What is the short term significance of John Brown, especially in the lead up to the American Civil War?
Are there different arguments as to whether he was significant or not? The significance of Bleeding Kansas, Pottawatomie Massacre and Harpers Ferry?
John Brown (1800-1859) was a militant abolitionist who organized and led the raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia in October 1859, in order to secure arms and build an antislavery "army." His prior activities had included raids on proslavery forces in Kansas, participating in the turmoil of "Bleeding Kansas" which lasted from 1854 until 1858. One conflict that occurred in the Kansas Territory during this time was the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856, led by Brown, in which he killed 5 proslavery settlers.
After his execution for the Harper's Ferry raid, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) in the spirit of Civil Disobedience, stated that "No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature." Northern sympathies began to comprehend and support Brown's militant actions.
Interestingly, although he was seeking to bring the slavery fight to the South, he was convicted of treason, a Federal offense, by his attempting an armed insurrection against the Commonwealth of Virginia. He became only one of a handful of people in US history to be executed for the crime.