Ep 166 – Joseph Smith’s POTUS Platform
On this episode, we read Jo’s POTUS campaign pamphlet. On Jan. 29, 1844, JS was nominated for President of the United States. What immediately followed was his calling for various church leaders to canvass high population areas to electioneer and commissioning William W. Phelps to write out his campaign platform. We read it top to bottom and discuss the historical importance and context for each paragraph. After that we’re joined by Mary and Shelly of Latter-day Lesbian Podcast to talk about their show and do a FUMPOTD. Check out their show in the links below. Also, if you’re in the SLC area or are going to Sunstone Symposium this weekend, come hang out at Club 90 this Friday 8/2/19! (link below)
JS 1844 Presidential Campaign Pamphlet
Latter-day Lesbian Podcast
Club 90 hangout
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
The Mormons had a lot of trouble with the legal system. This was a running motif through all of Jo’s leadership of the religious sect, they were rarely on the right side of the law. Whether we focus on Kirtland, Ohio, Far West, Missouri, or Nauvoo, Illinois, the major headquarters of the church were constantly at battle with the legal system in one way or another. Missouri in 1838 was the most overtly lawless and anti-government period of the church.
After the Mormons were removed from Missouri due to the war, their surrender, and Governor Boggs’ extermination order, they decided to be lawless within the confines of the law. One of the first items on Jo’s to-do list upon his escape from jail in 1839 was to collect dozens of affidavits from various members and leaders of the church petitioning the federal government for redress. The Mormons wanted to be paid for their mistreatment. These initial petitions were taken by Jo, Hingepin Rigdon, Pistol Packin Porter Rockwell, and Doctor Bob the Builder Robert D. Foster to the federal legislature. Jo met with President Martin Van Buren and was denied. Van Buren claimed if he did anything to help the Mormons out of their perilous situation “he would come into contact with the whole state of Missouri,” which was an accurate assessment. According to Jo, the president told him “your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.”
Van Buren had to weigh in the balance his next election. Jo, angry with the outcome of their meeting, returned to Commerce, Illinois, soon to be Nauvoo, and proclaimed along his trip home that Van Buren was corrupt and wouldn’t help the Mormons achieve justice. He called Van Buren “a fop or fool,” said he thought that Van Buren was “without boddy or parts, as no one part seems to be proportioned to another.” He declared repeatedly “We do not say the Saints shall not vote for him, but we do say boldly,… that we do not intend he shall have our votes.”
Van Buren’s treatment of the Mormons didn’t really have an effect on his campaign, although it certainly didn’t help. The nation was in turmoil following the Panic of 1837 and the following recession. Many voters were extremely upset with how Van Buren carried out Jackson’s Indian Removal Act and his general treatment of many native tribes. The Whigs took the seat of president with a grassroots movement in the 1840 election. The backcountry hero of Tippecanoe, William Henry Harrison, sat as president for a month before he died in office, which promoted John Tyler, a member of the wealthy elite of Washington. This was one of the death knells of the Whig party.
Americans, Mormons included, were looking for a fresh face in the 1844 election. The main issues which divided the parties of the day were slavery and territorial expansion. There were many other issues that comprised, unified, or divided the Whigs and the Democrats, but these were the hotbutton issues of 1844.
The Mormons all had their own political and social leanings, but more than anything they would vote for anybody who would grant the most leniency and privileges to their religious society. Accordingly, it was time for the Mormons to put up their favorite person as presidential candidate for 1844, even the prophet Joseph Smith. The History of the Church includes Jo’s journal entry for Jan 29, 1844, which reads as follows:
Monday, 29.—… The Twelve Apostles, together with my brother Hyrum and J[ohn] P. Greene, met at the Mayor’s office, to take into consideration the proper course for this people to pursue in relation to the coming Presidential election.
The candidates for the office of President of the United States at present before the people are Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay. It is morally impossible for this people, in justice to themselves, to vote for the re-election of President Van Buren, a man who criminally neglected his duties as chief magistrate, in the cold and unblushing manner which he did, when appealed to for aid in the Missouri difficulties. His heartless reply burns like a firebrand in the breast of every true friend of liberty, “Your cause I just, but I can do nothing for you.”
