This is difficult to say because Brown—at this point in life—did not always explain himself clearly or thoroughly. The Sack of Lawrence, on May 21, clearly influenced him, as did the attack on Charles Sumner. But when Brown was asked directly, he often replied that his action was in response to the death of five Free-Soil men killed in Kansas earlier that spring. Whatever combination of events pushed Brown to the brink, he went beyond all reason.
By 1859 John Brown had grown his distinctive beard and was about to launch an audacious attack on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry.