Ep 162 – Walker v. Hoge; Political Chess
On this episode, we discuss the controversial election of 1843. Jo had promised his vote, and by implication the Mormon voting bloc, to the Whig candidate and well-respected lawyer, Cyrus Walker. However, the Democrats held control of the state militia that represented a constant threat to the safety of Joseph Smith and the Mormons. Governor Thomas Ford pulled a dirty trick to get the Mormons to vote for the Democrat candidate, Joseph Hoge; a grand scheme was carried out to flip-flop the Mormon vote. When Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith received a prophecy, the Lord had spoken, let all the world be silent. Back scratching and political favors negotiated behind closed doors rule the day.
The Prophet and the Presidency
To Save the District for the Whigs
History of Hancock County by Thomas Gregg
History of Illinois by Thomas Ford
Quincy Whig 1843
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
There once were two cats of Kilkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many
So they fought and they fit
And they scratched and they bit
Till (excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails)
Instead of two cats there weren't any!
By 1843, Jo had had over 2-dozen run ins with the law that historians can document. There’s at least one known court appearance that happened in the 1820s, before the Book of Mormon was published, that historians don’t know the details of as they seem to have been lost to history. It wasn’t until the late Kirtland era that Jo ever had legal counsel for court appearances, and that’s because Jo was poor and the idea of a public defender wouldn’t be created for another half-century. It was another 40 years after that when the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution would be interpreted to include competent legal counsel for any capital criminal case in Powell v. Alabama.
In Powell v. Alabama, a 1931 case, nine young men of color were accused of raping two young white women. These young men came to be known as the Scottsboro Boys. They didn’t have the resources to hire an attorney, because they were young black men in the 1930s, and weren’t appointed one by the judge. Instead, the Scottsboro Boys were represented by a real estate agent and some old guy that hadn’t practiced law in like 20 years. All but one of them was sentenced to death. They appealed and the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the ruling. They appealed again and it went to the Supreme Court. The case was overruled and the conviction overturned because A) there was no evidence it had occurred, and B) the legal counsel wasn’t considered proper or competent which tainted the outcome of the original hearing. In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, under the 14th amendment, federal AND state governments are required to appoint competent legal counsel to those who are unable to afford it. This was narrow in that it only required competent legal counsel to be appointed in capital crime cases, but later cases in decades subsequent would continue to expand the ability of defendants to acquire a public defender. In Gideon V. Wainwright, a 1963 decision that any lawyer worth their salt should be able to recite by heart, the definition of competent legal counsel was expanded to all legal matters. Justice Black authored the Supreme Court’s opinion lamenting the fact that “Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crime, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence… He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence.”
The idea of a public defender long preexisted Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963. It was first conceived of by Clara Shortridge Foltz, California’s first female attorney, when she wrote about it extensively in the 1890s and presented on the subject at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The first public defender’s office was officially opened in 1913 in Los Angeles. 7 years later, the ACLU was formed as a non-profit organization defending people’s rights, often pro-bono. The sphere of law in the mid-19th century was enormously less complex than it is today. In Jo’s day, attorneys often roamed from town to town taking up cases, camping out in the wilderness and whatnot kind of like stonemasons in medieval Europe. The current governor of Illinois in our historical timeline, Thomas Ford, was one of these roaming attorneys. Abraham Lincoln was a roaming attorney. These roaming bands of attorneys would go wherever work called them, but it was always a dice-roll when a person would hire one of them. The American Bar Association wasn’t created until 1878, so basically anybody could say “I’m a lawyer now” and would hire out for cases. Law firms existed, but they were only accessible to the wealthy. The right to legal counsel granted by the Sixth amendment wasn’t a right, it was a luxury for the wealthy.
For the majority of Jo’s career in the Kirtland era of the church, he was never wealthy enough to afford legal counsel or deemed the expense unnecessary. During the 1838 Mormon war in Missouri, Jo’s offenses were capital and he acquired legal counsel in Alexander Doniphan, one of the few Missouri government officials and militia officers who was friendly to the Mormons. Here Jo saw the power held by attorneys. Not only did Jo escape total conviction, but Doniphan even negotiated the venue change that created the window necessary for Jo and his buddies to escape from state custody. During the Nauvoo era, Jo would keep himself on the right side of the law by surrounding himself with powerful politicians, often with extensive knowledge of the legal system, and court relationships with important justices who could navigate the law in a way that favored the Mormons. Judge Stephen A. Douglas, later presidential candidate running against Abraham Lincoln, became very intimate with Jo and the Mormon elite. Josiah Butterfield was an attorney by trade and had been a member of the church since 1833. Butterfield was appointed as a president of the Quorum of Seventy and represented Jo in multiple legal cases.
