Ep 120 – Bennett LOCA
On this episode, the Sangamo Journal compiles a massive expose of Joe Smith and the Mormons in preparation for Bennett’s serial expose letters. We set the stage by reading a few letter exchanges between Jo and Governor Carlin of Illinois, in a bid to gain total protection from Missouri “persecution”. Carlin’s advice? “Run”! We conclude with reading a number of articles published prior to Bennett’s actual expose which provides a window into Illinois politics circa 1842.
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Sangamo Journal July 8, 1842
JS Letterbook June-July 1842
History of Illinois by Governor Thomas Ford
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
All eyes turned towards the Kingdom on the Mississippi.
July 8, 1842, something which altered Mormon history forever happened. The first of Wreck-it Bennett’s expose letters was published in the Sangamo Journal. Bennett left the church and office of Mayor of Nauvoo in late May and spent most of June exchanging letters and collecting statements. Historians forever should be thankful for the incredible wealth of data collected during that time. It proved invaluable in understanding aspects of Nauvoo history that were never recorded by the leaders in the Church initially and would have been lost to history had he not collected all of it. If you’re a supporter of the show over on patreon.com/nakedmormonism you get the audiobook version of his massive expose with my commentary peppered in. We just finished Chapter 1 this week and next week we break into chapter 2 when he gets into his history of Joseph Smith. It’s fascinating to say the least.
For the most part, the rest of the country, outside Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri, had long regarded Mormonism as a wacky and deluded religious sect, persecuted by the Missouri government, but altogether harmless. However, there were some red flags cropping up here and there that maybe there was something more to them. The Sangamo Journal had been covering Joseph Smith and the Mormons for a couple years. Initially they started out largely friendly, being a Whig paper and the Mormons representing an unclaimed voting bloc. But, as Mormonism continued to grow and flourish in Nauvoo, the Sangamo Journal started to look more like the Warsaw Signal in its antagonisms of Jo Smith and the Mormonites. It was near the end of 1841 and beginning of 1842 where the shift really began to happen.
Here’s a sympathetic article from June 1841 when Jo was trying to get $1.2 mn from the government for the Mormons having been chased from Missouri.
“The last Register has a long article against the Mormons; not in direct terms, it is true, but still in language that cannot be misunderstood. If not, why does that paper attack Mr. Syuart for being willing to do them an act of injustice. The Mormons have been driven from Missouri and under such circumstances that they thought it their duty to make application to Congress for redress. They are consitituents of Mr. Stuart who was bound, as their Representative to prefer their claims before Congress. Yet for doing this plain act of duty, the Register reads him a lecture. That paper says, "Let Mr. Stuart beware that he does not dig a pit for himself to fall into." Is Mr. Stuart to dig a pit for himself by doing a simple act of justice to a portion of his constituents?”
Quite friendly and defensive of the plight of the Mormon refugees. Here’s January, 1842 after Jo had done some political maneuvering unfavorable to the Whig politicians in the 1841 election cycle, the Sangamo’s tone is a bit different.
“CITIZENS OF ILLINOIS -- READ AND CONSIDER!
The freedom of our fathers obtained for our bodies is worthless, nothing to the emancipation given by them to the soul, in that most sacred instrument -- the Declaration of Independence! If we are justly jealous, therefore, of our rights as citizens, and the freedom of our bodies, as won by the blood of our fathers, how much more jealous should we be of the rights of conscience and freedom of the soul, -- that pearl above all price -- which they have left us as a legacy!
With such ideas as these, the citizens of Illinois have opened their arms to the sect called MORMONS in their hour of distress. They have wept for the wrongs which they had undergone in Missouri, and have shielded and guarded them until they are now numerous and fearless of danger. God grant them the sense to shun a comparison with the asp of the fables. This fable may be shortly told for their advantage. A countryman, upon a cold winter day saw an asp, a very poisonous snake, lying torpid with cold, by the road side, and in the simple kindness of his heart, he lifted it up and took it home -- where he laid it before the fire to recover; and with his wife and children kindly rejoiced in seeing life returning to the snake. After the heat had sufficiently acted upon the asp, it raised its head, and instead of thanks to its benefactor, began hissing and curling itself up preparatory to a deadly attack upon the former; who, seeing its intent and aim, destroyed it! The moral is perceptible, and needs no words of explanation.
Why have we written the above? and why do we warn our harmless brothers of Nauvoo? Simply for this: -- though we have no objection that they should act individually and independently, as their conscience dictates, yet when they attempt to join the civil power with the religious they attempt to destroy our hard-earned birth-right of liberty of conscience, and compel us to retaliate for the injury done.”
The Sangamo Journal’s perspective of the Mormons was a perfect outlet for Bennett’s expose to be published. It was out of Springfield, Illinois, capitol of Illinois and roughly the size of Chicago in mid-1842 with nationwide readership. They had a platform big enough and a sympathetic audience whose opinions of the Mormons had largely been shaped by articles printed throughout 1842 about the Mormons which grew more scathing as the year progressed in a crucial Governor election year and Jo’s political power waxed critical.
They landed the contract with Bennett to begin publishing his letters exposing the Mormons. Bennett quickly rose to social prominence and began riding the public lecture circuit to packed churches, public meetinghouses, and Masonic halls all over Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, and, of course, Illinois. Anywhere that would organize a gathering to hear a lecture on the deluded religious fanatics known as the Mormons, Bennett would travel hundreds of miles to present his findings.
The first article that published his expose came out on July 8, 1842, printed alongside a number of other articles sharply critical of Jo and the Mormons. Let’s dive into the entire issue of the Sangamo Journal, but before we do, we need to set the stage of the political and cultural climate that brought this article to fruition.
