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Elijah Parish Lovejoy ~1802~1837
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Elijah Parish Lovejoy
(November 9, 1802 %u2013 November 7, 1837), the son of Daniel Lovejoy, a Congregational minister, was an American minister and journalist who was murdered for his abolitionist views. His brother was reverend and congressman Owen Lovejoy.
Born in Albion, Maine, Elijah joined the Army at the age of 19 because he was lacking money. He served under the French-American General Girin. Girin developed close ties to Lovejoy, and introduced him to Abraham Lincoln, with whom Lovejoy would later develop a close friendship.
Lovejoy later graduated from Colby College in 1834. He then studied at the Princeton Theological Seminary and in 1834 was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church, his father and his brother Owen were Congregationalist Ministers.
Elijah then joined the staff of the St. Louis Observer. Afterwards, due to increased hostilities between State's rights partisans (who were incensed over the issue of slavery) and abolitionists, Lovejoy left Missouri, crossing the Missouri River and Mississippi River, and became the editor of the abolitionist paper the Alton Observer of Alton, Illinois.
Lovejoy's printing press had been seized by states-rights/pro-slavery factions and thrown into the river on three different occasions. He received another printing press from the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society (or possibly the Anti-Slavery Society of Illinois%u2014records conflict). When local pro-slavery elements heard about the arrival of the new printing press, they decided to destroy it.
Elijah Lovejoy letter to his brother, Joseph Lovejoy
Antislavery Broadside of 1837:
In the fall of 1996, the Illinois State Historical Library purchased the only extant copy of a handbill calling for an Illinois antislavery convention. The broadside, pictured above, announced the September 27, 1837, meeting of the state abolitionist group. Because it was signed by Elijah Lovejoy and undersigned by 245 persons from seventeen communities in ten counties of Illinois, the document represents the earliest comprehensive list of abolitionists in the state. Equally important is the fact that Elijah Lovejoy printed it in Alton shortly before his death at the hands of the anti-aboltionist mob in November of 1837.
His Untimely Death
On November, 1837, pro-slavery partisans congregated and approached Gilman's warehouse, where the printing press had been hidden. According to the Alton Observer, shots were then fired by the pro-slavery advocates, and musket balls whizzed through the windows of the warehouse, narrowly missing the defenders inside. Lovejoy and his men returned fire. Several people in the crowd were hit, and one was killed.
As some people began to demand the warehouse be set on fire, leaders of the mob called for a ladder, which was put up on the side of the warehouse. A boy with a torch was sent up to set fire to the wooden roof. Lovejoy and one of his supporters, Royal Weller, volunteered to stop the boy. The two men crept outside, hiding in the shadows of the building. Surprising the pro-slavery partisans, Lovejoy and Weller rushed to the ladder, pushed it over and quickly retreated inside.
Once again a ladder was put in place. As Lovejoy and Weller made another attempt to overturn the ladder, they were spotted. Lovejoy was shot with a shotgun loaded with slugs and was hit five times; Weller was also wounded. Suffering the same fate of its predecessors, the new printing press was destroyed%u2014it was carried to a window and thrown out onto the riverbank. The printing press was then broken into pieces that were scattered all over in the river.
Afterwards, Lovejoy was considered a martyr by the abolition movement, and in his name, his brother Owen Lovejoy became the leader of the Illinois abolitionists. His murder was a sign of the increasing tension within the country leading up to the Civil War, and it is for this reason that he is considered by some to be the "first casualty of the Civil War", though he technically was not.
Elijah Lovejoy is buried in Alton Cemetery in Madison County, Illinois. In the late 1890s, local citizens erected a monument to Lovejoy's memory within the cemetery, created by Richard Bock, the celebrated sculptor. The monument commemorates his dual commitment to both freedom and freedom of the press. The memorial mainly consists of a tall column topped by a symbolic figure. The monument overlooks the Mississippi, meaning that visitors who come to see the monument can also see the river into which his presses were thrown.
Lovejoy himself is buried some fifty yards away, beyond the farthest reach of the memorial figure's longest shadow. The monuments of some of his supporters are near the burial site.
The Lovejoy Library at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is named in his honor; it was initially proposed to name the whole university after him. The African American village of Brooklyn, Illinois (popularly known as Lovejoy), located just north of East St. Louis is also named for him. The Albert King album and song "Lovejoy, Illinois" draws its name from the town.
The Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award, given annually by Colby College, Lovejoy's alma mater, honors a member of the newspaper profession who "has contributed to the nation's journalistic achievement." A major classroom building at Colby is also named for Lovejoy. Elijah Lovejoy also has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Elijah Parish Lovejoy
"a Martyr on the Altar of American Liberty"
As reported in the Alton Observer - November 7, 1837
Night had come to the to of Alton, Illinois and a crowd began to gather in the darkness.
Some of the me. stooped to gather stones. Others fingered the triggers of the guns they carried as they made their way to a warehouse n the banks of the Mississippi River.
As they approached, they eyed the windows of the three-story building, searching for some sign of movement from inside.
Suddenly, William S. Gilman, one of the owners of the building, appeared in an upper window.
"What do you want here?" he asked the crowd.
"The press!" came the shouted reply.
Inside the warehouse was Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a Presbyterian minister and editor of the Alton Observer. He and 20 of his supporters were standing guard over a newly arrived printing press from the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.
This was the fourth press that Lovejoy had received for his paper. Three others already had been destroyed by people who opposed the antislavery views he expressed in the Observer.
But Lovejoy would not give up.
This time, in an attempt to hide the arrival of the new press, secret arrangements were made. A steamboat delivered the press at 3 o'clock in the morning on November 7, 1837, and some of Lovejoy's friends ere there to meet it.
Moving quickly, they carried the press to the third floor of Gilman's warehouse, but not before they were spotted by members of the mob.
Word of the arrival of the press spread throughout the town all that day. As nightfall approached, mob leaders were joined by men from the taverns, and now the crowd stood below, demanding this fourth press.
Gilman called out: "We have no ill feelings toward, any of you and should much regret to do any injury; but we are authorized by the Mayor to. defend our property and shall do so with our lives." The mob began to throw stones, breaking out all the windows in the warehouse.
Shots were fired by members of the mob, and rifle balls whizzed through the windows of the warehouse, narrowly missing the defenders inside. Lovejoy and his men, returned the fire. Several people in the crowd were hit, and one was killed.
"Burn them out!", someone shouted.
Leaders of the mob called for a ladder, which was put up on the side of the building. A boy with a torch was sent up to set fire to the wooden roof. Lovejoy and one of his supporters, Royal Weller, volunteered to stop the boy. The two men crept out- side, hiding in the shadows of the building. Surpris- ing the mob, they rushed to the ladder, pushed it over and quickly retreated inside.
Once again a ladder was put in place. As Lovejoy and Weller made another brave attempt to overturn the ladder, they were spotted. Lovejoy was shot five times, and Weller was also wounded. Lovejoy staggered inside the warehouse, making his way to the second floor before he finally fell.
"My God. I an shot," he cried. He died almost immediately.
By this time the warehouse roof had begun to burn. The men renmaining inside knew they had no choice but to surrender the press.
The mob rushed into the vacant building.
The press Lovejoy died defending was carried to a window and thrown out onto the river bank. It was broken into pieces that were scattered in the Mississippi River.
Fearing more violence, Lovejoy's friends, did not remove his body from the building until the next morning.
Members of the crowd from the night before, feeling no shame at what thev had done, laughed and jeered as the funeral wagon moved slowly down the street toward Lovejoy's home. Lovejoy was buried on November 9, 1837, his 35th birthday.