Not only was Jo beginning to recognize the power held by attorneys, but he was becoming quite attuned to the general power of the legal system when handled delicately by expert hands. Jo’s greatest legal troubles were beginning to catch up with him in 1843. He had multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest in June from Governors of multiple states. He was a fugitive from justice of the state of Missouri from all the old Missouri-Mormon war charges of arson, robbery, and high treason. He was accused of collusion with Pistol Packin’ Porter Rockwell in attempting to assassinate former Governor of Missouri Lilburn Boggs. He and Port had both been arrested in late 1842, but were left with the Nauvoo constable and weren’t to be found. Port fled to Pittsburgh while Jo remained in hiding in Nauvoo and the surrounding Mormon cities for months. Eventually Jo gave himself up for arrest by Wilson Law, then a Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion and member of the Nauvoo City Council. This is when Jo and his posse of some 100 dudes, a sour lot of Danites and ruffians in general, made their way to Springfield, Illinois, where Judge Pope honored the latest iteration of the writ of Habeas Corpus and Jo was allowed to go free. Episode 136 is where you’ll find all the details of this hearing where Josiah Butterfield represented Jo.
Jo remained safe for a short while through the first half of 1843. Then, as Jo was visiting some of Emma’s family in Dixon, Illinois, Sheriffs Reynolds and Wilson, acting on warrants for arrest and extradition issued by Governors Reynolds of Missouri and Ford of Illinois, arrested Jo. Episode 144-7 go through the week Jo was arrested and all the legal troubles created by this chaos. When Jo was first arrested, however, he’d learned from his previous dozens of legal troubles and decided that acquiring a powerful and well-known lawyer as soon as possible would bode well for his long-term wellbeing. As soon as Jo was arrested, he didn’t know what to expect. He thought, reasonably so, that he’d be extradited to Missouri. He had no idea if his Danites would find him or not, but he knew if he was taken over the state line into Missouri, his life was over.
So, what did Jo do? Well, he sent a messenger to the nearest lawyer who could accompany him while in the custody of Sheriffs Reynolds and Wilson. Two lawyers were first petitioned to come help Jo, Edward Southwick and Shepherd G. Patrick. They both had the door literally slammed in their face by the sheriffs when they tried to meet with their client. Jo had sent his scribe, William Clayton, on a steamer to Nauvoo to tell Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith about Jo’s arrest so Hyrum could send out the Danites, but another messenger was dispatched to find a man with a large name in legal spheres and nearly 3 decades of the legal trade under his belt and suspenders, Cyrus Walker. He’d been a law partner with Josephus Hewitt and James Conkling after he’d served two terms in the Kentucky legislature after he’d been an attorney there for about a decade. This guy, Cyrus Walker, was one of those lawyers with a huge name who’d gone through the revolving door of law and government a few times when he was approached by a messenger on behalf of Joseph Smith. When the messenger told Cyrus Walker who wanted to hire him and for what purpose, Walker’s response was predictable, as he was currently attempting to walk again through said political revolving door. Walker was out electioneering for himself to become a member of the Illinois state house of representatives. But, the messenger, Stephen Markham, offered Walker something he couldn’t refuse, the Mormon voting bloc.
HoC Vogel edition 5:471
Mr. Cyrus Walker, who was out electioneering to become the representative for Congress, told me that he could not find time to be my lawyer, unless I would promise him my vote. He being considered the greatest criminal lawyer in that part of Illinois, I determined to secure his aid, and promised him my vote. He afterwards went to Markham and joyfully said, “I am now sure of my election, as Joseph Smith has promised me his vote, and I am going to defend him.”
