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

. (page 26 of 28)
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 26 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

those misguided and guilty men, who he had full reason
to know were verging on to crime, and, as the result
proved, to murder, in a mighty assemblage, and before a
more awful tribunal. To all this he was bound by obli-
gations strong as immortality. But, alas ! the evil pas-
sions which should have been rebuked, were exaspera-
ted. The prejudices, he should have enlightened, were
abetted, the consciences which he should have aroused,
were lulled to a fatal torpor. And here, then, let me
ask, in view of these facts, (and to him it is a question
of thrilling fear,) at whom, when the murderers shall be
arraigned at the bar of the irreversible doom, will the
bloody fingers he pointed? Strange was it, when he ac-
tually withdrew the protection of law, and gave up the


victim to his fanatical haters— strange was it, he did not
perceive, he was sacrificing the principles upon which
his own religious liberty was based, and that that hatred
and that triumph derived no small measure of their keen-
ness, from the fact, that their prey was of his own order —
a preacher of the gospel — and that that triumph would
have been immeasurably enhanced, could the individual
and his religion have been prostrated at the same blow '^
Whatever applause may have been rendered him, it must,
in view of such facts, have arisen in his nostrils like
the fumes of the pit — nor can it shut out forever the
tones of that last, touching, solemn appeal and remon-
strance, uttered by his slain brother, ere he was aban-
doned as the mark of a lawless and most iniquitous per-
secution : these, I am sure, will sometimes steal upon
his hours of solitude and reflection, and the " voice with-
in," I am told, cannot be entirely bribed to falsehood ;
and its decisions, it must be remembered, are but the an-
ticipated sentence of the power that gave it commission.
With reference to the actual perpetrators of the out-
rage, most of them, we are bound for the honour of the
American name to presume, were of that refuse of so-
ciety, which are wont to cluster around a commercial
emporium, kennelling unregarded in the grog-shop, and
the gambling hell, till some demagogue or agitator calls
them forth to personate the people, supersede the law,
and take care of the public conscience and public morals.
Many of them, in charity to the national character we
may assume, are beneath the reach of an enlightened
public sentiment, either from an ignorance that cannot, or
a prejudice that will not read ; or belong to those despe-
radoes in society to whom the whip, the axe, and the
halter are the only arguments. Others there probably
xvere, of slender intelligence and weak moral purpose,


but of inflammable passions, who under the influence of
evil men, and mistaken opinions, knew not what they did.
Such are indeed objects of pity, and upon evidence of
repentance are not to be excluded from forgiveness, con-
fidence and kindness. But such, alas, were not all. We
have reason to believe, that amid the immediate instiga-
tors or actual perpetrators of the felony were some,
v/hose titled names, education enjoyed, profession in life
and pride of standing in society, we should have hoped,
v/ould have kept them from such self-degradation — that
there were those of enlightened conscience and cultiva-
ted intellect, who not only polluted themselves with the
foul iniquity, but deliberately seduced others into it.
With reference to such, whether with utter recklessness
of character, appearing openly in the transaction, or
skulking in concealment, and instigating the wretches,
they had not courage to lead — it matters not — language
is inadequate to the flagitiousness and wickedness of
their character. That your malignity was too strong for
your regard to the right, or your love of your country, is
perhaps no matter of surprise ; but I am surprised that it
took no counsel of ultimate consequences. The act you
were committing, by the interpretation of all courts and
all codes, was murder. Why, in that guilty hour did not
your good or your evil angel whisper you that, by the
act you were perpetrating, you were putting yourselves
and the laws of your country at an eternal issue ? Yes,
between them and yourselves there is, and ever must be,
war to the knife, a war of extermination, in which one
or the other must perish. Public anarchy and ruin are
your only safety. Can you expect, can you be so im-
pious as to hope, to conquer in such a warfare ? But
should you prevail, have you yet to learn from the ad-
monitions of history, that the instigators and leaders of


