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William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), American editor, reformer, and antislavery crusader, became the symbol of the age of aggressive abolitionism.

William Lloyd Garrison was born on Dec. 10, 1805, in Newburyport, Mass. His father deserted the family in 1808, and the three children were raised in near poverty by their mother, a hardworking, deeply religious woman. Young Garrison lived for a time in the home of a kindly Baptist deacon, where he received the bare rudiments of an education. He was later apprenticed to a shoemaker, a cabinetmaker, and finally to the printer and editor of the Newburyport Herald.

Editor and Printer

Garrison borrowed money in 1826 to buy part of the Newburyport Free Press; it soon failed. He worked as a printer in Boston and in 1827 helped edit a temperance paper, the National Philanthropist. Seeing life as an uncompromising moral crusade against sin, and believing it possible to perfect a Christian society by reforming men and institutions, Garrison fitted easily into the evangelical currents of his time. In 1828 a meeting with Benjamin Lundy, the Quaker antislavery editor of the Genius of Emancipation, called his attention to that cause. Since 1828 was a presidential election year, Garrison accepted editorship of a pro-Jackson newspaper in Vermont, in which he also supported pacifism, temperance, and the emancipation of slaves. After the election, Garrison accepted a position with Lundy on the Genius in Baltimore.

Garrison's Brand of Abolitionism

The antislavery movement at this time was decentralized and divided. Some people believed slavery should be abolished gradually, some immediately; some believed slaves should be only partly free until educated and capable of being absorbed into society, others that they ought to be freed but settled in colonies outside the United States. There were those who saw slavery as a moral and religious issue; others considered abolition a problem to be decided by legal and political means. Garrison, like Lundy, at first favored gradual emancipation and colonization. But soon Garrison opposed both means as slow and impractical, asking in his first editorial in the Genius for "immediate and complete emancipation" of slaves.

Garrison's militancy got the paper and himself into trouble. Successfully sued for libel, he spent 44 days in jail, emerging in June 1830 with plans for an abolitionist paper of his own. Encouraged by Boston friends, he and a partner published the first number of the Liberator on Jan. 1, 1831, bearing the motto, "Our country is the world—our countrymen are mankind," adapted from Thomas Paine. Attacking the "timidity, injustice, and absurdity" of gradualists and colonizationists, Garrison declared himself for "the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population." Promising to be "as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice," he warned his readers, "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 Liberator, which never had a circulation of over 3,000 and annually lost money, soon gained Garrison a national abolitionist reputation. Southerners assumed a connection between his aggressive journalism and Nat Turner's 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia and tended to see him as a symbol of unbridled Northern antislavery radicalism; Georgia, in fact, offered $5,000 for his arrest and conviction. Garrison, for his part, continued to pour invective not only on slaveholders but on those who failed to attack the system as violently as he; Northerners who equivocated were guilty of "moral lapses," Southerners were "Satanic man stealers." His bitter attacks on the colonizationists, summarized in Thoughts on Colonization (1832), and his running battle with the New England clergy (whose churches he called "cages of unclean birds") for their refusal to condemn slavery unconditionally probably lost more adherents for the antislavery cause than they gained. Garrison introduced discussions into his paper of "other topics … intimately connected with the great doctrine of inalienable human rights," among them women's rights, capital punishment, antisabbatarianism, and temperance (he also opposed theaters and tobacco). Thus by the late 1830s abolition was but one portion (albeit the most important) of Garrison's plan for the "universal emancipation" of all men from all forms of sin and injustice.

Organizing the Movement

Recognizing the need for organization, Garrison was instrumental in forming the New England Antislavery Society (later the Massachusetts Antislavery Society) in 1832 and served as its secretary and salaried agent. He visited England in 1833, returning to help found the national American Antislavery Society. In September 1834 he married Helen Benson of Connecticut, who bore him seven children, five of whom survived. When his friend George Thompson, the British abolitionist, visited Boston in 1835, feeling ran so high that a "respectable broadcloth mob," as Garrison called it, failing to find Thompson, seized and manhandled Garrison. Garrison's refusal to consider political action as a way of abolishing slavery (he felt it would delay it) and his desire to join the antislavery movement to other reforms gradually alienated many supporters. In 1840 his stand seriously divided the American Antislavery Society and led to formation of the rival American and Foreign Antislavery Society.

