Elijah Lovejoy, Crusading Journalist

Plaque commemorating Elijah Lovejoy at Princeton Theological Seminary

Elijah Parish Lovejoy was an important American writer, editor and publisher. He was born in Albion, Maine in 1802 and decided to seek his fortune “out West” after his graduation from college.

Even though he had no money, he had a tenacious spirit and walked the 1200 miles to St. Louis, Missouri where he eventually became editor and part owner of the St. Louis Times.

Like thousands of others, he was caught up by the revival of biblical faith in the Great Revival of 1831 that did so much to shape America. When he became a Christian, he felt God was leading him to become a pastor so he enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.

Today, Christians are often blamed for supporting slavery in early America. However, people were split by geography and economics, and while some southern Christians did support it, most Bible-believing Christians thought it was wrong.

After giving his life to Christ, Lovejoy became even more radical in his denunciation of slavery. After two years at Princeton Seminary, and after being ordained as a Presbyterian minister, he was recruited by a St. Louis businessmen to help start a new newspaper, the St. Louis Observer. The goal of the newspaper was promoting religious and moral education.

There was outrage in the community against Lovejoy for his strong stand against slavery. Thomas Hart Benton, who later became a U.S. senator, attacked Lovejoy in speeches saying that freedom of speech did not include the right to speak against slavery.

The threat from the community became so great that Lovejoy moved his wife and children across the Mississippi River to Alton, Illinois. He thought he would be safer there since Illinois was a free state.

However, angry mobs destroyed Lovejoy’s printing press, and when a new one arrived in November of 1837, pro-slavery elements became enraged. When Lovejoy tried to stop a drunken mob from burning down the warehouse where his new press was temporarily stored, he was shot and killed by a would-be arsonist. He died just two days before his 35th birthday.

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