Volume 6 Chapter 18 | BYU Studies

Volume 6 Chapter 18

 

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Chapter 18

The State Presidential Convention at Nauvoo—The States Represented—Speech of John S. Reid, Esq.—Early Days with the Prophet.

Friday, May 17, 1844.—The State Convention met in the assembly room. I copy the minutes.

State Convention at Nauvoo.

Convention met according to appointment, and was organized by appointing General Uriah Brown to the chair, and Dr. F. Merryweather secretary.

Dr. G. W. Goforth presented the following letter, and took his seat in the convention. Several letters of the same character were presented by other gentlemen, but we have not room to insert them.

Muscoutah, St. Clair County, Ill., May 4th, 1844.

Mr. G. W. Goforth:

Sir,—At various meetings held in this county, where I had the honor of attending, and the interesting topic of the selection of a suitable person for the high station of President of the United States being at this time the most important to Americans, and with the names that are now before the people, Joseph Smith of Nauvoo is recognized respectfully as a candidate, declarative in the principles of Jeffersonianism, or Jefferson democracy, free trade, and sailor's rights, and the protection of person and property.

A convention being about to be held in the City of Nauvoo on the 17th of this month (May), your name has been on every occasion given as a delegate to said convention, and through me the message to be imparted you, asking you to represent our expressions in the case.

Please say for us, as Americans, that we will support General Joseph Smith in preference to any other man that has given, or suffered his name to come before us as a candidate. And at the great Baltimore Convention, to be held on the 13th of July, our delegation to said convention be authorized to proclaim for us submission to the nominee as may be by them brought before the people, in case of a failure to nominate Joseph Smith (our choice), and unite approbatively for his support.

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Respectfully, sir, this communication and authority upward is forwarded you as your voucher at said convention, with our hearty prayers for the success of him whose special name is given in the important affairs.

Henry B. Jacobs.

Agent for the friends of General Joseph Smith.

Mr. Clay's letter to General Joseph Smith was then read by Mr. Phelps, and also General Joseph Smith's rejoinder, which was applauded by three cheers.

It was moved and seconded that the following gentlemen be appointed a committee to draft resolutions for the adoption of this convention:—

Dr. G. W. Goforth, John Taylor, Wm. W. Phelps, William Smith, and Lucian R. Foster.

It was moved and seconded that he correspondence of the Central Committee for Government Reform of New York be read by W. W. Phelps, also General Joseph Smith's answer to the same.

New York, April 20, 1844.

Joseph Smith, Esq.,

Sir,—The subscribers, the Central Committee of the National Reform Association, in accordance with a duty prescribed by their constitution, respectively solicit an expression of your views as a candidate for public office, on a subject that, as they think, vitally affects the rights and interests of their constituents.

We see this singular condition of affairs, and while wealth in our country is rapidly accumulating, while internal improvements of every description are fast increasing, and while machinery has multiplied the power of production to an immense extent, yet with all these national advantages, the compensation for useful labor is getting less and less.

We seek the cause of this anomaly, and we trace it to the monopoly of the land, which places labor at the mercy of capital. We therefore desire to abolish the monopoly, not by interfering with the conventional fights of persons now in possession of the land, but by arresting the further sale of all lands not yet appropriated as private property, and by allowing these lands hereafter to be freely occupied by those who may choose to settle on them.

We propose that the public lands hereafter shall not be owned, but occupied only, the occupant having the right to sell or otherwise dispose of improvements to any one not in possession of other land; so that, by preventing any individual from becoming possessed of more than a limited quantity, every one may enjoy the right.

This measure, we think, would gradually establish an equilibrium between the agricultural and other useful occupations, that would ensure to all full employment and fair compensation for their labor, on the lands now held as private property, and to each individual on the public lands the right to work for himself on his own premises, or for another, at his option.

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An answer, as soon as convenient, will much oblige your fellow-citizens.

John Windt,
Egbert S. Manning,
James Maxwell,
Lewis Masquerier,
Daniel Witter,
Geore H. Evans,
Ellis Smalley.

Nauvoo, Ill., May 16th, 1844.

To John Windt, Egbert S. Manning, James Maxwell, Lewis Masquerier, Daniel Witter, George H. Evans, and Ellis Smalley, Esqrs.

