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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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 18 of 28)
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sent time, when iniquity is coming in like a flood. I
should be false to my covenant vows, and false to every
feeling of my heart, were I to refuse making any per-
sonal sacrifice to eflfect so desirable an object. Having
learned that there is a division of sentiments among the
brethren, as it regards the propriety of my continuing
longer to fill the office of Editor of the " Alton Observer,"
I do not hesitate a moment to submit the question to your
decision. Most cheerfully will I resign my post, if in
your collective wisdom you think the cause we all pro-
fess to love will thereby be promoted. And in coming
to a decision on this question, I beseech you as a favour
— may 1 not enjoin it as a duty ? — that you act without
any regard to my personal feelings. I should be false to
the Master I serve, and of whose gospel I am a minis-
ter, should I allow my own interests, (real or supposed,)
to be placed in competition with his. Indeed, I have no
interest, no wish, at least I think I have none ; I know I
ought to have none other than such as are subordinate
to his will. Be it yours, brethren, to decide what is
best for the cause of truth, most for the glory of God, and


the salvation of souls, and rest assured — whatever my
own private judgment may be — of my cordial acquies-
cence in your decision.

I had, at first, intended to make an unconditional sur-
render of the editorship into your hands. But as such
a course might be liable to misconstructions, I have, by
the advice of a beloved brother, determined to leave the
whole matter with you. I am ready to go forward if
you say so, and equally ready to yield to a successor, if
such be your opinion. Yet let me say, promptly, that in
looking back over my past labours as Editor of the " Ob-
server," while I see many imperfections, and many er-
rors and mistakes, I have, nevertheless, done the best I
could. This I say in the fear of God ; so that if I am
to continue the Editor, you must not, on the whole, ex-
pect a much better paper than you have had.

Should you decide that I ought to give place to a suc-
cessor, I shall expect the two following conditions to be

1. That you will assume in its behalf, all my obliga-
tions contracted in consequence of my connection with
the " Observer." Some of them were contracted imme-
diately on behalf of the " Observer," and some in sup-
porting my family while its Editor.

2. As I have now spent four among the best years of
my life in struggling to establish the " Observer," and
place it on its present footing, I shall expect you will
furnish me with a sum sufficient to enable me to re-
move myself and family to another field of labour. More
I do not ask, and I trust this will not be thought unrea-
sonable. I would not ask even this had I the means
myself, but I have not.

3. On these conditions I surrender into your hands
the " Observer's" subscription list, now amounting to


more than two thousand one hundred names, and con-
stantly increasing, together with all the dues coming to
the establishment. A list both of the debts and credits
accompanies this communication.

May the spirit of wisdom, dear brethren, guide you to
a wise Bind una?ii?nous decision — to a decision which God
will approve and ratify, and which shall redound to the
glory of his name.

Yours affectionately,


This paper we introduce for two reasons ; first, as it
is a part of his history ; and secondly, that the reader
may have the means of judging as it regards those
charges of obstinacy and self-will which have so often
been preferred against him.

At a meeting for the consideration of this resignation,
the two following resolutions were introduced, for the
sake of some definite action :

1. Resolved, That the " Alton Observer" ought to be

2. Resolved, That the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy ought
to continue its Editor.

The first of these was passed, as far as is known,
without debate, or a dissenting voice. The second, after
being discussed through two or three successive meet-
ings, was left without any definite action whatever. A
gentleman playfully remarked one evening, on coming
from one of these discussions, " we have been trying to
kill your brother all the afternoon, but w^e cannot suc-
ceed." Thus the thing remained. Meanwhile, on the
21st of September, while the Editor was absent attend-
ing a meeting of the Presbytery, the press — the third
which he had brought to Alton in little more than a year,