As to Mr. Clay, his sentiments and cool contempt of the people’s rights are manifested in his reply, “you had better go to Oregon for redress,” which would prohibit any true lover of our constitutional privileges, from supporting him at the ballot-box.
It was therefore moved by Willard Richards, and voted unanimously, “that we will have an independent electoral ticket, and that Joseph Smith be a candidate for the next Presidency; and that we use all honorable means in our power to secure his election.”
If you attempt to accomplish this, you must send every man in the city who is able to speak in public, throughout the land to electioneer and make stump speeches, advocate the Mormon religion, purity of election, and call upon the people to stand by the law, and put down mobocracy. David Yearsly must go: Parley P. Pratt to New York; Erastus Snow to Vermont, and Sidney Rigdon to Pennsylvania.
After the April Conference we will have general conferences all over the nation, and I will attend as many as convenient. Tell the people we have had Whig and democratic presidents long enough; we want a President of the United States. If I ever get into the presidential chair, I will protect the people in their rights and liberties, I will not electioneer for myself. Hyrum, Brigham, Parley, and Taylor must go. Clayton must go, or he will apostatize. The Whigs are striving for a king under the garb of democracy. There is oratory enough in the church to carry me into the presidential chair the first slide.
Mr. [Edward A.] Bedell wanting an election at Warsaw, Benjamin Winchester was appointed to go. Capt. White, of Quincy, was at the Mansion last night, and this morning drank a toast: “May all your enemies be skinned, and their skins be made into drum heads for your friends to beat upon”;… “May Nauvoo become the empire seat of government.”
One doesn’t just run for president and then magically get elected. Some business had to be attended to in order to make this nomination official.
“I dictated to brother Phelps the heads of my pamphlet, entitled, “Views on the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States.”
Let’s discuss this. We’re getting into 1844 in our historical timeline and things begin to accelerate very quickly this year, if we weren’t already sitting at breakneck pace with interesting history. Nauvoo was seen as the place from which the Mormon President could rule the nation. Captain White saying “may Nauvoo become the empire seat of the government” reveals the ideology behind this presidential nomination. Jo had quite a few irons in the fire. Talos was nearing completion; the Mormon war machine was close to booting up and waging total destruction on any opposed to the Mormon theocracy.
The simple fact remains that a person can’t overthrow a nation without some powerful organizations underneath them to keep everything organized. Organized crime is more effective than one guy holding up a gas station with a gun. The Mormons needed a proper system of organization to govern America once Jo took the election, or took the nation by military force; the peaceable option was preferred. The Council of Fifty was organized barely a month after Jo announced his presidential candidacy. The Council of Fifty will be our next special multi-part series because it’s so crucial to understanding the remainder of Nauvoo history, which we’ll begin in two weeks.
For today, however, let’s discuss the inciting incident that created the Council of Fifty, Jo’s bid for the country’s presidency. We’re going to read his campaign pamphlet top to bottom. Why read the whole thing? Well, if you ever want to know what his campaign platform was on specific issues, you have to read the whole thing and listening to me read it is just as good as reading it for yourself. Plus, we get to discuss what everything means within the context of the 1840s and where Jo was trying to plant his various platform flags. Yes, there will be superfluous information in this podcast, but y’all have probably come to expect that by now from yours truly. I try to make this show useful as reference material, even if my commentary of the sources is usually terrible. I find it’s better to be over rather than underinformed. You’ll find a link to this in the show notes. Stick around after we read through this to hear a special little segment with two guest I’m very excited to have on the show.