And he was! Cyrus Walker knew that now he could stop electioneering for himself and devote his attention to Jo’s legal affairs, which he would for the rest of 1843, and he would still be elected. Walker was running as the Whig candidate during the death throes of the Whig party. Walker, along with everybody else, could feel the waning power of the Whig party which made the future of the Whig party and any of its candidates rather uncertain. However, any candidate who could curry the Mormon vote in Illinois had their election made sure, regardless of party. The Mormons didn’t vote as a party, they voted for whoever Jo told them to vote for.
Walker had been Jo’s legal counsel back in 1841 when Jo was briefly arrested, but the case was quickly forgotten upon the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus by the Nauvoo city government. Walker and Jo had forged a bit of a professional relationship during that case and likely had mutual respect for one another. When Jo offered the Mormon vote to Walker, he had every reason to believe that taking this one case would land him Illinois’ sixth district, which included the Mormon-controlled Hancock County. The Democrats had taken the Mormon vote for the 1841 election which put Thomas Ford on the Governor’s seat for 1842. The Whig candidate in that election, Joseph Duncan, swore he would revoke the Nauvoo Charter and Thomas Ford won with the Mormon swing voting bloc. Joseph Smith even named his favorite horse ‘Jo Duncan’ so that he could literally whip his greatest political adversary when riding off to build the kingdom of god. Unless there were any extenuating circumstances, in early 1843 the Democrats essentially considered Hancock County and the Mormon bloc to be the most crucial swing voting bloc in their district. However, with Cyrus Walker, the most prominent Whig candidate, representing Jo in a very public and exciting hearing that held the prophet’s life in the balance, the Democrats likely would have considered the Mormons to have swung towards the Whigs. Jo coming out explicitly and telling the Mormons in public settings that Walker had Jo’s vote was enough of a signal to the Democrats that they’d lost the Mormon bloc.
But, Walker was amidst campaigning for his own election when he signed on to defend Jo, and the Democrats were amidst their own campaigning around Illinois. The Democrats nominated a guy named Joseph P. Hoge to run against Cyrus Walker. Both were described in Gregg’s 1880 History of Hancock County as follows from page 291:
The two candidates were representative men of their respective parties, and personally popular. Mr. Walker was an old lawyer of distinction in the State, and regarded as the peer of the leading lawyers at the capital. Hoge was a younger and newer man, but was talented, energetic, and a good stump speaker. He had never been in any way identified with the Mormons, residing in a county remote from them in the district. Walker was supposed to be in good favor with them, and had once or twice acted as counsel for the Prophet.
A limitation of campaigning in 19th century America was the vast distances of a state such as Illinois and the complete lack of proper rail infrastructure to cover those distances. Campaigning was a months’ long endeavor of riding no horseback from town to town, making frequent appearances, holding rallies and speaking to voters, and, of course, knocking on doors. Gregg summarizes how tough this was along with a general assessment of the political landscape of Illinois at the time.
Soon after the nominations [of Hoge and Walker], the campaign of the district began with great vigor. To make a thorough canvass in so large a district, it required a great deal of time and a great amount of physical energy, it being necessary to address the people in at least three or four, and often eight to ten, places in a county. Irrespective of the Mormon vote, there was a decided Whig majority in the district, and the probabilities were strongly in favor of the success of the Whig candidate.
So, you’re Cyrus Walker. You’re well-known and highly respected as a past politician and adept lawyer. You’re campaigning as the Whig candidate in a Whig majority district in a Whig state with a Democrat Governor. Whether or not you choose to defend Jo in this controversial case will likely have an interesting and unpredictable effect on your campaign. What it certainly did was make for a ton of publicity and that publicity was achieved with less time on horseback electioneering, holding rallies, eating terrible tavern food, and knocking on doors asking for people’s votes. I’d take that deal if I were him. Riding for hours a day on horseback, staying at taverns, talking to thousands of strangers and making vacuous campaign promises? That, juxtaposed with being one dude’s legal counsel who’d been your client before and getting all the necessary publicity from it to make sure you get elected? Which would you choose, especially in an already safe election like this one?
There were a few issues that divided candidates and therefore distinguished voters apart from each other. Most notably, slavery, annexation of Texas as well as slave laws in newly annexed territories, American expansionism and the plight of the Native Americans, national banks, and a few other smaller issues, but these were the big-ticket items candidates incorporated in their platforms. But Walker now incorporated a new issue into his platform when he took on Jo’s case; Mormon rights, which was rather divisive as well.
