Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument
The 110 foot tall spire of the Lovejoy monument
|Area||106.01 acres (0.4290 km2)|
|Architect||R. P. Bringhurst|
|Visitation||467,550 (in 2005)|
|Governing body||Greater Alton/Twin Rivers Convention and Visitors Bureau|
The Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument is a memorial in the United States to the advocate of free speech and the abolition of slavery, who died fighting for these ideas when his newspaper, the Alton Observer, was attacked and destroyed by pro-slavery fanatics.
Elijah P. Lovejoy was an abolitionist in the 1830s, running a newspaper called the St Louis Observer, in Missouri, a slave state. Slavery advocates attacked and destroyed his presses a number of times, driving him to move across the river to Alton, IL in 1837, where he renamed it the Alton Observer. Although Illinois was a free state, in November 1837, his presses were attacked for what would have been the fourth time. He and some supporters were in the warehouse where they were stored, and as the building was stormed, the attackers apparently began firing guns. Lovejoy and his men returned fire, but in the conflict Lovejoy was killed.
His death garnered national attention, and was viewed by abolitionists and others as a tragic martyrdom in the cause of both freedom of speech and the abolition of slavery. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying:
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
- - Abraham Lincoln, letter to friend Lemen, in 1857
By 1850, plans were made for a monument to Lovejoy's efforts and death, but it was not completed until 60 years after his death, when it was officially opened to the public on its anniversary.
Having been buried in an unmarked grave, Lovejoy's remains were exhumed years later, and placed in the cemetery that is now overlooked by his monument.
The monument consists of a 93 foot tall main shaft topped by a 17-foot-tall winged statue of victory, which therefore stands over 300 feet above the Mississippi river below, with two side spires mounted by eagles, as well as two bronze lion chalice statues, and a stone whispering wall bench that wraps all the way around the central spire, allowing you to hear someone whispering completely out of sight on its opposite side.
Because it is based on the top of the river bluffs, the monument is easily seen from the distance, even when crossing the bridge over the Mississippi, from Missouri into Illinois, a considerable distance away.
The four sides of the central spire's pedestal contain quotes by Lovejoy, focusing on each aspect of his life:
Champion of Free Speech.
- But, gentlemen, as long as I am an American citizen, and as long as American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write, to publish whatever I please on any subject--being amenable to the laws of my country for the same.
- This monument commemorates the valor, devotion and sacrifice of the noble Defenders of the Press, who, in this city, on Nov. 7, 1837, made the first armed resistance to the aggressions of the slave power in America.
Minister of the Gospel.
Moderator of Alton Presbytery,
- If the laws of my country 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 P. Lovejoy,
Editor Alton Observer,
Albion, Maine, Nov. 8, 1802
Alton, Ill., Nov. 7, 1837.
A Martyr to Liberty.
- I have sworn eternal opposition to slavery, and by the blessing of God, I will never go back.