Elijah Parish Lovejoy -was born in Albion, Maine, November 9, 1802. He graduated from Waterville College (now Colby College) in 1826 and came to St. Louis as a school teacher.
In 1831 he joined the First Presbyterian Church, decided to become a minister, and returned to the East to study at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was licensed to preach in April, 1833, by the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia. He was ordained by the Presbytery of St. Louis in 1834 and was elected its Moderator in 1835. In St. Louis he was pastor of the Des Peres Presbyterian Church (the "Old Meeting House"). He published a religious newspaper, The St. Louis Observer, and began to advocate the abolition of slavery. Despite the bitter feeling against him., Lovejoy persisted in arguing the fights of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom from slavery. After seeing a slave, Francis J. McIntosh, burned at the stake, his editorials became so strident against slavery that he became an object of hatred by both Southerners and slave-holders. His press was wrecked by a mob in July, 1836, and he moved to Alton in the free State of Illinois.
In Alton, Lovejoy became the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery in 1837 and the first pastor of the present College Avenue Presbyterian Church. He actively supported the organization of the Ant-slavery Society of Illinois which enraged the Alton citizens. He continued writing and publishing the Alton Observer even after three presses had been destroyed and thrown into the Mississippi River.
On the historic night of November 7, 1837, a group of 20 Lovejoy supporters joined him at the Godfrey & Gilman warehouse to guard a new press until it could be installed at the Observer. As the crowd grew outside, excitement and tension mounted. Soon the pro-slavery mob began hurling rocks at the warehouse windows. The defenders retaliated by bombarding the crowd with a supply of earthenware pots found in the warehouse. Then came an exchange of gunfire. Alton's mayor tried in vain to persuade the defenders inside to abandon the press. They stood fast. One of the mob climbed a ladder to try to set fire to the roof of the building. Lovejoy and one of his supporters darted into the darkness to over-turn the ladder, for they knew they would be doomed if a fire was set. But again a volunteer mounted the ladder to try to ignite the roof with a smoking pot of pitch. As Lovejoy assisted Royal Weller in putting out the fire on the roof of the building, Lovejoy received a blast from a double-barreled shotgun. Five of the bullets fatally struck Lovejoy. He died in the arms of his friend Thaddeus Hurlbut. The mob cheered and said all in the building should die. Amos Roff tried to calm the mob and was shot in the ankle. Defenders of the press then laid down their weapons and were allowed to leave. The mob rushed the building, found the press, and threw it out a window to the riverbank, broke it into pieces and dumped the broken parts into the river, The body of Lovejoy was left undisturbed, remaining there until morning, guarded by friends who finally carried him home. He was buried on his 35th birthday, November 9, 1837, in an unmarked grave in the Alton City Cemetery, the location known by a black man, William "Scotch" Johnston, who assisted in the burial.
Years later, through the generosity of Thomas Dimmock, Lovejoy's body was exhumed and reinterred at the present site. Dimmock purchased the small but appropriate marble scroll which marks the grave on which is inscribed the Latin words which translates:
"Here lies Lovejoy - Spare him now the grave." He also purchased the New England granite block beneath the scroll and the wall which encloses the grave site.
The story of Lovejoy and the Abolitionists is the story of the enduring vigil for freedom of thought, speech, and the press. For a moment in 1837, Alton, Illinois, was the scene of a battle for freedom that was felt across the nation. The mob action at Godfrey & Gilman warehouse was the first, but unrecorded, battle of the Civil War.
Final Public Speech of Elijah Parish Lovejoy
Handkerchief with Elijah Lovejoy's Last Public Speech Printed on It
From the collection of the Illinois State Historical Library
In Gratitude To God,
And In The Love Of Liberty,
The State Of Illinois And Citizens of Alton,
Erect This Monument,
Image from the program of the Rededication of the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Monument, Thursday, September 25, 1969
From the Collection of the Illinois State Historical Library
It is said that time heals all wounds--in no city in America is this more evident than at the site of the Elijah Lovejoy Monument, erected in Alton, Illinois. For years after the death of Lovejoy, Alton paid the price for the actions of the mob. It existed in a kind of infamy throughout the United States as its reputation caused the river traffic so vital to its economy to move farther south to St. Louis. Land values in Alton dropped, and it seemed the very mention of the town caused people to shudder. In fact, the original program from the dedication of the Lovejoy monument in 1897 talks of this nation-wide attitude in a section entitled "Justice for Alton."
"For the space of nearly two generations the city of Alton has endured obloquy, scorn and contumely without limit because of the death of Elijah P. Lovejoy at the hands of a lawless mob. The city has been held responsible for the deeds of rioters acting in defiance of its laws and in defiance of the best sentiment of the community."
Since the moment of Lovejoy's death, the city of Alton struggled with both a negative public perception and how to honor the abolitionist's memory. What follows below is a timeline tracing both Alton's and the state of Illinois' efforts to properly remember the martyred life of Lovejoy. Follow the links to the development of the monument by clicking on the different blocks of years.
Research by the Alton Area Historical Society indicates the design of the Lovejoy monument was done by R. P. Bringhurst, a St. Louis sculptor. After the approval of the drawings, Culver Stone Company of Springfield, Illinois, completed the construction of the edifice. The design attempts to convey the feeling of triumph for the cause for which the monument was erected. The winged statue of Victory crowns the main shaft and eagles mounted on columns on either side express the idea of a triumphant goal or consummation.
Structurally, the central massive granite column is 93 feet high, surmounted by a bronze statue 17 feet high, weighing 8,700 pounds. The shaft, in three sections weighing 16 to 22 tons each, is one of the largest columns in the country. The base consists of a round plinth, square cap die and base in the form of a seat. It stands in a center terrace 40 feet in diameter, surrounded on three sides by a granite exedra wall eight feet high on the outside and having a seat on the inside. The terrace is flared with six inch granite flagging and is reached by seven granite steps. Two large granite pedestals surmounted by ornate standard bronze tripods finish the exedra wall.
By the steps are two granite sentinel columns 30 feet high mounted by bronze eagles eight feet over the wings. On each side of the die is a bronzed panel, four in all, devoted to excerpts from the life of Elijah P. Lovejoy.
The program for the dedication of the Lovejoy monument indicates that the original idea of the monument association was to let Lovejoy speak for himself in his three occupations of editor, minister, and opponent of slavery. Accordingly, a writing from each capacity was placed on three of the four sides of the monument base. A fourth inscription honors the men who helped to defend the warehouse and press the night that Lovejoy was killed.
Elijah P. Lovejoy,
Editor Alton Observer,
Albion, Maine, Nov. 8, 1802
Alton, Ill., Nov. 7, 1837.
A Martyr to Liberty.
"I have sworn eternal opposition to slavery, and by the blessing of God, I will never go back."
Champion of Free Speech.
"But, gentlemen, as long as I am an American citizen, and as long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write, to publish whatever I please on any subject--being amenable to the laws of my country for the same."
This monument commemorates the valor, devotion and sacrifice of the noble Defenders of the Press, who, in this city, on Nov. 7, 1837, made the first armed resistance to the aggressions of the slave power in America.
Minister of the Gospel.
Moderator of Alton Presbytery,
"If the laws of my country fail to protect me I appeal to God, and with him I cheerfully rest my cause. I can die at my post but I cannot desert it."
Preservation and Rededication of the Lovejoy Monument
In 1969, a local civic group in Alton took over the responsibility of urging the State of Illinois to renovate the Lovejoy Monument and encourage the city of Alton, Alton Cemetery Board of Directors, and people living in the immediate area to participate in beautification programs around the grounds. The monument and the grave site of Lovejoy each received a thorough cleaning, and a large rededication ceremony was held on the grounds of the cemetery.
Proslavery Contemporaries of Lovejoy
Judge Luke E. Lawless
Less than a month after the brutal mob retaliation against Frank McIntosh, a grand jury gathered in a small back room of the old St. Louis courthouse. This group heard arguments concerning crimes that had been committed during the past year to decide which offenders deserved to be criminally indicted for their actions. Toward the end of the day, the grand jury turned its attention to the details of the violent mob action which killed the free African-American, Frank McIntosh. Their charge was to decide which person or persons, if any, deserved to stand trial for their actions on April 28th. Not surprisingly, this case sparked a large amount of local interest. Large crowds moved into the courtroom until all the seats had been taken and people were forced to stand in the back of the chamber or outside. Written accounts of the proceedings tell of the uneasiness and excitement the capacity crowd brought with it into the courtroom.
Because the members of the grand jury took their cues from the presiding judge, the key figure in the whole case became the Honorable Luke E. Lawless. Lawless was described as a slender man who nonetheless possessed a strong and wiry frame. His deep set eyes offset the benign appearance of his large and prominent facial features. Lawless had come to the United States from Dublin. He began his career as a sailor in the British Navy, then later returned to Ireland to begin a law career in his home city. His military background and confrontational law practice characterized a man who did not shy away from controversy. In St. Louis, repeated moves to unseat Lawless went hand in hand with letters to the St. Louis Republican attacking him. Still, Lawless held enough political power to retain his seat on the bench.
As a lawyer, Lawless' record was less than spotless. On one occasion, a judge before whom he was arguing a case sentenced Lawless to eighteen months disbarment and twenty-four hours in jail for misconduct. Lawless responded to this with a counter-charge accusing the judge of "tyranny, oppression, and usurpation of power." The case ended in the United States Senate where it was shown that Lawless had suppressed evidence, thereby confirming the judge's original sentence.
Judge Lawless brought all these character traits with him as he sat on the bench to oversee the grand jury proceedings of the McIntosh murder case. In fact, his own opinionated style played the major roll in the jury's decision. Reading carefully from previously prepared notes, the judge offered the following advice to the twelve member jury:
Gentlemen of the grand jury, I would here conclude my observation did I not think my fellow citizens might well expect from the judge of this court special notice the dreadful events that have so recently thrown a gloom over our prosperous and generally peaceful city.
You will at once perceive that I refer to the murder of our respected fellow-citizen, the late deputy sheriff Hammond; to the wounding with an intent to murder him of another meritorious officer, the deputy constable Mull; and lastly to the destruction of the murderer himself, a free colored man whose name I understand was McIntosh, by a force unauthorized by law and by a mode of death forbidden by the Constitution, by a "cruel and unusual punishment" by chaining the prisoner alive to a tree and burning him to ashes. . . Let us hope that the dreadful retribution which he has met with in this world will plead for him in the world to come.
If on a calm view of the circumstances attending this dreadful transaction, you shall be of the opinion that it was perpetrated by a definite and, compared to the population of St. Louis, a small number of individuals separate from the mass and evidently taking upon themselves as contradistinguished from the multitude the responsibility of the act, my opinion is that you ought to indict them all without a single exception.
If, on the other hand, the destruction of the murderer of Hammond was the act, as I have said, of the many, of the multitude in the ordinary sense of those words--not the act of numerable and ascertainable malefactors, but of congregated thousands seized upon and impelled by that mysterious metaphysical and almost electrical frenzy which in all ages and nations has hurried on the infuriated multitude to deeds of death and destruction--then, I say, act not at all in the matter. The case then transcends your jurisdiction, it is beyond the reach of human law.
Because a near insane frenzy gripped the mob responsible for McIntosh's death, Lawless instructed the jury not to single out specific people for being responsible. Try as they might, he said, the jury could never understand the mania which seized the masses that day. Therefore, no legal action could be called for by the grand jury because the courtroom was no place to judge such behavior. In short, there was nothing the legal system could do to protect an individual from a provoked mob action.
Merton Dillon writes that Judge Lawless has frequently been criticized for his position, both by his legal contemporaries and twentieth century scholars. All agree that by ethical legal standards, he was wrong to impose this decision. However, later portions of his speech to the grand jury revealed several interesting insights into the minds of abolitionists and their opponents. As his comments show, he played on the fear of the citizens who believed that abolitionism was sent by religious zealots from New England to stir up trouble in slave holding states.
If the murderer (McIntosh) had been tried by a jury, convicted and executed--the horror at his crimes would have been unmixed with any other feeling. There could have been no reaction, no pretense for the outcry which now, in all probability, will be raised throughout the Union by the misguided or unprincipled men engaged in the anti-national scheme of abolitionism. The public attention in this state would have been concentrated on what, I am much disposed to think, was the exciting cause of McIntosh's crime and of similar atrocities committed in this and other states by individuals of Negro blood against their white brethren.
The abolitionist influence upon the passions and intellect of the wretched McIntosh seems to me to be indicated by the peculiar character of his language and demeanor. His deadly hostility to the whole white race--his hymns and his prayers so profanely and frightfully mixed up with those horrid imprecations seems, I say, to betray the incendiary cause to which I have adverted.
If this be indeed the case, the murderer of Hammond was, morally speaking, only the blind instrument in the hands of the abolitionist fanatics. They, and not McIntosh, would then be responsible in the sight of God and man.
[Abolitionists appear] to labor under a sort of religious hallucination--a monomania--for which it would perhaps be inconsistent with sound reasoning to hold them morally responsible. . . They seem to consider themselves as special agents. . . in fact, of Divine Providence. They seem to have their eyes fixed on some mystic vision--some Zion, as they term it, within whose holy walls they would impound us all, or condemn us to perish on the outside. But, although all this may be very sincere, is it the less pernicious? Are we to be victims of those sanctimonious madmen?
The judge had successfully turned the law upside down and made those guilty of murdering McIntosh the victims of an abolitionist plot. After establishing this fact with the crowd, Lawless then turned his attention specifically to Elijah Lovejoy and his newspaper. And although the Observer had never been guilty of calling for a slave rebellion, public opinion swayed on the words of Lawless and presented a call for action against the publication. The judge continued:
I have adverted to the abolitionist press in this city, and now I would ask who that has observed its course for a considerable time past has not seen in its publications matter abundantly calculated to fanaticize the Negro and excite him against the white man?
After this statement, Lawless held up an edition of the Observer as an example of the destructive force to which he referred. He read several articles from its pages as testimonies to the fact that Lovejoy's paper was not designed to restore the calm amongst the population of its readers. Lawless successfully turned the guilt of the situation around to accuse Lovejoy of the crime of attempting to incite revolts throughout the southern states. Lawless concluded his speech by commenting that, "It seems to me impossible that while such language is used and published as that which I have cited from the St. Louis Observer, there can be any safety in a slave-holding state."
Usher Linder, the twenty-eight year old Attorney General of Illinois, became one of the most vocal and ardent anti-Lovejoy politicians in the state in 1837. He particularly took advantage of Reverend Beecher's open invitation to all friends of "free inquiry" to attend the October 26, 1837 meeting of the Antislavery Congress in Upper Alton. During the time of the meeting, Linder was the newly elected to the position by the Illinois General Assembly. Linder traced his roots back to the same section of Kentucky as another prominent Illinois politician, Abraham Lincoln. Physically, Linder's tall and lanky appearance also linked him to Lincoln, but these are where the similarities ended between the two men. Linder was a strong and effective speaker, but his crude language and reported heavy drinking plagued his entire career. His opposition to Lovejoy stemmed more from political ambition than any other ideology. Linder chose to ride the growing public sentiment against Lovejoy because he felt such moves would feed his political ambition.
One of the first moves that Linder made against Lovejoy came after the completion of the first session of the Antislavery Congress. He was able to gather a number of his friends around him as he stood on a woodpile at the side of the church. Linder used his great speaking abilities to blast the Abolitionists who had organized the meeting. He denounced the Abolitionists for attempting to silence their critics during the meeting and attacked the societies backed by Lovejoy and Beecher. Linder encouraged all the pro-slavery forces in Alton to attend the Antislavery Congress and stonewall its attempts at passing any meaningful resolutions.
On the final day of the meeting, Linder delivered a highly charged, vicious speech targeted at Beecher and Lovejoy. At the same time, he introduced a resolution "that the discussion of the doctrines of immediate abolitionism, as they have been discussed in the columns of the Alton Observer, would be destructive of the peace and harmony of the citizens of Alton, and that, therefore, we cannot recommend the reestablishment of that paper." Linder's all out pro-slavery resolution argued that slaves were property and that the constitution prohibited taking a person's property. Increasingly, his calls for Lovejoy's opponents to join the conference paid off. They gained a majority and adopted the proslavery resolutions outlined by Linder, effectively making the whole conference a waste of time for Beecher and Lovejoy.
Usher Linder did not end his opposition to the Abolitionist principles after the death of Elijah Lovejoy. In fact, Linder worked with the prosecuting attorney for the city of Alton in the trial of Winthrop Gillman, the owner and one of the defenders of the warehouse where Lovejoy was killed. In a strange form of frontier justice, Linder also turned around and defended those members of the mob who were indicted for their actions on November 7, 1837. Many of the same arguments were used in both cases, and interestingly, neither group of defendants from either case was convicted of any crime.
Linder's once unlimited political future in Illinois came to an abrupt end after the trials in Alton ended. His drinking again became heavy and he developed an unfavorable reputation amongst the people of the state, mostly stemming from his actions during the Lovejoy affair. He did sway enough members of the public to get elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, but his career ended in a cloud of bitterness and unfulfilled promise.
The Alton Tragedy
The Article entitled "The Alton Tragedy" first appeared as a part of the publication "Advocate of Peace." This book was printed in August of 1838 in Boston by The American Peace Society. As the name of the organization suggests, the members dedicated themselves "to the principle that war is contrary to the Spirit of the gospel." At an 1863 address commemorating the thirty-fourth anniversary of The American Peace Society, the Honorable Amasa Walker summarized the goals of the group from its creation
"It is the prevention of war, then, that Peace Societies are wishing to accomplish. It is the formation of a public sentiment in time of peace against all war and all preparation for war, irrespective of any particular war which they desire to bring about. Their great object has been to direct the public mind to some other arbitrament than that of the sword for the settlement of international disputes. This, above all others, was a prominent object in those peace Congresses to which reference has been made. . ."
Journal of the Upper Alton Lyceum
The Illinois State Historical Library holds within its manuscript collection the original Journal of the Upper Alton Lyceum used to record the minutes of their weekly meetings. The Lyceum group was an intellectual organization whose members met to debate social issues. In fact, the information provided by the Journal indicates that this particular group discussed topics such as suffrage rights for women, immigration, Constitutional law, and the emancipation of the slaves. The Lyceum group met on a weekly basis at different locations in Upper Alton. Two to four group members were chosen each week to refute or defend the topics chosen by the members, and after each debate the President of the Lyceum decided which side had presented a more convincing arguement.
Elijah Lovejoy was one of the original twenty-six members of the Upper Alton Lyceum. He was very active in the group, and was appointed its first President at a meeting held on October 31, 1836.
The pages included here represent only a small number of the overall pages of the Journal of the Upper Alton Lyceum. They have been chosen because they valuable insight into how the organization conducted its meetings. These pages were also chosen because they are the record of the Lyceum's discussion concerning the emancipation of the slaves in the United States.
Lyceum Page 8
Having received twenty-six signatures, the association was organized by the Election of the following persons as officers, namely, Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy President, John W. Collett Vice President, Edwin Revills Secretary, and N. G. D. Taylor Treasurer and Librarian.
Elijah P. Lovejoy Chairman
Lenas B. Newman Clerk
Voted to meet week from next Friday Evening at the Brick School House. Exercises to consist, in a Lecture from Lumis Hall, and a debate upon the following questions—ought capital punishment ever to be inflicted? disputant W. L. Slop Esqr affirmative. Lenas B. Newman Negative
Voted to appoint a committee of five to consist of the following persons, namely, I. C. Martin M. D., John W. Collitt, Rev. Ebin. Rogers, James Moore, and Dr. B. F. Long to draft by-Laws and procure a room for the society to meet in.
Voted to dispense with the lecture from Junius Hall. The debate shall occupy the meeting succeeding the next of the society.
Voted to adjourn, to meet as above
Elijah P. Lovejoy Pres.
Edwin R. Wills Secty.
Friday Evening Nov. 6th 1836
Pursuant to adjournment the members of the Upper Alton Lyceum met at the crick School House. The meeting was called to order and opened by Prayer b the Rev. Mr. Lovejoy. Mr. Richard R. Randle was appointed Door Keeper. Pursuant to a provision in the constitution, the President in entering upon the duties of his office, delivered before the society an address after which the committee appointed to draft By-Laws reported a code, which after various alterations and Amendments was adopted.
Lyceum Page 9
The committee, appointed to procure a place for the Society to meet in, reported they were unable to succeed, and have further time granted them.
Voted that the Society meet at half past six o’clock in the evening until further notice.
Voted that the next meeting of the Society be held in this House, a week from this evening.
Voted that a committee of three be appointed, to consist of the following persons, namely Lenaus B. Newman, Nathan C. D. Taylor, and Richard R. Randle whose duty it shall be, to procure a lecture, if practacable [sic], every alternate evening.
Having received application for membership from the following persons, namely, Washington Leverett, Seth T. Sawyer, Lewis J. Clawson, Jamie M. Kittinger, Isiah Nutter, Iona S. Bingham, Loomis B. Page, Henery C. Caswell and Isaac N. Palmer. Voted unanimously that they forthwith become regular members of this Society.
Voted that a committee of three be appointed to consist of the following persons, namely, Nathan C. D. Taylor, Richard R. Randle, and Joseph Gordon whose duty it shall be to procure wood and lights, also to prepare the room for the use of the Society.
Voted to adjourn, to meet as above.
Elijah P. Lovejoy President
Edwin R. Wills Secty
Lyceum Page 12
Lyceum Page 13
An election was entered into for President and Vice President which resulted in the choice of William Clark Jr. for President and James Moore Vice President. On motion of J. Hall Esqr., it was moved that a vote Thanks of the Society to the President for the ability and impartiality with which his [sic] has discharged the duties of his office.
Moved to adjourn to meet at this place next Friday Evening at the appointed time.
Elijah P. Lovejoy Pres.
Edwin R. Wells Secy.
Friday Eve. Dec. 20th 1836
Met pursuant to adjournment. Meeting came to order, the roll called and the following members, namely, W. L. Slop, Ebin. Rogers, E. P. Lovejoy, W. B. Little, A. Flood, I. M. Frost, R. R. Randle, D. F. Weidell, H. McFarland, Alvin Cleott, C. Woods, J. C. Howell, Andrew Dray, B. F. Long, S. I. Clawson, D. M. Kittinger, Isiah Sutter, I. L. Bingham, H. C. Cafwell, Isaac A. Palmer, Jamie Graves, C. C. Hopkins, John G. Hill, Aaron Higher, W. B. White, & Lewis Colby were noted as absent. The President in entering upon the duties of his office delivered before the Society an address, moved [sic] by J. Hall, Esqr. that the article in the Constitution providing for the appointment of Door Keeper be abolished, also that the article respecting the terms for which the officers shall hold their office be so amended so that the President and Vice President shall hold their offices respectively for three months., the above motion to be acted upon the meeting after this meeting. Lecture by J. Hall Esqr, on motion of Mr. [?] it was moved that a vote of thanks of the Society be presented to our Lecturer for his able production.
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Friday Evening Jany 13th 1837
Met pursuant to adjournment. Meeting called to order. Roll called and the following named Persons were noted as absentees (viz.) J. Moore, W. B. Little, J. L. Martin, D. F. Wandell, A. Scott, J. C. Howell, A. Dray, Geo. Howland, E. R. Wells, B. F. Long, D. M. Kittinger, J. Nutter, J. L. Bingham, H. C. Caswell, J. N. Palmer, S. Graves, C. C. Hopkins, J. G. Hill, J. B. White, J. Wilber, L. Colby, G. W. Fox, & J. Morrison were noted as absentees. Moved and carried that a Committee of three be appointed by the President to amend the 2nd Sec of Article 5th together with the amendment to said Sec who appointed Mr. Hall, Mr. Newman & Mr. Dennison that Committee. The debate then opened on the affirmation by Mr. Hall & on the negative by Mr. Clark on the Question does the present aspect of affairs in our Country promise the perpetuity of our Government. After some time spent in an animated discussion it was moved that the Question be continued for the next Evenings debate which motion was lost the debate was resumed and continued for some time when the president was called on for a decision who decided in favor of the affirmative and appeal was taken which resulted in the Society’s sustaining the president’s decisions a Question was then proposed by A member of the Committee and adopted by the society for discussion at the next meeting (viz). Does the principle of the Right require the immediate emancipation of the Slave. The President feeling some delicacy in presiding over the deliberation of the Question resigned & the Vice President not being present Mr. Merrill was chosen President Protem for the remainder of the Evening, volunteers were then called for to lead the debate when Mr. Dennison volunteered on the affirmative & Mr. Robinson on the Negative. No excuses called for. Moved to adjourn to meet at this place next Thursday evening half past 6 O’Clock.
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Thursday Evening Jany 19th 1837
Met pursuant to adjournment The President having resigned the Vice President Mr. Howland took the chair Meeting called to order roll called & the following named persons (viz) W. L. Slop, E. P. Lovejoy, W. B. Little, R. R. Rundle, A. Alcott, C. Woods, J. C. Howell, Jos. Burnap, A. Dray, N. C. D. Taylor, B. F. Long, Wash Leverett, L. J. Clawson, D. M. Kittenger, J. Nutter, J. L. Bingham, L. B. Page, J. N. Palmer, J. G. Hill, J. B. White, J. Wilber, L. Colby, H. B. Richardson, G. W. Fox, & J. Morrison were noted as absentees. The Committee to whom was referred for amendment the 2nd Sec. Of article 5th together with the amendment to said Sec. (said amendment to be reported at the next meeting). Prayed for further time to report Moved & carried that said Committee be granted their petition and the time for reporting be extended to the next meeting of the Society. The Leaders of debate were then called when Mr. Dennison arose on the affirmative and Mr. Robinson on the negative on the question Does the principle of right require the immediate Emancipation of the slave. The discussion continued for some time when it was moved that the same question be continued for the next evenings debate which motion was carried in the affirmative. The Election of President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, & Librarian next came in order when Eq George Smith was chosen President, Mr. Peter Merrill Vice President, Mr. N. C. D. Taylor Treasurer & Librarian, & Joseph Gordon Sec’y. Excuses from delinquent members were then called for when the following named persons were excused viz J. Moore twice, J. L. Martin once, D. F. Wandell once, H. C. Caswell once, Fined A. Olcott, G. Howland, E. R. Wells, to sum up the whole matter the meeting was characterized by an unusual display of Parliamentary talent on the part of the members which would have done honor to a less respectable body. Moved to adjourn to meet at this place next Thursday evening half past 6 O’Clock.
Geo Howland V. President
J. Gordon Sec’y
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Thursday Evening Jany 26th 1837
Met pursuant to adjournment. Meeting called to order, roll called & the following named persons (viz) W. L. Slop, J. Hall, E. P. Lovejoy, Peter Merrill, R. R. Rundle, C. Woods, L. J. Clawson, Ebin. Dennison, Wm. Clark, & Dr. Jewel were noted as absentees. Anthony Combs was proposed and duly elected a member of this Society the Presidents address came next in order when he arose and delivered before the Society an interesting and appropriate address on the necessity of Establishing free schools throughout the state in which the rising generation might obtain the requisite mental and moral education necessary to making them firm pillars of a republican Government. The Gentleman previously employed by the Committee set apart for that purpose to deliver a lecture to the Society being necessarily called off on business therefore the Society was deprived of the privelege [sic] of hearing a lecture. Motions & resolutions coming next in order it was moved & carried that the reports be laid on the table for the further action of the society it was further moved that those members who had paid their initiation fee be taken up seperately [sic] and be continued or rejected according to the provision of the By laws in this case made & provided. It was also moved that the committee previously appointed for the purpose of amending the 2nd Section of the Article 5th together with the Amendment to said Sec report when Mr. Hall Esq. On behalf of the committee reported the following resolution. Resolved that four disputants be selected for the discussion of each regular Question of Debate. Two on the affirmative & Two on the negative and that the assignment of parts be determined by lot provided however that it may be a matter of amicable adjustment between the several disputants.
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Resolved further That in case a sufficient number of disputants shall not volunteer the President shall fill up the number by his own appointment in doing this he shall follow the alphabetical roll and not appoint any member untill [sic] every one may have had an opportunity of participating in the debate. Moved & carried that the above report be accepted it was further resolved that those persons previously elected by this Society forthwith become members by paying their initiation fee. Moved that the foregoing resolution be read by the Secretary three meetings in succession. Mr. F. B. Newman offered the following resolution. Resolved that this Constitution be so amended that two thirds of the members present be empowered to alter the same or which purpose the President appointed a Special Meeting to be held in Two weeks from the time of offering the said resolution meeting to be held after the debate. Excuses were then called for when the following named persons (viz) N. C. D. Taylor Excused, once fined, J. Burnap, fined Wash. Leverett fined.
Moved to adjourn to meet at this place next Thursday Evening half past 6 O’Clock.
George Smith Pres.,
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Editorials from the St. Louis and Alton Observer
The Illinois State Historical Library has within its holdings an impressive series of both the St. Louis and Alton Observers. Editions have been photographed and placed on microfilm for the convenience of the researcher. The selections below represent a small portion of the editorials written by Elijah Lovejoy during his career as editor of the Observer. Several transcriptions come directly from the microfilmed editions, while others were taken from the Memoir of the Reverend E. P. Lovejoy
St. Louis Observer- October 8, 1835
"The Editor (Elijah P. Lovejoy) will be absent two or three weeks, in attendance on Presbytery and Synod."