When the posse of the sheriffs who’d arrested the prophet, Jo, along with his newly acquired legal counsel, Cyrus Walker, a big group of Danites all made it to Nauvoo, Walker made an incredible speech on behalf of Jo and the expansive rights of the Nauvoo city government. Once again from Gregg’s 1880 History of Hancock County:
When Smith was arrested it so happened that both Walker and Hoge [the Democrat candidate] were in the vicinity of Dixon canvassing the district. In addition to the two Dixon attorneys, Smith sent for and engaged Walker. This gentleman left his appointments, and, as we have seen, rode with the cavalcade to Nauvoo, and, it is said, there made a three-hours speech in favor of Smith’s discharge by the Municipal Court, and contending for its jurisdiction.
But, not to be outdone by his political opponent only a month before the election, the Democrat candidate, Joseph Hoge, also made Mormon rights part of his campaign. Thus, we see just how Jo was able to realize and throw around his political capital in this contested election. Hoge travelled to Nauvoo and made a similar speech with regards to the expansive power of the Nauvoo charter’s rights.
Gov. Ford, in his history, states that both he [Cyrus Walker] and Hoge, from the public stand in Nauvoo, afterwards declared their belief in the existence of the power claimed by the [Nauvoo municipal] Court. [meaning the powers of habeas corpus that Jo was attempting to exercise]
Because Cyrus Walker had been so helpful to Jo in all these legal troubles, Jo took the stand in early July of 1843, while the documents were still being sorted in the wake of the arrests, hearings, and his release. This is what Jo said from the pulpit while pointing to Cyrus Walker who was seated on the stand from which Jo was preaching:
I have converted this candidate for congress, that the right of habeas corpus is included in our charter. If he continues converted, I will vote for him.
This was the public declaration from the pulpit that Walker needed to ensure that he had the Mormon voting bloc behind him in the coming election the very next month. But the speech was far from over.
Jo continued the speech with a threat of violence, sending powerful signals to the Mormons in the audience just as much as to Walker and any other politician or reporter who may attending or receive a transcript of the speech.
There is nothing but what we have power over, except where restricted by the constitution of the United States… The constitution of the United States declares that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be denied. Deny me the writ of habeas corpus, and I will fight with gun, sword, cannon, whirlwind, and thunder, until they are used up like the Kilkenny cats… And the great Elohim has given me the privilege of having the benefits of the constitution, and the writ of habeas corpus; and I am bold to ask for this privilege this day, and I ask, in the name of Jesus Christ, and all that is sacred, that I may have your lives and all your energies to carry out the freedom which is chartered to us.
Then he cast a vote to the audience with these words:
Will you all help me? If so, make it manifest by raising the right hand.
Then everybody shouted and cheered with uplifted hands in support of Jo the Mormon Mahomet. As the crowd cheered, Jo turned toward Cyrus Walker and spoke just loud enough for the recorder on the stand to hear, but to escape the audience.
These are the greatest dupes, as a body of people, that ever lived, or [else] I am not so big a rogue as I am reported to be.
When the crowd quieted down he gestured toward Walker and announced to the crowd a statement that has become infamous in Mormon circles when talking about Cyrus Walker and Joseph Smith’s involvement in law and politics.
I understand the gospel and you do not,… You understand the quackery of law, and I do not.
Hoge and Walker openly competing for Mormon rights turned the 1843 election into a race to the bottom of making expansive and unamerican promises to the Mormon theocracy and its leader. Both Walker and Hoge made their promises to uphold religious liberty in the face of Missouri trying to extradite the prophet to finally hold him accountable for the conflict there in 1838. But, Jo had made a promise to Cyrus Walker that Walker would have his vote, implying that Walker and the Whigs would have the entire Mormon bloc. Buuut, Jo made that promise when he was in dire straits under arrest of two sheriffs with the proper documentation to extradite him to Missouri and we know that Jo would make all sorts of promises when his life was in danger, buuuuuuut when it came time to uphold those promises, could he be counted on? So, how did this all play out?