The soon-to-be-elected Governor of Illinois, Thomas Ford, wrote his History of Illinois. He was one of the most active lawyers and politicians in the state, boasting he attended every state legislature session from 1825 to 47 when he left politics and died 3 years later. His history of Illinois, published posthumously, provides important political and social commentary as a contemporary source of Nauvoo Mormonism from an authoritative source who saw what happened from the inside and outside of Nauvoo politics. He wasn’t yet on Jo and the Mormons radar until mid-1842, but he won the November election that year, largely due to the Mormons, and became the new Governor representing Nauvoo and the Mormons. Ford truly illustrates just how much power Jo wielded in Nauvoo and the entire state of Illinois. Here are a few select passages from his book, you’ll find it on archive.org in the show notes.
“In this state of the case Dr. John C. Bennett presented himself at the seat of government as the agent of the Mormons. This Bennett was probably the greatest scamp in the western country. I have made particular enquiries concerning him, and have traced him in several places in which he had lived before he had joined the Mormons in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and he was everywhere accounted the same debauched, unprincipled and profligate character. He was a man of some little talent, and then had the confidence of the Mormons, and particularly that of their leaders. He came as the agent of that people, to solicit a city charter; a charter for a military legion; and for various other purposes. This person addressed himself to Mr. Little, the whig senator from Hancock, and to Mr. Douglass, the democratic secretary of State, who both entered heartily into his views and projects. Bennett managed matters well for his constituents. He flattered both sides with the hope of Mormon favor; and both sides expected to receive their votes.”
History can be a great way of understanding what the future can possibly hold. Ford goes on to illustrate the folly and unintended consequences of pushing through government bills and charters without everybody reading and comprehending the matters and ramifications contained in said bills and charters. The Nauvoo charter was passed through without a single person reading it top to bottom and he remarks “the same universal zeal in its favor was manifested here which had been so conspicuously displayed in the Senate.”
And for the unintended consequences of the Nauvoo Charter being passed so hastily through the Illinois government at the behest of Wreck-it Bennett, he says:
“This seemed to give them power to pass ordinances in violation of the laws of the State, and to erect a system of government for themselves. This charter also established a mayor’s court with exclusive jurisdiction of all cases arising under the city ordinances, subject to an appeal to the municipal court…. Thus it was proposed to re-establish for the Mormons a government within a government, a legislature with power to pass ordinances at war with the laws of the State; courts to execute them with but little dependence upon the constitutional judiciary; and a military force at their own command, to be governed by its own by-laws and ordinances, and subject to no State authority but that of the Governor. It must be acknowledged that these charters were unheard-of, and anti-republican in many particulars; and capable of infinite abuse by a people disposed to abuse them. The powers conferred were expressed in language at once ambiguous and undefined; as if on purpose to allow of misconstruction. The great law of the separation of the powers of government was wholly disregarded.”
Why is this relevant? The Mormons had total and complete theocratic power in Nauvoo and Jo stood at the top of the empire. That is simply terrifying for so many reasons. He wasn’t beholden to any civil authorities, had his own army, and was truly bullet-proof legally speaking…. As long as he was in Nauvoo. His power didn’t extend beyond the city limits and it wasn’t actually bullet-proof so much as just slightly bullet-resistant.
From the Mormons side of the equation, Jo was still leveraging the trauma the Mormons had experienced in Missouri to build up the persecution narrative. The Missourians were the common enemy and just trying to kill the prophet at all times. Every time he was arrested, it wasn’t a legal posse of constables executing a warrant under authority from the government, it was the Missourians kidnapping Jo to kill him under the guise of lawful proceedings. Ford captures the collective mind of the Mormons in talking about Jo’s 1841 arrest where Bennett as Master in Chancery, along with Justice Stephen A. Douglass, granted the writ of habeas corpus. After that he says this:
“The Mormons anticipated a further demand from Missouri, and a further writ from the governor of this State, for the arrest of their prophet and leaders. They professed to believe that the public mind in Missouri was so prejudiced against them, that a fair trial there was out of the question, and that if their leaders were taken to Missouri for trial, and not convicted upon evidence, they would be murdered by a mob before they could get out of the State. Some mode of permanent protection, therefore, against the demands of Missouri, became a matter of vital importance; and they set their ingenuity to work to devise a scheme of protection, by means of their own city ordinances, to be executed by their own municipal court.”
The persecution narrative was very successful in banding the Mormons together. Eventually it wasn’t just Missourians, but all mobocrats. That became the buzzword Jo used to instill fear in the minds of thousands of people, retraumatize them by recounting the persecution they’d suffered in Missouri at the hands of the mobocrats, and create the idea of a cohesive balkanized group against a common enemy.
From the State’s perspective, Joseph Smith was still a fugitive. He’d been imprisoned awaiting a jury trial on charges of arson, robbery, and treason against the United States. His conduct in Missouri rightfully earned him a one-way ticket to the gallows should he be captured by the Missouri state militia and taken to Missouri to face the law. That’s just facts. Jo broke the law by committing offenses deserving of the death penalty, and he escaped the custody of the state. All of that transpired before the collective opinion of the rest of the country understood that Jo had commanded his destroying angel to assassinate an ex-governor who was running for Missouri State Senate at the time.
The clever little plan they devised was to expand the power of the issuance of habeas corpus. They made it so any person arrested in Nauvoo under authority from any government body of any state and even the largely impotent federal government, needed to be approved by the Nauvoo municipal court.
“The charter intended to give the jurisdiction only in cases where imprisonment was a consequence of the breach of some ordinance. But it was interpreted by the Mormons to authorize the enlargement and extension of the jurisdiction of the court, by ordinance. This ordinance will figure very largely in the proceedings of the Mormons hereafter.”
And it did. Jo was a big player. His letter book on Joseph Smith Papers throughout 1839-44 almost includes more letters to politicians and dignitaries than fellow leaders in the church. He’d curried favor with many politicians who were salivating to get thousands of votes from the Mormon bloc.
Mormonism, and opposition to it, truly was one of the few driving political forces in Illinois in the early 1840s. That sets the political landscape for the rest of what we’re reading today to set the stage for the Bennett expose meltdown. Jo tried to get ahead of this coming firestorm by smearing Bennett’s name. He did that by leveraging his political connections with a few letters to and from Governor Carlin. Nothing could stop what was about to happen, Jo could just try to brace for impact. The first relevant letter was sent on June 24, 1842.
It becomes my duty to lay before you some facts relative to the conduct of our Major General John C. Bennett: which have been proven beyond the possibility of dispute, and which he himself has admitted to be true, in my presence.
It is evident that his general character is that of an adulterer of the worst kind, and although he has a wife and Children living, circumstances which have transpired in Nauvoo, have proven to a demonstration that he cares not whose character is disgraced whose honor is destroyed nor who suffers so that his lustful appetite may be gratified and further he cares not how many, nor how abominable the falsehood he has to make use of to accomplish his wicked purposes, even should it be that he brings disgrace upon a whole community.
Some time ago, it having been reported to me that some of the most aggravating cases of adultery had been committed upon some previously respectable females in our City, I took proper measures to ascertain the truth of the report, and was soon enabled to bring sufficient witnesses before proper Authority to establish the following facts, More than twelve months ago Bennett went to a Lady in the City and began to teach her that promiscuous intercourse between the sexes was lawful and no harm in it, and requested the privilege of gratifying his passions but she refused in the strongest terms saying that it was very wrong to do so, and it would bring a disgrace on the Church Finding this argument ineffectual he told her that men in higher standing in the church than himself not only sanctioned but practised the same deeds, and in order to finish the controversy said and affirmed that I both taught and acted in [p. 233] the same manner, but publicly proclaimed against it in consequence of the prejudace of the people and fear of trouble in my own house. By this means he accomplished his designs, he seduced a respectable female with lying and subjected her to public infamy and disgrace.
Not contented with what he had already done he made the attempt on others and by using the same language seduced them also.
about the early part of July 1841 I received a letter from Pittsburgh Pa In it was contained information setting forth that said Bennett had a wife and two or three children then living. This I red to him and he acknowledged it was true
A very short time after this he attempted to destroy himself by taking poison but being discovered before it had taken sufficient affect, and proper antidotes administered he again recovered.”
The language is a bit misleading, primarily that it’s absolutely insane to claim that Bennett tried to kill himself. His expose reveals some disturbing details of what happened 3 days after Jo sent this letter stating Bennett had tried to kill himself. Nauvoo was a dangerous place for any apostates, but one of such a high caliber as Wreck-it Bennett, his time was limited in town. The Danites took to a new pastime of following Bennett around ominously.
“In my communication to the Sangamo Journal of the 27th June, 1842, I stated that I had been threatened with death by the Holy Joe and his Danite band of murderers, in case I dare make any disclosures prejudicial to that polluted mass of corruption, iniquity, and fraud,--that King of Imposters, the holy and immaculate Joe Smith;--and in my communication of July 2d, I stated that, when on my journey to Springfield, on my arrival in Carthage, I found, as all the citizens well know, that I was followed by Mr. O. P. Rockwell, a Danite, who, on his arrival late in the night, made strict inquiries as to where I was. His ostensible business was to put a letter in the post-office! Bah!! I was prepared for the gentleman, and he approached me not; but another swift rider, Captain John D. Parker, another Danite, followed me to Springfield, to carry a letter to Dr. Helm! Ah! Ha!! BAH!!! I told Captain Parker that I was aware of his object, but I feared him not. At Virginia, in Cass county, on my returne, Parker met me again, and I called the attention of the stage-driver to him, who, thereupon, put two additional balls into his pistol, and observed to me that he was then ready for him or any other person having the same object in view. On the 23d of June, 1842, the Holy Prophet, in an article over his own name, published in “The (Nauvoo) Wasp” of June 25th, threatened me with the VENGEANCE OF THE LORD, in the following language: “Unless he [Bennett] is determined to bring SUDDEN DESTRUCTION upon himself FROM THE HAND OF THE ALMIGHTY, [the Destroying Angel,] he will be silent.”
In order to fulfil this prediction, on the evening of the 29th of June, the Destroying Angel approached my boarding-house, (General Robinson’s,) in Nauvoo, with their carriage wheels wrapped with blankets, and their horses’ feet muffled with cloths, to prevent noise, about ten o’clock, for the purpose of conveying me off for “sudden destruction,” or assassination, so as to make me I “silent” and thus prevent disclosures. Dead men tell no tales! But, as I had an intimation of the matter in the afternoon, I borrowed two pistols of General Robinson, and one of Mr. Hunter, a merchant, and loaded them with slugs. Besides these, I had two good Bowie-knives, and some of my friends were, likewise, well armed,--well prepared to give the Angel a warm reception. So, after prowling around the house (the lights in which were extinguished) for some time, the “hand of the Almighty” withdrew! On the 6th of July, Mr. Jotham Clark told me in Carthage, in the presence of Dr. Thomas L. Barnes and Mr. Jonas Hobart, that he, having business near there, came into town to tell me that the Mormons had threatened my life, and warned me to be on my guard. This is the treatment dissenters receive when they come out of the modern Babylon, the mother of harlots, by the SAINTS OF THE LAST DAYS.”
