In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS From Disunionism to the Brink of War, 1850-1860. The Letters of William Lloyd Garrison, Volume IV. Edited by Louis Ruchames. (Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1975. Pp. xxv, 737. Index. $35.00.) The fourth volume of the collected papers of William Lloyd Garrison covers a decade (1850-1860) during which the Boston agitator against slavery underwent a gradual but visible change of spirit. The creative period of his reform labors reached a climax in the 1840's. At that time the Garrisonians adopted the slogan "No Union with Slaveholders," repudiated the more moderate church and political factions, and championed other causes with vigor if not much tangible success. To be sure, the old themes reappear in these pages every once in a while. Yet, in view of the atmosphere of political violence and turmoil during the 1850's, Garrison's letters seem tame indeed. In this collection we meet Garrison the Boston gentleman rather than the radical prophet of former days. Growing older may have had something to do with the altered mood. Garrison was approaching late middle age. He no longer enjoyed combat with former allies as once he had. The death of cherished friends like Francis Jackson reminded him of mortality. But more than a sense of aging influenced the abolitionist. The favorable reaction of audiences to his once-shocking doctrines had an impact, too. On a lecture tour in 1856, he delightedly reported that he had "torn down the star-spangled banner, and repudiated the Constitution as a blood-stained instrument, and put down the Union beneath my feet, and criminated almost every religious and political party in the land"—for which performance "I was frequently applauded" (p. 381). Disunionism was no longer the terror of Yankeedom that it had been earlier. In fact, Garrison himself was surprised at the growing acceptability of his views in polite society. In 1858, for instance, at Montpelier, Vermont, he marveled, "We had lawyers, ministers, editors, and judges present," all of whom warmly approved his address (p. 551). Garrison had become a celebrity, a status with its own peculiar chemistry. With listeners who came to gape or cheer and not to hoot, Garrison was bound to make concessions formerly unthinkable . Illustrative of the situation was his dispute in 1859 with Abby Kelley Foster, the veteran radical. She had solicited funds from 80 Republicans to advance both the partisan and abolition causes, but then denounced the donors' alleged antislavery backsliding. Garrison publicly criticized the strategy as tasteless and deceptive. After all, Garrison himself, though still nominally hostile toward political abolitionism, was not the outsider he had once proudly claimed to be. In fact, he had discovered that Republicans attended his rallies; he was on good terms with politicians like Senator Charles Sumner. By 1855 or so, allegiance to disunionism in the intellectual and moral circles to which Garrison belonged was perceived to be no more outrageous and subversive of good order than adherence to Quaker theology or spiritualism. Both persuasions suited the Garrisonian temperament. The reformer, for instance, recommended a medium who was adept at "writing, rapping, tipping, healing, and personating" (p. 421). With such concerns the winsome master of reform enjoyed a special rapport with intellectual ladies of a particular kind. He thrilled them with denunciations of American sin and charmed them with genuine interest in their high-minded views. Among the group of admirers were a librarian of Salem, a philanthropic spinster of Gloucester, and a wealthy matron of Newark, New Jersey, buggy-making capital of America. These and likeminded women may have had severe ideas about practically everything, but they could scarcely be called raging anti-institutional extremists. Tea cakes and radical philosophies were genial companions in the Victorian drawing-rooms of Boston and vicinity. Louis Ruchames, who completed this compilation before his untimely death, was not sufficiently aware of Garrison's transformation , for the headnotes and chapter titles continue to stress familiar national events scarcely mentioned in the private correspondence . The inclusion of public documents when addressed to another individual or group reaches near absurdity in the reprinting of a tractarian letter to Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian hero; it takes...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 80-81
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.