Cyrus Walker became the Whig liaison to the Mormons to ensure their vote, but the Democrats held the state Governor’s office and Illinois was slowly shifting from yellow Whig to blue Democrat as the Whig party was dying a slow and painful death. Thomas Ford wasn’t necessarily a friend of the Mormons, but throughout this fiasco of Jo’s June 1843 arrest Governor Thomas Ford simply let the issue die. He counted the issue as handled. He’d done everything he planned on doing to get Jo extradited to Missouri and it didn’t work, so the issue just fell away. However, this meant that Ford and the Democrats seeking election in 1843 held leverage over the Mormons because the issue was still very volatile in the minds of Illinois gentiles and anti-Mormons and it was a huge issue for Missouri democrats who wanted Jo’s head on a pike. This August 1843 election was coming a mere month after the habeas corpus issue was settled in the Nauvoo courts. The issue of whether or not Jo would be forcefully taken to Missouri at the hands of an Illinois militia was still vivid and unresolved in the minds of thousands of people, Jo included. It was viewed by the public that the Democrats had been responsible for Jo’s arrest and near extradition. Missouri was a deeply blue-blooded Jacksonian Democratic state, seeing their neighbors in the north, Illinois, as the hoity toity Whigs. Thomas Ford summarizes the political state of affairs in his History of Illinois beginning on page 314.
Upon this proceeding the whigs founded a hope of obtaining the future support of the Mormons. The democratic officers in Missouri and Illinois were instrumental in procuring his arrest. He was discharged this time by a whig judge; and his cause had been managed by whig lawyers. As in the case decided by Judge Douglass, Smith was too ignorant of law to know whether he owed his discharge to the law, or to the favor of the court and the whig party. Such was the ignorance and stupidity of the Mormons generally, that they deemed anything to be law which they judged to be expedient. All action of the government which bore hard on them, however legal, they looked upon as wantonly oppressive; and when the law was administered in their favor, they attributed it to partiality and kindness. If the stern duty of a public officer required him to bear hard on them, they attributed it to malice. In this manner the Mormons this time were made to believe that they were under great obligations to the whigs for the discharge of their prophet from what they believed to be the persecutions of the democrats; and they resolved to yield their support to the whig party in the next election.
The Mormons owed a political favor to Walker and the Whigs for Jo’s escape from the gallows. Not only had Jo declared that he’d vote for Walker in the next election, but the idea of Whig support had infected the blood of the Mormon populous. The states of Illinois and Missouri had Democrat governors to execute the laws and constitution of the land and were therefore seen as solely responsible for carrying out the criminal convictions of Joseph Smith. Walker, like many other politicians, had found how he could be useful to the Mormons and fulfilled that use. When the Nauvoo court released Jo from this June 1843 arrest, Sheriff Reynolds sought a meeting with Governor Thomas Ford for militia support. Cyrus Walker was hot on his tail to attempt to persuade Governor Ford the other direction. This is how Ford reports it:
[T]he Missouri agent immediately applied to me for a militia force, to renew it; and Mr. Walker came to the seat of government, on the part of the Mormons, to resist the application. This was only a short time before the election. I was indisposed from the first to call out the militia, and informed Mr. Walker that my best opinion then was, that the militia would not be ordered; but as many important questions of law were involved in the decision, I declined then to pronounce a definite opinion.
After this meeting with the Governor, Cyrus Walker returned to Nauvoo to report to Jo that Governor Ford probably wouldn’t be calling out the militia. This meant that Walker’s use had been fulfilled to Jo and the Mormons, but the looming threat of Jacksonian Democrats pursuing further action by law still hung over Jo and the Mormons’ heads. What were Jo and the Mormons to do? What were Illinois politicians to do with the entire Mormon voting bloc up for grabs only a month from an important election when the votes were already publicly sworn to Walker? Could Jo and the Mormons be persuaded to change party fealty with a carrot and stick approach?
This is what the Democrats did, once again, from Ford’s History of Illinois:
However, the democratic managers about Nauvoo, after the usual fashion of managing the Mormons by both parties, terrified them if they voted for the whig candidate, as they were yet determined, with the prospect of the militia being sent against them.
Backinstos, a managing democrat of Hancock county, was sent as a messenger to Springfield to ascertain positively what the governor would do if the Mormons voted the democratic ticket. I happened to be absent at St. Louis, but I heard some weeks after the election, that Backinstos went home pretending that he had the most ample assurances of favor to the Mormons, so long as they voted the democratic ticket. And I was informed by the man himself, a prominent democrat of Springfield,… that during my absence he had given a positive pledge, in my name, to Backinstos, that if the Mormons voted the democratic ticket, the militia should not be sent against them… Backinstos returned only a day or two before the election, and there was only a short time for the leaders to operate in.
Election day was two days away. Walker had been publicly declared from the pulpit to be the Mormon horse in the race. Jo had sworn multiple times in public that he would vote for the Whig candidate, Walker, but now there was new information to deal with. Jacob Backenstos came to Nauvoo and told Jo that he had it on good authority that the Democrats wouldn’t call out the militia as long as they got the Mormon vote and Backenstos has been given that information by somebody from Governor Ford’s office. So, Walker had served his purpose. He’d held up his end of the bargain and called off his electioneering campaign with the handshake agreement that he’d get the Mormon voting bloc in a state with a Democrat governor but largely run by Whigs in lower elected offices. Now, the looming threat of the militia marching into Nauvoo, just like 5 years ago in Far West and Adam-Ondi-Ahmen, could be completely done away with if Jo just got the Mormons to somehow vote Democrat. How would Jo handle this without going back on his word with Cyrus Walker? How could he do this while not admitting he was wrong and getting all the Mormons to vote Democrat instead of Whig like he’d prepped them to do for a month now?
The day Backinstos returned, August 6, 1843, two days before the election, a public meeting was called in Nauvoo. Jo took the stand with White-out Willard Richards recording what he said. This was recorded quickly as Jo was speaking in realtime, so it doesn’t make much sense if I read the original source document from the Joseph Smith Papers. Instead I’ll read it from the History of the Church vol 5 where Willard Richards expanded his notes from the source documentation into a full-on sermon, adding and editorializing as he saw fit.
I am above the kingdoms of the world, for I have no laws. I am not come to tell you to vote this way, that way, or the other. In relation to national matters, I want it to go abroad unto the whole world, that every man should stand on his own merits. The Lord has not given me a revelation concerning politics. I have not asked him for one—I am a third party, and stand independent and alone. I desire to see all parties protected in their rights. As for Mr. Walker, he is a Whig candidate, a high-minded man; he has not hung onto my coat tail to gain his election, as some have said. (Yeah, he totally did because you promised him he could) I am going to give a testimony, but not for electioneering purposes: before Mr. Walker came to Nauvoo, rumor came up that he might become a candidate for Congress; (it wasn’t a rumor, you literally pulled him away from his campaign with your promise to vote for him) said I, he is an old friend, and I’ll vote for him. When he came to my house I voluntarily told him I should vote for him. When I made him acquainted with the ordinances of Nauvoo in relation to writs of habeas corpus, he acted in accordance therewith on my testimony. The rascals ([sheriffs] Reynolds and Wilson) took Walker’s and Montgomery’s security when I was arrested; Walker made Reynolds come to me and beg my pardon for the abuse he gave me; and through his means and influence the pistols were taken from the rascals. He withdrew all claim to your vote and influence, if it would be detrimental to your interest as a people.
And here it is, the important part of this pre-election sermon:
Brother Hyrum tells me this morning that he has had a testimony to the effect it would be better for the people to vote for Hoge, and I never knew Hyrum say he ever had a revelation and it failed… I authorize all men to say I am a personal friend of Governor Ford.
But the meeting wasn’t over just yet. After Jo stepped down from the podium, Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff himself took the stand and expounded on the revelation. No record survives of what he said specifically. After Hyrum finished, William Law, one of the highest-ranking Nauvoo elites, took the stand in an epic display of insubordination that foreshadows events lying on our distant historical horizon. Back to Thomas Ford’s History of Illinois:
William Law, another great leader of the Mormons, next appeared, and denied that the Lord had made any such revelation. He stated that, to his certain knowledge, the prophet Joseph was in favor of Mr. Walker, and that the prophet was more likely to know the mind of the Lord on the subject than the patriarch.
Hyrum took the stand again to respond to what William Law had just said about Jo being in favor of Cyrus Walker and “repeated his revelation with greater tone of authority.”
Then Jo took the stand again to clear the air.