The Danites continued to follow Bennett around. George Miller, on behalf of Jo, sent a letter to Governor Reynolds of Missouri, who’d replaced Lilburn Boggs in 1840. Missourians hated the Mormons, Bennett would find an audience ready to hear of the depraved character of Joe Smith in the state. The letter takes on a tone of friendship with the citizens of Missouri, because, of course, the Mormons only wanted friendship with Missouri since they were driven from the state 3 years prior. This letter documents a remarkable shift in tone from how the Mormons had previously been dealing with Missourians. The content of this letter is only accurate if you don’t take into consideration all the sermons against Missouri mobocrats and the violent rhetoric preached against the Missourians since settlement in Nauvoo.
“The object of this communication is therefore to inform you of the true character of said John C. Bennett, that he may not injure the innocent, by gaining credence with you or those over whom your Excellency is placed to govern. We have learned from respectable sources that said John Cook Bennett has entered into a conspiracy with some of the citizens of your State, to bring a mob upon us, and thereby disturb our peaceful vocations of life, and destroy, and drive us from our homes, and firesides. Believing that your excellency cannot be influenced by the popular prejudice, almost every where entertained against us, on account of our peculiar religious tenets; I am the more free to write to you without reserve; knowing that the hightoned, and honorable men of the earth, will not be easily caried away by popular opinion or vulgar prejudice; but will always be found on the side of the Law abiding, portion of Community; and will suppress so far as in them lies, every movement that tends to abridge the rights, or mar the peace and happiness of any portion of the citizens of our Common Country. I have resided in this City near three years, and attached myself to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, soon after their Location here; and have had a good opportunity of learning the feelings of the Leading members of the said church, in reguard to the Citizens of Missouri, which are of the most friendly nature; ever desiring to live in peace, and cultivate friendship with all of the Citizens of your State as also all the States, and all mankind generally; it being a principle of our faith, to Cultivate friendship and live in peace with all mankind; and if Dr John Cook Bennett, or any other person, may conspire with citizens of your State, to bring upon us [p. 236] mob voilence, we confide in you as one who will under all circumstances interpose the strong arm of the Law, in the suppression of conspiricy conspiricies or mobs, or any other violation of Law. as citizens of the united States we claim the protection of the several States and the United Statesin all our constitutional rights, and having learned something of your character we the more confidently expect your protection, against all lawless agressions, by any of the citizens of your State.”
Look, we’ve had our differences and a lot of people are saying that a Danite was sent to shoot your predecessor, Boggs, but that Bennett guy is working to conspire against us with citizens of your state, sooooooo…. Can you help us out by prosecuting anybody who tries to conspire with him? We just ask sincerely for your protection and you forget everything that’s happened between us for the past 5 years and all the evaded arrests and violent rhetoric. We kewl bro? Yeah… we kewl….
Some confusion must have existed in the mind of Governor Carlin of Illinois after Jo sent his first communication and a personal meeting was necessary. However, Jo was trying to stay as concealed as possible for fear of his life, so he sent his best emissary. I’m reading a little before this meeting out of Mormon Enigma p.121 to put the information into better context.
“Joseph announced that ex-Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri had been shot and seriously wounded. Boggs had made a number of enemies but none were stronger or more bitter than the Mormons. Thus the Missourians, who suspected the Mormons—and Joseph Smith in particular—of being responsible for the attack, renewed their efforts to arrest Joseph. Talk of extradition was everywhere in Nauvoo. The week after Frederick [Smith]’s sixth birthday, the child announced to all the house at breakfast that he had a dream and “the Missourians had got their heads knocked off.”
In addition, John C. Bennett’s exposes and emotional rhetoric fueled anti-Mormon feelings in Illinois. Joseph wrote Illinois Governor Thomas Carlin a letter responding to Bennett’s accusations and alerting the governor to the Missouri threats. Determined to help Joseph, Emma took Eliza R. Snow and Amanda Barns Smith with her to Quincy to see Carlin in July. Amanda Smith had lost her first husband and a son at the Haun’s Mill massacre, while another son had had his hip shot away. Emma probably invited her to describe the Missouri mobs. Thomas Carlin greeted the women cordially and listened to Emma plead Joseph’s case. With assurance and self-confidence, she explained that she did not ask for Joseph’s safety alone, but observed that if Joseph’s freedom was endangered by unlawful arrests and attempts were made on his life while incarcerated in Missouri, then hundreds of Mormon lives were equally threatened. Emma assured him that Joseph had not participated in the attempted assassination of Governor Boggs. When Carlin said he would not advise Joseph to trust himself to Missouri, Emma challenged him to protect Joseph by invoking the laws of Illinois and secured his statement that he would use full legal means to protect the Mormons. Of the meeting Eliza commented in her journal, “It remains for time and circumstance to prove the sincerity of his professions.””
