Edwardsville Spectator

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Title: Edwardsville Spectator IIIF collection link
City: Edwardsville, Ill.
County: Madison
Available online: 29 May 1819 - 20 October 1826 (324 issues)

The Edwardsville Spectator [LCCN sn 82015374] was a weekly antislavery newspaper that ran from 1819-1826 in recently-incorporated Edwardsville, Illinois. Founded a year after Illinois was admitted to the United States, it was created by George Churchill and Hooper Warren, veteran printers who had previously worked together at the Missouri Gazette [probably LCCN sn 84020216]. Senator—and later, governor—Ninian Edwards invited them to Edwardsville to start a periodical, financed by him, that would serve Edwards's agenda. Churchill only stayed on for a year, but Warren continued to print the paper and authored editorials in almost every issue. The Spectator found its purpose in battling pro-slavery politics; especially the Missouri Compromise in 1820, and the 1824 convention to amend the state's constitution. Despite having illegally enslaved people until at least 1815, Edwards surprisingly did not object to this focus, and even wrote letters and editorials for the paper. His support was possibly because the Spectator was anti-slavery, as opposed to actively abolitionist: it lobbied against the further expansion of slavery, but still ran advertisements selling enslaved people and promising rewards for the capture of fugitives. The political turmoil surrounding the question of slavery in Illinois and Warren's passionate editorials against it helped make the Spectator the most widely read paper in the state, but also earned it powerful enemies. Senator Theophilus Smith, who established the pro-slavery Illinois Republican [LCCN sn 84038430] in 1823 to oppose the Spectator and frequently traded barbed editorials with it, once entered the paper's offices and attempted to assault Warren with a whip and knife before being driven out.

The Spectator lost most of its momentum after 1824, when Illinois voters rejected a constitutional convention that might legalize slavery in the state. In 1825 Warren sold the paper to Thomas Lippincott and Jeremiah Abbot, purchased half of the National Crisis [LCCN sn 83045063], and in November moved to Cincinnati to work on it. Alas, the Spectator lasted only another year, as delinquent subscribers meant the paper quickly ran out of money, and announced it was going on hiatus in October 1826. Warren returned to Illinois shortly thereafter, and at Governor Edwards's urging, moved the press and equipment to Springfield to found the Sangamo Spectator [LCCN sn 82015864] in 1827. That quickly folded, and Warren moved to the mining town of Galena, IL in 1829 to edit the Galena Advertiser [LCCN sn 82015362], which lasted less than a year. After a dark winter (and many despondent letters to Edwards) Warren accepted a clerkship in Putnam County in 1831, and resolved never to make a living by printing again. He stayed true to his word, but the press called him back. Around 1840 he came out of retirement to edit the state's first explicitly abolitionist title, the Genius of Liberty [LCCN sn 92053389]; its successor, the Western Citizen [LCCN sn 82015542]; and the Commercial Advertiser [probably LCCN sn 84020431]. At the end of his long career, Warren had worked on nine papers across six Illinois counties, most of them working to abolish slavery. He died in Henry county in 1864, less than a year out from the end of the Civil War.