John Brown was eulogized by abolitionist ministers in the North following his execution for his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, one of them being an abolitionist minister named Reverend S.H. Taft of the Church of Martinsburg, New York.

Taft delivered the eulogy for John Brown on December 12, 1859.

Rev. Taft’s sermon illustrates the salutatory nature of the sermons and how they helped to build John Brown’s image as a major figure in American history, and his role combatting proslavery forces in Kansas Territory.

Rev. Taft wrote, “My text this afternoon, my hearers, is ‘John Brown.’ You will find it recorded in all the newspapers of the land; and it will yet be inscribed in bold characters on the record of the Worlds History!”

Rev. Taft argued that John Brown was not executed for his Harpers Ferry raid, but for his success in his militant abolitionist crusade in Kansas Territory.

Taft wrote, “For be it known my hearers, Brown was not executed for his tragic conquest of Harpers Ferry; he was taken prisoner, tried and condemned, for this; but he was executed for having driven the myrmidons of slavery from Kansas.”

Rev. Taft further stated that John Brown’s actions in Kansas had so inflamed the spirit of revenge in southerners that they hung him in Harpers Ferry.

Rev. Taft wrote, “But they remembered that to John Brown, more than any other man, the slave power owed it signal defeat in Kansas. Such a crime could know no forgiveness, neither in gubernatorial mansion nor in the Legislative halls of Virginia.”

Rev. Taft further wrote that John Brown was a leader in the Free State forces and was an extremely effective guerilla fighter.

Reverend Taft stated, “When the marauding forces led on by Atchison, Stringfellow and others were pouring into Kansas to overthrow the three great bulwarks of liberty- freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the ballot box-Mr. Brown gathered around him a band of faithful, upright men (for he would never allow a profane or unprincipled man in his camp), and went forth to defend the right. So successfully did he contend with the foe, that his name become at once a tower of strength to the Free-State party, while it inspired corresponding terror in the hearts of the slaveholder and his allies.”

Rev. Taft further argued that John Brown’s abolitionist crusade was successful at combatting slavery in Missouri.

Taft wrote, “A Southern writer lately said that the decrease in slavery in Missouri is so rapid that ‘Whole counties would soon be without a single bondman.”

Certainly, Reverend S.H. Taft’s sermon alone did not establish the historical importance of Brown’s abolitionist crusade in Kansas Territory. However, abolitionist ministers across the North eulogized Brown and extolled his actions in Kansas Territory following his execution in Charlestown, Virginia, and helped build up Brown’s militant abolitionist crusade in Kansas into a major event in American history that is still studied today.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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