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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 26, 2009 9:00pm-10:15pm EST

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pianist and strong wind the life and legend of heresy, the definitive biography of the colorful father of california viticulture published by stanford university press in 1998. obviously, mr. mcginty writes about his own interest, and passion, among them law, history, music,. having spent a career practicing law in california, mr. mcginty is now retired to scottsdale, arizona where he continues to write on history and the law while pursuing many other interests. ladies and gentlemen, it is now my great pleasure to introduce, and would you please make a warm welcome for mr. brian mcginty. [applause] >> thank you can follow then. thank you judge sanders, a wonderful introduction.
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judge sanders felt that i added some depth to the two were of the courthouse he can do it just about one year ago. i think that he added a great deal of depth to my understanding of the trial of john brown. and i consider it a fortunate day when i met doug sanders theatre and he asked me if i would be interested in coming back a year or when this escort continual in jefferson county would take place. after arrangements very kindly facilitated by ken sullivan and the west virginia humanities council, i agreed to do so and looking out across this historic courtroomtonight, i'm very happy that i accepted that invitation. i have been prepared to make a few observations about this
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courthouse and this courtroom, which are really, really very historic, mostly because of "john brown's trial" that took place here, but for other reasons as well. judge sanders has covered out very well. i'm going to get right to the story of the trial. and at the outset, i want to tell you the thesis that i'm going to express tonight, which is the thesis of my book, titled "john brown's trial." it is thought "john brown's trial" was the most important trial in the history of the united states. that's my conclusion after studying dates as closely as i could. and that is the purport of my book. i tried to explain in my book why i believe that to be true and i'll try to give you a suggestion of why you believe that to be true in my remarks here tonight.
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john brown's trial was the first trial in the history of the united states to receive massive attention from national media. it was the first trial in which the defendant was executed for treason against a state as opposed to treason against the united states. it was the first trial in which an accused defendant appealed to a higher law, to justify violent crimes. it was a trial that involved more than just a determination of an individual's guilt or innocence according to laws laid down in statute books and in case reports. it was a trial that pitted two starkly different moral visions against each other. one of these divisions descended the institution of slavery as traditional, necessary, just,
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and worthy of protection from outside interference. particularly from the outside interference of northern abolitionists by john brown. the other condemned slavery as an affront to human rights, a violation of law and an embarrassment to a nation that claims to be founded on the self-evident truths that all men are created equal. and the course of the trial, brown did not argue that he was innocent of violating the laws of virginia. or the prohibited murder. and committing treason against the commonwealth of virginia. instead he argued that the laws of virginia that supported and protected slavery, laws that condemned hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children to lives of perpetual oppression and degradation, solely because of their racial background were
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unjust. the trial gave brown a unique opportunity to express his views on the subject. and he did so in a manner that expired americans all over the country, many even in virginia with the realization that he was a man of courage, principle, convictions, and humanitarian impulses. however much they disagreed with him and however deeply they condemned his resort to violence in harpers ferry, his trial revealed he was not a mere thug or cutthroat as many both north and south had believed him. brown's raid on harpers ferry shocked the nation. it outraged virginians inspiring them with revulsion and fear. they roused slaveholders throughout the south a contempt for abolitionists.
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at the same time, it can been southerners northern attacks on slavery were deeply grounded. they would not soon go away. the south had to defend itself against the views represented by brown. and many southerners concluded that the only way to do that was to cut the ties that bound the north and the south. this conclusion did not arise from the raid on harpers ferry, but from the trial that was conducted here in the jefferson county courthouse 150 years ago. to understand brown's trial, it would be helpful at the outset to explain a few of the key facts about it. first it was a short trial. it begin in the circuit court of jefferson county and the middle of the day on wednesday october 26, 1859, just ten days after brown launched his raid in harpers ferry, eight days after
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he was captured and a week to the day after he was transferred from harpers ferry to charlestown. he continued on thursday the 27th of october, friday the 28th, saturday the 29th, and following a break for sunday for half a day on monday the 31st of october, at which time the jury returned its verdict. during most of the trial, brown was suffering from painful saber wounds, suffered during his capture in harpers ferry and he was unable to stand or sit. instead he was forced to attend the trial lying on a cot, covered by a blanket and a least once he had to be carried across the street from the jail to the courtroom. now if you want to know what this trial looks like, imagine a man laying on a cot in this
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courtroom, unable to sit or to stand. and compelled to listen to a trial going on around him that would result in his hanging. that's what john brown's trial meant to john brown himself. in all four days of court time were devoted to the trial. two days after the verdict was announced, brown was brought back into court and ask if he had anything to say before her sentence was passed on it. he then delivered his famous last statement and the judge sentenced him to death by hanging. the sentence was carried out on december 2nd, 1859 in a field just five blocks from this courthouse. it was 30 days after the trial is concluded and just short after five weeks that it began. this all happened in remarkably short time, it given the circumstances of the case. the indictment prevented
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complicated issues. it took 20 minutes allowed for the court clerk to read the indictment in open court. difficulty issues were raised by the trial, some not previously dealt with in any american quarter. such as, for example, whether treason and should be committed against a stay. whether a person who is not a resident of a state and that hold no allegiance to the state could be tried for treason against that state. whether crimes committed in the federal, such as the u.s. armory and arsenal in harpers ferry were properly triable in federal court or in state court. whether it is proper to try a defendant who is suffering from painful when and unable to stand or sit while he was lying on a cot covered by blankets. the evidence was voluminous, both in terms of oral testimony and documentary evidence.