After the women met with Carlin, Jo and Governor Carlin exchanged letters again. Carlin decided to side with Jo and believe that Bennett was the depraved scoundrel Jo claimed him to be in the previous letter. The meeting taken with Emma must have had an influence on Carlin as well, but the exact contents of that meeting aren’t known. Here’s the letter from Gov. Carlin to Jo dated June 30th, 1842:
I have received by the last mail your letter of the 24th. instant; in which you have thought proper to give me a statement of Charges against the Conduct, and Character, of General. John C. Bennett. I can say that I regret that any individual should so far disregard his obligations to his God, and to his fellow man, as to Condesend to the Commission of the Crimes alledged in your letter to have been perpetrated by General Bennett. It is however in accordance with representations of his Character, made to me more than two years since, and which I then felt Constrained to believe were true, since which time I have desired to have as little intercourse with him as possible. No resignation of his Commission as Mgr. General of the Nauvoo legion has reached me, some weeks since I red a short note from him stating that you had reason to believe that a conspiracy was getting up in the State of Mo, for the purpose of mob[b]ing the Mormons at Nauvoo, and Kidnapping you, and taking you to that state, and requested to be informed in case of such Mob, whether you would be protected by the authorities of this State &c, to which I replied that as all men were held amenable to the laws, so in like manner the rights of all would be protected, and the dignity of the State maintained, to the letter of the Constitution and Laws; the above is in substance the contents of his note to me and my reply to him; having destroyed his Letter, as I considered it of no use should it be retained…”
But Carlin wasn’t done. Bennett may have been a terrible person and he’d heard of Bennett’s reputation a few months before he joined the Mormons in Nauvoo in late 1840, but the language Carlin used in the letter was very calculated. He said “all men were held amenable to the laws”. What could that mean? Was he saying Bennett conspiring against the Mormons was something he’d be held legally accountable for, or was he saying to Jo that ALL men, including Jo, are held accountable to the law for any misconduct? The rest of his letter makes his position clear as mud. However, it becomes very clear that Carlin was aware of the rhetoric Jo was spewing was no longer idle rhetoric as Boggs had suffered the wrath of some unknown assassin:
“You state that you have heard that I have of late entertained unfavourable feelings towards you (the mormons) as a people, and especially so with regard to your self &c. &c. If this should be true, you would be pleased to know from me the reasons— of such hostile feelings.
In reply I can in truth say that I do not entertain nor cherish, hostile or revengeful, feelings, towards any man or set of men on Earth, but that I may have used strong expressions in reference to yourself, at times— when my indignation has been some what aroused, by repeated adminitions of my friends, (both before and, since the attempt to assassinate ex Gov. [Lilburn W.] Boggs) to be upon my guard, that you had prophesied— that Boggs should die a violent death,— and that I should die in a ditch, all this however if true, I looked upon as idle boasting until since the assassination of Boggs— and even since then in reference to myself, I cannot view it in any other light, because what ever your feelings may have been towards Boggs; the [p. 238] mere discharge of an official duty on my part, enjoined upon me by the constitution and laws, of this State, and of the United States Could not possibley engender feelings of such deep malignity. Be assured that this matter gives me no uneaseness, nor would the subject now have been mentioned, had you not requested a reply to your enquiries I have seen your denial published in the wasp of the prediction attributed to you, of the death (or assassination) of Gov Boggs, be that true or false, nothing has Contributed more towards fixing the belief upon the public mind, that you had made such prediction, than the repeated statements of a portion of your followers, that the manner of his death had been revealed to you— and their exultation that it must needs be fulfilled.
In reference to your request to be advised, how you should act in Case a mob should Come upon you, I should feel very much at a loss to recommend any corse for you to adopt, other than a resort to the first law of nature viz.— to defend your own rights, because were I to advise a quiet submission on your part, I could not expect that you would fold your arms, and silently look on, whilst those rights were violated, and outraged, as long as you have the power to protect them.
I however have not the most distant thought that there exists at present, any real cause for the apprehension of a mob Coming upon you, otherwise I should feel it my duty to endeavor to arrest it.”
Carlin made it clear enough that if a mob came to arrest or “kidnap” Jo, it would be too late for the Governor to react. These fears were justified. Unrest existed all around. To complicate matters further, a zombie rose from the grave which only blew more fuel into the fire for the Mormon leadership while they were trying to deal with the Bennett scandal.
“Lilburn W. Boggs, who being duly sworn doth depose and say that on the night of the 6th day of May , while sitting in his dwelling,… he was shot with intent to kill, and that his life was despaired of for several days, and that he believes and has good reason to believe from evidence and information now in his possession, that O. P. Rockwell,… is the person who shot him… and the said deponent hereby applies to the Governor of the State of Illinois, to deliver the said O. P. Rockwell to some person authorized to receive him and convey him to the county aforesaid, there to be dealt with according to law.”
I’m of the opinion that Port shot Boggs. It’s a matter of conjecture that will never be resolved, but there’s location, circumstance, opportunity, and motive which allow Port to be the assailant. Whether or not Port actually pulled the trigger or not doesn’t matter, because everybody believed he did, that’s what really matters. Governor Carlin of Illinois couldn’t simply stand idly by with somebody living in his state who tried to assassinate a high-profile politician during his senatorial election campaign. Carlin drafted the writ of arrest for Porter, likely without Jo knowing at this time, so Illinois constables could bring him into custody and extradite him to the Missouri government.
Jo took the language in Carlin’s letter to mean he’d be kept safe from the Missouri constables who’d inevitably come into Nauvoo to arrest him, both for the previous charges, and for conspiracy to assassinate an elected official. Jo’s rap sheet was getting longer every year and with Boggs’s attempted murder added to the list, it was reaching critical mass. But, no interstate police force existed in the United States at this time, that would take prohibition, the great depression, and career criminal bank robbers to create. Missouri government officials only had jurisdiction in Illinois on limited orders, but the new ordinance described by soon-to-be Governor Ford earlier made it so any arrest made in Nauvoo would need to pass through the Nauvoo court system first. We’ll get there in a minute.
In response to Carlin’s letter and the protectionism Jo read into the language, Jo quickly penned a letter to Governor Carlin thanking him for his hospitality in receiving Emma to the meeting. The protection Jo was evidently assuming was never explicitly stated by Carlin. He was a politician, his language can be interpreted multiple ways.