Gentlemen:—

Your communication of April 20th, soliciting my views relative to the public lands, is before me; and I answer, that as soon as the greater national evils could be remedied by the consolidated efforts of a virtuous people and the judicious legislation of wise men, so that slavery could not occupy one-half of the United States for speculation, competition, prodigality, and fleshy capital, and so that enormous salaries, stipends, fees, perquisites, patronage, and the wages of spiritual wickedness in ermine and lace could not swallow up forty or fifty millions of public revenue, I would use all honorable means to bring the wages of mechanics and farmers up, and salaries of public servants down, increase labor and money by a judicious tariff, and advise the people—who are only the sovereigns of the soil—to petition Congress to pass a uniform land law! that the air, the water, and the land, of the asylum of the oppressed, might be free to free men!

With consideration of the highest regard for unadulterated freedom I have the honor to be your obedient servant.

Joseph Smith.

After which, the meeting adjourned for one hour.

It was moved and seconded that the following gentlemen be constituted a committee to appoint electors for this State:—

Dr. G. W. Goforth, L. Robinson, L. N. Scoville, Peter Hawes, and John S. Reid.

It was moved and seconded that the following gentlemen be constituted a central committee of correspondence, having power to increase their number:—

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Dr. Willard Richards, Dr. J. M. Bernhisel, W. W. Phelps, and Lucian R. Foster.

The following delegates from the different states of the Union were then received by vote:—

Names. Counties. States.

Dr. G. W. Goforth St. Clair Illinois
Meyers, Esq., Adams,——"
J. Sene, Quincy,——"
A. Badlock, Joe Davis,——"
J. C. Wright, Scott,——"
L. Wight, Crawford,——"
S. Brown, Brown,——"
W. B. Idle, Sangamon,——"
J. Browning, Adams,——"
W. W. Phelps, Hancock,——"
W. Green,——"———"
Ebenezer Robinson,——"———"
John Taylor,——"———"
Henry G. Sherwood,——"———"
F. Merryweather,——"———"

John S. Reid, Esq., Chemung, New York.
E. Reece, Esq., Buffalo,——"
L. R. Foster, New York City,——"
Dr. J. M. Bernhisel,——"———"
Hugh Herinshaw, West Chester,——"
E. Thompson,——"———"
S. A. Perry, Essex,——"
Wm. Miller, Livingston,——"
Mr. Dorlan, Kings,——"
E. Swakhammer, New York City,——"

P. Bowen, Chester, Pennsylvania.
W. Smith, Philadelphia,——"
J. H. Newton,——"———"
Edward Hunter, West Chester,——"

E. Woolley, Columbiana, Ohio
W. G. Ware, Cincinnati,——"
Thos. Martin, Hamilton,——"
C. Brooks, Lake,——"
Dusten Arne,——"———"
W. W. Dryer, Lorain,——"
J. Coltrin, Cuyahoga,——"

W. Vanausdell, Green Briar, Virginia.

L. B. Lewis, Massachusetts

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Dr. Willard Richards, Berkshire, Massachusetts.

E. Dougherty, Essex, New Jersey.
W. Richardson, Burlington,——"
J. Horner, Monmouth,——"
Thomas Atkins, Burlington,——"

Capt. R. Jones, New Orleans, Louisiana.
E. Ludington,——"———"

J. Harman, Monroe, Mississippi.
Mr. Palman,——"———"
S. Gully, Lawrence,——"

E. M. Sanders, " Delaware.
E. F. Sheets,——"———"

J. Hatch, Alice, Vermont.
J. Houston, Madison,——"

J. A. Mikesell, Missouri.

Col. Cowan, Oxford, Maine.

M. Anderson, Rutherford, Tennessee.

H. Stout, Mercer, Kentucky.
Gen. G. Miller, Madison,——"

Mr. Hunt, Switzerland, Indiana.

A. Johnson, Middletown, Connecticut.

L. N. Scovil, Maryland.

Dr. L. Richards, Providence, Rhode Island.
M. Wilber,——"———"

J. S. Swiss, New Hampshire.

Dr. Shenask, Michigan.

Abraham Williams, Georgia.

J. Haws, Alabama.

R. Alexander, Union District, South Carolina.

Y. Maccauslin, Randolph, North Carolina.

D. J. Putton, Iowa.

Capt. Hathaway, 1 Arkansas.

It was moved, seconded, and carried by acclamation, that General Joseph Smith, of Illinois, be the choice of this convention for President of the United States.

It was moved, seconded, and carried by acclamation, that Sidney Rigdon, Esq., of Pennsylvania, be the choice of the Convention for Vice-President of the United States.

The nine following resolutions were then adopted, the fifth of which was carried by acclamation.

Resolutions.

1. Resolved, that from all the facts and appearances that are now visible in the United States, we believe that much imbecility and fraud is practiced by the officers of Government; and that to remedy these evils it is highly necessary that a virtuous people should arise in the panoply of their might, and with one heart and one mind correct these abuses by electing wise and honorable men to fill the various offices of Government.

