Owen Lovejoy

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I will never degrade my manhood, and stifle the sympathies of human nature. It is an insult to claim it. I wish I had nothing worse to meet at the judgement day than that. I would not have the guilt of causing that wail of man's despair or that wild shriek of woman's agony, as the one or the other is captured, for all the diadems of all the stars in heaven.
Proclaim it upon the house-tops! Write it upon every leaf that trembles in the forest! Make it blaze from the sun at high noon and shine forth in the radiance of every star that bedecks the firmament of God. Let it echo through all the arches of heaven, and reverberate and bellow through all the deep gorges of hell, where slave catchers will be very likely to hear it. Owen Lovejoy lives at Princeton, Illinois, three-quarters of a mile east of the village, and he aids every fugitive that comes to his door and asks it.
Does it follow, therefore, that it is right to enslave a man simply because he is inferior? This, to me, is a most abhorrent doctrine. It would place the weak everywhere at the mercy of the strong. It would place the poor at the mercy of the rich. It would place those who are deficient in intellect at the mercy of those that are gifted in mental endowment.
Thou invisible demon of slavery! Dost thou think to cross my humble threshold, and forbid me to give bread to the hungry and shelter to the houseless? I bid you defiance in the name of my God.
I will stand where I please... Nobody can intimidate me.
The principles of our fathers in regard to human liberty and equality still live.
I always defended the Constitution, because it was for liberty. It was ordained by the people of the United States. Not by a superannuated old mummy of a judge, and a Jesuit at that, but by the people of the United States. To establish justice, secure the blessing of liberty for themselves and their posterity, and to secure the natural rights of every human being within its exclusive jurisdiction. Therefore, I love it.
The equality of the human race is the pivot upon which our government rests and resolves.
We thank thee for the wisdom of the fathers in the formation of this government, and for the assistance thou didst render them in arriving at the great principles relating to the equality of man.
I love the Constitution. It is enshrined in my heart. I love it better than any dozen Democrats in the land do tonight.
The principle of enslaving human beings because they are inferior, is this. If a man is a cripple, trip him up. If he is old and weak, and bowed with the weight of years, strike him, for he cannot strike back. If idiotic, take advantage of him, and if a child, deceive him. This, sir, this is the doctrine of Democrats and the doctrine of devils as well, and there is no place in the universe outside the five points of hell and the Democratic Party where the practice and prevalence of such doctrines would not be a disgrace.
The Republican Party, of which I am a member, stands pledged since 1856 to the extermination, so far as the federal government has the power, the twin relics of barbarism, slavery, and polygamy. They have this power in the territories of the United States.

Owen Lovejoy (6 January 181125 March 1864) was an American politician and religious minister during the 19th century. Originally from Maine, he represented the U.S. state of Illinois in the United States House of Representatives. A member of the U.S. Republican Party that was opposed to slavery, Lovejoy was a friend of Abraham Lincoln and assisted runaway slaves in escaping to freedom.

Quotes[edit]

1840s[edit]

Address to the Liberty Party of Illinois (May 1842)[edit]

Address to the Liberty Party of Illinois (27 May 1842)
  • We firmly believe in the natural equality of man; we believe the people are independent. Sovereign, if you please. As far as a nobility, hereditary, or otherwise are concerned, we are grounded and settled in belief that 'all men are created equal'.

1850s[edit]

Speech at the Joliet Convention in Illinois (June 1858)[edit]

Acceptance Speech on Receiving Unanimous Renomination at the Joliet Convention in Illinois (30 June 1858)
  • I believe that the love of freedom and the hatred of oppression under-girds and vitalizes the whole republican movement. The principles of our fathers in regard to human liberty and equality still live in the hearts of their descendants, and will find appropriate expression and suitable exponents.

The Fanaticism of the Democratic Party (February 1859)[edit]

