Feast of William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart (December 17)   Leave a comment

slave-market-louisville-ga

Above:  The Old Slave Market, Louisville, Georgia, 1934

Image Source = Library of Congress

Call Number = HABS GA,82-LOUVI,1-

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WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON (SR.) (DECEMBER 12, 1805-MAY 24, 1879)

Abolitionist and Feminist

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 MARIA W. MILLER STEWART (1803-DECEMBER 17, 1879)

Abolitionist, Feminist, and Educator

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The General Convention of The Episcopal Church added this commemoration to the calendar of saints, listing these two saints as “prophetic witnesses.”

William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart were daring and prophetic figures who challenged firmly entrenched prejudices and societal sins.  They were radical figures in their day.

Their legacies challenge us to recognize and correct institutionalized and widely accepted societal sins and evils.

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william-lloyd-garrison

Above:  William Lloyd Garrison

Image in the Public Domain

William Lloyd Garrison affirmed human equality before God, whether one be male or female, of one racial or ethnicity or another, or enslaved or free.  One tool he used to influence society was the printing press.  Our saint took a circuitous route to that vocation, however.  Garrison, born on December 12, 1805, at Newburyport, Massachusetts, was a son of parents originally from New Brunswick.  Ahijah Garrison, his father, was a drunk and a ship captain who abandoned the family in 1808.  Garrison grew up impoverished and under the spiritual tutelage of his devout mother, Frances Maria Lloyd (Garrison).  Our saint, as a young man, was an apprentice in several trades:  making shoes, building cabinets, and finally, in 1818, newspaper writing and editing.  From 1818 to 1826 Garrison, starting at the tender age of 12 years, was an apprentice to Ephraim A. Allen, proprietor of the Newburyport Herald.  The young Garrison even wrote for the newspaper anonymously and avoided any suspicion that he was the author.

Garrison’s career as an activist newspaperman had a rocky start.  In 1826 he began to publish the Free Press at Newburyport; the radical (by the standards of the town) publication failed.  Next, in Boston, our saint worked as a printer before become the editor of the National Philanthropist, dedicated to complete abstinence from alcohol.  In 1828 he founded the Journal of the Times at Bennington, Vermont, to promote the re-election campaign of President John Quincy Adams.  The newspaper met the same fate the Adams campaign did.

Thus it came to pass that Garrison left for Baltimore, Maryland, in 1829.  There he and Benjamin Lundy edited the Genius of Universal Emancipation, a monthly publication.  Lundy favored the gradual emancipation of slaves, followed by colonization.  Garrison agreed with him for a time, but changed his mind.  Our saint came to support the immediate emancipation of slaves by peaceful means and the granting of equal rights to them in the United States.  Garrison used the printing press to name evil.  For his trouble he went to jail in 1830 for libeling the captain of a slave ship, or so a court of law concluded.  Garrison spent seven weeks in prison before Arthur Tappan, a merchant and philanthropist from New York City, paid the $50 fine (worth $1330 in 2016) and court costs.  Also in 1830, Garrison and Lundy arrived at an understanding and parted ways amicably.  The newspaper closed.

The Liberator was an influential newspaper  The publication, based in Boston, debuted on January 1, 1831.  The justly famous statement on the front page read:

To the Public

In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing “THE LIBERATOR” in Washington city; but the enterprise, though hailed in different sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the Genius of Universal Emancipation [Benjamin Lundy’s anti-slavery newspaper] to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free states — and particularly in New-England –– than at the south. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birth place of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe — yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let southern oppressors tremble — let their secret abettors tremble — let their northern apologists tremble — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.

Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My consicence in now satisfied.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence, — humble as it is, — is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years — not perniciously, but beneficially — not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard “the fear of man which bringeth a snare,” and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. And here I close with this fresh dedication:

Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face,
And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow;
But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now —
For dread to prouder feelings doth give place
Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace
Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow,
I also kneel — but with far other vow
Do hail thee and thy hord of hirelings base: —
I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins,
Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand,
Thy brutalising sway — till Afric’s chains
Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, —
Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:
Such is the vow I take — SO HELP ME GOD!

In the pages of The Liberator Garrison condemned slavery, tobacco, alcohol, capital punishment, war, freemasonry, and imprisonment for debt.  The newspaper was controversial nationwide.  The State of Georgia issued a warrant for Garrison’s arrest and posted a large cash prize for his capture.  And, in 1835, a mob nearly killed our saint in Boston.  The police had to place him in protective custody.

