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Joseph C. (Joseph Cammet) Lovejoy.

Memoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy; who was murdered in defence of the liberty of the press, at Alton, Illinois, Nov. 7, 1837 online

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to Popery. The fire that is now blazing and crackling
through this city, was kindled on Popish altars, and has
been 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
13*



150 MEMOIR OF THE

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
servdce 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, / will not.

Some of you I know are with me in feeling, in sym-
pathy, and in prayer. And this knowledge is, indeed, a
cordial to my heart. We have wept and prayed 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 resolu-
tion 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 this 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



REV. E. P. LOVEJOY. 151

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 unitedly 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 confidence of faith, he can look up-
ward and exclaim — ' The Lord is my light and my sal-
vation ; whom shall I fear 1 the Lord is the strength of
my life ; of whom shall I be afraid V

A few words more, and I have done.

Fellow-citizens of St. Louis, above, you have my sen-
ments, fully and freely expressed, on the great subjects
now agitating the public mind. Are they such as render
me unworthy of that protection which regulated 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 libelled 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 ?



152 MEMOIR OF THE

It is not pretended. Have I ever, by word or deed, di-
rectly 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 V 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 upon Israel, he sim-
ply announced what God had determined to do in punish-
ment of their sins. The drouth would have come, though
there had been no prophet to announce it. Yet so far 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, inasmuch as by forewarning
them of the evil, he gave 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 con-
tinuance 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 discon-
tented, the minds of the slaves, than all that the " Obser-
ver" could or would have said in an hundred years.



REV. E. P. LOVEJOY. 153

I again, therefore, ask you what I have done, that I
am to be made an object of 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 to be borne, that a citizen in the 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 consti-
tution, and those who revere them to protect me.

I c?o, therefore, as an American citizen, and Christian
patriot, and in the name of Liberty, and Law, and Re-
ligion, 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 that 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



154 MEMOIR OF THE REV. E. P. LOVEJOY.

I openly and publicly throw myself into your hands. I
can die at my post, but I cannot desert it.

I have one request to make, and but one. The origi-
nal 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 pa-
per 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 respon-
sible for the matter appearing in its columns. For the
sake of both these parties I do, therefore, earnestly en-
treat you, that whatever maybe done to me, the property
of the office may be left undisturbed. If the popular
vengeance needs a victim, I offer myself a willing sacri-
fice. To any assault that may be made upon me, I de-
clare 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."



CHAPTER X.



It will be proper here to insert several letters which
show the workings of his spirit in secret, while he was
thus breasting the pitiless storm without.

St. Louis, November 2d, 1835.
My Dear Brother,

We have just got into the Abolition excitement
here. For some days past St. Louis has been in an
" uproar." The immediate cause of the excitement, was
the abduction of several negroes from a town into Illinois,
by some persons, it is not certainly known who. How-
ever, on the strength of suspicion, two men were seized
by about sixty of our " most respectable'^ (so say the
papers) citizens, taken above three miles back of the
city, and there whipped, as near as can be ascertained,
one hundred and fifty or two hundred lashes each. Some
of the sixty respectable citizens were for hanging them
up at once, but in this they were overruled. And what
is more, it is now said, and I suppose correctly, that one
of the men thus whipped, was, and is, totally innocent ! !
They whipped him on suspicion, telling him if he would
confess they would let him of ; and when the poor fellow
could endure no longer, he accused himself.

We have had several public meetings here — the result
of which you Avill see in the " Observer."

