John Greenleaf Whittier was a famous American Quaker poet who strongly wanted slavery to end. He was born on a farm into a Quaker family. He didn’t learn much in school. The Newburyport Free Press printed his poem “The Exile’s Departure.” William Garrison, the paper’s editor, became his friend and a partner in the fight to end slavery. He went on to be the editor of newspapers in Boston and Haverhill, as well as the most important Whig newspaper in New England, the New England Weekly Review in Hartford, Connecticut. He kept writing poems, sketches, and stories. His first book of poems, called “Legends of New England,” was published. His fiery antislavery pamphlet, “Justice and Expediency,” made him a well-known activist in the abolition movement, and for a decade, he was probably its most influential writer. He was in the Massachusetts legislature for a while and spoke at events against slavery. His other poems include “Voice of Freedom,” “Maud Muller,” “The Brewing of Soma,” which has the hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind,” which he wrote the words for, and “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll.” His poetry is often filled with sentimentality and bad technique, but his best poems are still read for their moral beauty and simple feelings, and they are seen as an important voice of his time.
Early years and childhood
Whittier was born on December 17, 1807, at the homestead of his parents, John and Abigail, in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He grew up with his parents, a brother, two sisters, an aunt, and an uncle from his father’s side.
He only had enough money to get by, and he didn’t go to school much. He was a big reader, so he read his father’s six books about Quakerism and how it focuses on being kind and taking care of others.
A teacher got him interested in poetry. Without his permission, his sister sent his first poem, “The Exile’s Departure,” to the Newburyport Free Press, where it was published in 1826.
Garrison told Whittier that he should go to school at the Haverhill Academy. He got money by making shoes and teaching. From 1827 to 1828, he went to Haverhill Academy and finished high school in just two terms.
John Greenleaf’s Career
Garrison gave Whittier a new job as editor of the Boston-based weekly American Manufacturer. He was very critical of President Andrew Jackson, and by 1830, he was the editor of the influential Whig newspaper New England Weekly Review in Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1832, he wrote a 900-line poem called “Moll Pitcher” about her. Moll Pitcher was a clairvoyant and fortune-teller from Massachusetts, just like the poet. Whittier said in the poem that Moll Pitcher was a witch who did bad things.
In 1833, he published “The Song of the Vermonters” in The New England Magazine without saying who he was.
Because the last stanza sounds a lot like Ethan Allen’s writing, many people thought the whole thing was written by Allen.
He became interested in politics, but when he lost an election for Congress, he went back home. Whittier’s life changed in 1833. He started writing to Garrison and joined his mentor’s fight against slavery.
Whittier went to Philadelphia to take part in the first meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Convention. In 1833, he wrote a pamphlet called “Justice and Expediency.” In it, he called for the immediate and complete freedom of all slaves. This is thought to be his most important contribution.
Between 1835 and 1838, he did a lot of traveling in the North. He went to conventions, won votes, spoke to the public, and talked to politicians. During his work, Whittier was often surrounded by people and stoned.
From 1838 to 1840, he was the editor of one of the most important antislavery papers, The Pennsylvania Freeman, which was based in Philadelphia. A group of people who supported slavery burned down the publication’s new office at Pennsylvania Hall.
He thought that in order for the movement to end slavery, laws had to change. In 1839, he was one of the first people to join the Liberty Party. However, he never made it to Congress.
Even though Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were strongly against slavery, he couldn’t get them to join the Liberty Party because they didn’t want to talk about it in public.
In 1845, he started writing “The Black Man,” an essay that told a story about a free black man named John Fountain who was jailed in Virginia for helping slaves escape.
Whittier went back to Amesbury because of the stress of his job as an editor, his health getting worse, and dangerous mob violence. He lived there for the rest of his life, which was the end of his work to end slavery.
He could have written better poetry against slavery at home. In his poems, slavery was often used as a metaphor for all kinds of oppression (physical, spiritual, and economic), which made people feel good.
He wrote two books of poetry that were against slavery. They were called “Voices of Freedom” and “Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States, between 1830 and 1838.” (1846).
In his poem “At Port Royal 1861,” he talks about the Northern abolitionists who came to Port Royal, South Carolina, as teachers and missionaries for the slaves whose owners had to leave because the Union Navy was going to blockade the area.
The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery when it was passed in 1865. After he reached one of his main goals in life, Whittier spent the rest of his life writing other kinds of poetry.
Works of note
He was a passionate supporter of ending slavery, and he used poetry to spread his message. His hard work paid off when the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery, was passed in 1865.
When it came out in 1866, “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll” made a lot of money. It takes place in his homestead in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and tells the story of a rural family who is stuck inside because of a snowstorm and tells stories to each other.
Personal History and Legacies
Elizabeth Lloyd Howell, a Quaker poet and abolitionist, and Whittier were close friends, and he thought about marrying her. But in 1859, he decided not to. He never got married and didn’t have any kids.
He died at the age of 84 on September 7, 1892.
The John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead is now a place where people can go to learn about its history. The house he lived in for the last 56 years, in Amesbury, is also open to the public.
Estimated Net worth
John is one of the wealthiest poets and is on the list of the most famous poets. Based on what we found on Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, John Greenleaf Whittier has a net worth of about $4 million.
“When faith is lost, when honor dies, the man is dead,” was written by a Quaker poet and abolitionist.