[Joe Smith] there stated that “he himself was in favor of Mr. Walker, and intended to vote for him; that he would not, if he could, influence any voter in giving his vote; that he considered it a mean business for him or any other man to attempt to dictate to the people who they should support in elections; that he had heard his brother Hiram had received a revelation from the Lord on the subject;… brother Hiram [is] a man of truth; he had known brother Hiram intimately ever since he was a boy, and he had never known him to tell a lie. If brother Hiram said he had received such a revelation, he had no doubt it was a fact. When the Lord speaks, let all the earth be silent.
Now from Gregg’s History of Hancock County:
That settled it. The election occurred on the next day. It is believed the prophet did, with a few others, vote for Walker, in the face of the revelation; but the body of his followers voted for Hoge, giving him 2,088 votes to Walker’s 733 in the county, and beating him in the district by 455 votes. This change of position at Nauvoo was not known in Adams county till after the election; so Mr. O. H. Browning, the Whig candidate in that district, received the Mormon vote there.
455 votes. The fact that Cyrus Walker put his electioneering campaign on hold to defend Jo against his capital offense criminal allegations and therefore wasn’t able to campaign effectively didn’t escape him or the Whig party as a whole. Had Walker turned down Jo’s request to be his legal counsel, Walker could have continued his campaign and secured the election in the Whig state of Illinois and never would have lost by less than 500 votes. Gregg comments on this lost opportunity for Walker and the Whigs as follows:
To Mr. Walker and his friends, and the Whig party generally, this result was the more aggravating from the fact that it was made quite evident that by a straightforward, honest and independent course, thus securing a full and enthusiastic Whig support, he could have been elected with the Mormon vote solid against him.
That is absolutely true. If the Mormons had simply abstained from the election, Walker would have taken the win by a huge margin. Instead, because Walker put his campaign on hold and this little flip flop Jo and friends did, Hoge, the Democrat without a snowball’s chance in hell, took the election in a major swing vote victory. If Walker had continued electioneering for the rest of July and early August 1843, he could have rallied up the Whig voters and gotten them to the polls and won even if the Mormons had voted Democrat. The Mormons were a massive swing vote, but Hancock was a solid Whig county. This was a dirty trick for Jo and Hyrum to play, but at least it worked for a whole 9 months until Jo and Hyrum were assassinated.
Thomas Ford opines on how the Whig politicians and papers had softened their vitriol against the Mormons in 1843 in hopes of getting their vote, but renewed their media assassinations of Jo and the Mormons once they realized exactly what had happened.
The result of the election struck the whigs with perfect amazement. Whilst they fancied themselves secure of getting the Mormon vote for Mr. Walker, the whig newspapers had entirely ceased their accustomed abuse of the Mormons. They now renewed their crusade against them, every paper was loaded with accounts of the wickedness, corruptions, and enormities of Nauvoo. The whig orators groaned with complaints and denunciations of the democrats, who would consent to receive Mormon support, and the democratic officers of the State were violently charged and assaulted with using the influence of their offices to govern the Mormons. From this time forth the whigs generally, and part of the democrats, determined upon driving the Mormons out of the State; and everything connected with the Mormons became political, and was considered almost entirely with reference to party.
This renewed fervor against the Mormons ignited a media firestorm the Mormons would deal with for the remainder of their time in the state of Illinois. All the way back in episode 77 we talked about a guy named Thomas Coke Sharp. He’s gone absent from our historical timeline for quite a while now, but it’s important to bring him up now. Sharp was one of the founding members of the anti-Mormon political party in early 1840. Sharp attended the groundbreaking and cornerstone laying ceremony of the Nauvoo Temple, Talos’ Temple Crown, when the Nauvoo Legion was out in full force. Sharp noticed a major issue when one religious leader had so much power and took to printing frequently about the Mormons in his paper, the Warsaw Signal. Thomas Sharp earned the hated nickname from Jo’s younger brother of ThomASS Sharp in Crazy Willey’s paper called the Wasp. This guy was a thorn in the side of the Mormons and he gave voice to the anti-Mormon political party that was ready to declare all-out war against the chosen people of god.
Sharp’s Warsaw Signal articles were frequently reprinted in the Quincy Whig and many other newspapers across the country, which fed into the Mormon persecution narrative. But, consider the political sphere of 1843 and this hotly contested election. The anti-Mormon political party still existed, but it fell into the background beginning in early 1843 because the Mormon voting bloc was up for grabs by either party that year. This meant that the Whig papers, as Thomas Ford spoke to from the previous quote, were much less harsh on the Mormons. The Whig papers didn’t want the Mormons to see the Whigs as their enemies if it meant they could get the Mormon vote.
