I John Brown regularly supplied his family with
I act from a principle, and I say, break the law are not only the names of two out of the five parts in this book, but the words by which John Brown lived so passionately everyday. At earlier times in his life he lived by his sword as well. The Sword and the Word illustrates John Browns own ideas and intentions and how he lived by them. A main issue of this book is that truly a man of his word who believed that morals should outweigh the law of the land, John Brown lived and died for the abolition of slavery and did as much if not more for that cause than many other slaves or free men.
You could say this book is a biography but it really focuses on certain aspects and parts of John Browns life. It uses a kind of story-telling format, but many of the information and facts of the stories are given to the reader in the form of notes that are to and from many people including John Brown. Staviss major thesis is Brown believing that a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave, and that Brown fought for the freedom of the slaves and believed it was better he break inhumane rules and obey and follow God than to obey the law and sin.He followed his own set of principles and morals.
He believed that a man should be honest, God-fearing, and loyal. If a man commits a crime he must be punished. Once he had a man re-arrested for the crime of theft where the man pleaded poverty. The man was thrown in jail but John Brown believed that the mans family should not suffer for his wrongdoing while he was in jail so John Brown regularly supplied his family with an abundance of provisions.
Not only was John Brown honest and fair, but also he was courteous and generous towards others even outside his well-taken care of family. To prove his points, the author includes several stories of things John Brown did in his life that exemplify his unselfishness. Upon hearing that a family miles away was starving and living in poverty one winter John Brown went to the man with a business offer to help the man because he wouldnt accept just donations. The offer gave the man food and clothing in exchange for his labor the next summer.
When the summer time came around, John Brown didnt even let the man work for him. This is showing the good nature of John Browns personality. The author tries to plant this in the minds of the reader and forces them to recognize John Brown as a sane man who followed the Golden Rule. He believed slavery was a war in which a powerful side was holding captive and punishing a much weaker minority. At one point earlier in his life he wanted to buy a slave to give him or her an education, believing that was the problem and reason for their slavery. He thought that educating the slaves would help stop slavery because their ignorance was being used against them as a weapon in the war and education would give the slaves their freedom.
Another theme covered by Stavis is how the earlier years in John Browns life included more wealth and feelings of peace. At first he though slavery could be ended in a peaceful mature manner but later on realized this wouldnt be possible. Being a man of solid ethics brought John Brown to the conclusion that killing would be necessary to achieve this goal. He advocated killing in order to achieve and ethical purpose, (page 36) and knowingly and willingly broke the Fugitive Slave Law and urged others to do so.
Others accepted this under the belief that a man has the perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder in order to rescue the slave. However, it was only after a harsh revelation and conclusion did John Brown realize that violence would have to be used to abolish slavery. He had so much faith in God that he knew that he had only a short time to live and one death to die and he said that he would die fighting for that cause. He opened the door to fighting for the freedom of the slaves, saying, There will be no more peace in this land until slavery is done for (page 53). For the rest of his life though poor and in debt he still fought hard to eliminate slavery. Although John Brown realized killing was necessary, he made every attempt to save and protect life unless it taking it was absolutely necessary even when his son was shot and killed no unnecessary retaliation was enacted. A man had murdered one of John Browns sons and Brown had the chance for an easy and equal retaliation, but he gave orders that only the mans slaves be taken and no harm be done unto him.
He stated that he did not harbor the feelings of revenge and that he acts from a principle. His main objective was to restore human rights. John Brown was once described as a volcano beneath a mountain of snow (page 55). A view thoroughly expressed by Stavis is that Brown fought his entire life to bring about the downfall of slavery. At one time Kansas was full of abolitionists and pro-slavery men that many fights were breaking out. John Brown and some of his family was there and paid such a great price for fighting that he had to lay on a pallet during carriage transportation while trying to recover and get over the many losses he sustained by losing many of his sons and friends.
Somehow withstanding losses so great John Brown remained cool, calm, and collected when talking about it that he truly appeared to be a fiery volcano inside but a well-carried man on the outside. John Brown is portrayed as a hard-fighting abolitionist who may have the greatest impact on the eventual ending of slavery. Frederick Douglas close friend and a helper of John Brown says of him, This age is too gross and sensual to appreciate his deeds, and so-calls him mad; but the future will write his epitaph upon the hearts of a people freed from slavery, because he struck the first effectual blow (page 120). John Brown was a man so determined to help the slaves get their freedom and to spread the message across the country that he enjoyed being in jail after the raid on Harpers Ferry because it gave him a chance to preach to and argue with slave holders to try and win them over and change their life and way of thinking.
On page 162 John Brown states his feelings of being locked up by stating, I have very many interesting visits from proslavery persons almost daily, and I endeavor to improve them faithfully, plainly, and kindly. I do not think that I have enjoyed life better than since my confinement here. This helps us see the true feelings and meanings John Brown and what he did. He was a white man who in a time of moral confusion believed that equality of the blacks that were looked down upon should prevail and he risked and eventually gave his life for that cause. Barrie Stavis had certainly succeeded in his purpose of persuasion towards the sympathy of John Brown. He writes about John Browns strong feelings and includes stories that help to understand his passion and devotion along with the acts he did to help achieve his goal. Stavis makes Browns somewhat crazy antics seem justified.
The book is organized in regards to the sequence of events in Browns life and the people he encountered. Barrie Stavis wanted to publish a book that could be enjoyed by the general reader and therefore composed it in a storytelling style as well as including interesting historical information for the more serious and critical reader. This talented author also composed the plays, Lamp at Midnight, The Man Who Never Died, Harpers Ferry, Coat of Many Colors, and Refuge, and wrote Home, Sweet Home! and The Chain of Command. The Sword and the Word is actually a companion volume to Staviss Harpers Ferry play. Publisher Thomas Yoseloff believes that the book is useful for anyone preparing a production of this story and thinks that it is well put-together with primary sources from history in conjunction with Staviss own views and ideas.
I agree. We have not yet covered this time period yet, but soon enough we will discuss those crucial years before the civil war in class. However this has still aided and enlightened my studies in American History.
It gave me a more in-depth and closer look at the slavery issue and how absurd it was. It gave me a sense of the feelings of the people of the time that John Brown was alive. Enough was learned from this book that the time spent reading it can be justified. I enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it to some one who enjoys learning about that time period in history and the exciting actions and events of a good-hearted man devoting his life for a good cause.Bibliography: