(Following book review first appeared in the November 9, 1994 issue of the Lower East Side alternative weekly, Downtown. See below for part 1.)
The son of a sailing master, Garrison was born in 1805. In 1808, however, his father, Abijah Garrison, deserted Garrison’s family and his mother, Frances Lloyd Garrison, was compelled to work as a domestic while Garrison was sometimes sent out to beg on the streets. The local Baptist Church deacon, however, later arranged for the Newburyport Herald semi-weekly newspaper publisher to take the 10-year-old Garrison on as a printer’s apprentice for seven years; and it was there that Garrison learned the technical skills required to later put out the Liberator and became acquainted with the world of books and ideas. During his long apprenticeship, however, Garrison continued to spend his spare time in the church, not in the saloon, and Nye notes that “perhaps the only trait that set young Garrison apart from his fellow apprentices was his piety.”
At the age of 17, Garrison started writing essays, under a pen name, for the Newburyport Herald, where he continued to work after his apprenticeship. During the five years between the time Garrison stopped working for the Newburyport Herald and the time he started editing and publishing the Liberator, Garrison borrowed money from the Newburyport Herald and attempted to publish his own newspaper, moved to Boston in 1827 to work as a printer when this first publishing venture failed, and also edited a number of reform publications.
But Nye notes that the turning point in Garrison’s life came in March 1828, when the then-23-year-old printer-editor met Benjamin Lundy, the antislavery reformer, who took rooms for a few nights at the same Collier’s boarding house in Boston in which Garrison lived. As a result of his acquaintance with Lundy, Garrison became more deeply involved in the abolitionist cause and made the initial contacts which enabled him to fund the first issue of the Liberator, which began publication on Jan. 1, 1831. (end of part 2)