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Todays fanatic, tomorrow's saint

The Guardian UK - Gandhi knew this when he said, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Conventional people give up when they laugh at you. Timid people back off when they fight you. They don't win, and neither do those who prize ease and security. The prize is for those who risk and persevere.

That slavery was an intolerable evil is something slaves have tended to believe all along; a few free men caught up with them in England in the 1770s, as Adam Hochschild's wonderful history Bury the Chains relates, and that handful of Quakers and dissenters persevered until they won, half a century later. I am not so sure about John Brown's means, or that his actions were necessary to start a war that was already brewing, but I am sure that slavery needed to be abolished, and that his general ends were good. The really interesting thing is that in 1839 to be against slavery in the US was an disruptive, extreme position, often seen as an attack on property rights rather than a defence of human rights. Read more.

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