Robert McGlone, "Brown, John," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00096.html.
Though a military fiasco, Brown's raid was for many a jeremiad against a nation that defied God in tolerating human bondage. It sent tremors of horror throughout the South and gave secessionists a persuasive symbol of northern hostility. It hardened positions over slavery everywhere. It helped to discredit Stephen A. Douglas's compromise policy of popular sovereignty and to divide the Democratic party, thus ensuring the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. In a longer view, African Americans especially have seen in Brown hope for the eventual redemption of an oppressive America, while critics have condemned his extremism and deplored his divisive impact on the sectional crisis. Both Brown's fanaticism and his passion for freedom make him an enduring icon.