arrived. It was landed about sunset, or a little after,
and, surrounded by quite a number of friends, who had
been apprised of its coming ; was conveyed to the ware-
house of Gerry and Weller. As it passed along the streets
cries were heard, " there goes the Abolition press, stop
it, stop it ;" but no actual violence was offered. The
mayor, apprised of its arrival, and also of the threats of
its destruction, gave positive assurance that it should be
protected ; and expressed a wish that its friends should
leave it in his hands. They did so. He posted a con-
stable at the door, with orders to remain till a certain
hour. As soon as he left, ten or twelve " respectabW^
ruffians, disguised with handkerchiefs over their faces,
broke open the store, rolled the press across the street
to the side of the river, broke it to pieces, and threw it
in. While thus engaged, and before they had proceeded
far in this work of robbery, the mayor arrived. He told
them to disperse. They replied, that they would " as
soon as they got through," and went on. This is lite-
rally true. The mayor returned, saying, that he never
witnessed a more quiet and gentlemanly mob. The fol-
lowing letter will show that his enemies were not satis-
fied with merely destroying his press.

Alton, October 3d, 1837.
My dear brother Leavitt,

I have just passed through a scene which I
will try to describe to your readers.

On Sabbath, I preached for the Rev. Mr. Campbell,
the Presbyterian minister of St. Charles, with whom I
had formerly been acquainted, and who had lately ar-
rived in this place from Wilmington Presbytery, Dela-
ware. I preached in the morning, and at night. After
the audience was dismissed at niaht, and when all had


left the house but Mr. Campbell, his brother-in-law, Mr.
Copes, and myself, a young man came in, and passing
by me, slipped the following note into ray hand :

" Mr. Lovejoy,

" Be watchful as you come from church to-night.

A Friend."

I showed the note to the two brethren present ; and
Mr. Campbell invited me to go home with him in con-
sequence. I declined, however, and in company with
him and Mr. Copes walked home, but a short distance,
to my mother-in-law's. Brother Campbell went in with
me, and Mr. C. passed on. This was about nine o'clock,
and a very dark night. We received no molestation on
our way, and the whole matter had passed my mind.
Brother C. and I had sat conversing for nearly an hour ;
Mrs. L. had gone to another room and lain down ; her
mother was with her, having our sick child, while an
unmarried sister of Mrs. L. was in the room with Mr. C.
and myself. The rooms thus occupied were on the
second floor, the first story of the house being tenanted
as a store. The access to the rooms is by a flight of
stairs leading up to a portico, on which the doors of the
several rooms open.

About ten o'clock, as Mr. Campbell and myself were
conversing, I heard a knocking at the foot of the stairs.
I took a candle, and opening the door of the room in
M^hich I sat, to learn the cause, I found that the knock-
ing had called up Mrs. Lovejoy and her mother, who had
enquired what was wanted. The answer was, *' We
want to see Mr. Lovejoy, is he in." To this I answered
myself, " Yes, I am here." They immediately rushed
up to the portico, and two of them coming into the room
laid hold of me. These two individuals, the name of one


was Littler, formerly from Virginia, the other called
himself a Mississippian, but his name I have not learned,
though it is known in St. Charles. I asked them what

they wanted of me. " We want you down stairs, d n

you," was the reply. They accordingly commenced
attempting to pull me out of the house. And not suc-
ceeding immediately, one of them, Littler, began to beat
me with his fists. By this time, Mrs. L. had come into
the room. In doing so she had to make her way through
the mob on the portico, who attempted to hinder her
from coming, by rudely pushing her back, and one " chi-
valrous" southerner actually drew his dirk upon her.
Her only reply was to strike him in the face with her
hand, and then rushing past him, she flew to where I
was, and throwing her arms around me, boldly faced the
mobites, with a fortitude and self-devotion which none
but a woman and a wife ever displayed. While they
were attempting with oaths and curses to drag me from
the room, she was smiting them in the face with her
hands, or clinging to me to aid in resisting their efforts,
and telling them that they must first take her before they
should have her husband. Her energetic measures,
seconded by those of her mother and sister, induced the
assailants to let me go and leave the room.

