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Remembering John Brown, early American abolitionist

2 Dec
Sadly, given the recent spate of movies on slavery and its legacy, from Django Unchained to The Help to The Butler to 12 Years a Slave, a libertarian is being overlooked.  Today is the anniversary of abolitionist John Brown’s execution because he led an interracial band of whites, freed slaves, fugitive slaves, and free men of color, who attempted to seize a federal armory and use the weapons to arm slaves.

It was their plan to create a wave of slave rebellions, arming the slaves of one county at a time who would then liberate the next county to the south.

Statist historians claim that an expanded federal government was needed to rid the country of racism and slavery; but did the federal suppression of slave rebellions and “violent” abolitionists in fact allow slavery to last decades longer than it would have?

John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist who believed armed insurrection was the only way to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States.[1] During 1856 in Kansas, Brown commanded forces at the Battle of Black Jackand the Battle of Osawatomie.[1] Brown’s followers also killed five pro-slavery supporters at Pottawatomie.[1] In 1859, Brown led an unsuccessful raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry that ended with his capture.[1] Brown’s trial resulted in his conviction and a sentence of death by hanging.[1]
Brown’s attempt in 1859 to start a liberation movement among enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, electrified the nation. He was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five men and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts and was hanged. Southerners alleged that his rebellion was the tip of the abolitionist iceberg and represented the wishes of the Republican Party to end slavery. Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that, a year later, led to secession and the American Civil War.

John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid

On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and several followers seized the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The actions of Brown’s men brought national attention to the emotional divisions concerning slavery.
John Brown was born in Connecticut in 1800 and became interested in the abolitionist movement around 1835. In 1855, Brown and several of his sons moved to Kansas, a territory deeply divided over the slavery issue. On Pottawotamie Creek, on the night of May 24, 1856, Brown and his sons murdered five men who supported slavery, although none actually owned slaves. Brown and his sons escaped. Brown spent the next three years collecting money from wealthy abolitionists in order to establish a colony for runaway slaves. To accomplish this, Brown needed weapons and decided to capture the arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
In 1794, President George Washington had selected Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and Springfield, Massachusetts, as the sites of the new national armories. In choosing Harpers Ferry, he noted the benefit of great waterpower provided by both the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. In 1817, the federal government contracted with John H. Hall to manufacture his patented rifles at Harpers Ferry. The armory and arsenal continued producing weapons until its destruction at the outbreak of the Civil War.
In the summer of 1859, John Brown, using the pseudonym Isaac Smith, took up residence near Harpers Ferry at a farm in Maryland. He trained a group of twenty-two men, including his sons Oliver, Owen, and Watson, in military maneuvers. On the night of Sunday, October 16, Brown and all but three of the men marched into Harpers Ferry, capturing several watchmen. The first victim of the raid was an African-American railroad baggage handler named Hayward Shepherd, who was shot and killed after confronting the raiders. During the night, Brown captured several other prisoners, including Lewis Washington, the great-grand-nephew of George Washington.
There were two keys to the success of the raid. First, the men needed to capture the weapons and escape before word reached Washington, D. C. The raiders cut the telegraph lines but allowed a Baltimore and Ohio train to pass through Harpers Ferry after detaining it for five hours. When the train reached Baltimore the next day at noon, the conductor contacted authorities in Washington. Second, Brown expected local slaves to rise up against their owners and join the raid. Not only did this fail to happen, but townspeople began shooting at the raiders.
Armory workers discovered Brown’s men in control of the building on Monday morning, October 17. Local militia companies surrounded the armory, cutting off Brown’s escape routes. Shortly after seven o’clock, a Harpers Ferry townsperson, Thomas Boerly, was shot and killed near the corner of High and Shenandoah streets. During the day, two other citizens were killed, George W. Turner and Harpers Ferry Mayor Fontaine Beckham. When Brown realized he had no way to escape, he selected nine prisoners and moved them to the armory’s small fire engine house, which later became known as John Brown’s Fort.
With their plans falling apart, the raiders panicked. William H. Leeman tried to escape by swimming across the Potomac River, but was shot and killed. The townspeople, many of whom had been drinking all day on this unofficial holiday, used Leeman’s body for target practice. At 3:30 on Monday afternoon, authorities in Washington ordered Colonel Robert E. Lee to Harpers Ferry with a force of Marines to capture Brown. Lee’s first action was to close the town’s saloons in order to curb the random violence. At 6:30 on the morning of Tuesday, October 18, Lee ordered Lieutenant Israel Green and a group of men to storm the engine house. At a signal from Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart, the engine house door was knocked down and and the Marines began taking prisoners. Green seriously wounded Brown with his sword. Brown was taken to the Jefferson County seat of Charles Town for trial.
Of Brown’s original twenty-two men, John H. Kagi, Jeremiah G. Anderson, William Thompson, Dauphin Thompson, Brown’s sons Oliver and Watson, Stewart Taylor, Leeman, and free African Americans Lewis S. Leary and Dangerfield Newby had been killed during the raid. John E. Cook and Albert Hazlett escaped into Pennsylvania, but were captured and brought back to Charles Town. Brown, Aaron D. Stevens, Edwin Coppoc, and free African Americans John A. Copeland and Shields Green were all captured and imprisoned. Five raiders escaped and were never captured: Brown’s son Owen, Charles P. Tidd, Barclay Coppoc, Francis J. Merriam, and free African American Osborne P. Anderson. One Marine, Luke Quinn, was killed during the storming the engine house. Two slaves, belonging to Brown’s prisoners Colonel Lewis Washington and John Allstadt, also lost their lives. It is unknown whether or not they voluntarily took up arms with Brown. One drowned while trying to escape and the other died in the Charles Town prison following the raid. Local residents at the time believed the two took part in the raid. To discredit Brown, residents later claimed that these two slaves had been taken prisoner and that no slaves actually participated in the raid.
John Brown, still recovering from a sword wound, stood trial at the Jefferson County Courthouse on October 26. Five days later, a jury found him guilty of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Judge Richard Parker sentenced Brown to death and he was hanged in Charles Town on December 2. Before walking to the scaffold, he noted the inevitability of a national civil war: “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” Following additional trials, Shields Green, John A. Copeland, John E. Cook, and Edwin Coppoc were executed on December 16, and Aaron D. Stevens and Albert Hazlett were hanged on March 16, 1860.
Northern abolitionists immediately used the executions as an example of the government’s support of slavery. John Brown became their martyr, a hero murdered for his belief that slavery should be abolished. In reality, Brown and his men were prosecuted and executed for taking over a government facility. Still, as time went on, Brown’s name became a symbol of pro-Union, anti-slavery beliefs. After the Civil War, a school was established at Harpers Ferry for African Americans. The leaders of Storer College always emphasized the courage and beliefs of John Brown for inspiration. In 1881, African-American leader Frederick Douglass delivered a classic speech at the school honoring Brown. Twenty-five years later, W.E.B. DuBois and Martinsburg newspaper editor J.R. Clifford recognized Harpers Ferry’s importance to African Americans and chose Storer College as the site for a meeting of the Second Niagara Movement, which later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Those in attendance walked at daybreak to John Brown’s Fort. In 1892, the fort had been sent to the Chicago World’s Fair and then brought back to a farm near Harpers Ferry. Today, the restored fort has been rebuilt at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park near its original location.