Speech on the Fanaticism of the Democratic Party to the United States Congress (21 February 1859)
  • If the Bible sanctions slavery at all, it is the enslavement of white men. No one pretends that the servants spoken of in the Bible were blacks. The Roman slave was not a black man, the Hebrew slave was not a black man. The question is, whether the laboring man, white or black, may rightfully be enslaved.
  • Now, what about this negro equality of which we hear so much, in and out of Congress? It is claimed by the Democrats of today, that Jefferson has uttered an untruth in the declaration of principles which underlie our government. I still abide by the democracy of Jefferson, and avow my belief that all men are created equal. Equal how? Not in physical strength, not in symmetry of form and proportion, not in graceful of motion, or loveliness of feature, not in mental endowment, moral susceptibility, and emotional power. Not socially equal, not of necessity politically equal. Not this, but every human being equally entitled to his life, his liberty, and the fruit of his toil. The Democratic Party deny this fundamental doctrine of our government, and say that there is a certain class of human beings which have no rights. If you maliciously kill them, it is no murder. If you take away their liberty, it is no crime. If you deprive them of their earnings, it is no theft. No rights which another is bound to regard. Was there ever so much diabolism compressed into one sentence? Why do |the Democrats come to us with their complaints about the negroes? I for one feel no responsibility in the matter. I did not create them; was not consulted.
  • Now, if there is anyone dissatisfied with the fact, that there is a whole race of human beings, with the rights of human beings, created with a skin not colored like our own, let him go mouth the heavens, and mutter his blasphemies in the ear of the God that made us all. Tell him that he had no business to make human beings with a black skin. I repeat, I feel no responsibility for this fact. But, inasmuch as it has pleased God to make them human beings, I am bound to regard them as such. Instead of chattering your gibberish in my ear bout negro equality, go look the son of God in the face and reproach him for favoring negro equality because he poured out his blood for the most abject and despised of the human family. Go settle this matter with the God who created and the Christ who redeemed.
  • No human being, black or white, bond or free, native or foreign, infidel or Christian, ever came to my door, and asked for food and shelter, in the name of a common humanity, or of a pitying Christ, who did not receive it. This I have done. This I mean to do, as long as God lets me live.
  • I will never degrade my manhood, and stifle the sympathies of human nature. It is an insult to claim it. I wish I had nothing worse to meet at the judgement day than that. I would not have the guilt of causing that wail of man's despair or that wild shriek of woman's agony, as the one or the other is captured, for all the diadems of all the stars in heaven.
  • Is it desired to call attention to this fact? Proclaim it upon the house-tops! Write it upon every leaf that trembles in the forest! Make it blaze from the sun at high noon and shine forth in the radiance of every star that bedecks the firmament of God. Let it echo through all the arches of heaven, and reverberate and bellow through all the deep gorges of hell, where slave catchers will be very likely to hear it. Owen Lovejoy lives at Princeton, Illinois, three-quarters of a mile east of the village, and he aids every fugitive that comes to his door and asks it. Thou invisible demon of slavery! Dost thou think to cross my humble threshold, and forbid me to give bread to the hungry and shelter to the houseless? I bid you defiance in the name of my God.
    • As quoted in His Brother's Blood: Speeches and Writings, 1838–64 (2004), edited by William Frederick Moore and Jane Ann Moore, p. 178
    • Also quoted in The History of Abraham Lincoln, and the Overthrow of Slavery, by Isaac Newton Arnold
    • Also quoted as ‍'‍Yes, I do assist fugitive slaves to escape! Proclaim it upon the house-tops; write it upon every leaf that trembles in the forest; make it blaze from the sun at high noon, and shine forth in the radiance of every star that bedecks the firmament of God. Let it echo through all the arches of heaven, and reverberate and bellow through all the deep gorges of hell, where slave catchers will be very likely to hear it. Owen Lovejoy lives at Princeton, Illinois, and he aids every fugitive that comes to his door and asks it. Thou invisible demon of slavery! Dost thou think to cross my humble threshold, and forbid me to give bread to the hungry and shelter to the houseless? I bid you defiance in the name of God.‍'‍

1860s[edit]

  • I know that this is a pro-slavery rebellion, for it is nothing else. Slavery and rebellion are identical and freedom and loyalty are identical, and those slave-holders who are truly loyal will soon become abolitionists, for that is the logic of their position and they will see as I see, that slavery must perish and pro-slavery men will be secessionists.
  • I poured on a rainstorm of fire and brimstone as hot as I could, and you know something of what that is. I believe that I never said anything more savage in the pulpit or on the stump.

Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives (April 1860)[edit]

