William Lloyd Garrison
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- I will say, finally, that I despair of the republic while slavery exists therein. If I look up to God for success, no smile of mercy or forgiveness dispels the gloom of futurity; if to our own resources, they are daily diminishing; if to all history, our destruction is not only possible, but almost certain. Why should we slumber at this momentous crisis? If our hearts were dead to every throb of humanity; if it were lawful to oppress, where power is ample; still, if we had any regard for our safety and happiness, we should strive to crush the Vampire which is feeding upon our life-blood. All the selfishness of our nature cries aloud for a better security. Our own vices are too strong for us, and keep us in perpetual alarm; how, in addition to these, shall we be able to contend successfully with millions of armed and desperate men, as we must eventually, if slavery do not cease?
- Address to the Colonization Society (4 July 1829)
- I cherish as strong a love for the land of my nativity as any man living. I am proud of her civil, political and religious institutions — of her high advancement in science, literature and the arts — of her general prosperity and grandeur. But I have some solemn accusations to bring against her. I accuse her of insulting the majesty of Heaven with the grossest mockery that was ever exhibited to man — inasmuch as, professing to be the land of the free and the asylum of the oppressed, she falsifies every profession, and shamelessly plays the tyrant.
I accuse her, before all nations, of giving an open, deliberate and base denial to her boasted Declaration, that "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
I accuse her of disfranchising and proscribing nearly half a million free people of color, acknowledging them not as countrymen, and scarcely as rational beings, and seeking to drag them thousands of miles across the ocean on a plea of benevolence, when they ought to enjoy all the rights, privileges and immunities of American citizens.
I accuse her of suffering a large portion of her population to be lacerated, starved and plundered, without law and without justification, at the will of petty tyrants.
I accuse her of trafficking in the bodies and souls of men, in a domestic way, to an extent nearly equal to the foreign slave trade; which traffic is equally atrocious with the foreign, and almost as cruel in its operations.
I accuse her of legalizing, on an enormous scale, licentiousness, fraud, cruelty and murder.
- Address to the World Anti-slavery Convention, London (12 July 1833)
- The right to enjoy liberty is inalienable. To invade it is to usurp the prerogative of Jehovah. Every man has a right to his own body—to the products of his own labor—to the protection of law—and to the common advantages of society. It is piracy to buy or steal a native African, and subject him to servitude. Surely, the sin is as great to enslave an American as an African.
- But the moment he holds them [slaves] as property, however kindly he may treat them, he is a man-stealer, whom the apostle classes among ‘murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers.’
- Letter to Gerrit Smith, (Feb. 7, 1835), The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison, vol. 1, Walter M. Merrill, edit., Belknap Press-Harvard University Press, 1971, p. 445
- Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity, only as we love all other lands. The interests, rights, and liberties of American citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the whole human race. Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism, to revenge any national insult or injury.
- Declaration of Sentiments, Boston Peace Conference (28 September 1838)
- The compact which exists between the North and the South is a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.
- Resolution adopted by the Antislavery Society (27 January 1843); referencing Isaiah 28:15: "We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement".
- Every slave is a stolen man; every slaveholder is a man-stealer. By no precedent, no example, no law, no compact, no purchase, no bequest, no inheritance, no combination of circumstances, is slaveholding right or justifiable. While a slave remains in his fetters, the land must have no rest.
- We have a natural right, therefore, to seek the abolition of slavery throughout the globe. It is our special duty to make Massachusetts free soil, so that the moment the fugitive slave stands upon it, he shall take his place in the ranks of the free. God commands us to "hide the outcast, and bewray not him that wandereth." I say, LET THE WILL OF GOD BE DONE! That is "the head and front" of my "fanaticism"! That is the extent of my "infidelity"! That comprehends all of my "treason"! THE WILL OF GOD BE DONE!
- John Brown and the Principle of Nonresistance (16 December 1859)
- What shall be said, then, of those who insist upon ignoring the question of slavery as not involved in this deadly feud, and maintain that the only issue is, the support of the government and the preservation of the Union? Surely, they are "fools and blind"; for it is slaveholders alone who have conspired to seize the one, and overturn the other. As long as the enslavement of a single human being is sanctioned in the land, the curse of God will rest upon it.
- The War — Its Cause and Cure (3 May 1861)
- I have not come here with reference to any flag but that of freedom. If your Union does not symbolize universal emancipation, it brings no Union for me. If your Constitution does not guarantee freedom for all, it is not a Constitution I can ascribe to. If your flag is stained by the blood of a brother held in bondage, I repudiate it in the name of God. I came here to witness the unfurling of a flag under which every human being is to be recognized as entitled to his freedom. Therefore, with a clear conscience, without any compromise of principles, I accepted the invitation of the Government of the United States to be present and witness the ceremonies that have taken place today.
