James Gillespie Birney (American National Biography)

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Betty Fladeland, "Birney, James Gillespie," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00061.html.
In 1842 Birney ran on an antislavery ticket for the governorship of Michigan. Just prior to the 1844 presidential election, in which he was again the Liberty party candidate, he was on a speaking tour in the East when a letter purporting to be written by him was published, which "proved" him to be a secret Democrat. This "Garland Forgery," named for Jerome B. Garland of Michigan, the purported author of the letter, was later attributed to the Whigs, and may or may not have cost him votes. His vote total, though considerably higher than in 1840, was still only 2 percent of the national popular vote. His political career was ended and his antislavery activities were severely curtailed the following year when a horse-riding accident left him partially paralyzed. Nevertheless, he continued writing on political and constitutional issues regarding slavery….

As a former slaveholder Birney spoke with the voice of authority on race and slavery; as a lawyer he spoke as a moderate on constitutional issues. For him politics was a means to an end, never an end in itself. He died realizing that moderation on the race issue would not prevail but that civil war would tear the nation apart before emancipation could be proclaimed.
How to Cite This Page: "James Gillespie Birney (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/23870.