OF THE POWERS AND POLICY OF THE
JOHN TAYLOR, PRINTER:
1844. [p. ]
[blank] [p. ]
Of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States:
Born in a land of liberty, and breathing an air uncorrupted with the sirocco of barbarous climes, I ever feel a double anxiety for the happiness of all men, both in time and in eternity. My cogitations like Daniel’s, have for a long time troubled me, when I viewed the condition of men throughout the world, and more especially in this boasted realm, where the Declaration of Independence “holds these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal: that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but at the same time, some two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours: and hundreds of our own kindred for an infraction, or supposed infraction of some over-wise statute, have to be incarcerated in dungeon glooms, or suffer the more moral penitentiary gravitation of mercy in a nut-shell, while the duellist, the debauchee, and the defaulter for millions, and other criminals, take the uppermost rooms at feasts, or, like the bird of passage find a more congenial clime by flight.
(Populism, rallying up the poor masses against the powerful criminal elite)
The wisdom, which ought to characterize the freest, wisest, and most noble nation of the nineteenth century, should, like the sun in his meridian splendor, warm every object beneath its rays: and the main efforts of her officers, who are nothing more or less than the servants of the people, ought to be directed to ameliorate the condition of all: black or white, bond or free; for the best of books says, “God hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”
Our common country presents to all men the same advantages; the same facilities; the same prospects; the same honors; and the same rewards: and without hypocrisy, the Constitution when it says, “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,” meant just what it said, without reference to color or condition: ad infinitum. [p. ] The aspirations and expectations of a virtuous people, environed with so wise, so liberal, so deep, so broad, and so high a charter of equal rights, as appears in said Constitution, ought to be treated by those to whom the administration of the laws are intrusted, with as much sanctity, as the prayers of the saints are treated in heaven, that love, confidence and union, like the sun, moon and stars should bear witness,
(For ever singing as they shine,)
“The hand that made us is divine!”
Unity is power, and when I reflect on the importance of it to the stability of all governments, I am astounded at the silly moves of persons and parties, to foment discord in order to ride into power on the current of popular excitement; nor am I less surprized at the stretches of power, or restrictions of right, which too often appear as acts of legislators, to pave the way to some favorite political schemes, as destitute of intrinsic merit, as a wolf’s heart is of the milk of human kindness: a Frenchman would say, “prosque tout aimer richesses et pouvoir:” (almost all men like wealth and power.)
(Once again, pitting the poor masses against the wealthy elite. It’s a populist dogwhistle coming from Joseph Smith, one of the wealthiest men in Illinois, Mayor of his own city, religious leader to over ten thousand, and commander-in-chief of his own militia.)
I must dwell on this subject longer than others, for nearly one hundred years ago that golden patriot, Benjamin Franklin, drew up a plan of union for the then Colonies of Great Britain that now are such an Independent nation, which among many wise provisions for obedient children under their father’s more rugged hand, had this:—“they have power to make laws, and lay and levy such general duties, imports, or taxes, as to them shall appear most equal and just, (considering the ability and other circumstances of the inhabitants in the several colonies,) and such as may be collected with the least inconvenience to the people; rather discouraging luxury, than loading industry with unnecessary burthens.” Great Britain surely lacked the laudable humanity and fostering clemency to grant such a just plan of union—but the sentiment remains like the land that honor’d its birth, as a pattern for wise men to study the convenience of the people more than the comfort of the cabinet.
And one of the most noble fathers of our freedom and country’s glory: great in war, great in peace, great in the estimation of the world, and great in the hearts of his countrymen, the illustrious [George] Washington, said in his first inaugural address to Congress: “I behold the surest pledges that as, on one side, no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views or party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens, and command the respect of the world.” Verily, here shines the virtue and the wisdom of a statesman in such lucid rays that had every succeeding Congress followed the rich instruction, in all their deliberations and enactments, for the benefits and convenience of the whole community and the communities of which it is composed, no sound of a rebellion in South Carolina; no rupture in Rhode Island; no mob in Missouri expelling her citizens by executive authority; corruption in the ballot boxes; a border warfare between Ohio and Michigan: hard times and distress: oubreak upon outbreak in the principal cities: murder, robbery, and defalcation, scarcity of money, and a thousand other difficulties, would have torn asunder the [p. 4] bonds of the union: destroyed the confidence of man; and left the the great body of the people to mourn over misfortunes in poverty, brought on by corrupt legislation in an hour of proud vanity, for self aggrandizement. The great Washington, soon after the foregoing faithful admonition for the common welfare of his nation, further advised Congress that “among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” As the Italian would say: Buono aviso, (good advice.)
(Tread lightly and carry a big stick, and never cease to care for the veterans)
The elder [John] Adams in his inaugural address, gives national pride such a grand turn of justification, that every honest citizen must look back upon the infancy of the United States with an approving smile and rejoice, that patriotism in the rulers, virtue in the people, and prosperity in the union, once crowned the expectations of hope; unveiled the sophistry of the hypocrite and silenced the folly of foes: Mr. Adams said, “If national pride is ever justifiable, or excusable, it is when it springs not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information and benevolence.” There is no doubt such was actually the case with our young realm at the close of the last century; peace, prosperity, and union, filled the country with religious toleration, temporal enjoyment and virtuous enterprize; and gradually, too, when the deadly winter of the “Stamp Aact,” the “Tea Act,” and other close communion acts of royalty had choked the growth of freedom of speech, liberty of the press, and liberty of conscience, did light, liberty and loyalty flourish like the cedars of God.
(Patriotism has always been a battle cry of presidential hopefuls. Many presidential candidates today could plagiarize this word for word and it would mean just as much today as it did in 1844.)
The respected and venerable Thomas Jefferson, in his inaugural address, made more than forty years ago, shews what a beautiful prospect an innocent, virtuous nation presents to the sage’s eye, where there is space for enterprize: hands for industry: heads for heroes: and hearts for moral greatness. He said, “A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye; when I contemplate these transcendant objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking.” Such a prospect was truly soul stirring to a good man, but “since the Father’s have fallen asleep,” wicked and designing men, have unrobed the government of its glory,—and the people, if not in dust and ashes, or in sack cloth, have to lament in poverty, her departed greatness: while demagogues build fires in the north and south, east and west, to keep up their spirits till it is better times: but year after year has left the people to hope till the very name of Congress, or State Legislature, is as horrible to the sensitive friend of his country, as the house of “Blue Beard” is to children; or “Crockett’s” Hell of London, to meek men. When the people are secure and their rights properly respected, then the four main pillars of prosperity, viz: agriculture, manufactures, navigation, and commerce, need the fostering care of government: and in so goodly a country as ours, where the soil, the climate, the rivers, the lakes, and the sea coast; the productions, the timber, the minerals; and the inhabitants are so diversified (as long as you’re white), that a pleasing variety accommodates all tastes, trades, and calculations, it certainly is the highest point of subversion to protect the whole northern and southern, eastern and western, centre and circumference of the realm, by a judicious tariff. It is [p. 5] an old saying and a true one, “if you wish to be respected, respect yourselves.”
(This was an amazing passage coming from a demagogue who was actively subverting the U.S. Constitution.)
I will adopt, in part, the language of Mr. [James] Madison’s inaugural address, “To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations, having correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality towards belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries, and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudicies ourselves, and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the States as the bases of their peace and happiness; to support the constitution, which is the cement of the union, as well as in its limitatons as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people, as equally incorporated with, and essential to the success, of the general system; to avoid the slightest interference with the rights of conscience, or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to preserve in their full energy, the other salutary provisions in behalf of private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press;” as far as intention aids in the fulfilment of duty, are consummations to big with benefits not to captivate the energies of all honest men to achieve them, when they can be brought to pass by reciprocation, friendly alliances, wise legislation, and honorable treaties.
(Once again, this passage only applies if you’re a country of white people, even to this day. Had this philosophy been applied to various Native American tribes, American history would look very different today.)