As soon as they were gone, Mrs. L.'s powers of en-
durance failed her, and she fainted. I carried her into
another room and laid her on the bed. So soon as she
recovered from her fainting, she relapsed into hysterical
fits, moaning and shrieking, and calling upon my name,
alternately. Mrs. L.'s health is at all times extremely
delicate, and at present peculiarly so, she being some
months advanced in pregnancy. Her situation at this
time was truly alarming and distressing. To add to the
perplexities of the moment, 1 had our sick child in m}^


arms, taken up from the floor where it had been left by-
its grandmotlier, in the hm-ry and alarm of the first onset
of the mob. The poor little sufferer, as if conscious of
danger from the cries of its mother, clung to me in
silence. In this condition, and while I was endeavour-
ing to calm Mrs. L.'s dreadfully excited mind, the mob
returned to the charge, breaking into the room, and rush-
ing up to the bed-side, again attempting to force me from
the house. The brutal wretches were totally indifferent
to her heart-rending cries and shrieks — she was too far
exhausted to move ; and I suppose they would have suc-
ceeded in forcing me out, had not my friend William M.
Campbell, Esq. at this juncture come in, and with un-
daunted boldness, assisted me in freeing myself from
their clutches. Mr. Campbell is a southerner, and a
slaveholder ; but he is a man, and he will please accept
my grateful thanks for his aid so promptly and so oppor-
tunely rendered ; others aided in forcing the mob from
the room, so that the house was now clear a second

They did not, however, leave the yard of the house,
which was full of drunken wretches, uttering the most
awful and soul-chilling oaths and imprecations, and
swearing they would have me at all hazards. I could hear
the epithets, " The infernal scoundrel, the d d amal-
gamating Abolitionist, we'll have his heart out yet," Slc.
&c. They were armed with pistols and dirks, and one
pistol was discharged, whether at any person or not, I
did not know. The fellow from Mississippi seemed the
most bent on my destruction. He did not appear at all
drunken, but both in words and actions manifested the
most fiendish malignity of feeling and purpose. He was
telling a story to the mobiles, which, whether true or
false, (I know not,) was just calculated to madden them.


His story was, that his wife had lately been violated by
a negro. And this he said was all owing to me, who
had instigated the negro to do the deed. He was a
ruined man, he said, had just as lief die as not ; but be-
fore he died he " would have my blood."

The mob now rushed up the stairs a third time, and
one of them, a David Knott, of St. Charles, came in with
a note signed " A citizen of St. Charles." I regret that
I have mislaid it. It was short, however, requiring me
to leave the town the next day at ten o'clock, in the
morning. I told Mr. K. I presumed he expected no an-
swer to such a note. He said he did not, and immedi-
ately left the room. As soon as he got out, they set up
a yell, as if so many demons had just broken loose from
hell. I had insulted them, it seems, by not returning an
answer to their note. My friends now came round me,
entreating me to send them a written answer. This I
at first declined, but yielding to their urgent advice, I
took my pencil and wrote as follows :

" I have already taken my passage in the stage, to
leave to-morrow morning, at least by nine o'clock.

Elijah P. Lovejoy."

This was carried out and read to them, and at first,
after some pretty violent altercation among themselves,
seemed to pacify them. They went away, as I supposed
finally. But after having visited the grog-shop, they
returned with augmented fury and violence. My friends
in the house, of whom by the way, there were not
many, now became thoroughly alarmed. They joined in
advising me to leave the house, and make my escape,
should an opportunity occur. This I at first absolutely
declined doing. I did so on the principle I had adopted,


of never either seeking or avoiding danger in the way of
duty. " Should such a man as I flee," has been my sen-
timent, whether right or wrong. I was at length, how-
ever, compelled by the united entreaties ,of them all, and
especially of my wife, to consent to do so, should oppor-
tunity offer. Accordingly, when the efforts of those below
had diverted the attention of the mob for a few moments,
1 left the house and went away unperceived. I went up
the street a few rods, and finding all still, 1 came back
to reconnoitre, and after looking round awhile, and seeing
or hearing no enemy, I went back into the house. Here,
however, so far from being welcomed, I was greeted with
reproaches in abundance for my temerity, as they called
it, in venturing back.

