Elijah Lovejoy Papers Series 1 Letters
Illinois State Historical Library

Letter from Elijah Lovejoy to B. K. Hart and others, July 26, 1837

Letter 10 of 11

Elijah Lovejoy Letters


ALTON, July 26, 1837.

Messrs. B. K. Hart, L. J. Clawson, N. Buckmaster, A. Olney, and John A. Halderman:

GENT. - I have this day received through the Post Office, a communication signed by yourselves and addressed to me, enclosing a printed copy of the proceedings had at a public meeting held in this place on the 10th inst., to which proceedings you invite my attention.

Before replying more immediately to your communication, permit me to express my gratification at the kind and courteous terms in which it is made. In this respect it gives me pleasure to say, your letter is all I could desire. Be pleased, gentlemen, to accept my thanks. If, therefore, my answer be not such, in some respects, as you might perhaps wish, I beg you will not attribute it to any want of respect to yourselves as individuals, or to your opinions on the principal subject of your communication.

You will, therefore, permit me to say, that with the most respectful feelings towards 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 freedom of speech, were rightfully subject to other supervision and control, than those of the land. But this I cannot admit. On the contrary, in the language of one of the speakers at the meeting, I believe that "the liberty of our forefathers has given us the liberty of speech," and that it is "our duty and our high privilege, to act and speak on all questions touching this great commonwealth." I am happy, gentlemen, in being able heartily to concur in the above sentiments, which I perceive were uttered by one of your own members, and in which I cannot doubt, you all agree. I would only add, that I consider this "liberty" was ascertained, but never originated by our forefathers. It comes to us, as I conceive, from our Maker, and is in its nature invaluable, belonging to man as man.

Believing, therefore, that every thing having a tendency to bring this right into jeopardy, is eminently dangerous as a precedent, I cannot admit that it can be called in question by any man or body of men, or that they can, with any propriety, question me as to my exercise of it. Gentlemen, I have confidence, that you will, upon reflection, agree with me in this view of the case, and will consequently appreciate, with justice, my motives in declining to receive your communication, as from the official organ of the meeting to which your refer.

But as individuals whom I highly respect, permit me to say to you, that it is very far from my intention to do any thing calculated to bring on an "unwise agitation," or the subject of slavery in this community. It is a subject that, as I apprehend, must be discussed, must be agitated. All virulence and intemperance of language, I should conceive to be "unwise agitation." It shall be my aim to resort and provoke to neither. I hope to discuss the overwhelmingly important subject of slavery, with the freedom of republican and the meekness of a Christian. If I fail in either respect, I beg that you will attribute it, gentlemen, to that imperfection which attends us all in the performance of our best purposes.

Permit me respectfully, to refer you to an editorial article in the "Alton Observer" of the 20th instant, headed "What are the sentiments of Anti-Slavery men?" for the full expression of my views and principles on the subject of slavery. If these views can be shown to be erroneous, I hold myself ready to reject them, and if you, or either of you, or any of my fellow-citizens, deem them, and feel able to demonstrate them to be unsound, or of dangerous tendency, you and they are cordially invited to make use of the columns of the "Observer" for that purpose.

With much respect,

Your friend and fellow-citizen,


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