Brown's actions at Harpers Ferry—and his execution a few weeks later—had a major impact on communities all across America. In the North, reaction was mixed. Many people criticized Brown's violent methods, and most Northern lawmakers agreed with Senator William Seward (1801-1872) of New York, who called the abolitionist's execution "necessary and just." But many other Northerners saw Brown as a heroic figure who was willing to die for his beliefs. A number of
Northern communities tolled church bells on the day of his hanging as a way of saluting his efforts. Many abolitionists throughout the North praised him for his bravery and his hatred of slavery. Writer Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), for instance, spoke for many Northerners when he called Brown "a crucified hero" and an "angel of light."
In the South, on the other hand, Brown's raid cause a wild ripple of fear and hysteria throughout white communities. Even though Brown had been unable to rally a single slave to his side, whites still remembered the bloody slave rebellion of 1831 led by Nat Turner (1800-1831). Many of them became convinced that antislav-ery forces in the North were willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of Southern whites in their zeal to end slavery. The reaction to Brown's execution in some parts of the North further increased Southern anger and fear. To many whites in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and other slave states, the Northern threat to their way of life had never seemed more real or immediate.
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