Similarly, the Democrat media was rarely anti-Mormon because there were a lot of Whig Mormons, but they’d vote Democrat if Jo thought it would be best for the church. The Democrats didn’t want to be seen as anti-Mormon for the same reason the Whigs didn’t; it could cost them crucial votes in this controversial 1843 election.
Now, however, all those barriers fell away. The Mormons declared their fealty through a complicated mess of political chess and the Whigs were ready for war. The Democrats had landed the Mormons for this 1843 election, but the hold was tenuous at best; the Mormons could flip back to Whig at any moment. The Democrats were perceived by the Mormons to be the party that had chased them out of the deeply blue Democrat state of Missouri. The Democrats had to give the Mormons all sorts of favors to retain those votes after this heated election, and the next presidential election was just a year in the horizon. However, Jo did something that nobody could have predicted, whether they were democrat or Whig. He ran for president.
But where did Thomas C. Sharp go for 1843? We’ve read a number of his articles from the Warsaw Signal on this show since episode 77, but he’s been absent for a long time. Well, it turns out in late 1842 the Warsaw Signal came into financial difficulties. October 1, 1842 was the last issue of the Warsaw Signal owned by Sharp and on page two he wrote an obituary for the paper. But, the Warsaw Signal was resurrected February 14th, 1844, with renewed volcanic editorials about the latest Mormon movements in light of Jo’s declaration. The first resurrected issue of the Warsaw Signal is amazing.
In resuming our editorial duties, we feel it incumbent upon us to apprise our readers of the reasons which have propelled us to our present undertaking. Probably in no portion of the Union is the public mind so violently and dangerously affected, as it is at the present time, in this vicinity… The Mormons, on the one hand, have a press to defend them, and give color in their own favor, to whatever transaction may occur between them and their opponents; the old citizens on the other, should have an organ through which to make known to the world their grievances, and to refute the slanders which are weekly emanating from the press of their opponents… Never since the formation of our Government did it ever behoove any class of people to stand more firmly together, for the protection of each other, and each others rights, than the old citizens of this community are called upon to do in this present crisis. In our midst, is a dangerous comination—bound together by the power of superstition—…led on by one man, and that man a dangerous and aspiring knave—possessing a capacity for secrecy which enables it to commit any atrocity without fear of detection…
The following issue of Feb 21, 1844 is such a delight. And, trust me, Thomas Sharp and his articles in the Warsaw Signal will continue to occupy an increasing amount of our time moving forward.
To Jo Smith—Prophet— Candidate for the Presidency—Mayor of the City of Nauvoo—Lieutenant General of the Legion—President of the Church—Tavern Keeper—Grog Bruiser—&c., &c.
Sir: Understanding that you are a candidate for the highest office within the gift of the People, we claim as the unalienable right of an American Citizen to ask you a few questions, as regards the policy which you, as “His Excellency, the President of the United States,” will pursue.
Well Jo! if you should be so fortunate as to be elected President of the United States, what would you do with the State of Missouri? Would you pluck out the eyes of her sovereignty? Or would you take her up in your expanded arms, and giant-like stride across the Western Prairies—leap the Rocky Mountains and hurl her headlong into the angry Pacific, there to remain until purged of every Anti-Mormon sin? Or Jo, would you Xerxes-like muster your myriads, and every man armed with a hoop-pole, march across the icy bridge in the winter time, and give her Sovereign Highness, a most transcendent daubbing?
From the manner in which you write to J[ohn] C. Calhoun, we conclude that you had some design of chastising Missouri, and we would like to know how you are going to do it, and so no doubt would the people of that State.
Joseph Smith was a man supposedly led by god. He put himself in a position of moral superiority of everybody else on the planet. I get the line that he was a prophet but he was still a man and therefore not infallible. Great, that’s fine, but he was also criminally venal and nakedly unscrupulous in everything he did; the position he currently occupies in our timeline is exactly what he was chasing his entire life. Whether it was religiously, politically, socially, any other angle we look at this guy, he did what he wanted in life and 1844 is the culmination of exactly what he aspired his ENTIRE life. Jo had was nearing the edge of absolute power and he was absolutely corrupt.
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