The government has once flourished under the guidance of trusty servants; and the Hon. Mr. Munroe [James Monroe] in his day, while speaking of the Constitution: says, “our commerce has been wisely regulated with foreign nations, and between the states; new states have been admitted into our union; our teritory has been enlarged by fair and honorable treaty, and with great advantage to the original states; the states respectively protected by the national government, under a mild paternal system against foreign dangers, and enjoying within their separate spheres, by a wise partition of power, a just proportion of the sovereignty, have improved their police, extended their settlements, and attained a strength and maturity which are the best proofs of wholsome law well administered. And if we look to the condition of individuals, what a proud spectacle does it exhibit? who has been deprived of any right of person and property? (Uhhh… Native Americans. African Americans. Chinese Americans. Catholics from Ireland and Italy. Really anybody who wasn’t white Protestant was deprived of rights at this time.) who restrained from offering his vows in the mode in which he prefers, to the Divine Author of his being? It is well known that all these blessings have been enjoyed to their fullest extent; and I add, with peculiar satisfaction, that there has been no example of a capital punishment being inflicted on any one for the crime of high treason.” What a delightful picture, of power, policy and prosperity! Truly the wise man’s proverb is just: “Sedàukauh teromáin goy, veh-ka-sade le-u-méem khahmàut.” Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
(Capital punishment has never been served for the crime of high treason… That’s only true in the civil sense because people were executed as a result of court martials all the time when they committed treason. This is just vacuous nonsense and a mountain of lies we expect to come from a politician, especially one who had committed treason and was running for president.)
But this is not all. The same honorable statesman, after having had about forty years experience in the government, under the full tide of successful experiment, gives the following commendatory assurance of the efficiency of the magna charta to answer its great end and aim: To protect the people in their rights. “Such, then, is the happy government under which we live; a government adequate to every purpose for which the social compact is formed; a government elective in all its branches, under which every cit [p. 6] izen may, by his merit, obtain the highest trust recognized by the constitution; which contains within it no cause or discord; none to put at variance one portion of the community with another; a government which protects every citizen in the full enjoyment of his rights, and is able to protect the nation against injusice from foreign powers.”
Again, the younger [John Quincy] Adams in the silver age of our country’s advancement to fame, in his inaugural address, (1825) thus candidly declares the majesty of the youthful Republic, in its increasing greatness, “The year of jubilee since the first formation of our union has just elapsed; that of the declaration of Independence is at hand. The consummation of both was effected by this constitution. Since that period, a population of four millions has multiplied to twelve. A territory, bounded by the Mississippi, has been extended from sea to sea. New states have been admitted to the union, in numbers nearly equal to those of the first confederation. Treaties of peace, amity and commerce, have been concluded with the principal dominions of the earth. The people of other nations, the inhabitants of regions acquired, not by conquest, but by compact, have been united with us in the participation of our rights and duties, of our burdens and blessings. (This was literally 6 years after the Trail of Tears…) The forest has fallen by the axe of our woodsmen; the soil has been made to teem by the tillage of our farmers: our commerce has whitened every ocean. The dominion of man over physical nature has been extended by the invention of our artists. Liberty and law have walked hand in hand. All the purposes of human association have been accomplished as effectively as under any other government on the globe, and at a cost little exceeding, in a whole generation, the expenditures of other nations in a single year.[”]
In continuation of such noble sentiments, Gen. [Andrew] Jackson, upon his ascension to the great chair of the chief magistracy: said, “As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of person and property, liberty of conscience, and of the press, it will be worth defending; and so long as it is worth defending, a patriotic militia will cover it with an impenetrable aegis.”
General Jackson’s administration may be denomiated the acme of American glory, liberty and prosperity, for the national debt, which in 1815, on account of the late war, was $125,000,000, and lessened gradually, was paid up in his golden day; and preparations were made to distribute the surplus revenue among the several states: and that august patriot, to use his own words in his farewell address, retired leaving “a great people prosperous and happy, in the full enjoyment of liberty and peace, honored and respected by every nation of the world.”
(There you go, leave it to a Democrat to balance the damn budget. Jackson was a horrible human being who led a controversial presidency and he was responsible for genocide, but hey, the account books looked really good when he left office so it’s all good. Panic of 1837? What? Nah let’s forget that too.)
