regretted that some great artist, in sympathy with the spirit of the occasion, had not been present when these and similar words were spoken. The situation was thrilling. An old man in the center of an excited and angry crowd, far away from home, in an enemy's country - with no friend near - overpowered, defeated, wounded, bleeding - covered with reproaches - his brave companions nearly all dead - his two faithful sons stark and cold by his side - reading his death-warrant in his fast-oozing blood and increasing weakness as in the faces of all around him - yet calm, collected, brave, with a heart for any fate - using his supposed dying moments to explain his course and vindicate his cause: such a subject would have been at once an inspiration and a power for one of the grandest historical pictures ever painted. With John Brown, as with every other man fit to die for a cause, the hour of his physical weakness was the hour of his moral strength - the hour of his defeat was the hour of his triumph - the moment of his capture was the crowning victory of his life. With the Alleghany mountains for his pulpit, the country for his church and the whole civilized world for his audience, he was a thousand times more effective as a preacher than as a warrior, and the consciousness of this fact was the secret of his amazing complacency. Mighty with the sword of steel, he was mightier with the sword of the truth, and with this sword he literally swept the horizon. He was more than a match for all the Wises, Masons, Vallandinghams and Washingtons, who could rise against him. They could kill him, but they could not answer him. In studying the character and works of a great man, it is always desirable to learn in what he is distinguished from others, and what have been the causes of this difference. Such men as he whom we are now considering, come on to the theater of life only at long intervals. It is not always easy to explain the exact and logical causes that produce them, or the subtle influences which sustain them, at the immense hights [sic] where we sometimes find them, but we know that the hour and the man are seldom far apart, and that here, as elsewhere, the demand may in some mysterious way, regulate the supply. A great iniquity, hoary with age, proud and defiant, tainting the whole moral atmosphere of the country, subjecting both church and state to its control, demanded the startling shock which John Brown seemed especially inspired to give it. Apart from this mission there was nothing very remarkable about him. He was a wool-dealer, and a good judge of wool, as a wool-dealer ought to be. In all visible respects he was a man like unto other men. No outward sign of Kansas or Harper's Ferry was about him. As I knew him, he was an even-tempered man, neither morose, malicious nor misanthropic, but kind, amiable, courteous, and gentle in his intercourse with men. His words were few, well chosen and forcible. He was a good buisness [sic] man, and a good neighbor. A good friend, a good citizen, a good husband and father: a man apparently in every way calculated to make a smooth and pleasant path for himself through the world. He loved society, he loved little children, he liked music, and was. fond of animals. To no one was the world more beautiful or life more sweet. How then as I have said shall we explain his apparent indifference to life? I can find but one answer, and that is, his intense hatred to oppression. I have talked with many men, but I remember none, who seemed so deeply excited upon the subject of slavery as he. He would walk the room in agitation at mention of the word. He saw the evil through no mist or haze, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no line of its ten thousand horrors out of sight. Law, religion, learning, were interposed in its behalf in vain. His law in regard to it was that which Lord Brougham described, as "the law above all the enactments of human codes, the same in all time, the same throughout the world - the law unchangeable and eternal - the law written by the finger of God on the human heart - that law by which property in man is, and ever must remain, a wild and guilty phantasy." Against truth and right, legislative enactments were to his mind mere cobwebs - the pompous emptiness of human pride - the pitiful outbreathings of human nothingness. He used to say "whenever there is a right thing to be done, there is a 'thus saith the Lord' that it shall be done." It must be admitted that Brown assumed tremendous responsibility in making war upon the peaceful people of Harper's Ferry, but it must be remembered also that in his eye a slave-holding: community could not be peaceable, but was, in the nature of the case, in one incessant state of war. To him such a community was not more sacred than a band of robbers: it was the right of any one to assault it by day or night. He saw no hope that slavery would ever be abolished by moral or political means: "he knew," he said, "the proud and hard hearts of the slave-holders, and that they never would consent to give up their slaves, till they felt a big stick about their heads." It was five years before this event at Harper's Ferry, while the conflict between freedom and slavery was waxing hotter and hotter with every hour, that the blundering statesmanship of the National Government repealed the Missouri compromise, and thus launched the territory of Kansas as a prize to be battled for between the North and the South. The remarkable part taken in this contest by Brown has been already referred to, and it doubtless helped to prepare him for the final tragedy, and though it did not by any means originate the plan, it confirmed him in it and hastened its execution. During his four years' service in Kansas it was my good fortune to see him often. On his trips to and from the territory he sometimes stopped several days at my house, and at one time several weeks. It was on this last occasion that liberty had been victorious in Kansas, and he felt that he must hereafter devote himself to what he considered his larger work. It was the theme of all his conversation, filling his nights with dreams and his days with visions. An incident of his boyhood may explain, in some measure, the intense abhorrence he felt to slavery. He had for some reason been sent into the State of Kentucky, where he made the acquaintance of a slave boy, about his own age, of whom he became very fond. For some petty offense this boy was one day subjected to a brutal beating. The blows were dealt with an iron shovel and fell fast and furiously upon his slender body. Born in a free State and unaccustomed to such scenes of cruelty, young Brown's pure and sensitive soul revolted at the shocking spectacle and at that early age he swore eternal hatred to slavery. After years never obliterated the impression, and he found in this early experience an argument against contempt for small things. It is true that the boy is the father of the man. From the acorn comes the oak. The impression of a horse's foot in the sand suggested the art of printing. The fall of an apple intimated the law of gravitation. A word dropped in the woods of Vincennes, by royal hunters, gave Europe and the world a "William the Silent," and a thirty years' war. The beating of a Hebrew. bondsman, by an Egyptian, created a Moses, and the infliction of a similar outrage on a helpless slave boy in our own land may have caused, forty years afterwards, a John Brown and a Harper's Ferry Raid. Most of us can remember some event or incident which has at some time come to us, and made itself a permanent part of our lives. Such an incident came to me in the year 1847. I had then the honor of spending a day and a night under the roof of a man, whose character and conversation made a very deep impression on my mind and heart; and as the circumstance does not lie entirely out of the range of our present observations, you will pardon for a moment a seeming digression. The name of the person alluded to had been several times mentioned to me, in a tone that made me curious to see him and to make his acquaintance. He was a merchant, and our first meeting was at his store - a substantial brick building, giving evidence of a flourishing business. After a few minutes' detention here, long enough for me to observe the neatness and order of the place, I was conducted by him to his residence where I was kindly received by his family as an expected guest. I was a little disappointed at the appearance of this man's house, for after seeing his fine store, I was prepared to see a fine residence; but this logic was entirely contradicted by the facts. The house was a small, wooden one, on a back street in a neighborhood of laboring men and mechanics, respectable enough, but not just the spot where one would expect to find the home of a successful merchant. Plain as was the outside, the inside was plainer. Its furniture might have pleased a Spartan. It would take longer to tell what was not in it, than what was, no sofas, no cushions, no curtains, no carpets, no easy rocking chairs inviting to enervation or rest or repose. My first meal passed under the misnomer of tea. It was none of your tea and toast sort, but potatoes and cabbage, and beef soup, such a meal as a man might relish after following the plough all day, or after performing a forced march of a dozen miles over rough ground in frosty weather. Innocent of paint, veneering, varnish or tablecloth, the table announced itself unmistakably and honestly pine and of the plainest workmanship. No hired help passed from kitchen to dining room, staring in amazement at the colored man at the white man's table. The mother, daughters and sons did the serving, and did it well. I heard no apology for doing their own work; they went through it as if used to it, untouched by any thought of degradation or impropriety. Supper over, the boys helped to clear the table and wash the dishes. This style of housekeeping struck me as a little odd. I mention it because household management is worthy of thought. A house is more than brick and mortar, wood or paint, this to me at least was. In its plainness it was a truthful reflection of its inmates: no disguises, no illusions, no make-believes here, but stern truth and solid purpose breathed in all its arrangements. I was not long in company with the master