by al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
In 1858 abolitionist/terrorist John Brown was appealing for funds for his terrorist activities. Even terrorists have to pay for the chaos they create. The subject of this article, Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, noted, upon receiving Brown’s plea for funds that “I am always ready to invest money in treason, but at present have none to invest.” So, for Higginson, the treasonous intent was clearly there, even if they money to support it wasn’t.
Most who have studied our history seriously already know that, in his terrorist assault on the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, John Brown had the support, both moral and financial, of a group called The Secret Six. These men were very well-known and well connected Northeasterners (New England and New York) who were radical abolitionists (as opposed to common-sense abolitionists). They wanted the institution of slavery gone immediately, if not sooner, no matter what the consequences of such a rash act were, and they were willing todo, or to delegate someone else to do, whatever that took, no matter how bloody that work might become or how many might be hurt. Their “noble” ends justified their means in their own eyes. They were very typical Yankee/Marxists whether they realized that or not.
One of the most bold among them in his insistence that “It’s my way or the highway” was our subject, Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Wikipedia has described him as “…an American Unitarian minister, author, abolitionist, and soldier. He was active in the American abolitionist movement during the 1840s and 1850s, identifying himself with disunion and militant abolitionism.” Disunion? Heavens! When the South sought disunion via legitimate secession that was supposed to be treasonous, or to be rebellion (it wasn’t). It seems, though, that Higginson’s form of disunion must have been okay because he was never castigated for it like the South was. Perhaps he was approaching it from the proper theological (Unitarian) perspective. To paraphrase–one man’s disunion may be another man’s dictatorship.
After the War of Northern Aggression was over Higginson devoted much of the remainder of his life to striving for the “rights” of slaves, women, and other “disenfranchised” groups. In other words, he hewed to the socialist line and agenda, as his later life will reveal. When he became the pastor of the Free Church in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1852 he supported abolition, labor rights, women’s rights, along with temperance.
The group The Secret Six, of which Higginson was one, helped John Brown to raise both supplies and financial help for an intended slave revolt, to take place at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Frankly, it was a terrible place to foment a slave revolt. It was in the hill country of western Virginia and there were just not all that many slaves in that region. Brown and whoever helped him couldn’t have picked a worse place, but then, who knows if such a poor choice was coincidence or something more?
When Brown’s poorly orchestrated attempt failed and he was captured, Higginson even made plans to help him escape from custody, although the plans never panned out.
J. C. Furnas, in The Road to Harpers Ferry noted, on page 336 that “Higginson’s memoirs admitted that his boldness in rescuing slaves and backing Old Brown did not come wholly from moral conviction but from …intrinsic love of adventure…boyish desire for a stirring experience…”
After John Brown’s death, Higginson also planned to rescue those among Brown’s raiders who were still awaiting trial. He even went so far as to bring Jayhawker terrorist James Montgomery east from Kansas “to see what he could do as leader of a group of liberty-minded German exiles from the revolutions of 1848 whom Higginson had recruited.” So Higginson had recruited a batch of socialist Forty-Eighters, under Montgomery’s command, to try to break the remaining raiders out of jail. This shows that Rev. Higginson must have had contact with the socialists and Marxists that came to this country after their socialist revolts flopped in Europe. And his “recruiting” of James Montgomery is also enlightening. Montgomery was among the most unsavory of the Kansas Jayhawkers–an outright pillager and plunderer. Interesting that a Unitarian clergyman should be so well-acquainted with looters, thieves and socialists. Birds of a feather perhaps?
To be continued.