Whittier, John

Poet and Abolitionist


John Greenleaf Whittier was born on December 17, 1807, near Haverhill, Massachusetts. Although, he had little schooling as a child, he read avidly, and quickly developed an interest in poetry. In 1826, his first poem, "The Exiles Departure," was published in the Newburyport Free Press, edited by William Lloyd Garrison.

Then during 1827-28, Whittier attended Haverhill Academy and continued to write poetry. However, in 1829, he turned to journalism, and between 1830 and 1832, edited the New England Weekly Review.

His first book, Legends of New England in Prose and Verse, appeared in 1831, and was followed the next year by Moll Pitcher. Then, in 1833, he made his abolitionist views known in his fiery pamphlet, Justice and Expediency (1833) and in Poems Written during the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States (1837).

From 1840, he was active in the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society; and in 1842, he ran for a seat in the House of Representatives on the Liberal Party ballot. Although against slavery, in 1861 Whittier advocated allowing southern secession rather than resorting to war; and

after the war, he spoke out against harsh revengeful Reconstruction policies.

He continued writing poetry and during the last years of his life became a celebrated figure, in the front rank of American poets. Whittier died in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, on September 7, 1892.