At the age, then, of sixty years our blooming Republic began to decline under the withering touch of Martin Van Buren! Disappointed ambition; thirst for power, pride, corruption, party spirit, faction, patronage; perquisites, fame, tangling alliances; priest-craft and spiritual wickedness in high places, struck hands, and revelled in midnight splendor. Trouble, vexation, perplexity and contention, mingled with hope, fear and murmuring, rumbled through the union and agitated the whole nation as would an earthquake at the centre of the earth the world, heaving the sea beyond its bounds, and shaking the everlasting hills: So, in hopes of better times, while jealousy, hypocritical pretensions, and pompous ambition, were luxuriating on the ill- [p. 7]gotten spoils of the people, they rose in their majesty like a tornado, and swept through the land, till General [William Henry] Harrison appeared, as a star among the storm clouds, for better weather.
(Van Buren inherited a nation on the brink of financial collapse. The Republicans put measures into our economy that insured the collapse of 2008 that Obama inherited; the same happened with the transition of Jackson to Van Buren. People at this time hated Van Buren because they refused to see what Jackson had done that actually caused the Panic of 1837.)
The calm came; and the language of that venerable patriot (Harrison), in his inaugural address, while descanting upon the merits of the constitution and its framers, thus expressed himself. “There were in it, features which appeared not to be in harmony with their ideas of a simple representative democracy or republic. And knowing the tendency of power to increase itself, particularly when executed by a single individual, predictions were made that, at no very remote period, the government would terminate in virtual monarchy. It would not become me to say that the fears of these patriots have been already realized. But as I sincerely believe that the tendency of measures and of men’s opinions, for some years past, has been in that direction, it is, I conceive, strictly proper that I should take this occasion to repeat the assurances I have heretofore given, of my determination to arrest the progress of that tendency if it really exists, and restore the government to its pristine health and vigor.” This good man died before he had the opportunity of applying one balm to ease the pain of our groaning country, and I am willing the nation should be the judge, whether General Harrison, in his exalted station, upon the eve of his entrance into the world of spirits, told the truth or not: with acting president [John] Tyler’s three years of perplexity and pseudo whig democrat reign, to heal the breaches, or show the wounds, secundum artum, (according to art.) Subsequent events, all things considered, Van Buren’s downfall, Harrison’s exit, and Tyler’s self-sufficient turn to the whole, go to shew, as a Chaldean might exclaim: Berám etái eláuh beshmayáuh gauháh rauzéen: (Certainly there is a God in heaven to reveal secrets;
(The world was on the brink of collapse in 1844 just like it is today.)
No honest man can doubt for a moment, but the glory of American liberty, is on the wane; and, that calamity and confusion will sooner or later, destroy the peace of the people. Speculators will urge a national bank as a savior of credit and comfort. A hireling puseudo priesthood will plausibly push abolition doctrines and doings, and “human rights,” into Congress and into every otner [other] place, where conquest smells of fame, or opposition swells to popularity. Democracy, Whiggery and Cliquery, will attract their elements and foment divisions among the people, to accomplish fancied schemes and accumulate power, while poverty driven to despair, like hunger forcing its way through a wall, will break through the statutes of men, to save life, and mend the breach in prison glooms.
(We’re still kind of waiting for this to happen, at least some talking heads in the media or politicians are…)
A still higher grade, of what the “nobility of nations” call “great men,” will dally with all rights in order to smuggle a fortune at “one fell swoop:” mortgage Texas, possess Oregon, and claim all the unsettled regions of the world for hunting and trapping: and should a humble honest man, red, black, or white, exhibit a better title, these gentry have only to clothe the judge with richer ermine, and spangle the lawyer’s fingers with finer rings, to have the judgment of his peers, and the honor of his lords, as a pattern of honesty, virtue and humanity, while the motto hangs on his nation’s escutcheon: “Every man has his price!”
