of Negro troops during the Civil War)nwhose invalid wife from time to timenforced him into foreign travel, awaynfrom the battles that were heating upnat home; and Frank Sanborn, thenyoungest of the group, only 27 in 1859,nwho, at Emerson’s urgings, had openedna school in Concord after his graduationnfrom Harvard.nInterspersed with the activities ofnthe Secret Six, Scott gives us repeatednglimpses of the strange career of JohnnBrown, from tanner and farmer, tonwool merchant and revolutionary recruiter.nBrown actually possessed considerablentalents; but always the vainnand paranoid autocratic stance, theniron fist of authority over family andnassociates, the utter intolerance ofnopposing views, spelled the righteousnmonomania of the fanatic. Thus annunusual portrait of contrasts emerges:non the one hand. Brown lionized innBoston by the abolitionists, on thenother, an outlaw always one step aheadnof his creditors, yet still in search ofnmore funds for his causes, both publicnand private. This trail leads inevitablynto the tragic slaughter at Harper’snFerry in 1859 and the resulting trialnand hanging of John Brown; but thenupstanding co-conspirators remainednfree, shivering in their boots as theyndisowned all connection with Brownnonce the deeds they had encouraged hadnin fact been carried out. Among thenfinal images of the drama are Howenfleeing to Canada and Smith and Sanbornnrushing to burn all their privatenpapers that bound them to the conspiracy.nAs Scott ironically comments:n”. . . it was only much later—after thendanger had passed and only the glorynremained—that [Sanborn] said he hadndestroyed all the evidence lest it ‘compromisenother persons.'”nOcott relishes his role as storyteller,nbuilding up his point of view with anhighly developed sense of style firmlynrooted in the irony of juxtaposition,nsuch as we see in his description ofnJohn Brown voting in the 1855 FreenState election:n”Apparently no questions were askednabout the newcomer’s right to vote:nthe Northern settlers were as carelessnof legalities as the Southernersnand both factions seemed unawarenthat they were making a mockery outnof rights their forebears had died tonobtain.”nAlthough Scott generally allows eventsnand details to speak for themselves,nplaced ever so carefully in the emergingnargument of his narrative, his occasionalnanalytical insights penetrate tonthe heart of the matter. His summarynof the religious confusion surroundingnthe self-righteous rhetoric of the periodnis a case in point.n”There was no question of the pietynof millions. There was equally littlendoubt that they did not fully realizenthat a land with no religious centernis a land where religion is what anyonenchooses to claim . . . What thenabolitionists did not realize was thatnthe government of the United Statesnhad no official moral standard andnwas, therefore, fragile. They did notnrealize that Britain had weatheredncenturies of such crises and had developedna complex, subtle network ofnaccommodations between the idealsnof the people and the limits of theirnimperfections. They did not evennrealize that Christianity itself wasnnot based on the eradication of sin,nbut on individual struggle againstnits myriad and eternal forms, includingnexcessive pride in virtue. Theyncompletely overlooked, if they knew,nthat Christianity ‘did not demand thatnmen remove others from sin, butnthemselves.'”nThus proceeds the precision of Scott’sninterpretation alongside the complexitiesnof the tale’s interlocking actorsnand scenes.nScott clearly intended to create anhistory that instructs us in our societalnbehavior. Senseless, unprovoked violencenhas been all too common annnnoccurrence throughout man’s history,nyet what is frightening in this instancenis that the conventional wisdom, inncanonizing John Brown and his abolitionistnsupporters, has tended to legitimizenirrational force and intimidation,nas opposed to persuasion and direct confrontation,nas a means to bring aboutnsocial change. This shift, Scott demonstrates,nwas “the result of efforts bynpersons from privileged backgrounds,nof outstanding abilities, famous forntheir eloquence and elevated by greatnsuccess, who built an intellectual movementnin which this new type of assassinnwas a welcome figure …. All of themnwere dissatisfied with the normal processnof government, and all were obsessednwith the desire to make theirnopinions—and not the decisions ofnthe elected leaders of the people—thendetermining factors in the life of thennation.” Suddenly anyone with a grievancenhad the “right” to impose his viewpointnon others, regardless of the meansnemployed. And as Scott fears, this behaviornmeshes all too well with deepernpatterns of American life: a generalnimpatience which mitigates against thenbuilding of popular consensus, thenheightened egocentrism of rugged individualismnwhere the outlaw is stillnromanticized, the stance of moral superioritynso frequently assumed innpolitical debate.n_yonsider these modern day referencesnto John Brown and the Kansasnaffair contained in typical high schoolnsocial studies textbooks: “Because henwas willing to defy any authority innhis war on slavery, he has been callednmad”—though the reader is meant toninfer otherwise! Or “In 1856, he hadnled a raid on a pro-slavery encampmentnat Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas innwhich five men had been killed.” Significantlynthe five men are killed (notnmurdered) in the passive voice, not thenactive voice—just something that happenednbeyond Brown’s control sincenSeptember/October 1979n