[Marxism] A Plea for Captain John Brown, by Henry David Thoreau

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Dec 27 18:36:23 MST 2019

It was his peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right to interfere 
by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave. I agree 
with him. They who are continually shocked by slavery have some right to 
be shocked by the violent death of the slaveholder, but no others. Such 
will be more shocked by his life than by his death. I shall not be 
forward to think him mistaken in his method who quickest succeeds to 
liberate the slave. I speak for the slave when I say, that I prefer the 
philanthropy of Captain Brown to that philanthropy which neither shoots 
me nor liberates me. At any rate, I do not think it is quite sane for 
one to spend his whole life in talking or writing about this matter, 
unless he is continuously inspired, and I have not done so. A man may 
have other affairs to attend to. I do not wish to kill nor to be killed, 
but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by 
me unavoidable. We preserve the so-called peace of our community by 
deeds of petty violence every day. Look at the policeman’s billy and 
handcuffs! Look at the jail! Look at the gallows! Look at the chaplain 
of the regiment! We are hoping only to live safely on the outskirts of 
this provisional army. So we defend ourselves and our hen-roosts, and 
maintain slavery. I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the 
only righteous use that can be made of Sharp’s rifles and revolvers is 
to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to 
hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think 
that for once the Sharp’s rifles and the revolvers were employed in a 
righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them.

full: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2567/2567-h/2567-h.htm

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