"Since the Editor left, the Publishers of the Observer have received a communication from the Patrons and Owners of the property of this paper, advising an entire suspensionof all controversy upon the exciting subject of Slavery. As this course is entirely agreeable to the feelings and veiws of the publishers, nothing upon the subject will appear in its columns, during the absence of the Editor. Upon his return the communication will be submitted to him, and the future course of the paper finally arranged in such a manner, as, we doubt not, will be consonant with the wishes of the proprietors.
The articles upon the subject of Slavery in our paper to-day, were prepared by the Editor before his departure, and could not have been omitted without great inconvenience."
St. Louis Observer _ November 5, 1835
TO MY FELLOW CITIZENS
"Recent well-known occurrences in this city, and elsewhere have, in the opinion of some of my friends, as well as my own, made it my duty to address myself to you personally. And, in so doing, I hope to be pardoned for that apparent egotism which, in such an address, is more or less unavoidable. I hope also to write in that spirit of meekness and humility that becomes a follower of the Lamb, and, at the same time, with all that boldness and sincerity of speech, which should mark the language of a freeman and a Christian minister. It is not my design or wish to offend any one, but simply to maintain my rights as a republican citizen, free-born, of these United States, and to defend, fearlessly, the cause of TRUTH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS."
"Let this statement, fellow-citizens, show you the impropriety and the danger of putting the administration of justice into the hands of a mob. I am assured that had I been in the city, at the time when the charge here referred to, was first circulated, I should surely have suffered the penalty of the whipping-post or the tar-barrel, if not both! I understand that a Christian brother was one of those who brought the report here from Jefferson City, and was among the most active in circulating it, and declaring his belief in my criminality. If this meets his eye, he is assured that I forgive him with all my heart.
And now, fellow-citizens, having made the above explanation, for the purpose of undeceiving such of you as have honestly supposed me in error; truth and candor require me to add that had I desired to send a copy of the "Emancipator" or of any other newspaper to Jefferson City, I should not have taken the pains to box it up. I am not aware that any law of my country forbids my sending what document I please to a friend or citizen. I know, indeed, that mob law has decided otherwise, and that it has become fashionable in certain parts of this country, to break open the Post Office, and take from it such documents as the mob should decide, ought not to pass unburned. But I had never imagined there was a sufficiency of respectability attached to the good citizens of my own state. And grievously and sadly shall I be disappointed to find it otherwise.
In fine, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I have never, knowingly, to the best of my recollections, sent a single copy of the "Emancipator" or any other Abolition publication to a single individual in Missouri, or elsewhere; while yet I claim the right to send ten thousand of them if I choose, to as many of my fellow-citizens. Whether I will exercise that right or not, is for me, and not for the mob, to decide. The right to send publications of any sort to slaves, or in any way to communicate with them, without the express permission of their masters, I freely acknowledge that I have not. It is with the master alone, that I would have to do, as one freeman with another; and who shall say me nay?
I come now to the proceedings had at the late meetings of our citizens. And in discussing them I hope not to say a single word that shall wound the feelings of a single individual concerned. It is with principles I have to do, and not with men. And in canvassing them, freely, openly, I do but exercise a right secured by the solemn sanction of the Constitution, to the humblest citizen of this republic--a right that, so long as life lasts, I do not expect to relinquish.
I freely acknowledge the respectability of the citizens who composed the meetings referred to. And were the questions under consideration, to be decided as mere matters of opinion, it would become me, however much I might differ from them, to bow in humble silence to the decisions of such a body of my fellow-citizens. but I cannot surrender my principles, though the whole world besides should vote them down--I can make no compromise between truth and error, even though my life be the alternative.
Of the first resolution passed at the meeting of the 24th Oct., I have nothing to say, except that I perfectly agree with the sentiment, that the citizens of the non-slaveholding states have no right to interfere with the domestic relations between master and slave.
The second resolution, strictly speaking, neither affirms nor denies any thing in reference to the matter in hand. No man has a moral right to do any thing improper. Whether, therefore, he has the moral right to discuss the question of Slavery, is a point with which human legislation or resolution have nothing to do. The true issue to be decided is, whether he has the civil, the political right, to discuss it, or not. And this is a mere question of fact. In Russia, in Turkey, in Austria, nay even in France, this right most certainly does not exist. But does it exist in Missouri? We decide this question by turning to the Constitution of the State. The sixteenth section, article thirteenth, of the Constitution of Missouri, reads as follows:
"That the free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the invaluable rights of man, and that every person may freely speak, write, and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty."
Here, then, I find my warrant for using, as Paul did, all freedom of speech. If I abuse that right I freely acknowledge myself amenable to the laws. But it is said that the right to hold slaves is a constitutional one, and therefore not to be called in question. I admit the premise, but deny the conclusion. To put a strong case by way of illustration. The Constitution declares that this shall be a perpetual republic, but has not any citizen the right to discuss, under that Constitution, the comparative merits of despotism and liberty? And if he has eloquence and force of argument sufficient, may he not persuade us all to crown him our king? Robert Dale Owen came to this city, and Fanny Wright, followed him, openly proclaiming the doctrine that the institution of marriage was a curse to any community, and ought to be abolished. It was, undoubtedly, an abominable doctrine, and one which, if acted out, would speedily reduce society to the level of barbarism and the brutes; yet who though of denying Mr. Owen and his disciple, the perfect right of avowing such doctrines, or who thought of mobbing them for the exercise of this right? And yet, most surely, the institution of Slavery are not more interwoven with the structure of our society, than those of marriage.
See the danger, and the natural and inevitable result to which the first step here will lead. To-day a public meeting declares that you shall not discuss the subject of Slavery, in any of its bearings, civil or religious. Right or wrong, the press must be silent. To-morrow, another meeting decides that it is against the peace of society, that the principles of Popery shall be discussed, and the edict goes forth to muzzle the press. The next day, it is in a similar manner, declared that not a word must be said against distilleries, dram shops, or drunkenness. And so on to the end of the chapter. The truth is, my fellow-citizens, if you give ground a single inch, there is no stopping place. I deem it, therefore, my duty to take my stand upon the Constitution. Here is firm ground--I feel it to be such. And I do most respectfully, yet decidedly, declare to you my fixed determination to maintain this ground. We have slaves, it is true, but I am not one. I am a citizen of these United States, a citizen of Missouri, free-born; and having never forfeited the inestimable privileges attached to such condition, I cannot consent to surrender them. but while I maintain them, I hope to do it with all that meekness and humility that become a Christian, and especially a Christian minister. I am ready, not to fight, but to suffer, and if need be, to die for them. Kindred blood to that which flows in my veins, flowed freely to water the tree of Christian liberty, planted by the Puritans on the rugged soil of New England. It flowed as freely on the plains of Lexington, the heights of Bunker Hill, and fields of Saratoga. And freely, too, shall mine flow, yea, as freely as if it were so much water, ere I surrender my right to plead the cause of truth and righteousness, before my fellow-citizens, and in the face of all their opposers.
