Jesse Q. Thornton Organizes an Anti-Abolition Meeting
May 21, 1836

In May 1836, Jesse Quinn Thornton helped organize an anti-abolition meeting in Palmyra, Missouri, during which he declared abolition "incompatible with the peace, happiness and security of our citizens"

Public Meeting

At a numerous and respectable meeting of the citizens of Palmyra, and of Marion county, assembled pursuant to notice, on Saturday, May 21, 1836—On motion, Wm S. Blakey, Esq. was called to the chair, and James L. Minor, Esq. appointed Secretary.

The object of the meeting having been stated by J. Quinn Thornton, Esq.,

On motion of Uriel Wright, Esq., a committee was appointed with instructions to propose and report to the meeting a series of resolutions expressive of the sense of the body, upon the subject for which it had been convened—and the following gentlemen were named that committee:

Messrs. John Roach, Henry Willis, Henry Wilcox, J. J. Pollard, Jas. McWilliams, J. Quinn Thornton, Uriel Wright, John Gaines, (a revolutionary soldier,) Thomas Gray of Lewis county, Wm. Leonard, Thos. Ross, Wm. G. Overton, and John Crutchfield, who having retired a short time, returned and reported the following preamble and resolutions:

Instructed by recent events, that our county is one among the selected theatres of action, for the dissemination of the principles, and the accomplishment of the objects, which form the band of union of the anti-slavery associations of the east (known more familiarly as abolition societies)—satisfied that those principles and objects are incompatible with the peace, happiness and security of our citizens, as members of a slaveholding community—convinced that our existing laws furnish no efficient remedy for the evils which are threatened us from this quarter—and deeply sensible of the necessity of resisting the first approaches of the menaced danger, by a decided, energetic, uncompromising hostility, as the surest means of suppressing the evil, and of guarding against that violence of action which is ever painful to a law abiding community:

Be it therefore Resolved, That we approve the recent conduct of a portion of our citizens towards Messrs. Garret and Williams, (two avowed advocates and missionaries of abolition) who came among us to instruct our slaves to rebellion by the use of incendiary pamphlets, by pictoral representations of imagined cruelty, and by other artful appeals to their passions, eminently calculated to weaken the obligations of their obedience, as characterized by that decision, mildness and dignity, which become a people acting on the principles of self defense.

Resolved, That it is our solemn and abiding determination to watch with vigilance, and oppose with vigor, the introduction and dissemination of abolition principles amongst us. And that until remedies can be devised by the wisdom of our Legislature, which shall strip the abolitionist of his present legal impunity, we will appeal to that inherent, inalienable power, which resides in every people for the purpose of self protection.

Resolved, That in the exercise of this power, never to be wielded but on the ground of strict necessity, we will not consciously pass the boundaries which, among all just and enlightened nations, limit the sacred right of defence.

Resolved, That we will invite the special attention of our next Legislature to this subject, and earnestly recommend the passage of such laws as will clothe the judicial tribunals of the country with power to arrest the mad and fatal schemes directed against us—and that we will likewise use our exertions to secure the general cooperation of our fellow citizens throughout the state, towards the accomplishment of this important object.
Which were read and unanimously adopted.

S. W. B. Cahegy, Esq., then rose and remarked, that as some degree of excitement existed in this community, in relation to the connexion of Marion College with the views and designs of abolitionists, and as some evidence of an unfriendly feeling had manifested itself towards the principles of that institution, which he believed was founded in a mistaken opinion upon the part of the community, in the sentiments and action of these gentlemen upon this subject, he would therefore move, that the Rev. E. S. Ely, one of the professors in Marion College, be requested to state to this meeting his opinion, and the future course of conduct of that institution upon the subject of abolition—which was unanimously adopted.

(Dr. Ely rose and addressed the meeting. He said that it was with pleasure he was able to deny all participation with the abolitionists of the north, either in opinion or action—that he was not now, and never had been, a favorer of the doctrine—that he regarded slavery as an evil, which could only be destroyed by legislative action, and he viewed those men who are now creating this excitement, as deficient in philanthropy and piety—that he was the absolute owner of one slave, and was at present contracting for others; and that all publications which in any degree connected him with abolition, were without his knowledge or consent.)

On motion of Henry Wilcox, Esq., it was resolved, that John Roach be requested to read to this meeting a series of resolutions which were passed by the faculty of Marion College, on Friday, May 20, 1836.

Mr. Roach then read the following extract from the records of the College:

The faculty of Marion College utterly disapprove, as unchristian and illegal, the circulation of all books, pamphlets and papers, calculated to render the slave population of this state discontented and restless—They also utterly condemn any interference with the rights guaranteed by the laws of Missouri, to the owners of slaves. They will therefore consider the following acts, on the part of any of the students of College, fit subjects for discipline:

1st. The interference of any student in any of the families around us, by conversation with slaves or any remarks intended for the ear of the slaves, which may be in their nature calculated to produce discontent. 2d, The circulating of any pamphlets or other publications for the purpose of exciting the minds of blacks and endangering the peace and security of the community. 3rd. The holding of any meeting for the purpose of discussing the subject of slavery, at which blacks may be present. 4th. Instructing any slave to read without the consent of his owner being first expressed in writing. 5th. And inasmuch as concord, peace and freedom from all excitement, is essential to the prosecution of literary pursuits, we do hereby forbid all discussions and public meetings amongst the students, upon the subject of domestic slavery.

I certify the foregoing resolution and laws, to be a true extract from the records of the faculty of Marion College. S. C. McConnell, Prof. Math and Nat. Phil. & Sec. to the Faculty.

Marion College, May 20th, 1836.

Which was on motion of Mr. Roach, ordered to be affixed and regarded as part of the preamble and resolutions, already adopted.

On motion of Dr. Jno. W. Bowen, the following resolution was unanimously adopted.

Resolved, That this meeting, holding in utter detestation the principles of abolition, do here pledge themselves to the solemn and fixed determination that they will hereafter oppose to their utmost energies, the elevation of any man entertaining such sentiments to any office of honor, trust or emolument, and they will even withhold their countenance and support from such members of the community.
On motion of Wm. Wright, Esq. it was resolved, that the proceedings of this meeting be published in the papers published in this town, and the editors of the Journals throughout the state be requested to give in their respective papers an insertion of the same.

And the meeting adjourned sine die.

Wm. Blakey, Chairman.
Jas L. Minor, Secretary.


Commerical Bulletin and Missouri Literary Register (St. Louis, MO), 1 June 1836