popular frenzy, however tliey may triumph for a while,
sooner or later feed the Brazen Bull their own hands
have reared ? Sooner or later, themselves are gorged by
the Anaconda which they are wont to caress, and whose
hissing they pronounce excellent music. Did Robes-
pierre and his compeers dream they were erecting the
guillotin for themselves 1 But did he, or Danton, or
Marat, sleep in bloodless graves ? Have you yet to
learn, that there is an avenging Providence, which often
forbids that bloody and violent men should make their
last bed in peace ? But should you be left to the course
of nature, are there no furies of the guilty mind, which
the fugitive from human law can never escape, and which
often make the guilty envy his victim the repose of the
sepulchre ? An American citizen murdered, a home
desolated, a wife widowed, a child made fatherless —
these are recollections which will not fade with the fading
excitements of the hour. From these you can never
flee — no bars can protect, no concealments hide you
from them, no .flight can leave them behind — they are
become a part of your own souls. The dreadful truth
that you are murderers will follow you through all your
future existence : in whatever scenes you may mingle —
beneath whatever sky you may repose, the grisly accu-
ser will dog you. Though you essay to drown its voice
in the madness of intoxication, or in the excitements of
deeper and still deeper crime — vain will be the attempt,
it will await you in the grave. Yea, in the last great
CONGREGATION the gory phantom will start forth, and ar-
raign you at the bar of eternal justice. Much do I mis-
judge, if the hours do not frequently come, when you
would gladly hide yourselves in the grave, were it not,
that secret " dread of something after death," which God
has left as his witness and prophet in the souls of the


guiltiest, will warn you that the tortures you experience
are but the faint and shadowy earnest of an immortal
REMORSE. By the act you have committed you have
also chained yourselves to the necessity of an unending
war with virtuous public sentiment. Public opinion must
be permanently vitiated, or you will become objects from
which men will shrink as from something polluted,
venomous, deadly. The dire and fixed necessity seems
laid upon you of perpetually corrupting society, or of be-
coming the objects of its deep and lasting abhorrence.

And what have you gained by all this dreadful and
guilty self-sacrifice ? Whatever may have been the
faults of your victim, you have embalmed and canonized
them. Whatever may have been the defects of his cause,
or of his advocacy of it, you have done much, by your
mad act, to identify that cause with that of freedom of
speech and American liberty, and you have given its
advocate rank among the apostles of humanity and mar-
tyrs to the rights of man ; among the Vanes and Syd-
neys of other times you have ensured his name a record,
while the traducer and the murderer are forgotten in the
grave. Instead of checking the cause, for which he la-
boured, you have made the sympathies of this whole na-
tion react upon you like an earthquake. You have vir-
tually surrendered the field of argument, by a resort to force
— you have made the name of the object of your hate a
talisman and a power, w^orth more to him, and his cause,
than a hundred years of life. You cannot bury his shed
blood in the earth — it will have voice — it will plead
louder than a thousand presses. From its every drop
wall spring an army of living antagonists. Did you dream
that at this age you could muzzle free discussion ? You
might as well attempt to muzzle ^Etna. Did you hope
to chain liberty of speech ? You might as well lay grasp


upon Niagara. Did you think to oppose yourselves to
the progress of free opinion ? You might as well throw
yourselves across the path of the lightning or the whirl-
wind. The nation, or conspiracy of nations, that opposes
itself to the course of free inquiry, opposes itself to the
Providence of God and the destiny of the race, and might
as well think to suspend the laws of nature, or stay the
earth in her orbit. But that you, at the head of a drunken
and swinish mob, with the force of an ignorant and bru-
tish rabble, should hope to withstand the onward march
of opinion, would provoke only contempt, did not the
atrociousness of the attempt entitle it to indignation — it
emulates only the sagacity of the animal that sometimes
takes its stand upon the railroad track, and challenges
battle with the locomotive.

In reflecting upon your infamous course, you have not
even the poor satisfaction of successful villany. Unhappy,
infatuated men ! whose only safety lies in the dissolution
of social order, the corruption of public sentiment, and
the ruin of your country : or who, should the promptings
of reviving virtue and patriotism be ever again felt, must
find your highest duty, and the sole act of magnanimity
and patriotism left you — an ignominious death. Never-
theless, to that duty, and that act, I must commend you.
Surrender yourselves to the justice of your country.
Atone for your great wickedness by furnishing to your
country the only use of which you are longer susceptible, a
practical and fearful warning. Commending you to this,
and to deep repentance before that Power which can
pardon the penitent, and still maintain the majesty of
law, I take my leave of you in commiseration and sorrow.