I v/as not in town during the height of the excitement,
being absent as I told you. And now that I am here, it



156 MEMOIR OF THE

is at the daily peril of my life. I am accused of being
an Abolitionist, and threatened in the newspapers of the
city, and throughout the city, as well as various places
in the state, with violence. / expect it. I expect that I
shall be Lyjich.ed, or tarred and feathered, or it may be,
hung up. All are threatened. There is a burning hatred
on the part of the Popish priests and their minions, which
would delight to quench itself in my blood. And nothing
would be more convenient for it, than to execute its pur-
poses, under the mask of opposition to Abolition. I have
known, for some months, that I was in danger from the
hand of violence — but the matter is now about to come
to a crisis. In the " Observer" of Thursday, I shall
come out, openly, fearlessly, and as I hope, in such a
manner as becomes a servant of Jesus Christ, when de-
fending His cause. And whatever may be the conse-
quences, I think, I trust, that through the grace of God,
I am prepared to meet them — even unto death itself. My
friends are trembling, my enemies — numerous and influ-
ential — are open and fierce in their threats, but I can
truly say, I never was more calm. I have fasted and
prayed. I have earnestly sought the path of duty, and
think, I am assured, that I have found it ; and now I am
determined that not all the fury of men or devils shall
drive me from it. Yet you need not be disappointed to
hear that I have fallen a victim, at least to the lash or the
tar barrel. If they content themselves with whipping, I
will not run until I have been whipped as often, at least,
as Paul was — eight times.

The abominable resolutions passed at the meeting
were voted for by professing Christians ! two or three
Methodists had the courage to say no to the fourth and
fifth and that was all. They were voted for by at least
two Elders in the Presbyterian Church !



REV. E. P. LOVEJOY. 157

And yet my dear brother, I am not an Abolitionist — at
least not such a one as you are. But I shall be more
full in the paper.

Give my love to dear mother, sisters and brother. We
are all well. My wife is just now at her mother's. My
best love to Sarah. Tell mother not to be disquieted —
The Lord reigneth. And let me entreat my brothers
and sisters to pray for me, that I may pass through this
" fiery trial," without denying my Lord and Master.
Your afTectionate brother,

ELIJAH P. LOVEJOF.



St. Louis, November 10th, 1835.
Dear Brother,

Before this reaches you, you will have read
the " Observer," containing an " appeal" to the public.
I hasten to inform you, especially that dear Mother may
not be kept in suspense as to my fate, that I believe the
result will be for good. I do not think that I shall be
mobbed — a re-action has taken place in this city. Unex-
pected friends have been raised up, and the truth is likely
to triumph. The original proprietors of the " Observer"
took it from me, but others rose up and restored it to me.
The paper will not be published this week, but will be
resumed the next, and go on.

I am sure it is doing good or the Devil would not be
so mad about it.* But I have a hard battle of it. If
you can do any thing for me in Maine, I hope you will
do it.



* Some time after this a plain but warm friend wrote him — " It does
seem as though the Devil knowing his time is short, had come down in
great wrath to afflict David Nelson, George B. Cheever, and Elijah P.
Lovejoy." — Eds.

14



158 MEMOIR OF THE

I will send you some extra copies of the " Observer,"
which I hope you will circulate. Tell me what you
think of it, and what the brethren generally think of it.

I shall lose a good many subscribers here in Missouri,
but I hope to gain them elsewhere. It is important that
the paper be kept up here. Thousands read it who will
not subscribe for it ; and they cannot say of it, that it is
" foreign interference."

You see our committees of vigilance, and all that.
They have whipped two men here, nearly to death, mere-
ly on suspicion, and not a single paper but the " Obser-
ver" dares to open its mouth on the subject.

There was a time when I did expect to be tarred and
feathered, and probably hung. And I can truly say —
and I bless God that I can say it — that never in my life
did I feel so calm, so composed, and tranquil in mind. I
am sure that I could have gone to the stake, as cheerful
as I ever went to a bed of rest. But the crisis is now
over. By the grace of God, I stood firm, and having the
truth on my side, I was more than a match for my ene-
mies. Tell mother there is no danger, not the least.

Good bye. Love to Sarah, to sisters, to Owen, to all.
The Lord be with you.

Your affectionate brother,

ELIJAH P. LOVEJOY.



St. Louis, November 23d, 1835.
Dear Mother,

Knowing that you will feel anxious to know
how matters proceed here, in St. Louis, I write to
you again, by which you may, at least, know that I
am not yet hu7ig up. Neither have I been tarred and
feathered, nor yet whipped, nor, indeed, in any way



REV. E. P. LOVE JOY. 159

molested bodily ; of slander and falsehood, and malignant
abuse, I have had abundance.

We are getting quiet again. The Lynchites are get-
ting ashamed of their doings. The Papists, the Irish,
and the pro-slavery Christians finding that I am not to
be driven nor frightened away, are beginning to feel and
act a little more reasonably. A large majority of the
Protestants in the city are decidedly with me.

I can but hope that the cause of human rights, of
mercy, and of truth will be advanced in this city and
state, by the late disturbances here. For this, I am sure
you will pray.

Let me state to you one fact. The man who headed
the whole business of the late public meetings, and who
was the most active and virulent in his endeavours to
excite the public mind against me, and stop the " Obser-
ver," the other night whipped his female negro slave al-
most to death. Her cries and screams brought a multi-
tude around his house, and he narrowly escaped having
his house broken into, and himself made the victim of
mob violence. I knew that the wicked, sooner or later,
fall into the pit they have digged for others ; but was
not this sudden retribution ? And what shall we say of
those professing Christians, yea, elders in the church,
who follow in the wake of such a man, to stop the " Ob-
server" because it advocates the Abolition of Slavery ?
We have such elders in St. Louis — four of them in our
church. The woman was rescued from the monster by
the constable and taken to jail. His name is Arthur L.
M'Ginnis, an Irishman, and states' attorney for this dis-
trict.

We have another man here, walking our streets in
open day, who, about a year since, actually whipped his
negro woman to death. He was tried for the murder, but



160 MEMOIR OF THE

as negro evidence was not admitted, he could not be
convicted, or rather was not. Such men are not mob-
bed, but he who ventures to say that Slavery is a sin, does
it at the risk of his life.

The " Observer" stopped one week, but is going
again, and like to go ; that is, if the Christian public will
support it ; if not, it must go down. Wife is well, very
well for her. She sends her love to you, to sisters, and
to all. Do let me hear from you soon.

Affectionately, your son,

ELIJAH P. LOVEJOY.

We now insert the main part of a letter v/ritten in
January following, giving a full account of his trials up
to that time. His letter was nearly all copied by mother,
and the original sent away, which has not been obtained.
And, unfortunately, the copy does not give the date, al-
though it is known to have been written in January.

St. Louis, Jaimary, 1836
My DEAR Brother,

I have taken a large sheet and expect to fill it ;
and if you do not read it through, mother, I know, will.
1 have thought it would be interesting to you to have a
particular account of those things which have lately
transpired in this city. One main reason why I write
these things, is to enable you to join with me, in blessing
that grace which carried me safely through all my trials.
I need not say that for some time past the " Observer"
has been prominent in its attacks on Slavery and Popery.
In a community like this, where those institutions exer-
cise so controlling an influence upon society, it is not at
all to be wondered at, that a deep and bitter hostility
should come to be fixed upon the " Observer" and its



REV. E. P. LOVEJOY. 161

Editor. This feeling of hostility I knew existed, and it
only required some plausible occasion to bre.ak out.

