Civil War St. Louis
| McIntosh and Lovejoy
From Civil War St. Louis by Louis S. Gerteis, published by the
University Press of Kansas, copyright 2001. Used by permission of the
||Louis S. Gerteis
University Press of Kansas
Hardcover, 416 pages, 24 illustrations
published November 2001
Suggested Price: $34.95
now available for purchase
Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule
LOUIS S. GERTEIS is professor of history at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His previous works include Morality and Utility in American Antislavery Reform and From Contraband to Freedman: Federal Policy toward Southern Blacks, 1861-1865.
As Professor Gerteis writes in McIntosh and Lovejoy, excerpted from his new book Civil War St. Louis, “the aftershocks from the lynching of McIntosh and the murder of Lovejoy continued to unsettle St. Louisans as well. The killings remained vivid memories for a lifetime, and the passions associated with them helped to infuse a greater degree of animosity into the widening debate over slavery.” Echoes would be heard during the crucial struggle over the St. Louis arsenal in the spring of 1861. In order to protect the arms in the arsenal from the city’s secessionists, Captain Nathaniel Lyon arranged to have the surplus transferred to Illinois.
Captain James H. Stokes performed the mission in the dead of night, transferring 20,000 muskets and much powder to Alton, Il –home of the murdered Lovejoy. Stokes woke the sleeping Altonians and enlisted their aid in getting the guns off the steamer City of Alton and onto train cars bound for the interior of the state. According to St. Louis Baptist minister Galusha Anderson, writing in The Story of a Border City During the Civil War, the Unionists amongst the sleepy and disheveled Altonians provided enthusiastic assistance: “Nor did they forget that morning their own martyred Lovejoy, who, fighting against slavery and for the freedom of the press, poured out his blood on the same spot where they then stood; and that his blood so ruthlessly spilled foretokened the awful conflict into which the whole nation was then rapidly drifting.”
IN THE MIDDLE DECADES of the nineteenth century, slavery and race became enmeshed in the developing culture of American capitalism. In the process, the spirit of accommodation that had once prevailed between slave states and free states began to fade. In part, the sectional equanimity of the early Republic had rested on the fact that the institutions of the free and slave states evolved largely in isolation from one another. As long as physical mobility remained limited and markets remained local, the cultural frictions that later led to civil war could be contained. But beginning in the 1820s, regional and ethnic cultures intermingled in the United States as never before. In the process, St. Louis emerged from its role as a remote outpost of European Empire to become a thriving city of the American West. A growing network of canals linked the Northeast with a western hinterland, stretching north to the Great Lakes and south to the Ohio Valley. Western waterways in the South, from western Georgia to eastern Texas, carried that region’s new staple, cotton, to the major Gulf ports at Mobile and New Orleans. Located at the center of this burgeoning western commerce, St. Louisans justifiably envisioned their city as the nation’s great inland emporium. By the 1820s, more than thirty steamboats provided regular packet service linking St. Louis with Keokuk, Galena, and Davenport to the north; Louisville, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh to the east; and Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, and Mobile to the south.
A new fluidity characterized social relations and commerce, giving rise to new visions of social progress and perfection as well as to new fears of social disorder and decay. St. Louis prospered, but the city existed uneasily on the border of an increasingly distinct and antagonistic North and South. For the South, slaves became a rapidly appreciating commodity as eastern centers of colonial slavery exported surplus labor to the new cotton-growing regions of the Gulf Plains. For the North, territorial and economic expansion widened the horizons of free labor as farmers and artisans migrated west from New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. In St. Louis, the South and the North commingled as never before and did so at a time when events that once had held significance only within a local community could generate far wider interest and impact. Rumors and enthusiasms had always had the potential of engulfing entire communities. Now, however, with communities linked together along waterways of commerce, the passion of a locality could become the passion of a nation.
