The Two John Browns
No two people represent the conflict and tension that surrounded Unpaid Labor (1607-1865) better than the two John Browns. No two represent the fact that Unpaid Labor was at the very core of every aspect of economic, military, political, geographic, religious, and social life in America better than the two John Browns. Their lives covered the period of time between 1736 and 1859. It was a time of always trying to figure out what to do about slavery. The country failed at this again and again.
The first John Brown was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1736. He died in 1803. History knows him as an American merchant, slave trader, and statesman. He helped to start Brown University. He was the university’s treasurer for 21 years. He started Providence Bank and became its first president in 1791. There’s more but let’s stop there. He was well respected and fabulously rich because of Unpaid Labor. The contribution of Unpaid Labor made his political and business and military and banking careers all possible.
Shortly before the first John Brown died the second John Brown was born in 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut. He was executed on December 2, 1859. He was an American abolitionist. He believed that armed insurrection was the only way to stop slavery in the United States. An abolitionist is someone that wants something they believe to be wrong to stop. In this case the something was slavery. That’s what the second John Brown fought for and he was hanged for it.
Two men born at different times with the same name could not have been more different. One sent around the world to enslave people for money. One went to the far away Kansas territory to free people because he believed that it was morally wrong to enslave people. The lives of both men were tied to Unpaid Labor.
During his lifetime the first John Brown was building a respectable life and becoming rich from the beginning of our country because of slavery. During his lifetime the second John Brown was opposing slavery. The country would try again and again to solve the slavery problem by compromising but too many people were making too much money to stop enslaving other people. To compromise means “I’ll let you do this, if you let me do that.” For an issue as big as slavery a compromise won’t do.
The country would have to reward one and hang the other. It would have to keep slavery or stop it. Because it didn’t do the right thing the bloodiest war in the nation’s history would be fought over slavery—and still no answer. And still no answer!