Abe Lincoln’s Warning About the Perils of Mob Rule

by Tom Bevan & Carl M. Cannon
Real Clear Politics

In January 1838, 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln delivered an address in Springfield, Ill., condemning a series of vigilante attacks that had recently taken place across the young republic. Just weeks before, Elijah Parish Lovejoy, ardent abolitionist and editor of the St. Louis Observer, was shot to death outside his warehouse in Alton, Ill., by a pro-slavery mob.

“Whenever the vicious portion of population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands,” Lincoln said, “and burn churches, ravage and rob provision-stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure, and with impunity; depend on it, this government cannot last.”

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