Ep 201 – Nauvoo Expositor: A Hat Full of Money
On this episode, we examine the immediate aftermath of the Nauvoo Expositor being published. The Council of Fifty had some wonderfully grand plans for themselves and America. We spend a bit of time with the minutes to get a sense of what they had in mind. There were a lot of irons in the fire and many members of the Council of Fifty were all over the United States electioneering and taking high-level meetings for Joseph Smiths POTUS campaign. Once the Nauvoo Expositor was published, the city council deliberated for 5 hours about how to handle it. The contents of the Expositor were a great threat, but the greatest threat was that which was unknown. What would the next edition contain?
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
The Nauvoo Expositor had been published. The damage was done. There was no stopping the Nauvoo public from boiling over at the startling and salacious revelations contained in the new paper.
All that could be done now was to react. That reaction would carry important consequences so decisions needed to be made quickly and wisely.
Let’s discuss the issues which factored into the decision-making process in response to the Nauvoo Expositor. First and foremost, how would the public react. Thousands of Mormons had attended multiple public meetings where polygamy had been outright denied multiple times by multiple church leaders including the prophet himself. The Expositor blasted any hopes the leadership had of keeping the polygamy revelation only among private circles as it contained the 3 affidavits from people claiming they had seen the revelation themselves. How would the general public of Mormons, especially in Nauvoo, react to knowing there was a higher law of the church they weren’t privy to? Beyond that, Jane Law was a respectable person in Nauvoo and she claimed the revelation opened the door for some men to have as many as ten wives. How would that information impact the women in Nauvoo? For those who hadn’t been approached by church leaders, were they somehow defective or unloyal to the church? Were they just property to be passed around the leadership as the leadership pleased? How long until their husband tells them about a younger wife he wants to marry and she has to agree or be damned? How would that impact the men who now understood that there was this higher law of Mormonism but they weren’t allowed to access it, by default making a judgement on their own level of loyalty and commitment to the church? Why did a neighbor get 3 wives but the majority of men only had one? And who was going short on a wife so the leadership could have multiple wives?
These are all just questions about the internal body of Mormons and their reaction to the Expositor, but what about the outside world? Not only had denials of polygamy pervaded public statements and sermons within the Mormon body, but the Nauvoo leadership had engaged in repeated and vicious attacks on anybody who claimed polygamy was going on. The Bennett meltdown was only 2 years ago and the church had barely weathered the public storm from it, but this was a new set of accusations from people who had actually seen the revelation on paper and had been members in good standing who were excommunicated. The 7 publishers of the Expositor carried much more credibility than John C. Bennett and the if the outside world didn’t already believe Mormonism was a sex ring among the leadership they certainly would now. How would the cultural mores of Protestant monogamy react to this much substantiation of rumors that had been circulating for over a decade? How would the outside public react to all the data presented about the leadership sexually abusing minors and how those young women’s demeanors changed upon being sealed to a much older and more powerful man?
This says nothing of the legal implications. Adultery laws carried stiff penalties and were grounds for divorce. Polygamy wasn’t a legally recognized form of marriage. Would there be a slew of new lawsuits against the leadership for repeated counts of perjury and adultery? Would there be an influx of divorces? Would the leadership be imprisoned for serial adultery violations? Would Joseph allow himself to be arrested and tried on the charges this time?
This line of questions leads to another set of much more serious questions. What if Joseph refused arrest? How would the surrounding non-Mormon settlements react to his even further abuse of power in Nauvoo? How would the Governor deal with the incredible power Jo held? Would the Nauvoo Charter be revoked now or after the next edition of the Expositor? Would the anti-Mormon political parties renew their attacks on the Nauvoo kingdom? Could the leadership keep order in the city with this new outrage? How would they stop the Expositor from printing more editions which would only increase the urgency and direness of the consequences of every decision the leadership made?
There were just so many questions in the air and there was no getting pandora back into its box. The major problem here is so many pieces still weren’t in place. The leadership had determined multiple resettlement locations and had sent numerous scouts to them to talk to local governments and Native groups to negotiate a new Mormon settlement further away from civilization and state governments, but none of the plans were yet ready to execute and the main projects of Nauvoo, the temple and the Nauvoo House, were yet to be completed. The 1844 election hadn’t run its course yet. The best laid plans of mice and men were now in the process of going awry. The Mormon empire, and its aspirations for global theocratic supremacy, had suffered a fatal blow, but nobody knew that just yet.
The day the Nauvoo Expositor was published and disseminated the City Council was in almost constant meetings about what to do. Notably, the Council of Fifty had their final meeting before Jo and Hyrum’s deaths on May 31st, 1844 while the Nauvoo Expositor was published on June 7th. They met about various affairs concerning their grand plans for the United States before the Nauvoo Expositor was published. However, after this final May meeting, the Council of Fifty never reconvened before the Carthage shootout. Why did they never reconvene? Because they couldn’t form a quorum. Why couldn’t they form a quorum? Because so many of the members of the Council of Fifty were all over the United States carrying out the plans of the Council of Fifty and electioneering for Joseph Smith’s presidential bid.