The disappearance of William Morgan in upstate New York in 1826 offered an early example of the new phenomenon. A disgruntled member of the Masonic Order, Morgan published a book in which he claimed to reveal the society’s secrets. News of his disappearance spread quickly and widely over the new Erie Canal. Formally opened in 1824, the canal connected Albany, on the Hudson River, with Buffalo, on Lake Erie. It created a direct water route from New York City, at the mouth of the Hudson River, to the Great Lakes. It also provided a passageway to the West for people in upstate New York and New England. Throughout the Northeast and into the mid-Atlantic region, the rumor spread that Morgan had been murdered in a Masonic conspiracy. Anti-Masonic sentiment led to organized efforts to prevent members of the order from being elected to public office. In 1832 an Anti-Masonic political party nominated former attorney general William Wirt as its presidential candidate. The speed with which the rumored murder of Morgan mushroomed into a quasi-national anti-Masonic crusade offers one measure of the way in which the new intermingling of peoples, in what historians of the period have come to call the Market Revolution, reshaped the social landscape.
St. Louis soon offered other, more lurid examples of the new social volatility: the 1836 lynching of Francis L. McIntosh, a free mulatto boatman, and the related killing of the antislavery newspaper editor Elijah P. Lovejoy, in nearby Alton, Illinois, in 1837, became events of national significance. Both incidents contributed measurably to the antislavery movement across the North. But they also revealed a great deal about St. Louis itself. In the McIntosh lynching, observers experienced and remembered events in significantly different ways. Those sympathetic with the lynchers described McIntosh as a defiant killer cursing his white tormentors as he died. They remembered the heroic actions of the men who apprehended him and the collective action of the community in killing him. On the other hand, those who deplored the actions of the lynchers described McIntosh’s excruciating pain and suffering. They remembered an act of mob violence that threatened the foundation of law and civilized society. As a result of these different perspectives, accounts varied concerning the length of time it took for McIntosh to die. Defenders of the lynchers remembered a quick death; critics remembered a lengthy ordeal. Critics also remembered the lynching as the event that led to Lovejoy’s death, though the defenders made no such connection. They remembered McIntosh’s burning as a moment of great clarity for men who considered their role in the community to be that of guardians of public safety and (with no sense of irony) order.
The day after McIntosh died, the Missouri Republican, the city’s leading newspaper and Whig in its political sympathies, published an account of the lynching. Most accounts agreed on the accuracy of the Republican’s report. On the evening of 28 April 1836, St. Louis’s deputy sheriff, George Hammond, joined the city’s deputy constable, William Mull, to arrest Francis McIntosh. Later reports identified McIntosh as a Pittsburgh resident who had arrived in St. Louis with the steamboat Flora, on which he was employed as a steward. Hammond and Mull took McIntosh into custody because he had interfered with them when they tried to arrest two unruly sailors. With McIntosh’s help, the sailors had run off. Hammond and Mull apprehended McIntosh, secured a warrant for his incarceration, and marched him off to the city jail, located directly west of the courthouse. When the group reached the northeast corner of the courthouse square, McIntosh drew a knife. He struck first at Mull, who dodged the blade. Turning, McIntosh struck Hammond on the lower chin and drove the knife into his neck, severing the right carotid artery. Struggling to aid Hammond, Mull received a serious wound in his abdomen. According to later reports, McIntosh then ran south on Fourth Street toward Market. Hammond fell dead in the street while Mull shouted out an alarm and gave chase as best he could before passing out. By later accounts, a crowd of about fifty men pursued McIntosh and cornered him in a private lot near Fourth and Walnut Streets. They disarmed him and took him to jail.
As word of Hammond’s murder spread, a crowd gathered at the jail. Soon, the assembled multitude,” as the Republican described the mob, pushed its way into the jail, forcibly removed the keys from the sheriffs pocket, took hold of McIntosh, and dragged him into the street. Unnamed persons chained him to a tree, stacked wood around him, and burned him to death.
