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 19 of 28)
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more or less directly against the Editor of the " Obser-
ver" as the organ or representative of that cause, it will
be proper to mention a meeting of the Colonization So-
ciety of Upper Alton, on Tuesday before the Anti-Slave-
ry Convention, which was to meet on the Thursday fol-
lowing at the same place. The history of this meeting is
as follows : A few days previous, one of the most active
members of this Society — which by the way had been
dead for several years, accosted a very respectable
lawyer of that town, and asked him if he would attend
an anti-convention meeting and make a speech. The
lawyer replied with some warmth and indignation, that
if they vi^ould get up an anti-mob meeting, he would at-
tend, and make a speech. In consequence of this an-
swer, as it is supposed, they concluded to have a Colo-
nization meeting. Mutato nomine, idtm manet.

The Speakers were Hon. Cyrus Edwards, and J. M.
Peck of Alton, and the Rev. Joel Parker of New Orleans.
Mr. Parker represented the Abolitionists as bustling
round with a great deal of ardour but with little discre-


lion, and less wisdom, trying with all their might to get
a lever under what they considered a great mass of cor-
ruption, in order to remove it at once. But like the Gre-
cian philosopher they could find no stand point. Con-
sequently their efforts were vain. He said, moreover,
that owing to our associations, we could not respect the
black man in this country. As an illustration he said,
an Irish nobleman, might have a servant who should pay
him almost as much reverence as a slave does his mas-
ter. She might be amiable, affectionate, and faithful, and
secure the love of her master, but he would not respect
her. " Now," adds Mr. P. " by some unexpected turn
of fortune, let this same servant become possessed of
wealth, and let her marry a peer of the land, and be on
terms of social intercourse and equality with her former
master, and then he icill hegin to respect her^ So, he con-
tinued, it is with the black man. Let him go to Africa, and
let us think of him as associated with that country, and
we shall begin to respect him. And he said he once
actually knew a slave, who went to Africa with the name
of Dick, — breathed the salubrious air of that climate, cast
his slough, and came back Mr. Jones. " Now," says
Mr. P., " this prejudice may be wrong, but so it is, and
we must act on it." He was followed by Mr. Peck, who
charged the Abolitionists as beinof amalgamators, and of
using abusive and unwarrantable epithets in regard to
slaveholders, together with all those other charges so
frequently preferred against them.

On Thursday the 26th of October the state Conven-
tion met. Attention to this subject had been invited in
an editorial article in the " Observer" of the 29th of June,
which has already been inserted.

The Editor of the " Observer" was not the first
mover in this matter. He had received several letters


from aged and judicious friends, suggesting the propriety
of such a movement, and asking whether it was not
time to make it. Some of these letters were received as
early as the preceding spring. The first call, as has
been seen, was definite and specific. Subsequently, in
order to unite all good men, among whom there was
some difference of opinion as to measures, a somewhat
modified call was sent forth on an extra sheet of the
" Observer." This call spoke of the importance of the
subject of Slavery, the impossibility of remaining idle
spectators in a moral contest which Avas agitating our
country, and requesting those who " earnestly longed,
and prayed for the immediate abolition of Slavery" to
meet in Convention, for the benefit of mutual discussion
and deliberation ; not feeling themselves pledged there-
by, to any definite mode of action. This was the sub-
stance of the call. It was signed by about two hundred
and fifty persons from dilTerent parts of the state.

The delegates having convened in the Presbyterian
Church in Upper Alton, were tailed to order, and the
venerable Dr. Blackburn chosen Chairman. When the
motion for Rev. Mr. Graves to be temporary clerk, was
put, several voices cried out " no." These were from
individuals who came in to disturb, and if possible to in-
terrupt the doings of the Convention. Although the
regular members of the Convention, at this time, out-
numbered the others, the Chair not knowing the exact
state of things, did not declare the vote in the affirma-
tive. After this a desultory, and to some extent an an-
gry and disorderly debate took place, w^hich continued
all the afternoon. At the commencement of the disturb-
ance, the Editor of the " Observer" arose, stating the
object for which they had met ; that individuals from
various parts of the state had come there, having been


invited so to do, to discuss the subject of Slavery, and
declaring that none, save those who entertained similar
views to those embodied in the call, had any right to a
seat in the Convention ; asking them whether they could
as gentlemen, come in and interrupt a meeting called for
a specific purpose. Upon this, the reading of the call
sent forth by himself, and also a subsequent one publish-
ed by president Beecher, over his own name in one of
the papers of that place, was called for.*