And now let me give the sentiment which has been, and ever will be, the governing passion of my soul: "Liberty for each, for all, and forever!"
- Speech in Charleston, South Carolina (14 April 1865)
- Reader! are you with the man-stealers in sympathy and purpose, or on the side of their down-trodden victims? If with the former, then are you the foe of God and man. If with the latter, what are you prepared to do and dare in their behalf? Be faithful, be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free. Come what may—cost what it may—inscribe on the banner which you unfurl to the breeze, as your religious and political motto—"No compromise with Slavery! No Union with Slaveholders!"
- Preface to Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1 May 1845)
- It is an abuse of language to talk of the slavery of wages... We cannot see that it is wrong to give or receive wages.
- As quoted in Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (2012), by Allen C. Guelzo, Chapter One
The Liberator (1831–1866)
- Let Southern oppressors tremble — let their secret abettors tremble — let their Northern apologists tremble — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.
- No. 1 (1 January 1831)
- 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.
- Formerly, the purchase of Texas by our Government, for the purpose of bestowing it as a gift upon our colored population, was a favorite opinion of ours; but we have settled down into the belief, that the object is neither practicable nor expedient. In the first place, it is not probable that the Congress would make the purchase; nor, secondly, is it likely that the mass of our colored people would remove without some compulsory process; nor, thirdly, would it be safe or convenient to organise them as a distinct nation among us,—an imperium in imperio. The fact is, it is time to repudiate all colonization schemes, as visionary and unprofitable; all those, we mean, which have for their design the entire separation of the blacks from the whites. We must take our free colored and slave inhabitants as we find them—recognise them as countrymen who have extraordinary claims upon our charities—give them the advantages of education—respect them as members of one great family, who may be made useful in society and honorable in reputation. This is our view of the subject.
- The Liberator (22 January 1861)
- For, by the logic of Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill, and by the principles enforced by this nation in its boasted Declaration of Independence, Capt. Brown was a hero, struggling against fearful odds, not for his own advantage, but to redeem others from a horrible bondage, to be justified in all that he aimed to achieve, however lacking in sound discretion. And by the same logic and the same principles, every slave-holder has forfeited his right to live, if his destruction be necessary to enable his victims to break the yoke of bondage; and they, and all who are disposed to aid them by force and arms, are fully warranted in carrying rebellion to any extent, and securing freedom at whatever cost.
- No. 170 (28 October 1859)
- Better to be always in a minority of one with God — branded as madman, incendiary, fanatic, heretic, infidel — frowned upon by "the powers that be," and mobbed by the populace — or consigned ignominiously to the gallows, like him whose "soul is marching on," though his "body lies mouldering in the grave," or burnt to ashes at the stake like Wickliffe, or nailed to the cross like him who "gave himself for the world," — in defence of the RIGHT, than like Herod, having the shouts of a multitude crying, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man!"
- "Valedictory" (29 December 1865) in the last issue of The Liberator (1 January 1866)
Thoughts on African Colonization (1832)
- Thoughts on African Colonization : Or, An Impartial Exhibition of the Doctrines, Principles and Purposes of the American Colonization Society (1832)
- Is Error, though unwittingly supported by a host of good men, stronger than Truth? Are Right and Wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion? Oh no! Then I will go forward in the strength of the Lord of Hosts — in the name of Truth — and under the banner of Right. As it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God, that great moral changes are effected, I am encouraged to fight valiantly in this good cause, believing that I shall "come off conqueror, and more than conqueror" — yet not I, but Truth and Justice. It is in such a contest that one shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.
- Introductory Remarks
- Little boldness is needed to assail the opinions and practices of notoriously wicked men; but to rebuke great and good men for their conduct, and to impeach their discernment, is the highest effort of moral courage. The great mass of mankind shun the labor and responsibility of forming opinions for themselves. The question is not — what is true? but — what is popular? Not — what does God say? but — what says the public? Not — what is my opinion? but — what do others believe?
- Introductory Remarks
- Unhappily, to borrow the words of Ganganelli, a large majority of mankind are "mere abortions": calling themselves rational and intelligent beings, they act as if they had neither brains nor conscience, and as if there were no God, no accountability, no heaven, no hell, no eternity.
