At age 21, Whittier got involved with the anti-slavery society. At the time he arranged for Garrison to give a speech at the East Parish Meeting House on Middle Road.
“Whittier liked what he heard and he and Garrison joined forces,” Reusch said. “At one point while he was away his mother sent him a letter saying his Uncle Moses died, his father died, and Mary married and moved away and there were no men left to run the farm, so he returned for three years. He never liked farming. He wanted to be on the road with Garrison to end slavery.”
Whittier sold the homestead in 1836 and bought a four-room house in Amesbury.
“He wanted his mother and his family to be safe and close to the Quaker meeting house and made sure the property had no farm so he could get away with Garrison and keep on with the abolitionist movement,” Reusch said. “Whittier was the first to edit anti-slavery newspapers, which was unheard of in those days. It put him and Garrison in danger all the time.”
Reusch said Whittier and Garrison began their fight against slavery in the 1830s and continued it until the Civil War, about 30 years in all, going from city to city with Garrison giving strong abolitionist speeches.
“Whittier did the anti-slavery newspapers and poems, while Garrison was the public speaker,” Reusch said. “They went everywhere, including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Concord, N.H., where Whittier got into big trouble.”
The abolitionists brought George Thompson of England to this country and in Concord, N.H., he gave a very fiery anti-slavery speech, but it wasn’t appreciated as the mob came after him and Whittier, who was with him, Reusch said.
“They escaped the mob and Whittier had to hide Thompson until he left on a ship to England,” he said. “At that time we had clothing mills along the river that used cheap cotton from down south and it was cheap just as long as they had slaves to do the hard work. The mill owners and workers didn’t want to end slavery as it would have meant the price of cotton would have gone way up.”