Your favour of the 27th. inst. for Brevet Major Gen. Wilson Law is before me. I cannot let this opportunity pass without tendering to you my Warmest thanks for the friendly treatment my Lady as well as those with her received at your hands during the late visit, and also for the friendly feelings breathed forth in your letter. Your excellency may be assured that they are duly appreciated by me and shall ever be reciprocated.
I am perfectly satisfied with regard to the subject under consideration and with your remarks. I shall consider myself and our citizens secure from harm under the broad canopy of the Law under your administration, We look to you [p. 239] for protection in the event of any voilence being used towards us knowing that our innocence with reguard to all the accusations in circulation will be duly evidenced before an enlightened public.
With sentiments of respect and esteem I remain your humble Servant
Chaos continued to build.
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Bennett’s first expose letters were published in the Sangamo Journal July 8, 1842. His first letter was published among a number of other salacious and inflammatory articles against the Mormons which didn’t come from Bennett explicitly. We’re going to read through a bunch of it today. Why? Because this article changed Mormonism forever. Not only that, it changed Jo in ways we can’t imagine for the remaining 2 years of his life. This is an important issue of the newspaper, not only for the content, but for the impact it had on society and the collective psyche of the Mormons.
The Sangamo Journal was a Whig paper, whereas Thomas Ford was running as the Democrat candidate for the office of Governor. The issue on July 8, 1842 takes plenty of opportunity to torpedo Ford and any other democrat currying favor with the Mormons. The Sangamo Journal was trying to make the Mormons a liability, but in 1842 they were a large enough population to be counted as an asset instead.
“The Mormon plot and league, by which THOMAS FORD and JOHN MOORE hope to be elected Governor and Lieut. Governor of Illinois:
Such has been the demand for that number of our paper containing the evidence upon which we found the charge, that the leaders of the Van Buren party of this State, have entered into a plot and league, to obtain the votes of Joe Smith’s subjects for their candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, that we feel it our duty to re-publish the Documentary evidence in the case, and other facts, showing the dangerous nature of this corrupt and scandalous coalition. And the first acts of Incorporation, for the benefit of the Mormons, smuggled through the Legislature without reading, by the leaders of the party.”
It then goes on to detail a few points of the Nauvoo charter seen as particularly egregious violations of the free republic of America, making really solid points all along their deconstruction of the charter. After that it goes on to print the growing political sway of Jo and the Nauvoo Legion. It details how Stephen A. Douglass had visited Nauvoo, reprinting a Times & Seasons article from May 1841 written, presumably, by Jo.
“I had the honor of receiving a visti from the Hon. Stephen A. Douglass, Justice of the Supreme Court and Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois * * * who addressed the assembly, and expressed his satisfaction at what he had seen and heard respecting our people, and took that opportunity of returning thanks to the citizens of Nauvoo for conferring upon him the freedom of the city, stating that he was not aware of rendering us any service of sufficient importance to deserve such marked honor.”
After that it details Jo’s arrest the following month in 1841 and that his writ of habeas corpus was heard by Stephen A. Douglass who immediately granted the writ and let Jo go free. Had Douglass not granted the writ, Jo would have remained in the custody of the Missouri constables and been shipped off to Missouri to answer for all his crimes. Douglass quite literally saved Jo’s life by granting the writ. It continues to assail Douglass’s political flaccidness in opposing the growing power of Jo and the Mormons when it came to appointing Bennett as master in chancery and an issue between state funds going to the Nauvoo Legion and fines being assessed against them. Thanks to Douglass bending over backwards for Jo and the Mormons, any orders assessed against the Nauvoo Legion for any matter needed to go through the Master in Chancery, which was John C. Wreck-it Bennett, appointed to that position by Douglass.
In commenting on Douglass’s overt friendliness to the Mormons and enshrining their will above the laws of the state and the country’s constitution, the Sangamo Journal reprints a Times & Seasons article which was published in response to a Warsaw Signal article from June 1841.
“We can hardly find language to express our surprise and disapprobation at the conduct of the editor of the Signal as manifested in that paper. We had fondly hoped that the sentiments therein expressed would never have dared to be uttered by any individual in this community in which we reside, and we would ask the editor of the Signal what is the cause of his hostility, of this sudden and unexpected ebullition of feeling, this spirit of opposition and animosity? Whose rights have been disturbed? Gen. Bennett has been appointed Master in Chancery by Judge Douglass; and Gen. Bennett is a Mormon.”
The Sangamo Journal comments on the implications and results of this article by saying:
“The Times and Seasons is astonished that an editor “DARE” comment on this transaction. We fear that it is dangerous for a man to speak or act his sentiments in relation to Joe Smith.—If he does it, it is with the mangled and bloody body of Gov. Boggs before his mind’s eye—shot by an assassin in his own house—in the bosom of his family—while unconscious that he had an enemy in the world—which act has been pronounced by high Mormon authority “A NOBLE DEED”!”
This issue of the Sangamo Journal continues to get even more fascinating. Never in any single place have I seen such a masterful articulation of Jo’s political motives and endgames cobbled together on a single piece of paper. After commenting on the exchange between Thomas Sharp of the Warsaw Signal and the Times & Seasons, it continues to puzzle together the real intent of the Mormons by reprinting a small extract from Rigdon’s July 4th oration in 1838, which was the oration that lit the powder keg that kicked off the Mormon’s war with Missouri.
Then the Sangamo Journal prints an extract from the Book of Commandments page 191 as follows.
“Wherefore I say unto you, that I have sent unto you my everlasting covenant, (namely, the book of Mormon), even that which was from the beginning, and that which I have promised I have so fulfilled, and the Nations of the Earth shall bow to it; and if not of themselves, they shall come down, for that which is now exalted of itself, shall be laid low by power.”
