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William Lloyd Garrison

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by gem, Aug 11, 2013.

  1. gem

    gem First Sergeant

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    "... Assenting to the "self-evident truth" maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights -- among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popluar but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My consicence in now satisfied. 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 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 hand 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. ..." -William Lloyd Garrison

    Discuss the effect of William Lloyd Garrison's call for the immediate abolition of slavery in the 1830s?
     

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  3. TinCan

    TinCan 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    My guess would be that in the 1830's Garrison's call for emancipation of the slaves was closly akin to shouting into the teeth of a hurricane and trying to make yourself heard.
     
  4. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Lt. Colonel Retired Moderator

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    This was a very important turning-point in the anti-slavery movement. Up until this time, the consensus of anti-slavery thought was that slavery was wrong, but that African Americans would be unable to live side-by-side with white Americans in any large numbers. Therefore slavery had to continue until a way was found to disperse the freed slaves. The preferred method at that time was through colonization - either back to Africa or to the Carribean. But this of course would be a lengthy process at best, which means that slavery wouldn't be ending any time soon.

    In the late 1820s this notion began to be discredited. Anti-slavery people were beginning to believe that colonization, rather than being a means to ending slavery, was in fact a way to perpetuate slavery. It promoted the idea that blacks and whites couldn't live side by side in peace and harmony, and it encouraged delay in emancipation. Furthermore, there was a growing belief that slavery wasn't just wrong, it was a "sin". And thus abolitionism came on the scene as an alternative to colonization.

    Garrison definitely played an important role in making the issue of immediate emancipation a national issue. But it's important to note that the idea did not start with him. It had already been gaining traction when Garrison himself converted. (And one problem with Garrison, is that the minute he converted to immediatism, he began to viciously denounce the gradualists and colonizationists, even though he had just converted from being a gradualist and a colonizationist himself.)

    It's also important to note that when the abolitionists called for immediate emancipation, they were not talking about government action to end slavery. At that time, abolitionists were opposed to government intervention in the issue. Instead they believed in "moral suasion" - that by convincing the slaveholders that slavery was a sin, they would willingly emancipate their slaves immediately. It was a very naive notion and almost inconceivable to us today, but this came at the tail end of the Second Great Awakening - a time when there was a strong belief in revivalism and perfectionism and utopianism.

    One of the earliest abolitionists was the Reverend John Rankin. He had been born and raised in Tennessee, but eventually had to leave for Kentucky, and then Ohio, because his abolitionist beliefs made him unpopular in the South. In the mid-1820s he wrote a series of letters to his slaveholding brother, using moral suasion to try to get him to emancipate his slaves. These letters were published and distributed nationwide, and became one of the main inspirations for Garrison. (Garrison would even call Rankin "my anti-slavery father".)
     
    John Hartwell and gem like this.
  5. bdietzler73

    bdietzler73 Sergeant

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    I think that during this time Garrison was running up against a brick wall in the anti-slavery movement. At this time, it was still somewhat unpopular to be an abolitionist although the movement was gaining momentum. Only later would the movement strike a deep enough chord in American society to make a difference. Garrison had it right but he was still a little ways away from making a big enough difference.
     

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