William Lloyd Garrison Criticism - Essay

Lewis Tappan (essay date 1833)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tappan, Lewis. “Lewis Tappan Praises Garrison.” In Great Lives Observed: William Lloyd Garrison, edited by George M. Fredrickson, pp. 74-76. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968.

[In the following excerpt from a speech delivered to the inaugural convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, Tappan praises Garrison as a pioneer of the abolitionist movement and defends him against his critics.]

Some men, Mr. President, are frightened at a name. There is good evidence to believe that many professed friends of abolition would have been here, had they not been afraid that the name of William Lloyd Garrison would be inserted prominently...

(The entire section is 959 words.)

Frederick Douglass (essay dates 1847 and 1855)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, edited by Philip S. Foner, pp. 217-60, 350-52. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

[In the following excerpts, from a speech and letter of 1847 and an 1855 lecture, Douglass honors Garrison the man, but critiques the Garrisonian anti-slavery doctrine in practice.]

Sir, the foremost, strongest, and mightiest among those who have completely identified themselves with the Negroes in the United States, I will now name here; and I do so because his name has been most unjustly coupled with odium in this country. [Hear, hear.] I will name, if only as an expression of gratitude on my part, my...

(The entire section is 1897 words.)

Henry Wilson (essay date 1873)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilson, Henry. The History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America, pp. 184-88. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1873.

[In the following excerpt, Wilson offers accolades to Garrison for his singular courage in promoting the anti-slavery cause.]

Mr. Garrison's partner in the publication of The Liberator was Mr. Isaac Knapp, a printer, like himself, and also a native of the same town. The paper was commenced without funds and without a single subscriber. Bearing the comprehensive and cosmopolitan motto, “My country is the world, my countrymen are all mankind,” it appealed to no party, sect, or interest for recognition and support. Both editor and...

(The entire section is 1564 words.)

James Schouler (essay date 1889)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Schouler, James. History of the United States of America Under the Constitution, vol. 4, pp. 210-21. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1892.

[In the following excerpt from an essay originally published in 1889, Schouler characterizes Garrison as a fanatical agitator whose radical methods demonstrated a complete lack of regard for constitutional law.]

This new abolition movement at the North did not, like the Quaker one of former days, respect constitutional bounds and seek mild persuasion of the white master who held the local law in his hands. It boldly proclaimed that the laws of nature were paramount to a human institution; it preached freedom as of divine...

(The entire section is 2919 words.)

James Ford Rhodes (essay date 1892)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rhodes, James Ford. History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850, vol. 1, pp. 56-63. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892.

[In the following excerpt, Rhodes considers Garrison's work in relation to slave uprisings of the 1830s, and presents an assessment of his impact on mid-nineteenth-century American politics.]

In August of this year (1831) occurred the Nat Turner insurrection in Virginia, which seemed to many Southerners a legitimate fruit of the bold teaching of Garrison, although there was indeed between the two events no real connection. But this negro rising struck terror through the South and destroyed calm reason. The leader, Nat Turner, a...

(The entire section is 2185 words.)

Leo Tolstoy (essay date 1904)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tolstoy, Leo. Introduction to A Short Biography of William Lloyd Garrison, by Vladimir Tchertkoff and F. Holah, pp. v-xii. London: The Free Age Press, 1904.

[In the following essay, Tolstoy acknowledges Garrison's decisive articulation of “the principle of non-resistance to evil by violence,” which champions rational and moral persuasion over violent coercion.]

I thank you very much for sending me your biography of Garrison.

Reading it, I lived again through the spring of my awakening to true life. While reading Garrison's speeches and articles I vividly recalled to mind the spiritual joy which I experienced twenty years ago, when I found...

(The entire section is 1931 words.)

John Jay Chapman (essay date 1913)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Chapman, John Jay. “The Man of Action.” In William Lloyd Garrison, pp. 158-98. Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921.