(Yes, the rich get richer. Power begets power. And the little guys foot the bill. These trends have always existed in every single government across the world for as long as we have history. What’s even more interesting about it is when somebody like Joseph Smith, a wealthy elite at this time, is using these buzzwords and talking points to rally up a populist groundswell to support him. Everything is horrible, all the rich people are taking your money and you’re paying all the taxes. But, elect me, yet another rich white guy, and I’ll make all your problems go away.)
Now, oh! people! people! turn unto the Lord and live; and reform this nation. Frustrate the designs of wicked men. Reduce Congress at least one half. Two Senators from a state and two members to a million of popu [p. 8]lation, will do more business than the army that now occupy the halls of the National Legislature. Pay them two dollars and their board per diem; (except Sundays,) that is more than the farmer gets, and he lives honestly. Ourtail [Curtail] the offices of government in pay, number and power, for the Philistine lords have shorn our nation of its goodly locks in the lap of Delilah.
(Small government is such a platform issue, but I would argue that rarely are major societal ills made better when government is reduced. There’s a reason we wait for 3 hours in line at the DMV to fill out and turn in one form proving we are who we say we are. There’s a reason why all of our government agencies lag behind all our private companies in nearly every possible metric; because they’ve been shrunken through systematic vilification as a political platform. But hey, if we just remove all regulation, things always get better for everybody, right?! Hollow assurances to a slave or a 4-year-old coal miner at this time.)
Petition your state legislatures to pardon every convict in their several penitentiaries: blessing them as they go, and saying to them in the name of the Lord, go thy way and sin no more. (That is truly an appalling platform. Pardon every criminal, that’ll make society great!) Advise your legislators when they make laws for larceny, burglary or any felony, to make the penalty applicable to work upon roads, public works, or any place where the culprit can be taught more wisdom and more virtue; and become more enlightened. Rigor and seclusion will never do as much to reform the propensities of man, as reason and friendship. (I’m all for reforming our criminal justice system and abolishing for-profit prisons. Very little actual rehabilitation happens in our current system and I’m sure it was much worse in the 19th century. But, just letting everyone go and telling them to be nice is absolutely insane.) Murder only can claim confinement or death. Let the penitentiaries be turned into seminaries of learning, where intelligence, like the angels of heaven, would banish such fragments of barbarism: Imprisonment for debt is a meaner practice than the savage tolerates with all his ferocity. “Amor vincit omnia.” Love conquers all.
Petition also, ye goodly inhabitants of the slave states, your legislators to abolish slavery by the year 1850, or now, and save the abolitionist from reproach and ruin, infamy and shame. (We discussed last episode Jo’s fluid morality on the question of slavery. He could see the writing on the wall. Jo could tell where the world of politics and slavery was headed, anybody with their head screwed on the right direction could tell slavery was on its way out. It’s important to realize that he was taking this stance because it was politically better; whether or not his own morals played into this platform item is the subject of speculation only. His methods of abolishing slavery are quite interesting.) Pray Congress to pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands, and from the deduction of pay from the members of Congress. (So…. All the land us Americans are stealing from the Natives… sell it at a good price and buy the slaves back from slave owners, just so they’re fairly compensated for their troubles of owning people as property. This isn’t robbing Peter to pay Paul; this is committing genocide on Mexicans to put Africans on probation. I can scarcely think of a more deplorable way to fix the 19th-century societal issue of slavery than doing it Jo’s way.) Break off the shackles from the poor black man, and hire him to labor like other human beings; for “an hour of virtuous liberty on earth, is worth a whole eternity of bondage!” Abolish the practice in the army and navy of trying men by court martial for desertion; if a soldier or marine runs away, send him his wages, with the instruction, that his country will never trust him again; he has forfeited his honor. Make HONOR the standard with all men: be sure that good is rendered for evil in all cases: and the whole nation, like a kingdom of kings and priests, will rise up with righteousness: and be respected as wise and worthy on earth: and as just and holy for heaven, by Jehovah the author of perfection. More economy in the national and state governments, would make less taxes among the people: more equality through the cities, towns and country, would make less distinction among the people; and more honesty and familiarity in societies, would make less hypocrisy and flattery in all branches of community; and open, frank, candid, decorum to all men, in this boasted land of liberty, would beget esteem, confidence, union and love; and the neighbor from any state, or from any country, of whatever color, clime or tongue, could rejoice when he put his foot on the sacred soil of freedom, and exclaim: the very name of “American,” is fraught with friendship! Oh! then, create confidence! restore freedom! break down slavery! banish imprisonment for debt, and be in love, fellowship and peace with all the world! Remember that honesty is not subject to law: the law was made for transgressors: wherefore a Dutchman might exclaim: Ein ehrlicher name ist besser als Reichthum, (a good name is better than riches.)
