Carlisle (PA) American Volunteer, "Trial of Brown, the Insurgent," November 3, 1859

    Source citation
    “Trial of Brown, the Insurgent,” Carlisle (PA) American Volunteer, November 3, 1859, p. 2: 3-4.
    Newspaper: Publication
    Carlisle American Volunteer
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    Trial of Brown, the Insurgent
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    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Matt Dudek, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and other typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    The Grand Jury of the Circuit Court at Charlestown, Virginia, reported a true bill against Brown and his confederates on Wednesday, and the trial of Brown was commenced on Thursday of last week. A letter was read to the Court, by Mr. Botts, one of the prisoner’s counsel, containing a statement to the effect that insanity is hereditary in Brown’s family. This Brown corroborated in part, but desired his counsel not to put in any plea of insanity, adding “that if he had been at all insane, he is totally unconscious of it!” Brown requested a short delay, in order that his counsel from the North might defend him. He thought he could have a fairer trial if defended by his own counsel. Mr. Hunter, for the Commonwealth, did not see the necessity for delay. He remarked to the Court that the prosecution were able to prove that Brown had made frequent acknowledgements [acknowledgments] of everything charged against him, and had even gloried in his course. The counsel for the prisoner argued strongly for delay, but the Court, deeming the causes insufficient, refused to grant it. The indictment, containing the three counts – insurrection, treason and murder – was read, the prisoner being allowed to recline in his cot, as he was too weak to stand. Mr. Harding opened for the prosecution, detailing the events connected with the outbreak, and read the law of treason, which provides that levying was against the State is punishable with death. He urged the jury not to allow their prejudices against abolitionism to influence their minds in the trial, but to act fairly and impartially. Mr. Green, for the defence [defense], followed.

    THE BROWN TRIAL – Arrival of Cook – Excitement – Implication of Fred. Douglas [Douglass], &c.
    CHARLESTOWN, VA., Oct. 28.

    Cook was brought here at one o’clock this morning. He says that if Brown had taken his advice in relation to mounting the men, a force of one thousand strong could not have taken them. He says that Fred. Douglas [Douglass] acted the coward, as he promised to be there in person. There is great rejoicing here at the arrest of Cook. Geo. H. Hoyt Esq., of Boston, arrived here this morning, to act as counsel for Brown. He is quite a young man.

    PROCEEDINGS OF THE COURT.- The Court met at 11 o’clock. Brown was led over from the cot. Senator Mason entered the Court with Mr. Hoyt, the counsel from Boston.

    Senator Mason remarked that the testimony given by Col. Washington and Conductor Phelps was very correct.

    The Jury was then called and Mr. Botts announced the arrival of Mr. Hoyt, who had come to assist the counsel for Brown.

    CHARLESTOWN, Oct. 29

    Court met at ten o’clock this morning. The Judge announced that he had received a note from the counsel of the prisoner, requesting a delay of a few minutes, to enable him to have a brief interview with the prisoner. He would accordingly wait a short time.

    Soon after Brown was brought in, and took his usual recumbent position in bed.

    Samuel Chilton, of Washington city, appeared as additional counsel for the prisoners, and was qualified. Henry Griswold of Cleveland, Ohio, was also qualified as counsel for the prisoners.

    Mr. Chilton made an explanatory statement. He was unexpectedly called upon yesterday to aid in this defence [defense]. He came with the expectation of merely assisting the gentlemen who were conducting the defence [defense], but upon reaching here, he found that they had withdrawn from the case. He then determined to do his best, not feeling at liberty to refuse. Under the circumstances, however, it would be impossible for him to discharge the full duty of counsel, not having had time to read the indictment or examine the evidence already given. He made no motion, but he would advise a delay of a few hours, in order that himself and his brother counsel could make some preparation.

    The Court decided that the trial must go on; no more delay could be granted.

    The trial then proceeded. Mr. Hoyt, for the prisoner, objected to receiving as evidence the letter of Gerrett [Gerrit] Smith, heretofore published; also the autobiography of Brown, written by himself. Both were withdrawn. Several witnesses were then examined by Mr. Hoyt, and cross questioned by the prisoner while lying on his bed, wrapped up in a blanket. The testimony was mainly relative to Brown’s kind treatment of his prisoners.

    At 1 o’clock a recess was taken for dinner.

    Several witnesses for the prisoner were examined, all proving that Brown had treated his prisoners with humanity, and frequently expressed his regret that bloodshed should have been caused by him in self defence [defense].

    The defence [defense] closed their testimony about 4 o’clock, and the State desired to give the case to the jury without argument.
    Capt. Brown insisted that his counsel should argue the case.

    After the opening speech for the State, the court adjourned till Monday morning, when the counsel for the prisoner will proceed.

    CHARLESTON, VA., Oct. 31.

    The Court met at nine o’clock this morning. The prisoner was brought in, and the trial proceeded without delay. Brown looks better than heretofore, and his health is evidently improving. He laid on the bed as usual. The Court house and its approaches were densely crowded.

    Mr. Griswold opened for the defence [defense], taking up the several charges of the indictment, and replying to the points made in the opening argument of the prosecution. He alluded to the peculiar circumstances surrounding the present case, and hoped the jury would give it calm and dispassionate attention, divesting, as far as possible, their minds from all prejudice, and disregarding outside influences. Let the prisoner have and [sic] impartial trial under the laws of Virginia, and let him be acquitted or convicted according to those laws, and the evidence given in the case.

    With regard to the charge of treason brought against the prisoner, Mr. Griswold argued that Brown could not be guilty of treason, as he was not a citizen of this Commonwealth, and none but a citizen of the Commonwealth could commit treason. Never having sworn allegiance to Virginia, he could not be a rebel against her authority. He was also charged with levying war against the State, but the evidence given did not support the charge. There was a great difference between levying war and resisting authority by men who are congregated together to perpetuate crime, and have their rules and regulations. When they are assailed they defend their lives to the utmost, sacrificing their own and intending to sacrifice the lives of others: but that is resisting, not levying war.

    He would not shrink from the admission, and the prisoner had openly admitted it, that these men came for the purpose of running away slaves. That was a crime under the laws of Virginia, for which the prisoner was amenable to punishment to the extent of those laws. In carrying out that purpose he temporarily took possession of the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.

    Mr. G. entered upon an elaborate defence [defense], the report of which came too late for insertion.

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