WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON (December 10, 1805 – May 24, 1879) was a
prominent American abolitionist , journalist, suffragist , and social
reformer. He is best known as the editor of the abolitionist newspaper
The Liberator , which he founded with
Isaac Knapp in 1831 and
published in Massachusetts until slavery was abolished by
Constitutional amendment after the
American Civil War
* 1 Early life and education
* 2 Career
* 2.1 Reformer * 2.2 Genius of Universal Emancipation * 2.3 The Liberator * 2.4 Organization and reaction * 2.5 The woman question and division * 2.6 Controversy * 2.7 After abolition
* 3 Later life and death * 4 Legacy * 5 See also * 6 Works online * 7 References * 8 Bibliography * 9 External links
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Garrison circa 1850
Garrison was born on December 10, 1805, in Newburyport, Massachusetts
, the son of immigrants from the British colony of
Garrison sold home-made lemonade and candy as a youth, and also
delivered wood to help support the family. In 1820, at 13, Garrison
began working as an apprentice compositor for the
Newburyport Herald .
He soon began writing articles, often under the pseudonym
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At the age of 25, Garrison joined the anti-slavery movement, later
crediting the 1826 book of Presbyterian Reverend John Rankin , Letters
on Slavery, for attracting him to the cause. For a brief time he
became associated with the
American Colonization Society
GENIUS OF UNIVERSAL EMANCIPATION
Garrison began writing for and became co-editor with Benjamin Lundy
Garrison introduced "The Black List," a column devoted to printing
short reports of "the barbarities of slavery—kidnappings, whippings,
murders." For instance, Garrison reported that Francis Todd , a
shipper from Garrison's home town of
Todd filed a suit for libel in Maryland against both Garrison and Lundy; he thought to gain support from pro-slavery courts. The state of Maryland also brought criminal charges against Garrison, quickly finding him guilty and ordering him to pay a fine of $50 and court costs. (Charges against Lundy were dropped on the grounds that he had been traveling when the story was printed.) Garrison refused to pay the fine and was sentenced to a jail term of six months. He was released after seven weeks when the anti-slavery philanthropist Arthur Tappan donated the money for the fine. Garrison decided to leave Baltimore, and he and Lundy amicably agreed to part ways.
In 1831, Garrison returned to New England, where he co-founded a weekly anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator , with his friend Isaac Knapp. In the first issue, Garrison stated:
I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen;—but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—_and I will be heard_. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.
Paid subscription to The Liberator was always smaller than its
circulation. In 1834 it had two thousand subscribers, three-fourths of
whom were blacks. Benefactors paid to have the newspaper distributed
to influential statesmen and public officials. Although Garrison
rejected physical force as a means for ending slavery, his critics
took his demand for immediate emancipation literally. Some believed he
advocated the sudden and total freeing of all slaves, and considered
him a dangerous fanatic.
Among the anti-slavery essays and poems which Garrison published in The Liberator was an article in 1856 by a 14-year-old Anna Dickinson .
The Liberator gradually gained a large following in the northern states. By 1861 it had subscribers across the North, as well as in England, Scotland, and Canada. It was received in state legislatures, governor's mansions, Congress, and the White House. After the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment , Garrison published the last issue (number 1,820) on December 29, 1865, writing a "Valedictory" column. After reviewing his long career in journalism and the cause of abolitionism, he wrote:
The object for which the Liberator was commenced—the extermination of chattel slavery—having been gloriously consummated, it seems to me specially appropriate to let its existence cover the historic period of the great struggle; leaving what remains to be done to complete the work of emancipation to other instrumentalities, (of which I hope to avail myself,) under new auspices, with more abundant means, and with millions instead of hundreds for allies. Portrait of Garrison's wife, Helen Eliza Benson
ORGANIZATION AND REACTION
In addition to publishing The Liberator, Garrison spearheaded the
organization of a new movement to demand the total abolition of
slavery in the United States. By January 1832, he had attracted enough
followers to organize the New-England Anti-
The purpose of the American Anti-Slavery Society was the conversion of all Americans to the philosophy that "Slaveholding is a heinous crime in the sight of God" and that "duty, safety, and best interests of all concerned, require its immediate abandonment without expatriation."
