Introduction to Volume 6.
I. The Time Period.
The time-period covered in this sixth volume of the History of the Church is less than one year. Nine months and twenty-eight days, to be exact; or from the 1st of September, 1843, to the 29th of June, 1844. Events within this period are therefore given in elaborate detail. The general reader and the student of our history will find in this volume a larger collection of documents, official and otherwise, covering this period, than will be found elsewhere.
This volume also closes the first Period of our Church History, the period marked off by two events: (1) the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith; and (2) his martyrdom and that of his brother Hyrum, at Carthage, Illinois.
The Journal History of the Prophet, that great source of historical knowledge concerning the development of the New Dispensation, closes with his entry of the 22nd of June, 1844. After that, for our knowledge of the remaining events of the Prophet’s life, we are dependent upon collections of data by the Church historians from public and private sources, of which collections there are two: the first extends from the 22nd of June to the 29th of that month, and forms the concluding chapters of this volume; the second begins also with the 22nd of June, and extends to the 8th of August, 1844; at which time the Twelve Apostles were sustained for the time being as the presiding council of the Church. This second collection of data by the Church historians will open Volume VII of this History.
In the present volume we see the Prophet’s brave struggle against the overwhelming odds of his foes—foes within the Church, false brethren; and foes without the Church—the combination of political and sectarian enemies fixed in their determination to kill him, destroy Nauvoo, and expel the Saints from Illinois: for all these things were included in the program of the anti-Mormons of Illinois, even before the death of the Prophet was encompassed. Three score and seven years now give perspective to the stirring events in which the really great drama was enacted; and from that vantage ground of perspective said events may be reviewed to the enlightenment of those who seek to know the truth, and the injustice of the things enacted in Illinois during the closing months of the Prophet Joseph’s earthly career.
On the one hand, in the above mentioned struggle, was a people who but a few years before had been welcomed into Illinois as exiles from a neighboring state, the victims of a cruel and ignorant intolerance. They were welcomed, in part, because of the injustice to which they had been subjected in a neighboring state, and because their physical sufferings, arising from want of shelter and food in an inclement season of the year to which they were exposed, was such as to move adamantine hearts to pity. Also they were welcomed because, as pointed out in the Introduction to Volume IV of this History, the state of Illinois needed augmentation of her population by just such a people as the Latter-day Saints were—industrious, frugal, skilled mechanics, successful farmers, experienced men of affairs, men capable of trade and commerce, enterprising and with a larger proportion of educated men and women among them than was to be found among the people of western Illinois in those days. I do not here employ the language of adulation on the one hand, nor seek to make invidious distinctions upon the other. Either would be vain, since the well-known and accepted facts of history would disprove the declarations made if not founded in truth. The fact is, however, that all that is claimed above for the Missouri exiled Latter-day Saints is true and well-attested by their achievements in settling Nauvoo, which in four years rose from a ware-house or two and a few half tumbledown shacks on the banks of the river, and called “Commerce,” to the dignity of being the first city in Illinois in population and commercial enterprise, and also gave promise of developing into a manufacturing center of great importance. This last item was evidenced in the fact that the founder of Nauvoo, President Joseph Smith, and the Nauvoo city council appreciated the possibilities in the water power of the Lower Des Moines Rapids in the Mississippi, at the head of which the city was located. Reference to his journal entry for the 23rd of September (this volume, p. 80) will witness that he suggested that a petition be sent to the national Congress for the construction of a canal around the rapids to overcome the obstruction for the free passage of river craft, which the rapids prevented during the low water period of each year, and thus enhance the value of the great stream to the inland commerce of the west. 1 Reference again to President Smith’s journal entry for the 8th of December, 1843 (this volume, p. 103) will disclose the fact that he gave instruction in the forenoon to his clerk to draw a plan for a dam in the Mississippi; and that in the afternoon of the same day the city council met and passed an ordinance authorizing Joseph Smith to “erect a dam of suitable height to propel mills and machinery from any point within the limits of said city, and below the Nauvoo House;” also in connection with this dam to construct a “harbor or basin for steamboats and other craft;” and to construct docks, wharfs and landings,” the wharfage fees to be “regulated by ordinance of said city (this volume p. 106).
III. Nauvoo as a Possible Manufacturing Center.
What further contributed to the promise that Nauvoo would be a great manufacturing center as well as the center of an immense agricultural region with a splendid commercial outlet, was the fact that artisans and tradesmen of the very first order in skill, were rapidly gathering into the city, not only from the New England and other Eastern states of our own country, but also from the British Isles. It was inevitable if let alone that Nauvoo would become the greatest manufacturing center of Illinois, and among the first of such cities in the United States. The Prophet did not live to see even a commencement made upon these large enterprises he had conceived, but subsequently his zealous followers organized a company to carry them to a successful conclusion under the title of “The Nauvoo Water Power Company,” 2 which began the construction of the dam on the 29th of April, 1845; but which had to be abandoned because of the hostilities that soon after increased and continued until they culminated in the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Illinois. 3
In addition to these measures, manufacturing and agricultural associations were incorporated; also the “Nauvoo House Associations” for the erection of a hotel, ambitious to be known as the finest hostelry in the Upper Mississippi country. One of the agricultural associations, known as the “Big Field Corporation,” held six sections, or three thousand eight hundred and forty acres of land east of Nauvoo; and the year following the Prophet’s death the company harvested about thirty thousand bushels of corn, nearly the same amount of wheat, besides an “abundance of oats, barley, buckwheat, potatoes and other vegetables. 4
IV. Educational Measures at Nauvoo.
And not only in material things was the superior character of Nauvoo’s founders and builders proclaimed; but equally broad and comprehensive were their preparations for an educational system. By their city charter they were empowered to establish an institution of learning within the limits of the city for the teaching of the arts and sciences and learned professions, to be called the “University of the City of Nauvoo;” also a common school system for the city, all of which was in course of development even in the early years of Nauvoo’s existence. And in addition to these direct educational institutions of common schools and projected university, literary and dramatic associations were organized, as also choral and band organizations for the cultivation of musical talents and to promote the pleasure and refinement of society; while the religious zeal of the community expressed itself in the rapidly rising walls of the splendid temple—soon to be the most solid and pretentious building in the state; and in the tireless missionary enterprise of the dominant Church.
V. Jealousy of Nauvoo’s Promising Greatness.
Nothing was lacking, then, in the promises of constant and rapid growth, of prosperity and future greatness of Nauvoo. Small wonder if the narrow bigotry and jealousy of small-souled men of the time and vicinity—especially those who were inhabitants of rival towns, particularly those of Warsaw and Carthage—were envious of Nauvoo’s prosperity and promise of future greatness. Hitherto this element of jealousy of Nauvoo’s prosperity and promise of future greatness has not been accorded the importance due to it as a contributing cause to the warfare made upon that city and the Saints. Little doubt, however, can be entertained, now attention has been called to it, but what as a contributing cause jealousy of Nauvoo stood next to religious prejudice and political distrust and hatred.
A correspondent from Fair Haven, Connecticut, to a gentleman in Nauvoo, set forth this matter most convincingly. An excerpt of the letter was published in the Nauvoo Neighbor of August 7th, 1844. It is proper to say that the writer was not a member of the Mormon Church; “but,” as the editor of the Neighbor describes him, “a citizen of Connecticut, loving law and liberty and life;” and now the paragraph dealing with the point under discussion:
“It is now known here that the lazy speculators of Warsaw, and the still lazier office drones at Carthage, cared nothing for Joseph Smith personally, or for his tenets either; but the prosperity of Nauvoo increasing as it did, beyond any former parallel, even in the western world, excited in their bosoms envy, hatred and all ungodliness. This is the true secret of all their barbarous movements against Mormonism—and they supposed by destroying the Smiths they should extinguish their religion, disperse the Mormons—depopulating and desolating Nauvoo.”
Also a correspondent to the State Register published at Springfield, Illinois, speaking of Thomas C. Sharp, editor of the Warsaw Signal and the anti-Mormon disturbances in Hancock county said:
“He [Sharp] is also described as having made himself the ‘organ of a gang of town lot speculators at Warsaw,’ who are afraid that Nauvoo is about to kill off their town and render speculation abortive.” 5
Mr. Backenstos in January, 1845, when the repeal of the Nauvoo Charter was under discussion in the Illinois legislature, referred to this same subject in a speech on the floor of the house of representatives, in the course of which he said;
“Town rivalry had also something to do with this opposition to Nauvoo. While Warsaw was on the decline, Nauvoo was rapidly increasing in wealth and population; a plan to bring about a re-action was soon concocted by the leading men of Warsaw, who made one pilgrimage after another to Nauvoo, imploring the Mormon Prophet to aid them in building up a city adjoining the town of Warsaw, by settling a portion of the Mormon population in and about Warsaw, and commence the building of a new city. The bubble soon exploded, and the speculation failed. This gave rise to dissatisfaction with some who had heretofore been exceedingly polite to ‘Lieutenant General Joseph Smith!‘” 6
Thus in every way, to refer back to the point of starting the discussion of this subdivision, the Latter-day Saints are proven by their achievements and the foundations they laid for the future greatness of their city, to be a superior people, and hence a desirable addition to the population of the then-young commonwealth of Illinois.
On the other hand there was a population in western Illinois, and perhaps more especially in Hancock county, which had more than its full share of lawless and desperate men; who, as by a law of social gravitation, seek the frontiers of civilization. Moreover it is notorious that the whole upper Mississippi was a rendezvous for gamblers, counterfeiters, horse thieves, murderers and other criminals that infested the great river, which gave easy ingress and egress to a frontier wilderness on the one hand, and to such centers of population and activity, on the other, as New Orleans, St. Louis, and many minor places, besides. “I must give some account of the anti-Mormons,” says Governor Ford in his History of Illinois, when referring to the inhabitants of Hancock county. “I had a good opportunity to know the settlers of Hancock county,” he continues. “I had attended the circuit courts there as state’s attorney, from 1830, when the county was first organized, up to 1834: and to my certain knowledge the early settlers, with some honorable exceptions, were in popular languages hard cases” (page 406). Then for a period of several years to the advent of the “Mormons” he had no means of knowing the character of the people who drifted into the country: “But,” he adds, “having passed my whole life on the frontier, on the outer edge of the settlements, I have frequently seen that a few first settlers would fix the character of a settlement for good or for bad, for many years after its commencement. If bad men began the settlement, bad men would be attracted to them, upon the well known principle that birds of a feather will flock together. Rogues will find each other out, and so will honest men. From all which it appears extremely probable, that the later immigrants were many of them attracted to Hancock by a secret sympathy between them and the early settlers.”
Indeed the governor suggests that it may have been “the promptings of a secret instinct,” which led the “Mormons” to “discern their fellows” and induced them to settle in Hancock in preference to other localities open to them. All which may be regarded as an ingenious thrust at the Latter-day Saints, but which fails of reaching its mark from the fact that it was the criminal element chiefly in Hancock county’s population which arrayed itself in antagonism against the Saints, and against whom they were arrayed in all their conflicts in that county. Whereas, under the governor’s theory, this criminal element among the “old citizens” and the Saints should have been as hand in glove in their cooperation of encompassing evil things. But to the contrary; from the time the “Mormons” appeared on the scenes at Commerce, in 1839, until they were expelled, they steadfastly and emphatically set their faces against the evils that cursed that community, and denounced all manner of evil both as manifested in a few of their own delinquent members, apostates and camp followers who trailed after the main body of the Church from Missouri, as well as in others: such as dram-drinking, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, contracting debts under pretense of poverty and distress without any prospects or intention of paying, 7 and especially did they denounce stealing, under any and all pretexts whatsoever. 8
And as it was largely the criminal element among the “old citizens” that was arrayed against the Saints (with unprincipled politicians and a few bigoted and jealous religious leaders added), so was it the conservative and law-abiding portion of the community among whom they had many friends; and nearly all of whom were at least so far friendly with the Saints that they could not be induced to oppose them, much less join in acts of mob violence to the injury of their persons or property; for which reason this portion of the non-Mormon population were called by the contemptuous name of “Jack-Mormons,” which epithet was invented by the editor of the Warsaw Signal, Thomas C. Sharp, who also originated the term “Jack-Mason” when editing an anti-Masonic paper in western New York. In all probability it was this second name which suggested the first.
VII. Educational Status of the People of Western Illinois.
Education among the masses of Hancock’s non-Mormon population was of the meagrest kind. Even Mr. Gregg, the historian of the county, who always gives the best report possible of conditions, remarks, when treating of the county’s educational status, that ” a new country and among pioneers, is not the place where prosperous colleges and seminaries, or even high schools, are actually found. Hence common schools and, in many instances, very ‘common’ ones at that, were the best means of education in Hancock county in early days,” But this is said of the schools of Hancock county; the greater number of the adult population, 1839-1846, which represent the years when the Saints lived in the county, had migrated from states where educational opportunities were even fewer and less advanced than in western Illinois. Even some of the men prominent in political life in the state were men of extremely limited education. “Joseph Duncan, elected governor of Illinois in 1834, and who had served four terms in Congress previous to his election as governor, had but a limited education,” says Gregg. 9 And of Thomas Carlin, who was the governor of Illinois when the exiled Saints moved into the state—he had previously held many minor offices—the same authority says: “He had but a meager education.” 10
But while the above represents the educational conditions both among the masses of Hancock county and western Illinois in general, and of some of the men in public life, it is also true that there were here and there men in Hancock and surrounding counties of good education and enlightened culture, such as Stephen A. Douglas, O. H. Browning, Major Warren, John J. Hardin, General Minor R. Deming, Samuel Marshal, Judge Jesse B. Thomas, Josiah Lamborn, Governor Ford and others.
It has already been observed in these volumes (Vol. IV, Introduction) that in addition to the Latter-day Saints being welcomed into Illinois on account of their economic value in a newly and sparsely settled country, as wealth creators through their industry, frugality and skill in mechanics and husbandry, political parties of Illinois both Whigs and Democrats vied with each other in heartiness of welcome, each hoping the profit by the influx of the new population in both state and national elections. Hence it was possible to obtain for Nauvoo the exceptional powers that constituted her, under the letter of her charter, an autonomy within the limits of her boundaries more akin to a sovereign state than to a municipality within a state and a county. And such were the powers claimed for her by her founders. 11 Hence also that catering to the misconception and wrong interpretations of the chartered powers of Nauvoo by lawyers and politicians seeking professional and political favors of the people, which encouraged the belief that the city government was the omnipotent political power within the city limits; and that her municipal court was not only equal to, but even superior to the state courts—”for all other courts were restricted,” it was contended, while the municipal court of Nauvoo was not restricted! Similar claims of absolutism were made respecting Nauvoo misled by their legal and political advisers, who gave false counsel instead of true, and who encouraged people in their prejudices and flattered their vanity rather than corrected their errors by an appeal to sound judgment and to the law.
IX. Mischief Arising from False Legal and Political Counsel.
Much mischief arose from this source. It was because of these misconceptions in respect of the character of their city government that led to the enactment of those ill advised and unwarranted city ordinances—
That made gold and silver alone legal tender within the city;
That declared Joseph Smith exempt from arrest on requisitions from Missouri founded upon the old difficulties in that state, and providing that persons making an attempt to arrest him might be taken with or without process, imprisoned for life, and might not be pardoned by the governor without consent of the mayor; 12
That authorized the city council, marshal, constables and city watch to require all strangers entering the city or already tarrying there to give their names, former residence and for what intent they were tarrying in the city, and answer such other questions as the officers respectively deemed proper to ask; refusal to give the desired information, or giving false names or information subjected them to the same penalties as “vagrants and disorderly persons;”
That further authorized and required the above named officers to “hail and take all persons found strolling about the city at night after nine o’clock and before sunrise, and to confine them in ward for trial under the ordinances concerning vagrants and disorderly persons, unless they could give a good account of themselves for being out “after nine o’clock;”
That further authorized and required the aforesaid officers to enter all hotels or houses of public entertainment, and such other habitations as they may judge proper, and require the inmates to give immediate information of all persons residing in said hotel or habitation, and their business, occupation or movements, under penalty of forfeiture of license, if a public house, and they and the transient persons subject to the penalties visited upon vagrants for failure to give the information required, or giving false information; while the officer who should “refuse or neglect to perform the above duties should be fined $100, and be broke of his office;”
That forbade the search and seizure of person or property by foreign process [i. e. other process than that issuing from the city’s authority] within the city of Nauvoo, leading to the widespread belief that the design of said ordinance was “to hinder the execution of the statutes of Illinois” within said city; 13
That asked the general government to ratify the Nauvoo Charter, and in addition constitute the city a territorial government, by granting “all rights, powers, privileges and immunities belonging to territories and not repugnant to the constitution of the United States,” with power granted to the mayor to call to his aid a sufficient number of the United States troops, in connection with the Nauvoo Legion, to repel the invasion of mobs, keep the public peace, protect the innocent from lawless banditti; the United States officers to obey the requisition of this ordinance; and the Nauvoo Legion, when in service quelling mobs and preserving the public peace, to be under the same regulations, rules and laws of pay as the troops of the United States; the territorial privileges to continue until the “state of Missouri restores to those exiled citizens [the Latter-day Saints] the lands, rights, privileges, property, and damages for all losses” they had sustained by being banished from that commonwealth; 14
And, finally, that asserted the right of the municipal court to arrest process issued by the state’s circuit courts, and even by the United States courts, by habeas corpus proceedings; and insisted, not only upon the right to pass judgment upon the sufficiency of writs under which arrests were made, but upon the right also to go behind the writs and try the cases upon their merits.
X. Subserviency of Politicians and Lawyers.
Blame for this political subserviency and misleading political and legal advice, may not be charged on one party more than another. If Cyrus Walker, a Whig candidate for congress, assented to the doctrine as understood by Nauvoo’s leading men, that the municipal court of Nauvoo held the power under habeas corpus procedure to arrest execution of process of the state courts, as he did, 15 so, too, did Joseph P. Hoge, Democratic nominee; and even Governor Ford, when requested to call out the militia to rearrest Joseph Smith after he had been liberated from the custody of Sheriff Reynolds, agent of Missouri, under habeas corpus proceedings, took refuge behind the habeas corpus proceedings of the Municipal Court at Nauvoo. In that case the court not only inquired into the sufficiency of the writ of requisition from Missouri, and granted by Governor Ford himself, but also went back of the writ and tried the case exparte on its merits, and finally discharged the prisoner, both “for want of substance in the warrant, * * * as well as upon the merits of the case.” 16 When answering the request of Missouri to rearrest Joseph Smith, Governor Ford, I say, at least took refuge behind the aforesaid proceedings of the Municipal Court to the extent of saying, in the face of that procedure, that “no process, officer or authority of Illinois had been resisted or interfered with,” 17 and therefore refused to call out the militia to rearrest President Smith.
It is but fair to Governor Ford, however, to say that in his inaugural speech of December 8th, 1842, he pointed out what he regarded as objectionable features in the Nauvoo charter, and recommended its modification. 18 and later censured the lawyers for misleading the Nauvoo city authorities in this matter, in the following passage from a letter to the Mayor and City Council of Nauvoo, under date of June 22nd, 1844.
You have also assumed to yourselves more power than you are entitled to in relation to habeas corpus under your charter. I know that you have been told by lawyers, for the purpose of gaining your favor, that you have this power to any extent. In this they have deceived you for their own base purposes. Your charter supposes that you may pass ordinances, a breach of which will result in the imprisonment of the offender.
For the purpose of giving more speedy relief to such persons authority was given to the Municipal Court to issue writs of habeas corpus in all cases arising under the ordinances of the city.
It was never supposed by the Legislature, nor can the language of your charter be tortured to mean that a jurisdiction was intended to be conferred which would apply to all cases of imprisonment under the general laws of the state or of the United States, as well as the city ordinances.
To which President Smith replied:
Whatever power we have exercised in the habeas corpus has been done in accordance with the letter of the Charter and Constitution as we confidently understood them; and that, too, with the ablest counsel; but if it be so that we have erred in this thing, let the Supreme Court correct the evil. We have never gone contrary to constitutional law, so far as we have been able to learn it. If lawyers have belied their profession to abuse us the evil be on their heads. 19
Being misled by false legal and political advice was not the only misfortune of the kind perpetrated upon the Saints, first by the subserviency of, and then the betrayal by, politicians and lawyers. The hope of both parties to secure political advantage by the influx of the now Latter-day Saint population into the state has been already referred to; as also the efforts of both parties to gain their favor by granting exceptional favors to them in founding Nauvoo. When, however, the time for voting came, and the Saints voted according to their convictions of duty, or as their inclinations prompted, the defeated party or candidates blamed them for the defeat, and straightway favored the adoption of an anti-Mormon policy, which found support not only in the defeated party, but also among those who felt a grievance against the Saints on other accounts; some because Nauvoo’s prosperity and constantly increasing importance as a center of population and trade and commerce was rapidly eclipsing all other towns of the state; and others, over-anxious to retard, if not destroy, a rival system on account of religious prejudice. When an anti-Mormon party took the field, pledged itself to repeal the Nauvoo charter, and to drive the Mormons from the state—as was the pledge of Joseph Duncan, Whig candidate for Governor of Illinois in 1841, 20 there was really no other course for the Saints to pursue but to combine solidly for the defeat of the candidate and party making such pledges; the instinct of self-preservation impelled such a course, rather than the prompting of inclination.
For a time, as in all such cases, the party receiving the support of this practically solid Mormon vote could be relied upon to protect and defend those who had made success possible for them; but at the first indication that the hold of the favored party upon such vote is precarious, that there is a possibility that it might go to the other side, 21 naturally the ardor of their friendship, seldom or never sincere, cools; and they are as ready to combine for the destruction of their former allies as others have been. And when in addition to precariousness of hold upon those who possess the balance of power there stands up in the back ground of things the possibility that the balance of power party may become strong enough in the political subdivision in which they are located to run affairs on their own account, the likelihood of all parties combining against them becomes all the more assured. In Illinois the Latter-day Saints ran the entire political gamut of experience as a “balance of power” factor in the politics of western Illinois. The final phase of that experience had been reached when at a mass meeting held at Carthage on the sixth of September, 1843, it was—
Resolved, That as it has been too common for several years past for politicians of both political parties, not only of this county, but likewise of the state, to go to Nauvoo and truckle to the heads of the Mormon clan for their influence, we pledge ourselves that we will not support any man of either party in the future who shall thus debase himself. 22
Politicians still sought Mormon aid to encompass their own political ends, but, as Governor Ford later remarked, “they were willing and anxious for Mormon voters at elections, but they were unwilling to risk their popularity with the people, by taking part in their favor even when law and justice, and the Constitution, were all on their side;” and so finally all parties turned against them, and they were at the last, as we shall see in the future volume of this history, expelled without mercy from the state.
XII. Joseph Smith’s Candidacy for the Presidency.
The mischief that threatened during the Prophet’s life time, and which finally befell the Saints, was clearly foreseen by the Church leaders; and the desire to escape from the threatening portents of it prompted the nomination of Joseph Smith for the office of President of the United States, in the general election of 1844. Of course there could be no hope seriously entertained that he would be elected; but, as explained by an editorial in the Times and Seasons, 23 if the Saints could not succeed in electing their candidate, they would have the satisfaction of knowing that they had acted conscientiously; they had used their best judgment, under the circumstances, and if they had to throw away their votes, it was better to do so upon a worthy than upon an unworthy individual who might use the weapon they put into his hand to destroy them. The Prophet himself evidently regarded his nomination humorously rather than seriously, except that it might result in withdrawing the Saints from the position of shuttle-cock between the battle doors of the two old political parties. “I care but little about the presidential chair,” he said on one occasion. “I would not give half as much for the office of President of the United States as I would for the one I now hold as Lieutenant General of the Nauvoo Legion.” Again he said: “When I get hold of eastern papers, and see how popular I am; I am afraid myself that I shall be elected; but if I should be, I would not say [i. e. to the Latter-day Saints] your cause is just but I can do nothing for you.”
As a further evidence that Joseph Smith did not regard his candidacy as likely to be successful, he was, at the time of his nomination and afterwards, pushing vigorously his project of a western movement for the Church. He had drawn up a memorial and ordinance to the national congress asking to be authorized by the general government to raise one hundred thousand armed volunteers to police the intermountain and Pacific coast west from Oregon to Texas, for the purpose of assuring Texas her independence, and maintaining the claims of the United States to Oregon, and affording the whole western population of our country protection from Indian depredations; and thus contribute to the rapid settlement and development of that noble extent of country lying between the Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean. His agents, Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt, presented the matter to senators and representatives at Washington, and a number favored the project of the removal of the Mormons to the west, but generally urged that Joseph Smith go without seeking special authorization from the government. Reference to Orson Hyde’s report of the procedure among congressmen and their views upon the subject will be found in his two important communications to the Prophet from Washington, in chapter XVI of this volume. Mr. John Wentworth, representative to Congress from northern Illinois, introduced President Smith’s Memorial and Ordinance into the House on the 25th of May, to be read for the information of the House; but before the reading was concluded, objection was made, and as it required unanimous consent to have it read, further reading was prevented. A vote to suspend the rules in order that Mr. Wentworth might secure the reading of the memorial stood 79 yeas, and 86 nays, which vote gives evidence at least of a widespread desire to have the matter presented to the House. 24
In addition to all the Illinois factors that entered into the complex situation confronting the Saints at Nauvoo, at the time of the Prophet’s death, and some time previous to his arrest, was the attitude and course pursued by Missouri with reference to Nauvoo and the Saints, Disgraced as a state by her own conduct towards the Latter-day Saints, when they were inhabitants within her borders, her people were all too willing to co-operate with any party or agency that would continue to make war upon them. If the state of Illinois which with open arms had received the people that Missouri exiled from her borders, under such circumstances of cruelty, could also be brought to drive them from that state, it would be regarded, in a way, as a vindication of Missouri and the course she had taken in her treatment of the Saints, since in effect it would say, that the people of Illinois, no less than the people of Missouri, found it impossible to tolerate the “Mormons;” and therefore there must be something fundamentally wrong with them, rather than with the people of these states. Hence the anti-Mormons of Hancock and adjoining counties in Illinois, always found support in whatever of violence or wrong they planned against the Saints. Hence the constant threats of invasion of mobs from Missouri, emphasized by occasional kidnapping expeditions into Hancock county, together with frequent requisitions upon the Illinois authorities for the arrest and extradition of Joseph Smith on the old charges against him in Missouri. And these Missouri threats and outrages were not among the least of the annoyances and anxieties of the Saints; and they make clear the necessity that was felt for an efficient militia force at Nauvoo. Hence the Nauvoo Legion and the lively interest manifested in its frequent musters and drills, and its thorough equipment; all of which, but for the constant danger of invasion from Missouri mobs, and the co-operation with them of like forces in Illinois, would have been inconsistent with the deportment of a religious community whose mission was one of peace and good will towards men; and who had been especially commanded to “renounce war and proclaim peace” (Doc and Cov. Sec. 98:16); and commanded also to “sue for peace,” both to those who had “smitten” them—the revelation was given after the expulsion from Jackson county, Missouri—and “to all people;” and “lift up an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth” (Doc. and Cov. sec 105: 38-40). But invasions from Missouri constantly menacing them, and the danger of mob violence breaking out in Illinois, justified the organization of the Legion, and the maintenance of its efficiency by full equipment of arms and frequent drills and musters; for the right of self-preservation is not abrogated by any divine law given to the Saints; and duty to protect home and family against the assaults of the evil-disposed, presses as firmly upon the Saints, as upon those who have not definitely pledged themselves to a program of righteousness.
XIV. Apostate Conspirators at Nauvoo.
One other factor only remains to be mentioned of those that enter into that combination of forces that resulted in the death of the Prophet and the Patriarch. That is the conspiracy of apostates within Nauvoo itself.
The apostates and their sympathizers were headed by a coterie of prominent young men: The two Law brothers, William and Wilson; Robert D. and Charles A. Foster, brothers; Francis M. and Chauncey L. Higbee, brothers, and unworthy sons of that most faithful man and the Prophet’s devoted friend, Judge Elias Higbee (See Vol. IV pp. 81-100passim); Sylvester Emmons and Joseph H. Jackson. Of these, William Law was counselor in the First Presidency, and Wilson Law was a major general, and commander of one of the cohorts of the Nauvoo Legion, and all were or had been more or less prominent in the public life of Nauvoo.
The cause of their apostasy seems to have been the baneful influence of John C. Bennett’s immoralities; for these men were quite generally associates of his before his flight from Nauvoo. They evidently lost the spirit of the gospel, wandered through sin into spiritual darkness, and seemingly were obsessed by a murderous spirit against the Prophet who boldly revealed their wickedness and publicly denounced their conduct; and in retaliation this coterie of apostates entered into conspiracies to encompass President Smith’s death, and that of his brother Hyrum. They were in communication with the Prophet’s enemies in Missouri, and sought to betray him into their hands. They were among the chief actors in all schemes of opposition and conspiracies against him in the closing year of his life, including those plots which eventuated in the martyrdom of both Prophet and Patriarch at Carthage.
XV. The “Expositor” Affair.
Such are the chief factors that enter into the combination of events detailed in this volume of History and which have a direct relationship to the martyrdom of the Smith brothers. They existed as combustible materials awaiting only the spark that would set them aflame to work death and destruction.
The spark came. It came in the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, published by the above mentioned coterie of apostates. It was the intention of the Expositor, as its name would indicate, to make an expose of alleged conditions in Nauvoo, in the moral, social, religious and political phase of them. Also to agitate for the “unconditional repeal of the Nauvoo Charter.” This was a challenge to mortal combat, the issue being the life of the city of Nauvoo; and after that the question of the existence of the Church in Illinois, or even within the confines of the United States; for undoubtedly the city charter once repealed, carrying with it the disorganization of the Legion, protection for the Saints, as matters stood in 1844, both civil and military, would be gone. It was a life and death struggle then that the advent of the Expositorinaugurated. The Saints stood at such disadvantage in the proposed contest that if the Expositor was allowed to run its course it would inevitably have won its case against the city; and against the Church, so far as the latter continuing in Illinois, and perhaps as far as its continuance in the United States was concerned.
The new marriage system, involving the practice, within certain limitations and under very special conditions, of a plurality of wives, constituted a ground of appeal to popular prejudices and passions that would have been absolutely resistless if the paper had been allowed to proceed. The charter would have been repealed; the city government destroyed, or at the least modified and placed in the hands of an apostate or anti-Mormon minority whose administration would have been intolerable to the large majority of Nauvoo’s citizens; and finally the scenes of Missouri would have been re-enacted in an Illinois setting.
In the presence of such difficulties, what was to be done? In addition to declaring the existence of the practice of plural marriage, not yet announced or publicly taught as a doctrine of the Church, and agitating for the unqualified repeal of the Nauvoo charter, gross immoralities were charged against leading citizens which doubtless rendered the paper grossly libelous. In other cities such an avowed enemy as the Expositor was, would have been destroyed by a mob. For the people of Nauvoo to have so proceeded would have been a departure from their principles of upholding law and order, and would have brought upon them the people of the surrounding counties, and from Missouri in overwhelming numbers. Mob violence could not be thought of; and yet the safety of the community imperatively demanded the suppression of the Expositor at any cost.
Under these circumstances the city council met and took under consideration the Expositor and the necessity of destroying it. As their charter conferred upon the city the right to remove nuisances, the city council declared theExpositor press a nuisance and directed the Mayor to have it destroyed, which he did by giving an order to that effect, and it was destroyed without riot or tumult.
The legality of the action of the Mayor and City Council was, of course, questionable, though some sought to defend it on legal grounds; but it must be conceded that neither proof nor argument for legality are convincing. On the grounds of expediency or necessity the action is more defensible. The existence of the city, the preservation of the Latter-day Saints until provision could be made for a retreat from Illinois—which retreat was even then being provided for by the Prophet in the projected movement of the Church to the west—demanded the cessation of the publication of theExpositor. By proceeding at least under the forms of law, the city council, though they might be conscious of the illegality of their action, avoided the necessity of the people resorting to mob action for self-preservation, and made it possible for the legality of their course to be determined in the courts, and the parties injured to recover compensation for the press and damages by civil process. Meantime the libelous press with its mission of destruction of the Saints at Nauvoo was silenced; and had events taken the course which the action of the city council provided, a respite would have been gained from impending violence, during which arrangements for the retreat of the Saints from Illinois could have been completed and a goal of safety won for them. Under a plea, then, of absolute necessity to self-preservation of a community, and to achieve the retreat here alluded to, and with the certainty that those injured in property by theExpositor’s destruction would be fully compensated in civil action before the courts—the action of the mayor and city council of Nauvoo is defensible, even if not on the ground of the legality of their procedure. 25
XVI. The Appeal to the Mob Spirit.
Events did not take the course planned for them. The uproar that followed the destruction of the Expositor press, put all reason at defiance. At Warsaw a mass meeting was held which issued a statement, in connection with the resolutions it passed, that “A mob at Nauvoo, under a city ordinance, has violated the highest privilege in government; and to seek redress in the ordinary way would be utterly ineffectual. * * * Resolved, that we hold ourselves at all times in readiness to co-operate with our fellow citizens in this state, Missouri, and Iowa, to exterminate, utterly exterminate the wicked and abominable Mormon leaders, the authors of our troubles. * * * The time, in our opinion, has arrived when the adherents of Smith as a body should be driven from the surrounding settlements into Nauvoo. That the Prophet and his miscreant adherents should then be demanded at their hands; and, if not surrendered, a war of extermination should be waged to the entire destruction, if necessary for our protection, of his adherents. And we hereby recommend this resolution to the consideration of the several townships, to the mass convention to be held at Carthage.”
The Carthage meeting held a few days later embodied the above in their resolutions, as did other mass meetings held at various places. The Warsaw Signal in its impression of June 12th, passionately said: 26
“We have only to state that this [i. e. The destruction of the Expositor press] is sufficient! War and extermination is inevitable! CITIZENS ARISE, ONE and ALL!!! Can you stand by, and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS! to ROB men of their property rights, without avenging them? We have no time to comment: every man will make his own. LET IT BE MADE WITH POWDER and BALL!!!”
All the combustible material to which attention is called in this Introduction was instantly aflame at the destruction of theExpositor press. Every passion was appealed to, jealousy, envy, cupidity, hatred. All the lawless elements of the community were practically invited to assemble and run riot in lawless violence, and excess of carnage and destruction of property and life. Nothing but the wholesome fear of the strength and effectiveness of the Nauvoo Legion at that time held this lawless element in check.
It was all in vain that hearings were had before the municipal court of Nauvoo, on the Expositor matter; in vain that a subsequent hearing was had before Esquire Wells, then not a Mormon and living outside of Nauvoo limits; in vain that the Nauvoo Neighbor sought to conciliate the awakening wrath that was aroused in the community, by pleading that if the city council had “exceeded the law of the land, a higher court could regulate the proceedings;” in vain that President Smith urged Governor Ford to come to Nauvoo to make personal investigation of conditions and take the necessary steps to prevent riot and war—all was in vain; preparations were in the making on all sides for an uprising against Nauvoo and the Saints, and there was nothing left but to defend the city by placing it under martial law and calling upon the Legion to resist the threatened assault, which act was made the basis for the subsequent charge of “treason.”
Then followed in quick succession the demand of the governor for the Mayor and members of the City Council to come to Carthage and submit to trial under circumstances that inevitably meant death; the inspiration of the Prophet to go to the West and all would be well; the crossing of the Mississippi by the Prophet and a few trusted friends to make preparations for that journey; the accusation by false friends of cowardice on the Prophet’s part, the flight as of a false shepherd leaving the flock to be devoured by wolves; the lightning-like retort of the Prophet—”If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself;” the return to Nauvoo; the subsequent going to Carthage to submit to the demands of the governor of Illinois in every particular, and the well-known story of Carthage jail—the martyrdom.
The bearing of the Prophet throughout the closing months with which this volume deals is admirable. There is no faltering or evidence of weakness at any point of his conduct. If criticized at all it would be for over-daring, for over self-confidence, that approached sublimity. Strong men through wickedness fell away from their discipleship, and conspired against him; the Prophet reproved them in the gate, and proclaimed their iniquities in public when hope of reforming them was gone. He saw mobs forming for the destruction of himself and Nauvoo and his people; he calmly prepared to meet force with force, and drilled and prepared his legion for the conflict, entrenched some of the approaches to the city, and picketed them with guards; as mayor of the city he placed the city under martial law; and as lieutenant-general he took personal command of the Nauvoo Legion and stood ready to defend the rights of himself and his people, for which his revolutionary ancestry had fought in the war for American independence. He believed gloriously in the right of self-defense, and resistance to oppression by physical force if necessary. To his uncle John Smith at Ramus who had asked for counsel in the disturbed state of things, he wrote ten days before his death:
“I write these few lines to inform you that we feel determined in this place not to be dismayed if hell boils over all at once. We feel to hope for the best, and determined to prepare for the worst, and we want this to be your motto in common with us: We will never ground our arms until we give them up by death.”
And from Carthage prison, on the morning of the day of his martyrdom, he wrote to his wife for transmission to his people:
“There is one principle which is eternal: It is the duty of all men to protect their lives and the lives of their household, whenever necessity requires, and no power has a right to forbid it, should the last extreme arrive; but I anticipate no such extreme; but caution is the parent of safety.”
When the jail in Carthage was assailed, and the mob was pouring murderous volleys into the room occupied by himself and friends, the Prophet turned prom the prostrate form of his murdered brother to face death-dealing guns and bravely returned the fire of his assailants, “bringing his man down every time,” and compelling even John Hay, who but reluctantly accords the Prophet any quality of virtue, to confess that he “made a handsome fight” in the jail. 27
But what was more wonderful than the manifestation of moral and physical courage and good generalship during these turbulent months of his career, was the pursuance of his duties as a teacher of religious truth—his calling as a Prophet of God. Notwithstanding he was troubled on every side, he could compose his mind to instruct the Church on such doctrines as the complete salvation of their dead; how to proceed with the administration of all ordinances given for and in behalf of the dead; the doctrine of the resurrection and the reality of spiritual existences; the plurality of Divine Intelligences, or Gods; the nature of man’s spirit; the doctrine of eternal progress for intelligences who keep the estates through which they are appointed to pass; the nature and character of the Godhead, and the relationship of man to God. All these themes and many more he dwelt upon in public discourse and private interview and written communications. He lived his life, as I have said elsewhere, in crescendo, it grew in intensity and volume as he approached its close. Higher and still higher the inspiration of God directed his thoughts; bolder were his conceptions, and clearer his expositions of them. So far was he from being a “fallen prophet” in the closing months of his career, as apostates charged, that he grew stronger with each passing day; more impressive in weight of personal character, and charm of manner; for he preserved amid all the conflicts and trials through which he passed—until the shadows of impending death began to fall upon him in Carthage prison—the natural sweetness of his nature, and the intellectual playfulness characteristic of him from boyhood—so do not fallen prophets.
Side by side on the banks of the majestic river that half encircles Nauvoo, the “beautiful,” carrying with it also the idea of “rest,” peacefully sleep the brothers, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Prophet and the Patriarch of the Church in the New Dispensation of the Gospel. Their lives were interlaced by almost daily associations from childhood to the last awful scene of martyrdom. It was therefore most fitting that they should be buried beside each other, on the banks of the “Father of Waters” in the city they had founded, where they had toiled and suffered and achieved; where their joys rose to greater heights and their sorrows sounded greater depths than falls to the lot of but few men in this world. Undisturbed may their death slumber be until it shall be ended by the trump of God, calling them forth to a glorious resurrection.
In the Temple square at Salt Lake City, where tens of thousands, made up of people of nearly every nation in the world view them, stand two bronze statues, life size, on granite bases. They are the statues of the Brothers Smith, the Prophet and the Patriarch of the New Dispensation of the Gospel. On the granite basements, respectively, are bronze tablets on which is engraved the Life Record of these men, and what is characteristic of each.
The text of the bronze plate of Hyrum Smith’s statue is as follows:
The Patriarch and a witness of the Book of Mormon.
An elder brother, and the steadfast friend and counselor of Joseph Smith, the Prophet.
Born at Tunbridge, Vermont, February 9th, 1800; suffered martyrdom with the Prophet at Carthage, Illinois, on the 27th of June, 1844.
The friendship of the brothers Hyrum and Joseph Smith is foremost among the few great friendships of the world’s history. Their names will be classed among the martyrs for religion.
The Book of Mormon—the plates of which Hyrum Smith both saw and handled; the revelations in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—these, to bring them forth for the salvation of the world, cost the best blood of the 19th century.
“I could pray in my heart that all men were like my brother Hyrum, who possesses the mildness of a lamb and the integrity of Job, and, in short, the meekness and humility of Christ. I love him with that love that is stronger than death.”—Joseph Smith.
“If ever there was an exemplary, honest and virtuous man, the embodiment of all that is noble in the human form, Hyrum Smith was the representative.”—President John Taylor.
As he shared in the labors, so does he share in the honor and glory of the New Dispensation with his Prophet Brother.
In life they were not divided; in death they were not separated; in glory they are one.
The text on the west side of the base of Joseph Smith’s tablet is:
The Prophet of the New Dispensation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. He was born at Sharon, Vermont, on the 23rd of December, 1805; and suffered Martyrdom for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus at Carthage, Illinois, on the 27th of June, 1844.
His Vision of God.
I saw two Personages whose glory and brightness defy all description. One of them spake unto me and said:
“This is my Beloved Son: hear Him.”
I asked which of all the sects was right, and which I should join. I was answered I must join none of them; they were all wrong; they teach for doctrine the commandments of men; I received a promise that the fullness of the Gospel would at some future time be made known to me.
The Book of Mormon.
This book was revealed to him, and he translated it by the gift and power of God. It is an inspired history of ancient America, and contains the fullness of the Gospel. It is the American Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Organization of the Church.
Joseph Smith received divine authority through the ministration of angels to teach the Gospel and administer the ordinances thereof. He established again in the earth the Church of Jesus Christ, organizing it by the will and commandment of God on the 6th day of April, 1830.
He also received commission to gather Israel and establish Zion on this land of America; to erect temples and perform all ordinances therein both for the living and the dead; and prepare the way for the glorious coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign on earth.
The contents of the tablet on the east side of the base of the Prophet’s statue are these gems from his teachings:
The glory of God is intelligence.
It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.
Whatever principles of intelligence we attain unto in this life will rise with us in the resurrection.
There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world upon which all blessings are predicated; and when we obtain any blessing from God it is by obedience to that law on which it is predicated.
This is the work and glory of God: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Adam fell that man might be; and men are that they might have joy.
The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end. Jesus was in the beginning with the Father: man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
The spirit and body is the soul of man; and the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.
It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God; and to know that man, (as Moses) may converse with Him as one man converses with another.
This message of the Prophet, and these doctrines of the east bronze tablet, together with other doctrines taught by him in this Period I of our Church History, and to be found scattered through the six volumes now published of that history, await only the mind of some God-inspired Spencer to cast them into synthetical form—to be adequately presented and witnessed—to constitute Mormonism both the Religion and the Philosophy of modern times—to bring to pass and to glorify the Golden Age of the long-promised Millennium of Christian hope.
Introduction to Volume 6.
1. That the general government of the United states has since constructed such a canal from Keokuk to Montrose, directly opposite Nauvoo on the west, and at a cost of more than four and a half million dollars, completing it in 1877 is noted in this volume, p. 80 and footnote.
2. See Nauvoo Neighbor for March 5th and March 12th. John E. Page was president of the company; and in a communication to the Neighbor (March 12, 1845) urging a vigorous prosecution of the enterprise, he said:
“We have commenced active operations for the building of a dam in the river, as noticed in the Neighbor of last week. * * *”Here is the proud and gallant Mississippi, with her rapid current, tumbling to the broad Atlantic, seeming to say (as she quickens her pace over the rugged rocks of the lower rapids just opposite to our beautiful Nauvoo) only improve my shores and banks, ye Saints, as ye improve my neighboring soil; and I will propel your mills, cotton and woollen manufactories, by which your laborers can find employ, and your poor can be clothed and fed.”
3. As the suggestion of Joseph Smith for building the canal around the Des Moines Rapids by the general government of the United states was carried out; so also is the water power of the Des Moines Rapids being utilized for manufacturing and other purposes, first suggested by the Prophet, but now, of course, in a way and on a larger scale than it was possible even for men to dream of when the city council of Nauvoo, in 1843, authorized the construction of a dam to harness this power in the Mississippi for the service of man. This, however, is now nearly an accomplished fact through the enterprise of the Keokuk and Hamilton Water Power Company, which, between Hamilton on the Illinois side, and Keokuk on the Iowa side of the Mississippi (eight or nine miles below Nauvoo), has in course of construction a dam which, including abutments, will be 4,700 feet in length, will stand 52 feet above the river bed, and be 42 feet wide at its base, built of solid concrete. In connection with the dam, and incident to it will be wharfage and a large drydock for the construction and repair of floating craft. There will be developed and for sale as the result of this enterprise, 200,000 horsepower for the service of St. Louis and other towns of Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. The dam and power house will be built at a cost of $22,000,000.
8. See Denunciation of Thieves, 1844, by Hyrum Smith; by President Smith and the formal action of the Apostles quorum, this History Vol. 4, chapter 17. Also the minutes of the conference held at Nauvoo April, 1843, this History, Vol V, Chapter 17.
13. This alleged “design” of the ordinance President Smith specifically denied in the open session of the city council, and to a committee of lawyers from Carthage, who waited upon the city council to protest against this ordinance; and the ordinance was amended by a third section disclaiming such alleged intention, but still retaining the feature that forced state process to be served through the agency Nauvoo’s city officers. See this vol. pp. 173-4.
21. Such appeared to be the very great probability in the election of 1843. As will be remembered by the readers of Vol. 4 of this History, Cyrus Walker, Esq., Whig candidate for Congress, rendered valuable service in delivering the Prophet from the hands of those bent upon running him into Missouri for trial on the old complaint against him in that state. That service could only be obtained in that crisis by Joseph Smith pledging himself to vote for Walker, which was interpreted to mean, of course, the Mormon vote; and it was generally conceded that the Whigs receiving the Mormon vote would be successful. Before the day of election, however, there had arisen strong reasons for believing that the arrest of Prophet and the effort to take him to Missouri, as also Walker’s appearance upon the scene to effect his liberation, was itself a political trick to secure the Mormon vote for the Whig party, which was thwarted by the Mormons voting, at the last moment, the Democratic ticket. (See Vol. V, chapter 26).
25. See Chapter 30, passim this volume for a discussion of the Expositor; also Taylor-Colfax Discussion on the “Mormon” Question, p. 20. Also an editorial from the Nauvoo Neighbor, see p. 496, this volume.
27. This is the late Secretary of State John Hay, in the Atlantic Monthly for December, 1869; “Joe Smith died bravely, he stood by the jam of the door and fired four shots, bringing his man down every time. He shot an Irishman named Wills, who was in the affair from his congenital love of a brawl, in the arm; Gallaghor, a Southerner from the Mississippi bottom, in the face; Voorhees, a half-grown hobbledehoy from Bear Creek, in the shoulder; and another gentleman, whose name I will not mention, as he in prepared to prove an alibi, and besides stands six feet two in his moccasins.” In a later paragraph he refers to “the handsome fight in the jail.”