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William Lloyd Garrison

Throughout history, there have been many individuals who have been influential with regard to religious belief.  Many of these people have not been connected with a formal organization or religious institution.  And some have not been ordained as any type of clergy.  Their influence has been based on personal beliefs and dogma that has led them to speak out against certain religious notions that they believe were contrary to the “true” ideology of their religion.  As such, they did not form new churches or congregations, but instead, they simply attempted to convert others to their way of thinking or ideology.  Many of these individuals could be considered as social reformers.  One such individual was William Lloyd Garrison who lived in the nineteenth century and was famous for his views on abolitionism or the end to human slavery.  The purpose of this paper is to explore Garrison life as a prominent religious figure during the 1800s.

William Lloyd Garrison

Garrison was born in the United States in 1805 .  Although he was born much later, his religious thought was greatly influenced by the religious awakening that America experienced in the mid-1700s .  This movement consisted of the notion that there should be “an organization of an army of believers to crush out the forces of sin and false religion”.  There was no excuse for sin, and it was the duty of religious people or the faithful to remove sin from the face of the earth.  These views continued within the New England Baptists throughout the 1800s.  Garrison’s mother, Fanny, was abandoned by her family after joining the Baptists.  His father left the family when Garrison was only three, and thus, he was greatly influenced by his mother’s religious ideology.  Even at a young age, Garrison was noted for his piety and faithfulness in these religious beliefs.  In fact, as a teenager, he considered becoming a missionary.

When he was nine, Garrison was sent to be an apprentice with an individual who was a Quaker.  Well known for their pacifism, the Quaker religion may also have had a tremendous influence on Garrison.  Additionally, he lived in Baltimore where he saw slaves in chains as they were marched to ships.  They were bred for sale by slave owners in Maryland and sold to individuals who were slave owners in other states.  Thus, as a youngster, Garrison “saw the South’s ‘peculiar institution’ at its worst”. His belief in the principles of the Baptist Church and the influence of his mother formed Garrison religious ideology. 

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