When these calls had been read, the mob, through
their chief speaker, declared that they responded to
them, that they were friends of free discussion, nay
courted it, — that they wished to meet the Abolitionists in
fair and open field, argument Avith argument, fact with
fact, reason with reason. All this seemed very fair :
but mark the sequel. The afternoon of that day, Thurs-
day, having been spent in this manner, they adjourned,
without even organizing the meeting, to nine o'clock next
morning. They met according to adjournment. The
chairman then declared the doings of the meetino- on
the previous day as out of order, read the call to which
two hundred and fifty names were attached, and de-
clared that the test of membership, and that all who
would subscribe to it should be considered as members
of the Convention. Individuals present who wished,
then signed their names, including not a few who were
known to be opposed to immediate abolition. The Con-

* It will be proper to mention here, that Mr. B.'s name was attached
to the first call, but that, as he stated in his note alluded to, it did
not comliine all the points which he expected it would, and especially
as to the invitation, which he wished extended to all friends of the
free discussion of the subject of Slavery ; to this there was no ob-
jection, save that it was feared that the mob taking advantage of this
invitation would come in and claim seats.


vention was then organized by the election of Dr. Black-
burn for president, together with two secretaries. The
forenoon was spent in organizing and adopting rules of
debate, and appointing a committee of three to prepare
resolutions for discussion. This committee consisted of
Rev. Mr. Beecher, Rev. Mr. Turner, and Mr. Linder,
who were to report in the afternoon.

It was agreed in the committee room that there should
be but one report, although they were not agreed on all
the resolutions ; and that the chairman of the committee
should state to the Convention, the resolutions on which
they all agreed, and those which the majority and minor-
ity severally reported. This he did, and the report was
accepted. The question was on its adoption. A motion
was then made, which in reality divided the reports,
namely, that the report of the minority, Mr. Linder, re-
presenting the Anti- Abolition part of the house, should
be adopted. This vote was carried. A motion was
then made that the report of the majority be also adopted.
On this motion, the Rev. Mr. Hogan contended, that, by
adopting the minority's report, they had virtually re-
jected that of the majority, and it was so decided. One
of the resolutions was then discussed through the re-
mainder of the day, and carried. It should be men-
tioned that throughout the whole day, runners had been
on the alert to obtain signers to the call. A great many
had thus become members of the Convention, who had
no definite notion what they were about. In fact, as
their conduct imported, they were " certain lewd fellows
of the baser sort, men of Belial." With these the open
space around the door, and a part of the aisles were
crowded. So that after the adoption of the one resolu-
tion which had been discussed, a motion was made to


adjourn without day, which was carried by acclamation !
This was the free discussion which they desired !

Thus bafiled, those who had come theje in good faith,
agreed to meet the next day at a private house, to form a
State Anti-Slav^ery Society, no doubt now existing as to
the propriety of such a measure. This they did. This
meeting was composed of some of the most pious, and
respected, and judicious men, ministers and laymen, in
the state. And here the question whether the " Obser-
ver" should be re-established at Alton or not, was fully
discussed. Dr. Miles, a gentleman from Cincinnati,
said that it was all important that it should maintain its
stand there ; otherwise, he feared that the tide of vio-
lence and outrage, which had flowed from the East,
would again flow back ; and it was decided that it ought
to remain at that place. This vote was unanimous, with
the exception of one or two from Alton, who thought that
it could not be maintained there. The Editor voted for
its continuance ; and it is proper to state that he was
chosen Corresponding Secretary of the State Society.

