Sunday, August 7, 2016

William Cullen Bryant’s Introduction of Congressman Owen Lovejoy at the Cooper Institute, June 16, 1861

It is now just a quarter of a century since a party of men from the State of Missouri crossed the great river of the West to destroy a newspaper press, established at Alton, in Illinois, to discuss the merits of the institution of slavery and prepare the country for its extinction. They were men of the same class with those who recently invaded Kansas, and attempted to force the curse of slavery upon its unwilling colonists. The proprietor of the journal in question, the “Alton Observer,” a bold and resolute man, armed himself and friends in defence of the freedom of speech and the right of property, and for a while held his assailants at bay. He was overpowered; he was slain; Elijah P. Lovejoy fell pierced with three balls, his press was destroyed, the types scattered, and the “Alton Observer” appeared no more. His blood was not shed in vain. The very State into the soil of which it sank, and the air of which resounded with the curses of his assassins, has given to the Union a Republican President — a Chief Magistrate who urges upon the slave States the policy of emancipation. But the class of men upon whom the guilt of that day is chargeable have proceeded to commit the same crimes upon a larger scale. Then they robbed and murdered one individual — they now rob a nation and murder its defenders. Thousands of young men, the flower of our Northern population, arrayed in defence of the Union, have found their graves in the region beyond the Potomac. These, say the rebels, are deaths by the fortune of war; but on the book of God they are registered as murders. My friends, I introduce to you the brother of this proto-martyr in the cause of emancipation. I present to you a man equally fearless and resolute, Owen Lovejoy, now a member of Congress from the great State of Illinois, who has never ceased since that day to protest against an institution upheld by suppressing the liberty of speech and by assassination.

SOURCE: Parke Godwin, A Biography of William Cullen Bryant, Volume 1, p. 160-1

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