[In the following excerpt from an essay originally published in 1913, Chapman describes Garrison's forceful political activism, highlighting the unswerving religious and theoretical principals that guided his reformist course.]

Garrison was a man of action, that is to say, a man to whom ideas were revealed in relation to passing events, and who saw in ideas the levers and weapons with which he might act upon the world. A seer on the other hand is a man who views passing events by the light of ideas, and who counts upon his vision, not...

(The entire section is 2984 words.)

Jesse Macy (essay date 1919)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Macy, Jesse. “The Turning Point.” In The Anti-Slavery Crusade: A Chronicle of the Gathering Storm, pp. 54-66. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1919.

[In the following excerpt, Macy recounts pivotal events in the American anti-slavery movement during the year 1831, including the first publication of Garrison's newspaper the Liberator and the Nat Turner slave rebellion.]

The year 1831 is notable for three events in the history of the anti-slavery controversy: on the first day of January in that year William Lloyd Garrison began in Boston the publication of the Liberator; in August there occurred in Southampton, Virginia, an insurrection...

(The entire section is 2575 words.)

Russel B. Nye (essay date 1955)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nye, Russel B. William Lloyd Garrison and the Humanitarian Reformers, pp. 198-206. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1955.

[In the following excerpt, Nye concentrates on Garrison's religious motivation to combat human evil by eradicating slavery. The critic also stresses exaggerations in the Garrison legend, while acknowledging Garrison's considerable historical and symbolic significance to American abolitionism.]

Garrison's mind worked on two levels, the moral and the practical. On the one, his approach to issues was determined by principle; on the other, by tactics and strategy. The level of his argument fluctuated, as it did during the Civil War when he...

(The entire section is 2389 words.)

John L. Thomas (essay date 1963)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thomas, John L. “‘Our Doom as a Nation Is Sealed.’” In The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison: A Biography, pp. 209-35. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1963.

[In the following excerpt, Thomas probes the political context of Garrison's religious views, particularly his belief in the Christian doctrine of perfectionism in relation to the debate over constitutional reform that occurred in the United States during the 1830s.]

In the quiet of the Benson farmhouse, where he and his wife retired after his encounter with the Boston mob, Garrison took time to reflect on the progress of moral reform. “Much as my mind is absorbed in the anti-slavery cause,”...

(The entire section is 8622 words.)

Howard Zinn (essay date 1965)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Zinn, Howard. “Abolitionists, Freedom-Riders, and the Tactics of Agitation.” In The Antislavery Vanguard: New Essays on the Abolitionists, edited by Martin Duberman, pp. 417-54. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965.

[In the following excerpt, Zinn addresses Garrison as a political “extremist,” discussing his overall influence on the attitudes of average Americans toward the slavery question in the mid-nineteenth century.]

“Extremist” carries a psychological burden when attached to political movements, which it does not bear in other situations. A woman who is extremely beautiful, a man who is extremely kind, a mechanic who is extremely...

(The entire section is 2523 words.)

George M. Fredrickson (essay date 1968)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fredrickson, George M. Introduction to Great Lives Observed: William Lloyd Garrison, edited by George M. Fredrickson, pp. 1-8. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968.

[In the following essay, Fredrickson summarizes Garrison's theories of reform, nonviolent resistance, and social progress, while critiquing some of the more radical elements of his political position.]

William Lloyd Garrison did not, in any real sense, lead the American antislavery movement. Abolitionism was a decentralized enterprise subject to local variation and internal factionalism, and Garrison's control of tactics and strategy never extended far beyond the borders of New England (it...

(The entire section is 3203 words.)

Aileen S. Kraditor (essay date 1969)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kraditor, Aileen S. “Religion and the Good Society.” In Means and Ends in American Abolitionism: Garrison and His Critics on Strategy and Tactics, 1834-1850, pp. 78-95. New York: Pantheon Books, 1969.

[In the following excerpt, Kraditor examines Garrison's views on radical social issues of the mid-1800s, such as nonresistance (pacifism) and women's rights.]

