, Salem, MA


November 5, 2012

Shribman: He died in defense of free speech


Like Martin Luther King Jr., whose remarks eerily foreshadowed his death in April 1968, Lovejoy acknowledged the risk he was taking in November 1837:

“If the civil authorities refuse to protect me, I must look to God, and if I die, I have determined to make my grave in Alton. I have sworn eternal opposition to slavery, and by the blessings of God I will never turn back. With God I cheerfully rest my cause. I can die at my post, but I cannot desert it.”

Four days later, Lovejoy arranged for a fourth press to be transported stealthily by riverboat to Alton, where it was placed in a stone warehouse. Word leaked out. A mob appeared. Epithets and rocks were hurled. Shots rang out. The mob prepared to set the rooftop afire. Lovejoy ran out to prevent it. He was shot dead two days short of his 35th birthday.

Moments later, members of the mob entered the warehouse, rushing past his body in their zeal to dismantle the object of their fear, the press itself. They dropped its parts from windows. Then they smashed what remained.

But they did not silence him. Today, the name of the shooter and the identities of the mob members are unknown, but the words of the martyr endure, if only to a small band of scholars and journalists. Here are some of those words:

“There is no way to escape the mob but to abandon the path of duty, and that, God helping me, I will never do.”

Lovejoy did not abandon his duty, and Colby did not abandon its onetime star student. Since 1952, the college has presented the Lovejoy Award to a journalist of courage selected by a group of editors. (I have served on this committee for several years, an homage to Lovejoy and to my two brothers, who hold Colby degrees.)

Text Only | Photo Reprints

AP Video
Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate