Evil Means, Good Ends
by David H. Chilton
The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement, by Otto Scott (Times Books, 1979), $15.00. Order from Chalcedon, P.O. Box 158, Vallecito, CA 95251.
Men have always had to choose between two methods of, social change: regeneration and revolution. The Christian seeks first to discipline himself to God’s standard. He then publishes the gospel and ‘attempts to peacefully implement the laws of God into the life of his culture, trusting in the Spirit of God for the success of his efforts. He knows that there is not, and never will be, a perfect society in this life. He knows that the kingdom of God spreads like leaven in bread — not by massive, disrupting explosions but by gradual permeation. He knows that justice, righteousness and peace result from the outpouring of the Spirit in the hearts of men (Isaiah 33:15-18); a nation’s legal structure is, therefore, an indicator, not a cause, of national character. Law does not save. But the revolutionary believes that a perfect society is possible, and that it must be coercively imposed on men. He seeks to overthrow everything which threatens to obstruct the coming of his made-to-order millennium. God’s providence is too slow, His law too confining. Society must be perfect — tomorrow — or be blasted to rubble. As the slogan of the French Revolution put it: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity — or Death.” And in the wake of the early nineteenth-century religious turmoil, there arose a group of men who yearned for such a perfect society, and were willing to slaughter innocent people in order to achieve it. Their chilling history is recounted in Otto Scott’s frightening and fascinating book on the Abolitionist movement — a movement which, like all revolutions, was intensely religious and antichristian.
The new religion had started with arguments against such relatively harmless sins as smoking and drinking, had then grown to crusades denouncing and forbidding even commerce with persons whose morals were held to be invidious; it had expanded into antislavery as the answer to every ill of humanity; and it had finally come to full flower in the belief that killing anyone — innocent or guilty — was an act of righteousness for a new morality (p. 295f.).
This “old, evil and pagan practice of human sacrifice” (p. 62) was put into force by John Brown and his gang at Pottawatomie, Kansas, on May 24, 1856. Late in the evening, they dragged five men from their beds and murdered them. The victims were not guilty of any crime — they didn’t even own slaves — but their deaths served the purpose of creating terror, a subject on which Brown had lectured in 1851. Northern newspapers hailed the callous massacre as a blow for liberty; the murderers were regarded as heroes.
The atmosphere in which Abolitionism thrived was produced by men such as the creedless Unitarian crusader, William Ellery Charming. Boston’s leading heretic had stated in 1841 that the French Revolution was caused by “a corruption of the great too deep to be purged away except by destruction” (p. 137); thus, when he decided that American corruption warranted similar purging, he called for “guerrilla war…at every chance” (p. 15). Channing was a major influence on the young Ralph Waldo Emerson, who became the chief exponent of New England pantheism and transcendentalism — and a considerable warmonger as well. To many, his nature-worship seems harmless: the very mention of Emerson conjures up serene visions of gurgling brooks, sparkling dew on new-fallen leaves, and Henry David Thoreau behind bars. The soporific calm is shattered when the Sage of Concord drops his mask long enough to declare: “If it costs ten years, and ten to recover the general prosperity, the destruction of the South is worth so much” (p. 319f.).
At the core of much of the Abolitionist rhetoric and activity were the Secret Six, a group of wealthy and influential men for whom slavery was the ultimate evil, and who agitated for revolution now, agreeing with Emerson that Christianity was a myth. They financed John Brown’s murderous exploits, and helped to create the popular image of him as Prophet of a new order — that is, disorder. One important conspirator was the Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an eager advocate of chaos, “always willing to invest in treason,” as he phrased it (p. 259). Before the War, the Abolitionists specifically repudiated the Constitution; only later, when it became apparent that the Constitution had been effectively “amended by arms,” did they claim that they had been Unionists and Constitutionalists all along. “Give us the power,” Higginson cried in 1857, “and we can make a new Constitution… how is that power to be obtained? By politics? Never. By revolution, and that alone” (p. 243).
Gerrit Smith, the primary financier of the revolution was a champion of pacifism who feared war so much that he turned down a request for support from a boys’ military company — yet helped to raise two million dollars to send an army of Abolitionists in Kansas. government had failed, Smith believed: therefore, “we obey the necessity of the case, and recognize ourselves to be the government” (p. 72). Smith approved of all the bloodshed, endorsed John Brown’s tactics, helped keep the Kansas issue alive (when it appeared that the situation might degenerate into peace at any moment), claimed all governments were “conspiracies against human rights,” and urged men to arms — but sought to remain pure by staying ignorant of Brown’s specific plans.
The Rev. Theodore Parker, another member of the Six, was a militant devotee of German skepticism. He once declared that “God will create a soul yet larger and nobler than Jesus”; he found that soul in John Brown. Parker equated Abolitionism with the law of God, held that revolution was the antidote to the ills of poverty, and wrote that “all the great charters of Humanity have been writ in blood” (p. 302).
The remaining members were: Frank Sanborn, who observed that “treason will not be treason much longer, but patriotism” (p. 259); George Luther Stearns, a manufacturer who ardently hoped for a financial crash, in the prospect that it would destroy the South as well as the North; and Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, husband of lovely Julia Ward. It was she who wrote that thoroughly pagan ode, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, a stirring paean in honor of the impending annihilation of Southern culture (composed, by the way, to the tune of John Brown’s Body). The Secret Six and their numerous associates knew that most Southerners were not slaveowners; nevertheless, they believed that such evil could be atoned for only through chaos and revolution, and “cheerfully contemplated the shedding of innocent blood” (p. 262).
The central actor in this drama, of course, was John Brown, the father of modern terrorism. With a remarkable capacity for logical perversion, he called the Pottawatomie massacre an “absolutely necessary…measure of self-defense” (p. 191). Brown viewed himself as God’s “instrument for killing men,” His “special angel of death” (p. 212), and in terms of this he led countless terrorist assaults against peaceful settlers in Kansas and Missouri, tracking down and slaying witnesses to his crimes. Believing in his own sovereignty, he constructed a godless and amoral “provisional Constitution” — a predictably grisly contribution of one who regarded the Golden Rule as his personal license to kill at will, convinced that “if any great obstacle stands in the way, you may properly break all the Decalogue to get rid of it” (p. 251). In his bloodlust he finally plotted and executed •the famous raid on Harper’s Ferry, a move concocted for the sole purpose of creating panic. One of the many ironies of Brown’s career was that his first victim in the assault was a free black man.
When John Brown was apprehended, the Northern mythmakers went to work constructing the legend that made its way into the history texts. Henry Ward Beecher exhorted his congregation to pray that Brown would not escape: the strategic value of his death as a martyr would do even more for the cause than he had accomplished in his life. Soon Thoreau and Emerson were badly linking Brown’s hanging with Christ’s crucifixion: Old Brown was now “the Saint,” “an angel of light” — and the gallows as “as glorious as the cross” (pp. 229, 303). It is not surprising that this revolutionary vision should become the orthodoxy of the insurrectionist academies, the public schools; but it is perpetuated even in some Christian schools. One textbook speaks of Brown as perhaps overzealous, but still a man of integrity, an inspired liberator. What this sort of thing will produce, it is not difficult to guess. “Insurrection of thought always precedes insurrection of action,” observed one of the Abolitionists. If we are teaching revolution, morning devotions will not be sufficient to counteract it, and we will create hellraising revolutionaries who will grow up to cut our throats. As the author of John Brown’s Body so accurately phrased it, “his soul is marching on.” Brown’s disciples are legion, and it is our duty to overcome them, not add to their numbers. Otto Scott’s book is an eloquent treatment of a vitally important era in American history; but more than this, it gives us tools for the work of dominion that lies ahead.
- Good ends do not justify evil means.
- Justice delayed is justice denied.
There comes a time when God’s patience with the Church comes to an end, and the pagan Romans (…or the Babylonians before them…) are sent to smash down the Temple of God.
As can be seen in the book, The Problem of Slavery in Christian America, the solid majority of White American Christians in the South – pew and pulpit – stoutly supported the enslavement of Black Americans, to treat them as chattel and not men.
As is described above, a group of Unitarians — who were disinclined to believe in the God of the Bible — stood against the Christian American Southerners.
And that God of the Bible gave the victory to those who hated Him… but wanted the slaves to be free.
This truth resonates even today: the Progressives, heir of the Unitarians, pushed for top-down segregation across America.
But what happened when the social shifts of the 1950s-60s — coupled with the need to compete with the Soviet Union’s revolutionary ideology (which had by then ditched the racism of Marx) — make segregation and racism Imperially Inconvenient? The Progressives cheerfully altered the agreement, and left the Conservatives to hold the bag. You know, just like with Prohibition.
(Born suckers never learn.)
And why shouldn’t the Progressives pull this profitable stunt? The White Christian Conservatives made no protest, no noise, no fight when the Godless Progressives were rolling in nationwide segregation back in the Roosevelt Era in the name of Scientific Racism and Rational Eugenics. At best, a shrug of indifference: but more than likely, solid support.
Burning Fig Trees
And still, we wait for the return of the Law, of Justice for All.
As defined by God, and not by Men of whatever political stripe.
Well, old men like myself are left waiting.
I have a suspicion, that God has already moved on. Some other nation, some other people, will be pushing forward the Kingdom of God in time and on earth. Old wineskins, unrepentant peoples, and willfully corrupt nations are not restored, but simply abandoned.
Sure, Rome will fall… four centuries after Jerusalem fell. But that Temple never was rebuilt, and the Jews will never rise to 10% of the Western population, as they were in the early Roman Empire.
Sure, the Progressives will, eventually, be widely acknowledged to be the lying frauds they are. And by that time, the percentage of White Christians in America will be in freefall, as will the general percentage of White Americans.1
As a certainty, the Kingdom of God will fill the earth. But God did not promise that it would be Americans who will be the leading nation of that time, no more than He promised eternal dominance to the Europeans, or to the Jews for that matter.
1I’m ignoring light-skinned Latinos redefining themselves as White. File that under “Revolution within the Form”.
Especially if East Asians are also redefined as White by, say, 2070 or so.