Citizens of Alton ! If, in any respect, I may seem
to have put myself in the unamiable and most undesirable
attitude of a public accuser, it is that I may stimulate to


sober inquiry into the causes of past outrage, and the
means of future prevention. This means, melancholy-
experience demonstrates, is to be found only in the firm,
fearless, impartial and universal maintenance of law.
Abolition is not the last of unpopular doctrines ; nor do
we know who, or what may next become obnoxious to
popular odium. Nothing less than the stern enforce-
ment of law irrespective of persons, or opinions, or cir-
cumstances, will prevent persecution, proscription, and
murder without end. This enforcement implies inflic-
tion of penalties, as well as promulgation of commands,
and involves in your case a melancholy duty with refer-
ence to the past. The laws have been repeatedly,
openly, and flagrantly violated among you — a public, pre-
meditated, atrocious murder has been perpetrated. The
course you may take with the offenders, will settle the
question in the eye of mankind, whether you have moral
energy and political virtue enough remaining, to retrieve
your disgrace, and recover your lost position.. God for-
bid that I should cherish towards the unhappy wretches
implicated, any other than feelings of Christian kindness,
and a desire for their repentance. God forbid that
revenge should claim a bloody oblation for the shade of
the murdered Lovejoy. Vengeance belongs to another
hour, and a mightier hand. But the spirit of slain jus-
tice does walk your streets, and clamour for expiation.
Until that be given, no charm can lay her unquiet shade.
She will wander up and down your city, she will whisper
you in the darkness of the night — her sorrowing tones
will steal upon the solitude of your repose, and her gory
apparition will aff'right your slumbers. Ages to come,
her moan will resound among your clifys, and rise upon
the roar of the Mississippi. Unless atonement be made
to violated law, order and security can never be restored


among you — not, at least, until a generation unstained by
this transaction have taken your places, and the offend-
ers are beyond the reach of human justice.


Remarks made at Rochester, at a meeting of the West-
ern Convention of New York, January 10th, 11th, and
12th, 1838.

17. Resolved. That in the murder of the Rev. E. P.
Lovejoy, in Alton, lUinois, by ap uncontrolled and unre-
buked mob, we feel that our country has lost a noble-hearted
citizen, and an able and uncompromising defender of the
liberty of the press — the cause of humanity a faithful
friend ; and, while we acquiesce in the dispensations of
Providence, we deeply lament his untimely end.

January 10th, 1838.
Alvan Stewart, Esq.

I am much pleased with this resolution. I can
sympathize with the mover of it in all that he has ex-
pressed in admiration of the martyred Lovejoy. I am
glad to see this resolution brought in. There would have
been a chasm in the proceedings of this convention
without it. This subject, painful as it is, deserves our
careful consideration. Nothing has happened in many
years which has produced so electric an effect upon the
public mind as this. Such a feeling so broad and deep,
was scarcely excited when the great and enlightened
Hamilton, the patriot and statesman, fell. Even when
the father of his country slept the sleep of death, there
was not a much greater sensation produced than now,
when our brother Lovejoy has fallen. The gradual
lapse of years brings with it decay and death, so that


when our own Vv'ashington in his turn was swept away
by the great destroyer, we all looked upon it as an event,
mournful it is true, but still expected and unavoidable.
But Lovejoy, in the prime of life, in the full career of
extensive usefulness, was struck down by the assassin's
steel. But he fell in the cause of liberty, and the true
sons of liberty are aroused in his behalf. He fell, but
the length and breadth of the land was agitated by the
blow. Where is the newspaper that has not cast its cen-
sure upon the murderers ? What editor has failed to
record his condemnation of the bloody deed ?