Page after page in the minute book, kept by Quilliam Claypen, are filled with treasonous screeds about the overthrow of the government. One of the stated purposes of the Nauvoo Expositor was to show the world how much power Joseph Smith had gained and how dangerous he really was. No single document detailed his power and his ultimate goals more than the Council of Fifty minutes. These are the minutes Jo would instruct Quilliam Claypen to burn or bury as he was being taken to Carthage. Jo knew how treasonous this document was. So let’s spend a little time with it.
The April 18th meeting, for example, included White-out Willard Richards presenting to the Council the constitution of the United States under a Mormon theocracy which pulls from the constitution as it stood, but altered language significantly.
We, the people of the Kingdom of God, knowing that all power emanates from God, that the earth is his possession, and he alone has the right to govern the nations and set in order the kingdoms of this world; that he only has a right to institute laws and establish decrees for the government of the human family;…
We have supplicated the great I am, that he would make known his will unto his servants, concerning this, his last kingdom, and the law, by which his people shall be governed: And the voice of the Lord unto us was,--Verily thus saith the Lord, this is the name by which you shall be called, the kingdom of God and his Laws, with the keys and power thereof, and Judgement in the hands of his servants, Ahman Christ,…
Art. 1st. I Am, the Lord they God, ruleing the armies of heaven above, and among the nations of the earth beneath… I alone have a right to judge the inhabitants of the earth, which is my footstool; and I will acknowledge no other law, rule, power, Authority or dominion, than that which is instituted by me, the great I Am, and no other government, Kingdom, Dominion, authority, power, rule, or law, shall be acknowledged by my people.
Art. 2nd. I the lord will do nothing but what I have revealed or shall reveal unto my servants the prophets and I have appointed one man, holding the keys and authority pertaining to my holy priesthood, to whom I will reveal my laws, my statutes, my ordinances, my Judgements, my will and pleasure concerning my kingdom on the earth.
Art. 3rd. And my Servant and Prophet whom I have called and chosen shall have power to appoint Judges and officers in my kingdom…
The men in this specific counsel meeting opined that “entering on this subject they were treading on holy ground.” Adding that, “In contemplating the situation of nations and our situation, they feel placed in a delicate position. They cant refer to any constitution of the world because they are corrupt.” They seemed to truly believe that “If all the wisdom and knowledge of this council is exerted we can do something, and when we have done all we can we can come to the great God and obtain the perfect law.” George A. Smith added in that same meeting that “It is a law of nations that protection binds a man to his sovereign, but as soon as the law ceases to protect a man in his rights he is free. We, as a people have not been protected, consequently we are free.” In a near-prophetic allusion to future policies at Brigham Young University, George A. Smith added “He wants to have the privilege of wearing his beard till it grows as long as his arm if he wants to, while it does not stick into another mans face.” Some of us can even resonate with the different set of rules that different classes of people follow when Smith added this “It is an acknowledged fact that in Washington or New York a man with $10.000 in his pocket can murder his friend or neighbor and walk off without molestation.” Smith didn’t state specifically that a man can shoot somebody on 5th avenue and still be elected president, but the sentiment is the same.
Other meetings leading up to the final meeting on May 31st are equally or more treasonous. Beyond the meetings themselves being treasonous, the deliberations in the meetings themselves turned into actions. They not only workshopped ideas here, but formed plans and put them into action. For example, part of the memorial sent to Congress asking for $2mn of relief and claiming Nauvoo as a sovereign territory, Jo asked the government for 100,000 volunteers to extend the boundaries of the United States to the west coast. This whole plan was conceived in the Council of Fifty. The first location in their scope of Mormon religious conquest was the Oregon territory, but to do this Jo would need to be an officially recognized general of the United States armed forces instead of just the Nauvoo Legion. Once they’d deliberated how this was to be carried out, the Council of Fifty sent Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt to Washington D.C. to present the documents to Congress and Orson Hyde sent back 5 letters to the Council of Fifty detailing his progress. Both Orsons Pratt and Hyde were in steady conversation with a few powerful men in politics, John Wentworth, James Semple, and Stephen A. Douglass. Stephen Douglass is a curious figure in his history with the Mormons. He’d helped get the Nauvoo Charter passed and had granted Jo multiple writs of habeas corpus when the Nauvoo Municipal court wasn’t powerful enough to grant them. In conversation with Orson Pratt, Stephen Douglass said “he would resign his seat in Congress, fi he could command the force that Mr. Smith could, and would be on the march to that [Oregon] couuntry in a month.” Meaning he’d be happy to give up his current position of political power if it meant he could command a portion of the 100,000 volunteers Jo petitioned for to take and settle Oregon territory.
Stephen Douglass had given a fair bit of education to the Orsons about how politics in Washington actually work. “I have learned this much; that if we want Congress to do any thing for us; in drawing up our memorial, we must not ask, what is right in the matter; but we must ask, what kind of a thing will Congress pass? Will it suit the politicks of the majority? Will it be popular or unpopular? For you might as will drive a musket ball through a cotton bag, or the gospel of Christ through the heart of a priest, case hardened by sectarianism, bigotry and superstition, or a Camel through the eye of a needle, as to drive any thing through Congress that will operate against the popularity of politicians.”
Douglass had cast his lot in with the Mormons and he’d even acquired a very desirable asset and gave it to the Orsons to help the Mormon mission.