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during the four days of brown's trial, nine attorneys were heard from an approximately 19 witnesses were examined. it's difficult to determine the exact number of witnesses because there was no official transcript of the testimony. the witness' testimony was recorded by newspaper reporters and sometimes those reports were very accurate, sometimes they were rather hazy. there were two prosecuting attorneys and seven defense attorneys, plus at least a half-dozen other lawyers who are peripherally involved in the defense, either helping to procure lawyers for brown's defense or offering advice from the sidelines or representing some of the other men who were captured with john brown in harpers ferry and brought here for trial. charles harding was the commonwealth attorney for jefferson county in 1859 and as such authorized by law to
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prosecute brown's case. but he was a heavy drinker. and he had a volatile, sometimes explosive temperament. he was capable of making some effective courtroom arguments, but not on a sustained basis. as one of the deputies clerk in charlestown later remarked, when harding again to speak, if you shut your eyes and listen for the first few minutes, you would link patrick kenney had returned to work. after that he dwindled away in ineptitude. virginia's governor hungary alexander did not consider hard incompetent to conduct so important a trial and he called on andrew hunter, one of the most respected attorneys in charlestown to take overall control of the proceedings. and hunter's portrait is hanging on the wall behind me. under did not like harding. in a letter to the governor he
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described him as a quote, pestiferous little prosecute. i found that letter in the state library and he willingly accepted the governor's call to take charges case. while both hunter and harding appeared her up the trial, all of the important trial decisions were made by hunter and he shouldered most of the work. hunter was a native of berkeley county and related by blood or marriage to many of the aristocratic families of northern virginia. it was a graduate of washington academy, later washington lee university in hampton city college. and after several years represented the baltimore and ohio railroad in virginia. the railroad ran straight to harpers ferry on its way from baltimore to wheeling and was one of the most influential corporations in the country. in the courts of his words to the dml, hunter made contact with imports in men maryland and
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virginia and a masked personal fortune. he lives in a house called hunter hill on the eastern edge of charlestown. despite his obvious stability, hunter was a rather odd choice for the prosecuting attorney. for he was heavily burdened with what we would today call conflicts of interest. first he was personally related to one of the principal victims of brown's violence in harpers ferry, a man named fontaine back him. that was the mayor of harpers ferry and in charge of the local business at the bnl railroad. during brown's raid he was peering around a water tower at the edge of the arsenal grounds, when a shot from the engine house in which brown and his men had taken refuge to the end of their raid hit ten and he was killed by that shot. hunter's wife, elizabeth, was
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back in nice and hunter and back him were close. even more striking however, it into hunter's son, a young attorney named henry hunter who went to harpers ferry as the militiamen from charlestown after news of the brown's raid reached charlestown. he was a militiamen who arrived in the town and was sitting in a bar of the wager house which was within the principal hotel in harpers ferry. when he heard the news that fontaine beckham, his great uncle had been shot. in a rage, triggered by the news, and by his own drinking henry hunter immediately went into one of the upper rooms of the wager house were two of brown's men were being held captive to shoot them. but the sister of the hotel proprietor stood in his way, insisting there would be no shootings in the wager house.