Making babies – Some questions for libertarian futurists/transhumanists

9 Oct
I was reading Dr. Donald Boudreaux’s excellent essay on legalizing markets in parental rights (aka, pejoratively, “baby selling”) and thought of some future scenarios I don’t remember coming across in my formerly vast reading of science fiction (though the series finale of Buffy and the made for TV movie Twilight of the Golds are tangential).  Boudreaux discusses the gains of trade for poor mothers, neglected children and infertile couples by allowing markets to operate.  I am wondering not about the marketing of desirable babies, but about their manufacture.

If gene therapy could do the following, should it be legal:

1) Eliminate a child’s inherited disorders

2) Allow a mother to eliminate or re-code the DNA contributed by a biological father who was her rapist

3) Allow a parent to eliminate or re-code the DNA contributed by a former spouse who had given up parental rights

4) Allow gay or lesbian couples to re-code DNA contributed by a donor to be more similar to that of their partner who was not a biological parent

5) Allow parents to shift their child’s appearance – hair, skin, eyes, nose, height, talents, mannerisms –  to assimilate them to their society’s dominant or more successful ethnic groups

6) Allow adoption agencies, orphanages, or adoptive parents to make parentless children more desirable to those willing to adopt, including shifting their appearance to be more like the parents, even recoding their DNA to be that of the adoptive parents.  This could include shifting their ethnic identity.

Currently there is a surplus of never-going-to-be adopted babies of color.  Indeed, upper middle class left-liberal “anti-racist” Americans routinely fly to Russia, China, Latin America, to adopt non-black babies, rather than adopt black American orphans.  I’ve sold at least two houses to lovely people in DC who exactly fit that stereotype, one of whom runs a major leftover political group.

Incidentally, to return to the Boudreaux essay, black critics of current adoption regulations say they discriminate against prospective adoptive parents who are black.  Of course, economic theory tells us when markets aren’t free people discriminate on bigotry instead of price; black would-be parents can’t afford the monopoly adoption fees.  Perhaps if black moms could sell their parental rights and choose to sell them only to black parents, at the lower prices in a freer market, the glut of unadopted black babies would be reduced.

Rumors of GOProud’s death greatly exaggerated

26 Jun

Contrary to a rumor I’d heard and even repeated, GOProud is not disbanding.

