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"A Misnomer," Wilmington Daily Herald, October 26, 1859


"A Misnomer," Wilmington Daily Herald, October 26, 1859




Wilmington Daily Herald


"A Misnomer," Wilmington Daily Herald, October 26, 1859, Secession Era Editorials Project, accessed December 13, 2011,






Wilmington, North Carolina
New Hanover County, North Carolina



Original Format

Newspaper Article


Why will Editors persist in calling the late affair at Harper's Ferry an "Insurrection?" We have several papers before us -- published in the State and out of it -- and they nearly all of them allude to it as being an insurrection among the negroes. 'Twas no insurrection, and it is a libel upon the slave in designating it as such. They had nothing whatever to do with it. There was not a single slave engaged but what was drawn in by compulsion. The original insurgents consisted of some fifteen or sixteen white men and a half dozen free negroes from the North -- brought there by old Brown. What few slaves engaged in the affair were forced into taking up arms after the original outbreak, through fear of white abolitionists, and not from love of them, or hatred towards their masters. They did not want to join the insurgents. They hesitated, preferring slavery in the South to freedom -- or such freedom as they knew they would get at the hands of old Brown and his devilish crew at the North. We really think the slaves about Harper's Ferry deserve credit for the manner in which they behaved in this treasonable affair. What was easier than for them to seize arms -- for there were any quantity of them on hand -- rush upon their masters in the dead of night, and slay whole families before a step could be taken to prevent the dreadful work. When the deed was done, what easier than to quickly tramp over into Pennsylvania, only a few miles distant, and bury themselves among the abolitionists, where it would be next to impossibility to discover them. These things could have been done easily, but witness how nobly the "poor old slaves," -- as they are called by their would-be friends, but in reality their worst enemies, -- did. They refused to take up arms against their masters -- the only friends they knew -- and not until forced into by threats of death, was it done, and then only a few, comparatively speaking, joined the blood-thirsty, demented fanatics of the North in their treasonable work. Of course, as long as we down South continue to call the late affair an Insurrection, just so long will we be playing into the hands of Northern fanatics. They want it put in that light. It strengthens their doctrine, of course. If they can make it appear that the slaves are dissatisfied with their mode of life, and are desirous of changing it, even at the expense of blood, a great point with them is gained. They then have -- according to their incendiary belief -- an excuse for invading Southern territory. They say the slaves are desirous -- aye, even anxious, to throw off the yoke of servitude; and shall we stand idly by and not help our fellow creatures in their hour of need? Thus they reason, and as long as we continue to insist upon calling a fool-hardy invasion of white men and free negroes an insurrection, just so long will we continue to strengthen the cause of our enemies. Divest the thing of the insurrectionary aspect, and what do we behold? The foundation of their whole doctrine overthrown. -- The negroes do not desire freedom. They had an opportunity -- a good one. Months were wasted in consummating the arrangements and yet when the blow was to be struck and freedom granted, -- the great boon which those wild, deluded fanatics of the North and North-West prate so much about -- where do we find the poor slave? Why quietly sitting at home by his master's fire side, or doing his master's bidding, while a dozen or more crazy fools are battling for his rights which he will not accept.

We are surprised that Southern papers should call this invasion of a few treasonable men upon the South an insurrection, when not the first feature of it assumes that aspect. We say desist from it. It is exactly what the abolitionists want. We could not please them better. And besides it is robbing the slave of his just dues. He is deserving of praise say we, and we almost feel rejoiced that this thing has happened, for it has taught us two things, first that we can put confidence in the fidelity of the blacks as a mass (though of course there must necessarily be some bad ones among so large a number) and secondly it has taught northern fanatics that in future if they desire to liberate the slaves from bondage they must resort to other means, for this thing has taught them that expecting aid and comfort from the slaves themselves is putting faith in a broken reed.

Slaves love, honor and obey their masters, and it would be well for the "Liberators" before making such another foolish attempt as that of Harper's Ferry to bear this in mind. We don't know of any little event connected with this affair which has pleased us more than this reluctance of the slaves to engage in the dirty work. Not even the capture of old Brown himself can equal the pleasure we experience when thinking about it. To old Brown it must be the unkindest cut of all, if we except the last cut he will experience when the Sheriff cuts the rope which is to rob him of his worthless life.


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Wilmington Daily Herald, "A Misnomer," Wilmington Daily Herald, October 26, 1859, Civil War Era NC, accessed July 14, 2024,