Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Language of Abolition

Clearly, these are two drastically different articles.  One is written by a man who is about to die for his crimes.  Another is a legal document that provides a loophole to the fugitive slave law.

Yes, unfortunately, most legal documents are written in this obscure and difficult style--but why is that?  Why is it so difficult to read them?

What strikes you about John Brown's speech?  Would you have said anything different if you were in his shoes?


  1. i think the reason why legal documents are written like this is because for the majority of the common people, they wouldn't get it and give up on it without truly understanding it. i think that this style is a way for our government to keep us not to knowledgeable but just enough so that we know not break the law.

    the thing about Brown's speech that stuck out to me was that he was very nice in saying that i didn't do anything wrong and im getting put to death for fighting for what is right. i also liked how he said that the followers he had shouldn't be punished because they joined him without him asking them to join. overall i think that brown shouldn't of been put to death because he was so truthful about what he did and never lied about anything he did.

  2. I believe legal documents such as these are so confusing because if they were accessible then anyone would be able to find loopholes. Confusing language is purposely used to prevent the average man if finding his way around the laws.

    Brown's speech is very intriguing to me. His tone seems real, genuine, and passionate for what he believes in. For example he says that he would "forfeit his life He is also in a sense very apologetic as to hat consequences he has catalyzed. It is difficult to try to think of what I would do in his position just because I feel it is impossible to imagine what I would say right before my presumed death.

  3. What really caught my attention in John Brown's speech was when he was explaining how he is pleased with his trial, he states that he "feels no consciousness of guilt." It made me really appreciate the fact that Brown was not backing down to the court, and was very passionate about his beliefs. My favorite part is where he says,"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 millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done."

    Legal documents were probably written in this way to legitimately state the laws, but not in a way that is clear to all the readers/those who will be following the laws. This promotes ignorance of each law, since people probably would give up trying to understand the complicated writing. However, it is barely comprehensible enough for people to generally know what the laws are.

  4. I believe that the reason legal documents are so confusing is to ensure that the average human being isn't knowledgeable or capable of understanding exactly what the documents are reading. Because if the people knew what the documents actually read, they would find ways around them.

    The thing that most strikes me about mr. Brown's speech is how polite he is about the entire thing. He talks about how he didn't mean for his wrong doings, and it wasn't him that started the rebellions. Or if it was him, it wasn't intentional. He explains his side of the story using "key words" like, "that's all I intended on doing". Like, he never meant no harm. And I think that to this extend, his speech is more powerful. Instead of lashing out, and being disruptive, he is calmly and simply stating his point.
    If I were in his shoes, though I would want to lash out, I would try to keep my cool just like he did.

  5. I think that legal documents were written in such a difficult style so that most people wouldn't care to understand it and so that it would be difficult to build a case against it. They're difficult to read because legal jargon is just weird in general. Also because the words they use are carefully selected so they can have whatever meaning put behind them and be used that way by the state to defend the 'claimant'.

    In John Brown's speech the part that struck me was that he believed that he deserved a worse sentence than being hanged. He also handled everything with such calmness. Had it been me I don't think I would've been able to make any words never mind have a speech as eloquent as his.

  6. I think the reason that legal documents were that difficult was not only because they had to define laws exactly and without loopholes. Actually it is surely difficult to avoid loophole, so they would write the legal documents so confusing that normal people won't really understand what the meaning of all this is and won't find these loopholes.

    I thing a very effective part – the most effective thing you could have said in his shoes - was when he claimed that he was willing to die if it was for the bigger purpose to end slavery. With this appeal he made himself a martyr and influenced and won the war against slavery still after his death!

  7. I agree with pretty much everyone else in saying that legal documents were written in this style to almost confuse the reader. If a reader doesn't understand a law fully, then they will less likely attempt to find a way around them.

    I found John Brown's speech interesting because he spoke as if he had done nothing wrong. He also sounds very calm, which I find odd because he is about to be put to death. I believe that if it were me in that position, I may not have been able to keep control, and may have shouted and screamed my beliefs to everyone in the room.

  8. Legal documents are meant to have precise language, which is also confusing, so that no loopholes can be poked through it. The confusing language also prevents the average man from really understanding a law, making it even harder for common citizens to find ways around it.

    John Brown's speech was very passionate and I was surprised that he had already come to terms with his pretty much inevitable death. He also does not seem to completely accept responsibility for the crimes he's being punished for, saying it was never his intention to start a rebellion or kill people. I would like to know, who is John Brown? What drove him to be willing to forfeit his life for the cause of abolishing slavery?

  9. I believe that the document is meant to confuse people. Especially the slaves so they really don't understand fully. The confusing speech makes it difficult to understand.

    John Browns speech was very interesting. It was cool to see him passion and his willingness to die for his beliefs. It really showed how terrible slavery was in order to take a death like he did.

  10. First of all, i have to admit that myself really found it was hard to understand the meaning of the fungitive law with such a obscure and difficult style. The reason of this may be that most people are not really educated, and the government do want to protect the justice with laws and acts, but they do not want it to be African american, clearly.
    Then, i found that John's speech seems to be a little bit arrogant and unconvincing to me. As he said that he really did nothing wrong at all, which is not a fact because he really murdered some white slave owners and brought some destruction of properties to those slave owners. And he said that once a person confess what he has done, he get the god's forgiveness so that he has done no wrong. I highly doubt that to be true, because fact is fact, whatever u have done, it will come back to you eventually; no one could successfully run away from it.

  11. I think that legal documents are in a confusing format because they are geared toward educated aristocrats. Writers of legal documents of the time generally disliked those who were uneducated or lower class. Taking advantage of the lower class was a major objective. Legal documents were written with a certain amount of gray area, so that diplomats were able to build better cases than someone of the lower class.

    John Brown's speech was interesting, but is full of holes. John Brown is a pioneer for African Americans, and claimed to do nothing wrong, yet he is directly responsible for murder. His thoughts seem to be streamlined and collected, even when in he is facing death.