&Quot;William Lloyd Garrison: The Agitator&Quot; Essay

1754 words - 7 pages

Slavery has always been a controversial and debatable issue in the United States. No one attacked the African-American slavery of the southern states with greater vehemence than a group of young, radical abolitionists. Frustrated at the betrayal of the revolutionary promise that all forms of bondage would disappear in the new land and marshalling all the religious revivals that swept the country, abolitionists demanded no less than the immediate emancipation of all slaves. Bursting upon the American political system in the early 1830s, abolitionists not only opposed any reparation of slaveholders, but they also demanded full political rights for all African-Americans, North and South.

The most prominent and spiteful of those abolitionists was William Lloyd Garrison. Born on December 10, 1805, he was the son of a drunken sailor who abandoned his family when Garrison was only three years old. His mother, a person of education and refinement plunged into bitter destitution during Garrison's childhood while she worked as a wage-slave and domestic servant. Garrison grew up in a poor Baptist household in Newbury port, Massachusetts, yet rose to national prominence as an advocate of the immediate abolition of slavery. At the age of nine, he worked for Deacon Bartlett in Newburyport, and later learned shoemaking at Lynn, cabinet making at Haverhill, and by 1818 received an apprenticeship with a printer and newspaper publisher. Soon after his apprenticeship ended, Garrison and a young printer, Isaac Knapp, purchased their own newspaper, the Newburyport Free Press. Although the newspaper existed for only six months, Garrison moved to Boston and found work as a printer and editor. Shortly after moving to Boston, he received an offer from Baltimore to work as co-editor with Benjamin Lundy of the Genius of Universal Emancipation. It was at this time, that Garrison really got involved in the immediate abolition of slavery.

When Garrison was only twenty-four years old, he made one of the most important speeches of his career, speaking in an "Address to the American Colonization Society." In it, he tentatively embraced the principles of colonization, yet at the same time rejected the Gradualists notion of emancipation. Being only twenty-four years old when he delivered the speech was a remarkable achievement for someone so young and was even more of an achievement for someone with little formal education. Garrison, largely self-education, read much regarding American political history and familiarized himself with the American Revolution and the founding documents.

While in Baltimore, Garrison made his first notable mark on anti-slavery activism when he went to jail rather than pay a fine for criminal libel. A New England slave trader pressed charges on Garrison after he denounced him. Released after serving seven weeks in jail, Garrison returned to Boston and established the Liberator, an anti-slavery newspaper. On January...

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