Make no mistake, the sentiment captured in that scripture passage has never left the collective consciousness of the Mormon mindset. Plenty of Mormons today sincerely believe the church will somehow rule the world when Jesus comes back to reign. It had a slightly different connotation in Jo’s day than it has today, but the central idea that the Church will be the sole governing authority post-apocalypse is still very much alive to this day. To make the point of how such a revolution would take place, the Sangamo Journal prints a few extracts from “Voice of Warning” by P-cubed Parley Parker Pratt, this was the first Mormon missionary tract. They print the following:
“Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear, may. Prepare ye, prepare ye, for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh, and the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is sheathed in Heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth, that they that will not hear the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the Prophets and Apostles, shall be cut off from among the people. Wherefore I have called upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my spirit; and their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me, and their enemies shall be under their feet, and I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and with the fire of my indignation I will preserve them…
The Government of the United States, has been engaged for upwards of seven years, in gathering the remnant of Joseph (the Indians) to the very place where they will finally build the New Jerusalem, a city of Zion, with the acquisition of the believing Gentiles, who will gather with them from all the nations of the earth, and this gathering is clearly predicted in the Book of Mormon, and the place appointed and the time set for its fulfilment; and except the Gentiles repent of all their abominations, and embrace the same covenant, (the Book of Mormon) and come into the same place of gathering, they will soon be destroyed from off the face of the land, as is written by Isaiah, “the nation and Kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish.” And I will state as a prophesy, that there will not be an unbelieving Gentile on the face of this Continent fifty years from this date, (1838,) then the Book of Mormons will have proved itself false.”
Well, chalk up another failed Mormon prophecy, but the central focus here is that the Gentiles will be taken over by the honest and upright Mormons, unless they repent of their abominations. And, who determines what is and is not abomination? Well, Joseph Smith, of course. Printing that extract after a clip out of the July oration declaration of War by Hingepin Rigdon really puts into context exactly what Jo and the Mormons had in mind for the Union. But, one can’t simply overthrow the government and bring all Gentiles to repentance overnight, it takes political maneuvering, which is illustrated in the next passage printed in the Sangamo Journal, where Jo promises his votes to anybody who is a friend of the Mormons, regardless of political party.
“Joe Smith’s proclamation. State Gubernatorial Convention…
The Gubernatorial Convention of the State of Illinois, have nominated Colonel Adam W. Snyder for Governor, and Colonel John Moore for Lt. Governor of the State of Illinois—election to take place in August next. Colonel Moore, like Judge [Stephen A.] Douglass, and Esq. Warren, was an intimate friend of General Bennett long before that gentleman became a member of our community; and General Bennett informs us that no men were more efficient in assisting him to procure our chartered privileges than were Colonel Snyder and Colonel Moore.—They are sterling men, and friends of equal rights—opposed to the oppressor’s grasp, and the tyrant’s rod. With such men at the head of our State Government, we have nothing to fear…
Snyder and Moore are known to be our friends; their friendship is vouched for by those whom we have tried. We will never be justly charged with the sin of ingratitude—they HAVE served US—we WILL serve THEM. -Joseph Smith”
The next article is titled “They can already dictate to the State of Illinois.” Bear with me as we read through this, I’m driving at a point that will wrap this all together. It begins with reporting that the New York Herald had been coopted by the Mormons and was printing articles friendly to the Mormons under the guise of being critical. That shouldn’t surprise anybody, but the content that Jo had printed in the Herald should surprise all of us in how brazen and unabashed it is concerning the overthrow of the United States. This is an article printed by an agency FRIENDLY to the Mormons. It’s terrifying, and the Sangamo Journal commentary afterwards is perfect.
“Highly important from the Mormon Empire—Wonderful progress of Joe Smith—Spread of the Mormon Faith, and a new religious revolution at hand.
It is very evident that the Mormons exhibit a remarkable degree of tact, skill, shrewdness, energy and enthusiasm. The particular features of their faith are nothing against their success. Do they believe their new Bible, their VIRGIN REVELATION, their singular creed? If they do so with enthusiasm and practice their shrewd precepts, the other sects will fall before them. THIS IS CERTAIN—THIS IS HUMAN NATURE. In Illinois they have shown how to acquire a vast influence, by holding the balance of power between both parties. THEY CAN ALREADY DICTATE TO THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, AND IF THEY PURSUE THE SAME POLICY IN OTHER STATES, WILL THEY NOT SOON DICTATE TO CONGRESS AND DECIDE THE PRESIDENCY? In all matters of public concernment, they act as one man, with one soul, one mind, and one purpose. Their religious and moral principles bind them together firmly.
Verily, verily, we are truly in the “latter days”—and we should not be surprised to see that the Mormon religion is the REAL MILLENIUM already commenced. One thing is certain. The Mormons are so constituted, that, in these temperance times, THEY WILL SWALLOW UP ALL THE OTHER LUKEWARM PROTESTANT SECTS—and the moral and religious world will be divided between the Pope and the Catholics on one side, and Joe Smith and the Mormons on the other. The oyster is opening, and will soon be equally divided.”
Here’s the commentary from the editor of the Sangamo Journal, who viewed this article with justifiable terror.
“The Herald says “the Mormons can already dictate to the State of Illinois!” And are they not doing it? Has not Joe Smith issued a Proclamation requiring his followers to vote for certain candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor? The Herald calls the Mormon religion “a virgin revelation, and that all “other sects will fall before it.” Precisely the same sentiment, though not the same words, was made use of by Judge Douglass on the same subject. He said to J. M. Ruggles, Esq. that “he believed there was as much true religion among them (the Mormons) as any other church,” and that “a new broom sweeps clean,” Singular coincidence, indeed!...
