Should President Obama Posthumously Pardon John Brown?
Background Info: When John Brown was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1859,
he became the first American to be executed for the crime of “treason” since the end of the
Revolutionary War. Bear in mind that Brown was raiding the Federal Armory yet he was being
tried by the state on which the federal property was located. Also, not one federal soldier was
killed in the counterattack and capture of Brown. There were, however, civilian casualties of
the state of Virginia caused by Brown and his followers. John Brown was convicted in a Virginia
Court of all counts and subsequently hanged for his crimes.
Directions: In the 150+ years after the death of John Brown, and knowing that his
contributions helped start the Civil War which in turn ended slavery (the cause for which Brown
initiated the raid and ultimately paid for with his life), imagine that the NAACP (National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is asking President Obama to issue a full
“posthumous pardon” for John Brown (meaning that even though he is dead, Brown will be
officially cleared of his criminal convictions for the remainder of time by the power of the
President of the United States). Would you support this action? In two paragraphs, state
whether or not you would. Please use the information in the textbook as well as your notes to
defend your position.