« AnteriorContinuar »
Lovejoy, who never permitted himself to fall behind the march of ideas, also took a more advanced position. In the same meeting he also said that "he was now removed from slavery and could publish a newspaper without discussing it, and that it looked like cowardice to flee from the place where the evil existed and come to a place where it did not exist to oppose it.” With these declarations, extorted to a great extent by the tyranical censorship of the slave power, he no doubt after his arrival at Alton intended to comply. Indeed he might justly have concluded that it was useless to waste his time and energy in endeavoring to benefit a community which was endeavoring to exercise over him a bondage worse than that which fettered the body of a slave. Yet, as the contest between freedom and slavery grew warmer and earnest champions were needed to contend for the right, Mr. Lovejoy concluded that duty required him to again enter the arena of discussion.
As the result of the meeting, funds were raised, another press was sent for, and the first number of the Alton Observer was issued Sept. 8, 1836. Its editor, gifted with more than ordinary ability, soon extended its circulation, its discussions at first being mostly confined to subjects of a moral and literary character. By and by the question of slavery was also broached. Mr. Lovejoy, no doubt smarting under the unjust surveillance to which he was subjected at the starting of his paper, seemed now determined to exercise his constitutional rights to free speech, being willing that the laws of his country, not the dictation of ruffians, should decide as to whether he abused this privilege.
In the issue of June 29, 1837, at the instance of the American Anti-slavery Society, he favored the circulation of a petition for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and in the sncceeding number he speaks of the importance of organizing an antislavery society for the State of Illinois. In the same paper he also indulged the following reflections, suggested by the 4th of July: "This day reproaches us for our sloth and inactivity. It is the day of our nation's birth. Even as we write crowds are hurrying past our window in eager anticipation to the appointed bower, to listen to the declaration that • All men are created equal; to hear the eloquent orator denounce, in strains of manly indignation, the attempt of England to lay a yoke on the shoulders of our fathers which neither they nor their children could bear. Alas what bitter mockery is this. We assemble to thank God for our own freedom, and to eat with joy and gladness of heart while our feet are on the necks of nearly 3,000,000 of our fellow-men. Not all our shouts of self-congratulation can drown their groans; even that very flag which waves over our head is formed from material cultivated by slaves, on a soil moistened by their blood, drawn from them by the whip of a republican task-master.” As soon as this was read, the pro-slavery men assembled in the market house and passed a number of resolutions, in which, with strange incongruity, they claim the right of free speech for themselves, while they plot to deprive another of the same privilege. A committee was appointed to inform Mr. Lovejoy that he must cease agitating the question of slavery, and they accordingly dropped a letter in the post-office, containing a demand to that effect. The editor replied to the communication, by denying their right to dictate to him what it was proper to discuss, and at the same time tendered them the use of his paper to refute his opinions if they were wrong. They, however, chose a more summary manner for ending the controversy. On the night of the 25th of August a mob made an assault on the office of the Observer, with stones and brickbats, and after driving out the employes entered and completely demolished the press. Mr. Lovejoy himself was afterward surrounded in the street by a number of ruffians, it was believed, for the purpose of offering him violence. These outrages were boldly committed, without any attempt being made by the city officials to bring the rioters to justice. The anti-slavery party of the town, of course, were justly incensed at this wanton outrage and willful disregard of individual rights, but being largely in the minority, all they could do was to quietly submit and send for a new press. This, however, the proscribed editor was never to see. Leaving Alton shortly after to attend a presbytery, the press arrived September 21st, and in his absence it was demolished and, like its predecessor, thrown into the Mississippi. These unlawful proceedings had now been perpetrated so often in St. Louis and Alton with impunity, that not only these localities but other places were rapidly becoming demoralized. Not long after the destruction of the third press Mr. Lovejoy visited his mother-in-law at St. Charles, Mo. Here he was violently assailed by a crowd of ruffians, with the avowed object of taking his life, and it was only at the interposition of his heroic and devoted wife that he escaped their mur. derous intent.