In 1844 Garrison adopted the slogan "No union with slaveholders," arguing that since the Constitution was a proslavery document, the Union it held together should be dissolved by the separation of free from slave states. Yet, despite his reputation, Garrison was a pacifist and did not believe in violence. He thought Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin important chiefly as a novel of "Christian non-resistance," and though he respected John Brown's aim, he did not approve of his method. He wanted, he wrote, "nothing more than the peaceful abolition of slavery, by an appeal to the reason and conscience of the slaveholder."

Civil War

Garrison supported the Civil War for he believed it an act of providence to destroy slavery, and his son served as an officer in a Massachusetts African American regiment. Critical at first of President Abraham Lincoln for making preservation of the union rather than abolition of slavery his chief aim, Garrison praised the President's Emancipation Proclamation and supported his reelection in 1864—as Wendell Phillips and some other abolitionists did not. Garrison favored dissolution of the American Antislavery Society in 1865, believing its work done, but he lost to Phillips, who wished to continue it. Garrison wrote his last editorial on Dec. 29, 1865, "the object for which the Liberator was commenced—the extermination of chattel slavery—having been gloriously consummated," and retired to Roxbury, Mass., writing occasionally for the press. He died on May 24, 1879.

Despite his reputation, Garrison's influence was restricted to New England (where it was not unchallenged), and his brand of immediatism was never the majority view. When the main thrust of abolition after 1840 turned political, pointing toward the Free Soil and Republican parties, Garrison remained outside, and in terms of practical accomplishment, others did more than he. Yet it was Garrison who became the general symbol of abolitionism. He was influential in relating it to issues of free speech, free press, and the rights of assembly and petition and to the powerful religious evangelism of the times. In his harsh and tactless way, he forced popular awareness of the gap between what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution said and what the nation did, constantly challenging the country to put its ideals into practice.

Further Reading

The biography written by Garrison's sons, Wendell Phillips Garrison and Francis Jackson Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison (4 vols., 1885-1889), though not wholly trustworthy, is essential. Oliver Johnson, William Lloyd Garrison and His Times, with an introduction by John Greenleaf Whittier (1880), is unduly admiring. Ralph Korngold's study of Wendell Phillips and Garrison, Two Friends of Man (1950), is excellent. Russel B. Nye, William Lloyd Garrison and the Humanitarian Reformers (1955), is a useful short biography. Walter M. Merrill, Against Wind and Tide (1963), and John L. Thomas, The Liberator: William Lloyd Garrison (1963), are good recent studies. George M. Fredrickson, ed., William Lloyd Garrison (1968), is a three-part work comprising a selection of Garrison's writings, articles expressing opinions of him by his contemporaries, and articles by modern writers appraising his work. □

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Garrison, William Lloyd

GARRISON, WILLIAM LLOYD

William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator and founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society, was one of the most fiery and outspoken abolitionists of the Civil War period.

Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1805. In 1808, Garrison's father abandoned his family leaving them close to destitute. At age 13, after working at a number of jobs, Garrison became an apprentice to Ephraim Allen, editor of the Newbury-port Herald.

Garrison later moved to Boston where he became editor of the National Philanthropist in 1828. At that time, Garrison became acquainted with the prominent Quaker Benjamin Lundy, editor of the Baltimore-based antislavery newspaper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation. In 1829, Garrison became co-editor of Lundy's publication and began his vigorous advocacy for abolishing slavery. Shortly thereafter, Garrison was sued by a merchant engaged in the slave trade. He was convicted of libel and spent seven weeks in prison, an experience that strengthened his conviction that all slaves should be set free.

After his release from jail in 1830, Garrison returned to Boston where he joined the American Colonization Society, an organization that promoted the idea that free blacks should emigrate to Africa. When it became clear that most members of the group did not support freeing slaves, but just wanted to reduce the number of free blacks in the United States, Garrison withdrew from membership.

In January 1831, Garrison founded The Liberator, which he published for 35 years and which became the most famous antislavery newspaper of its era. Although he was a pacifist, Garrison struck a formidable stance in the very first issue in which he proclaimed, "I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation … I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD." The Liberator, which never had a paid circulation greater than three thousand became one of the most widely disseminated, consistent, and dominating voices of the abolition movement.

Antislavery advocates of the day, or abolitionists, were widely divergent in their views of

how and when slavery should be ended and what should happen to freed slaves after emancipation. Garrison was part of a group which believed that abolition of slavery must happen as quickly as possible. Those who sought "immediatism," however were divided on how to achieve this goal. Garrison, though searing in his language and unyielding in his beliefs, believed only in civil disobedience, and opposed any method of active resistance.