Of the 3rd resolution I must be allowed to say, that I have never seen the least evidence, whatever, that the Abolitionists, with all their errors, have ever desired to effect an amalgamation of the tow races, black and white. I respectfully ask of the individuals composing the meeting that adopted this resolution, if they have ever seen any such evidence? They have formally, solemnly and officially denied it. It is certainly an abhorrent thing even in theory, and a thousand times more so in practice. And yet, unless my eyes deceive me as I walk the streets of our city, there are some among us who venture to put it into practice. And in the appointment of the numerous committees of vigilance, superintendence, and &c., methinks that not one of them all was more needed than a Committee whose business it should be to ferret out from their secret 'chambers of iniquity,' these practical amalgamationists. If he who said to the woman taken in adultery, 'go and sin no more,' had stood in the midst of the meeting at our Court House, I will not say that he would there have detected a single amalgamator; but I am sure that if a poor Abolitionist were to be stoned in St. Louis for holding this preposterous notion, and the same rule were to be applied that our Saviour used in the case referred to, there are at least some amongst us who could not cast a pebble at the sinner's head.
What shall I, what can I, say of the 4th resolution? It was adopted, in a large assemblage of my fellow-citizens, with but a few dissenting voices. Many of our most respectable citizens voted for it--Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics; those who believe in the Bible is the word of God and those who do not, all united in voting for the resolution that the Bible sanctions Slavery as it now exists in the United States. If the sentiment had been that the Bible sanctions the continuance of the system until proper measures can be taken to remove it, I too could adopt it.
If I have taken my neighbour's property and spent it, and afterwards repent of my sin, and wish to restore what I had unjustly taken, but have not the means, the bible no longer holds me as a thief, but sanctions my withholding the money from my neighbour, until I can, by the use of the best means in my power, obtain it and restore it. And although, meanwhile, my neighbour in consequence of my original crime, may be deprived of his rights. and his family made to suffer all the evils of poverty and shame, the Bible would still enjoin it upon him to let me alone, nay, to forgive me, and even to be content in the abject condition to which I had reduced him. Even so the Bible now says to our slaves, as it said in the days of the Apostles, 'Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.' But then it also adds, 'Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal.' What is meant by 'just and equal' we may learn from the Saviour himself--'All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.' Thus far the Bible. And it will be seen, that in no case does it sanction, but the rather, absolutely forbids, all insurrectionary, all seditious, all rebellious acts on the part of the slaves. but be it remembered, that, with equal decision and authority, it says to the master, 'Undo the heavy burden, and let the oppressed go free.' If either disobey these injunctions, then it bids us leave the whole matter with that God who declares 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.'
But I am not at liberty so to understand the resolution. From the preamble, and from the conversation with several who voted for it, I am compelled to understand the meeting as voting that the Bible--the blessed Saviour, and his holy Apostles--sanction the principle of Slavery--the system itself, as such, as it now exists amongst us. Fellow-citizens! I mean not to be disrespectful to you, but I declare before you all, I have not words to express my utter abhorrence of such a sentiment. My soul detests it, my heart sickens over it; my judgment, my understanding, my conscience, reject it, with loathing and horror. What is the system of Slavery 'as it now exists in the United States?' It is a system of buying and selling immortal beings for the sake of gain; a system which forbids of man and woman the rights of husband and wife, sanctioning the dissolution of this tie at the mere caprice of another; a system which tolerates the existence of a class of men whose professed business it is to go about from house to house, tearing husband and wife, parent and child asunder, chaining their victims together, and then driving them with a whip, like so many mules, to a distant market, there to be disposed of to the unspeakable abominations, that attend this unfortunate class in their cabins. but I spare the details. and this is the system sanctioned by the Prince of Mercy and Love, by the God of Holiness and Purity! Oh God!--In the language of one of the Patriarchs to whom the meeting in their resolution refer, I say, 'Oh my soul, come not thou into their secret, unto their assemble mine honour be not thou united!'
The fifth resolution appoints a committee of Vigilance consisting of seven for each ward, twenty for the suburbs, and seven for each township in the country--in all eighty three persons--whose duty it shall be to report to the Mayor or the other civil authorities, all persons suspected of preaching abolition doctrines, &c., and should the civil authorities fail to deal with them, on suspicion, why then the Committee are to call a meeting of the citizens and execute their decrees--in other words, to lynch the suspected persons.
Fellow-citizens; where are we and in what age of the world do we live? I the is the land of Freedom or Despotism? Is this the ninth or nineteenth century? Have the principles of the Lettres de Cachet, driven from Europe, crossed the Atlantic and taken up their abode in Missouri? Lewis the XIV sent men to the Bastile on suspicion; we, more humane, do but whip them to death, or nearly so. but these things cannot last long. A few may be made the innocent victims of lawless violence, yet be assured there is a moral sense in the Christendom of the nineteenth century, that will not long endure such odious transactions. A tremendous re-action will take place. And remember, I pray you, that as Phalaris was the first man roasted in the brazen bull he had constructed for the tyrant of Sicily, so the inventor of the guillotin was by no means the last, whose neck had practical experience of the keenness of its edge.
I turn, for a moment, to my fellow-Christians, of all Protestant denominations.
Respected and beloved fathers and brethren. As I address myself to you, my heart is full, well-nigh to bursting, and my eyes overflow. It is indeed a time of trial and rebuke. The enemies of the cross are numerous and bold, and malignant, in the extreme. From the situation in which the Providence of God has placed me, a large portion of their hatred, in this quarter, has concentrated itself on me. You know that, now for nearly two years, a constant stream of calumnies and personal abuse of the most viperous kind, has been poured upon me, simply because I have been your organ through which--I refer now more especially to my Presbyterian brethren--you have declared your sentiments. You know, also, that I have never, in a single instance, replied to, or otherwise noticed these attacks. And now not only is a fresh attack, of ten-fold virulence, made upon my character, but violence is threatened to my person. Think not that it is because I am an Abolitionist that I am so persecuted. They who first started this report knew and still know better. In the progress of events Slavery has doubtless contributed it share, though a very small one, to the bitterness of hatred with which the 'Observer,' and I as connected with it, are regarded. but the true cause is the open and decided stand which the paper has taken against the encroachments of Popery. This is not only my own opinion, but that of others, and indeed of nearly or quite all with whom I have conversed on the subject, and among the rest, as I learn, of a French Catholic.
I repeat it, then, the real origin of the cry, 'Down with the Observer,' is to be looked for in its opposition to Popery. The fire that is now blazing and crackling through this city, was kindled on Popish altars, and has bee assiduously blown up by Jesuit breath. and now, dear brethren, the question is, shall we flee before it, or stay and abide its fury, even though we perish in the flames? For one, I cannot hesitate. The path of duty lies plain before me, and I must walk therein, even though it lead to the whipping-post, the tar-barrel, or even the stake. I was bold and dauntless in the service of sin' it is not fitting that I should be less so in the service of my Redeemer. He sought me out when there was none to help; when I was fast sinking to eternal ruin, he raised me up and placed me on the Rock of Ages; and now shall I forsake him when he has so few friends and so many enemies in St. Louis? I cannot, I dare not, and , His grace sustaining me, I will not.
Some of you I know are with me in feeling, in sympathy, and in prayer. And this knowledge is, indeed, a cordial to my heart. We have wept and preyed together in the midst of our present afflictions, and we have risen from our knees, refreshed and cheered by a sense of God's presence and his approving smile. And indeed, but for this,--but that I have felt the upholding hand of God supporting me, I had long since fallen. 'I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.' And the heaviest blows have been those which I have received from the hands of some of my brethren. May the Lord forgive them, as freely and heartily as I do.