Judge Douglass has given me a map of Oregon, and also a report on an exploration of the country lying between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains on the line of the Kansas, and great Platte Rivers; by Lieut. J[ohn] C. Fremont of the Corps of topographical Engineers. On receiving it, I expressed a wish that Mr. Smith could see it. Judge D[ouglass]. Says it is a public document, and I will frank it to him. I accepted his offer, and the book will be forthcoming to him. The people are so eager for it here, that they have even stole it out of the Library… Judge D. borrowed it of Mr [Thomas Hart Benton]. I was not to tell any one in this city wh[ere] I got it. The book is a most valuable document to any one contemplating a journey to Oregon…
Judge D. says he can direct Mr Smith to several gentlemen in California who will be able to give him any information on the state of affairs in that country, and when he returns to Ill. He will visit Mr. Smith.
This map from John C. Fremont’s corps of cartographers and engineers became a very precious commodity and it was the same map used by Bloody Brigham Young and various other breakoff factions to determine settlement locations. They couldn’t just google map search for “place to settle 20,000 people”. Intel needed to be acquired and Stephen Douglass was a powerful ally to have. And yes, this is the one and same Stephen Douglass who would be Abraham Lincoln’s presidential opponent in about 2 decades. Douglass was banking on the Mormon movement to succeed in their ultimate goals and according to Orson Hyde, “Judge Douglass says he would… as soon go to that country without an act of Congress as with; “and that in 5 years a noble state might be formed, and then if [Congress] would not receive us in the union, we would have a government of our own.”” Douglass was an opportunist and if the Mormon empire somewhere in the west provided greater opportunities for Douglass, he’d resign from his seat in Congress and help with the Mormon mission of theocracy-building. He even stole a precious map for them, government property, and told them not to tell anybody where they got it. Douglass even voiced his support for the Memorial to Congress asking for $2mn of relief from the Missouri troubles and 100,000 soldiers to take Oregon.
In a previous meeting, responding to these letters from Orson Pratt, “Er [Lyman] Wight suggested that Judge Douglas wanted to go to Oregon and be president and Joseph go as prophet super numerary, and then it would all be right and constitutional.” Except, establishing a sovereign theocracy in the boundaries of United States territories is exactly not constitutional. But this statement from Wight captures the mentality of the Council of Fifty and the Mormon leadership. Do something, regardless of legality, then deal with the consequences if there are any. Laws don’t matter if we’re not held to them. We’re abiding by the a higher law than that of the land so anything we do must be legal in the kingdom of god, kingdom of the United States and its constitution be damned.
The Council of Fifty drafted a response to Orson Hyde’s letter talking about Stephen Douglass and the progress of the memorial. Hyde had suggested that the memorial would more likely pass if a specific provision was stricken. That provision gave Joseph Smith legal recognition as a general, but Orsons Hyde and Pratt knew that it was the most controversial of all the provisions. Sure, they could ask for $2mn, sure they can ask for 100,000 volunteer soldiers, but having Jo recognized as a legitimate general was a step too far. Accordingly, Orson Pratt struck that provision from the memorial to Congress and handed it to James Semple, a senator who’d also sat on the Illinois state supreme court and was very well-connected in Illinois and national politics, for submission. The Council’s response is quite amazing.
their decided dis-approbation and indignation at the course pursued by Mr Hyde in his conversation with Mr Semple in proposing to erace that portion of the memorial relative to Mr Smith’s being constituted a “member of the United States Army”
The council were surprised at such conduct after all that was said to Mr Hyde before his departure. To throw away that one item, is to throw away the whole Memorial. And the delegation from Nauvoo at Washington are instructed by the Council to push the Memorials through Congress Unaltered, or die in the attempt.
If Mr Semple is so ignorant as to suppose that Congress has not the power to grant such a memorial.— He has no need to suppose for a moment that we are such fools that we do not know better. We know that Congress has the right and the power and they shall grant it unaltered or refuse, and they can act their pleasure which they do.
It is an insult to their constituents for the representatives or Senators of Illinois to propose such amendments or raise such foolish, childish, ignorant and cowardly objections as referred to in Mr Hydes Letters, and all Representatives and Senators who do not use their influence as is their duty to do to pass the Memorials unaltered shall be politically damned. We do thank Mr Semple for what he has done. It is now time for him and Congress to awake, and learn that the people are the sovereigns and Congress as their servants are <is> bound to obey.515 Neither shall we stop to enquire of Congress what is popular or unpopular, but we will tell them what is right and what is wrong;516 and if they will not make right popular, we will turn them out, and put men there who will.
The Council of Fifty balked at the idea that Hyde would just strike one of the most important provisions from the memorial just to make it more likely to pass. In their eyes, the government is supposed to work for them and they could toss around the Mormon voting bloc which was quite a bargaining chip in Illinois politics, but held much less sway at the federal level. That’s understandable because the Mormon voting bloc was like 5,000 people, which is a lot, but there were like 9 million voting Americans in the states and territories at this time so that 5,000 was barely a drop in the bucket. Jo and the Council’s disapproval of Orson Hyde’s political bargaining was captured in this letter and taken in hand by Lyman Wight and Heber the Creeper Kimball to go to Washington to work with the Orsons, Stephen Douglass, and James Semple to get the memorial passed as it stood.