Accounts varied concerning exactly what happened after the mob took McIntosh from the jail. John F. Darby, the mayor of St. Louis at the time of the lynching, described the event in his memoirs more than four decades later. A native of North Carolina, Darby had moved to St. Louis in the mid-1820s and practiced law. A Whig and an ardent supporter of public expenditures for internal improvements, Darby served as mayor from 1835 to 1837 and served a second one-year term in 1840. He did not claim to have been an eyewitness to McIntosh’s lynching, but he recalled the event with great assurance and in considerable detail. It was “a strong and brave Irishman” who disarmed McIntosh after the death of Hammond, recalled Darby. It was a Connecticut man who first made the suggestion that the captive be burned. In Darby’s account, McIntosh died quickly in a “brisk” fire that “ran up far above his head into the tops of the trees.” The whole business, from the murder of Hammond to the death of McIntosh, had occurred within an hour, according to Darby.
Darby’s account functioned in part as a rebuttal to an antislavery interpretation of the event, which had its origin in Theodore Dwight Weld’s American Slavery As It Is (1839) and which was reiterated in accounts of Lovejoy’s subsequent death. In the antislavery interpretation, McIntosh’s death had been a sadistic affair. Moreover, both the lynching and the subsequent killing of Lovejoy represented a lawlessness endemic to a slaveholding society. Weld wrote his account to disprove the proslavery claim that “Public Opinion Is a Protection to the Slave,” and he emphasized the public nature of the lynching. McIntosh, he wrote, had been burned “in the midst of the city… in open day.” The St. Louis German editor, Henry Boernstein, who arrived in St. Louis from Europe in 1849, learned about the lynching from his colleagues on the city’s first German language newspaper, the Anzeiger des Westens. In his 1881 memoirs, Boernstein recorded the antislavery version of the affair. A mob, “roused by the slaveholders” chained McIntosh to a tree on the outskirts of town. They lit a fire around him and watched as “the unfortunate man was slowly roasted to death.” In Alton, where Lovejoy continued his attacks on slavery and on St. Louis lynch law, “rowdies and scum” joined “a gang from Missouri” to kill the editor.
Some aspects of these antislavery accounts should be questioned. The Republican originally reported that Hammond had arrested McIntosh at about seven o’clock in the evening. If the events leading up to McIntosh’s death occurred as quickly as Darby recalled, it is possible that the lynching took place while some light remained in the sky. But Weld’s statement that the lynching took place “in open day” was an exaggeration if not an error. So, too, was Weld’s claim that McIntosh died “in the midst of the city.” By most accounts, the lynching took place on the edge of town. The Republican reported that the mob took McIntosh to “the border of town.” A visiting salesman from Vermont wrote to his wife that the mob took McIntosh to “the common, west of the city.” Darby, writing in 1880, recalled that McIntosh had been burned “about where the [O’Fallon] Polytechnic building is now.” That would locate the site of the lynching on the western outskirts of the city, on a block between Seventh and Eighth and Chestnut and Market. Boernstein shared Weld’s abolitionist perspective but located the lynching “at the corner of Seventh and Chestnut.” Yet by the 1880s, when J. Thomas Scharf wrote his History of St. Louis City and County, memories of the event diverged sufficiently to produce a confused account. Scharf wrote that “the negro was… dragged to the bank of the river, where he was tied to a tree.” In the next sentence, however, he added that “the place where the negro was burned is now Tenth and Market Streets, then a common.” In any case, the lynching did not take place, as Weld implied, in full daylight and in the middle of town.
The antislavery conclusion that the barbarism of slavery produced the lawlessness that cost McIntosh and Lovejoy their lives also requires scrutiny. Neither killing was the product of a slaveholders’ conspiracy. In the McIntosh lynching, the mob undoubtedly included a number of prominent citizens, although no one publicly admitted participating. In Alton, the leaders of the mob were the town’s most prominent physicians.
