Archive for the ‘Arthur Tappan’ Tag

Feast of Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, Samuel Eli Cornish, and Theodore S. Wright (November 6)   6 comments

Above:  Emancipation, 1865

Image in the Public Domain


ARTHUR TAPPAN (MAY 22, 1786-JULY 23, 1865)

U.S. Congregationalist Businessman and Abolitionist

brother of

LEWIS TAPPAN (1788-1873)

U.S. Congregationalist Businessman and Abolitionist



African-American Presbyterian Minister, Abolitionist, and Journalist



African-American Presbyterian Minister and Abolitionist


One of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to emphasize relationships and influences.  That is a goal I can accomplish in more than one way.  I can, for example, write posts that link into each other.  Sometimes doing so is the option that provides the most clarity in the presentation of material.  I can also write about more than one person in one post.  This post uses both methods.

The Tappan brothers–Arthur and Lewis–were a remarkable team from a remarkable family.  They were sons of Benjamin Tappan (Sr.) and Sarah Homes, and brothers of Benjamin Tappan (Jr.) (1773-1857), a United States Senator from Ohio (1839-1845).  David Tappan (1752-1803), theologian and Hollis Chair at Harvard Divinity School, was an uncle.  Arthur (born in Northampton, Massachusetts, on May 22, 1786) and Lewis (born in Northampton in 1788) worked in the family business (a dry goods store) before blazing their own paths, mostly together.  The family was Congregationalist.  Lewis, as a young man, converted to Unitarianism, but Arthur persuaded him to return to Trinitarian faith in 1827.

Arthur and Lewis were longtime business partners.  In 1826, in New York City, they opened a silk importing business that became a victim of the Panic of 1837.  In 1827 the brothers founded The Journal of Commerce with Samuel Morse (1791-1872), the inventor of the Morse Code.  The Journal of Commerce functioned as a platform for frequently controversial social advocacy, such as appeals on behalf of the Amistad slaves in 1839-1841.  After the demise of the silk importing firm, the Tappan brothers opened the Mercantile Agency, the first commercial credit rating service, in 1840.

The Tappan brothers understood that the true value of money was what one did with it.  They used money to work for social reform and to sponsor African-American divinity students, for example.  In 1833 the brothers helped to found the American Anti-Slavery Society with William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Weld, et al.  Lewis had formerly favored emancipating the slaves then shipping all of them to overseas colonies, but had decided that the colonization movement was deficient.  Also in 1833, Arthur and Lewis helped to found Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, a school open to students regardless of race and gender.  In some ways the Tappan brothers were radical, according to the standards of their time; they favored racial mixing as a solution to racism.

Although the Tappan brothers were somewhat progressive, according to the standards of their time, regarding gender roles, they were conservative, according to the standards of their time, on the issue of women in leadership roles.  Arthur, President of the American Anti-Slavery Society from 1833 to 1840, left that organization in part over the insistence of William Lloyd Garrison, who linked the rights of African Americans to the rights of women, that women fill leadership roles.  The schism of 1840 resulted from a set of issues, including gender roles.  Other issues were institutional hostility to religion, as well as the desire of many abolitionists to focus narrowly on the abolition of slavery.  The Tappan brothers were two of the founders of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1840.

Samuel Eli Cornish and Theodore Sedgwick Wright also helped to found the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society seven years later.

Cornish was a minister and a journalist.  He, born free in Sussex County, Delaware, in 1795, studied at the Free African School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His mentor was John Gloucester (1776-1822), the first African-American Presbyterian minister and the pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.  Cornish, licensed to preach in 1819, assisted Gloucester and worked as a missionary to slaves on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before he moved to New York City in 1821.  There he organized the New Demeter Presbyterian Church (later the First Colored Presbyterian Church), the first African-American Presbyterian congregation in the city and the second in the nation-state.  Cornish, ordained in 1822, led that congregation until 1828.  In 1827 he founded Freedom’s Journal, the first African-American newspaper.  Our saint used his editorial office to advocate for the abolition of slavery, as well as for the improvement of living conditions and educational opportunities for African Americans.  Cornish, editor in 1827 and 1829-1830, changed the name of the newspaper to Rights of All in 1829.  The publication ceased to exist in 1830.  Our saint returned to journalist in 1837, when he founded and began to edit Colored American (extant until 1839), which Arthur Tappan subsidized.

