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Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: THE NATIONAL ERA
Date: November 10, 1859
Title: THE HARPER'S FERRY INSURGENTS
Location: Washington, D.C.



THE HARPER'S FERRY INSURGENTS.

Trial of CoppeeSentence of Death Passed on BrownHis Speech to the Court .


Charlestown, Nov. 2.Messrs. Russell and Sennet, from Boston, reached here to-day, to act as counsel for the prisoners.
Captain Cook was brought before the magistrates' court to-day, but waived an examination, and was committed for trial.
Coppee's trial was resumed, but no witnesses were called for the defence.
Mr. Harding opened for the Commonwealth, and Messrs. Hoyt and Griswold followed for the defendant, when Mr. Hunter closed for the prosecution. The speeches of all were marked by ability. Mr. Griswold asked for several instructions to the jury, which were all granted by the court, when the jury retired.
Capt. Brown was then brought in, and the court-house was immediately thronged. The court gave its decision on the motion for an arrest of judgment, overruling the objections made. In regard to the objection that treason cannot be committed against the State, the court ruled that wherever allegiance is due, treason may be committed. Most of the States have passed laws against treason. The objection as to the form of the verdict rendered, the court also regarded as insufficient.
The clerk now asked the prisoner if the had anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced against him.
Brown stood up, and, in a clear, distinct voice, said:
"I have, may it please the court, a few words to say. In the first place, I deny everything, but what I have all along admitted, of a design on my part to free the slaves. I intended certainly to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter when I went into Missouri, and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moved them through the country, and finally left them in Canada. I designed to have done the same thing on a larger scale. That was all I intended. I never did intend murder, or treason, or the destruction of property, or to incite slaves to rebellion or to make insurrection.
"I have another objection, and that is, it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit, has been fairly proved, [for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater, portion of the witnesses who testified in this case,] had I so interfered in behalf of the rich and powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father or mother, brother or sister, wife or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference it would have been all right, and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
"This court acknowledges too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things 'whatsoever I would men should do to me I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to 'remember them that are in bonds as bound with them.' I endeavored to act up to these instructions. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respector of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, and as I have always freely, admitted I have done, in behalf of his despised poor, was no wrong, but right.
"Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of the millions in this slave country, whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit. So let it be done! Let me say one word further. I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received on my trial. Considering all the circumstances, it has been more generous than I expected; but I feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated from the first what was my intentions and what was not.
"I never had any design against the life of any person, nor any disposition to commit treason, or excite the slaves to rebel, or make any general insurrection. I never encouraged any man to do so, but always discouraged any idea of that kind. Let me say, also, in regard to the statement made by some of those connected with me. I fear it has been stated by some of them that I have induced them to join me. But the contrary is true. I do not say this to injure them, but as regretting their weakness. There is not one of them but joined me of his own accord, and the greater part at their own expense. A number of them I never saw, and never had a word of conversation with, till the day they came to me, and that was for the purpose I have stated. Now I have done!"
While Brown was speaking, perfect quiet prevailed. When he had finished, the court proceeded to pronounce sentence.
After some preliminary remarks, in which the judge said that no reasonable doubt could exist as to the prisoner's guilt, the court sentenced him "to be hung in public on Friday, December 2d."
Brown received the sentence with composure, and the only demonstration made was a clapping of hands by one man in the crowd, who is not a resident of Jefferson county. This indecorum was promptly suppressed, and much regret was expressed by citizens at its occurrence.
After being out an hour, the jury came in with a verdict that Coppee was guilty on all the counts in the indictment. His counsel immediately gave notice of a motion for an arrest of judgment, as in Brown's case. The court then adjourned.