But I want to comment for a moment on the facts and
circumstances which led to this disastrous event. And
when we look at them we may well thank God that
there have been no more martyrs to this cause. But,
indeed, there are many sacrificed at the bloody altar of
oppression, martyrs who daily pour out their blood at the
shrine of Slavery. Let us not forget that the life of the
slave is one continued scene of martyrdom, equal in an-
guish and horrour to that of Lovejoy. Sometimes it is a
martyrdom of all life's holiest affections — of conjugal
fidelity — of filial love — rudely broken and inhumanly
sundered. But again, there are others who are as real
martyrs to the system, and who as freely pour out their
blood before it as ever Lovejoy could do. Let us not
forget that thousands of human beings are annually sac-
rificed on the altar of this Moloch of our country, and
that each one of them has been crushed by the same
spirit that laid our brother in the grave.

The blind and perverse mob at Alton were only acting
out public sentiment. They knew that the mobs at
BosLon, and New York, and Utica, were never called to
account, and the sufferers never received redress, and
why should not they escape with the sam.e impunity ?


Then when Mcintosh was burned alive, and no one
dared to publish the facts lest the wrath of the feul fiend
of Slavery should be wreaked on their heads, this was
the signal for Lovejoy. The groans of the dying Mcin-
tosh were ringing in his ears, and he braved the wrath
of Slavery's minions, that he might plead against injus-
tice. He published the facts and told the world of what
had been done by Satan's power. But by so doing he
incurred the wrath of the friend of Slavery, and his life
was placed in danger. So loud, at length, became the
clamours against him, that he thought it not safe to re-
main at St. Louis, and therefore removed with his paper
to Alton, and published the " Alton Observer." Again,
on the 2d of October, at St. Charles, the house in which
he was, being attacked by a mob, he was only saved by
the self-devotion of his wife from being torn in pieces by
the infuriated mob. And afterwards, when his three
presses M^ere successively destroyed, it was only the
gradual approach toward the final consummation of the
tragedy. But he felt that it was in the cause of liberty
he had been engaged, and he had no right to withdraw
from the contest. He took his life in his hand, and went
forward, resolved to sacrifice himself rather than surren-
der to oppression. And now we come to that last dread-
ful night, that laid him in the dust, and I weep for my
country w^hen I look upon the scene. The workman-
ship of God was destroyed. We saw a man of talents
and of enterprise, of religious zeal and of ardent piety,
the servant of God, and working in his master's cause,
laying a poor corpse. I see what was done. Come with
me and let us go into Mr. Oilman's warehouse on the
night of the 7th of November. There we see a rnan,
who, from the first attack had remained on his knees
crying to God for help and for direction. He saw that


human aid was gone, none but the arm of the Almighty-
could reach them, and he plead for mercy, and he did
not lose his reward. How soon did he hear the invita-
tion, well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou
into the joys of thy Lord. Yes, I can see the Saviour
bending over the walls of paradise, and, from amidst the
glory of his own home, calling to his faithful minister in
accents of love and approbation, cheering him through
his struggle, and as soon as his spirit escaped from its
prison house of clay, affectionately receiving it into his
own bosom. Perhaps the first saint to whom he was in-
troduced on entering the spirit world was St. Mark, or
St. Stephen the proto-martyr, and who can imagine the
joy with which those kindred spirits mingle with each
other in that blest abode.

But let us return to this earthly scene a little longer.
Come with me to Alton, and we will look at the scene
after the mob had passed away. It is night : — all things
around are wrapt in silence. The stars are reflected
from the rolling Mississippi with their wonted lustre, and
seem to shrink from beholding the awful events which
have just transpired. But who can describe the object
lying in yonder silent chamber. Never did the moon go
down behind the rocky mountains looking back on so
dreadful a scene. In that still chamber in the warehouse
lays the stiffening corpse ; no friend is watching its re-
pose, no taper gleams about his head, he rests in silence
and darkness, alone and unguarded in the dead of night.
Fresh and gory from the murderous shot, he rests in
death. Those eyes shall no more weep for human wo ;
no more shall they look with pain upon the crushed and
suffering slave. Those lips now rigid and unmoving
shall no more pour consolation in the afflicted soul or
plead for the slave's relief from the oppressor's rod.


