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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influences that have been at work all around them. It
is too true that many have left the work of the Lord, and
have gone to work to get riches for themselves. Even
ministers, in many instances, have forsaken the pulpit to
enter lands, build rail-roads, erect steam-mills, make


towns, &c. The less conscientious and pious Christians
have done this openly, and without attempt at palliation,
while the better sort have done it, under the specious
pretext, with which they doubtless deceived themselves,
that it was right to give one's self wholly up to the busi-
ness of making money, provided we make it for the
Lord. So that either one way or the other, pretty near-
ly the whole have yielded to the temptation.

So far as we know there is no ground for mutual re-
criminations among Christians, touching this thing; but
there is ground for repentance and mutual confession of
sin. We are all verily guilty in this matter.

The experience of the last two years has taught us,
that the church is not yet sufficiently sanctified, to bear
uninterrupted prosperity. A year or two more would
have ruined us all. The present visitation of Providence,
therefore, though a sharp, was yet a necessary remedy.
It is the chastisement of a kind Father, who knows us a
thousand times better than we know ourselves. If we
humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, he
will have mercy ; if we seek him in prayer and repent-
ance, he will remove from our sky the clouds of his wrath,
and again lift upon us ' the light of his reconciled coun-
tenance.' And may we all as Christians, and as citizens,
remember that ' righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin
is a reproach to any people.' "



Alton, February 9th, 1837.
Dear Brother,

I choose this personal mode of addressing you,
because, while a sense of duty will impel me to speak

REV. E. P. LOVE JOY. 193

with Christian frankness, I wish scrupulously to avoid
all occasion of offence ; and this has seemed to me the
best method of effecting both. You will, I am sure,
agree with me that the subject about which we differ is
one of incalculable importance. Two millions and a half
of our fellow-creatures are groaning in bondage, crushed
to the earth, deprived of rights which their Maker gave
them, and which are in themselves inalienable by any
conceiveable process except that of crime.

However men may theorize, and whatever men may
wish, it is evident that this is a question of tremendous
practical importance ; and in the aspect which it presents
to the Christian especially, he cannot fail to see enough
to make him feel that here, at least, is no place for the
indulgence of the pride of opinion or fondness for a be-
loved theory. Men may quibble about mere abstractions,
and resort to all the arts of metaphysical attack and de-
fence, in order to maintain a favourite position ; but to do
so when discussing a question like that of American
Slavery, is little less than impious, and, in my opinion,
argues a sad want of moral sensibility. The man who
can deliberately do this, would find no difficulty in imi-
tating Nero, who fiddled while Rome was burning. I
have made these remarks, before proceeding to the more
immediate subject of this communication, because a se-
rious, candid, and honest state of mind, when we write
or read on the subject of Slavery, cannot be too highly
valued, nor too earnestly prayed for.

I come now to the question of " curtailing sermons."
And how stands this matter ? I suppose you will admit
that no minister could, at the present time, in any of the
slave states, preach what is called an " anti-slavery ser-
mon," without being driven from his pulpit. Dr. Nel-
son attempted it in Missouri, and in consequence, had to


flee for his life from the state, some leading church mem-
bers being foremost in the persecution. I have lived
about eight years in a slave state, and, except in one or
two instances, I do not recollect ever to have heard slave-
holders, whether in or out of the church, reproved for
neglecting or abusing their slaves, although, at the same
time, [ have seen the slave sitting out on the carriage
box, through all the service, while their masters and
mistresses, whom they drove to church, were worship-
ping with great devoutness within. I have known church
members sell all their slaves, at one time, into distant
captivity, where they were to go beyond the reach of
Christian instruction, yet never did I hear the pastor re-
buke the deed. To preach against intemperance and Sab-
bath breaking, against covetousness and murder, and yet
to pass over Slavery in silence, is, however you may
regard it, in my opinion, " shunning to declare the whole
counsel of God." I will give you a case in point.

