John Brown is not an American hero. It is one thing to applaud his beliefs – which were, for his time, astonishingly progressive – but quite another to applaud his actions, which were, by the standards of any era, despicable. He may have been a martyr, but he was also a murderer.
We are lucky enough to live in a country where violence is not necessary in order to precipitate change. The Suffrage Movement successfully won votes for half of the American population with out firing a single shot. It was a long and difficult movement that required enormous sacrifice from its participants, but it was ultimately effective, and in the end, none of them had blood on their hands.
The Harper’s Ferry Raid, which Mr. Reynolds calls an act of heroic political dissent, was essentially an act of domestic terrorism that led to the deaths of seven people, including a free black. No ideology, however admirable, can excuse killing civilians.
Pardoning John Brown would send them message that violence is an acceptable way to deal with ones anger against the government. It is not. In an era of increasing political violence – the murder of Dr. George Tiller, for instance – such a message could have a devastating effect.
To quote Martin Luther King Jr., “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
John Brown does not deserve a pardon, and he certainly does not deserve to be honored.