Sonnet to Liberty

Wm. Lloyd Garrison
Boston, Dec. 14, 1840

In 19th century America, the poetry section of the newspaper was a good place to go for a fight. At that time, poems could be found in a wide variety of venues, from magazines and books to street-corner pamphlets and signboards, and they covered a great range of subjects, from humor to science to religion. Politics was a favorite topic for poetry published in newspapers, and well-known writers and anonymous amateurs alike would regularly send in verses that took a stand—often a very strong one—on the urgent issues of the day. Some of these poems were carefully crafted and were intended to be lasting works of literary art. Many, however, were blunt instruments, designed to get a point across quickly, efficiently, and memorably.

They tell me, Liberty! that, in thy name,
I may not plead for all the human race;
That some are born to bondage and disgrace,
Some to a heritage of woe and shame,
And some to power supreme, and glorious fame:
With my whole soul, I spurn the doctrine base,
And, as an equal brotherhood, embrace
All people, and for all fair freedom claim!
Know this, O man! whate’er thy earthly fate—
God never made a tyrant, nor a slave:
Woe, then, to those who dare to desecrate
His glorious image!—for to all He gave
Eternal rights, which none may violate;
And by a mighty hand th’ oppressed He yet shall save.

Garrison, William Lloyd. "Sonnet to Liberty - Lyrical Legacy (Library of Congress)." Library of Congress Home. Library of Congress, n.d., Web. 28 Sept. 2013. <>