WHITTIER, JOHN GREENLEAF ( 17 December 1807, Haverhill, MA--7 September 1892, Hampton Falls, NH). Education: Haverhill Academy, 1827- 28; LL.D., Harvard, 1881. Career: Journalist; poet; editor : American Manu- facturer, Haverhill Gazette, New England Review, 1829-32; Pennsylvania Freeman, 1838-40; Middlesex Standard, 1844-45; National Era, 1847-60; member, MA legislature, 1835.
John Greenleaf Whittier became the most famous nineteenth-century American Quaker, respected by Orthodox and Hicksites who rejoiced in his celebrity as an advocate of morality and inward spirituality. Whittier was the child of a poor family of Quaker farmers of Haverhill, Massachusetts. At home he immersed himself in the Bible, living the stories of the Old and New Testament in his imagination and absorbing the Bible's language and cadences. He also learned of New England's history and legends and the stories of the early Quaker martyrs. At age fourteen Whittier began writing verses. William Lloyd Garrison published Whittier's first poem in 1826 and persuaded the parents to allow their son to gain a quick classical education by spending two terms at Haverhill Academy.
Strongly influenced by Byron, Burns, and Wordsworth, Whittier began producing a large number of poems--more than eighty were published in local newspapers. During the next few years Whittier entered society and edited several new England newspapers. Fascinated with politics, Whittier became a politician and attempted in 1832 to become a candidate for Congress. Although he later served one term in the Massachusetts legislature, Whittier's great political skill came in the back-room negotiations necessary for success.
In 1833 Whittier set aside his chances for a career in politics by publishing his tract directed at obtaining the immediate and unconditional emancipation of slaves. For the next twelve years Whittier became an effective propagandist for antislavery--writing poems and essays, speaking, and editing leading abolitionist