While the raid itself turned out to be an unmitigated disaster, Brown’s foray into Virginia had far-reaching political implications for the entire nation – already in the midst of the 1860 presidential campaign.
As historian Nicole Etcheson writes in her essay on this website, “Northerners were reminded of the horrors of a slave system that provoked men to such drastic violence.
He added that even the staunchest Fire-Eater (a secessionist Southerner) couldn’t fairly blame the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831 on the Republican Party.
Henry Villard, no fan of Lincoln’s to that point, called the Leavenworth speech “The greatest address ever heard here.” Lincoln took his notes and reactions from his Kansas trip home to Illinois, where he pored over old law books and historical documents, resulting in the speech he delivered at the Cooper Union in New York City.
If anything, Lincoln was mentioned as “vice-president material.” But all political bets were off the moment John Brown unleashed the potentially untamable forces of slave insurrection and disunion onto an already fragile scene.
Essay On The Election Of 1860 Columbia University Essay
Heretofore moderate Southerners demonized even tepid antislavery Northerners as potential John Browns, and a surprising number of Northerners described Brown’s actions in hagiographic terms.
Brown’s assault on the South further emboldened disunionists in the region and drove a wedge between these Fire-Eaters and Douglas, the presumed Democratic front-runner.
Douglas, the original author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, had long harbored presidential aspirations.
Before Brown’s appearance on the scene, proslavery settlers and neighboring Missourians made successful use of intimidation and fraud to win territorial elections.
For the next four years, Brown worked to make the territory “bleed” with deadly attacks on proslavery settlers at Pottawatomie Creek and in clashes with armed militiamen and their deputies at the battles of Black Jack and Osawatomie.