Concerning the McIntosh lynching, Mayor Darby wrote without remorse or apology, as if he had witnessed the event. There is reason to think that Luke Lawless, who, as judge of the St. Louis Circuit Court, later convened a grand jury to investigate the lynching, also witnessed it. On the other hand, one purported eyewitness account is open to doubt. The diary of an unidentified St. Louis physician claimed that a group of ten to twenty men actively participated in the lynching. He recorded that an alderman, whom he did not name, threatened to shoot anyone who tried to loosen the chains binding McIntosh to the tree. McIntosh died very slowly, the physician recorded; the diary provided gruesome detail. As the fire burned through McIntosh’s abdomen and his entrails spilled out, someone in the crowd asked the victim if he still felt pain. McIntosh answered that he felt a great deal of pain. But the diarist also reported that the mob had chained McIntosh to a tree “back of the jail.” The writer probably composed his diary entry from the accounts of others.
In the aftermath of the lynching, St. Louisans tried to sort through their emotions and make sense of the affair. It was in this tense environment that Lovejoy became the object of the mob’s fury. The Republican feared, correctly, that the lynching might “damage the fair name of our town.” It reported a “revolting spectacle” but offered no detailed description of the lynching. The editor focused instead on the crowd. It seemed important to note that the killing of McIntosh had taken place without any other violence or disorder. “There was no tumult,” reported the Republican, “no disturbance of any kind.” Instead, “the crowd retired quietly to their several homes.” The editor hoped, vainly as it turned out, that the episode would be quickly forgotten: “Let the veil of oblivion be drawn over the fatal affair.” The editor of the Whig newspaper, the St. Louis Bulletin, went a bit further to condemn “the atrocious violation of law, (and perhaps we may say humanity)” but said no more about the event. William Weber, editor of the Anzeiger des Westens, asked pointedly why the city’s elite militia, the St. Louis Grays, had not appeared to restore order. When a community ignored the rule of law, the German editor warned, it jeopardized the whole fabric of constitutional government.
The St. Louis Observer, a Presbyterian paper edited by Elijah P. Lovejoy, took a very different view. A New Englander of moderate antislavery views, Lovejoy saw in the lynching a level of lawlessness that threatened civilized society. His account drew from the description previously published in the Republican to report the arrest of McIntosh and the murder of Hammond. But Lovejoy offered a detailed description of the lynching, not, he wrote, to suggest that its brutality reflected “the moral condition of St. Louis,” but to denounce the spirit of “mobism” that it represented. Lovejoy had not witnessed the lynching. He constructed his account, he said, from a number of reports he regarded as reliable. When McIntosh, chained with his back to the tree, realized that the mob intended to burn him, not whip him, he pleaded to be shot. As he felt the flames on his body, he “commenced singing a hymn and trying to pray.” When he grew silent and his head dropped, someone in the crowd speculated that he had died. With most of his facial features destroyed by the fire, McIntosh managed to speak. He still felt the pain, he said. He could hear all that was said around him. Again he pleaded to be shot. Lovejoy did not condemn the St. Louis mob alone. He saw a similar spirit of mobism in the August 1834 burning of the Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and in the July 1835 hanging of five white gamblers in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Lovejoy described McIntosh as “a hardened wretch certainly, and one that deserved to die —but not thus to die.”‘
On 16 May a grand jury, presided over by Luke Lawless, met to investigate the McIntosh lynching. It was Lawless who had served as Benton’s second in the 1817 duel that took the life of young Charles Lucas. Lawless understood the tradition of honor that compelled men to fight to the death, and he understood as well a tradition of collective violence that often defied laws and constitutions. He opened the proceedings with a lengthy address. Normally, he said, he would conclude his remarks after offering general comments regarding the jury’s duties; under these circumstances, however, he could not do so. His “fellow citizens might well expect from the judge of the Court, a special notice of the dreadful events that have so recently thrown a gloom over our prosperous and generally peaceful city.” The murder of Hammond, the wounding of Mull, and “the destruction of the murderer himself raised the question of what, if any, “action of the Grand Jury is called for by them.” In the killing of McIntosh, the grand jury confronted “a force unauthorized by law” and “a mode of death forbidden by the Constitution,” which forbade “cruel and unusual punishment.” Clearly, “chaining the prisoner to a tree, and burning him to ashes” was both cruel and unusual. If Lawless had left the grand jury “to their own unassisted deliberations upon this question,” he feared that his silence would be construed as timidity. That he considered “unworthy of a judge.” Instead, he offered his frank views about “what your oath and function, as Grand Jurors of the County, require of you to do or abstain from doing, under existing circumstances.”
