“Our geographical position will not permit us in this or any contest involving the South, to be neutral or indifferent, even if we were craven enough to desire it. Whenever Virginia and South Carolina act, North Carolina must take her part.” Nathan H. Street, Peter Evans, and John N. Washington’s letter to Governor John W. Ellis reflects how many North Carolinians viewed the bond between Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. When an issue of magnitude affected Virginia to the North, or South Carolina to the South, North Carolinians were made aware through newspapers and speeches by government officials. This became especially true with regard to abolition in both Virginia and North Carolina. Both states had a long history of abolition movements, including the circulation of seditious material from the North, such as David Walker’s the Appeal. This history would heighten the reactions to John Brown’s Raid of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, which provides a prime example of how events in Virginia affected North Carolina society and politics.
From October 16th to October 18th, 1859, Northern abolitionist John Brown led a raid of primarily white abolitionists, as well as two freedmen and one escaped slave, on the town of Harper’s Ferry. During the raid, Brown’s men managed to occupy the armory and throw the town into chaos. Brown was ultimately taken prisoner by a group of Marines, commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee. John Brown’s raid was viewed as a militant invasion by Northern abolitionists of Virginia, a neighbor of North Carolina.
Word of this event spread to North Carolina through letters written to politicians and family members. Once letters reached North Carolina, newspapers, such as the Raleigh Register and the Wilmington Daily Herald, began reporting the events that occurred in Harper’s Ferry. Citizens became fearful of another Northern abolitionist invasion and demanded action by their government to prepare for war. This fear influenced politicians and citizens to begin building militias, appointing military personnel and gathering arms. Secessionist sentiments increased in the aftermath of Brown’s Raid and politicians began to reiterate Brown’s Raid in speeches to remind North Carolinians of the abolitionists’ militant agenda. Due to the close relationship, both physically and emotionally, with Virginia, public sentiment regarding John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry had a profound impact on politics in North Carolina and escalated the push for Secession that would result in the declaration of Secession from the Union on May 20th, 1861.
 Nathan H. Street, Peter Evans, and John N. Washington to John W. Ellis, New Berne, January 9, 1860, The Papers of John W. Ellis Volume 2, ed. Noble Tolbert (Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1964), 346-347.
 Kent Blaser, “North Carolina and John Brown’s Raid,” Civil War History, 24 (1978): 197, accessed on February 28, 2013. DOI: 10.1353/cwh.1978.0027
Word of this event spread to North Carolina through letters written to politicians and family. Once letters reached North Carolina, newspapers began reporting the events that occurred in Harper’s Ferry. Citizens became very fearful of another Northern abolitionist invasion and demanded action by their government. This fear influenced politicians and the legal system to become stricter on slave laws and the freedom of abolitionist movements in North Carolina from 1860 up to North Carolina’s entrance into the Civil War. Secession sentiments also increased in the aftermath of Brown’s Raid and politicians began retelling Brown’s raid in speeches to remind North Carolinians of the abolitionist agenda. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry had a profound impact on politics in North Carolina and began a serious push for Secession that would result in the declaration of Secession from the Union on May 20th, 1861.