- Introductory Remarks
William Lloyd Garrison 1805–1879 (1885)
- William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879 : The Story of His Life Told by His Children (1885) by Wendell Phillips Garrison and Francis Jackson Garrison - Full text online: Vol. 1 - Vol. 2 - Vol. 3 - Vol. 4
- With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.
- Vol. I, p. 188
- Since the creation of the world there has been no tyrant like Intemperance, and no slaves so cruelly treated as his.
- Vol. I, p. 268
- We may be personally defeated, but our principles never.
- Vol. I, p. 402
- The Sabbath, as now recognized and enforced, is one of the main pillars of Priestcraft and Superstition, and the stronghold of a merely ceremonial Religion.
- Vol. III, p. 224
- Wherever there is a human being, I see God-given rights inherent in that being, whatever may be the sex or complexion.
- Vol. III, p. 390
- The success of any great moral enterprise does not depend upon numbers.
- Vol. III, p. 473 - I have read this page twice and cannot find this quote.
- You cannot possibly have a broader basis for any government than that which includes all the people, with all their rights in their hands, and with an equal power to maintain their rights.
- Vol. IV, p. 224
Quotes about Garrison
- Mister Garrison and his friends tell us that while in the Union we are responsible for slavery. He and they sing out 'No Union with slaveholders', and refuse to vote. I admit our responsibility for slavery while in the Union but I deny that going out of the Union would free us from that responsibility. There now clearly is no freedom from responsibility for slavery to any American citizen short to the abolition of slavery. The American people have gone quite too far in this slave-holding business now to sum up their whole business of slavery by singing out the cant phrase, 'No union with slaveholders'. To desert the family hearth may place the recreant husband out of the presence of his starving children, but this does not free him from responsibility. If a man were on board of a pirate ship, and in company with others had robbed and plundered, his whole duty would not be preformed simply by taking the longboat and singing out, 'No union with pirates'. His duty would be to restore the stolen property.
- Frederick Douglass, "The Constitution of the United States: Is It Pro-Slavery or Anti-Slavery?" (26 March 1860), Glasgow, United Kingdom
- On another occasion, I returned to Boston, where Cell 16 had fulfilled one of my dreams by organizing a forum in historic Fannueil Hall in old Boston. In that hall, Lucy Stone, the Grimké sisters, Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and Frederick Douglass had held antislavery and profeminist meetings during the decades before the Civil War. Their legacy had motivated me to move to Boston to launch female liberation.
- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years 1960-1975 (2002)
- Garrison and his followers, such as Wendell Phillips, were fierce critics not only of gradualism and colonization, but also of the racial prejudices that were endemic among many proponents of these schemes. They accordingly called for equal civil and political rights for African Americans… He and many abolitionists asserted that the involuntary servitude of men was 'theft on a grand scale because the slaveowner expropriated from the slave that which was properly his own—namely his body, labor and their fruits.'
- Ronald Hamowy, editor-in-chief, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, "Abolitionism," London: UK, Sage Publishing, Inc., 2008, p. 1 
- The good Lord had had a chance for a long time before the abolition. I believe that there is a moral government; and that God reigns. I am no pessimist; I give thanks to the good Lord, and also to the good men through whom He has worked. Prominent among them was Garrison...
- I had been living four or five months in New Bedford when there came a young man to me with a copy of the Liberator, the paper edited by William Lloyd Garrison and published by Isaac Knapp, and asked me to subscribe for it. I told him I had but just escaped from slavery, and was of course very poor, and had no money then to pay for it. He was very willing to take me as a subscriber, notwithstanding, and from this time I was brought into contact with the mind of Mr. Garrison, and his paper took a place in my heart second only to the Bible. It detested slavery, and made no truce with the traffickers in the bodies and souls of men. It preached human brotherhood; it exposed hypocrisy and wickedness in high places; it denounced oppression; and with all the solemnity of "Thus saith the Lord," demanded the complete emancipation of my race. I loved this paper and its editor. He seemed to me an all-sufficient match to every opponent, whether they spoke in the name of the law or the gospel. His words were full of holy fire, and straight to the point. Something of a hero-worshiper by nature, here was one to excite my admiration and reverence. It was my privilege to listen to a lecture in Liberty Hall by Mr. Garrison, its editor. He was then a young man, of a singularly pleasing countenance, and earnest and impressive manner. On this occasion he announced nearly all his heresies. His Bible was his textbook — held sacred as the very word of the Eternal Father. He believed in sinless perfection, complete submission to insults and injuries, and literal obedience to the injunction if smitten "on one cheek to turn the other also." Not only was Sunday a Sabbath, but all days were Sabbaths, and to be kept holy. All sectarianism was false and mischievous — the regenerated throughout the world being members of one body, and the head Christ Jesus. Prejudice against color was rebellion against God. Of all men beneath the sky, the slaves, because most neglected and despised, were nearest and dearest to his great heart. Those ministers who defended slavery from the Bible were of their "father the devil"; and those churches which fellowshiped slaveholders as Christians, were synagogues of Satan, and our nation was a nation of liars. He was never loud and noisy, but calm and serene as a summer sky, and as pure. "You are the man — the Moses, raised up by God, to deliver his modern Israel from bondage," was the spontaneous feeling of my heart, as I sat away back in the hall and listened to his mighty words, — mighty in truth, — mighty in their simple earnestness.
