"I have appealed to the constitution and laws of my country; if they fail to protect me, I appeal to God, and with Him I cheerfully rest my cause. I can die at my post, but I cannot desert it."


Elijah Parish Lovejoy was a Presbyterian pastor and journalist whose outspoken views about slavery threatened his career and ultimately took his life. Lovejoy’s editorials against slavery angered those who supported it. Several times pro-slavery mobs destroyed Lovejoy’s printing press, yet Lovejoy would not be silenced. He moved his newspaper to Illinois, a free state, but the violence against him only escalated. An angry pro-slavery mob found the warehouse where Lovejoy had hidden his printing press and began firing shots into it, killing several people. They set fire to the warehouse and fatally shot Lovejoy while he attempted to put out the fire. Lovejoy was buried in an unmarked grave on his 35th birthday.


Lovejoy became a martyr for the abolitionist movement. His death brought together abolitionists from all over America. Historians cite his death as “the first casualty of the Civil War.” His death even may have inspired the anti-slavery beliefs of future president Abraham Lincoln, who once wrote in a letter to a friend, “Lovejoy’s tragic death for freedom in every sense marked his sad ending as the most important single event that ever happened in the new world.” 


Reverend Lovejoy spoke out against slavery from the platform of his church. Like so many abolitionists, he used both his pulpit and his pen to declare slavery a sin and to call out any slave owners as anti-Christian and as disobedient to God. 


After giving his life to Christ, Lovejoy became even more radical in his views that slavery was wrong, calling for the immediate freedom of slaves. Lovejoy believed that God made all people to be born free so that no man should be made the property of another. He wrote that American slavery was “a legalized system of inconceivable injustice, and a sin against God,” pointing to the Bible. As such, he called for slave owners to repent of this sin and immediately free their slaves.


Lovejoy’s Christian faith inspired him to keep writing editorials against slavery, despite threats to himself and his family. In talking about his sense of security in the face of constant danger, Lovejoy wrote, “Some persons here call me courageous, and others pronounce me stubborn; but I feel and know that I am neither one nor the other. That I am enabled to continue firm in the midst of trials, is all of God. Let no one give me any credit for it. I disclaim it. I should feel that I were robbing Him [God], if even in thought, should claim the least share to myself.”