The next week another colonization meeting was held,
ia the Lower Town, at which much the same doctrines
were advanced as at the previous one, and by the same
speakers. The Rev. Mr. Parker declared it an un-
christian thing to go into a community and promulgate
doctrines which were calculated to excite that commu-
nity, and that he should consider it his duty to refrain
from speaking on any subject calculated to disturb, and
agitate a people. This was on the last day of October.
During this week several meetings of friends were held,
at one of which President Beecher discussed, with much
ability the propriety and duty of defending the press,
which was nov/ daily expected, by physical force. This
is not the place for his arguments. He declared, how-


ever, that "he would enlist as a common soldier in de-
fence of the law, and in protection of the press : and
some who had been inclined toward the extreme " peace
principles," as they are called, were convinced that there
is, and of rigid ought to be, such a thing as civil govern-
ment ; and that the " powers that be are ordained of
God," and consequently they became willing to maintain

On the 2d and 3d of November, meetings were held,
w^hich in their results and influence assume an import-
ance and interest which otherwise would not belong to
them. They may with propriety be considered the star
chamber, v/here the death warrant of our brother was
signed, and put into the hands of the mob for its execution.
It was not a meeting of the rabble. Christians, and Chris-
tian ministers were there. Men who stand high in the es-
timation of their fellow-citizens, and in many respects de-
servedly so. Had they planted themselves on the law
and the right, the " damned spots" which now stain their
hands, and will not " out" had not been there.

But we give the proceedings, merely premising that
the meeting originated with the enemies of the " Obser-
ver," though some of its friends were invited to attend.


" At a large and respectable meeting of the citizens of
the city of Alton, held at the counting-room of Messrs.
John Hogan &l Co., on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 2d,
1837 ; Samuel G. Bailey, Esq. was called to the chair,
and William F. D'Wolf appointed secretary.

Mr. Hogan then announced the object of the meeting
to be, to take into consideration the present excited
state of public sentiment in this city, growing out of the


discussion of the Abolition question ; and to endeavour
to find some common ground, on which both parties
might meet for the restoration of harmony and good fel-
lowship by mutual concession — expressing a fervent wish
that so desirable an object might be carried into effect.

He was followed by the Rev. Edward Beecher, of
Jacksonville, who stated that the proposal of such a
meeting had originated from Mr. Hogan, and that it had
been deemed advisable by him and by Mr. Oilman, that
the following resolutions, should be laid before the meet-
ing for their consideration.

1. Resolved, That the free communication of thoughts
and opinions, is one of the invaluable rights of man ; and
that every" citizen may freely speak, write, and print on
any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.

2. Resolved, That the abuse of this right is the only
legal ground for restraining its use.

3. Resolved, That the question of abuse must be de-
cided solely by a regular civil court, and in accordance
with the law ; and not by an irresponsible and unorgani-
zed portion of the community, be it great or small.

4. Resolved, For restraining what the law will not
reach, we are to depend solely on argument and moral
means, aided by the controling influences of the spirit of
God ; and that these means, appropriately used, furnish
an ample defence against all ultimate prevalence of false
principles and unhealthy excitement.

5. Resolved, That where discussion is free and unre-
strained, and proper means are used, the triumph of the
truth is certain ; and that with the triumph of truth the
return of peace is sure ; but that all attempts to check or
prohibit discussion, will cause a daily increase of excite-
ment, until such checks or prohibitions are removed.

6. Resolved, That our maintenance of these principles



should be independent of all regard to persons or senti-

7. Resolved, That we are more especially called on
to maintain them in case of unpopular sentiments or per-
sons ; as in no other cases will any effort to maintain
them be needed.

8. Resolved, That these principles demand the pro-
tection of the Editor and of the press of the ' Alton Ob-
server,' on grounds of principle solely, and altogether
disconnected with approbation of his sentiments, personal
character, or course, as Editor of the paper.