Speech to the United States House of Representatives (5 April 1860)
  • Sir, than robbery, than piracy, than polygamy, slaveholding is worse. More criminal, more injurious to man, and consequently more offensive to God. Slaveholding has been justly designated as the sum of all villainy. Put every crime perpetuated among men into a moral crucible, and dissolve and combine them all, and the resultant amalgam is slaveholding. It has the violence of robbery.
  • I am speaking in dead earnest, before God. God's own truth. It has the violence of robbery, the blood and cruelty of piracy. It has the offensive and brutal lusts of polygamy, all combined and concentrated in itself, with aggravations that neither one of these crimes ever knew or dreamed of.
  • The justification of slavery is placed, so far as I know, mainly upon these grounds. The inferiority of the enslaved race, the fact that enslaving men imparts Christianity and civilization to them, and thirdly, the guarantees of the Constitution. These are the three main arguments presented to justify slavery, and consequently to justify its expansion, and by the way, I hold that the extreme men, as they are called, on this question, are the only men who have the logic of it. I am right or the fire-eaters or right. If slavery is right in Virginia, it is right in Kansas. If it is wrong in Kansas, it is wrong everywhere.
  • In regard to the first point, the inferiority of the enslaved race. We may concede it is a matter of fact that it is inferior, but does it follow, therefore, that it is right to enslave a man simply because he is inferior? This, to me, is a most abhorrent doctrine. It would place the weak everywhere at the mercy of the strong. It would place the poor at the mercy of the rich. It would place those who are deficient in intellect at the mercy of those that are gifted in mental endowment.
  • The principle of enslaving human beings because they are inferior, is this. If a man is a cripple, trip him up. If he is old and weak, and bowed with the weight of years, strike him, for he cannot strike back. If idiotic, take advantage of him, and if a child, deceive him. This, sir, this is the doctrine of Democrats and the doctrine of devils as well, and there is no place in the universe outside the five points of hell and |the Democratic Party where the practice and prevalence of such doctrines would not be a disgrace.
  • You say this is horrid. I know it is horrid. I know it is horrid to hold men in slavery. I know it is horrid to doom four million human beings to condition of chattels.
  • The testimony of all religious societies in the slave states is that the slaves are heathen and it is an utter impossibility to Christianize them and civilize them by this process.
  • The third point that is relied on to justify slaveholding is, that it is Constitutional. That is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. I have heard it declared over and over again that the Constitution guarantees slavery. I deny it. In no article, in no section, in no line, in no word, in no syllable, can there be any recognition of the word 'slave' or 'slavery'. Why, sir. When I came up to take the oath to support the Constitution, a whispered buzz, half in earnest and half jocular, passed around. How can Lovejoy swear to support the Constitution? How can he take the oath? I could take the oath to support the Constitution, because I believe in the Constitution, because I hold to it, because my heart is loyal to it. Every part and parcel and portion of it, I believe in. But, I do not believe in the construction put upon it by those who claim its recognition and sanction of the practice of slaveholding.
  • In truth, I swore to support the Constitution because I believe in it. I do not believe in their construction of it. It is as well known as any historical fact can be known, that the framers of the Constitution so worded it as that it never should recognize the idea of slave property. From the beginning to the ending of it.
  • I always defended the Constitution, because it was for liberty. It was ordained by the people of the United States. Not by a superannuated old mummy of a judge, and a Jesuit at that, but by the people of the United States. To establish justice, secure the blessing of liberty for themselves and their posterity, and to secure the natural rights of every human being within its exclusive jurisdiction. Therefore, I love it. These men can perceive nothing in the Constitution but slavery.

Speech (September 1860)[edit]

Speech (October 1860)[edit]

  • The Republican Party is for positive intervention. They propose, as our fathers did, to erect a wall of intervention, of prohibition, and station an angel of liberty at the gates in that wall, who shall keep watch and ward there day and night, and guard the territories against the entrance of slavery, as the cherubim of God kept sin out of Eden.
  • So far as my right to life and liberty is concerned, I did not get it from Congress or Parliament. I did not get it from the Democratic Party. I did not get it from any evil spirits whose names commence with the same initials as the Democrats.
  • Democracy says that the popular vote can take right away and once taken away the act is sanctioned and upheld by all laws, human and divine. I deny it. I say it is a wrong, however it is perpetuated. Why, mothers. What do you care how you are robbed of your babe? The question is not how it is done, the outrage is that it is done at all. No matter whether it is done by an individual or a conspiracy of many individuals in a community agreeing and concerting according to the forms of law. If the poor babe is torn from your heart, that is the unspeakable wrong. Not the manner in which it is perpetrated.
  • You say they have the right of property in their slaves. Suppose they have, how sacred is this right of property? I want to argue the moral question of it. How sacred is this right of property in the living bodies and souls of men? Just as sacred as it is in a horse? Just as sacred as the tenure of property in a mule? Suppose it is, you own them. As you own a horse or mule. Is the right of property in a horse more sacred than my life? Is the right of property in a mule more sacred than my right to free speech? I tell them, and I tell the people all over the country, if they have a system of an institution that will not allow me to live or speak or read my papers, or worship my God as I please, then I say in God's name that thing must die. My rights I will have!

Speech (June 1862)[edit]

Prayer (November 1863)[edit]


Misattributed[edit]

Quotes about Lovejoy[edit]

External links[edit]

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