Back to top

William Lloyd Garrison, "Garrisonianism" (American National Biography)

Scholarship

James Brewer Stewart, "Garrison, William Lloyd," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00256.html.

Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, as the political crisis over slavery's westward expansion deepened, Garrison's espousals of northern disunion, nonresistance, woman's rights, and anticlericalism satisfied his own prophetic purity but left him and his supporters largely removed from the political events that were leading to civil war. At the same time, the term "Garrisonianism" also came to embody the most dangerous tendencies in Yankee political culture, not only for slaveholders but for those who valued the Union above all else. On 4 July 1854, when Garrison burned a copy of the U.S. Constitution, his flamboyant gesture only confirmed a generalized fear of New England extremism that had become commonplace in antebellum political culture. Only after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 did Garrison begin to retreat from his nonresistant positions, and only after Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 did he begin to affirm that the Union deserved preserving in the face of southern moves toward secession.
How to Cite This Page: "William Lloyd Garrison, "Garrisonianism" (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19386.