9. Resolved, That on these grounds alone, and irres-
pective of all political, moral, or' religious differences,
but solely as American citizen s,^ from a sacred regard to
the great principles of civil society, to the welfare of our
country, to the reputation and honour of our city, to our
own dearest rights and privileges, and those of our
children, we will protect the press, the property, and the
Editor of the < Alton Observer,' and maintain him in the
free exercise of his rights, to print and publish whatever
he pleases, in obedience to the supreme laws of the
land, and under the guidance and direction of the consti-
tuted civil authorities, he being responsible for the abuse
of this liberty only to the laws of the land. "

The meeting was then addressed at some length by
Mr. Linder, in opposition to the resolutions ; after which
Mr. Hayden moved that the resolutions be laid on the
table. At the suggestion of Mr. Hogan and Col. Botkin,
this motion was subsequently withdrawn by the mover ;
when Mr. Hogan moved that the resolutions be referred
to a committee, with instructions to report at an adjourned
meeting. This motion was agreed to ; and, it being or-
dered that said committee should consist of seven gentle-
men, to be nominated by the chair, the Hon. Cyrus

REV. E. P. LOVEJOY. 271'

Edwards, and Messrs. .Tohn Hogaii, Stephen Griggs, U.
F. Linder, H. G. Van Wagenen, Thos. G. Hawley, and
Winthrop S. Gilman, were appointed.

Mr. Linder then offered the following resolution,
which was agreed to :

Resolved, unanimously, hy this meeting, That in the
interim between the adjournment and re-assembling
hereof, if any infraction of the peace be attempted by
any party or set of men in this community, we will aid to
the utmost of our power in the maintenance of the laws."

The meeting then adjourned to meet at the court room,
on Friday the 3d inst., at two o'clock, P. M.

Friday, Nov. 3d,— 2 o'clock, P. M.

" The citizens met, pursuant to adjournment : and the
meeting being called to order by the chairman, Mr.
Linder offered the following resolution, which was unan-
imously agreed to without debate : —

Resolved, That this meeting shall be composed exclu-
sively of the citizens of Madison County ; and that it is
requested that none others shall vote or take part in the
discussion of any subject that may be offered for their
consideration ; but all persons in attendance, other than
citizens, will consider themselves as welcome specta-

The Hon. Cyrus Edwards, from the committee ap-
pointed at the previous meeting, then made the following
report ; which was read :

' The committee appointed to take under consideration
certain resolutions submitted at our last meeting, beg
leave to report : that they have given to those resolu-
tions a deliberate and candid examination, and are con-

* Mr. Beecher resides in Morgan County. Hence the resolution. — Eds.


Strained to say that, however they may approve their
general spirit, they do not consider them, as a whole,
suited to the exigency which has called together the
citizens of Alton. It is notorious, that fearful excite-
ments have grown out of collisions of sentiment between
two great parties on the subject, and that these excite-
ments have led to excesses on both sides deeply to be
deplored. Too much of crimination and recrimination
have been indulged. On the one hand, the Anti- Aboli-
tionists have been charged with a heartless cruelty, a
reckless disregard of the rights of man, and an insidious
design, under deceptive pretexts, to perpetuate the foul
stain of Slavery. They have been loaded with many
and most opprobrious epithets, such as pirates, man-
stealers, &c. &c. On the other hand, the Abolitionists
have been too indiscriminately denounced as violent dis-
turbers of the good order of society, willfully incendiary
and disorganizing in their spirit, wickedly prompting
servile insurrections, and traitorously encouraging in-
fractions of the constitution, tending to disunion, violence
and bloodshed. These uncharitable impeachments of
motives have led to an appalling crisis, demanding of
every good citizen the exertion of his utmost influence
to arrest all acts of violence, and to restore harmony to
our once peaceful and prosperous, but now distracted
city. It is not to be disguised, that parties are now or-
ganizing and arming for a conflict, which may terminate
in a train of mournful consequences. Under such cir-
cumstances, have we been convened. And your com-
mittee are satisfied that nothing short of a generous for-
bearance, a mild spirit of conciliation, and a yielding
compromise of conflicting claims, can compose the ele-
ments of discord, and restore quiet to this agitated com-
munity. They are, therefore, forced to regard the reso-


