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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Garrison, William Lloyd

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GARRISON, William Lloyd, American reformer: b. in Newburyport, Mass., 12 Dec. 1805; d. New York, 24 May 1879. He was apprenticed to a shoemaker, but eventually became a compositor on the Newburyport Herald, an occupation which suited his taste; he soon made himself master of the mechanical part of the business, and when only 16 or 17 began to write for the Herald. His contributions, which were anonymous, were favorably received, and he soon commenced to send articles to the Salem Gazette and other papers, drawing the attention of political circles by a series of articles under the signature “Aristides,” with the view of removing the almost universal apathy on the subject of slavery. In 1824 he became editor of the Herald, and some of Whittier's earliest poems were accepted by him, while their author was yet unknown to fame. In 1827 he became editor of the National Philanthropist, the first American temperance journal, and afterward of a journal in support of the election of John Quincy Adams. With Mr. Lundy, a Quaker, he then started at Baltimore the paper called the Genius of Universal Emancipation (1829). The vigorous expression of his anti-slavery views in this last paper led to his imprisonment for libel, from which he was released by Mr. Tappan, a New York merchant, who paid his fine. He then prepared a series of emancipation lectures, subsequently delivered in New York and other places. He returned to Boston, and in 1831 started The Liberator, without capital or subscribers, a paper published weekly with the aid of one assistant and a negro boy, and with which his name is inseparably associated, and which he carried on for 35 years, until slavery was abolished in the United States. In 1832 appeared his ‘Thoughts on African Colonization,’ and in the same year he established the American Anti-Slavery Society. For several years the mail brought hundreds of letters to Garrison, threatening his assassination if he did not discontinue The Liberator; the legislature of Georgia offered a reward of $5,000 to any one who should prosecute and bring him to conviction in accordance with the laws of that State; in 1835 he was severely handled by a Boston mob, and the mayor of that city was constantly appealed to from the South to suppress his paper. In spite of all, he successfully persevered. In 1833 he visited Great Britain. On his return the results of his conferences with English emancipators were seen, to a limited extent, in a platform for the American Anti-Slavery Society, founded in Philadelphia toward the close of that year. He went to England again, in the furtherance of his anti-slavery opinions, in 1846 and 1848. The diverging views of the anti-slavery party, as to whether a political platform should be adopted, and as to the voting and speaking of women, rent the body for a time, but on 1 Jan. 1863 Lincoln's proclamation of freedom to the slaves as a military measure placed the civil struggle on an anti-slavery basis. In 1865, when Garrison's labors had been completely successful, and after the total abolition of slavery in the United States, his friends presented him with the sum of $30,000 as a memorial of his services.

A bronze statue has been erected to his memory in Boston. Some ‘Sonnets and Other Poems’ by him were published in 1847, and ‘Selections from Writings and Speeches’ in 1852. Consult Johnson, ‘William Lloyd Garrison’ (1882); ‘William Lloyd Garrison, the Story of His Life,’ by his children (1885-89); and poems to his memory by both Whittier and Lowell. The reformer's character, as revealed in the accounts of his life, shows his great humanitarian schemes to have been the inevitable outcome of a sensitive conscience, a humane spirit and an overpowering sense of justice. Later biographies are those by Swift, L. (Philadelphia 1911), and Chapman, I. J. (New York 1913).