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William Lloyd Garrison

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William Lloyd Garrison (December 12, 1805, Newburyport, Massachusetts - May 24, 1879, New York City) was a United States Abolitionist and reformer.

William Lloyd Garrison, engraving from 1879 newspaper
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William Lloyd Garrison, engraving from 1879 newspaper

Garrison worked as a compositor for his hometown newspaper in his teens, then began writing articles as well, often under the pseudonym Aristides. He soon became involved with the opposition to slavery, writing for and then becoming co-editor with Benjamin Lundy of the Quaker Genius of Universal Emancipation newspaper.

Garrison made a name for himself as one of the most articulate, as well as most radical, opponents of slavery. While some other abolitionists of the time favored gradual emancipation, Garrison argued for "immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves". When someone attending one of Garrison's speeches objected that slavery was protected by the United States Constitution, Garrison replied that if this was true, then the Constitution should be burnt.

Garrison worked closely with Frederick Douglass but the two men eventually had differences regarding the value of the United States Constitution, which he called a "covenant with death and an agreement with Hell," and parted company. Douglass believed, along with Lysander Spooner and Gerrit Smith, that the Constitution mandated emancipation while Garrison burned copies of it publicly, calling it a pro-slavery document. Garrison was known as an immediatist not a gradualist as he favored an immediate end to slavery.

His outspoken views repeatedly brought him into trouble; he was imprisoned for libel when he called a slave trader a robber and murderer, in an article in the Genius of Universal Emancipation; the government of the State of Georgia offered a reward of $5,000 for his arrest, and he received numerous and frequent death threats.

In 1831 he founded an anti-slavery newspaper of his own, The Liberator, which he continued to publish and edit for 35 years.

In 1832, Garrison founded the New-England Anti-Slavery Society. One year later, he founded the American Anti-Slavery Society.

In 1833 he visited the United Kingdom and assisted in the anti-slavery movement there.

After the abolition of slavery in the United States, Garrison continued working on other reform movements, including favoring the right of women to vote, but quit the anti-slavery society which ran for five more years.

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Photography of Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison passed away in 1879 and was interred in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.


Quotations

  • 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 to 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.
—from the Inaugural Editorial in the 1 January 1831 The Liberator [1] (http://www.sewanee.edu/faculty/Willis/Civil_War/documents/Liberator.html)
  • "I accuse the land of my nativity of insulting the majesty of Heaven with the grossest mockery that was ever exhibited to man." [2] (http://csmonitor.com/2005/0420/p09s02-coop.html)

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