John Brown’s effort was peculiar. It was not a slave insurrection. It was an attempt by white men to get up a revolt among slaves, in which the slaves refused to participate. In fact, it was so absurd that the slaves, with all their ignorance, saw plainly enough it could not succeed. That affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts related in history, at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution. Orsini’s attempt on Louis Napoleon, and John Brown’s attempt at Harper’s Ferry were, in their philosophy, precisely the same. The eagerness to cast blame on old England in the one ease, and on New England in the other, does not disprove the sameness of the two things.
[Sidenote] “Tribune Almanac,” 1860.
The aggravation of partisan temper over the Harper’s Ferry incident found a manifestation in a contest over the Speakership in the House of Representatives as prolonged and bitter as that which attended the election of Banks. In the Congressional elections of 1858, following the Lecompton controversy, the Democrats had once more lost control of the House of Representatives; there having been chosen 113 Republicans, 93 Administration Democrats, 8 anti-Lecompton Democrats, and 23 South Americans, as they were called; that is, members, mainly from the slave-States, opposed to the Administration.
[Sidenote] “Globe,” December 5, 1859, p. 3.