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2. Resolved, that as union is power, the permanency and continuance of our political institutions depend upon the correction of the abuses.

3. Resolved, that as all political parties of the present day have degraded themselves by adhering more or less to corrupt principles and practices, by fomenting discord and division among the people, being swallowed in the vortex of party spirit and sectional prejudices, until they have become insensible to the welfare of the people and the general good of the country; and knowing that there are good men among all parties, in whose bosoms burn the fire of pure patriotism, we invite they, by the love of liberty, by the sacred honor of freemen, by the patriotism of the illustrious fathers of our freedom, by the glorious love of country, and by the holy principles of '76, to come over and help us to reform the Government.

4. Resolved, that to redress all wrongs, the government of the United States, with the President at its head, is as powerful in its sphere as Jehovah is in His.

5. Resolved, that the better to carry out the principles of liberty and equal rights, Jeffersonian democracy, free trade, and sailor's rights, and the protection of person and property, we will support General Joseph Smith, of Illinois, for the President of the United States at the ensuing election.

6. Resolved, that we will support Sidney Rigdon, Esq., of Pennsylvania, for the Vice-Presidency.

7. Resolved, that we will hold a National Convention at Baltimore on Saturday, the 13th day of July.

8. Resolved, that we call upon the honest men of all parties in each state to send their delegates to said convention.

9. Resolved, that all honest editors throughout the United States are requested to publish the above resolutions.

10. Resolved, that those gentlemen who stand at the head of the list, who have gone to the several states to take charge of our political interests, be requested to use every exertion to appoint electors in the several electoral districts of the States which they represent, and also to send delegates to the Baltimore Convention.

11. Resolved, that Dr. Goforth and John S. Reid, Esq., be requested to furnish a copy of their speeches for publication.

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12. Resolved, that the electors be instructed to make stump speeches in their different districts.

13. Resolved, that the thanks of this meeting be given to Mr. Hancock for his patriotic song.

It was moved and seconded that Orson Hyde, Heber C. Kimball, David S. Hollister, Orson Pratt, and Lyman Wight represent this convention at the convention to be held in Baltimore on the 13th of July next.

Sidney Rigdon, Esq., then addressed the meeting, and was succeeded by the following gentlemen:—Gen. Joseph Smith, Dr. G. W. Goforth, Lyman Wight, W. W. Phelps, John Taylor, Hyrum Smith, and John S. Reid, Esq.

It was moved, seconded, and carried, that the thanks of this meeting be given to the chairman and secretary.

The Convention was addressed in an eloquent speech by Sidney Rigdon, Esq., showing the political dishonesty of both Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren, and stating his views, and the present condition of the country.

Dr. Goforth rose and addressed the convention. [Dr. Goforth dealt chiefly with the past glories of the republic, and the wrongs suffered by the Latter-day Saints in Missouri].

Synopsis of the Remarks of Hon. John S. Reid. 2

Mr. Chairman:

I cannot leave this subject and do justice to my own feelings and the character of Gen. Smith, without giving a short history of the first persecution that came upon him in the counties of Chenango and Broome, in the State of New York, commenced by that class of people calling themselves Christians.

The first acquaintance I had with Gen. Smith was about the year 1833. He came into my neighborhood, being then about eighteen years of age, and resided there two years; during which time I became intimately acquainted with him. I do know that his character was irreproachable; that he was well known for truth and uprightness; that he moved in the first circles of the community, and he was often spoken of as a young man of intelligence and good morals, and possessing a mind susceptible of the highest intellectual attainments.