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so andy hunter then dragged one of brown's men out of the hotel were surrounded by townspeople he shot him to death. it was an effect a murder of a helpless man, committed in broad daylight and before many witnesses. yet coming hunter was never charged with this killing. he was never tried. in our time, a man like andrew hunter would be barred from prosecuting round case because of his personal involvement with the facts of the case. in 1859 he was not barred and he prosecuted the case to a courtroom victory. and when brown was hauled out of the courthouse to the execution grounds, henry hunter was given responsible position among the militiamen who guarded the site while brown was hanged. during the civil war the
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territory connected washington d.c. with the upper shenandoah valley, the territory that we are now standing on, became one of the major fields of battle and the civil war. harpers ferry and charlestown changed hands frequently with confederates in charge one day and a union army troops the next. in 1864, union general david hunter cantor charlestown with his army. it happens that andrew hunter was david hunter's first cousin, but they supported different sides of the conflict. general hunter was an abolitionist and andrew hunter was the defendant of slavery and the legal advisor to robert e. lee. when general hunter arrived in charlestown he ordered his men to burn andrew hunter's house to the ground. they did so on july 17, 1864. ignoring the protest of andrew
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hunter's wife in the other family members who occupied it. the civil wars often been described as a war of brothers against brothers. in charlestown at least it was also a war of first cousins against first cousins. three of the attorneys who helped brown in charlestown were court-appointed attorneys, three others were attorneys of brown's own choosing. all of the attorneys worked under significant handicaps, however, because some of them didn't sympathize with brown, others because of the very severe time constraints imposed on them by the court. at the outset, the presiding magistrate of the examining court appointed lawson botkin charles faulkner to represent brown. both of these men well-connected lawyers who held respected positions in the aristocracy of virginia. they had been personally present in harpers ferry during the
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fighting there and they have actually thought against round. boston participated in negotiations for truth which have prevented brown for to withdraw across the potomac into maryland and faulkner had openly expressed his opinion, not only that brown was guilty, but that he deserved just punishment for his crimes. to his credit, faulkner tried to decline his appointment, arguing that he was disqualified because of his personal involvement in the raid. and the opinions he had expressed. but the magistrates courts insisted that he represent brown. later when the case reached the circuit court, faulkner was replaced by the mayor of charlestown, thomas clayborne green. green two with a well-connected lawyer. the mayor of charlestown, the son of a justice to the virginia supreme court of appeals, the
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cousin of virginia's u.s. senator james m. mason and a great grandson of mason of gunston hall, the venerated declaration of rights. green was an attorney of obvious ability when later he became a justice of the west virginia supreme court of appeals and they think such provided in this courtroom in the west virginia supreme court of appeals held its sessions here. the overriding problem with the court-appointed attorneys was simply that brown did not choose them to represent in and he had no confidence in them. shortly after he was captured, brown wrote letters to ohio and massachusetts. in both of which states he had formerly lived, asking attorneys there to come to charlestown to represent him as codefendants. but by the time the attorneys were able to respond to brown's letters, the trial that artie
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begun in charlestown without him. the three attorneys who came to charlestown response to brown's letters were hiram griswold from ohio, samuel chilton from washington d.c. and george white from washington and massachusetts. they were mature attorneys of experience and special ability, but word was only 21 years old and had only recently passed the massachusetts bar. he was so slight and voice in his appearance that when he first arrived in charlestown people here thought he must be two years younger and they frankly doubted he was really an attorney. hoyt's initial purpose in coming to charlestown was to do the jail and advise supporters that there was any time under way they might help him escape. brown made it clear that he did not want to escape.
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he had decided to stay where he was and face the music. later brown said that he would not walk out of the jail, even if its doors were thrown open for him. he knew that there would be gunfire as he tried to escape. the sheriff, the jailer, and others may be killed or injured. he had developed special effect -- respect for these events come of the sheriff and the jailer particularly and he did not want to subject them to danger. he would stay in jail to the bitter end. in the course of my research of the book, i checked the u.s. census records for northern virginia to determine whether the man who had charge of brown's trial were saying holders and if so how many slaves they had. the most lemonade in records were those that i found for the census of 1860, which was taken only about six months after brown's trial came to an end.
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the records were to say the least interesting. i found when the 1860 census was taken, the chief prosecutor andrew hunter owned for slaves. judge richard parker junior, the winchester-based jurist who presided over the trial owned ten slaves. brown's court-appointed attorneys were themselves slaveholders, charles slaughter of 13, lawson botts owned for and thomas clayborne green, the mayor of charlestown owned another four. i couldn't find all 12 of the jurors in brown's case in the slaveholders scheduled, but those i did find owned among them, 50 for slaves. the eight magistrates who formed brown's examining court owned among men a total of 105 slaves.
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altogether, these men owned 190 for slaves. the question has often been asked whether brown's trial was fair. [laughter] is a legitimate question. it's not an easy question to answer, however. certainly the fact that brown was surrounded on all sides by stakeholders, militated against the fairness of the trial. after all, he had come into virginia as he said to free the slaves and in effect take away the property of the men who now had a stake in their hands. the prosecutors come the judges, the jurors, even the attorneys appointed to represent him shouldn't be surprised that they didn't sympathize with them. for their own pecuniary interests were obviously imperiled by his self professed goals.
