- Elijah Lovejoy Papers Series 1 Letters
- Illinois State Historical Library
Letter from Elijah Lovejoy to Joseph Lovejoy, January, 1836
Letter 8 of 11
Elijah Lovejoy Letters
St. Louis January, 1836
My Dear Brother
I have taken a large sheet and expect to fill it; and if you do not read it through mother I know will. I have thought it
would be interesting to you to have a particular account of the things which have lately transpired in this city. One main
reason why I write these things, is to enable you to join with me, in blessing that grace which carried me safely through
all my trails. I need not say that for some time past the "Observer" has been prominent in its attacks upon slavery and
Popery. In a community like this, when those institutions exercise so controlling an influence upon society, it is not at all
to be wondered at that a deep and bitter hostility should come to be fixed upon the Observer and the Editor. This feeling
of hostility I know existed, and it only required some plausible occasion to break out.
The mobs in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York gave them this fore text. During the summer an elder in the First
Presbyterian Church was frequently coming to me and telling me to beware - that I was in danger, that the constant talk
was about mobbing me. [To] this I paid no heed. The first of last week, I went to Poiosi, a town about sixty miles
southwest of this, to attend a camp meeting. On my way back I heard that two men had waited in that village for half a
day for the purpose of tarring and feathering me. Providentially, I did not come into town till the next morning, and these
men tired of waiting went home. On my return into the city I found the excitement getting up, and I was informed by the
elder above mentioned, that a hand-bill had been printed to circulate throughout the city, for the purpose of establishing
a mob to tear down the office of the Observer. The Missouri Argus openly called upon the Hannah boys to mob me
down. All these things did not change the course of the Observer; and under the circumstances, I left the last of
September to attend the meeting of our Presbytery and Synod. At Union a place sixty miles west of this. I expected to be
absent about four or five weeks. We had a most harmonious session and set of resolutions passed on the subject of
slavery. They were of my draftsmanship and passed unanimously. From Union we went to Marion, to the meeting of
Synod. Here this same St. Louis elder appeared fresh from St. Louis full of excitement and alarm and feuds about
slavery. The excitement was rising in St. Louis and he had a thousand frightful things to tell the synod. According to him,
we must disavow and denounce abolitionism and everything like it or the Presbyterian church would be destroyed in
Missouri. We had warm debate, a majority of the ministers went with me, but the lay members turned the scale. Two
ministers from New England voted against us - a fact as lamentable and disgraceful as it is true. Eastern men when they
go over constitute the most ultra defenders of slavery. The elder above mentioned, previous to his coming up to the
Synod, had written an article published in one of the daily papers of the city, declaring that slavery had the sanction of
the holy sanctunes, signed an elder of the Presbyteria church.
Reports now come up thick from St. Louis that they were whipping men almost to death, that the whole city was in
commotion, that no one suspected of abolitionism could live in it. Under these circumstances the Synod adjourned, and I
started for home. I rode with a good brother about half the way--seventy miles. We talked the matter over. On the whole
he advised me not to go into St. Louis. The same advice was given me by other brothers at Marion. I had a wife; an
violence done to me of a serious nature, I feared would destroy her. Her health at all times delicate, was peculiarly so
now. The bothers told me I had no right to sacrifice her, what ever I might do with myself. I was taken exceedingly ill on
the road, but managed to get on to St. Charles, a place about twenty miles from St. Louis.
I found my wife as I had left her, sick in bed was myself detained three days by sickness. By this time I had fully made up
my mind that duty and fidelity to my Lord and Master required my presence at St. Louis. My friends advised me not to
go; all but wife she said go if you think duty calls you.
Accordingly I came into St. Louis. I found the community in a state of dreadful alarm and excitement. the press was
tanning the flame - the Jesuits at the bellows blowing it up. The Observer had been muzzled by the original proprietors.
A communication had been sent me signed by them and by my friend Mr. Potts, requesting me to say no more on the
subject of Slavery. I was accused by name, in one of the city papers of being an abolitionist in the bitterest manner and
the public vengeances invoked [sic] upon me. The elder of whom I spoke, had come back from Synod, and in an article
of the same paper declared that I was acting contrary to the wishes of the Synod and of the Presbyterian church in the
state. This was followed by a declaration of the Editor of that paper, "that they would soon free the church of the rotten
sheep in it." The very expression used. A mob had been raised to tear down the Observer Office; but had concluded after
assembling to differ it a little longer. On my appeal, men came to see me and told me I could not walk the streets of St.
Louis by night or by day. Men's hearts were failing them. I was the only Protestant minister in the city. The question
then arose, what must I do? Earnestly I sought to avoid collision with the excited and angry community; if that might be
consistent with faithfulness to God.
The following images are held and copyrighted by The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Further
copyright and Southwest Collection information can be accessed by visiting the Library's home page at www.lib.ttu.edu/swc/
Previous Transcribed Letter|Next Transcribed Letter
Images and texts on these web pages are intended for research and educational use only. Please read our statement on use and reproduction for further
information on how to receive permission to reproduce an item or how to cite it. Thank you.