The next section of the same article is absolutely amazing. It was sent to the Sangamo Journal by an unnamed officer of the U.S. Artillery. After the letter the editor says “This letter requires no comments” because it stand alone so well.
“Yesterday was a great day among the Mormons. Their Legion, to the number of two thousand men, was paraded by Generals Smith, Bennett, and others, and certainly made a very noble and imposing appearance. The evolutions of the troops directed by Major General Bennett, would do honor to any body of armed militia in any of the States, and approximates very closely to our regular forces. WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN? Why this exact discipline of the Mormon corps? Do THEY INTEND to CONQUER MISSOURI, ILLINOIS, MEXICO? It is true they are part of the militia of the State of Illinois, by the charter of their Legion, but then there are no troops in the States like them in point of enthusiasm and warlike aspect, yea warlike character. Before many years this Legion will be twenty, and perhaps fifty thousand strong, and still augmenting. A fearful host, filled with religious enthusiasm, and led on by ambitious and talented officers, what may not be effected by them? Perhaps the subversion of the constitution of the United States, and if this be considered too great a task, foreign conquest will most certainly follow. Mexico will fall into their hands,…
These Mormons are accumulating, like a snow-ball rolling down an inclined plane, which in the end becomes an avalanche. They are also enrolling among their officers some of the first talent in the country, by tittles or bribes, IT DON’T matter which. They have appointed your namesake, Capt. Bennett, late of the army of the United States, Inspector General of their Legion, and he is commissioned as such by Gov. Carlin. This gentleman is known to be well skilled in fortification, gunnery, ordinance, castramentation, and military engineering generally, and I am assured that he is now under pay, derived from the tithings of this warlike people. I have seen his plans for fortifying Nauvoo, which are equal to any of Vauban’s.
I arrived here in cog on the 1st inst., and from the great preparation for the military parade, was induced to stay to see the turnout, which I confess has astonished and filled me with fears for future consequences. The Mormons, it is true, are now peaceable, but the lion is asleep. Take care, and don’t rouse him.”
That’s all we’ll read out of the Sangamo Journal for today, we’ll pick up next week and really get into the meat of the July 8th issue. So, given everything read so far, what does it all mean? Mormonism wasn’t a church. It wasn’t a religion. It wasn’t a scheme contrived by a fraud to make some money. It may have been those things at some point, but Nauvoo Mormonism is a completely different beast. Jo spent more time on swaying politics than he did preaching sermons. He was more occupied with letter exchanges with politicians than church leaders.
This last weekend was a big event in Mormonism, Braden talk about it on the latest Glass Box Podcast episode. Sam Young’s excommunication council, a court of love, as they call it. It was President Nelson’s 94th birthday, and Apostle Quentin L. Cook did a young adults Face to Face event on Facebook from the Nauvoo Temple.
It’s their latest stop in the Saints book tour, and it’s very clearly a pitch for the book, almost every answer has something about the new book, usually coupled with, this is where you can find answers to that question you just asked. Honestly, I hope people read Saints, the Standard of Truth. What I’ve read so far leads me to conclude that it’s a great introduction to Mormon history. It contains facts about Joseph Smith that millions of members don’t have the first clue exist.
The Facebook event talked a bit about Joseph Smith’s early life and they threw the guest panel of historians a few hard-marshmallows about the seer stones and polygamy. Every time they punted and said to read the book, so it must be the new Standard of the Truth about Mormon History, good thing it’s free on the gospel library app! (on call) Uh, no, Mr. Nelson, is it powered on? Okay, is the screen lit up? Okay, push the power button, … no that’s the one with a straight up line and a circle around it… Yeah, the big one. No, it’s not on your keyboard, on the box by the desk. Okay, good job. Now let’s open Internet Explorer…
The thing is, any time conversations about Mormon history happen across the believing divide, there’s always a vast chasm that can rarely be surmounted. Often times, the majority of those chapel-attending Mormons haven’t read the gospel topics essays, or even know the word anachronism, right? There’s a massive body of knowledge that needs to be understood for Mormons to get to the level of mature faith, instead of the naïve faith the church has indoctrinated them with. Which is why the CES letter and Rough Stone Rolling are such popular resources when people begin to question. There’s an informational hurdle before concluding that it’s a fraud, but beyond it lies an absence of cognitive dissonance. Where there used to be Mormon shelf now there’s a bookshelf.
This Standard of Truth is going to have an impact on membership. The Joseph Smith of that book is not friendly to a faltering testimony. If that Jo scares you away from the church, there’s no way you can handle Jo after his world is broken by Wreck-it Bennett. Mormons aren’t going to like him when he’s angry.
If Joseph Smith using magic and seer stones is a problem for a person’s testimony, what will Joseph translating Ancient Egyptian without knowing the first thing about Egyptology do to that shaky foundation? If Joseph Smith marrying 33 wives is hard for that person to wrestle with, what goes through their minds when they learn how he acquired them? If Joseph Smith gave a revelation that Zion will be built on the American Continent, and a person hears about him giving a sermon that he’ll become a Muhammed unto this generation, how does that person go on to bear their testimony that he’s a true prophet? Was he declaring that as a prophet, a man, or a desperate cult leader hell-bent on conquering Missouri? The church doesn’t interfere in politics, but the founding prophet ran for president of the United States and was assassinated during his campaign?
The two-dimensional Joseph Smith of naïve faith that regular chapel-going Mormons know doesn’t do these people any favors when more dimensions are added and that body of information is understood. Maybe Saints will bridge that informational gap during conversations about Church history. If this book has the reach the leadership wants, it’ll have an impact they don’t want.
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