“Martyr of Liberty” – Elijah Lovejoy
In 1837, the famous American anti-slavery publisher Elijah Lovejoy was shot and killed by mobs while defending his printing factory. This incident has important significance in the later history of freedom of speech and press in the United States. In 1964, Illinois State Senator Paul Simon wrote a biography of Lovejoy, calling him “the martyr of freedom”. In 1994, Simon, who had been promoted to a federal senator, renamed “Martyrs of Freedom” as “Fighters of Freedom” and published it again. It became one of the best-selling books at that time. Since then, Lovejoy, who fought for citizens’ freedom of the press, has been hailed as a hero, occupying the same position as John Zenger in the history of freedom of speech in the United States, and the phenomenon of small people influencing big history is repeated. So, what kind of deeds did Lovejoy make his name go down in history?
Lovejoy was born in Maine in 1802. A western frontier man, he was not only a devout Presbyterian minister, but also a moderate abolitionist. The abolitionist movement intensified in the United States in the 1830s and influenced the young Lovejoy. At twenty-eight, he became a partner in the St. Louis Times. With his accession, the newspaper’s abolitionist political leanings became increasingly evident. Lovejoy was unafraid to publish the anti-slavery society’s platform in the St. Louis Times, a move that angered the St. Louis slaveholders.
In April 1836, Francis Mackintosh, a free black in St. Louis, assassinated a policeman. A mob dragged him into prison, tied him up, beat him repeatedly, and finally burned him alive. A grand jury investigated the riot, but a supporter of slavery, Judge Luke Lawless, told the grand jury that the case fell outside the purview of human law and that the burning of the Macintosh was legal .
Lovejoy published an article denouncing Judge Lawless and accusing the people of St. Louis of being heartless. Judge Lawless pointed out that Lovejoy and his newspaper, who complained about Mackintosh, were guilty. “Lovejoy believed that ‘slavery is an evil and should be abolished’. It is unexpected that the Slave State speaks so lightly and goes unpunished. Negroes within our borders should be protected from such speech. As far as I know, there is no law in Missouri to punish those who endanger the peace of the state. Speech. The government should take action to punish this speech because it threatens public safety by encouraging slave insurrection.” Justice Lawless further noted that while he supported a freedom of the press, “there can be no reason why these should be published in newspapers.” False speech…should we be the victims of these lunatics?” He hoped the next St. Louis legislative session would take steps to “punish this speech.”
Against this background, Lovejoy’s St. Louis cause. Lovejoy charged the mob in St. Louis District Court with vandalism, but the judge found no sympathy. Only one thug was arrested, but he was released soon after, and Lovejoy was not paid any compensation. As anti-abolitionist sentiment in St. Louis grew, Lovejoy decided to move his newspaper from St. Louis to the frontier city of Elton, Illinois, in the Free State, and renamed it the Elton Observer.
Elton, Illinois, in the free state, is a more progressive and open city than St. Louis. Its city charter even contained such a statement that public schools should accept not only white children, but also black children. To that end, the people of Elton welcomed Lovejoy and his printing house. In March 1837, there was a small economic crisis in Elton, and some businesses closed down. At this time, Lovejoy once again strongly attacked slavery. He signed the Anti-Slavery Society’s petition to Congress calling for an end to slavery in the District of Columbia and was actively involved in founding Elton’s Local Anti-Slavery Society. Fearing that Lovejoy’s measures would cause further social unrest, the people of Elton began to loathe Lovejoy and the Elton Observer.
Soon, the newspaper was attacked by local thugs. Lovejoy sought legal help, but Elton Magistrates Court ignored them. The mob who took part in the rampage was a clandestine group of twelve Elton luminaries, including four eminent physicians.
In the autumn of 1837, Lovejoy and other church leaders planned an anti-slavery conference in Elton and sought funding to rebuild its printing house. They made the wrong decision to invite all the citizens of Elton to attend the meeting, following the advice of Edward Beecher, a prominent abolitionist and president of the Illinois College. In the end, the meeting was instead dominated by anti-abolitionist city officials and became an anti-abolitionist meeting.
A group of people who were hostile to Lovejoy, including Illinois State Attorney Arthur Lindh, also attended the anti-slavery meeting and eventually controlled it. Lynd, a master orator, proposed several resolutions at the meeting, one of which was “to discuss the principles of immediate abolitionism, as discussed in the Elton Observation column, which would destroy the peace and harmony of society .We therefore do not recommend rebuilding this printing house”. Linde’s resolution was supported by a majority at the meeting. The resolution rejected Beecher’s statement that “it is a constitutional right of Lovejoy to publish the Elton Observer” and made it clear that Lovejoy’s newspaper was undesirable.
