John Brown: Puritan?

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by Soli Deo Gloria, Aug 19, 2008.

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  1. Soli Deo Gloria

    Soli Deo Gloria Puritan Board Freshman

    So, I've been reading the latest biography on John Brown: "John Brown: Abolitionist" by David S. Reynolds.

    Early on, Reynolds makes the assertion that Brown was a Puritan and that his Puritanism was what helped formed his views on slavery and how to eradicate it.

    I found this to be very interesting. I always knew Brown was raised in a strong Calvinistic tradition and even appeared to be Calvinistic. However, to place the label of "Puritan" on him is rather new for me.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?
  2. sastark

    sastark Puritan Board Graduate

    I suppose it depends on the definition of "Puritan". I always thought Jonathan Edwards was the last of the Puritans.
  3. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    John Brown the Abolitionist was not a Puritan. He was influenced at various times in his life by the Calvinist tradition, including Presbyterian and Congregational ministries. But in his later life he had no church membership, if I recall correctly.

    There are a number of John Browns in the Scottish Presbyterian / Puritan tradition, and it is easy to conflate them, but John Brown the Abolitionist is entirely different, both in historical terms (the Puritan label should not be applied to some in the 19th century, and he was not even Puritan-minded) and in moral character.
  4. Don Kistler

    Don Kistler Puritan Board Sophomore

    Technically speaking, a Puritan was a member of the Church of England who wanted to purify that church from its corruptions. And the time is pretty much limited to the late 1500's to the early-to-mid 1700's.

    John Brown, the abolitionist, could not meet those qualifications.

    Careless historians often confuse someone with Calvinistic leanings to be a Puritan.

    But we often refer to men like Edwards as Puritans, simply because we don't know where else to put them.
  5. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Andrew's right. Otto Scott has written the best bio of him called "The Fool As Martyr". He had his own personal cult he built around his family and in laws. A notorious and ghoulish murderer, it was actually Robert E. Lee who in his youth led the bayonet charge that finally led to his removal from this earthly plane.
  6. Soli Deo Gloria

    Soli Deo Gloria Puritan Board Freshman

    Wow, with all due respect Tim...Scott's biography of John Brown is not the best. Scott was very bias in his biography of Brown because his goal was to paint the abolitionist movement in a negative light.

    Most biographies of Brown tend to either be very pro-Brown or very anti-Brown. There isn’t much in-between when it comes to one’s opinion of John Brown. Scott was very anti-Brown and it showed in his work. I wouldn't recommend that biography to anyone because the author clearly had an ax to grind with Brown.

    The most neutral biography I have read on Brown was by Stephen B. Oates, "To Purge This Land With Blood: Biography of John Brown". I believe Oates is about as neutral on the subject as one can get and that is the one I would recommend for one seeking a fair presentation of Brown.

    The current biography by Reynolds seems to be more in the pro-Brown category, but I have yet to finish the entire book.
  7. Soli Deo Gloria

    Soli Deo Gloria Puritan Board Freshman

    Perhaps I misspoke. I believe the main argument that Reynolds is trying to make is that Puritan thought had a greater influence on men like John Brown and on the Civil War then we currently realize. Here is a quote from Reynolds:

    Normally, Puritanism does not factor in histories of the Civil War. A wider held view is that Puritanism, far from stirring up warlike emotions, had by the nineteenth century softened into a benign faith in America's millennial promise. Supposedly, it buttressed mainstream culture values fostering consensus and conformity.

    For many in the Civil War era, however, Puritanism meant radical individualism and subversive social agitation. In 1863, the Democratic congressman Samuel Cox typically blamed the Civil War on disruptive New England reform movements that he said were rooted in Puritanism. He insisted that fanatical Abolitionism caused the war, and, in his words, "Abolition is the offspring of Puritanism."...Charles Chauncey Burr, another defender of the South, bewailed "this terrible Puritan war."

    This is line of reasoning is very new for me. As many of you have said, I am well familiar with the Puritanism of the 16 & 17th century, and even its inroads into the early 18th century. However, Reynolds is claiming that Puritan thought had a huge role to play in the Abolitionist movement (also its leaders, i.e. John Brown) and the start of the Civil War. Indeed, he is claiming that this seemed to be recognized during the Civil War itself. He goes on to say that Brown saw himself as an American Cromwell, and that many after his death agreed with this view....because, as Reynolds claims, Brown could be seen "both as a bloodthirsty terrorist and as as saintly liberator", just like Cromwell.

    To me, this is a very interesting new claim that Reynolds is putting forth, if it is indeed new. However, like I said, I haven't came across this view before. Any more thoughts?
  8. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    He was against racial slavery. He detailed the history of Brown, and it came out negative. You don't mutilate people to make political points and have an impartial historian make you come out like a hero. Lee considered it an honor to take the swine down, and he was right. Nothing to do with slavery, which Lee didn't approve of as I think you know.

    Have any of the others here read Scott's book?
  9. Soli Deo Gloria

    Soli Deo Gloria Puritan Board Freshman

    I never said that Scott wasn't against racial slavery.

    What I said was that it was clear Scott had an ax to grind with abolitionism and he CLEARLY was not impartial.

    Scott's biography painted Brown in a negative light...just like Richard Boyer's painted him in a very positive light. It all depends on how you approach Brown when writing about him, because there is enough there about Brown for you to go either way.

    For example, one can write that "Lee considered it an honor to take the swine down, and he was right". Or one could write, "Fredrick Douglass considered John Brown to be one of the greatest men to ever live."

    It is all about perspective when it comes to John Brown. That is why I appreciate Oates' biography. He tried real hard to be neutral, unlike Scott.
  10. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

  11. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    You can't make this up. We typeset one of the last, if not the last, book Otto ever wrote, and when I read this

    It shocked me, since even though I got to know him well I'd never heard of any connection to Confederate idolatry, so I did some looking and the only thing I can find linking him to neoconfederate movements was that he had works published in papers and magazines Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union, San Diego Tribune, Chronicles, Salisbury Review (London), Conservative Digest, Human Events, Tabletalk, Chalcedon Report, Southern Partisan, and Imprimis, the Wall Street Journal, etc...

    When we launched the Conservative Party with Howie Phillips Otto spoke, and absolutely demanded that our platform would be totally non-racial, and after two years of talking to him several times per week, and even cataloguing his library for insurance reasons, I never even got a hint of him having any particularly strong attachment to the Confederacy. His family was from South America, and I could go on.

    So, looking at the author of the the blog Andrew linked to, I find he is Louis
    and his entire theory seems to come from this blog

    Anti-Neo-Confederate: Malignant Homphobe Dies, Good Riddance to Otto Scott

    written by
    who is really, really glad Scott died because he was a "malignant homophobe".

    Sebesta also reports

    I have read the book, and it is more of an economic/geopolitical treatment based on the realities of the then Cold War and strategic minerals like titanium, vanadium etc..His concern was that a pro-Soviet ANC South Africa would start a strategic metals cartel with the USSR. I'll bet money Sebesta never read the book.

    So, tentative conclusion. Two ignorant, liberal unknows have established a fact by quoting each other.

    I'd offer to debate them on the matter, but those types usually run. Still, for form's sake, anyone reading this is welcome to forward my challenge.
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