The Civil War in Missouri

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“Slavery.” Newspaper Editorial; Elijah Lovejoy, St. Louis Observer, July 31, 1834.

MHM Library

Born in Maine, Elijah Lovejoy first moved to St. Louis in 1827, and quickly became editor of a local newspaper. After briefly moving back east to become a minister, Lovejoy returned to St. Louis in 1833, and started his own paper, the St. Louis Observer. Initially, the newspaper’s purpose was to promote Protestantism, but as the slavery debate widened, Lovejoy published more and more on the evils of slavery. Though he favored gradual freeing of slaves and rejected the immediate emancipation that abolitionists in the East advocated, Lovejoy remained resolute in his convictions: “Slavery…must cease to exist. There can be no doubt on this subject.” His opinions rankled pro-slavers—and even the Observer’s financial backers—in St. Louis. Succumbing to pressure, Lovejoy moved the newspaper across the river to Alton, Illinois, but steadfast in his convictions, he did not let up. On November 7, 1837, he was killed by a pro-slavery mob while protecting his press and subsequently became a martyr for the abolitionist cause.