Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Trial in American Life$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Robert A. Ferguson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226243252

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226243283.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use (for details see www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 26 May 2019

John Brown: Defendant on the Loose

John Brown: Defendant on the Loose

(p.117) Chapter Four John Brown: Defendant on the Loose
The Trial in American Life
University of Chicago Press

The trial of Aaron Burr in 1807 responded to an anxiety in national formations through the mechanism of story. The high-profile trial of John Brown in 1859 drew upon another national anxiety, the paradox of slavery in a democratic republic. Brown's trial, held in the Virginia State Circuit Court of Jefferson County in Charlestown, tapped into the collective imagination in a more subtle way. Generic conventions helped to make Brown a paradoxically successful defendant in the moments of his conviction and execution. On October 16, 1859, Brown and his twenty-one followers raided the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry but were easily overwhelmed by federal troops under Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee. Had Brown been killed during his raid on Harpers Ferry, as he nearly was, he would almost certainly have been dismissed as a fool and an aberration in the midst of sectional strife. It was what happened to Brown during his trial that made him a byword in history. Brown's trial brought a suddenly unavoidable focus to the debate over slavery and abolitionism.

Keywords:   John Brown, slavery, abolitionism, Virginia, conviction, Harpers Ferry, execution

Chicago Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.