It wasn’t just in D.C. where members of the Council of Fifty were taking these high-level meetings. A guy named James Emmett was called to go on a mission to meet with a Menominee chief to get him to ally with the Mormons during their next resettlement. This was all part of Jo’s plan, to gather American soldiers with freed slaves and oppressed Native Americans to build the greatest army the world had ever seen. James Emmett returned from this mission on May 31st and gave his report before the Council of Fifty; it wasn’t a success.
After some conversation on promiscuous subjects by the members, the chairman [Joseph Smith] remarked that the object of our meeting was to hear brother Emmetts report who has just returned from his mission…
Er J. Emmett then remarked that he started from here a few days after his appointment by the council. He met brother [Alexander] Bedlam at Galena. They proceeded thence to Black River and Prarie Du Chien… They stopped at a trading house where they expected the Indian Agent to come soon. The brother went back from this place. The agent did not come. The Indians were not gathered. The chief of the Menomanee tribe came into Town. I put up with him. He is a very agreeable man, but could not speak English. A half breed came who was well learned in the English language but I had no confidence in him. I conversed with the chief, upon the object of my mission, and the old man acknowledged the plan to be good but doubted whether it could be carried into effect. I concluded I would come home and see what further council would be given under the circumstances.
Lyman Wight had established a bit of a working relationship with the Menominee tribe during the Pineries mission which concluded in April. Emmett’s mission up there was to collect data about how willing the Menominee were to ally with the Mormon revolution movement as Lyman had told them. He didn’t make much headway and Joseph was displeased with Emmett’s performance, ordering Emmett “to make another attempt and fulfil the mission according to the orders of the council.” If the Mormon were going to overthrow the American government, they needed all the help and allies they could get. They wouldn’t get very far without the help of Native Americans and they chose to start with the Menominee.
Other political machinations centered on the forefront of the Council of Fifty’s mind. They had a lot of irons heating up but one iron that immediately needed tending to was who would be Jo’s running mate for POTUS. Willard Richards and a few other leading men in the Mormon movement had petitioned some well-connected friends asking them to be Vice President to Jo’s campaign. All of those had fallen flat or didn’t receive a response. It was time to look inward.
At the meeting on May 6th, the question was discussed among everything else that was going on. The rival church had just been established by the Laws, a printing press was on its way to Robert D. Foster’s home for printing the prospectus of the Nauvoo Expositor and Hingepin Sidney Rigdon had met with William, Jane, and Wilson Law to try and calm them down to no success. The Council meeting that day is kind of all over the place as they discussed so many things during the meeting which transpired over nearly 5 and a half hours with a short recess for lunch.
Er Rigdon consented to run for the vice precidency if the council wished.
Other members were totally on board with this proposal.
Er Wight reminded Er Rigdon of a certain prophecy, that the Lord promised to vex the nations and the nation could not be vexed worse than for Joseph to be president and brother Rigdon vice President.
Er Rigdon referred to a former prophecy and said I am satisfied God intends to do just what we are doing
The chairman [Joseph Smith] confirmed it.
But, Hingepin Rigdon had conditions to being Jo’s running mate.
Er Rigdon asked the privilege,--after Joseph had been President 4 years, that he should be president the next term which was granted, and he stated that as the Lord God lives Joseph shall be President next term and I will follow him.
It was decided immediately after this that Rigdon should move to Pennsylvania, his home state, and become a permanent resident in order to gain the Pennsylvania vote in the coming election. After that resolution was carried unanimously, “[Joseph Smith] made some remarks about electioneering, in reference to mass meetings, caucuses &c.” Jo also used this as the opportunity to win a fight he’d been having with Rigdon for over 2 years by this point; Rigdon named Jo the new postmaster general and Jo appointed a small committee to be the transition team in the following meeting.
Now that Jo had a running mate and there was a tangible plan in the works, members of the Council of Fifty needed to be sent to caucus and electioneer for Jo. “Er Miller proposed that Er Rich go to Kentucky instead of Michigan. Er. Rich said he was willing to go any where. Er [Brigham] Young explained and objected unless Er [Samuel] Bent go to Michigan. Er Rich explained and proposed going with Er Miller.” Other meeting minutes in following meetings detail the vastness and extent of Jo’s political web expanding across the nation. Some historians will claim that this was more of a symbolic presidential campaign or a protest campaign, but that doesn’t mean these guys didn’t take it very seriously. They took every angle they possibly could to make a legitimate bid for the presidency. The Council of Fifty sent men to multiple states, Congress, to meet with Native American groups, and even sent Lucian Woodworth to Texas who had meetings with President Sam Houston to work out the Mormon settlement there. The tendrils of the Mormon political machine were being pulled and articulated by the nucleus in Nauvoo and everybody was running at maximum capacity.
But it was all a futile attempt. During all of these political machinations, the Nauvoo Expositor was published, defiling the Mormon leadership with salacious accusations about polygamy and the degradation of any wall separating politics and religion in the Mormon kingdom. Once again, it wasn’t so much what the Expositor published in its first printing that was a major issue, although it was quite controversial. It was the specter of what it may publish in the future which represented a greater threat to Jo and the Mormon political machine. To be clear, everything we’ve discussed today were the plans at the highest-ranking levels of the church. The average member, of which there were something like 20,000 of them, had no idea these meetings were happening or what transpired in these meetings. Only a few called and selected leaders had access to Talos, the Mormon War Machine currently under construction. These were very secretive plans. The Mormons believed that the United States would be visited with a sore vexation, but they didn’t know that the ingredients for that vexation were being acquired and curated by an elite set of men who held the keys to the kingdom.