I early discovered that his mind was constantly in search of truth, expressing an anxious desire to know the will of God concerning His children here below, often speaking of those things which professed Christians believe in. I have often observed to my best informed friends (those that were free from superstition and bigotry) that I thought Joseph was predestinated by his God from all eternity to be an instrument in the hands of the great Dispenser of all good to do a great work. What it was I knew not. After living in that neighborhood about three years, enjoying the good feelings of his acquaintance as a worthy youth, he told his particular friends that he had had a revelation from God to go to the west about eighty miles to his father's, in which neighborhood he should find hid in the earth an old history written on golden plates, which would give great light and knowledge concerning the will of God towards His people in this generation, unfolding the destiny of all nations, kindreds and tongues. He said that he distinctly heard the voice of him that spake. Joseph Knight, one of the fathers of your Church, a worthy man, and my intimate friend, went with him. When I reflect upon our former friendship, Mr. Chairman, and upon the scenes that he had passed through in consequence of mal-administration, mobocracy and cruelty, I feel to lift up my voice to high heaven, and pray God to bless the aged veteran, and that his silver locks may go down to the grave in peace, like a shock of corn fully ripe. In a few days his friends [Joseph Smith's] returned with the glad news that Joseph had found the plates and had gone down to his father-in-law's for the purpose of translating them. I believe he remained there until he finished the translation. After the book was published, he came to live in the neighborhood of Father Knight's, about four miles from me, and began to preach the Gospel; and many were pricked in their hearts, believed, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. He soon formed a Church at Colesville; his meetings were numerously attended, and the eyes of all people were upon him with astonishment. Oh, Mr. Chairman, the world was turned upside down at once, and the devil,—always ready to assist and help along in all difficulties that arise among men—personified in some of the religionists, began to prick up his ears and jump, and kick and run about, like Jim Crow, calling for rotten eggs to help in the wake. You would have thought, sir, that Gog and Magog were let loose on the young man. He called upon the world's people (as they are called) but got no help; he then flew about in the sectarian churches, like lightning, and they immediately came to his aid, and uniting their efforts, roared against him like the thunders of Mount Sinai. When those fiery bigots were let loose, they united in pouring the red hot vials of their wrath upon his head. Their cry of "False Prophet! False Prophet!" was sounded from village to village, and every foul epithet that malice and wicked ingenuity could invent were heaped upon him. Yes, sir; the same spirit that influenced the Presbyterians of Massachusetts about one hundred and fifty years ago, in their persecution of the Quakers, when they first began to preach their doctrines in that state, was fully manifested by those religious bigots, who were afraid if they let them alone, their own doctrines would come to naught. What was the result of the persecution in Massachusetts? Why, sir, warrants were made out by those churches having authority, and the Quakers were tried for heresy. But what was the result of those trials. The sentence of death was passed upon the Quakers for heresy by those religious fanatics, and three of them were hanged by the neck on Bloody Hill, in Boston. to make expiation for that unpardonable crime. "Tell it not in Gath," nor publish it not on the tops of the mountains in this boasted land of freedom, that the Puritans of New England, who had fled from the Old World in consequence of religious intolerance, that they might enjoy the sweets of liberty, so soon became persecutors themselves, and shed innocent blood, which still cries aloud from the dust for vengeance upon their heads. Let shame cover our faces when we mention the name of freedom in our grand republic.

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O my God! when in one portion of our country blood is flowing from the crime of worshiping our Creator according to the dictates of conscience, or as the Spirit directs, and in the other are great rejoicings in consequence thereof, where, I ask, is the boasted freedom for which our fathers fought and bled?

O Thou who holdest the destinies of all things in Thine hands here below, return these blessings unto us. that we may keep them as precious jewels till time is no more. But, Mr. Chairman, I am wandering too far from the subject. I will return to the persecutions which followed General Smith, when his cheeks blossomed with the beauty of youth, and his eyes sparkled with innocence.

These bigots soon made up a false accusation against him, and had him arraigned before Joseph Chamberlain, a justice of the peace, a man who was always ready to deal out justice to all, and a man of great discernment of mind.

The case came up about 10 o'clock A.M. I was called upon to defend the prisoner, the prosecutors employed the best counsel they could get, and ransacked the town of Bainbridge and county of Chenango for witnesses that would swear hard enough to convict the prisoner; but they entirely failed. Yes, sir; let me say to you that not one blemish nor spot was found against his character. He came from that trial, notwithstanding the mighty efforts that were made to convict him of crime by his vigilant persecutors, with his character unstained by even the appearance of guilt.

The trial closed about twelve o'clock at night. After a few moments' deliberation, the court pronounced the words, "Not guilty," and the prisoner was discharged. But, alas! the devil, not satisfied with his defeat, stirred up a man not unlike himself, who was more fit to dwell among the fiends of hell than to belong to the human family, to go to Colesville and get another writ and take him to Broome county for another trial. They were sure they could send that boy to hell or to Texas, they did not care which; and in half an hour after he was discharged by the court, he was arrested again, and on the way to Colesville for another trial.

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I was again called upon by his friends to defend him against his malignant persecutors, and clear him from the false charges they had preferred against him. I made every reasonable excuse I could, as I was nearly worn down through fatigue and want of sleep, as I had been engaged in lawsuits for two days and nearly the whole of two nights. But I saw the persecution was great against him; and here let me say, Mr. Chairman, singular as it may seem, while Mr. Knight was pleading with me to go, a peculiar impression or thought struck my mind that I must go and defend him, for he was the Lord's anointed. I did not know what it meant, but thought I must go and clear the Lord's anointed. I said I would go, and started with as much faith as the Apostles had when they could remove mountains, accompanied by Father Knight, who was like the old patriarch that followed the ark of God to the city of David.

