until the 17th of August, 1837--discussing Slavery among other topics, but occasionally, and in a spirit of decided moderation.
But no moderation could satisfy those who had determined that the subject should not be discussed at all. On the 11th of July, an anonymous hand-bill appeared, calling a meeting at the market-place for the next Thursday
, at which time a large concourse assembled.
Dr. J. A. Halderman1
presided, and Mr. J. P. Jordon
This meeting passed the following resolves:
1. Resolved, That the Rev. E. P. Love-joy has again taken up and advocated the principles of Abolitionism through his paper, the “Observer,” contrary to the disposition and will of a majority of the citizens of Alton, and in direct violation of a sacred pledge and assurance that this paper, when established in Alton, should not be devoted to Abolitionism.
2. Resolved, That we disapprove of the course of the “Observer,” in publishing any articles favorable to Abolitionism, and that we censure Mr. Lovejoy for permitting such publications to appear in his paper, when a pledge or assurance has been given to this community, by him, that such doctrines should not be advocated.
3. Resolved, That a committee of five citizens be appointed by this meeting to wait upon and confer with Mr. Lovejoy, and ascertain from him whether lie intends, in future, to disseminate, through the columns of the “Observer,” the doctrines of Abolitionism, and report the result of their conference to the public.
The only point requiring comment in these resolves is the allegation that Mr. Lovejoy
had pledged himself not to discuss the subject of Slavery or its Abolition.
This point was answered by ten respectable citizens of Alton
, who united in the following statement:
Whereas it has been frequently represented that the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, late Editor of the “Alton Observer,” solemnly pledged himself at a public meeting, called for the purpose of taking measures to bring to justice the persons engaged in the destruction of the first press brought to Alton by said Lovejoy, not to discuss the subject of Slavery; we, the undersigned, declare the following to be his language, in substance: “My principal object in coming to this place is to establish a religious paper.
When I was in St. Louis, I felt myself called upon to treat at large upon the subject of Slavery, as I was in a State where the evil existed, and as a citizen of that State I felt it my duty to devote a part of my columns to that subject; but, gentlemen, I am not, and never was, in full fellowship with the Abolitionists; but, on the contrary, have had some spirited discussions with some of the leading Abolitionists of the East, and am not now considered by them as one of them.
And now, having come into a Free State, where the evil does not exist, I feel myself less called upon to discuss the subject than when I was in St. Louis.”
The above, as we have stated, was his language in substance.
The following, we are willing to testify, to be his words in conclusion:
“But, gentlemen, so long as I am an American citizen, so long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write, and to publish, whatever I please on any subject, being amenable to the laws of my country for the same.”
On the 24th, a Committee from the meeting aforesaid presented its resolves to Mr. Lovejoy
, asking a response thereto.
That response was given on the 26th, and its material portion is as follows:
You will, therefore, permit me to say that, with the most respectful feelings toward you individually, I cannot consent, in this answer, to recognize you as the official organ of a public meeting, convened to discuss the question, whether certain sentiments should, or should not, be discussed in the public newspaper, of which I am the Editor.
By doing so, I should virtually admit that the liberty of the press, and the freedom of speech, were rightfully subject to other supervision and control than those of the law. But this I cannot admit.
On the contrary, in the language of one of the speakers at the meeting, I believe that “the valor of our forefathers has won for us the liberty of speech,” and that it is “our duty ”