They decided to continue the Baltimore newspaper. Garrison’s plain-spokenness, however, soon got him into trouble in that city. He was prosecuted for libelling a shipmaster for transporting slaves, was convicted and fined fifty dollars. The amount, so far as his ability to pay was involved, might as well have been a million. He went to prison, being incarcerated in a cell just vacated by a man who had been hanged for murder, and there he remained for seven weeks. At the end of that time Arthur Tappan, the big-hearted merchant of New York, learning the facts of the case, advanced the money needed to set Garrison free.
Undeterred by his experience as a martyr, Garrison—who had returned to Boston—resolved to establish a journal of his own in that city, which was to be devoted to the cause of the slave. The Liberator appeared on the 1st of January, 1831.
In entering upon this venture, Garrison had not a subscriber nor a dollar of money. Being a printer, he set up the type and struck off the first issue with his own hands.
In the initial number the proprietor of the Liberator outlined his proposed policy in these words: “I will be as harsh as truth; as uncompromising as justice. I am in earnest. I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard.”
The first issue of the paper brought in a contribution of fifty dollars from a colored man and twenty-five subscribers. It was not, therefore, a failure, but its continuance involved a terrible strain. Garrison and one co-worker occupied one room for work-shop, dining-room, and bedroom. They cooked their own meals and slept upon the floor. It was almost literally true, as pictured by Lowell, the poet:
“In a small chamber,
friendless and unseen,
Toiled o’er his types one poor unlearned young man.
The place was dark, unfurnitured and mean,
Yet there the freedom of a race began.”
The effects produced by Garrison’s unique production were simply wonderful. In October of its first year the Vigilance Association of South Carolina offered a reward of fifteen hundred dollars for the apprehension and prosecution to conviction of any white person who might be detected in distributing or circulating the Liberator. Georgia went farther than that. Less than a year after Garrison had established his paper, the Legislature of that State passed an act offering a reward of five thousand dollars to whomsoever should arrest, bring to trial, and prosecute its publisher to conviction. The Liberator was excluded from the United States mails in all the slave States, illegal as such a proceeding was.
There was, however, opposition nearer home. The Liberator establishment was wrecked by a mob, and Garrison, after having been stripped of nearly all his clothing, was dragged, bareheaded, by a rope round his body through the streets of Boston until, to save his life, the authorities thrust him into jail.