In the fight over the woman question the anti-Garrisonian abolitionists showed their concern with what today would be called the movement's “public image.” This is particularly evident from the fact that the assault on the innovations in women's public activity originated with clergymen outside or on...

(The entire section is 8115 words.)

Walter M. Merrill (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Merrill, Walter M. Introduction to I Will Be Heard! 1822-1835: The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison. Volume I, edited by Walter M. Merrill, pp. vii-ix. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, The Belknap Press, 1971.

[In the following essay, Merrill encapsulates critical reaction to Garrison from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1960s and briefly characterizes the content of Garrison's correspondence.]

If Garrison could have looked across the century and witnessed the publication of the first volume of his letters, he would have considered the event propitious. In his nonviolent agitation for the black man he always had an uncanny sense of timing, a...

(The entire section is 1204 words.)

James Brewer Stewart (essay date 1976)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Stewart, James Brewer. “Petitions, Perfectionists, and Political Abolitionists.” In Holy Warriors: The Abolitionists and American Slavery, pp. 89-96. New York: Hill and Wang, 1976.

[In the following excerpt, Stewart surveys the broad-based, political radicalism associated with the term “Garrisonism.”]

William Lloyd Garrison, without question, served as … [a] focal point of dissension. It was he who first associated abolitionism with an even more radical opposition to religious and political institutions. As early as 1835, Arthur Tappan had shown discomfort over Garrison's harsh attacks on orthodox New England Calvinists. But by 1837 it seemed to many...

(The entire section is 1861 words.)

David Henry (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Henry, David. “Garrison at Philadelphia: The ‘Declaration of Sentiments’ as Instrumental Rhetoric.” In Rhetoric and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century America, edited by Thomas W. Benson, pp. 113-29. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1997.

[In the following essay, Henry conducts a rhetorical analysis of the American Anti-Slavery Society's “Declaration of Sentiments,” drafted by Garrison, and studies its links to the Declaration of Independence.]

In the opening chapter of Rhetorical Questions, Edwin Black attends to the relationship between his most recent book and the path breaking Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in...

(The entire section is 7211 words.)

Robert A. Fanuzzi (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Fanuzzi, Robert A. “‘The Organ of an Individual’: William Lloyd Garrison and the Liberator.Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 23 (1998): 107-27.

[In the following essay, Fanuzzi regards the tension between sentiments expressed by Garrison in his newspaper the Liberator and his self-portrayal as a disinterested public advocate who favored abolitionism and other social reforms in nineteenth-century America.]

The political agenda of William Lloyd Garrison and his adherents within the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society (MASS) can be reconstructed with the rhetoric and practices of print culture, starting with its assumption...

(The entire section is 9381 words.)

Paul Goodman (essay date 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Goodman, Paul. “The Assault on Racial Prejudice, 1831-1837.” In Of One Blood: Abolitionism and the Origins of Racial Equality, pp. 54-64. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Goodman centers on Garrison's Thoughts on African Colonization as among the reformer's most critical efforts to educate the American public about race, promote absolute racial equality, and denounce the nineteenth-century movement in favor of black American colonization of Africa.]

In June 1831, full of optimism, William Lloyd Garrison made a tour of urban black communities, including New York City and Philadelphia, to speak directly with...

(The entire section is 4741 words.)

Christopher Castiglia (essay date spring 2002)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Castiglia, Christopher. “Abolition's Racial Interiors and the Making of White Civic Depth.” American Literary History 14, no. 1 (spring 2002): 32-59.

[In the following essay, Castiglia explores the dynamics of American social reformist discourse as mediated through a scheme of white sympathy and virtuous black suffering, using Garrison's writing and speeches as principal sources.]

How social order became understood in relation to the description and reform of specific types of citizens' interiority (their “natures” or “characters,” emanations of the “deep” self) is a topic central to understanding how social reform affected public opinion in the...

(The entire section is 9664 words.)