- Garrison was a consistent, passive resistant; but in launching a revolutionary idea Garrison’s brain logically led to John Brown’s muscles
- Our friend William Lloyd Garrison has repeated to us the many blessings resulting from upright actions. Yes, every act brings its own reward or its own punishment. Every good act produces its own corresponding reward, and every bad act its corresponding punishment. How, then, must not only the South but the North be punished in consequence of that great, immeasurable wrong of Slavery? Oh, the shame and outrage that, for one single moment, that great blot should be suffered to remain on the otherwise beautiful escutcheon of this republic! But permit me to say that the slaves of the South are not the only people that are in bondage. All women are excluded from the enjoyment of that liberty which your Declaration of Independence asserts to be the inalienable right of all. The same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that pertains to man, pertains to woman also. For what is life without liberty? Which of you here before me would not willingly risk his or her life, if in danger of being made a slave? Emancipation from every kind of bondage is my principle. I go for the recognition of human rights, without distinction of sect, party, sex, or color.
- The abolitionists, not just Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison but the countless thousands who supported their cause, fought to abolish slavery and grant the rights of citizenship to all Americans, regardless of their race.
- Bernie Sanders Our Revolution (2016)
- As the Civil War loomed, American Jews had many reasons to distrust the abolitionists and their crusade for social justice. Fervently Christian, some of the most ardent abolitionists were given to age-old expressions of anti-Jewish rhetoric. The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison referred to the slavery Mordecai Noah as a "Shylock" and a "miscreant Jew," describing him as a "lineal descendant of the monsters who nailed Jesus to the cross between two thieves." Garrison's colleague Edmund Quincy, the sometime editor of his newspaper, The Liberator, commented that if Noah was "a fair specimen of the race, it is no wonder they have been an insulted and despised people."
- Adam Serwer The Cruelty is the Point (2021)
- The belief has been constantly expressed in England that in the United States, which has produced Wm. Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher, James Russell Lowell, John G. Whittier¹5 and Abraham Lincoln there must be those of their descendants who would take hold of the work of inaugurating an era of law and order. The colored people of this country who have been loyal to the flag believe the same, and strong in that belief have begun this crusade.
- Ida B. Wells, The Red Record (1895)
- in one important way these young people are very much like the abolitionists of old: they have a healthy disrespect for respectability; they are not ashamed of being agitators and trouble-makers; they see it as the essence of democracy. In defense of William Lloyd Garrison, against the accusation that he was too harsh, a friend replied that the nation was in a sleep so deep "nothing but a rude and almost ruffian-like shake could rouse her." The same deliberate harshness lies behind the activities of James Forman, John Lewis, Bob Moses (activist), and other leaders of SNCC. What Samuel May once said of Garrison and slavery might be said today of each of these people and segregation: "He will shake our nation to its center, but he will shake slavery out of it."
