William Lloyd Garrison: “The Triumph of Mobocracy in Boston”

(1835)

William Lloyd Garrison’s self-described roles were those of agitator, moral censor, prophet, and “universal reformer.” His gifts were his extraordinary skills as an editorial polemicist and his resolve to follow the implications of his religious illuminations wherever they might lead him. In an age of rapidly multiplying editorial voices, Garrison proved to be a master of making himself (as he put it in his First Liberator Editorial) “heard!” In the early 1830s abolitionists and free blacks came under direct attack by white mobs, with mayhem and violence on the rise from Cincinnati to New York. In this climate, Garrison hosted a visit by the English abolitionist George Thompson in Boston in November 1835 in conjunction with the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. Antiabolitionist rioters broke into the meeting, scattering the crowd. In his description of the event, “The Triumph of Mobocracy in Boston,” Garrison calls into question the moral character of his...

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William Lloyd Garrison (Library of Congress)

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