Meanwhile, on September 4, 1834, Garrison married Helen Eliza Benson (1811–1876), the daughter of a retired abolitionist merchant. The couple had five sons and two daughters, of whom a son and a daughter died as children. William Lloyd Garrison, engraving from 1879 newspaper
The threat posed by anti-slavery organizations and their activity drew violent reaction from slave interests in both the Southern and Northern states, with mobs breaking up anti-slavery meetings, assaulting lecturers, ransacking anti-slavery offices, burning postal sacks of anti-slavery pamphlets, and destroying anti-slavery presses. Healthy bounties were offered in Southern states for the capture of Garrison, "dead or alive".
On October 21, 1835, a mob of several thousand surrounded the
building housing Boston's anti-slavery offices, where Garrison had
agreed to address a meeting of the
THE WOMAN QUESTION AND DIVISION
Anne Whitney , William Lloyd Garrison, 1879, Massachusetts Historical Society
Garrison's appeal for women's mass petitioning against slavery
sparked a controversy over women's right to a political voice. In
1837, women abolitionists from seven states convened in New York to
expand their petitioning efforts and repudiate the social mores that
proscribed their participation in public affairs. That summer, sisters
In 1840, Garrison's promotion of woman's rights within the
anti-slavery movement was one of the issues that caused some
abolitionists, including New York brothers
Arthur Tappan and Lewis
Tappan , to leave the AAS and form the American and Foreign
Although Henry Stanton had cooperated in the Tappans' failed attempt
to wrest leadership of the AAS from Garrison, he was part of another
group of abolitionists unhappy with Garrison's influence—those who
disagreed with Garrison's insistence that because the U.S.
Constitution was a pro-slavery document, abolitionists should not
participate in politics and government. A growing number of
Gerrit Smith , Charles Turner
Torrey , and Amos Phelps—wanted to form an anti-slavery political
party and seek a political solution to slavery. They withdrew from the
AAS in 1840, formed the Liberty Party, and nominated James G. Birney
for president. By the end of 1840, Garrison announced the formation of
a third new organization, the Friends of Universal Reform , with
sponsors and founding members including prominent reformers Maria
Abby Kelley Foster , Oliver Johnson, and Amos Bronson Alcott
Louisa May Alcott
Although some members of the Liberty Party supported woman's rights, including women\'s suffrage , Garrison's Liberator continued to be the leading advocate of woman's rights throughout the 1840s, publishing editorials, speeches, legislative reports and other developments concerning the subject. In February 1849, Garrison's name headed the women's suffrage petition sent to the Massachusetts legislature, the first such petition sent to any American legislature, and he supported the subsequent annual suffrage petition campaigns organized by Lucy Stone and Wendell Phillips. Garrison took a leading role in the May 30, 1850, meeting that called the first National Woman's Rights Convention, saying in his address to that meeting that the new movement should make securing the ballot to women its primary goal. At the national convention held in Worcester the following October, Garrison was appointed to the National Woman's Rights Central Committee, which served as the movement's executive committee, charged with carrying out programs adopted by the conventions, raising funds, printing proceedings and tracts, and organizing annual conventions.
In 1849, Garrison became involved in one of Boston's most notable
trials of the time.
Washington Goode , a black seaman had been
sentenced to death for the murder of a fellow black mariner, Thomas
Harding. In The Liberator Garrison argued that the verdict relied on
"circumstantial evidence of the most flimsy character ..." and feared
that the determination of the government to uphold its decision to
execute Goode was based on race. As all other death sentences since
Garrison became famous as one of the most articulate, as well as most radical, opponents of slavery. His approach to emancipation stressed "moral suasion," non-violence, and passive resistance. While some other abolitionists of the time favored gradual emancipation, Garrison argued for "immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves." On July 4, 1854, he publicly burned a copy of the Constitution, condemning it as "a Covenant with Death, an Agreement with Hell," referring to the compromise that had written slavery into the Constitution. In 1855, his eight-year alliance with Frederick Douglass disintegrated when Douglass converted to political abolitionists' view that the document could be interpreted as being anti-slavery. Garrison and fellow abolitionists George Thompson and Wendell Phillips , seated at table, daguerreotype , ca. 1850–1851
Garrison's outspoken anti-slavery views repeatedly put him in danger.