Less than a year since, I heard in a city of a slave-
holding state, the pastor of a Presbyterian church preach
from the text, " It is the price of blood." The speaker
first adduced several reasons for the command that man
should not kill his fellow-man, such as that he had no
right to take away what he could not restore, that it was
insulting God to deface his image, &c. After briefly
laying down these propositions, the main part of the dis-
course was occupied in showing what was and must be
the moral character of those occupations, which were ne-
cessarily pursued at the expense of human life. The
property acquired in this way, he told us, should legiti-
mately be called " the price of blood." He dwelt upon
this point with a variety and force of illustration and re-
mark, that was painfully interesting, because painfully
true. He spoke of the young men that were destroyed


in the prime of life, of the families that were beggared,
and the souls that were ruined, by the distillery and the
dram shop ; and he told those who made their property
by this means, that the houses they dwelt in, and the
fashionable dresses in which their wives and daughters
appeared in the house of God, were " the price of
BLOOD !" At this point of the discourse, a deep and
thrilling interest pervaded the audience — men held their
breath in expectation of what was coming — and it was
evident what subject was uppermost in the minds of all ;
but the speaker closed by saying that other practices and
other trafficks might be mentioned, whose gains were the
price of blood, but he should forbear, as he did not think
it proper or prudent (I forget which was the word)
to mention them. Now there was not, I presume, a sin-
gle individual among his audience, that did not under-
stand the preacher as referring to Slavery, — to the buy-
ing and selling human beings for the sake of gain. It
was a topic of general conversation at the time, and some
of the leading members of the church, were, as I learned,
a good deal offended at even this distant allusion, by way
of condemnation, to the source of their unholy gains.

Now the preacher might have acted wisely, or he
might not, in thus forbearing to speak of the sin of Sla-
very. It is a question about which there will probably
be a difference among good men ; but in either alterna-
tive, my case is made good, that a minister cannot preach
the whole truth to a slaveholding church and congrega-
tion. To dwell eloquently upon the sin of amassing
money, by making and selling whisky and rum, and, at
the same time, to pass over in silence the practice of
amassing it by enslaving and selling human beings, when
preaching to a congregation guilty of both, looks to me
very much, comparatively speaking, like enforcing the


*' tithes of mint and cummin," while the " weightier mat-
ters of the law" are forgotten. I have said that there
will doubtless be a difference of opinion, as to the pro-
priety of the course pursued on this occasion ; yet one
thing is doubtless certain, had the preacher done other-
wise, had he ventured to denounce Slavery as he had de-
nounced intemperance, he never would have gone into
that pulpit again. His church would not have endured
such doctrine, and many of its leading members would
have been among the first and the loudest to cry, " Cru-
cify him, crucify him."

Yet I could not but feel at the time, that were I stand-
ing in his place, I should have done it, at whatever risk.
As a minister of the gospel, / should not have dared to
do otherwise. Nay, I felt that I would willingly have
given one year of my life, to have stood on the vantage
ground which the speaker then occupied, to have had the
ear of that audience as he had, and then to have poured
upon their startled consciences, the denunciations of God
upon those who " oppress the poor and the needy, and
the stranger within their gates." I would have done it,
though, in so doing, I had expended my last breath.

This letter has already extended much farther than I
at first intended, yet I cannot persuade myself to close it
without a few additional remarks. It has been, and still
is, to me a source of great grief, to witness the course
which you, brother Cummings, together with the editors
of the Vermont Chronicle, the Boston Recorder, and the
New York Observer, have pursued on the subject of
Slavery. These are all brethren whom (though I have not
the happiness to know them personally) I highly respect.
Separately, and together, you wield an incalculable moral
influence, and 1 need not say that your responsibilities are
correspondingly great. These brethren, will, I am sure,


pardon me, if I speak seriously, and in earnest, on this
subject, for I speak in behalf of more than two millions
of my fellow-beings, who are not permitted to open
their mouths to plead their own cause. And I therefore
tell you plainly, that you seem to me not at all to have
understood your responsibilities, in relation to the subject
of Slavery, or else to have trifled with them in a manner
truly awful. I have seen the Mirror once and again, give
the subject the go-by, with a dry joke or a half-concealed
sarcasm, which none understand how to use better than
he ; I have seen the Recorder and the Chronicle, with
column after column of their pages occupied by their
acute and logical-minded editors, in reasoning coldly
about sin and Slavery in the abstract, when the living and
awful reality w^as before them and around them, dis-
puting about words and terms, and the precise amount
of guilt, even to the twentieth part of a scruple, to be at-
tached to this or that slaveholder, as coolly, and with as
much indifference, as if no manacled slave stood before
them, with uplifted hands and streaming eyes, beseech-
ing them to knock off their galling, soul-corroding chains.
I have seen the New York Observer publish, week after
week, and send it to its hundred thousand readers, the
most partial and injurious representations of the charac-
ters and motives of those engaged in freeing the slave
from bondage, while its columns have been hermetically
sealed to all reply or confutation. And, as I have seen
these things, I have asked myself, how long, oh ! how
long, shall these beloved, but mistaken brethren, continue
to abuse their influence, pervert the truth, and retard the
salvation of the slave ?

Dear brother, lay aside your metaphysical spectacles,
give up your undue attachment to well-worded theories,
and look at the naked facts. If the wisdom of the schools


cannot teach you the true character of Slavery, come
with me, and let us interrogate yonder illiterate, untaught
slave. He is just returning, faint and weary, from the
toils of the day. He is an aged man, and has had for
many years, a practical acquaintance with Slavery. Let
us hear his reply to the question, " What is Slavery ?"
" It is to have my back subjected to the cowhide or the
cart whip, at the will or caprice of my master, or any of
his family. Every child has a right to curse, or kick, or
cuff the old man. It is to toil all day beneath an almost
vertical sun, with the bitter certainty always before me,
that not one cent of what I earn, is, or can be my own.
It is to depart from my hut every morning, with the sick-
ening fear, that before I return at night, it will be visited
by the slave-driving fiend. It is to return at night, and
find my worst fears realized. My first-born son, denied
even the poor privilege of bidding his father farewell, is
on his way, a chained and manacled victim, to a distant
market, there to be disposed of in shambles, where human
flesh and sinews are bought and sold. It is to enter my
cabin, and see my wife or daughter struggling in the lust-
ful embraces of my master, or some of his white friends,
without daring to attempt their rescue ; for should I open
my lips to remonstrate, a hundred lashes would be the
consequence ; and should I raise my hand to smite the
brutal wretch, nothing but death could atone for the sacri-
lege. But above all, to be a slave, is to be denied the privi-
lege of reading the gospel of the Son of God, to have no
control over my own children, and, consequently to be de-
prived of the power and means of educating them in the
principles of morality and religion. In one word, it is to
be degraded from a man to a brute — to become, instead
of a free moral agent, a thing, a piece of property, and
to be used as such — to be deprived of all personal and all


civil rights — to be shut out from all enjoyment in this
world, and all hope in the next."

Such, brother Cummings, is Slavery, not that Slavery
such as you may imagine or hope might exist, but Slavery
as it actually now exists in eleven of these United
States, nay, such as it exists in the chuuch. And now,
if you, and the brethren referred to, and others whom I
might name, with these facts before you, resting not on
my testimony only, but on that of hundreds of others, can
deliberately make up your minds to continue to act the
same parts which hitherto you have done, in relation to
the present efTorts to emancipate the slaves, why so be it.
I cannot help it. Yet "my soul shall weep in secret
places" over such an abuse of influence, such a perversion
of talent, such a desertion from the cause of bleeding hu-
manity, by those who ought to be foremost and most
zealous in its defence. You can do, and you are doing,
much to retard those efforts. But, in so doing, I declare
to you my deliberate conviction, as I shall answer it at
His bar, that you are fighting against God. The work I
believe is his. He has owned it, he has set upon it the
seal of his approbation, by raising up for it helpers when
and where least expected. All good men, except, alas ! a
portion of the church in this country, are with it ; the
spirit of the age is with it ; the precepts of the gospel
are all on its side, and he were an infidel to doubt of its
success. It will succeed, it will triumph, and that much
sooner, I think, than even its friends, generally anticipate.
You and 1 may yet live to have our ears gladdened and
our hearts thrilled by the notes of that jubilee which shall
sound from the Potomac to the Sabine, from the Ohio to
the Gulf of Mexico, proclaiming " liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
Oh, who would forego the privilege of feeling that he had


a right to join in that jubilee ? — that it had been hastened
in part by his exertions ?

