In response to David Reynold's Op-Ed "Freedom's Martyr": (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/opinion/02reynolds.html?_r=1&emc=eta1)
The author of this Op-Ed, David Reynolds, exaggeratedly describes John Brown as a martyr for freedom. However, John Brown was also an odious murderer, who cannot have a gubernatorial or presidential pardon.
I agree with David Reynolds following arguments:
1) John Brown had good intentions in acting out in the name of abolition and freedom.
2) John Brown was not alone in his opinions as he had abolitionist supporters in the north.
3) John Brown's murders and skirmishes escalated sectional tensions that eventually led to the Civil War that ended slavery.
3) John Brown fought against pro-slavery forces like to the Yankees forces fought against the Confederates during the Civil War.
Here is where I disagree:
1) While John Brown had good intentions he was also a zealot. In response to the pro-slavery posse that sacked, burned, and destroyed Lawrence, KS, Brown engaged the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856, murdering and mutilating five pro-slavery settlers and leaving their bodies to ward off more pro-slavery settlers. Although in the name of slavery, Brown took the skirmish from the level of vandalism to that of murder. Although some argue that the violent Civil War was necessary to abolish slavery, Martin Luther King showed America that justice could be achieve through nonviolent protest as well. Taking a life in place of another's is not just, it is unethical. While I am not arguing that the Civil War was not necessary to achieve abolition, I am arguing that had not John Brown instigated such violence, the country possibly could have settled the matter in an alternative nonviolent way.
2) In the Pottawatomie Massacre John Brown murdered five innocent settlers. This is known today as second degree murder. In the Harper's Ferry Raid, Brown and his fellow conspirators attempted to seize a federal arsenal. This is known today as conspiracy to overthrow the government. Just as in the 1850s, today both second degree murder and conspiracy to overthrow the government are illegal and can result in either imprisonment or the death penalty. Although presidents can and have pardoned men who have murdered and attempted to overthrow the government, they typically do not pardon men or women who have done so recently. Neither President Obama or Tim Kaine should grant Brown a posthumous pardon, because if they would not grant a man or woman who committed these crimes presently, they should not pardon and thereby glorify a man who has done these things in the past.