William Lloyd Garrison (1805–1879), outstanding among the dedicated fighters for the abolition of slavery, was also an activist in other movements such as women’s and civil rights and religious reform. Never tiring in battle, he was “irrepressible, uncompromising, and inflammatory.” He antagonized many, including some of his fellow reformers. There were also many who loved and respected him. But he was never overlooked.
His letters, a source of the first magnitude, begin in 1822, when Garrison was seventeen, and end in 1879, the year of his death. They offer an insight into the mind and life of an outstanding figure in American history, a reformer-revolutionary who sought radical changes in the institutions of his day—in the relationship of the races, the rights of women, the nature and role of religion and religious institutions, and the relations between the state and its citizens; and who, perhaps more than any other single individual, was ultimately responsible for the emancipation of the slaves.
Garrison’s letters are also, sui generis, important as the expression of a vigorous writer, whose letters reflect his strength of character and warm humanity, and who appears here not only as the journalist, the reformer, and the leader of men, but also as the loving husband and father, the devoted son and son-in-law, the staunch friend, and the formidable opponent.
Included in this well illustrated first volume are Garrison’s letters from the earliest known—one to his mother during his apprenticeship—through the 1831 founding of his famous newspaper, The Liberator; the founding in 1832 and 1833 of the New England and the American Anti-Slavery Societies; his first trip to England to meet with British abolitionists; his courtship and marriage; and his being dragged through the streets of Boston by a mob out to tar and feather the British abolitionist George Thompson.