With much Christian affection, I remain,
Your brother in the Lord,


" The Abolitionists are beginning every where to
throw off the mask, and boldly to advocate amalgama-
tion ; that is, the intermarriage of whites and blacks ! —
the union of persons that God by colour, has put asun-
der, as much as he has separated midnight from noon-
day !" — Baptist Banner.

" Now, brother of the Banner, stop a moment, and do
not go off at half charge, as you are somewhat apt to do.
Let us reason together a moment — only for a moment.

In the first place, we ask you for the proof of the
above statement. We deny its truth. We read most of
the Abolition publications in the land, and we have never
seen any such position taken by any one of them. Bring
forward your proof, therefore, or acknowledge yourself
mistaken, and that you have borne false witness against
your neighbour.

But secondly, if God has put the black and white
races so far asunder, how happens it that they come
together so readily in the state where you live ? Is not
the Vice President of these United States, and one of
your own citizens, an ' amalgamator,' as you phrase it ?
Are not his ' amalgamated' daughters among you, re-
spectably married to men of pure Saxon blood — the sons
of chivalrous Kentucky ?

Moreover, go out into the streets of Louisville, the city
of your residence, and where there are no Abolitionists,
and tell me how many individuals among all the coloured


population that throng your streets, you can find whose
faces shine with the pure gloss of an African complex-
ion. Such persons are about as scarce in St. Louis as
black swans are on the Mississippi, and we suspect the
case is pretty similar in Louisville.

Now if this amalgamation must go on — certainly the
taste of these individuals who practically favour it, is
widely different from ours, but you know the old proverb,
brother, De gustibus, &c. — if, then, it must go on, had it
not better be so regulated as that it shall, in future, be in
accordance with the Divine as well as human law,
rather than, as now, in contravention to both ?

If, for instance, an individual in Kentucky, like your
illustrious citizen, the Vice President, should prefer the
daughters of Ham rather than the daughters of Japhet,
from whom to choose a wife, why should we who pre-
fer the latter be restricted to one, while he is allowed a
dozen, and indeed a whole harem if he please ? And
why, when we are bound to love, cherish, and maintain
our wives till death, should he be allowed the privilege
of making ' merchandise' of his and their children too,
just as caprice or avarice may dictate ?

Will the ' Banner' answer these questions satisfacto-
rily, if he can, to his own conscience ; and if he cannot,
' be ashamed and confounded, and never open his mouth
more' about the ' amalgamation' of Abolitionists ?"

" We have great respect for the acumen of brother
Tracy, of the ' Boston Recorder,' but we do wish for his
own sake, as well as truth's, that he were somewhat less
given to the habit of deciding great questions of practical
duty on metaphysical principles so subtle, that common
folks need a magnifying glass to discover them. Brother
T. has quoted Hudibras upon Mr. Phelps ; will he ex-


cuse US if we also remind him that that same impartial
and pious describer of the good men of his age, tells us
of one

' who could divide

A hair 'twixt north and north west side.*

And we may well suppose that after this was done, he
could dispute in learned strain, as to which octagon sec-
tion of the divided hair was the largest.

Does not a single glance serve to convince Mr. T.
that the case he has supposed of the ' relation' com-
mencing when the man is asleep is no case at all. For
until the man awakes he can sustain no moral relation to
any thing or any body, any more than the bedstead on
which he lies. Go to him brother Tracy, and take Mr.
Phelps along with you, wake the man up, tell him that
his father has just left him a legacy of fifty human be-
ings, and ask him what he intends to do in the case ; if
he say, ' I intend to hold them as my property^ then Mr.
Phelps will reply ' in so doing you sin against God ;' and
if we were there, most promptly would we add our own
testimony to the same effect."


