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John Greenleaf Whittier (American National Biography)

Scholarship

Randall Cluff, "Whittier, John Greenleaf," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-01765.html.

In 1829 Garrison secured for young Whittier the editorship of the political weekly American Manufacturer in Boston, where he quickly became an earnest and outspoken critic of Democrat Andrew Jackson and a supporter of Whig leader Henry Clay. This position introduced him to the realities of politics and political discourse, where he acquitted himself credibly enough to attract the notice of George D. Prentice, editor of the New England Weekly Review, and Nathaniel Parker Willis. Manifesting early the character of the ardent reformer he would later become, Whittier voiced his approval of the temperance movement, condemned slavery, opposed prison sentences for debt, denounced the excesses of Puritan Calvinism, and expressed support for the Unitarian movement, which shared with Quakerism the tenets of a benevolent God and the intrinsic merit of humankind.

Despondent over the headaches that interrupted his work and his lack of direction in life, Whittier reached a turning point in 1833. Garrison wrote asking him to join the fledgling abolitionist movement. Recognizing the risks—both northern and southern interests opposed abolitionism—he joined, believing such a course to be morally correct and socially necessary. In June 1833 he published the antislavery pamphlet Justice and Expediency and in December was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He would later regard his signing of the Anti-Slavery Declaration of 1833 the most important thing he had done.

How to Cite This Page: "John Greenleaf Whittier (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19450.