"The Mob Attacking the Warehouse," The Martyrdom of Lovejoy, Henry Tanner, 1881

Outrages by Mobs

In a January 1838 address to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln spoke of his concern about lawlessness and “outrages committed by mobs.” Just two months earlier in Alton, Illinois, Elijah P. Lovejoy, the editor of the abolitionist Observer newspaper, was murdered after a mob seized his printing presses and threw them into the Mississippi River. Lincoln warned that a “government cannot last” when citizens disobey laws, “throw printing presses into rivers,” and “shoot editors.”