The mobs in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York,
gave them this pretext. During the summer, an elder
in the First Presbyterian Church was frequently coming
to me and telling me to beware — that I was in danger —
that the constant talk was about mobbing me. To this I
paid no heed. The first of last September, I went to
Potosi, a town about sixty miles south-west of this, to
attend a camp-meeting. On my way back, I heard
that two men had waited in that village, for half a day, for
the purpose of tarring and feathering me. Providentially,
I did not come into town till the next morning, and these
men, tired of waiting, went home. On my return into
the city, I found the excitement getting up, and I was
informed by the elder above mentioned, that a hand-bill
had been printed, to circulate throughout the city, for the
purpose of collecting a mob to tear down the office of
the " Observer." The Missouri x\rgus openly called
upon the hurrah boys to mob me down. All these things
did not change the course of the " Observer ;■' and under
these circumstances, I left the last of September, to at-
tend the meeting of our Presbytery and Synod at Union,
a place sixty miles west of this. I expected to be ab-
sent about four or five weeks. We had a most harmo-
nious session, and a set of resolutions passed on the
subject of Slavery. They were of my drafting, and
passed unanimously. From Union we went to Marion,
to the meeting of the Synod. Here this same St. Louis
elder appeared fresh from St. Louis, full of excitement
and alarm, and fuss, about Slavery. The excitement
was rising in St. Louis, and he had a thousand frightful
things to tell the Synod. According to him, we must
disavow and denounce Abolitionism, and every thing like
14*



162 MEMOIR OF THE

it, or the Presbyterian Church would be destroyed in
Missouri. We had a warm debate ; a majority of the
ministers went with me, but the lay members turned the
scale. Two ministers from New England voted against
us — a fact as lamentable and disgraceful as it is true.
Eastern men when they go over constitute the most ultra
defenders of Slavery. The elder above mentioned, pre-
vious to his coming up to the Synod, had written an arti-
cle, published in one of the daily papers of the city, de-
claring that Slavery had the sanction of the Holy Scrip-
tures, signed an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

Reports now came up thick from St. Louis, that they
were whipping men almost to death, that the whole city
was in commotion, that no one suspected of Abolitionism
could live in it. Under these circumstances the Synod
adjourned, and I started for home, I rode with a good
brother about half the way — seventy miles. We talked
the matter over. On the whole, he advised me not to go
into St. Louis. The same advice was given me by other
brethren at Marion. I had a wife ; any violence done
to me, of a serious nature, I feared would destroy her.
Her health, at all times delicate, was peculiarly so now.
The brethren told me I had no right to sacrifice her,
whatever I might do with myself. I was taken exceed-
ingly ill on the road, but managed to get on to St.
Charles, a place about twenty miles from St. Louis.

I found my wife as I had left her, sick in bed — was
myself detained three days by sickness. By this time I
had fully made up my mind, that duty and fidelity to my
Lord and Master required my presence at St. Louis.
My friends advised me not to go ; all hut wife — she said
GO, if you think dutij calls you.

Accordingly I came into St. Louis. I found the com-
munity in a state of dreadful alarm and excitement. The



REV. E. P. LOVEJOY. 163

press was fanning the flame — the Jesuits at the bellows,
blowing it up. The " Observer" had been muzzled by
the original proprietors. A communication had been
sent me, signed by them, and by my friend Mr. Potts,
requesting me to say no more on the subject of Slavery.
I was accused by name, in one of the city papers, of
being an Abolitionist, in the bitterest manner, and the
public vengeance invoked upon me. The elder of whom
I spake, had come back from the Synod, and in an article
of the same paper, declared, that I was acting contrary to
the wishes of the Synod, and of the Presbyterian Church,
in the state. This was followed by a declaration of the
editor of that paper, " that they would soon free the church
of the rotten sheep in it ;" — the very expression used. A
mob had been raised to tear down the " Observer Office ;"
but had concluded, after assembling, to defer it a little
longer. On my arrival, men came to me, and told me I
could not walk the streets of St. Louis by night or by
day. Men's hearts were failing them. I was the only
Protestant minister in the city. The question then
arose, what must I do ? Earnestly I sought to avoid col-
lision with the excited and angry community, if that
might be consistent with faithfulness to God.

But daily, as I sought counsel at the Throne of Grace,
my convictions strengthened, that for me to give way,


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Online LibraryJoseph C. (Joseph Cammet) LovejoyMemoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy; who was murdered in defence of the liberty of the press, at Alton, Illinois, Nov. 7, 1837 → online text (page 11 of 28)