In the meantime the friends of Mr. Lovejoy sent for a fourth press, and it was in connection with this that the tragedy occurred which cost him his life. In anticipation of its arrival a series of meetings were held in which both the friends of freedom and slavery were represented. The object of the latter was to effect a compromise, but it was one in which liberty was to make concessions to oppression; in which the proprietors of the Observer were
1 to forego the legitimate use of their property to appease an ignorant mob, and in which right and modern progress were required to submit to injustice and the exploded ideas of the past. Mr. Hogan, the Methodist minister, endeavored to prove from the Bible the inexpediency of the course pursued by Mr. Lovejoy and his friends, in which he remarked : “ The great apostle had said all things are lawful for him, but all things are not expedient; if Paul yielded to the law of expediency would it be wrong for Mr. Lovejoy to fol. low his example ? The spirit of God did not pursue Paul to his destruction for thus acting, but on the contrary commended his course; Paul had never taken up arms to propagate the religion of his master, nor to defend himself from the attacks of his enemies; the people of Damascus were opposed to Paul, but did he argue with the populace the question of his legal right; did he say I am a minister of Christ and must not leave the work of my master to flee before the face of a mob."
This was strange advice to come from the abettor of a faction, first to inaugurate violence, and at that very time conspiring against the life of one who was legally void of offense. The rererend gentleman seemed to think the aggrieved should exercise forbearance, while the mob might insult and destroy with impunity. Mr. Beecher, president of Illinois College, was
present and delivered addresses, in which he took a position almost as objectionable as that of Mr. Hogan. He believed that slavery was morally wrong, and should not be tolerated for a moment. He contended, that if the constitution sanctioned iniquity, it was also wrong, and could not be binding upon the people, that for his part he did not acknowledge obedience to the constitution, and as long as it tolerated slavery, he could not. But when he came to urge the rights of his friends to freedom of speech and the peaceable use of their property, he invoked all the guaranties of the constitution and government to protect them in the enjoyment of these privileges. He would now have others to submit to the law, while he was unwilling to do it himself. Mr. Lovejoy, who was more consistent than either of these gentlemen, contended only for his undoubted rights, and expressed, in a conciliatory manner his unalterable determination to maintain them. “Mr. Chairman," said he, what have I to compromise? If freely to forgive those who have so greatly injured me; if to pray for their temporal and eternal happiness; if still to wish for the prosperity of your city and State, notwithstanding the indignities I have suffered in them; if this be the compromise intended, then do I willingly make it. I do not admit that it is
I the business of any body of men to say, whether I shall or shall not publish a paper in this city. That right was given to me by my Creator, and is solemnly guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and this State. But if by compromise is meant that I shall cease from that which duty requires of me, I cannot make it, and the reason is, that I fear God more than man. It is also a very different question, whether I shall voluntarily, or at the request of my friends, yield up my position, or whether I shall forsake it at the demand of a mob. The former I am ready at all times to do when the circumstances require it, as I will never put my personal wishes or interests in competition with the cause of that master whose minister I am. But the latter, be assured I never will do. You have, as the lawyers say, made a false issue. There are no two parties between whom there can be a compromise. I plant myself down on my unquestionable rights, and the question to be decided is, whether I shall be protected in those rights ? that is the question. You may hang me, as the mob hung the individuals at Vicksburg. You may burn me at the stake, as they did old McIntosh at St. Louis, or you may tar and feather me, or throw me into the Mississippi, as you have threatened to do, but you cannot disgrace me. I, and I alone, can disgrace myself, and the deepest of all disgrace would be at a time like this to deny my Maker by forsaking his cause. He died for me, and I were most unworthy to bear his name should I refuse, if need be, to die for him.