In 1832, Garrison founded the country's first immediatist organization, the New England Anti-Slavery Society. The following year, in 1833, he helped organize the American Anti-Slavery Society. He wrote the society's constitution and became its first corresponding secretary. He befriended fellow abolitionist and writer frederick douglass, and made him an agent of the Anti-Slavery Society. Over the next several years Garrison came to reject the teachings of established churches and the government of the United States, which he viewed as supporting slavery. Increasingly hewing to a philosophy of moral absolutism, Garrison embraced not only the cause of nonviolent resistance, but temperance, women's rights, and Christian perfectionism.

In 1840, Garrison's views precipitated a split in the Anti-Slavery Society between the minority who supported his radical beliefs and the majority who disapproved of his views regarding religion, government, and the participation of women in the struggle for emancipation. When Garrison's supporters voted to admit women, a group seceded from the society and formed the rival American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Another group, interested in continuing to seek reform through political activity, later left to start the Liberty party.

Over the next two decades, Garrison's influence declined as his radicalism became more pronounced. In the 1850s, The Liberator hailed John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry while denouncing the compromise of 1850, the kansas-nebraska act, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in dred scott v. sandford. He continued to support secession of the anti-slavery states and publicly burned a copy of the U.S. Constitution at an abolitionist rally in 1854.

"I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation…. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard."
—William Lloyd Garrison

After the Civil War began, Garrison put aside his pacifism to support President abraham lincoln and the Union Army. He welcomed the emancipation proclamation and the passing of the thirteenth amendment,

which outlawed slavery. In 1865, Garrison published the last issue of The Liberator, although he continued to advocate for women's rights, temperance, and pacifism. Garrison died on May 24, 1879, in New York City.

further readings

Cain, William E., ed. 1995. William Lloyd Garrison and the Fight Against Slavery: Selections from the Liberator. Boston: Bedford Books.

Mayer, Henry. 1998. All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery. New York: St. Martin's Press.

cross-references

Brown, John; Temperance Movement.

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Garrison, William Lloyd (1805-1879)

William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)

Sources

Abolitionist, reformer

Dedication to the Cause. Garrison was born on 10 December 1805 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to a poor family. When he was thirteen he became a printers apprentice, leading to a career in journalism. At twenty-one he was coeditor of the temperance paper, the National Philanthropist, that brought him into contact with other reform movements. The Quaker abolitionist Benjamin Lundy convinced him to devote his energies to abolitionism in 1828, and Garrison helped Lundy edit the antislavery paper Genius of Universal Emancipation, which promoted the colonization of freed slaves in Africa.

Leader. Soon Garrison came to reject colonization as an effective method of emancipation, and he broke with Lundy to form his own abolitionist paper, The Liberator. In his new paper Garrison called for immediate emancipation of the slaves without compensation for their owners. He also adopted a militant tone that gained him such notoriety that in the South rewards were offered for his capture and delivery to stand trial. On this subject I do not wish to think, speak, or write with moderation, he wrote in the first issue of The Liberator. I am in earnestI will not equivocateI will not excuseI will not retreat a single inchand I WILL BE HEARD. Through his writing and his leadership in the American AntiSlavery Society, Garrison became the most prominent spokesman for the abolitionist cause. When he visited England in 1833 British abolitionists welcomed him as the leader of the movement in America. But back home many other abolitionists disapproved of his extreme rhetoric, which often provoked mob violence. Others within the American Anti-Slavery Society disagreed with his insistence that moral suasion to change the hearts of individuals was the only route to ending slavery and favored direct political action. The society split in 1840, with Garrison and his followers maintaining control of the weakened organization.

Reformer. In addition to his commitment to abolition Garrison supported other reforms such as temperance and womens rights. His advocacy of the latter was so strong that he refused to participate in the World AntiSlavery Convention in London in 1840 when women were barred from participation. Garrison believed that the equal rights of women were necessary in the fight to abolish slavery, a position that lost him many of his followers. Garrisonianism became a general term for radical reform, pressing well beyond the bounds with which most Americans were comfortable. After the passage of the harsh Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, however, Garrisons position suddenly seemed less radical. By 1859, when other prominent abolitionists were lionizing John Brown for his attempt to start a slave uprising, Garrison only reluctantly supported Browns violent action; the radicalism of the movement had gone beyond that of the man who had once burned a copy of the Constitution for its tacit endorsement of slavery.