Garrison’s activism extended to other issues.  He also argued for free trade the equality of men and women.  His proposal that antislavery groups treat men and women equally divided that movement.  Garrison also supported voting rights for women before, during, and after the Civil War.  And, in 1869, he became the President of the Free Trade League.

Garrison, a Unitarian, thought that Christian institutions should work for social justice, such as the abolition of slavery.  Toward that end he worked with Congregationalists and Unitarians.  Nevertheless, he became disenchanted with many Christian institutions, due to their support for slavery or the colonization movement.  His disappointment was justified.

Garrison, the abolitionist who perhaps more than any other abolitionist struggled for human equality across the board, wrote the declaration of principles for the new American Anti-Slavery Society (1833-1870).  He also, citing the enshrinement of slavery in the Constitution of the United States, burned a copy of that document on July 4, 1854, calling the Constitution a “covenant with death.”  (Frederick Douglass, a former slaver, disagreed with Garrison on this point.  A former slave was less radical than an idealistic white man.)  Garrison, a pacifist, also struggled with the questions of war and violence in general.  He came to accept the Civil War as necessary to end race-based slavery in the United States and approved of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the Thirteenth Amendment (1865).  The work of abolition done, Garrison closed The Liberator at the end of 1865.

Garrison married Helen Eliza Benson (1811-1876) on September 4, 1834.  The couple had seven children, including William Lloyd Garrison (Jr.) (1838-1909), like his father, a champion of women’s suffrage and free trade.  The younger Garrison also advocated for the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), which Congress did not repeal until 1943, due to the politics of World War II.

Our saint died at New York, New York, on May 24, 1879.  He was 73 years old.

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maria-stewart

Above:  Maria Stewart

Image in the Public Domain

Maria Stewart, born to the Millers, free blacks, at Hartford, Connecticut, in 1803, advocated for the rights of women and African Americans.  She, orphaned at the age of five years, grew up in the home of a white minister.  She also served as an indentured servant for a few years, until the age of fifteen years.  Maria Miller also taught herself to read.  For three years (1826-1829) our saint was the wife of James W. Stewart, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a shipping outfitter.  After he died, the white executors of his will seized the widow’s inheritance.

Our saint became a public speaker, advocating for the rights of slaves, women, and free blacks, as well as speaking to both men and women at a time when that was not socially acceptable.  Stewart called for slaves to rise up against their masters and for free blacks to resist segregation.  She also cited her faith and the Bible as justifications for her actions.  Our saint, who had converted to Christianity in 1830 and made a public profession of faith the following year, had essays published in The Liberator.  Fortunately, Garrison also violated taboos, such as seeking material from women and African Americans for his newspaper.

Stewart spent many years as an educator.  In 1835 she moved to New York City, where she began to teach.  Eventually she transferred to Brooklyn and became the assistant principal of the Williamsburg School there.   Our saint moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1852/1853, to teach privately.  Finally, in 1861, she relocated to Washington, D.C.  She taught there for nine years.  Furthermore, Stewart began to teach Sabbath School for the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany (in the mornings) and the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation (in the afternoons).

Stewart’s final professional position was Matron of the Freedmen’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.  She worked in that capacity from 1870 until her death, nine years later.  On the side our saint started a Sabbath School near the hospital in 1871.

Stewart died at Washington, D.C., on December 17, 1879.  She was 76 years old.

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The lives of William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart challenge we who look back upon them to recognize the image of God in others–especially the socially marginalized–and to flout social conventions for the sake of the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAWOOD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom:

We thank you for William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart,

who witnessed that all are made in your image and likeness.

Fill us, like them, with the perseverance to break every chain of enslavement,

that, by your Holy Spirit, your people may overcome bondage and ignorance;

through the merits of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who with you

and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016)

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God, in whose service alone is perfect freedom:

We thank you for your prophets William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart,

who testified that we are not made by the color of our skin but by principle formed in our soul.

Fill us, like them, with the hope and determination to break every chain of enslavement,

that bondage and ignorance may melt like wax before flames,

and we may build that community of justice and love which is founded on Jesus Christ our cornerstone;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Wisdom 10:9-14

Psalm 82

1 John 2:28-3:3

Mark 5:25-34

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 125

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