The Legend of John Brown: A Biography and a History by Richard Owen Boyer

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From The New York Times:
“Boyer’s book is more than a life of John Brown. It is a tapestry of the whole of American life in the generation that slid into civil war. It is a rich weave. Here is old John Quincy Adams, in his seventies, cured of his psychosomatic carbuncles by the sheer exhilaration of the struggle against the slaveowners in Congress. Here is the pro-slavery mob at Alton on the Mississippi, weeping at the sheer eloquence of the abolitionist editor, Elijah Lovejoy, but shooting him down just the same. Here is the slave rebel, Nat Turner, taunted by a Tidewater planter about his approaching execution, and answering, as John Brown himself would have answered, “Was not Christ crucified?”

More from the New York Times:
The Legend of John Brown
by Godfrey Hodgson
January 21, 1973
The accepted view of historians has dismissed Brown as a violent and unstable fanatic, thrust into symbolic prominence by the accident of approaching civil war. Richard Boyer, who has been a New Yorker writer and co-author of Labor’s Untold Story (1955), has foraged in the sources as diligently as any professional historian. But the great merit of this first volume of his biography is that it restores Brown as what he was: an archetypal hero of the epic of 19th-century America, which was both pilgrimage and enterprise….
Boyer’s first volume leaves Brown, four years from Harper’s Ferry, arriving in Kansas resolved “not to die alone.” He did not. He took with half million Union and Confederate dead, and the “accursed thing,” slavery, as well. It is one of the great stories…I look forward to its climax in his second volume.

The Washington Post:
“In Boyer’s words, written with a brilliant blend of passion and objectivity, a vanished America comes alive again, the passions of the day boil anew, and we are made to understand how it was that a failed tanner, sheep raiser and wool dealer named John Brown became a man possessed.” More about John Brown from the Washington Post.

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