Since McIntosh was dead, there was no need for the grand jury to consider issuing an indictment for the murder of Hammond or the attempted murder of Mull. The only question that remained was what action should be taken regarding “those persons who effected the destruction of the murderer.” The question was not a straightforward one, Lawless thought. He regarded it as “novel” and “depending for its solution, on considerations not generally influencing the decisions or proceedings of a Grand Jury.” He could find no “parallel case on record.” Having looked to the law and having found no answers, he concluded that “rational action” in the matter made it “necessary to take into view principles of even higher import to the community than those which govern the ordinary march and administration of criminal law.” There was nothing ambiguous about the killing of McIntosh, Lawless admitted. “The difficult work which presents itself,” he explained, “arises as to the possibility and expediency of visiting on the perpetrators of that act the penalties of the law.”
The grand jurors may have already suspected the conclusion toward which Lawless was leading them. Perhaps he sensed a degree of irreverence among the jurors. Abruptly, he launched into a denunciation of the lynching. He could not imagine the existence of an American citizen “of sound mind, and not under the influence of passion,” who would not admit that McIntosh’s death involved “an outrageous violation of the Law and Constitution.” Those who justified the act by pointing to McIntosh’s undisputed guilt overlooked the possibility that the man might have been “a lunatic not morally responsible, and therefore, in the view of God and man, innocent.” Any country “calling itself civilized” must recoil from the act, the more so in “this chosen land of liberty.” If law is not supreme, liberty cannot exist, Lawless lectured. If the people disregarded the law, anarchy would prevail and there would be no safety “for life or property.” He could only pray that the fire that consumed McIntosh would become “a beacon light to warn away the citizens of Missouri from the perpetration of similar horrors.”
Still, the question remained what the responsibility of the grand jury was. Lawless told the jurors that he had “reflected much on this matter” and that he felt it to be his duty “to state my opinion … that, whether the Grand Jury shall act at all depends upon … whether the destruction of McIntosh was the act of the ‘few’ or the act of the ‘many.’” If the jurors determined that “a small number of individuals separate from the mass” committed the killing, he expressed his opinion “that you ought to indict them all without a single exception.” If, on the other hand, McIntosh’s killing had been the work “of congregated thousands, seized upon and impelled by that mysterious, metaphysical, and almost electric phrenzy … then, I say, act not at all in the matter the case then transcends your jurisdiction it is beyond the reach of human law.”
Lawless then examined the lynching, as Lovejoy had in the Observer, in the context of recent outbreaks of mob violence elsewhere in the country. He noted the attack in Massachusetts on the Ursuline convent. Although there had been no loss of life in that event, he denounced the “horrid spirit of sectarian bigotry” and compared McIntosh’s killing favorably with it because it had been a “generous excitement,” the natural response of St. Louisans to the inconsolable weeping of Hammond’s wife and children, that led to the lynching. “Is not something to be allowed for human sympathies in these appalling circumstances?” he asked. “Is there not some slight palliation of that deplorable disregard of Law and Constitution, which is now the subject of our deliberations?”
Lawless admitted that efforts in Massachusetts to punish the anti-Catholic rioters had met with some success. But there had been “no ground of extenuation” in the Charlestown riot, and in any case, the prosecution of the rioters had done nothing to cure Massachusetts of its anti-Catholic bigotry. By contrast, in the McIntosh killing the persons “most actively engaged in this tragic scene, must ALREADY REGRET WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.” They must understand that faithful execution of the laws would have ended in justice and would have offered “no pretense for … outcry” by the “unprincipled men engaged in the anti-national scheme of abolitionism.” Had the laws been faithfully executed, the public mind would have been able to concentrate entirely on the atrocities committed by McIntosh. Here, Lawless believed he had arrived at the central issue in the whole affair. What had excited the mob was something more than the killing of Hammond. McIntosh’s crime took its place among “similar atrocities committed in this and other states BY INDIVIDUALS OF NEGRO BLOOD AGAINST THEIR WHITE BRETHREN.”