Theodore Sedgwick Wright was a colleague of Cornish.  Wright, born free in New Jersey circa 1797, attended the African Free School in New York City.  He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary (Class of 1829); Arthur Tappan was one of his sponsors.  With Arthur Tappan’s help, Wright became the first African-American man to graduate from a theological seminary in the United States.  Wright followed in Cornish’s footsteps as the pastor of the First Colored Presbyterian Church, New York City, from 1833 to 1847.  Wright also worked as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, of which Cornish was a pioneer.  Both ministers were members of the New York Committee on Vigilance, associated with the Underground Railroad.  Wright, who also worked with James Pennington (1897-1870), an African-American Congregationalist then Presbyterian minister, and an abolitionist, once opposed the use of violence as an antislavery tactic.  In 1843, however, Wright called for slave insurrection.  The slaves were never going to gain by freedom by asking for it politely, after all.

Wright, who married Adeine Turpin in 1837, died in 1847.  He was about 50 years old.

Cornish married Jane Livingston in 1824.  The couple had three children.  Jane (the wife) died in 1844.  Two daughters died at the age of 22 years–Sarah in 1846 and Jane in 1855.  Perhaps William, the son, survived his father.

Cornish remained active until the end of his life.  He, a missionary in New York City, Philadelphia, and Newark, helped Lewis Tappan et al found the American Missionary Society in 1846.  Cornish also founded Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, New York City, that year.  Our saint, an opponent of both the colonization movement and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, moved to Brooklyn in 1855.  There he died, aged about 63 years, on November 6, 1858.

The Tappan brothers lived long enough to see the end of race-based slavery in the United States.  Arthur, aged 79 years, died on July 23, 1865.  Lewis, aged about 85 years, died in 1873.

Had the derogatory and socially and politically regressive term “Social Justice Warrior” existed during the lifetimes of these saints, many would have accused Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, Samuel Eli Cornish, and Theodore Sedgwick Wright of being Social Justice Warriors.  Certainly many would have accused William Lloyd Garrison and members of the Weld-Grimké family of being Social Justice Warriors.  These saints were actually moral giants who got more right than they got wrong, and who left the United States and the world better than they found both.





Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants

Arthur Tappan,

Lewis Tappan,

Samuel Eli Cornish, and

Theodore Sedgwick Wright,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Feast of Theodore Weld, Angelina Grimke Weld, Sarah Grimke, Francis J. Grimke, and Charlotte Grimke (November 4)   4 comments

Above:  A Partial Grimké-Weld Family Tree

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



U.S. Congregationalist then Quaker Abolitionist and Educator

husband of


U.S. Presbyterian then Quaker Abolitionist and Feminist

sister of


U.S. Episcopalian then Quaker Abolitionist and Feminist

aunt of


African-American Presbyterian Minister and Civil Rights Activist

husband of


African-American Abolitionist and Educator


Lawless ruffians may keep the Negro away from the polls by shotguns; and by unrighteous laws and intimidation may shut him out of first-class cars, but there is no power by which all the combined forces of evil in the South can keep him from approaching the throne of grace.  Here is one thing, thank God, that this Negro-hating spirit cannot do,–it cannot prevent him from praying.

–Francis James Grimké, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (New York:  Church Publishing, 2006), 349


The Weld-Grimkés, a remarkable family, did much for the cause of social justice.


Theodore Dwight Weld, born in Hampton, Connecticut, on November 23, 1803, was an abolitionist and an educator.  He, raised a Congregationalist, studied at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, from 1820 to 1822.  He had to leave the school because of bad eyesight, however.  Our saint, a son of Elizabeth Clark (Weld) and the Reverend Ludovicus Weld, came from a socially conscious family.  Brother Ezra Greenleaf Weld (1801-1874), a daguerreotype photographer by profession, was also an abolitionist.  Young Theodore traveled in the United States for several years after leaving Phillips Academy; he witnessed slavery in the South.  In 1825 he moved with his family to Pompey, in upstate New York.

Weld became an abolitionist.  This transformation occurred during his time as a student at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.  Influential figures in our saint’s life included William Wilberforce (a British politician largely responsible for the abolition of slavery in that empire) and Charles Finney (1792-1875), a prominent American evangelist and abolitionist, who, unfortunately, considered the bulk of the classics of English literature, from William Shakespeare to Sir Walter Scott, blasphemous.  After Hamilton College young Theodore left for Oneida, New York, and for the Oneida Manual Labor Institute, specifically.  In 1831 brothers Arthur Tappan (1786-1865) and Lewis Tappan (1788-1873), businessmen, abolitionists, and socially conscious philanthropists, hired our saint as an agent for the Society for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions.  In that capacity he traveled widely and spoke regarding manual labor and moral reform.

