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A Country without Memory

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Maryhill and Celilo
Ewing Young & Champoeg
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Ghost Mountain

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Death Valley
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2011 John Lesage


        Harpers Ferry


About two months before the raid, Brown met with his friend and supporter, the freed slave Frederick Douglass. Asked to join one last time, Douglass again expressed his reservations about the practicality of the effort. As he declined, Douglass must have understood the true nature of the endeavor. I’m willing to live for the slaves, but he’s willing to die for them.
        For his part, Brown had hinted that he meant to martyr himself. In a letter to his eldest son, he once related that if they are to be tried in Kansas, “I would much rather it should be with irons
in rather than upon our hands,” figuratively nailing himself to a cross. As Plan A for the raid on Harpers Ferry, Brown planned to succeed. As Plan B, he planned to fail. Failing was a spectacular success.
        John Brown succeeded in martyring himself after Harpers Ferry. John Wilkes Booth waited in the crowd gathered to watch his hanging, as did one Thomas Jackson, before he became a Stonewall. Brown was of course vilified in the South. However, the reaction differed in Northern towns with abolitionist sympathies. A
t the appointed hour of Brown’s execution, church bells rang in solidarity.