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another factor that militated against fairness was the shortness of the trial. and the repeated request for modest delays that were denied by judge parker. there's no question that parker conducted the trial with haste. but he really had to, for virginia statute for the time provided a person indicted for a felony had to be indicted and tried out the same term of the court in which the indictment was found, unless good cause was shown for a delay. parker circuit court opened its term in jefferson county on october 20, 1859, and it was obligated by law to move onto winchester and frederick county, no later than november 10. brown's indictment was returned by the grand jury in november 26. it had some good cause for delay, brown and the other six men who were captured with him in harpers ferry all had to be tried and executed before
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november 10. since brown's trial, and tran did not begin until october 26, this meant that the seven men all had to be tried in the short of 12 days. sundays of cores were excluded. virginia law also provided that each of the men was entitled to be tried separately. if the trial if any one of them was delayed beyond november 10, he would have to be held in jail until the circuit court return to charlestown the following april. during the intervening six months, the untried prisoners would have to be regarded against a possible rescue attempt in the north. this was the prospect that local officials considered a real possibility. as did governor wise who ordered hundreds of militiamen to charlestown to guard the courthouse and a jail against possible attack. so parker urged on by the prosecutors and the governor
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wise receded to conduct the trials with all possible haste. in one of his letters to governor wise, andrew hunter wrote that parker was quote, for observing all the judicial decencies, unquote. so am i, but at double quick time. and so the trial got underway even before brown's own attorneys were able to arrive in charlestown, when the boyish george hoyt arrived from boston. leaving the 21-year-old novice to try to resurrect the shambles that the trial had become. and by the time that brown's chosen attorneys from ohio in washington d.c. griswold and chilton arrived on the scene, witnesses had all been examined and there was nothing left to do the present closing arguments. and so the trial hurtled forward
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toward the verdict. they haste with which the trial was conducted was not judge parker's particular fault. he was a good judge. the air of a long and distinguished line of virginia jurors and doug sanders alluded to his father. judge richard parker senior. he was born in richmond in 1810 and graduated from the university of virginia and he practiced law in in charlestown before serving for ten years as military storekeeper in harpers ferry. he was elected to congress in 1849, but resigned after about a year and have to become circuit judge. he knew the law well and he had a good judicial temperament. but he was determined to try brown and his codependence before november 10 and he did all in his power to achieve that result.
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there is little doubt, at least little doubt in my own mind that brown was guilty of the charges brought against him. there were many witnesses who saw him in harpers ferry during and they all testified against him. he was not an innocent man, at least not at guilt or innocence is determined via the laws of virginia. which after all are the laws under which u.s. tried. but even guilty men are entitled to fair trials, in the american system. brown's trial raised serious legal questions. the issue of whether the crime he was charged with were properly tried in a virginia state court, rather than the federal district court was raised during the trial that never persuasively answered whether brown could properly be tried for treason against the commonwealth of virginia, even though he was not a resident of virginia with another key issue.
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judge parker ruled that he could be because as a citizen of the united states, he owed allegiance to virginia and to all of the states in the american union. this question has been hotly debated by historians over the generations and their arguments on both sides. i however believe that judge parker got it right and that brown was properly tried for treason against virginians. i discussed the reasons for that conclusion in my book. brown's chosen attorneys griswold and the chilton argued during the trial in their closing arguments that the proof offered during the trial was not adequate to sustain all of the charges in the indictment. ..
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these judges like the officials in charles town were slaveholders. i consider the question of the
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fairness of brown's trial at some length in my book. i quote the historians and lawyers who have over the years express their opinions on the subject. i also quote the statements judge parker and andrew hunter made on that very question when, as told them they were asked for their recollections of the trial. not surprisingly both parker and hunter thought the trial was there in all respects. i think their arguments were good and not conclusive but whether brown's trial was fair or not is not in my opinion a right question to ask about this really extraordinary judicial event. there was never any real question that brown would be convicted in charles town and that he would be hanged, but that is not what made this trial so and porton to history. brown did not take the witness stand during his trial.
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he never testified. in fact he had no right to testify for the law of the united states it traditionally forbidden parties from testifying in their own cases. it was deemed that any person who had a personal interest in the case would inevitably lie. even it was under oath, said they were not permitted to offer sworn testimony. it was only after the civil war that this rule was changed so that criminal defendants were permitted to testify in their own cases. now of course it is accepted criminal defendants have the right to testify although they also have the right to remain silent. the choice is theirs. it was not so of the time of brown's trial and brown made no effort to take the witness stand. even though he did not testify however he did find opportunities to speak during his trial. he addressed the court. he sought short delays in the
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preceding. he ask questions of the witnesses. he reminded the judge is in insurers several times he had been promised a fair trial. and in the end, he ticket manager of the opportunity that the law allowed him to make a statement in his own words before the sentence was passed. and when brown spoke he did so in strong and earnest words. eck one point when judge parker denied a request for a delay, brown raised himself up on the cot on which she was lying in said if we are to be forced with a mere form a child for execution, if you might spare yourself that trouble. i am ready for that fate. during his ste.msre last statement, he stated that his purpose in coming into harpers ferry was not to kill or injure or destroy property, only to
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help the slaves. i do night everything he said but what i have all along admitted of a design on my part to free slaves. had become their he said on behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent the so-called great on behalf of any of their friends it would have been alright. every man in his court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment. i see a book he said, which i suppose would be the bible, or these the new testament. which teaches me that all things whatsoever i would that men should do to me i should do so, even so to them. it teaches me further to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. i endeavored to act up to that instruction. i am yet to young to understand that god is any respecter of persons.
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i believe to have interfered as i have done, as i have always freely admitted i have done and to have his despised for is no wrong but right. now it is deemed necessary i should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice in mental my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in the slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments, i say let it be done. the way brown spoke during his trial, the way he conducted himself before, during and after the proceedings won the grudging admiration of even the most fervent slaveholders. the words he spoke inspired listeners both north and south with their sincerity and
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rockridge. and murzin later ranked brown's last statement with lincoln's gettysburg address is one of the two best specimens of eloquence we have had in this country. governor wise expressed himself so satisfied with brown that he proclaimed him a man of clear head, courage, fortitude and simple ingenuousness and he said brown inspired him with his integrity as a man of truth notwithstanding all of this the governor refused to grant brown clemency anti-took an active role in making the preparations for his hanging just south of charles town. why do i consider john brown's trial the most important trial in american history. it is quite simply because of his consequences, because of what happened after it was
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concluded, because of the causal the fact it had on the great civil war that followed it so quickly and because of the below its drop against the institution of chattel slavery. let's assume for purposes of discussion that brown was at least in part responsible for the civil war that began just a little over one year after charles town ended. let's assume also is rate on harper's ferry arouse passions all over the country convincing southerners that political maneuvering was no longer adequate to protect slavery from its number n emmys as secession from the union and military defense of the confederate states of america was necessary to achieve that goal. these are all reasonable assumptions. they have been made by historians for generations. but let's also assume that the raid on harpers ferry was the
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last we ever heard of john brown. let's assume that he was shot and killed during the fighting in harpers ferry as he nearly was. or wenched by the mob that was hungering for vengeance after he was captured. as he nearly was. or the governor wise that convened a court-martial and condemned him to death within hours of his capture. wise said wanted to do that very thing that derive in harpers ferry to late. let's assume in other words there was no trial in charles town, no magistrate court, no indictment, no jury, no appeal to the supreme court of appeals in richmond. if that had been the case brown would never have had an opportunity to address the court. he could not have made the statements quoted over and over in newspaper reports. reprinted in newspapers all over
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the united states and later celebrated by emerson and others. his voice would never have been heard in public. he would be known for his violence in harpers ferry, but not for his eloquence and humanity in this courthouse in charles town. he would have been dismissed as a fanatic, an extremist that was willing to take the law into his own hands, a madman who was willing to shed innocent like to achieve a political goal but was caught in the act and stop. what would brown's legacy have been in such a case? in my opinion it would have been practically nothing. at least far less than it was in fact. it was because he survived to stand trial in charles town that we remember him tonight.
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it was because he spoke so eloquently in judge parker's courtroom and in enunciating the world vision that brought him into harpers ferry in the first place. it was because he delivered his last statement before judge parker and because he expressed his willingness to die for his convictions that we remember him today as a visionary, an idealist and ultimately a martyr to the cause of human freedom and these memories are still potent because of john brown's trial. because of the four days when the attorneys and witnesses and jurors decided brown's fate in this court house. during those four days the nation watched john brown listened to and speak, pondered his message and on the course to
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civil war. to the emancipation of the slaves and to the new birth of freedom that lincoln spoke of at gettysburg. it all began here in the jefferson county courthouse, where we are gathered this evening. thank you. [applause] [applause] i should have said that the beginning that i will be happy to sign books, but i want to amend that statement to say i would be delighted to sign books, particularly if you buy them before i sign them but the books are in the table here and
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before we get to the book signing let's have some questions and answers. don't make them too hard because i am not good at answering hard questions. use cerc, in a blue shirt. >> in regards to john brown's treason against the state of virginia on the grounds that because he was a citizen of the united states he was therefore subject to the loss of virginia, correct? so it is ironic i find a state of virginia which put those prosecuted him for that did not uphold itself to those same loyalties to the united states and little then a year later when it seceded and join the confederacy and i was curious, did that same judge support the confederacy when he-- prosecuted john brown on? >> there are whole libraries on that subject in some of them are very good.
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judge parker was a state judge. he was a judge under the authority of the laws of the constitution of the commonwealth of virginia and when the commonwealth of virginia seceded from the union judge parker went with it. i think you can judge from the fact that he owned slaves that he probably wasn't very happy to do with john brown was trying to do here whether he was guilty of any hypocrisy or not i don't know. i don't accuse the people who left the union at the time of the civil war with hypocrisy but he probably did sympathize with the confederacy, but he may have had some good reason for doing so because he was a virginian and held his office in the commonwealth of virginia. another question? yes, sir. >> larry lawrence from the john
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brown society. i thank you sir for your interest. i have come to the conclusion-- and considering the united states government has never done a postage stamp, the postage stamp to honor john brown and as the continuity with the capitalist imperil list u.s. government today and his slave owning u.s. government of the past, with the decision of president james buchanan to say colonel robert e. lee leading the u.s. marines to capture brown after he went into the u.s. arsenal, that the united states government, to this day despises john brown-- all over the world people are coming from south america, south africa,
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europe and asia who love john brown, that there is a strange continuity that continues with the u.s-- >> i appreciate those remarks and they are not really germane to the trial so i think we will consider your remarks. yes, sir. >> as they listen to talk about the trial i am thinking of that trial to the nazi regime, the defendants and also the so-called red orchestra and again they were charged with treason and in this case did not receive a trialed for nazi court presided over by nazi judges defended by members of the nazi party such as it was. how is the john brown's trial for treason for judges and juries label any difference in your estimation? >> that is an argument. you have made a good argument
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there and certainly there is a good body of opinion that would agree with you. on the other hand there are people who do not look so favorably on john brown. john brown is a controversial figure in american history. i think he will probably always be a controversial figure in american history and we have to recognize out of that controversy arises different opinions. i have expressed my opinion here and probably agree with yours but there are others who don't share that opinion. yes sir. >> can you tell us what happened to the other defendants? >> they were all hanged. they were all hanged. at one time there was an effort made to try one of the defendants in a federal court in the purpose for that was so that they could subpoena people
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outside of virginia to testify in the trial. tents beyond the borders of the state where is the state court can only subpoena witnesses within the state and governor wise was strongly of the opinion that there were men who were complicit of brown in the raid on harpers ferry, who were seeking to avoid justice in new york and in boston but that effort wasn't made, and that man was tried here and also hanged. there was another man named john coke who was the brother-in-law of the governor of indiana, and the governor came here, and fled for his life and urged him to confess to make a confession, ask for the mercy of the court and asked governor wise for clemency.