Besides his imprisonment in
After the United States abolished slavery, Garrison announced in May
1865 that he would resign the presidency of the American Anti-Slavery
Society and offered a resolution declaring victory in the struggle
against slavery and dissolving the society. The resolution prompted
sharp debate, however, led by his long-time friend
Wendell Phillips ,
who argued that the mission of the AAS was not fully completed until
black Southerners gained full political and civil equality. Garrison
maintained that while complete civil equality was vitally important,
the special task of the AAS was at an end, and that the new task would
best be handled by new organizations and new leadership. With his
long-time allies deeply divided, however, he was unable to muster the
support he needed to carry the resolution, and it was defeated
118–48. Declaring that his "vocation as an Abolitionist, thank God,
has ended," Garrison resigned the presidency and declined an appeal to
continue. Returning home to
After his withdrawal from AAS and ending The Liberator, Garrison
continued to participate in public reform movements. He supported the
causes of civil rights for blacks and woman's rights, particularly the
campaign for suffrage. He contributed columns on Reconstruction and
civil rights for The Independent and The
In 1870, he became an associate editor of the women's suffrage
newspaper, the Woman's Journal, along with
Mary Livermore , Thomas
Wentworth Higginson ,
In 1873, he healed his long estrangements from
LATER LIFE AND DEATH
Garrison spent more time at home with his family. He wrote weekly letters to his children and cared for his increasingly ill wife, Helen. She had suffered a small stroke on December 30, 1863, and was increasingly confined to the house. Helen died on January 25, 1876, after a severe cold worsened into pneumonia . A quiet funeral was held in the Garrison home. Garrison, overcome with grief and confined to his bedroom with a fever and severe bronchitis , was unable to join the service. Wendell Phillips gave a eulogy and many of Garrison's old abolitionist friends joined him upstairs to offer their private condolences.
Garrison recovered slowly from the loss of his wife and began to
Spiritualist circles in the hope of communicating with Helen.
Garrison last visited England in 1877, where he met with George
Thompson and other longtime friends from the British abolitionist
movement. Grave of
William Lloyd Garrison
Suffering from kidney disease, Garrison continued to weaken during April 1879. He moved to New York to live with his daughter Fanny's family. In late May, his condition worsened, and his five surviving children rushed to join him. Fanny asked if he would enjoy singing some hymns. Although he was unable to sing, his children sang favorite hymns while he beat time with his hands and feet. On May 24, 1879, Garrison lost consciousness and died just before midnight.
Garrison was buried in the
Forest Hills Cemetery
Garrison's namesake son,
William Lloyd Garrison
Memorial to Garrison on the mall of Commonwealth Avenue,
List of civil rights leaders
* Address at Park Street Church, Boston, July 4, 1829 (Garrison's first major public statement; an extensive statement of egalitarian principle).
* "Address to the Colonization Society" (a slightly abridged version of the address July 4, 1829).
* A brief sketch of the trial of William Lloyd Garrison, for an alleged libel on Francis Todd, of Newburyport, Mass. (November 1829 to May 1830).
* The Liberator, January 1, 1831 – December 29, 1865.
* To the Public (Garrison's introductory column for The Liberator,
– January 1, 1831).
* Truisms (The Liberator, January 8, 1831).
* The Insurrection (Garrison's reaction to news of
* The Liberator Files (Horace Seldon's summary of research of
Garrison's The Liberator)
* Thoughts on African Colonization (Boston; Garrison R.F. Wallcut,
William Lloyd Garrison
* ^ Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. The Oxford Illustrated
Literary Guide to the United States. New York: Oxford University
Press, 1982: 53. ISBN 0-19-503186-5
* ^ Hagedorn, p. 58
* ^ Cain, William E.
William Lloyd Garrison
* Abzug, Robert H. Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the
Religious Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. ISBN
* Dal Lago, Enrico.
William Lloyd Garrison