of this house before I discovered that he was indeed the master of it, and likely to become mine too, if I staid long with him. He fulfilled St. Paul's idea of the head of the family - his wife believed in him, and his children observed him with reverence. Whenever he spoke, his words commanded earnest attention. His arguments which I ventured at some points to oppose, seemed to convince all, his appeals touched all, and his will impressed all. Certainly I never felt myself in the presence of a stronger religious influence than while in this house. "God and duty, God and duty," run like a thread of gold through all his utterances, and his family supplied a ready "Amen." In person he was lean and sinewy, of the best New England mould, built for times of trouble, fitted to grapple with the flintiest hardships. Clad in plain American woolen, shod in boots of cowhide leather, and wearing a cravat of the same substantial material, under six feet high, less than one hundred and fifty lbs. in weight, aged about fifty, he presented a figure straight and symmetrical as a mountain pine. His bearing was singularly impressive. His head was not large, but compact and high. His hair was coarse, strong, slightly gray and closely trimmed and grew close to his forehead. His face was smoothly shaved and revealed a strong square mouth, supported by a broad and prominent chin. His eyes were clear and grey, and in conversation they alternated with tears and fire. When on the street, he moved with a long springing, race-horse step, absorbed by his own reflections, neither seeking nor shunning observation. Such was the man whose name I heard uttered in whispers - such was the house in which he lived - such were his family and household management - and such was Captain John Brown. He said to me at this meeting, that he had invited me to his; house for the especial purpose of laying before me his plan for the speedy emancipation of my race. He seemed to apprehend opposition on my part as he opened the subject and touched my vanity by saying, that he had observed my course at home and abroad, and wanted my co-operation. He said he had been for the last thirty years looking for colored men to whom he could safely reveal his secret, and had almost despaired, at times, of finding such, but that now he was encouraged for he saw heads rising up in all directions, to whom he thought he could with safety impart his plan. As this plan then lay in his mind it was very simple, and had much to commend it. It did not, as was supposed by many, contemplate a general rising among the slaves, and a general slaughter of the slave masters (an insurrection he thought would only defeat the object), but it did contemplate the creating of an armed force which should act in the very heart of the South. He was not averse to the shedding of blood, and thought the practice of carrying arms would be a good one for the colored people to adopt, as it would give them a sense of manhood. No people he said could have self-respect or be respected who would not fight for their freedom. He called my attention to a large map of the U. States, and pointed out to me the far-reaching Alleghanies, stretching away from the borders of New York into the Southern States. "These mountains," he said, "are the basis of my plan. God has given the strength of these hills to freedom, they were placed here to aid the emancipation of your race; they are full of natural forts, where one man for defense would be equal to a hundred for attack; they are also full of good hiding places where a large number of men could be concealed and baffle and elude pursuit for a long time. I know these mountains well and could take a body of men into them and keep them there in spite of all the efforts of Virginia to dislodge me, and drive me out. I would take at first about twenty-five picked men and begin on a small scale, supply them arms and ammunition, post them in squads of fives on a line of twenty-five miles, these squads to busy themselves for a time in gathering recruits from the surrounding farms, seeking and selecting the most restless and daring." He saw that in this part of the work the utmost care must be used to guard against treachery and disclosure; only the most conscientious and skillful should be sent on this perilous duty. With care and enterprise he thought he could soon gather a force of one hundred hardy men, men who would be content to lead the free and adventurous life to which he proposed to train them. When once properly drilled and each had found the place for which he was best suited, they would begin work in earnest; they would run off the slaves in large numbers, retain the strong and brave ones in the mountains, and send the weak and timid ones to the North by the underground Rail-road, his operations would be enlarged with increasing numbers and would not be confined to one locality. Slave-holders should in some cases be approached at midnight and told to give up their slaves and to let them have their best horses to ride away upon. Slavery was a state of war, he said, to which the slaves were unwilling parties and consequently they had a right to anything necessary to their peace and freedom. He would shed no blood and would avoid a fight except in self-defense, when he would of course do his best. He believed this movement would weaken slavery in two ways - first by making slave property insecure, it would become undesirable; and secondly it would keep the anti-slavery agitation alive and public attention fixed upon it, and thus lead to the adoption of measures to abolish the evil altogether. He held that there was need of something startling to prevent the agitation of the question from dying out; that slavery had come near being abolished in Virginia by the Nat. Turner insurrection, and he thought his method would speedily put an end to it, both in Maryland and Virginia. The trouble was to get the right men to start with and money enough to equip them. He had adopted the simple and economical mode of living to which I have referred with a view to save money for this purpose. This was said in no boastful tone, for he felt that he had delayed already too long and had no room to boast either his zeal or his self-denial. From 8 o'clock in the evening till 3 in the morning, Capt. Brown and I sat face to face, he arguing in favor of his plan, and I finding all the objections I could against it. Now mark! this meeting of ours was full twelve years before the strike at Harper's Ferry. He had been watching and waiting all that time for suitable heads to rise or "pop up" as he said among the sable millions in whom he could confide; hence forty years had passed between his thought and his act. Forty years, though not a long time in the life of a nation, is a long time in the life of a man; and here forty long years, this man was struggling with this one idea; like Moses he was forty years in the wilderness. Youth, manhood, middle age had come and gone; two marriages had been consummated, twenty children had called him father; and through all the storms and vicissitudes of busy life, this one thought, like the angel in the burning bush, had confronted him with its blazing light, bidding him on to his work. Like Moses he had made excuses, and as with Moses his excuses were overruled. Nothing should postpone further what was to him a divine command, the performance of which seemed to him his only apology for existence. He often said to me, though life was sweet to him, he would willingly lay it down for the freedom of my people; and on one occasion he added, that he had already lived about as long as most men, since he had slept less, and if he should now lay down his life the loss would not be great, for in fact he knew no better use for it. During his last visit to us in Rochester there appeared in the newspapers a touching story connected with the horrors of the Sepoy War in British India. A Scotch missionary and his family were in the hands of the enemy, and were to be massacred the next morning. During the night, when they had given up every hope of rescue, suddenly the wife insisted that relief would come. Placing her ear close to the ground she declared she heard the Slogan - the Scotch war song. For long hours in the night no member of the family could hear the advancing music but herself. "Dinna ye hear it? Dinna ye hear it?" she would say, but they could not hear it. As the morning slowly dawned a Scotch regiment was found encamped indeed about them, and they were saved from the threatened slaughter. This circumstance, coming at such a time, gave Capt. Brown a new word of cheer. He would come to the table in the morning his countenance fairly illuminated, saying that he had heard the Slogan, and he would add, "Dinna ye hear it? Dinna ye hear it?" Alas! like the Scotch missionary I was obliged to say "No." Two weeks prior to the meditated attack, Capt. Brown summoned me to meet him in an old stone quarry on the Conecochequi river, near the town of Chambersburgh, Penn. His arms and ammunition were stored in that town and were to be moved on to Harper's Ferry. In company with Shields Green I obeyed the summons, and prompt to the hour we met the dear old man, with Kagi, his secretary, at the appointed place. Our meeting was in some sense a council of war. We spent the Saturday and succeeding Sunday in conference on the question, whether the desperate step should then be taken, or the old plan as already described should be carried out. He was for boldly striking Harper's Ferry at once and running the risk of getting into the mountains afterwards. I was for avoiding Harper's Ferry altogether. Shields Green and Mr. Kagi remained silent listeners throughout. It is needless to repeat here what was said, after what has happened. Suffice it, that after all I could say, I saw that my old friend had resolved on his course and that it was idle to parley. I told him finally that it was impossible for me to join him. I could see Harper's Ferry only as a trap of steel, and ourselves in the wrong side of it. He regretted my decision and we parted. Thus far, I have spoken exclusively of Capt. Brown. Let me say a word or two of his brave and devoted men, and first of Shields Green. He was a fugitive slave from Charleston, South Carolina, and had attested his love of liberty by escaping from