Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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GARRISON, William Lloyd, journalist, born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, 10 December 1805; died in New York City, 24 May, 1879. His father, Abijah Garrison, was a sea-captain, a man of generous nature, sanguine temperament, and good intellectual capacity, who ruined himself by intemperance. His mother, Fanny Lloyd, was a woman of exceptional beauty of person and high character, and remarkable for inflexible fidelity to her moral convictions. They emigrated from Nova Scotia to Newburyport a short time before the birth of Lloyd, and not long afterward the father left his family and was never again seen by them. At fourteen years of age Lloyd was apprenticed to the printing business in the office of the Newburyport "Herald," where he served until he was of age, becoming foreman at an early day, and displaying a strong natural taste and capacity for editorship. From the first he was remarkable for his firmness of moral principle, his quick appreciation of ethical distinctions, and an inflexible adherence to his convictions at whatever cost to himself. His aims and purposes were of the highest, and those who knew him best foresaw for him an honorable career. His apprenticeship ended, he became editor for a time of the Newburyport "FreePress," which he made too reformatory for the popular taste at that day. To this paper, John G. Whittier, then unknown to fame, sent some of his earliest poems anonymously, but the editor, discovering his genius, penetrated his incognito, and they formed a friendship that was broken only by death. Mr. Garrison's next experiment in editorship was with the "National Philanthropist" in Boston, a journal devoted to the cause of temperance. We next hear of him in Bennington, Vermont, whither he went in 1828 to conduct the Journal of the Times," established to support John Quincy Adams for reelection as president. Before leaving Boston, he formed an acquaintance with Benjamin Lundy, the Quaker abolitionist, then of Baltimore, where he was publishing the "Genius of Universal Emancipation," a journal that had for its object the abolition of American slavery. Going to New England with the distinct purpose of enlisting the clergy in his cause, Lundy was bitterly disappointed by his want of success; but he mightily stirred the heart of young Garrison, who became his ally, and two years later his partner, in the conduct of the " Genius of Universal Emancipation." This journal, up to that time, had represented the form of abolition sentiment known as gradualism, which had distinguished the anti-slavery societies of the times of Franklin and Jay, and fully answered the moral demands of the period. These societies were at this time either dead or inactive, and, since the Missouri contest of 1819-'20, the people of the north had generally ceased to strive for emancipation, or even to discuss the subject. With the exception of Lundy's earnest though feeble protest, supported mainly by Quakers, the general silence and indifference were unbroken. The whole nation had apparently come to the settled conclusion that slavery was intrenched by the constitution, and all discussion of the subject a menace to the Union. The emancipation of slaves in any considerable numbers, at any time or place, being universally regarded as dangerous to the public peace, the masters were held excusable for continuing to hold them in bondage. Mr. Garrison saw this state of things with dismay, and it became clear to him that the apathy which tended to fasten slavery permanently upon the country as an incurable evil could be broken only by heroic measures. The rights of the slaves and the duties of the masters, as measured by sound moral principles, must be unflinchingly affirmed and insisted upon. Slavery being wrong, every slave had a right to instant freedom, and therefore immediate emancipation was the duty of the masters and of the state. What was in itself right could never be dangerous to society, but 'must be safe for all concerned: and therefore there could be no other than selfish reasons for continuing slavery for a single day. In joining Lundy, Garrison at once took this high ground, creating thereby a strong excitement throughout the country. His denunciations of the domestic slave-trade, then rife in Baltimore, subjected him to the penalties of Maryland law, and he was thrust into jail. When released upon the payment of his fine by Arthur Tappan, of New York, he immediately resumed the work of agitation by means of popular lectures, and on 1 January 1831, founded "The Liberator," a weekly journal, in Boston, which he continued for thirty-five years, until slavery was finally abolished. It was small at first, but after a few years was enlarged to the usual size of the newspapers of that day. The spirit of the paper was indicated by this announcement in the first number : "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 1 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 moderately to 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." It was a purely moral and pacific warfare that he avowed. No appeal was made to the passions of the slaves, but to the consciences of the masters, and especially of the citizens of the free states, involved by the constitution in the guilt of slavery. But he was charged with a design to promote slave insurrections, and held up to public scorn as a fanatic and incendiary. The state of Georgia offered $5,000 reward for his apprehension, and the mails from the south brought him hundreds of letters threatening him with death if he did not abandon his moral warfare. The whole land was speedily filled with excitement, the apathy of years was broken, and the new dispensation of immediatism justified itself by its results. In 1832 the first society under this dispensation was organized in Boston; within the next two years the American anti-slavery society was formed in Philadelphia, upon a platform of principles formulated by Mr. Garrison; and from this time the movement, in spite of powerful efforts to crush it, grew with great rapidity. Governors of states hinted that the societies were illegal, and judges affirmed that the agitators were liable to arrest as criminals under the common law. Mr. Garrison aggravated his offence, in