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he did that, was quickly tried and convicted, sentenced to hang and hank and governor wise did not extend clemency. >> were they all hang here in charles town? >> they were all based on the harpers ferry raid. they were all nearly identical charges with two exceptions and this is an interesting exception. two of the defendants were what they used to call men, and i use this word hoping i don't give offense to any one, a mulatto but he was of mixed race. but of course he was classified as a black person the same as any others. they were free men, and they were charged with treason against the commonwealth of virginia as brown and the other defendants were. their attorneys were smart men
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however. their attorneys were from the north and they said judge chief justice roger tony has recently made a decision in the supreme court of the united states that any one of the african descent cannot be a citizen of the united states. if you can't be a citizen of the united states how can you be a citizen of the commonwealth of virginia and if you are not a citizen how can you be charged with treason against the commonwealth of virginia? well, they consider those arguments and they say yes, you got this there so they dropped the treason charges and hanged them for murder and inciting rebellion. [laughter] yes, sir. [inaudible] >> dreazen is defined in the united states constitution in a very specific way. it is the only crime that is defined in the united states constitution and i'm not going to try to read you the
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definition for-- from memory because i will leave a word out or do something wrong certainly. the va definition of treason was statutory modeled on the american, on the definition of the united states constitution. it is essentially was making war against the government or giving aid and comfort to its enemies. that is kind of the essence of the crime. so, the question was argued also during the trial even though it was a short trial. there were a lot of issues that had to be argued. did john brown make war on the commonwealth of virginia? his attorneys made a good argument that he didn't do that, that in fact he just formed a club that was kind of like an optimist club orrin elk club or something like that, had a constitution but of course they did not buy that argument. yes, sir.
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>> a federal judge with jurisdiction over the area had decided-- for the federal government could assert and stop the state trial in the jurisdiction? >> no, no. there is no provision in the constitutional system for the federal government to interfere with the exercise of proper jurisdiction by a state court and judge parker opined on that very subject and he said once john brown is in the custody of state officials he will remain there until they have dealt with him according to state laws. if he should be released then federal officials might have arrested him and tried him for a federal offense, but since he was dead at the time of his release it would not have accomplished very much. back in the back row, yes sir. >> i am curious about the atmosphere was like in the
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courtroom? was security barry tight end with their lot of militias troops around during the trial? >> that is a great question. the streets were crowded with militiamen. governor wise had ordered militia here from richmond, from various other parts of virginia. they set up canons in front of the courthouse and in front of the jail. there were cannons aimed at the jail and at the courthouse in case anyone should try to help brown escape. it was like an armed camp outside the building, outside the courthouse. not inside the courthouse however because judge parker objected to any military display inside the courthouse, and at one time there was a soldier that came in the courtroom during the course of the trial
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and judge parker rather i really ordered him to leave. now, that is another-- there are lots of interesting twists and turns to this story. after the trial was over, after the civil war began this court house was used by both union and southern troop, confederate troops at various times as one army would come in and push the other out. they would set up in the courthouse and they would use it as a barracks. so that the area around judge parker's bench had soldiers' sleeping all over it. judge parker did not like weapons or soldiers in his courtroom but there wasn't very much he could do about it in the army's came through. yes, sir. >> to what extent did they struggle with the decision to
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execute brown? i know people sent him letters warning him not to do that, that it would have a martyr effect and i'm just curious because the judge why is it is generally being characterized ariel, changable man, who changed his mind a lot. he was an emotional man, a very intelligent man. he was an attorney, a well experienced attorney and he cared a lot about the decisions that were made here, but nobody was ever quite sure what he would ultimately decide here. this is another little interesting twist on this story i think. when the charges were first filed against john brown here, before the indictment was returned, the charges did not include treason. it was only when the indictment
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was filed that our friend andrew hunter inserted a count for treason against the commonwealth. there was the man who lived in charleston by the name of boy who was a great scholar and i discovered this from reading his papers in the west virginia archives. he was of the opinion that he could not find in the documentary evidence on it, that hunter had inserted the count charging crown with treason so that wise would not be able to approve him because under the law at that time wise as the governor had the power to reprieve or grant clemency for murder, for inciting slaves to rebellion, for aidin abetting murder which were the other charges in the case. he did not have the power to grant clemency for treason without the consent wind of the
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general assembly, with the state legislature and he was of the opinion that knowing that wise was a vacillator hand that you didn't know exactly what his final decision would be he put in the trees in charge to tie his hands. but that may or may not hold water. read about it in the book, because wise could have applied to the legislature for permission to do this and he did not. and i think that he felt he was running for president at the time. he thought he was a moderate senator who might be elected as president of the united states. he was a little mistaken in that regard. fl from illinois mated instead but he was trying to appeal to moderates on both sides, both the north and the south and so he did vacillate. yes, maam.