- Howard Zinn SNCC: The New Abolitionists (1964)
Eulogy by Theodore Dwight Weld (1879)
Anthologized in The Abolitionists by Louis Ruchames
- I have in my hand a poem which our own beloved poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote almost fifty years ago, in the darkest hour of the midnight which brooded over our country. You are most of you, perhaps all, familiar with it. It is addressed to Mr. Garrison. Shall I read a single stanza? I do it to illustrate a point strongly put by our brother who has just taken his seat; that is, the power of a single soul, alone, of a single soul touched with sacred fire, a soul all of whose powers are enlisted the thought, the feeling, the susceptibility, the emotion, the indomitable will, the conscience that never shrinks, and always points to duty-I say, the power which God has lodged in the human mind, enabling to do and to dare and to suffer everything, and thank God for the privilege of doing it. To show also how, when one soul is thus stirred in its innermost and to its uttermost, it is irresistible; that wherever there are souls, here and there, and thick and fast, too, not merely one, and another, and another, of the great mass, but multitudes of souls are ready to receive the truth and welcome it, to incorporate it into their thought and feeling, to live and die for it. That was the effect of Garrison upon the soul of Whittier. He here gives us his testimony. The date of this is 1833-almost fifty years ago. He says in the third stanza: "I love thee with a brother's love,/I feel my pulses thrill/To mark thy spirit soar above/The cloud of human ill./My heart hath leaped to answer thine,/And echo back thy words,/As leaps the warrior's at the shine/And flash of kindred swords!" Friends, in recounting the multiform cords upon which our great brother struck, and in following out those vibrations until we see them rouse the nation's heart-in doing this we come to a point where we stand amazed beyond our belief; we have seen nothing like it; we have thought of nothing like it; we know of nothing like it in the history of the world; where, on moral grounds, through the dictate of conscience, through the grasp of the intuitions, such force has been given to a single soul as to make it omnipotent.
- Think for a moment of Garrison, through his paper and by his speech, traversing the country, uttering words which fell with such force as to break the spell that was upon souls, rouse the latent and dormant and bring them to life, gird them with power, and put weapons into their hands, arming them from head to foot, to go forth and fight in the moral warfare!
- Blessed are we that we have lived at the same time when there walked the earth such a man as WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON. We did not know him. Those that knew him best did not know his innermost and his uttermost. The world around did not know him, even those who most appreciated him. Fifty years hence there will be something written about Garrison that will show what no one has exhibited or can exhibit now, for then time enough will have elapsed for his influence, the power of his soul, for those vast pulsations, so far-reaching-time enough to trace out all those lines of influence and show how they stamped hearts innumerable, and how they can be traced in vast and manifold effects. Great as the direct influence of the life of Garrison was, great as it is to the multitudes of the freedmen of the South who rise up to testify, great as is the direct influence which outpoured from his life, the indirect influences seem almost greater. He saw, at one of the main points of the human circle, something which compelled his attention, something which could not be ignored, which should not be left any longer; and he lifted up his voice and cried out against it, beseeched, appealed, and summoned up help from every quarter, and touched with such force as no man else could the springs that could accomplish his object-the abolition of slavery.
- He brought his mind to a focus upon the fundamental right, the intrinsic, the absolute, the eternal, the ineradicable right-self-right. And that was the reason why he uttered what are called such hard words about slaveholding. It was the same conviction that fired the soul of old John Wesley-blessings on him-when he said, "Slavery is the sum of all villanies!" No wonder he used words that sounded hard to those very soft and shrinking people who loved smooth things, and to those who sympathized with slavery. Why, when he saw the slaveholder not merely asserting his right to a man as a piece of property, but when he saw him stalking over all this New England and claiming the right to absorb into himself the self-right of another self and call it his, make it an article of property, and send it to the auction-block, no wonder he roused at length the North, no wonder the slaveholders put a price upon his head, because there he touched the apple of their eye. He had struck the very heart of the monster. It was a death-blow, and that must be fended off, or all must be given up.
- Who can speak of a single one of his acts without that act rising up and testifying to what he was, to what he is, to what he has done, and what no other man did or could do? No, it is all around, from centre to circumference alike! See how the whole land is strewn with his deeds! See how the very air breathes of them! See how the very tones of the wind, as they go through the forest, shout them!
- Let us for a moment look back fifty years. We see a church dead! Not merely blind and palsied, but dead to the sin of slavery. Whatever life it had, there was no pulsation indicating that it realized the sin of slavery. Look back there! What do we see? A great bank of darkness, in which the church lies dead; and as we look, we see a single hand unshrinkingly thrust out from the thickest of that darkness and writing a dozen simple words, little fireside words; writing them so large that they can be seen and read from far. We see those words take on a glow in the midst of the very darkness. We see those letters every one turned to a letter of fire. And what was written there? You have heard them already; you know them by heart: "I am in earnest. I will not equivocate-I will not excuse-I will not retreat a single inch-AND I WILL BE HEARD!" Take the circumstances and conditions of the time in which they were uttered, consider the great soul that propelled them forth, consider that he felt the necessity upon him and a woe unto him if he did not utter them-consider all this, and then tell me whether such words have ever been uttered by other mortal lips! Those words were the passwords of Liberty. They were the keynote, struck by him so loud that they startled the nation. Thank God that there was one man in those times who could utter them; who had a soul large enough, deep enough, strong enough, fired enough, godlike enough, to utter them!