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William Lloyd Garrison

(1805—1879)


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(1805–79),

spearhead of New England Abolitionism, was born in Newburyport, Mass. During 1829–30 he edited The Genius of Universal Emancipation with Benjamin Lundy at Baltimore, but after imprisonment for libel, he returned to his home to pursue policies that were too radical for Lundy. In 1831 he began to publish The Liberator, which he continued for 34 years. An ascetic, moralistic, pacifist, and noble agitator, Garrison constantly demanded immediate and complete emancipation of the slaves. Although the circulation of his paper was small, it drew wide attention because of the direct, forcible expression of its owner's passionate beliefs. He attacked the moderate elements who opposed him, disliked the actions of the Anti-Slavery Society, which he split asunder, and his own vituperation was equaled only by that of the slaveholders. He outdid the Southerners in advocating secession, since the Constitution, which permitted slavery, was to him a “Covenant with Death and an Agreement with Hell.” After the Civil War, he retired from public activity. His books include Thoughts on African Colonization (1832), Sonnets (1843), and Selections (1852) from his speeches and writings. He was the subject of many works, including one of Whittier's finest poems.


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