Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Murray, Don, 1917-||Ober, Warren U.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Whittier; John Greenleaf; 1807-1892


This study is an attempt to determine the exact meanings which John Greenleaf Whittier intended in his various uses of the word freedom throughout his anti-slavery poetry, written during the years 1832-1865; it also tries to show the relative importance, to him, of these different meanings. In pursuance of the study particular influences in Whittier's background -- religious, political, and cultural -- are examined. The influences investigated are Quakerism and specifically the thought of the Quaker John Woolman; the writings of Thomas Jefferson, frequently mentioned by Whittier; the career of John Quincy Adams, who worked for freedom of petition in Congress; and New England tradition generally which surrounded Whittier during his formative years. To determine the frequency of use of the word freedom the in the anti-slavery poetry, the study divides the poems into three groups, following divisions visible in Whittier's life. A tabulation is given of the number of times that freedom is used in each of the separate divisions, and the use of freedom in single poems is mentioned. Further, the study is concerned with the use of the words fetter and chain as opposites of freedom, and with the word God because of its frequency of appearance. As various applications of the word freedom are found, definitions are drawn from the context. From this study it is possible to determine how often freedom is used, which of various meanings of freedom Whittier had in mind as he wrote, and where specifically defined uses appear in the divisions of the poet's life. For instance, the word is most frequently used in the first period of his writing, from the beginning up to 1840, when he was most active as an abolitionist; and the meaning most frequently intended, throughout the three periods of his anti-slavery writing, is liberation from the control of another.


Includes bibliographical references.


71 pages




Northern Illinois University

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