But Oh, my brethren, what shall I say to those of you who recorded your votes in favour of the resolution that the Bible sanctions Slavery? It is not for me to reproach you; nor have I the least disposition to utter one unkind word. I only wish that I could make you sensible of the feelings I experienced when I first read that resolution as sanctioned by you. It did seem to me as though I could perceive a holy horror thrilling through all heaven, at such a perversion of the principles of the gospel of the Son of God. Oh, my brethren, may I not entreat you to pray over the subject, to ask for the wisdom of heaven to lead you into the truth? Depend upon it, you are wrong, fearfully wrong. Not for all the diadems of all the stars of heaven, though each were a world like this, would I have such a vote, unrepented of, to answer for at the bar of God, my Judge.
Oh, were the Church united at such a crisis as this, what a triumph we might achieve! But it never can be united, until you come over to us. Did you ever hear of a Christian, once holding the contrary doctrine, giving it up for yours? Never, I venture to say it, unless at the same time he gave up his Christianity with it. But there are instances, daily, of conversions from your side to ours. Come over then, brethren--Oh come over. Let us untidily take our stand upon the principles of truth and RIGHTEOUSNESS. Standing by them we cannot be moved. Even the Heathen could say of the just man, that he would remain undismayed though the heavens should fall around him. how much more, then, may it be said of the Christian? In the midst of every assault, when foes are gathered around him on every side, in the calm, yet exulting confidences of faith, he can look upward and exclaim--'the Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?'
A few words more, and I have done.
Fellow-citizens of St. Louis, above, you have my sentiments, fully and freely expressed, on the great subjects now agitating the public mind. Are they such as render me unworthy of that protection which regulate Society accords to the humblest of its members? Let me ask you, why is it that this storm of persecution is directed against me? What have I done? Have I libeled any man's person or character? No. have I been found in gambling-houses, billiard-rooms, or tippling-shops? Never. Have I ever disturbed the peace and quiet of your city by midnight revellings, or riots in the streets? It is not pretended. Have I ever, by word or deed, directly or indirectly, attempted or designed to incite your slaves to insubordination? God forbid. I would as soon be guilty of arson and murder. And here you must permit me to say that the conduct of those who so fiercely accuse me here, strongly reminds me of the scene which took place between Ahab and the prophet Elijah. You remember that in a time of great drouth, which Elijah had predicted, and which God sent upon the land for the wickedness of Ahab and Israel, when Ahab met Elijah, he said to him, in great wrath, 'Art thou he that troubleth Israel?' But the prophet boldly, and in conscious innocence, replied, 'I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house,' &c. Elijah did not bring the drouth and the famine into Israel, he simply announced what God had determined to do in punishment of their sins. The drouth would have come, though there had been no prophet to announce it. Yet so fat as he had any personal agency in the matter, he may well be supposed to have been actuated by kind motives towards Ahab and his countrymen, inasmush as by forewarning them of the evil, he have them an opportunity to prepare for it at least, if not to avert it by a speedy repentance.
Even so, my fellow-citizens, is it unreasonable and unjust to charge upon those who, applying to the case the maxims of the Bible, of experience, and history, foresee and foretell to you the evil effects of the continuance of Slavery, the crime of having introduced those very consequences. And here let me say, that in my opinion the proceedings of the late meetings in this city, and the agitation consequent upon them, have done more to disquiet and render uneasy and restless and discontented, the minds of the slaves, than all that the "Observer" could or would have said in a hundred years.
I again, therefore, ask you what I have done, that I am to be made an object to popular vengeance? From the time that I published the account of the consecration of the Cathedral, threats have been constantly coming to my ears that I was to be mobbed, and my office torn down. Is it borne, that a citizen in the he peaceable exercise of those rights secured to him solemnly by charter, is thus to be hunted down and proscribed? If in any thing I have offended against the laws of my country, or its constitution, I stand ready to answer. If I have not, then I call upon those laws and that constitution, and those who revere them to protect me.
I do, therefore, as an American citizen, and Christian patriot, and in the name of Liberty, and Law, and Religion, solemnly protest against all these attempts, howsoever or by whomsoever made, to frown down the liberty of the press, and forbid the free expression of opinion. Under a deep sense of my obligations to my country, the church, and my God, I declare it to be my fixed purpose to submit to no such dictation. And I am prepared to abide the consequences. I have appealed to the constitution and laws of my country; if they fail to protect me, I appeal to God, and with Him I cheerfully rest my cause.
Fellow-citizens, they told me if I returned to the city, from my late absence, you would surely lay violent hands upon me, and many of my friends besought me not to come. I disregarded their advice, because I plainly saw, or thought I saw, that the Lord would have me come. And up to this moment that conviction of duty has continued to strengthen, until now I have not a shadow of doubt that I did right. I have appeared openly among you, in your streets and market-places, and now I openly and publicly throw myself into your hands. I can die at my post, but I cannot desert it.
I have request to make, and but one. The original proprietors of the "Observer," have, as you know, disclaimed all responsibility in its publication. So far as depends upon them, nothing would appear in the paper on the subject of Slavery. I am sure, therefore, that you will see the propriety of refraining from any act which would inflict injury upon them, either in person or property. I alone am answerable and responsible for all that appears in the paper, except when absent from the city. A part of the office also belongs to the young men who print the paper; and they are in no way responsible for the matter which appears in its columns. For the sake of both these parties I do, therefore, earnestly entreat you, that whatever may be done to me, the property of the office may be left undisturbed. If the popular vengeance needs a victim, I offer myself a willing sacrifice. To any assault that may be made upon me, I declare it my purpose to make no resistance. There is, I confess, one string tugging at my heart, that sometimes wakes it to mortal agony. And yet I cannot, dare not, yield to its influence. For my master has said, 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.'
Humbly entreating all whom I have injured, whether intentionally or otherwise, to forgive me; in charity with all men; freely forgiving my enemies, even those who thirst for my blood, and with the blest assurance, that in life or death nothing can separate me from my Redeemer, I subscribe myself,
Your fellow citizen,
Elijah P. Lovejoy
Owen Lovejoy, the son of a Congregational minister, was born, in Albion, Maine, on 6th January, 1811. He graduated from Bowdain College, Brunswick, in 1832 and studied law but never practiced.
In 1836 Lovejoy was ordained as the pastor of the Congregational Church in Princeton, Illinois. Lovejoy was a strong opponent of slavery. So also was his brother, Elijah Parish Lovejoy, the editor of the Alton Observer. A member of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society, his brother was murdered by a white pro-slavery mob on 7th November, 1837. At his funeral he vowed that he would never "forsake the cause sprinkled with his brother's blood".
Lovejoy was a member of the Liberty Party and in was active in the campaign against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In 1854 Lovejoy was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. During this period he became friendly with Abraham Lincoln. However, Lincoln disapproved of Lovejoy's abolitionists views and refused to join him in forming a new radical political party.
After joining the Republican Party, Lovejoy was elected to the 35th Congress and took his seat in March, 1857. He soon gained the reputation as being the most aggressive of the anti-slavery orators and associated with the Radical Republican group in Congress. However, he gradually moderated his views and assured the voters that he was content "to fight slavery in modes pointed out in the Constitution, and in those modes only." In the 1860 presidential election Lovejoy campaigned vigorously for Abraham Lincoln.
During the American Civil War Lovejoy argued that the president should free the slaves. When critics in the Republican Party expressed fears that the former slaves would want to live in the North, Lovejoy replied: "let them stay where they are and work under the stimulus of cash instead of the lash." Lovejoy also argued for the recruitment of black regiments.
Unlike some Radical Republican, Lovejoy took care not to be too critical of Abraham Lincoln. At one speech on 12th June, 1862, he said of the president: "If he does not drive as fast as I would, he is on the right road, and it is only a question of time." Owen Lovejoy died in Brooklyn, New York City, on 25th March, 1864.