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[inaudible] >> what brown was looking for in an attorney? he left a lot of letters. there were a lot of john brown's letters and he wanted someone who would sympathize with him, someone who was a good attorney, but he also made it quite clear in one of his letters, i do not send an ultra abolitionist. he didn't want an old track abolitionist because he knew that would arouse antipathy and would probably do more harm than good to have an attorney like that. yes, sir. >> after the return of the guilty verdict,-- or note annie appeals? >> those with a private
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attorneys, griswold then chilton. chilton took most responsibility for it. there was an attorney in richmond by the name of, i think is the name was william green who was a brother of the mayor who had represented brown by a court appointment in the early stages of this trial here, but chilton in griswald presented their arguments in richmond with the assistance of william green and their petition exists. it is a very rare document. i had a chance to read it in richmond and it was very well presented, and at the time, the statutes of virginia provided that the judges of the supreme court of appeals state their reasons for their decisions in writing. now, they never made, they never issued an opinion in the brown
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case. it was a terribly contentious case, very controversial. it was on the minds of people throughout the united states and yet they denied the petition without a formal opinion. they did leave a one sentence opinion in effect saying that they denied the petition because the decision of the circuit court had obviously been right or something to that effect. it was like a one sentence conclusion. yes, sir. >> can you tell me of the charges for treason against the state of virginia or for that matter any other state involved in harpers ferry would be cases of individuals, the treason against the state of virginia or any other state? >> i believe there was a trial here in 1922 that involved treason against va so that was another one. west virginia, yeah.
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i don't know of any others against virginia. there were prosecutions for treason against states earlier, before john brown's trial but they were very rare. there was one in rhode island which had arisen out of an effect a rebellion there to overthrow the state government and another in new york that had something to do with the war of 1812 with people who were supplying british ships in the harbor with necessary material for the war and they were charged with treason against new york and desert recalled the decision in that case was helping the british defeat the united states is not treason against new york. it might be treason against the yen in back but not against new york said there were other cases that they were very rare and to the best of my knowledge, and i
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think it is well documented, the first execution for treason against a state. yes, sir. >> do you think that john brown's understanding of his trial changed as that went on? >> esi do. at i think that there was a change in brown. i think in the beginning that he thought that he might actually be found not guilty, because of the fact that he didn't really intend to do any harm. i think it was naïve, but i think he really did believe that any did want some attorneys who might help improve that case. very quickly however, he changed his mind and he decided that it was far better for him to be executed for his noble cause then for him to be found not guilty or to escape from jail if
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he could've done that. yes, maam. >> one of the things that he did was to-- and it doesn't seem like any of the charges covered that. >> i am quite sure it was a crime that was not charged for say. it was part of the inciting slaves to rebellion part of the, perhaps aiding and abetting murder because there were four civilians who were killed in harpers ferry, shot dead during the fighting that ensued. it is interesting that there was no charge of kidnapping. there was nothing of that kind filed against brown. and by the way, some of the hostages that he took, and he kept them in the fire engine
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house in harpers ferry, which is now today. they were in there for maybe 24 hours, some period of time. had very nice things to say about him. he treated them with respect, did not accuse them, and as a matter of fact we were discussing this this afternoon. a couple of them said, my wife is worrying about me at home and i have not had any breakfast. he said go home and have breakfast, get me some breakfast but come back here and take my place as the hostage. they did so. that is exactly what they did. they went home and had breakfast then came back and took their places as hostages. [inaudible] >> would you repeat that please? i miss the beginning.