The boat having the obnoxious press on board arrived early in the morning, Nov. 7th, 1837, and the latter was immediately removed to the stone warehouse of Godfrey, Gilman & Co. The proprietors and their friends now assembled with arms to defend it. No violence was offered till the ensuing night, when a mob of about 30 persons came from the drinking saloons and demanded
This insolent and unjust demand was of refused, when the assailants, with stones, brickbats and guns, commenced an attack on the building. Those within, among
whom was Mr. Lovejoy, returned the fire, by which one of the mob was killed and several others wounded. This warm reception caused them to retire, some to bear away the dying man, others to summon reinforcements, but the most of them visited the adjacent grog-shops for the purpose of reviving their courage. Soon after, the bells of the city were rung, horns were blown, and an excited multitude came rushing to the warehouse, some urging on the drunken and imbruted mob, and others persuading them to desist. Ladders were placed against the side of the building, without windows, where there was no danger from within, and several persons ascended to fire the roof. Mr. Lovejoy and some others on learning their danger, rushed out and firing upon the incendiaries drove them away. After returning to the inside and reloading their pieces, Mr. Lovejoy, with two or three companions, not seeing any foe on the south side, again stepped out to look after the roof. Concealed assassins were watching, and simultaneously firing, five bullets entered his body, when he exclaimed, "My God! I am shot," and expired. With the fall of the master spirit, the defenders of the press surrendered it to the mob, who broke it into fragments and threw them into the river.
The following day a grave was dug on a high bluff, in the southern part of the city, and the body, without ceremony, was thrown into it and covered up. Some years afterward, the same elevation was chosen as the site of a cemetery, and in laying out the grounds, the main avenue chanced to pass over the grave of Lovejoy. To obviate the difficulty, his ashes were interred in a new locality, and within a few years past, a simple monument was erected over the spot, bearing the inscription: Hic jacet Lovejoy; jam parce sepulto.
Of those who participated in this infamous crime, it may be mentioned that the leader of the outlaws finally became a prisoner in the Obio penitentiary; the person most instrumental in committing the murder was killed in a brawl in New Orleans, while many others, it is said, ended their lives in violence and disgrace.
The aggressive life and tragic death of Mr. Lovejoy, furnishes a subject for profitable reflection. In common with all true reformers, he possessed a grasp of intellect which enabled him to see and act in advance of his time, and hence was unappreciated by his less gifted cotemporaries. The world has often murdered the authors of its progress, and it is not strange that he lost his life. Every considerable advance in theology has had its persecutions and martyrs. The magna charta of English liberty was wrung from the grasp of tyranny by the death of patriots. France has battled and bled for republican government, yet her object is only half attained. The
for which Lovejoy died finally triumphed, yet it cost one of the most bloody civil wars known to history. Such has been in general the past history of reform.
STATE INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT SYSTEM.
In his message to the legislature at the special session begun December 7, 1835, Gov. Duncan said: “When we look abroad and see the extensive lines of inter-communication penetrating almost every section of our sister States—when we see the canalboat and the locomotive bearing, with seeming triumph, the rich productions of the interior to the rivers, lakes and ocean, almost annihilating time, burthen and space, what patriot bosom does not beat high with á laudable ambition to give to Illinois her full share of those advantages which are adorning her sister States, and which a munificent Providence seems to invite by the wonderful adaptation of our whole country to such improvements." Pennsylvania and other States were at the time engaged in extensive works of internal improvement. The legislature responded to the ardent words of the governor in a liberal manner, by chartering a great number of railroads, almost checkering the map of the State, and pledging its faith for $500,000 of the canal loan; but further than this they did not go; the supreme folly of the period being left for their successors to enact. After the adjournment, when the people contemplated the project of a vast system of internal improvements, as portrayed by His Excellency, they were fired with an inordinate desire to have it speedily in successful operation.
They were already inoculated with the fever of speculation, then rife throughout the west. Chicago, a mere trading post in 1830, had in a few years grown into a city of several thousand inhabitants. This remarkable city had now started upon her wonderful career of improvement, unsurpassed by individual effort in the annals of the world, steadily maintained to this day; and at present, after her terrible visitation by the fire fiend, also unsurpassed in the annals of the world for the magnitude of its destructiveness, since the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, she bids fair to eclipse all her former rapidity of growth. The story of speedy fortunes made in Chicago, which excited wonder and adventure 36 years ago, is still fraught with marvels. Early reports of the rapid advance of property in Chicago, spread to the east. Every vessel came crowded with immigrants, bringing their money, enterprise and industry to the enchanted spot of sudden opulence. They have not been disappointed. The rapid development of the town inspired emulation. Throughout the State, towns, and additions were plotted with the hope of profiting by the influx of emigrants. In some cases maps of splendidly situated towns would be taken to Chicago, to attract the attention of the