Lovejoy also delivered a speech, arguing that “the purpose of this meeting is not to decide whether I should continue to publish a newspaper in this city”. He made this powerful statement to those in power:
”In your resolution you wish to expel me and insult me. Sir, I refuse to be treated like this. You cannot insult me. Scandals and lies have been spread…you may You can hang me, like the thugs choked the gamblers at Wilkesburg lately; you can burn me, like the thugs burned Mackintosh in St. Louis; or you can tie me up and throw me into the Mississippi , as you do every time you are threatened, but you must not insult my character.”
Lovejoy’s statement became a classic often cited by freedom of speech enthusiasts. Eventually Lovejoy’s printing house was rebuilt with funding from businessman Winsp Gilman. But in September, the printing house was vandalized again, and the district court accepted the lawsuit in desperation without any judicial decision or punishment for the rioters. Seeing no hope of seeking judicial redress, Lovejoy and his supporters sought protection from the city. Elton Mayor John Krum asked the city council to authorize him to appoint some police officers to maintain order in Elton and crack down on rioters. However, the city council flatly rejected the proposal and advised Lovejoy not to build an abolitionist printing plant on the site. In the end, Lovejoy had to set up the new printing plant in the Winsp family’s warehouse, and secretly armed himself against the mob. In November 1837, the mob attacked the printing house for the last time and exchanged fire with Lovejoy and others. In the end, Lovejoy was shot and killed, not yet thirty-seven.
Shortly after Lovejoy’s death, the thugs who attacked the warehouse and Winsp, who guarded the warehouse, were charged. The first to be tried was Lovejoy supporter businessman Winsp, who was charged with “persisting in resistance to those who vandalized the printing house” and “supporting an illegal printing house”. The jury ultimately found Winsp not guilty. The following January, the mob went on trial, including the four prominent physicians who had organized the atrocity, charged with breaking into private warehouses “with arms” and damaging a printing factory. In the end, the jury also returned a verdict of not guilty, and one of the four doctors, Thomas Hope, later became the mayor of Elton.
Lovejoy’s death sparked an immediate outcry, with abolitionists holding meetings to protest the mob’s actions and to promote the importance of freedom of speech and the press.
Unitarian pastor William Canning asked the mayor of Boston to use Faneuil Hall for a meeting honoring Lovejoy, protesting rioters, and supporting free speech. break the peace. The mayor’s refusal of Canning’s request to use Faneuil Hall sparked protests from many publishers. The Boston Journal pointed out: “Like a public street where citizens are free to walk, Faneuil Hall is the public property of civil free gatherings, and people have the right to use it. It is the right of every free man to use public places to meet and speak.” Under pressure, the city opened Faneuil Hall. Freedom of speech and the press took center stage at the meeting in memory of Lovejoy. Canning reiterated at the meeting that the basic meaning of freedom of speech and freedom of the press is that citizens are free from violent attacks and express opinions outside the mainstream.
In May 1838, Pennsylvania Hall was opened to abolitionists, allowing them to hold meetings protesting the atrocities. However, a few days later, mobs stormed the hall to disrupt a meeting of abolitionists and set the hall on fire.
The shooting of Lovejoy and the burning of Pennsylvania Hall brought the atrocities of the 1830s to a new climax. These atrocities prompted more elites who sympathized with abolitionists to support or become abolitionists, and caused people to think about freedom of speech and press.
Horace Greeley was a Whig before Lovejoy’s death and later became an anti-slavery Republican. In his autobiography, he cites Lovejoy’s death to discuss how slavery affected Northerners’ perception of the right to free speech, “just as most people understand, slavery and true freedom are in the same land cannot coexist.” John Quincy Adams, a former U.S. president and member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1837, described Lovejoy’s death in his diary as “the most notorious thug ever to bring humiliation to this country.” case”. Lovejoy, he noted, was “a martyr in the cause of human liberty” and that “with Lovejoy’s death, the events that followed him, like an earthquake on a continent, ushered in the A new era in the history of liberty…” A year after Lovejoy was shot, a young Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech denouncing “mob rule,” though he didn’t mention Lovejoy or the abolitionists directly . In Concord, Massachusetts, the famous poet Ralph Waldo Emerson commemorated Lovejoy with passionate words, “The brave Lovejoy withstood the bullet with his chest, and his death may be more meaningful … I am glad to see a man die for the right to free speech.” In 1885, Isaac Newton Arnold, a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln and a contemporary of Illinois, wrote a biography of Lincoln. Arnold saw Lincoln’s election as the culmination of a series of repressions linked to antislavery, including “those atrocities . . . against the freedom of speech and the press in some states.” Lovejoy’s death prompted his brother Owen Lovejoy to become the leader of the abolitionists in Illinois. He later strongly supported Lincoln’s election for the presidency. slavery.
Lovejoy’s death contributed to the deep understanding of the American people in the 19th century about freedom of speech and press, the rule of law and republican government, and promoted the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution during the Reconstruction period. And that’s how Lovejoy’s permanent place in the history of freedom of speech and the press in the United States has been secured.