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>> could that have been the reason that that charge was not included? >> that might have been. that might have been. i think however a lot of the mistakes that were made during the trial can be attributed to the rush of judgment. if you have a trial like this that really involves fundamental legal questions and you have 19 witnesses you are going to call to testify and you have to have a jury summons from the outlying areas of the county and you have a, an indictment that takes 20 minutes to be read in open court you are going to make a lot of mistakes trying to do that in such a short time and that is what they did. i don't think they were terribly worried about the mistakes because they regarded it as an inevitability that brown would be convicted and hanged and they were right. yes, sir. >> when brown was in the custody
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of the united states army, how did they lose control of their prisoner to state authorities and secondly to the constitution play any part in the treason? >> well, i think i didn't get the first part, when brown was in the custody of-- [inaudible] >> when lee and his marines, they captured him. they turned him over to state authorities quite quickly and this was perhaps another mistake. if they had been turned over instead to the u.s. marshal, he could have, then he would have been in federal custody and would have been trialed the-- tried in a federal court and it would have taken a lot longer because the federal court was meeting in southern virginia at the time, and it would not have rushed to judgment. there would not have been such a
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rush to judgment and the state would have been helpless. at that point they could not demand it but there was a hurried conference in washington between james buchanan and the united states attorney about what will we do about this, about john brown? governor wise was quite adamant. the commonwealth of virginia will take custody of john brown and deal with him according to the laws of the commonwealth of virginia. that is all there is to it and brown said he did not care particularly the one way or the other so he let them do it. it was introduced in evidence in the trial in portions were read to the jury. [inaudible] yes, sir. [inaudible]
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who do still have been convicted in hong? >> yes, i think he would have been. that satisfy you? [laughter] i think he was, he broke the law. he broke the lock in a violent way. you break the law in a violent way they don't say go home and don't do it again. in those days days john you up then hank you and i think that would have happened but it would have been much different trial and in many respects one important difference would be that the aggrieved party in that case would have been the united states of america. seeking to vindicate its laws to enforce its rule to enforce this order. as it was it was the commonwealth of virginia vindicating its laws. it was a different focus entirely and brown would not
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have perhaps aroused as much terrible opposition if it hadn't been, it was made to seem like he had offended virginia. in fact he offended the entire united states when he broke the law. in my opinion. yes, sir. >> andrew hunter cited precedent in one point regarding-- [inaudible] >> you are referring to the earlier trial that had arisen out of the harpers ferry. hunter had a good point there. there had been a murder that took place in harpers ferry around 1930. the superintendent was murdered in cold blood by a disgruntled employee who had been laid off and he was very angry.
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he went into the superintendent's office and shot him to death. he was brought to charles town and brought to charles town and hanged. hunter cited that as a president. he said we have always done it this way. crimes arising out of the arsenal had been tried in charles town, and so that it is good. and come of. [laughter] yes. >> ivan? but your writing process and creating the book. hsinchu manchin there were no transcripts of the trial and i realized-- >> no official transcripts and you did research, which also involved looking at these newspaper articles and the sensational wisdom that was attending the trial. i wonder if you have any trouble or a great deal of trouble
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struggling with what was being honestly reported forces fleur-de-lis reported or editorialized and if he could comment on that? >> there is difficulty in that. there were several of the new york newspapers that were rich-- represented and one of them follow the local authorities or writing unfavorable reports about charles town. can't imagine what they would have been unfavorable that happened here at the time but he thought there was and he wrote some stories and they took offense at that, and they told him to get out of town. he had 24 hours to leave town. he did and i think he was the writer for the tribune, horace greeley's newspaper and i believe he went to either baltimore in philadelphia and filed some more stories that we even more unfavorable about charles town in which some
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people have accused him of making up some of the stories. now there was some good ones in those stories. one was that the florida courtroom at the time was covered with the con and peanut shows, that the people were just rapidly jewelling on them and throwing their shells on the floor and you would walk across the floor it would sound like you were walking on broken glass, and i don't know whether this reporter from the newspaper made that story up or whether it was really true. it was not in the other newspapers. yes sir, go ahead. [applause]
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[applause] show we go to the signing table? >> thank you mr. mcginty. he will be delighted to sign your book if you care to purchase one and the historical society is selling books this evening and of course mr. mcginty will be at harpers ferry at the conference tomorrow. maybe you will have a chance to catch him there. the humanities council, we thank you all for being here and we certainly thank brian mcginty for an excellent speech this evening. thank you, sir. [applause] >> brian mcginty is the author of "lincoln & the court," october 16th marked the 150 anniversary. for more information visit john brown
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from the 2009 southern festival of books christian ethics professor shaun casey discusses his book the making of a catholic president. this event is 45 minutes. >> i want to talk about why we should care about the 1960 election, what was so special about that one. second lay want to tell you about the lessons unmuted my research that you can find in the book if you take the time to read it. lia 12 waukee 23 pivotal scenes in the book and we may have to cut that down and finally do some questions and answers back and forthwith you if you have questions. i would love to get your feedback. there are a number of reasons to look at the 1960 election. first of all you have to fascinating political characters. john kennedy and richard nixon or two of the most brilliant minds america produced for the richard nixon was on the national ticket five times and won four out five times in the last i checked the batting
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averages one of the best batting average of anyone who has run for the american president and of course john kennedy becoming the first and only roman catholic president is an interesting story in and of itself. secondly it was an extraordinarily close election. kennedy won the election by a tick or two over 100,000 votes out of the tens of millions cast so it was extraordinarily close. it was also i argue the first modern campaign when you think about pollsters, you think about use of media, you think of mass buying of advertising and when you think about religion as a political force you have those together in many things which we take for granted in our presidential races today in many ways began in that election so i think it is the beginning of modern political presidential campaigns. but it was also what i call the larva stage of the religious right in the united states. if you look at is some ofhe


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