When the Expositor was published, the questions we opened this episode with all became a stark reality and an answer was required by the leadership. They simply couldn’t allow the Nauvoo Expositor to continue publishing more about the Nauvoo empire. As soon as the Expositor landed in the hands of thousands of people in and around Nauvoo, the leadership, including Jo, took action. Jo’s journal, recorded by William Clayton (Quilliam Claypen), details what transpired over the following days.
The day it was slated to be published Jo met with Robert D. Bob the Builder Foster, one of the publishers and the printer of the paper. According to Jo’s journal, and we don’t have any details beyond this about the meeting, it didn’t go over well and Foster circulated rumors about the meeting. What actually happened is pretty tough because we don’t have anything beyond this document to work with, but we can tease a little bit out of what Quilliam Claypen recorded.
R D. Foster called profess[e]dly to make some concessions--&return to the chu[r]ch wanted a private interview which I declined—told him—I would choose individuals. & he might choose othe[r]s--& we would meet.—and I would settle eve[r]y thing on righteo[u]s p[r]inciples.
This is a relatively cryptic entry in Jo’s journal. Righteous principles was such a fluid term like shedding innocent blood or new and everlasting covenant. There’s the text and then the subtext beneath it. Righteous principles in Jo’s world meant anything which contributed to the expansion of his own power and the general welfare of the Mormon kingdom. Righteous principles could incorporate everything from signing land contracts to giving people money to granting a meeting with a powerful politician. So, when Jo said that he would settle the issue with Robert D. Foster on righteous principles it could mean so many different things. The next line in Jo’s journal reveals what could have been meant by the previous lines.
report was circulated in the evining that Foster said. I would r[ec]eive h[i]m on any terms and give him a hat full of dollars into the bargain
The cryptic entry from before could certainly mean that Jo feared the Nauvoo Expositor being published and tried to buy Foster’s silence. Foster, of course, rejected the offer because he knew Jo’s word was good for nothing and this was personal. He’d struggled under the oppressive thumb of Jo for months and the Nauvoo Expositor was how he could fight back. Simply giving that all up for a hat full of money wasn’t a proposal Foster was willing to entertain. Besides, he had 6 other co-publishers who would all need to be paid off for this to work. But, for all 7 of them, this was personal and money often does nothing to fix personal grievances. No settlement and NDA would make this scandal go away as is the case with the church today.
The evening following Jo’s daytime meeting with Foster, the Expositor hit shelves and had thousands of readers by nightfall. The next day Jo met with the city council. This wasn’t the Council of Fifty because most of them were outside Nauvoo on political errands for Jo’s campaign. This also wasn’t the High Council because the majority of those guys were also members of the Council of Fifty and once again, they were all out of town. This was a meeting of the city council, supposed to be a secular committee for the government of Nauvoo, but the lines between city and church weren’t just blurry, they didn’t exist, thus one of the primary complaints of the Nauvoo Expositor and most other exposes about Nauvoo Mormonism.
The city council meeting for June 8th is incredibly fascinating and we’re going to read through a bunch of it today. They had a few items slated for discussion that day. They discussed some stuff about roads surveys and the road construction committee. They got into a pretty heated discussion about the liquor sales in the city and Jo denied that Pistol Packin’ Porter Rockwell had sold any liquor at the Nauvoo Mansion since the last prohibition ordinance went into effect, which was a blatant lie. They discuss a few other sundry affairs but we’re concerned with their discussions about the Nauvoo Expositor, mobocracy, and bogus-making (counterfeit coins). How does counterfeiting fit into all of this? Counterfeiting was a common accusation against anybody who needed to be seen as unreliable. It was a form of character assassination and Jo made a concerted effort during this city council meeting to brand the Laws, along with Joseph H. Jackson, as counterfeiters to make them even more monstrous and untrustworthy. I’m going to read a bunch from the meeting minutes and comment as we go because it is absolutely remarkable. There’s a bunch that was stricken through, some of which is really bad, which denotes a point of discussion that was to be removed from the record after the discussion was had. I’ll read through those stricken through portions if they’re relevant and also do my best to read this so it’s understandable in audio format. It starts off with Jo ranting about Sylvester Emmons, the editor of the Nauvoo Expositor and a non-Mormon member of the city council.
<X> Mayor referrd to— Counciller [Sylvester] Emmons— and ~~proposd~~ <suggested> the popropriety of purging the city counil ~~first~~ ~~at~~ ~~Nuisan~~ ~~<of>~~ ~~Nuisances~~ The man who steps forward to put down iniquity is the fir[s]t to be put down by the people of the city. ~~Mayor~~ ~~said~~ ~~if~~ ~~he~~ ~~had~~ ~~kept~~ ~~a~~ ~~whore~~ ~~from~~ ~~Canada~~ ~~here~~— ~~and~~ ~~since~~, ~~& had~~ ~~done~~ ~~every~~ ~~thing~~— ~~would~~ ~~have~~ ~~been~~ ~~as~~ ~~good a~~ ~~man~~ ~~as~~ ~~William [Law] &~~ ~~Wilson~~ ~~Law~~.—
This is super notable here because Jo was talking about one of the Lawrence sisters who knew the Laws before the Laws and Lawrences immigrated to Nauvoo. The Lawrences also featured prominently in the Nauvoo Expositor as William Law provided descriptions of how their demeanor changed after they had been married to Jo.
