ARTICLE: The 1837 Killing of Elijah Lovejoy by an Anti-Abolition Mob: Free Speech, Mobs, Republican Government, and the Privileges of American Citizens Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) The Regents of the University of California 1997.
UCLA Law Review

ARTICLE: The 1837 Killing of Elijah Lovejoy by an Anti-Abolition Mob: Free Speech, Mobs, Republican Government, and the Privileges of American Citizens

April, 1997

44 UCLA L. Rev. 1109

Author

Michael Kent Curtis *

Excerpt





I. Introduction

A. Elijah Lovejoy Dies Defending His Antislavery Press from a Mob
 


On November 7, 1837, Elijah P. Lovejoy, the Abolitionist editor of the Alton Observer and a Presbyterian minister, was killed defending his fourth printing press from an anti-abolition mob. Three of his presses had already been destroyed. A mob had smashed the third press, the most recent prior casualty, and dumped it into the Mississippi River. 1 The mob was determined that no Abolitionist paper should be permitted in Alton, Illinois. Lovejoy was determined to continue publishing. Before the arrival of the fourth press, Lovejoy and a group of supporters had appealed, as they had done previously, for protection from the city authorities. Alton Mayor John Krum requested that the Common Council of Alton authorize him to appoint special constables to maintain order. 2 However, the city council refused to act, except to advise Lovejoy and his friends not to reestablish a press in Alton. 3

Lovejoy and his supporters put the new press in a warehouse and armed themselves. The mob stoned the warehouse, and the mob and the defenders exchanged shots. (Which side shot first was disputed by some papers at the time, although most historians say that the first shot came from the mob.) 4 One of the defenders of the press shot and killed a mem- ber of the mob; other mob members got ladders and one climbed up to set fire to the roof of the warehouse. As Lovejoy attempted to shoot ...
 
 
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