" We do not exactly understand what brother Cum-
miiigs means in his paper of the 10th ult. when he talks
about our compelling him to ' plume his wings,' and take
his flight from this ' mundane sphere.' Be assured,
brother^ we have no wish to drive you out of the world,
even if we had the ability. You have a Avork of re-
pentance to perform, as it regards your course towards
your coloured brethren ; and we love you too well to
wish you to meet them at the bar of Him who is 'no


respecter of persons,' until that work is performed. And
then we want you to live long enough after that to evince
your sincerity by ' bringing forth fruits meet for repent-
ance ;' and then we should be sorry to hav^e you depart
until you had witnessed the blessedness of immediate
emancipation, and how groundless were all your fears
respecting it. So that on the whole there seems to be no
reason why you may not, so far as we are concerned,
indulge the comfortable hope of attaining to your three
score years and ten.

But now to business. You say in regard to the ques-
tion whether the slaves are better treated at the South
than in the West, ' Give us authentic testimony, and not
random statements.' We find it very difficult, brother
Cummings, to get any statements which you will con-
sider ' authentic' if they make against your pre-conceived
notions on the subject. We will make an effort, how-
ever. But first we must say and repeat, that it is a mat-
ter of unfeigned astonishment to us, that you should ask
for evidence on this subject. We should not actually
have been more surprised, had you seriously demanded
of us, proof, that the Mississippi river was a larger and
longer stream than the Santee, or Little Pedee. The
ignorance here is almost great enough — perhaps quite —
to be called absurd.

Your disposal of the ' strait-jacket,' is by no means
satisfactory, nor is it candid. The phrase is surely pro-
per enough, supposing it to be rightly applied. We cer-
tainly used the term ' strait-jacket,' that is the fact,
but we did not apply them to an ' excellent aged minis-
ter,' as you said we did, and so said that which was not
fact. Acknowledge your mistake, brother C.

Mr. Bailey has written a ' supplementary letter,' it
seems, to explain away the testimony of his Synod, and


you refer us to that. I tell you, brother C, that it is time
to have done with these tergiversations. I call them
tergiversations, and so they are, and they are a disgrace to
any body, much more to a Christian minister. I have
read Mr. B.'s ' supplementary letter,' and I tell him, and
I tell you, it is worthy only of a Jesuit. I will spend no
time in refuting such special pleading, such vile sophis-
try. Pardon me if I speak plainly. The next thing I
expect to be called on to prove, is, that negroes have not
woolly heads in South Carolina. Mr. Bailey's supple-
mentary letter has sunk him immeasurably in my esti-

I am glad to hear you say that you think Slavery ' too
desperate to be much longer tolerated by heaven or
earth.' I never said there was 'not a chaste female in
the church ;' I said as a general truth there was not, and
I repeat it."


March I6th, 1837.

" We frequently hear from many good brethren the re-
mark, that whatever may be the evils of Slavery, the
way to remedy them, is 'to preach the gospel.' In
opposition to efforts made by anti-slavery societies, and
anti-slavery presses, they say, ' If the gospel will not
effect it (the abolition of Slavery) we despair of any in-
strumentality whatever.'

We would respectfully ask these brethren, what they
mean by such remarks as these ? We agree with them
most cordially, that the gospel of the Son of God is the
remedy for Slavery. But how ? They certainly will not
say, that it will prove this remedy as administered by
those, their ministerial brethren, who maintain that the


Bible sanctions Slavery ; makes it right, and places it
on the same footing in its code of morals, as the domes-
tic relations of husband and wife, parent and child ? Not
in such hands will the gospel prove a remedy for the evils
of Slavery.

But how much more good can it effect, when used by
those who, notwithstanding they admit the remedy to be
a good one, uniformly decline applying it. for fear of irri-
tating their patients ? How long will it take the gospel
to work a cure, if it is never applied to the diseased part ?
Will these brethren tell us ? They seem to imagine there
is some magic power about the preaching of the gospel,
that is to do away with Slavery, while yet the authorized
and accredited ministers of the gospel, never open their

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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 14 of 28)