~~T~~ ~~Turley~~ <Theodore Turly sworn> said <the> Laws had brought <Bogus> dies to him to fix— H. Smith: referred to Dr. [Robert D.] Foster. his brothrs, & the Higbys. & asked what good they had ever done? Where is the <first> act of goodness and greatness in Wilson & William Law?— While Joseph was under arrest, Laws & Foster would have ben rode on a rail if ~~I~~ <he> had not ~~have~~ stepped forward to prevent it.—
Not only are the Laws engaging in bogus-making, but they didn’t even help Jo when he was arrested and when Jo needed money to pay legal fees William pushed Jo to give up his last 40 dollars. These assertions range from misconstruing the truth to outright lies. The Laws were paramount in helping Jo escape the law in 1843 when he was doomed to extradition to Missouri. Law pursued Jo for that money to help pay for Jo’s legal counsel, not out of malice as portrayed here. Whether or not the Laws were engaging in Bogus is up for debate but Joseph Smith CERTAINLY was in the bogus-making business; at least, his cronies were and he benefitted financially from it. Next it talks about Joseph H. Jackson and the rumors he’d spread about Jo proposing to Jane Law, and Jo attempting to assassinate William and then William Law apparently trying to hire Jackson to kill Jo. It’s all a mess and we’ll do a deep dive on Joseph H. Jackson sometime in the next few weeks, I just have to figure out how best to fit that puzzle piece into the larger picture here.
<C.> H. Smith continued, Jackson, told ~~me~~ <him> he ment to have ~~my~~ <his> daughter, Jackson laid a plan with 4 or 5 persns, to kidnap his daughter, & thrnted [threatened] to Shoot any man that should come near after he got him in the skiff— was Engaged in trying to make Bogus <which> was his princple business.—
It’s super hard to nail down fact from fiction here. It’s notable that this was the city council and not the Council of Fifty. City Council meetings required prudence and the highest-ranking leadership to be guarded in what they said, as opposed to the Council of Fifty where they could speak very freely because the meetings were shrouded in secrecy. So, to some extent, what was recorded in the City Council meeting minutes we’re reading here was censored or propagandized to begin with to make out the Laws and Jackson to be complete monsters. It’s all very complicated.
referred to the revelation read to the High council.— that it was in answer to a qustion concenig [concerning] things which transpired in former days & had no refene [reference] to the penst [present] time.——
Uhhhh that’s an outright lie by Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith. If not for that revelation falling into the hands of William and Jane Law, the Nauvoo Expositor likely never would have happened. It continues to go through other printers of the Expositor and slander their characters. Maybe it was slander, maybe these accusations are real. I’m inclined to not believe anything that was said about these people in this specific meeting.
that Wm Law when sick said <he had been guilty of adultry &> he was not fit to live or die, had Sinnd again[s]t his own soul &c [p. 13] who was judge Emmons— when he came here had scarc 2 shi[r]ts—— was dandld by the authorities of the city.— Now. Editor— of the Expositor— his right hand man <Francis> Higby [Francis M. Higbee] who ~~he~~ Confesd to ~~him~~ <the speaker> he had had the Pox,— &c—— Emmons has lifted his hand againt the municipality of God Almighty, and the curse of God shall rest upon him.
~~Mr.~~ Washington Peck Sworn— said, soon after J. H. Jackson came heare said Jackson came to him— and wa[n]ted to ~~have~~ <loan> some ~~need~~ <moeny> <Witness> let him have some, and took some jewelry as security, Soon after— a man from across the river came after the jewelry Jackson had stolen it from him, ~~or~~ ~~loaned~~ ~~it~~ ~~of~~ ~~him~~.—
at anothr time wanted to get money— ~~he should enlist in bogus making~~ asked ~~me~~ ~~if~~ <witness> if he would do any thing dishonorable, to get, a living— said he would not.— Jackson <said> ~~he~~ <witness> was a <damd> fool he could get a living a deal easier than ~~then~~ he was then doing—— <by making Bogus> some men high in the chu[r]ch were engaged in the business— <witness asked if it was Joseph— No said Jackson. I dare not tell it to Joseph> ~~but~~ ~~not~~ ~~Joseph~~. Witness understood, the Laws were engaged in it— <Jackson said he> would be the death of witness if he ever went to Joseph or any one to tell of what he had said…
After all this about Joseph H. Jackson, the council next turns their ire back toward Sylvester Emmons, the Expositor’s editor. They determined to suspend Emmons as city counselor and lament that he’d never before exhibited any malice or trouble toward the leadership but now seems to want to “destroy those ordinances and [Nauvoo City] charter” he’d help to instate. They announce an investigation into him. After that they go back to discussing Jackson and bogus-making. Once again, it’s really hard to distinguish fact from fiction here.