That noble right hand, the faithful servant of its master's
mind, lies motionless by his side. Oh save that right
hand from pollution, it is the best friend the poor slave ever
liad — but it shall never stir again till the resurrection
morn shall awake the dead. Never again shall that pure
heart be pained by the dying groans of the murdered
Mcintosh — never again shall his soul be sickened with
report of northern minister's recreant to the cause of the
poor and oppressed, sacrificing truth and duty on the altar
of popularity. But let us leave his cause with God. But
let us forget not, that his wife and child have no protec-
tion' but our charity^— then our homes shall be theirs, our
kindness shall support them, our care shall guard them,
our friends shall befriend them — and so shall we commend
them to the God of grace, who is the widow's God, and
the Father of the orphan.

G. R. Parburt,

Mr. President — Allow me to lay my small
tribute on the altar where freedom bled. And though I
may add nothing new 'to what has been said, I may at
least repeat what should be kept in everlasting remem-
brance. But perhaps, floods of tears would best express
the feelings of my heart on this solemn occasion. I
may mourn, indeed, since Lovejoy is no more. Since
Lovejoy, the amiable, the pious, has fallen by the hands
of assassins, American assassins. Christian American
assassins, nature unreproved may drop a tear. He fell
the victim of pro-slavery influence — he fell in a manly
defence of the dearest rights of humanity — the rights of
mind. Deprive me of property, of reputation, of friends,
and the loss may admit of reparation. But when I am
deprived of the free expression of thought, then my no-
ble nature is enchained — I am a free man no more. It


was for the security of this right Lovejoy bled. Noble
martyr ! While thought is free to scan the universe of
God, thy name shall live in sweet remembrance in the
hearts of the freest of the free ! Thy name shall be an
amulet from which, in all coming time, tyranny shall in-
stinctively shrink. Not for himself, sir, but for you, for
me, for us all, for this great nation, for the friends of uni-
versal freedom throughout the world — he poured out his
^patriot blood. Had he abandoned the honourable post to
which the Providence of God had called him, he would
have acted unworthy his birth, his education, the land of
the pilgrim fathers, the cause he had espoused, and that
Christian heroine who rescued him from the mob at St.
Charles, and who now lies bleeding on freedom's altar,
the victim of Slavery, the continued expiation of this na-
tion. But he did not abandon that post, environed as it
was with reckless foes. He stood like a strong pillar,
firm as the rock of truth on which he stood. The waves
of popular commotion and of pro-slavery violence, dashed
furiously around him, but every successive billow, as it
broke in foaming rage, only proved that Lovejoy was
there. Calmly and self-possessed he breasted the storm
at St. Louis, and then planted himself at Alton, where
he rationally expected the omnipotent protection of law
and public sentiment. But the demon of Slavery pur-
sued him. Its heated breath swept over the elements of
oppression, and kindled a pro-slavery conflagration.
Again was the press consumed, and again met a like
disastrous fate — but still the form of its protecting angel
was seen walking amidst the flame, unscathed — serene
as the heaven which sustained him, — fast maturing for
its holier enjoyments, and more unfading glories. But
now the hour of his departure was at hand. He bared his
bosom to the sword — all was still — 'twas the silence of


death. Illinois trembled — Alton fell to the ground ; its
glory was departed.

Come now, ye ministers of Jesus, and behold an am-
bassador of your Lord, sealing the doctrines of humanity
with his blood. Sublime spectacle ! Gaze on it till your
spirit catch the mantle of your ascended brother, and
your hearts expand with a martyr's love for your crushed
brethren in chains. Weep, weep bitterly, not for the
departed, but for the heaven-forsaken people who have
imbued their hands in the blood of an innocent, unoffend-
ing minister of Jesus. Lift up your voice, eloquent
through grief, and demand, with the authority of your
divine commission, that the church cleanse herself of
this guilt, by ceasing to shield a system prolific of deeds
of which this is one, marked with odious and horrid

Ye sentinels on the watch-tower of liberty, turn aside
for one moment and contemplate this tragic scene. Like
you, Lovejoy was stationed on the ramparts of freedom.
But his was a dangerous post — a post of glory. He
finished his work — now there he lies. Pale is that lofty
brow, but not with coward fear. Mute is that tongue ;
but it plead for universal liberty till death. Sealed are
those lips ; but they ever scorned to kiss a tyrant's hand.
Yonder lies. the pen, that true Damascus blade of mind,
which was wielded so skilfully and effectually against

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 26 28

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 26 of 28)