slavery and making his way through many dangers to Rochester, where he had lived in my family, and where he met the man with whom he went to the scaffold. I said to him, as I was about to leave, "Now Shields, you have heard our discussion. If in view of it, you do not wish to stay, you have but to say so, and you can go back with me." He answered, "I b'l'eve I'll go wid de old man;" and go with him he did, into the fight, and to the gallows, and bore himself as grandly as any of the number. At the moment when Capt. Brown was surrounded, and all chance of escape was cut off, Green was in the mountains and could have made his escape as Osborne Anderson did, but when asked to do so, he made the same answer he did at Chambersburg, "I b'l'eve I'll go down wid de ole man." When in prison at Charlestown, and he was not allowed to see his old friend, his fidelity to him was in no wise weakened, and no complaint against Brown could be extorted from him by those who talked with him. If a monument should be erected to the memory of John Brown, as there ought to be, the form and name of Shields Green should have a conspicuous place upon it. It is a remarkable fact, that in this small company of men, but one showed any sign of weakness or regret for what he did or attempted to do. Poor Cook broke down and sought to save his life by representing that he had been deceived, and allured by false promises. But Stephens, Hazlett and Green went to their doom like the heroes they were, without a murmur, without a regret, believing alike in their captain and their cause. For the disastrous termination of this invasion, several causes have been assigned. It has been said that Capt. Brown found it necessary to strike before he was ready; that men had promised to join him from the North who failed to arrive; that the cowardly negroes did not rally to his support as he expected, but the true cause as stated by himself, contradicts all these theories, and from his statement there is no appeal. Among the questions put to him by Mr. Vallandingham after his capture were the following: "Did you expect a general uprising of the slaves in case of your success?" To this he answered, "No, sir, nor did I wish it. I expected to gather strength from time to time and then to set them free." "Did you expect to hold possession here until then?" Answer, "Well, probably I had quite a different idea. I do not know as I ought to reveal my plans. I am here wounded and a prisoner because I foolishly permitted myself to be so. You overstate your strength when you suppose I could have been taken if I had not allowed it. I was too tardy after commencing the open attack in delaying my movements through Monday night and up to the time of the arrival of government troops. It was all because of my desire to spare the feelings of my prisoners and their families." But the question is, Did John Brown fail? He certainly did fail to get out of Harper's Ferry before being beaten down by United States soldiers; he did fail to save his own life, and to lead a liberating army into the mountains of Virginia. But he did not go to Harper's Ferry to save his life. The true question is, Did John Brown draw his sword against slavery and thereby lose his life in vain? and to this I answer ten thousand times. No! No man fails, or can fail who so grandly gives himself and all he has to a righteous cause. No man, who in his hour of extremest need, when on his way to meet an ignominious death, could so forget himself as to stop and kiss a little child, one of the hated race for whom he was about to die, could by any possibility fail. Did John Brown fail? Ask Henry A. Wise in whose house less than two years after, a school for the emancipated slaves was taught. Did John Brown fail? Ask James M. Mason, the author of the inhuman fugitive slave bill, who was cooped up in Fort Warren, as a traitor less than two years from the time that he stood over the prostrate body of John Brown. Did John Brown fail? Ask Clement C. Vallandingham, one other of the inquisitorial party; for he too went down in the tremendous whirlpool created by the powerful hand of this bold invader. If John Brown did not end the war that ended slavery, he did at least begin the war that ended slavery. If we look over the dates, places and men, for which this honor is claimed, we shall find that not Carolina, but Virginia - not Fort Sumpter, but Harper's Ferry and the arsenal - not Col. Anderson, but John Brown, began the war that ended American slavery and made this a free Republic. Until this blow was struck, the prospect for freedom was dim, shadowy and uncertain. The irrepressible conflict was one of words, votes and compromises. When John Brown stretched forth his arm the sky was cleared. The time for compromises was gone - the armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union - and the clash of arms was at hand. The South staked all upon getting possession of the Federal Government, and failing to do that, drew the sword of rebellion and thus made her own, and not Brown's, the lost cause of the century.  Source: Copy in John Brown Pamphlets, Vol. 5, Boyd B. Stutler Collection, West Virginia State Archives