lutions under consideration as falling short of the great
end in view ; as demanding too much of concession on
the one side, without equivalent concession on the other.
Neither party can be expected to yield every thing, and
to acknowledge themselves exclusively in the wrong. In
this there is no compromise. There must be a mutual
sacrifice of prejudices, opinions, and interests, to ac-
complish the desired reconciliation — such a sacrifice
as led to the adoption of the great charter of Ameri-
can freedom ; which has secured to ourselves, and
which promises a continuance to our posterity, of the
blessed fruits of peace, prosperity and union. Whilst,
therefore, we fully and freely recognize the justness of
the principles engrafted upon our constitutions, that the
free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of
the invaluable rights of man, and that every citizen may
freely speak, write, and print on any subject, being re-
sponsible for the abuse of that liberty ; that the abuse of
this right is the only legal ground for restraining its use ;
that the question of abuse must be decided solely by a
regular civil court, and in accordance with the law, and
not by an irresponsible and unorganized portion of the
community, be it great or small — your committee would,
with earnest importunity, urge as a means of allaying
the acrimony of party strife, the unanimous adoption of
the following preamble and resolutions :

Whereas, it is of the utmost importance that peace,
harmony, order, and a due regard to law, should be re-
stored to our distracted community ; and whereas, in all
cases of conflicting opinions about rights and privileges,
each party should yield something in the spirit and form
of compromise : Therefore,

L Resolved, That a strong confidence is entertained
that our citizens will abstain from all undue excitements,


discountenance every act of violence to person or pro-
perty, and cherish a sacred regard for the great principles
contained in our Bill of Rights.

2. Resolved, That it is apparent to all good citizens,
that the exigencies of the place require a course of mode-
ration in relation to the discussion of principles in them-
selves deemed right, and of the highest importance ; and
that it is no less a dictate of duty than expediency to
adopt such a course in the present crisis.

3. Resolved, That so far as your committee have
possessed the means of ascertaining the sense of the
community, in relation to the establishment of a religious
newspaper, such a course would, at a suitable time, and
under the influence of judicious proprietors and editors,
contribute to the cause of religion and good citizenship,
and promote the prosperity of the city and country.

4. Resolved, That while there appears to be no dis-
position to prevent the liberty of free discussion, through
the medium of the press or otherwise, as a general thing ;
it is deemed a matter indispensable to the peace and
harmony of this community that the labours and influence
of the late Editor of the ' Observer' be no longer iden-
tified with any newspaper establishment in this city.

5. Resolved^ That whereas it has come to the know-
ledge of your committee that the late Editor of the ' Ob-
server' has voluntarily proposed to the proprietors and
stockholders of the ' Alton Observer,' to relinquish his
interest and connection with that paper, if, in the opinion
of his friends, that course were expedient ; your com-
mittee consider that such a course would highly con-
tribute to the peace and harmony of the place, and indi-
cate on the part of the friends of the ' Observer,' a dis-
position to do all in their power to restore the city to its
accustomed harmony and quiet.


6. Resolved, That we would not be understood as
reflecting in the slightest degree upon the private charac-
ter or motives of the late Editor of the ' Alton Obser-
ver,' by any thing contained in the foregoing resolutions."

Mr. Linder then, took the floor, in support and expla-
nation of the views taken by the committee, and urged
the adoption of the resolutions reported by them with
much earnestness. When he closed his remarks, Win-
throp S. Oilman, Esq., one of the committee, handed the
following protest against some of the sentiments express-
ed in the report ; which he desired should be made a
part of the record of the meeting.

W. S. Oilman, from the committee, protested against
so much of the report as is contained in the resolutions ;
alledging it as his opinion, that the rigid enforcement of
the law would prove the only sure protection of the rights
of citizens, and the only safe remedy for similar excite-
ments in future.

The Rev. E. P. Lovejoy, Editor of the ' Observer,'
here addressed the meeting at some length, in a speech
declaratory of his right, under the Constitution of this
state, to print and publish his opinions, and of his deter-
mination to stand on this right, and abide the conse-
quences, under a solemn sense of duty.

He was followed by Mr. Hogan, who took a wholly
diflerent view of the subject ; and contended that it was

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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 19 of 28)