Later, as a student at Lane Theological Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, Weld continued his abolitionist activism.  He led the “Lane Rebels,” a group of pupils who openly discussed the abolition of slavery and helped to liberate 1,500 slaves in that city.  In 1834, when the trustees of the seminary imposed a gag rule regarding slavery, Weld and the bulk of the student body transferred to the Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.  Our saint left Oberlin College later that year, however, and became an agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society, founded the previous year.  People he converted to the cause included Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) and Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887).  Weld lectured until 1836.  That year he shifted his focus to writing.  Weld edited The Emancipator until 1840.  In 1836 he also met Angelina Emily Grimké, whom he married two years later.


Sarah Moore Grimké and Angelina Emily Grimké were two of the most remarkable women of the nineteenth century.  They, born in Charleston, South Carolina, came from a large, prominent, and wealthy family.  The Grimkés, of Huguenot ancestry, belonged to the planter class; they owned slaves.  The father, John Grimké (1752-1819), held various statewide political offices.  The mother, Mary Smith (Grimké), guided the daughters’ educations according to gender norms, meaning a narrower curriculum for young women.  Sarah, born in 1792, manifested her revolutionary tendencies starting in childhood; she, in violation of state law, taught slaves to read.  Angelina, also rebellious, refused confirmation in The Episcopal Church when, at the age of 13 years, she refused to recite the creed.  She became a Presbyterian eight years later.

Sarah left The Episcopal Church and converted to Quakerism.  In 1819 she accompanied her dying father to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to consult Dr. Philip Syng Physick (1768-1837), “the Father of American Surgery.”  She remained in the City of Brotherly Love for several months after the father died.  During that sojourn Sarah became a Quaker.  She returned to Charleston briefly before going back to Philadelphia.

Angelina was a devout Presbyterian for a few years.  She taught Sunday School at her church and offered worship services for the family’s slaves.  Our saint also opposed the Peculiar Institution of the South.  Chattel slavery was, she insisted, contrary to Biblical ethics and human rights.  Angelina’s open abolitionism led to her expulsion from her congregation in 1829.  She, already under the influence to join Sarah in Philadelphia and become a Quaker, did so.

The Grimké sisters were radical, even relative to the standards of other radicals of their time.  The sisters, suffragettes who sought gender equality in the Religious Society of Friends, where they should have found it, given the doctrine of the Inner Light, were too revolutionary for the leaders of the Orthodox Quakers in Philadelphia.  When the sisters addressed audiences of men and women, Angelina and Sarah violated deeply held social mores and gender norms.  When the sisters criticized Northern allies of Southern slaveholders and of slavery in general, Angelina and Sarah offended many.  When the sisters addressed the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1838, they linked the rights to women to the rights of African Americans.  In so doing, the sisters contributed to a controversy that divided the abolitionist movement.

Angelina and Sarah wrote against slavery, too.  Angelina wrote for The Liberator, founded and edited by fellow abolitionist and feminist William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879).  One of her major works was “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South” (1836.  Another important work was Letters to Catharine Beecher (1838).  Catharine Esther Beecher (1800-1878), sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1812-1896), was an educator who pioneered kindergarten in the United States.  Catharine Beecher. despite her progressiveness vis-à-vis early childhood education, was conservative in other ways.  She, for example, opposed the participation of women in the abolitionist movement, for she accepted female subordination to males.  Angelina disagreed strongly.  Sarah’s works included the Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States (1836) and Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (1838).


The Grimké sisters met Theodore Weld in 1836.  Sarah and Angelina were in New York City for a training conference for antislavery agents.  Weld married Angelina and converted to Quakerism in 1838.  The couple and Sarah moved to a farm in Bellville, New Jersey, and became a team.  All three published American Slavery As It Is:  Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses (1839), a work that influenced Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852).

Angelina and Theodore had three children:  Charles Stuart Weld, Theodore Grimké Weld, and Sarah Grimké Weld.