End of the Fight. When the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery, was passed in 1865, Garrison ceased publication of The Liberator, feeling that the fight against slavery was over. But he continued to battle for equal rights for African Americans and women until his death in 1879 at the age of seventy-three.

Sources

Walter M. Merrill, Against the Wind and Tide: A Biography of William Lloyd Garrison (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963);

Russel B. Nye, William Lloyd Garrison and the Humanitarian Reformers (Boston: Little, Brown, 1955).

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Garrison, William Lloyd

William Lloyd Garrison, 1805–79, American abolitionist, b. Newburyport, Mass. He supplemented his limited schooling with newspaper work and in 1829 went to Baltimore to aid Benjamin Lundy in publishing the Genius of Universal Emancipation. This led (1830) to his imprisonment for seven weeks for libel. On Jan. 1, 1831, he published the first number of the Liberator, a paper that he continued for 35 years (to Dec. 29, 1865), until after the Thirteenth Amendment had been adopted. In the Liberator, Garrison took an uncompromising stand for immediate and complete abolition of slavery. Though its circulation was never over 3,000, the paper became famous for its startling and quotable language. Garrison relied wholly upon moral persuasion, believing in the use of neither force nor the ballot to gain his end. His language antagonized many. In 1835 he was physically attacked in Boston by a mob composed of seemingly respectable people, and thereby won a valuable convert to his cause in Wendell Phillips. Garrison opposed the work of the American Colonization Society in his Thoughts on African Colonization (1832). He was active in organizing (1831) the New England Anti-Slavery Society and (1833) the American Anti-Slavery Society, of which he was president (1843–65). Garrison also crusaded for other reforms that he united with abolitionism, notably woman suffrage and prohibition. He went so far as to advocate Northern secession from the Union because the Constitution, which Garrison characterized as "a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell," permitted slavery. He burned the Constitution publicly at an abolitionist meeting in Framingham, Mass., on July 4, 1854, and opposed the Civil War until Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Garrison's preeminence in the antislavery cause has been characterized as a "New England myth," some arguing that while Garrison attracted attention, the effective fight against slavery was carried on by lesser known, more realistic men (see abolitionists). Garrison, a difficult personality, was not himself a good organizer.

See his letters, ed. by W. M. Merrill (1971); William Lloyd Garrison … His Life Told by His Children (4 vol., 1885–89, repr. 1969); biographies by W. M. Merrill (1963), J. L. Thomas (1963), A. H. Grimké (1891, repr. 1969); study by A. S. Kraditor (1969); H. Mayer, All On Fire (1998).

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Garrison, William Lloyd

Garrison, William Lloyd (1805–1879), abolitionist, nonresistant, and feminist.With the publication of the first issue of the Liberator on 1 January 1831, William Lloyd Garrison became the undisputed leader of the U.S. abolitionist movement. Garrison called for the “immediate” and “complete” emancipation of slaves. Yet he was also a confirmed advocate of nonviolence. In 1838, he and other abolitionists formed the New England Non‐Resistance Society. In its “Declaration of Sentiments,” Garrison pledged its members to oppose all preparation and exercise of war and all cooperation with institutions of war.

Although nonviolence was his key stance, Garrison and his abolitionist wife, Helen Eliza Benson, openly supported the Civil War once it had begun since it brought about the end of slavery. Their eldest son, George Thompson, fought with the 55th Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment. Their other sons ( William Lloyd Junior, Wendell Phillips, and teenager Francis Jackson) took philosophically conscientious objection stances, as did their daughter, Helen Frances ( Fanny). Garrison's legacy is most visible in the pacifist‐feminist‐antiracist lives of succeeding generations of the family who participated in post–Civil War freedmen's associations, the 1898 anti‐imperialist impetus, the peace and antiwar movements from 1915 to today, the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the antinuclear and environmental movements.
[See also Pacifism; Villard, Oswald and Fanny Garrison.]

Bibliography

Walter M. Merrill , Against Wind and Tide: A Biography of William Lloyd Garrison, 1963.
James Brewer Stewart , William Lloyd Garrison and the Challenge of Emancipation, 1992.
Henry Mayer , All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, 1998.

Harriet Hyman Alonso

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Garrison, William Lloyd

Garrison, William Lloyd (1805–79) US abolitionist. In 1831, he started the influential, anti-slavery journal Liberator in Boston. After the Civil War, he concentrated on other reforms, including temperance and women's suffrage.

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