Last night they had a comedy event fundraiser in DC just to prove it at RFD, a popular Chinatown venue, with four (straight male) comics from District Comedy, Simone (who MC’ed), Pat Coffey, Wes Martens, and headliner Mike Finazzo.  There was a lot of DC vs Baltimore humor and there were a lot of jokes about blacks and whites.  The comics, mainly Democrats as well as heterosexuals, did well relating to a non-Democratic gay male audience (over 50% of the crowd) even with such (planned?) faux pas as Wes Marten’s “I was so stupid as a teen — all I was looking for was the same thing as everyone else here then…oh…well…maybe not the same thing….”  But the half dozen lesbians there seem to have left pretty early, including the one who is a GOProud board member and her partner and friend.  And one young straight woman got some humor harassment from Pat Coffey that went over the line.

LaSalvia actually had the best line of the night:  “When we decided to start GOProud they told me we would be hated by the right and by the left. And that’s how we roll at GOProud, we take it in both ends.”  Simone did a lot of interracial dating jokes and stories: “I’ve fucked more white girls than anorexia”  and “Black guys and white girls go together like white guys and Asian girls. It’s the circle of life.”  Which led Wes Marten to retaliate with:  “So it turns out the same chemical that is in Viagra is found in watermelon, something called citrulline. I don’t want to say the brothers have been holding back, but…”  Wes also told a lot of self-deprecatory jokes about aging and being married:  “I’m an older comic, all my drugs have become medications – I went from Acapulco gold to Centrum Silver overnight. I got some medical marijuana in California, but they gave it to me as a suppository.  And I couldn’t get it lit.”

Coffey, aside from making the women in the audience uncomfortable, had the best political jokes: “The Republicans have their first lesbian Senator…Lindsey Graham,” “I’m glad you found the venue, we we’re originally going to hold it in a giant closet” and “People get confused by gay Republicans. The IRS didn’t know whether to target you or not.”  As well as humor about his status as a near 40 year old virgin:  “My sex life took a hit recently. My keyboard broke.”

Finazzo did humorous stories mainly about his own marriage.  Amusing but not roflmao and not easily transcribed.

(photo: Kerri Toloczko )

Henderson calls white enrollment growth good for D.C. schools — wouldn’t freedom be better?

4 Sep

Henderson calls white enrollment growth good for D.C. schools

(Marvin Joseph/THE WASHINGTON POST) – D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson at her confirmation hearing in June.
D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson told a roomful of African American community leaders and educators this week that growing white enrollment in city schools brings the system closer to what she called “the promise of a good public education.”
“There are white families that are choosing DCPS. That’s just life,” Henderson told the gathering, organized by the Ward 8 Education Council. The group was formed by D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) to help parents advocate for their children.
Henderson’s unusually blunt statement came in a meeting Thursday night at M.C. Terrell Elementary in Southeast to address protests over her decision to close three parent resource centers. The centers were designed to support low-income parents in managing their children’s education. Henderson stood by the decision on budget grounds but apologized for communicating it poorly.
The discussion veered — briefly but intensely — into resentment over statements attributed to a Henderson deputy in aTuesday column by the Examiner’s Harry Jaffe. Abigail Smith, chief of transformation management, was quoted as saying that white enrollment in the 45,000-student system was approaching 10 percent — about double the share of a decade ago. Much of the increase is in schools in upper Northwest, Capitol Hill and Shaw. Smith called it “a big deal,” adding: “Communities supporting local schools, whatever the color, is a positive thing. Having more kids in our city engage a diverse population is a good thing.” On Friday she did not dispute the accuracy of the quote.
Absalom Jordan, chairman of the education council, said Smith’s remarks carried “racist overtones.”
“This statement spoke to the feeling of entitlement held by whites,” Jordan, a former D.C. Council candidate whose son attended Stuart-Hobson Middle School on Capitol Hill, told Henderson. He said later he was expressing concern that growing white enrollment will narrow opportunities for African American children in wards 7 and 8 to vie for seats in high-quality schools in an annual lottery. Without concerted steps to widen opportunities, the disadvantaged will continue to lose ground, he said.
Henderson replied that the growing diversity was a positive development. She described herself as the beneficiary of diverse schools in the New York suburb of Mount Vernon.
“My family was in the projects for 47 years,” she said. “But the reason I’m here is that I got a good public education. What matters is that little brown girls like me get the same chance.”
Afterward, Henderson stood by Smith’s assertions about the uptick in white enrollment: “I do believe it’s a good thing. The great thing about getting an urban education is getting kids to interact with kids from all over the place. Increasingly, black parents are saying to me, ‘It’s okay, I want my kids to learn how to interact with white people.’ ”
While census data show the number of African Americans in the District fell in the last decade — to barely 50 percent in 2010 — D.C. public schools are about 73 percent black.