John Brown was an American abolitionist leader. First reaching national prominence for his radical abolitionism and fighting in Bleeding Kansas, he was eventually captured and executed for a failed incitement of a slave rebellion at Harpers Ferry preceding the American Civil War. A man of strong religious convictions, Brown believed he was "an instrument of God", raised up to strike the death blow to American slavery, a "sacred obligation". Brown believed that violence was necessary to end American slavery, after decades of peaceful efforts had failed. Brown said repeatedly that in working to free the enslaved he was following the Golden Rule, as well as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which states that "all men are created equal".
Brown first gained national attention when he led anti-slavery volunteers and his own sons during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of the late 1850s, a state-level civil war over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. He was dissatisfied with abolitionist pacifism, saying of pacifists, "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!".