The Liberator

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What did Garrison assert in his inaugural editorial in The Liberator

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On January 1st, 1831, editor William Lloyd Garrison addressed the public in the first edition of The Liberator, a publication dedicated to promoting women's rights and abolishing slavery. However, The Liberator saw itself not as a political publication but as a religious one. As Garrison states in his editorial—in a quote directly from the US Constitution—in the eyes of God, everyone is created the same.

All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

He says that he regrets an earlier compromise he made when he agreed that the abolition of slavery should come via a gradual process. That was, he said, a "sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity." He firmly believes that freeing people from evil should never be done using moderate measures. He insists that people have to hear what he says. If they don't like what he says, then that's just tough.

I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice . . .

As he states at the beginning of the editorial, there are too many people against the abolition of slavery to just tread lightly.

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In his inaugural editorial in The Liberator, published in 1831, William Lloyd Garrison called for the immediate emancipation of slaves. As he wrote, "I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population." Garrison's call for the end of slavery was novel at the time, as many people wanted to end slavery through gradual emancipation or through repatriating former slaves to Africa. 

Garrison was not interested in placating the South. Instead, he wrote, "Let Southern oppressors tremble." He felt that the promise of the Declaration of Independence for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" also applied to slaves and that slavery was inconsistent with the promises of the Declaration. While Garrison had formerly supported gradual emancipation, he wrote in this editorial that gradual emancipation was unjust and absurd. He asked God, his country, and the slaves themselves to pardon him for making this error, and he committed himself to a path of immediate emancipation to rid the country of the evil of slavery.

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In the preface for the first issue of The Liberator, published in 1831, Garrison asserts that slavery is a sin, and one that could only be remedied by immediate and total abolition, accompanied by enfranchisement (i.e. the right to vote) for freedmen. He claims that the gradual emancipation plans that have been laid out are "pernicious" and "recants" his former support for them. Essentially, he lays out his plan to be a gadfly, a constant voice in the ears of not so much slavery's supporters, but for those who are less than zealous about the issue:

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD. 

Garrison, in short, announces his plan to hold Americans responsible in print for the plague of slavery. This editorial, among the most famous polemics in the history of the abolition movement, encapsulates the approach of an absolutely uncompromising foe of slavery. 

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