The Civil War in Missouri

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“Awful Murder and Savage Barbarity.” Newspaper Editorial on the Lynching of Francis McIntosh; Elijah P. Lovejoy, editor, St. Louis Observer, May 5, 1836.

MHM Library

On April 28, 1836, Francis McIntosh, a free mulatto boatman, was incarcerated for the murder of a deputy sheriff and a deputy constable in St. Louis. An angry mob pulled McIntosh from his cell, dragged him through the streets, chained him to a tree, and burned him alive.Elijah P. Lovejoy, a Presbyterian minister and abolitionist, believed that the lynching threatened the very foundation of a nation built on laws. He reminded his readers, “When constitutional law and order are at stake, when the question lies between justice regularly administered or the wild vengeance of a mob then there is but one side on which the patriot and Christian can rally; but one course for them to pursue.” Lovejoy warned that giving in to the “spirit of mobism” and lawlessness would result in “men and communities…breaking over all restraints of law and shame” and cause further deeds “which show that man is yet a fiend at heart.” Lovejoy himself fell victim to mob violence the following year and became a martyr for the abolitionist cause.