Lorenzo [D.] Wasson Sworn said Joseph H Jackson told witness that Bogus ~~Business~~ <Making> was going on in the city, but it was too damnd small business. he wanted witness to help him to p[r]ocure Money <for the Gen was afraid. to go into it— &> with $500.00 he could get an engraving <for bills> on the Bank of Mo. and one on the State of New York.— and could make money.— said many times witness did not know him. ~~Mayor~~, Said he believed the Gen had been telling ~~me~~ <witness> something; God Dam him if he has I will kill him.— <& swore he> would kill any man that should prove a traitor to him.— Said if he could get a company of men to suit him he would go onto the frontier and live by highway Robbery— <for he> had got sick of the world.
Next the council meeting switches back to discussing the grog shops and other places where liquor was sold, reading prohibition ordinances, and determining that the city marshal should stake out the places they suspected of selling liquor to collect data. The City Council was simply ensuring Jo’s monopoly on alcohol in Nauvoo. After that they get into how payments from fines assessed by the city municipal court should be divvied up and Jo overruled everybody, but then we finally get to the most crucial aspect of this city council meeting. Now they begin to discuss how to deal with the Nauvoo Expositor.
Mayor Suggested that council pass an ordinanc to prevent misrepresentation ~~of~~ & Libellous publicati[o]n, and wanted a law passed to p[r]event all, conspiracy against the peace of the city.—
This is super important. The Nauvoo Charter was already quite an expansive document which granted incredible power to the Mormon leadership, but Jo had also tailored the laws and ordinances of Nauvoo to fit his every need and whim. He liked to play by his own rules so when it comes to slanderous or libelous publications, Jo was kind of the arbiter of what constituted libel and slander. We now have the doctrine of New York v. Sullivan and a bunch of other supreme court case law which deals with what constitutes slander of public figures but Nauvoo in 1844 predated any of our current juris prudence. The fact remains though, truth was and always is an absolute defense in slander cases. The Nauvoo Expositor has yet to be disproven in any single point it made, particularly with factual claims as it relates to the polygamy revelation. The publishers of the Expositor stuck to the truth so no court would rule what they said as slander or libelous… except for the Nauvoo Municipal court, which is exactly where Jo wanted the case adjudicated. If he could bring in the 7 publishers of the Nauvoo Expositor to the Nauvoo Municipal Court on charges of slander, like he’d done individually with at least 3 of the publishers before, he could make the whole thing go away. The court would rule in his favor and the 7 publishers would appeal the case to the circuit court at Carthage and Jo would hopefully get Stephen A. Douglass to rule in his favor as he’d done a couple of times throughout the 1840s. Jo had enough political capital to wage this fight if he could just get a libelous publication law pushed through the Nauvoo city council. They would get it passed, but not today. However, he took another step beyond passing this new ordinance which was his greatest mistake. Next the City Council goes on to talk about the claim Robert Foster had made the day before about Jo offering a hat full of money to shut up and not print the Expositor.
~~ordinance read~~— <Mayor said he had never made any proposals to Fostre to come Back. Foster proposed to come back come to ~~me~~ <his> house and wanted a private interviw Mayor ~~said~~ <told> him ~~I~~ <he> would have no private inte[r]view— had some conversati[o]n with foster. in the hall, in presince of several.>
~~Mayor~~ related to Council Convesation with Dr Foster. and read a letter from Dr Foster.— <dated> June 7th and when he left my house he went to a shew shop on the hill— and said that Joseph said if he would come back he would give him Laws place in the church & a hart full of specie,— and then ~~read~~ <wrote> the Letter Just read
I looked all over the net and the Joseph Smith Papers and could not find that letter for the life of me. However, as was always the case with these matters, witnesses were produced to corroborate Jo’s side of the story.
Lucin Woodwrth [Lucien Woodworth], sworn— stated that the conversatin as stated by the mayer was correct,— was prsent May 7th A M 10 At Mansion. Dr Foster rode up enqurd [enquired] if Gen Smith was at home, witness told him he beleved he was. Dr Foster went in to the house, witness went in. Dr was there, the general & othrs looking at some speciman of penmanship, Somthng was said respecting a convesatin at that time, between the Gen & Dr, Gen Smith observed to foster. if he had a convesation he would want others present, Dr said he would have a word with him by himself— and went into the Hall. witness ~~was~~ <went> to the door, that he might see and hear, what was passing— they still continud to talk on the subjct of a convesation that they might have, afterwa[r]d with others present, that Mr Smith might choose, and ~~those~~ that Dr Foster might choose, Foster left, and went for those that he said he wanted present, and would return soon with them,— Thinks he heard all the convesatin.— hea[r]d nothing about Gen Smith, making any offers to Foster to settle— was prsent all the time.——…
Then Jo gets back to the main issue at hand here, the Nauvoo Expositor itself.
Mayor— said the conduct of such men— & such papers are calculated to ~~<do>~~ destroy the peace of the city.— and it is not safe that such things should exist— on acount of the mob spirit, which thy tend to produce,— and— he had made the statemnts he had, and called the witnesses to prepare the council to act in the case.—…
<Mayor> Referred to a writing from Dr [William] Go-forth,— ~~and~~ Shewing that the Laws presented the communicati[o]n from the female Relief Society in the <Nauvoo> Neighbr— ~~was~~ <to Dr Goforth> as the bone of contintion— <& s[a]id> If God ever spoke by any man, it will not be 5 years before this city in ashes and we in our g[r]ave unless we go to Oregen <california> or some <other> place,— if the city does not put down. evry thing whic[h] tends to mobacracy— and put down their murders, Bogus Makers and scoundrels—, All the sorrow ~~I have~~ <he had> ever had in ~~my~~ <his> family, has arisin though the influnce of Wm Law.
