Archer’s Angry Abolitionist succeeds in presenting an interesting, readable short biography that focuses on the difficulties and dangers that American social reformers faced in the years from 1830 to 1865. Archer had earlier written of another self-made printer, journalist, and reformer of this era in Fighting Journalist: Horace Greeley (1966). He points out in Angry Abolitionist that Garrison’s editing of the Liberator had inspired Greeley’s crusading weekly, the New York Tribune. Archer’s biographies of Greeley and Garrison speak to concerns of the 1960’s, when they were published, including the Civil Rights movement, women’s liberation, and the Vietnam War protest. Archer stresses that Garrison was a universal, radical social critic, a revolutionary reformer who opposed not only slavery but also every form of injustice that he saw: militarism and war, the subordination of women, rigid clericalism, corporal punishment and imprisonment, cruelty to animals, dueling, and alcohol abuse.
Yet Archer portrays Garrison as a radical moralist, one who put morality above the laws of government, as did many of the 1960’s protesters. Garrison, in the 1840’s, characterized the U.S. Constitution, then recognizing the legality of slavery, as a “covenant with death” to be dissolved by the secession of the North from the Union. Together with Greeley and Wendell Phillips, Garrison would pressure “a...
(The entire section is 379 words.)
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