They split, and Whittier became editor of The National Era, which many regarded as the foremost anti-slavery publication of its time.
As for the award for Whittier, it follows those of the three earliest awardees of the Yankee Quill who either published or edited newspapers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
To cite them is to better understand this year’s choice of Whittier.
Garrison was the first honored, but the earliest newspaper in what was then Newbury was the Essex Journal and New Hampshire Packet, published by Isaiah Thomas in 1773.
Unschooled, except by way of early exposure to newspapers as a child, Thomas would subsequently publish in Boston, where he was so threatened by the British he was forced to flee to Worcester where he continued his publishing.
Ultimately, he became the major book publisher of his time and created that city’s Athenaeum.
Among the three earliest awardees was Benjamin Edes, the Boston newspaper publisher sought by the British as the co-conspirator of the Boston Tea Party. British Governor Benard would seek his arrest as a publisher of sedition.
Edes was a pre-eminent publisher of a long career, and one of his sons published a newspaper in Newbury in 1806 following the death of his father.
From all accounts, Garrison and Whittier were opposite types of personalities. They dressed differently. Garrison’s style was anything but conservative. Whittier’s was.
Garrison was, by his own assessment, “on fire.”
Whittier’s “fire” would be his anti-slavery poetry.
To read it today is to relive what it was — gripping reality that transports readers to the living hell that would, eventually, be reduced to lingering, heat-bearing ashes by the Civil War.
As for the ending of their relationships, Whittier and Garrison lived long enough to restore their friendship and admiration for what each had contributed.
It is well that the Academy of Journalists has added to that re-bonding with a reward that speaks so eloquently of the history both made.
The award will be presented at the annual dinner meeting of the New England Newspaper and Press Association dinner on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Natick.
Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.