We rode on till we came to the house of Hezekiah Peck, where a number of Mormon women were assembled, as I was informed, for the purpose of praying for the deliverance of the Prophet of the Lord. The women came out to our wagon, and Mrs. Smith among the rest.

O my God, sir, what were my feeling when I saw that woman who had but a few days before given herself, heart and hand, to be a consort for life, and that so soon her crimson cheeks must be wet with tears that came streaming from her eyes! Yes, sir; it seemed that her very heart strings would be broken with grief. My feelings, sir, were moved with pity and sorrow for the afflicted, and on the other hand they were wrough up to the highest pitch of indignation against those fiends of hell who had thus caused the innocent to suffer.

The next morning about ten o'clock, the court was organized. The prisoner was to be tried by three justices of the peace, that his departure out of the county might be made sure. Neither talents nor money were wanting to ensure them success. They employed the ablest lawyer in that county, and introduced twenty witnesses before dark, but proved nothing.

They sent out runners and ransacked the hills and vales, grog-shops and ditches, gathered together a company that looked as if they had come from hell, and had been whipped by the soot-boy thereof, which they brought forward to testify one after another, but with no better success. Although they wrung and twisted into every shape, in trying to tell something that would criminate the prisoner, nothing was proven against him whatever.

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Having got through with the examination of their witnesses about two o'clock in the morning, the case was argued about two hours. There was not one particle of testimony against the prisoner. No, sir; he came out like the three children from the fiery furnace, without the smell of fire upon his garments.

The court deliberated upon the case for half an hour with closed doors, and then we were called in. The court arraigned the prisoner and said—"Mr. Smith, we have had your case under consideration, examined the testimony, and find nothing to condemn you; and therefore you are discharged."

They then proceeded to reprimand him severely—not because anything derogatory to his character in any shape had been proven against him by the host of witnesses that had testified during the trial, but merely to please those fiends in human shape who were engaged in the unhallowed persecution of an innocent man, sheerly on account of his religious opinions.

After they had got through, I arose and said—"This court puts me in mind of a certain trial held before Felix of old, when the enemies of Paul arraigned him before that venerable judge for some alleged crime, and nothing was found in him worthy of death or bonds. Yet, to please the Jews who were his accusers, he was left bound, contrary to law, and the court had served Mr. Smith in the same way, by their unlawful and uncalled for reprimand after his discharge to please his accusers."

We got him away that night from the midst of three hundred people without his receiving any injury; but I am well aware that we were assisted by some higher power than man; for to look back on the scene, I cannot tell how we succeeded in getting him away. I take no glory to myself: it was the Lord's work, and marvelous in our eyes.

This, Mr. Chairman, is a true history of the first persecution that came upon General Smith in his youth among professed Christians, and in a country heralded to the ends of the earth as a land of freedom, where all men have the constitutional right to worship as they please and believe what they please, without molestation, so long as they do not interfere with the rights and privileges of others—yes, sir; a persecution got up through the influence of religious bigotry by as vile a set of men as ever disgraced the family of man. But their devices against him were brought to naught by the Overruling Power that controls all things and brings to naught the counsels of the wicked.

Mr. Chairman, little did I think that I was defending a boy that would rise to eminence like this man—a man whom God delights to honor as a Prophet and leader of His people—one to whom He has given the keys of heaven and earth, and the power of David, and said to him, Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. And may he live to put his foot upon the neck of his enemies in love and meekness! I know, sir, that God has made him a leader of many thousands of people; and may he teach them in meekness and with that wisdom and judgment that God shall direct.

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I add no more.

The Convention adjourned sine die

Uriah Brown, President,

F. Merryweather, Secretary.

I rode out in the afternoon.

About 6 P.M., a caucus was held; but, Emma being sick, I could not attend. At night a large assemblage burned a barrel of tar in the street. I went out to see what was the matter, and found they were giving toasts; and as soon as they became aware of my presence; they carried me on their shoulders twice round the fire, and escorted me to the Mansion by a band of music.

Elders Franklin D. Richards and Joseph A. Stratton were ordaine

d High Priests and set apart to go on a mission to England by Elders Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards.

Chapter 18.

1. It is to be observed that these delegates named from the various states were now, and for some time past had been, residents of Nauvoo, Ill.

2. This was the "former lawyer" who defended the Prophet in his first prosecution in the State of New York, before local justices of the peace in Chenango and Broome counties, 1830; See this History, Vol. I, Ch. 20.