Thomas DiLorenzo is a American economics professor who writes about Abraham Lincoln and the US Civil War.

In a recent opinion piece for LewRockwell.com, A Disease in the Public Mind, Part II?, DiLorenzo referenced historian Thomas Fleming in a discussion about the causes of the US Civil War.

… there were twenty-five or so wealthy and very influential New England abolitionists who had abandoned Christianity, condemned Jesus Christ, and adopted the mentally deranged murderer of innocents, John Brown, a self-described communist, as their “savior,” funding his terroristic bloodbaths.

DiLorenzo goes on to name some examples:

Was there a group of 'wealthy anti-Christian abolitionists', who funded John Brown?

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    I don't see in the article a claim that it's a specific identifiable group, nor that they were all anti-Christian. ("had abandoned Christianity" could mean no more than the author does not like their theology.) Also, I recognize the phrase "treating X as their savior" as usually being hyperbole. So I don't feel any of those should be taken as being claimed about the entire group, just individuals.
    – Dan Getz
    Jul 1, 2020 at 19:11
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    It's impossible to answer. How are we going to tell what their motives were?
    – ventsyv
    Jul 1, 2020 at 19:13
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    The more I think about this, the more I think there is no answerable claim here. "Did anyone fund John Brown?" - seems verifiable, but not very notable. "Were [any of] those people wealthy?" - might be an interesting question in some contexts, but no reason is given to doubt it. "Were they abolitionists?" - presumably, if they were funding someone who was. "Had they abandoned Christianity?" - unverifiable opinion, since many different groups claim the right to define Christianity. "Were they atheists?" - potentially verifiable, but probably not actually being claimed.
    – IMSoP
    Jul 9, 2020 at 13:03
  • @DanGetz, "condemned Jesus Christ" goes much further of theological disagreements. BTW DiLorenzo seems to be Catholic (opentabernacle.wordpress.com/tag/thomas-dilorenzo), but fellow traveler of the usual Evangelical suspects. Jul 10, 2020 at 20:45
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    People like DiLorenzo are so accepting of slavery, but horrified when violence is perpetrated against white people. If only we had a name for this… As a more useful point, DiLorenzo repeats the inaccuracy that only 6 percent of Confederates owned slaves. About one-fourth of Confederate households owned slaves. Jul 15, 2020 at 6:27

1 Answer 1


John Brown was a militant abolitionist. He led a militia in the "Bleeding Kansas" crisis - a conflict over the question of whether the Kansas territory would allow slavery or not.

He later organized the Harpers Ferry raid, an attempt to initiate a slave rebellion in the South.

Wikipedia has a well-sourced article on the funding of the raid which lists a number of prominent Massachusetts individuals that supported Brown financially.

Was Brown a "deranged murderer of innocents" or was he a freedom fighter? Were his backers "anti-Christian" or were they noble people who believed slavery was immoral? I guess that depends on your view of slavery and the reasons for the Civil War.

Theodore Parker, one of Browns' supporters, was a minister, albeit one with some unorthodox beliefs. I think it's fair to say that this part of the claim is more an affront on their character than factual claim.

Were his backers "promoting the Civil War"? This is difficult to tell. The tension between the North and the South had been building up for years. There had been murders and armed conflict between the two sides for years (see "Bloody Kansas"). They did finance Brown to start a slave rebellion (though some later denied knowing the full extent of Brown's plan) so I think it's fair to say that they probably were in favor of some sort of armed action against slave-holding states.

  • Thanks for your effort (upvoted), but the edits have grossly distorted my original question: was there a group of 'wealthy anti-Christian abolitionists', who funded John Brown? Jul 2, 2020 at 3:44
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    Shouldn't terms like "the tension between the North and the South has been building up for years." be reworded as "had been building up" when talking about the US civil war? Otherwise the reader would think it is an actual event.
    – bradbury9
    Jul 2, 2020 at 11:41
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    @bradbury9 The American civil war is an actual event! /Fighting pedantry with pedantry since 2002.../
    – user53816
    Jul 6, 2020 at 18:41
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user11643
    Jul 8, 2020 at 18:21

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