Lawless then spoke as if he had firsthand knowledge of the lynching. The “passions and intellect” of the “wretched McIntosh,” Lawless charged, had been influenced by abolitionists. This “seems to me to be indicated,” he continued, “by the peculiar character of his language and demeanor.” McIntosh had not died penitent. Lawless noted “his rapid denunciations of the white man his professions of deadly hostility to the whole race his hymns and his prayers, so profanely and frightfully mixed up with those horrid imprecations.” In his death throes, McIntosh revealed the influence on him of the “incendiary” doctrines of abolitionism.
Lawless, then, lay the moral responsibility for the murder of Hammond and the subsequent lynching of McIntosh at the feet of the abolitionists. And he defined abolitionism broadly enough to include Lovejoy’s cautious advocacy of gradual emancipation. Lawless handed the jurors a copy of Lovejoy’s Observer and noted that although the paper professed to be “exclusively devoted to religious object,” the edition published immediately after McIntosh’s death offered a graphic description of the burning and two sermons, one stating that “slavery is a sin and ought to be abandoned,” the other lamenting the “abandonment of virtue” and the “prostration of principle” among the “Pro-Slavery men of modern times.” When such “fanaticism” reached the “fiery, unreasoning instinct of the negro,” continued Lawless, the “ruthless, remorseless revenge” of the African race is inevitably unleashed. “The negro then kills and burns for the love of God and in the name of the Divine Redeemer, and rushes on to crime and carnage under the influence of what appears to him a holy impulse and aspiration.” Lawless did not mention the Nat Turner rebellion, nearly five years earlier in Southampton County, Virginia. But his description of the Negro as divine avenger must have triggered memories of that bloody uprising in the minds of the grand jury. Lawless had finally reached the conclusion of his instructions. He urged the jurors to focus their attention on methods of silencing the voice of abolitionism in Missouri and promised to send their recommendations on that matter to the state legislature.
To Lawless and the grand jurors, the decision not to issue indictments no doubt seemed a victory for the community. The jurors had selected John O’Fallon as their foreman. A native of Kentucky, he had been raised as the ward of his uncle, Missouri’s territorial governor William Clark. By 1830 O’Fallon had established himself as one of the wealthiest merchants in St. Louis, and through the 1840s he led the city’s Whig Party. Before his death in 1865, he devoted a portion of his vast wealth, estimated to be $8 million, to the establishment of O’Fallon Polytechnic Institute on a city lot that Mayor Darby remembered to have been the site of the McIntosh lynching.
O’Fallon undoubtedly agreed with a Whig newspaper, the Bulletin, when it praised the wisdom of Lawless’s remarks. The Catholic weekly, the Shepherd of the Valley, similarly endorsed the judge’s stance. Lawless’s comments contained “much sound wisdom and discretion,” wrote the Catholic editor, who then equated abolitionism with Protestantism and with revolt against all authority, spiritual and secular. To Lovejoy, who reacted to Lawless’s tirade against abolitionism with a tirade of his own against Catholicism and slavery, it seemed clear that Catholicism condoned slavery and that slavery promoted barbarism. Noting Lawless’s Irish birth and Catholic faith, Lovejoy saw “the cloven feet of jesuitism, peeping out from under the veil of almost every paragraph of the judge’s instructions to the jury.” He knew that his refusal to let the matter rest exposed him to mob violence, but he pressed on. He did not seek “martyrdom,” he wrote. But it would be better that he should be “chained to the same tree as McIntosh and share his fate, than that the doctrines promulgated by Judge Lawless from the bench should become prevalent in this community.” Lovejoy’s fellow New Englanders doubtless shared his outrage, but they were not prepared to stand with him in this instance. After two attacks on his press in St. Louis, he announced that he would move the Observer to Alton, Illinois. More mob attacks followed. Lovejoy would not again flee. “Should I attempt it,” he wrote, “I should feel that the angel of the Lord, with his flaming sword, was pursuing me wherever I went. It is because I fear God that I am not afraid of all who oppose me in this city.”