And sure enough, scarcely had I seated myself before
the mob returned again, as though they scented their
prey. One man now went down to them, and by tlire
promise of a dram, led them all away, and I was fain to
escape, not so much from the mob, as from the reproaches
of my wife and friends, by leaving the house a second
time. It was now about midnight. Through the good
hand of my God upon me, I got away unperceived. I
walked about a mile to my friend, Maj. Sibley's resi-
dence. Having called him up and informed him of my
condition, he kindly furnished me with a horse ; and hav-
ing rested myself on the sofa an hour or two, for I was
much exhausted, I rode to Mr. Watson's, another friend,
where I arrived about day-break, four miles from town.
Here Mrs. L., though exhausted and utterly unfit to
leave her bed, joined me in the morning, and we came
home, reaching Alton about noon, meeting with no let or
hindrance, though Mrs. L. was constantly alarmed with
apprehensions of pursuit from St. Charles.

On our arrival in Alton, as we were going to our


house, almost the first person we met in the street, was
one of the very individuals who had first broken into the
house at St. Charles. Mrs. L. instantly recognized
him, and at once became greatly alarmed. There was
the more reason for fear, inasmuch as the mob in St.
Charles had repeatedly declared their determination to
pursue me, and to have my life, and one of them, the
fellow from Mississippi, boasted that he was chasing me
about, and that he had assisted to destroy my press in
Alton. This was the more readily believed, inasmuch
as it was known that individuals from St. Louis, where
this Mississippian now temporarily resides, were aiding
in that work. The mobite from St. Charles also openly
boasted here of their assault upon me in that place.

Upon these facts being made known to my friends,
they deemed it advisable that our house should be guarded
on Monday night. Indeed, this was necessary to quiet
Mrs. L.'s fears. Though completely exhausted, as may
well be supposed, from the scenes of the night before,
she could not rest. The mob haunted her excited imagi-
nation, causing her continually to start from her moments
of fitful slumber, with cries of alarm. This continued
all the afternoon and evening of Monday, and I began to
entertain serious apprehensions of the consequences.
As soon, however, as our friends, to the number of ten
arrived with arms in their hands, her fears subsided, and
she sank into a comparatively silent sleep, which contin-
ued through most of the night. It is now Tuesday
night. I am writing by the bedside of Mrs. L., whose
excitement and fears have measurably returned with the
darkness. She is constantly starting at every sound,
while her mind is full of the horrible scenes through which
she has so lately passed. What the final result will be
for her I know not, but hope for the best. We have no


one with us to-night, except the members of our own
family. A loaded musket is standing at my bed-side,
while my two brothers, in an adjoining room, have three
others, together with pistols, cartridges. Sic. And this
is the way we live in the city of Alton ! I have had in-
expressible reluctance to resort to this method of defence.
But dear-bought experience has taught me that there is
at present no safety for me, and no defence in this place,
either in the lav>^s or the protecting aegis of public senti-
ment. I feel that I do not walk the streets in safety, and
every night when I lie down, it is with the deep settled
conviction, that there are those near me and around me,
who seek my life. I have resisted this conviction as
long as I could, but it has been forced upon me. Even
were I safe from my enemies in Alton, my proximity to
Missouri exposes me to attack from that state. And now
that it is known that I am to receive no protection here,
the way is open for them to do with me what they please.
Accordingly a party of them from St. Louis came up and
assisted in destroying' my press, the first time. This
was well known. vThey came armed and stationed
themselves behind a wall for the purpose of firing upon
any one who might attempt to defend the office. Yet
who of this city has rebuked this daring outrage on the
part of citizens of our state and city, upon the rights and
person of the citizens of another state and city ? No
one. I mean there has been no public expression of
opinion on the subject. Our two political papers have
been silent, or if speaking at all, have thrown the blame
on me rather than on any one else. And if you go
through the streets of Alton, or into stores and shops,
where you hear one condemning these outrages upon me,
you will find five approving them. This is true, both of
professor and non-professor. I have no doubts that four-


fifths of the inhabitants of this city are glad that my
press has been destroyed by a mob, both once and
again. They hate mobs, it is true, but they hate Aboli-
tionism a great deal more. Whether creditable to them
or not, this is the state of public sentiment among our
citizens. A leading member of the Presbyterian church
here, disclosed to me, in the presence of fifteen or twenty
persons, that if the " Observer" were re-established here,
he would do nothing to protect it from a mob again. A
leading merchant here, and a Methodist minister, said
the same thing, at the same time. Most of our leading
men, whether in church or state, lay the blame all on me.