the eyes of many, by his opposition to the scheme of African colonization, which, under the pretence of unfriendliness to slavery, had gained public confidence at the north, while in truth it fostered the idea that the slaves were unfit for freedom. His "Thoughts on African Colonization," in which he judged the society out of its own mouth, was a most effective piece of work, defying every attempt at an answer. From 1833 till 1840 anti-slavery societies on Mr. Garrison's model were multiplied in the free states, many lecturers were sent forth, and an extensive anti-slavery literature was created. The agitation assumed proportions that greatly encouraged its promoters and alarmed its opponents. Attempts were made to suppress it by the terror of mobs; Elijah P. Lovejoy, in 1837, at Alton, Illinois, was slain while defending his press, and in 1835 Garrison was dragged through the Streets of Boston with a rope around his body, his life being saved with great difficulty by lodging him in jail. Marius Robinson, an anti-slavery lecturer, in Mahoning County, Ohio, was tarred and feathered in a cruel way; Amos Dresser, a theological student, while selling cottage Bibles at Nashville, Tennessee, was flogged in the public square because it happened that, without his knowledge, some of his Bibles were wrapped in east-off antislavery papers; and in Charleston, South Carolina, the post-office was broken open by a mob, which made a bonfire of anti-slavery papers and tracts sent through the mails to citizens of that City. In 1840 the abolition body was rent in twain, mainly by two questions, viz. : 1. Whether they should form an anti-slavery political party. 2. Whether women should be allowed to speak and vote in their societies. On the first of these questions Mr. Garrison took the negative, on the ground that such a party would probably tend to delay rather than hasten the desired action in respect to slavery. On the second he took the affirmative, on the ground that the constitutions of the societies admitted "persons" to membership without discrimination as to sex. This division was never healed, and thenceforth Mr. Garrison was recognized chiefly as the leader of the party agreeing with him upon these two questions. Personally he was a non-resistant, and therefore a non-voter; but the great body of his friends had no such scruples, and held it to be a duty to exercise the elective franchise in opposition to slavery. In 1844 Mr. Garrison became convinced that the constitution of the United States was itself the main support of slavery, and as such was to be repudiated. Borrowing the words of Isaiah, he characterized it as "a covenant with death and an agreement with hell." His influence carried the anti-slavery societies over to this ground, which they firmly held to the end of the conflict. Few of the members had any scruples as to forceful government. They simply declared that they could not conscientiously take part in a government that bound them by oath, in certain contingencies, to support slavery. The political party anti-slavery men went their way, leaving the work of moral agitation to Garrison and his associates, who were still a powerful body, with large resources in character, argument, and influence. The two classes, though working by divergent methods, had yet a common purpose, and, though controversy between them at times waxed warm, their agreements were broad and deep enough to insure mutual respect and a no inconsiderable degree of co-operation. The political antislavery leaders recognized the value of the moral agitation as a means for the regeneration of public sentiment, and for keeping their own party up to its work; and the agitators bore glad witness to the sincerity of men who, though they could not see their way clear to a repudiation of the constitution, were bent upon doing all that they could under it to baffle the designs of the slave-power. Thousands of the political abolitionists made regular and liberal contributions to sustain the work of moral agitation, and the agitators rejoiced in every display of courage on the part of their voting friends, and in whatever good they could accomplish. The civil war brought the sincere opponents of slavery, of whatever class, into more fraternal relations. Mr. Garrison was quick to see that the pro-slavery Union was destroyed by the first gun fired at Sumter, and could never be restored. Thenceforth he and his associates labored to induce the government to place the war openly and avowedly on an anti-slavery basis, and to bend all its efforts to the establishment of a new Union from which slavery should be forever excluded. In this they had the co-operation of the most enlightened and earnest leaders and members of the Republican party, and on 1 January 1868, their united labors were crowned with success. President Lincoln's proclamation of freedom to the slaves was a complete vindication of the doctrine of immediate emancipation; while the conditions of reconstruction gave the country a new constitution and a new Union, so far as slavery was concerned. When the contest was over, the leaders of the Republican party united with Mr. Garrison's immediate associates in raising for him the sum of $30,000, as a token of their grateful appreciation of his long and faithful service ; and after his death the City of Boston accepted and erected a bronze statue to his memory. During the struggle in which he took so prominent a part he made two visits to England, where he was received with many marks of distinction by the abolitionists of that country, as the acknowledged founder of the anti-slavery movement in the United States. The popular estimate of his character and career is doubtless expressed in the words of John A. Andrew, war-governor of Massachusetts: "The generation which immediately preceded ours regarded him only as a wild enthusiast, a fanatic, or a public enemy. The present generation sees in him the bold and honest reformer, the man of original, self-poised, heroic will, inspired by a vision of universal justice, made actual in the practice of nations; who, daring to attack without reserve the worst and most powerful oppression of his country and his time, has outlived the giant wrong he assailed, and has triumphed over the sophistries by which it was maintained."
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