Mobocracy was a powerful buzzword in Nauvoo because it invoked all the trauma of the Missouri experience coming out of the Missouri Mormon war in 1838. It tied the distinct movements together as the enemies of the church. Whether mobocrats of Missouri or mobocrats in Nauvoo, they’re all the same because they oppose the kingdom of god. Never mind they have separate grievances with the church and Joseph Smith which were all purely reactionary to Joseph and his decisions. Ignore the fact that all these people were merely trying to make Jo abide by the system of laws we all agree to abide by. Ignore that Joseph Smith was the actual tyrant here because they’re all mobocrats. Next, Hyrum takes the stand to solidify this point and draw a line of similarity between the publishers of the Expositor and the Missouri militia who drove the Mormons out of the state.
C. H. Smith spoke.— in relation to <th[e]> Laws, Fosters, Higbes, ~~sharpe [Thomas Sharp]~~ Editor of the Signal &c— and of the impotane [importance] of suppressing that spirit which has drivn us from Mo. &c That he would go in~~to~~ for an effective ordinance—
Mayor said at the time Gov [Thomas] Carlin was pusing [pursuing] ~~me~~ <him> <with his writs>,— Wm. Law came to my house with a band of Missou[r]ians for the purpose of ~~detroying~~ <betraying> me,— came to my gate,— and was preve[n]ted ~~with~~ by Daniel Carns [Carn] who was set to watch Law comee within ~~my~~ <his> gate, and calld Mayor, ~~Alar~~— and the Mayor rep[r]oved Law for comi[n]g at that time of night
Daniel Cairns Swors [sworn] ~~them~~ <Said> abut 10 o’ck <at night>— a boat came up the river, <with about a Doz— men> Wm Law came to the gate with them. <Witness> was on guard— and stopped them,— Law called Joseph to the door— and wanted an interviw, Joseph said Bro. Law you know better than to come here at this hour of the night— & Law retur[ne]d.—
next Morning Law wrote a letter to apologize.— which he heard read— which was writtn apparently to screen himself from the censure of a conspiracy .— and the Letter betrayed a conspi[r]acy on the face of——
This was a horrific misrepresentation of the facts. Daniel Carn had been an ally of William Law back in February when he told William Law that Jo had devised a plan to assassinate William. William Law was brought up to testify about this and refused to give up the name of the Nauvoo police officer who tipped him off. We talked about this back on the episode where Jo said there was a Brutus or a Judas in the leadership, that’s episode 178. Now, however, Daniel Carn was smart enough to see the writing on the wall and realized that doing anything to anger the prophet spelled his own doom so he sided with Jo and whatever Jo was planning and became one of these witnesses who would say whatever they needed to say to make Jo happy.
C. Phelp— read an ordinace concerig libels.——
Mayor suggested the propriety of having a preamble to said ordinance.— chairman said he would add C. Taylor to the committee.— to draft a preamble . . .
C. P. Richards suggested an additin to the ordince read to prevent attempts to take away our charter. &c.— would <go for an effective ordinane>
Chairman enstucted [instructed] the committe to go all lenghts <to> <make a> full report on the pr[e]amble & ordnace
With that, the City Council meeting was adjourned for the day. They spent over 5 hours discussing the Nauvoo Expositor, the publishers of it, and some other affairs in the city. Now, there was a game plan. Double-Dub Phelps, John Taylor, and brother of White-out Willard Richards, Phineas Richards, were tasked with drafting up a new ordinance which would tackle libel and slander in the city. John Taylor would be responsible for crafting a preamble which would state that the Nauvoo Charter could never be revoked, as if that ordinance would supersede a decree by the Governor, which revocation of a city charter did require, a decree which, if created, would completely moot all the power of every Nauvoo ordinance passed since the charter was formed in addition to neutering all the city leadership. I don’t quite understand their logic here but maybe they were just trying to do anything possible to retain power and this was all the power they had access to.
Alright, so where does this leave us? The Mormon empire was expanding in its ambitions, connections, and aspirations. The irons were hot for a Mormon revolution in America. Jo and Hingepin Sidney Rigdon were running for President and Vice President, and putting all their earnest efforts behind making that dream a reality. Rigdon had brokered a deal with Jo that he’d run as VP but only if Jo gave him the office of president after Jo’s 4-year term. I’m sure Rigdon could trust Jo this time. Add into all of this, the nation’s collective eye was turned toward Joseph Smith and the Mormon empire. Politicians across the nation were incorporating the Mormons into their own political calculus. Now that all these irons were getting hot enough to strike, the Expositor comes along and douses the flames… or turns up the heat and overcooks the irons, is probably a better way of belaboring this analogy. This new threat needed to be answered and next week we’ll be discussing exactly how the decision was made, how Jo tried to scrub any responsibility from his hands, and the ultimate fate of the Expositor. These are trying times filled with controversy, corruption, and conspiracy. Wolves dwell among the sheep and at least some misdeeds go punished.
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