After Alton mobs destroyed three presses, Lovejoy resolved to defend the fourth. The newly elected mayor of Alton, John M. Krum (later elected mayor of St. Louis and involved in the Dred Scott case), seemed sympathetic to Lovejoy’s requests for protection. Ultimately, however, Krum’s efforts to restrain the mob failed. Perhaps he did the best he could. He sought authority from the Alton Common Council to appoint special constables, but the council took no action on the matter. At a public meeting that, in effect, ordered Lovejoy to leave town or face violent consequences, Krum offered a resolution that pleased but did not placate the crowd. The resolution expressed “regret that persons and editors from abroad have seen proper” to agitate against slavery in Alton. Krum managed to station a few constables at the warehouse where Lovejoy’s press was stored, but they were too few and too indecisive to deter the mob. Krum stalled for time by acting as the mob’s emissary to Lovejoy. It was Krum who delivered the ultimatum: surrender the press or the building would be burned. When Krum left the warehouse with nothing but Lovejoy’s defiance to offer the mob, he made his last effort to halt the violence, warning that his police would shoot anyone who attempted to commit arson. In the end, he was ignored by the mob and by the police. As Lovejoy tried to deter an arsonist setting fire to the building’s roof, he was shot and killed.
Lovejoy became a martyr to the antislavery cause. As John Quincy Adams observed, Lovejoy’s death sent “a shock as of an earthquake throughout the continent.” Across the North, the antislavery cause won fresh, dedicated recruits. Adams had already joined the movement. After serving one term as president, he won election to the House of Representatives and, by the time of Lovejoy’s death, he had taken the lead in Congress in the fight against the antiabolitionist “gag rule.” At Lovejoy’s graveside, one of the martyr’s younger brothers, Owen (who later won election to Congress from Illinois), dedicated himself to the antislavery cause. In Hudson, Ohio, Laurens P. Hickok, professor of theology at Western Reserve College, presided over a prayer service memorializing Lovejoy. A young John Brown (of Harper’s Ferry fame) attended. “The crisis has come,” said Hickok. “The question now before the American citizen is no longer alone, ‘Can the slaves be made free?’ but, are we free, or are we slaves under Southern mob law?” When Hickok finished speaking, Brown stood up, raised his right hand, and swore before God and the witnesses at the meeting that he would devote his life to the destruction of slavery.
In Vermont, two young men also felt the shock of Lovejoy’s death. One was Zebina Eastman, already an abolitionist in sentiment and soon to be active in the cause. In 1839, after a failed attempt as a newspaper editor in Vermont, he moved west to Illinois, where he joined the veteran abolitionist, Benjamin Lundy, and John W. E. Lovejoy (another of Elijah P. Lovejoy’s younger brothers) to edit the Genius of Universal Emancipation. Eastman later recalled discussing the Lovejoy murder in the Newfane, Vermont, law office of his friend Roswell Field. Field, as Eastman remembered, was a “firm believer in the Jacksonian democracy of the hour,” and he used “his caustic powers to speak against the abolitionists.” But Lovejoy’s killing deeply affected Field and turned him against the proslavery wing of the Democratic Party. He could not have forgotten the affair when he moved to St. Louis two years later.
The aftershocks of the McIntosh lynching and the Lovejoy murder continued to unsettle St. Louisans as well. The killings remained vivid memories for a lifetime, and the passions associated with them helped to infuse a greater degree of animosity into the widening debate over slavery.
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