William Lloyd Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on December 12, 1805. Raised in a poor family, he became a printer's apprentice at 13. By 17, he was an editorial contributor to the paper. In 1827, he edited the National Philanthropist, a journal in Boston.
The following year, he met Benjamin Lundy, who inspired him with antislavery sentiments. As editor of a paper in Bennington, Vermont, which he was editing that year, Garrison advocated gradual emancipation of slaves. His views changed quickly and after going to Baltimore to edit Lundy's Genius of Universal Emancipation, took an attitude towards slave traders that landed him in court, charged and convicted for libel. He spent seven weeks in jail.
Garrison moved to Boston and on January 1, 1831, published the first issue of The Liberator. Calling for the immediate emancipation of all slaves and their integration into American society, Garrison was not widely supported even in the North. In the South, where Garrison's perceived support for Nat Turner's rebellion made him generally loathed, laws were passed that made circulation of The Liberator a crime.
As sentiment against slavery grew in the North, so did the political ambitions of many abolitionists, but Garrison held himself apart, denouncing even the U.S. Constitution as being proslavery. In 1854, he burned a copy of the constitution at Framingham, Massachusetts, on Independence Day.
During the decades leading up to the Civil War, Garrison's lieutenant during was Wendell Phillips. Phillips' skill as an orator was a great asset to the abolitionists. Garrison accepted the Civil War as a necessity and at its conclusion, discontinued the publication of The Liberator after 35 years without missing an issue. He also advocated the dissolution of the American Anti-Slavery, which ended his relationship with Phillips, who continued the organization for five more years after the war. William Lloyd Garrison died on May 24, 1879, in New York City.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by William Lloyd Garrison.
Regarding The Liberator
I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- and I will be heard.
Statement in the first issue of The Liberator in 1831.
Regarding United States Constitution
The compact which exists between the North and the South is a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.
A resolution adopted by the Anti-Slavery Society on January 27, 1843
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.
William Lloyd Garrison, 1805-1879: The Story of His Life Told by His Children (1885)