Theodore continued his abolitionist activities until about 1844.  He helped to found the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1840, became active with the Liberty Party, and advised the antislavery wing of the Whig Party.  He also helped Representative (and former President of the United States) John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) resist the antislavery gag rule (1836-1844) in effect in Congress.

Theodore, Angelina, and Sarah devoted much of their lives to education.  Theodore and Angelina opened to schools–one in Eagleswood, Perth Amboy, New York (1854), and the other in their new home, Hyde Park, Boston, Massachusetts (1864).  These schools were open to students regardless of race or gender.

When ill health forced Angelina into domestic life, Sarah served as her primary caregiver.


Henry Grimké (1801-1852), a brother of Angelina and Sarah, had two families.  After his wife, Selina Simmons (Grimké) died in 1843, Henry started a second family with slave Nancy Weston (1810-1895), who was, in all ways except the legal one, his second wife.  They had three children:  Archibald Henry Grimké (1849-1930), John Grimké (1852-1918), and Francis James Grimké (1852-1937).  Henry’s dying instruction to his son and heir, E. Montague Grimké (1832-1896), was to treat Nancy, Archibald, John, and Francis like family.  Montague did the opposite.  In 1860 he claimed them as slaves–his property.  He never provided sufficient financial support for them, but he did sell Francis.  Archibald had to hide from his half-brother during the Civil War.  After the war, the three brothers studied in schools the Freedmen’s Bureau operated.

Theodore, Angelina, and Sarah learned of the existence of the African-American cousins in the late 1860s.  The Weld-Grimkés recognized their newly found relatives and offered education to the three sons, their nephews.  Archibald and Francis accepted; they graduated from Lincoln University in 1870 then continued their educations.  John, however, remained in Charleston with his mother.

Archibald eventually became an attorney, diplomat, journalist, and intellectual.  In 1909 he and brother Francis helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.).  Archibald’s daughter, Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958), became an educator, a playwright, a journalist, and a figure of the Harlem Renaissance.


Sarah died on December 23, 1873.  She was 81 years old.

Angelina died on October 26, 1879.  She was 74 years old.

Theodore died on February 3, 1895.  He was 91 years old.


Francis James Grimké graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1878 and became a Presbyterian minister.  That year he also married Charlotte Louise Bridges Forten.

Charlotte Forten was one of the great women of history.  She, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 17, 1837, came from a prominent African-American family involved in the abolitionist movement.  Her parents were Robert Forten and Virginia Wood (Forten).  Our saint, educated in Salem, Massachusetts, joined the female Anti-Slavery Society there.  She spoke in public and met famous abolitionists, such as William Lloyd Garrison.  Charlotte made history in 1856; she became the first African-American hired to teach white pupils in Salem’s public schools.  She returned to Philadelphia two years later.  While there, Garrison published some of her poetry in The Liberator.  Charlotte taught freedmen on St. Helena’s Island, South Carolina, as part of the Port Royal Experiment, during the Civil War.  After the war she worked for the U.S. Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C.  After 1873, she was a clerk, until she married Francis.  Their only child, Theodora Cornelia Grimké, lived for about five months in 1880.

Francis was the pastor of two congregations.  He spent 1886-1889 at Laura Street Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville, Florida, a tenure preceded and succeeded at Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C.  He, minister there for more than half a century, retired in 1928.  Charlotte worked in her husband’s churches.

Francis was also active beyond the parish level.  He worked with Alexander Crummell (1819-1898), with whom he helped to found the American Negro Academy in 1897.  Francis also opposed Booker T. Washington‘s gradualist approach to ending segregation, sought to end lynching, advocated for African Americans’ full suffrage, and worked for educational equality of access for African Americans.

Charlotte died on July 23, 1914.  She was 78 years old.

Francis brought his widowed brother, Archibald, and his niece, Angelina, into his household.  Angelina and her uncle were caregivers to Archibald, who died in 1930.

Francis died in Washington, D.C., on October 11, 1937.  He was 85 years old.








Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants

Theodore Dwight Weld,

Angelina Grimké Weld,

Sarah Moore Grimké,

Francis James Grimké, and

Charlotte Louise Bridges Forten Grimké,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Feast of William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Stewart (December 12)   12 comments


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

Image Source = Library of Congress

Call Number = HABS GA,82-LOUVI,1-



Abolitionist and Feminist



Abolitionist, Feminist, and Educator


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.



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.



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.


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.





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)


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