So' far from calling the acts of the mob outrages, they
go about the streets, saying in the hearing of every body,
" Mr. Lovejoy has no one to thank but himself." Of
course the mob desire no better license than this.

The pulpit, with but one exception, is silent. Brother
Graves was absent at the time of the first outrage. But
since his return he has taken hold of the work with
characteristic boldness and zeal. There is no cowardice
in him, no shrinking from duty through fear of man. I
wish I could say as much of our other pastors. Brother
G. has told his people their duty faithfully and fearlessly.
Whether they will hear him I know not, but he has
cleared his skirts.

And now, my dear brother, if you ask what are my
own feelings at a time like this, I answer, perfectly calm,
perfectly resigned. Though in the midst of danger, I
have a constant sense of security that keeps me alike
from fear or anxiety. " Thou wilt keep him in perfect
peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trust-
eth in thee." This promise I feel has been literally
fulfilled unto me. I read the promises of the Bible, and
especially the Psalms, with a delight, a refreshing of soul


I never knew before. Some persons here call me cou-
rageous, and others pronounce me stubborn ; but I feel
and know I am neither one nor the other. That I am
enabled to continue firm in the midst of all my trials, is
all of God. Let no one give me any credit for it. I
disclaim it. I should feel that I were robbing Him, if
even in thought, I should claim the least share to myself.
He has said, " As thy day is, so shall thy stength be,"
and he has made his promise good. To him be all the
praise. Pray for me.

We have a few excellent brethren here in Alton.
They are sincerely desirous to know their duty in this
crisis, and to do it. But as yet they cannot see that duty
requires them to maintain their cause here at all hazards.
Our Convention meets the last Thursday of this month.
And of this be assured, the cause of truth still lives in Il-
linois, and will not want defenders. Whether our paper
starts again will depend on our friends. East, West,
North, and South. So far as depends on me it shall go.
By the blessing of God, I will never abandon the enter-
prise so long as I live, and until success has crowned it.
And there are those in Illinois who join me in this sen-
timent. And if I am to die it cannot be in a better cause.
Amours in the cause of truth and holiness,



Though cast down our brother was not destroyed.
And notwithstanding the many discouragements which
surrounded him, about the middle of October he sent for
another press. Three, as will be recollected, had already
been destroyed. One on his arrival, on the 21st of July,
1836, one on the 21st of August, 1837, and one on the
21st of September following. This last press he sent
for on his own account, and at that time had not deter-
mined where it should be established. And here it will
be proper to say a word in explanation of his " wish and
determination" to leave Alton, as there has been some
misapprehension on this point. His own judgment of
the matter was always, that the press ought to remain at
Alton, and be maintained there at all hazards. At the
same time he thought it a sinful waste of property, to
bring presses there to be thrown into the Mississippi,
and consequently if friends remained idle and indifferent,
and foes vigilant and active, it must of course be removed
to some other place. His friends in Quincy were waiting
to welcome and protect his press, and he felt disposed
to go there, provided a sufficient number of friends could
not be found in Alton to sustain it. We speak confi-
dently on this subject, as one of us was with our brother
at this time, and remember to have had a full and free
conversation on this very point, viz., the unpleasant atti-
tude of an individual placed in direct opposition to a
large portion of his fellow-citizens, and the duty of
maintaining it. And the conclusion was, that a fair ex-


periment had been made as to tlie protection to be ex-
pected from the civil authorities, and that unless volun-
teers appeared in the defence of the laws, it would be a
hopeless contest. These conversations always ended
by our brother's remarking, " Well we shall see when
the Convention meets."

On the third week of this month, October, the Synod
of Illinois held its annual session at Springfield. Here
the Editor of the Observer had an opportunity of seeing
his brethren from all parts of the state, and was greatly
inspirited, and refreshed by the words of encouragement,
and approbation which they spake unto him.

In mentioning the adverse influences which were at
this time operating against the Anti-Slavery cause, and

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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 18 of 28)