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Lovejoy, Elijah parish 1802-

Abolitionist; born in Albion, Me., Nov. 9, 1802; graduated at Waterville College in 1826; edited a newspaper which advocated the claims of Henry Clay for the Presidential nomination. In 1833 he was licensed to preach after a course of theological study at Princeton Seminary, and, returning to St. Louis, established The observer, a religious periodical, in which he strongly and persistently condemned the institution of slavery. In 1836 he removed to Alton, Ill., because of threats of personal violence in St. Louis, and there his printing establishment was attacked four times by a mob. On the last occasion one of his assailants was killed by the friends who were aiding him to defend his building. This caused a momentary lull in the movements of the mob, and Mr. Lovejoy, under the belief that his assailants had withdrawn, opened the door of the building, and was immediately shot, five bullets entering his body, causing his death within a few minutes, Nov. 7, 1837. The affair created widespread excitement, and was the occasion of numerous publications and speeches by anti-slavery leaders. The freedom of the press.—On Dec. 8, [488] 1837, Wendell Phillips delivered a speech at Faneuil Hall, Boston, on the murder of Lovejoy and the freedom of the press, of which the following is the substance:

Mr. Chairman,—We have met for the freest discussion of these resolutions, and the events which gave rise to them. (Cries of “Question,” “Hear him,” “go on,” “No gagging,” etc.) I hope I shall be permitted to express my surprise at the sentiments of the last speaker, surprise not only at such sentiments from such a man, but at the applause they have received within these walls. A comparison has been drawn between the events of the Revolution and the tragedy at Alton. We have heard it asserted here, in Faneuil Hall, that Great Britain had a right to tax the colonies, and we have heard the mob at Alton, the drunk en murderers of Lovejoy, compared to those patriot fathers who threw the tea overboard! Fellow-citizens, is this Faneuil Hall doctrine? ( “No, no!” ) The mob at Alton were met to wrest from citizen his just rights—met to resist the laws. We have been told that our father did the same; and the glorious mantle of revolutionary precedent has been thrown over the mobs of our day. To make out their title to such defence, the gentleman says that the British Parliament had a Right to tax these colonies. It is manifest that, without this, his parallel falls to the ground, for Lovejoy had stationed himself within constitutional bulwarks. He was not only defending the freedom of the press, but he was under his own roof, in arms with the sanction of the city authority. The men who assailed him went against and over the laws. The mob, as the gentleman terms it—mob, forsooth! certainly we sons of the tea-spillers are a marvellously patient generation!—the “orderly mob” which assembled in the Old South to destroy the tea were met to resist, not the laws, but illegal enactions. Shame on the American who calls the tea tax and the stamp tax laws! Our fathers resisted, not the king's prerogative, but the king's usurpation. To find any other account, you must read our Revolutionary history upside down. Our State archives are loaded with arguments of John Adams to prove the taxes laid by the British Parliament unconstitutional—beyond its power. It was not until this was made out that the men of New England rushed to arms. The arguments of the Council Chamber and the House of Representatives preceded and sanctioned the contest. To draw the conduct of our ancestors into a precedent for mobs, for a right to resist laws we ourselves have enacted, is an insult to their memory. The difference between the excitements of those days and our own, which the gentleman, in kindness to the latter, has overlooked, is simply this: the men of that day went for the right, as secured by the laws. They were the people rising to sustain the laws and constitution of the province. The rioters of our days go for their own wills, right or wrong. Sir, when I heard the gentleman lay down principles which place the murderers of Alton side by side with Otis and Hancock, with Quincy and Adams, I thought those pictured lips (pointing to the portraits in the hall) would have broken into voice to rebuke the recreant American——the slanderer of the dead. The gentleman said that he should sink into insignificance if he dared to gainsay the principles of these resolutions. Sir, for the sentiments he has uttered, on soil consecrated by the prayers of Puritans and the blood of patriots, the earth should have yawned and swallowed him up. (By this time the uproar in the hall had arisen so high that the speech was suspended for a short time. Applause and counter-applause, cries of “Take that back,” “Make him take back ‘recreant,’ ” “He sha'n't go on till he takes it back,” and counter-cries of “Phillips or nobody,” continued until the pleadings of wellknown citizens had somewhat restored order, when Mr. Phillips resumed.)

Fellow-citizens, I cannot take back my words. Surely the attorney-general, so long and so well known here, needs not the aid of your hisses against one so young as I am—my voice never before heard within these walls . . .

Men are continually asking each other, Had Lovejoy a right to resist? Sir, I protest against the question instead of answering it. Lovejoy did not resist in [489] the sense they mean. He did not throw himself back on the natural right of self-defence. He did not cry anarchy, and let slip the dogs of civil war, careless of the horrors which would follow. Sir, as T understand this affair, it was not an individual protecting his property; it was not one body of armed men resisting another, and making the streets of a peaceful city run blood with their contentions. It did not bring back the scenes in some old Italian cities, where family met family, and faction met faction, and mutually trampled the laws under foot. No! the men in that house were regularly enrolled, under the sanction of the mayor. There being no militia in Alton, about seventy men were enrolled with the approbation of the mayor. These relieved each other every other night. About thirty men were in arms on the night of the 6th, when the press was landed. The next evening it was not thought necessary to summon more than half that number. Among these was Lovejoy. It was, therefore, you perceive, sir, the police of the city resisting rioters; civil government breasting itself to the shock of lawless men.

Here is no question about the right of self-defence. It is, in fact, simply this: Has the civil magistrate a right to put down a riot?

Some persons seem to imagine that anarchy existed at Alton from the commencement of these disputes. Not at all. “No one of us,” says an eye-witness and a comrade of Lovejoy, “has taken up arms during these disturbances but at the command of the mayor.” Anarchy did not settle down on that devoted city till Lovejoy breathed his last. Till then the law, represented in his person, sustained itself against its foes. When he fell civil authority was trampled under foot. He had “planted himself on his constitutional rights, appealed to the laws, claimed the protection of the civil authority, taken refuge under the broad shield of the Constitution. When through that he was pierced and fell, he fell but one sufferer in a common catastrophe.” He took refuge under the banner of liberty, amid its folds, and when he fell its glorious stars and stripes, the emblem of free institutions, around which cluster so many heart-stirring memories, were blotted out in the martyr's blood.

It has been stated, perhaps inadvertently, that Lovejoy or his comrades fired first. This is denied by those who have the best means of knowing. Guns were first fired by the mob. After being twice fired on, those within the building consulted together and deliberately returned the fire. But suppose they did fire first. They had a right so to do; not only the right which every citizen has to defend himself, but the further right which every civil officer has to resist violence. Even if Lovejoy fired the first gun, it would not lessen his claim to our sympathy, or destroy his title to be considered a martyr in defence of a free press. The question now is, Did he act within the Constitution and the laws? The men who fell in State Street on March 5, 1770, did more than Lovejoy is charged with. They were the first assailants upon some slight quarrel; they pelted the troops with every missile within reach. Did this bate one jot of the eulogy with which Hancock and Warren hallowed their memory, hailing them as the first martyrs in the cause of American liberty? If, sir, I had adopted what are called peace principles I might lament the circumstances of this case. But all you who believe as I do, in the right and duty of magistrates to execute the laws, join with me and brand as base hypocrisy the conduct of those who assemble year after year on July 4 to fight over the battles of the Revolution, and yet “damn with faint praise” or load with obloquy the memory of this man who shed his blood in defence of life, liberty, property, and the freedom of the press!

Throughout that terrible night I find nothing to regret but this, that, within the limits of our country, civil authority should have been so prostrated as to oblige a citizen to arm in his defence, and to arm in vain. The gentleman says Lovejoy was presumptuous and imprudent —he “died as the fool dieth.” And a reverend clergyman of the city tells us that no citizen has a right to publish opinions disagreeable to the community! If any mob follows such publication, on Him rests its guilt. He must wait, forsooth, till the people come up to it and [490] agree with him! This libel on liberty goes on to say that the want of a right to speak as we think is an evil inseparable from republican institutions! If this be so, what are they worth? Welcome the despotism of the Sultan, where one knows what he may publish and what he may not, rather than the tyranny of this manyheaded monster, the mob, where we know not what we may do or say, till some fellow-citizen has tried it, and paid for the lesson with his life. This clerical absurdity chooses as a check for the abuses of the press, not the law, but the dread of a mob. By so doing, it deprives not only the individual and the minority of their rights, but the majority also, since the expression of their opinion may some time provoke disturbances from the minority. A few men may make a mob as well as many. The majority, then, have no right, as Christian men, to utter their sentiments, if by any possibility it may lead to a mob! Shades of Hugh Peters and John Cotton, save us from such pulpits! . . .

Imagine yourself present when the first news of Bunker Hill battle reached a New England town. The tale would have run thus: “The patriots are routed—the red-coats victorious—Warren lies dead upon the field.” With what scorn would that Tory have been received who should have charged Warren with imprudence! who should have said that, bred a physician, he was “out of place” in that battle, and “died as the fool dieth.” How would the intimation have been received that Warren and his associates should have merited a better time? But if success be, indeed, the only criterion of prudence, Respice finem—wait till the end! Presumptuous to assert the freedom of the press on American ground! Is the assertion of such freedom before the age? So much before the age as to leave one no right to make it because it displeases the community? Who invents this libel on his country? It is this very thing which entitles Lovejoy to greater praise. The disputed right which provoked the Revolution—taxation without representation— is far beneath that for which he died. (Here there was a general expression of strong disapprobation.) One word, gentlemen. As much as thought is better than money, so much is the cause in which Lovejoy died nobler than a mere question of taxes. James Otis thundered in this hall when the king did but touch his pocket. Imagine, if you can, his indignant eloquence had England offered to put a gag upon his lips. The question that stirred the Revolution touched our civil interests. This concerns us not only as citizens, but as immortal beings. Wrapped up in its fate, saved or lost with it, are not only the voice of the statesman, but the instructions of the pulpit and the progress of our faith....

Mr. Chairman, from the bottom of my heart I thank that brave little band at Alton for resisting. We must remember that Lovejoy had fled from city to citysuffered the destruction of three presses patiently. At length he took counsel with friends, men of character, of tried integrity, of wide views, of Christian principle. They saw around them, not a community like our own, of fixed habits, of character moulded and settled, but one “in the gristle, not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.” The people there, children of our older States, seem to have forgotten the blood-tried principles of their fathers the moment they lost sight of our New England hills. Something was to be done to show them the priceless value of the freedom of the press, to bring back and set right their wandering and confused ideas. He and his advisers looked out on a community, staggering like a drunken man, indifferent to their rights and confused in their feelings. Deaf to argument, haply they might be stunned into sobriety. They saw that of which we cannot judge, the necessity of resistance. Insulted law called for it. Public opinion, fast hastening on the downward course, must be arrested.

Does not the event show they judged rightly? Absorbed in a thousand trifles, how has the nation all at once come to a stand? Men begin, as in 1776 and 1640, to discuss principles, to weigh characters, to find out where they are. Haply, we may awake before we are borne over the precipice.

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