(All of those words arranged in that order meant absolutely nothing. It sounds so nice, be honest, make America great, less hypocrisy, more equality. Those are just platitude that don’t mean anything coming from a person who has absolutely no plan or idea to actual enact any of these high-minded ideals. I gotta say, as a politician, Jo is swingin par for the course.)
For the accommodation of the people in every state and territory, let Congress shew their wisdom by granting a national bank, with branches in each state and territory, where the capital stock shall be held by the nation for the mother bank: and by the states and territories, for the branches: and whose officers and directors shall be elected yearly by the people with wages [p. 9] at the rate of two dollars per day for services: which several banks shall never issue any more bills than the amount of capital stock in her vaults and the interest. The nett gain of the mother bank shall be applied to the national revenue, and that of the branches to the states and territories’ revenues. And the bills shall be par throughout the nation, which will mercifully cure that fatal disorder know in cities, as brokerage; and leave the people’s money in their own pockets.
(A federal bank was a major hotbutton issue of the early 1800s. President Jackson vehemently opposed a national bank, vetoed the charter renewal bill, removed the federal funds from the national bank, and signed the specie circular, all moves that collapsed the economy and sent America into a massive depression. The first national bank had been established by George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, but the board who ran it were all industrialist businessmen with tons of political and social power, which helped subjugate lower class Americans and slave-owning farmers. Jackson made his opposition to a federal bank a rally cry and formed this anti-federal bank into the original platform of the Democrat party. Jo planted his flag firmly in favor of a federal bank, which was the Whig position and therefore the position of the wealthy industrialist folk, of which Jo was a part.)
Give every man his constituttional freedom, and the president full power to send an army to suppress mobs; and the states authority to repeal and impugn that relic of folly, which makes it necessary for the governor of a state to make the demand of the president for troops, in cases of invasion or rebellion The governor himself may be a mobber and, instead of being punished, as he should be for murder and treason, he may destroy the very lives, rights, and property he should protect. (This, obviously, was a result of Mormon treatment in Missouri. Jo wanted the President to call in a militia to reinstate the Mormons to their claimed property in Missouri, but President Van Buren refused to help. Jo wanted himself, as president, to have the power to call a national militia to a given location, even if the Governor of that state opposed.) Like the good Samaritan, send every lawyer as soon as he repents and obeys the ordinances of heaven, to preach the gospel to the destitute, without purse or scrip, pouring in the oil and the wine: a learned priesthood is certainly more honorable than “an hireling clergy.”
As to the contiguous territories to the United States, wisdom would direct no tangling alliance: Oregon belongs to this government honorably, and when we have the red man’s consent, let the union spread from the east to the west sea; and if Texas petitions Congress to be adopted among the sons of liberty, give her the the right hand of fellowship; and refuse not the same friendly grip to Canada and Mexico: and when the right arm of freemen is stretched out in the character of a navy, for the protection of rights, commerce and honor, let the iron eyes of power, watch from Maine to Mexico, and from California to Columbia; thus may union be strengthened, and foreign speculation prevented from opposing broadside to broadside.
(Jo took a hardline expansionist view of American territory annexation. The annexation of Texas was one of the greatest political issues of the mid 1840s. Jo, in this campaign pamphlet, not only encourages the annexation of Texas, but of Canada and Mexico too. That’s pretty sweeping, but also understandable. If he was to be president, he wanted to be president of as much territory as humanly possible.)
Seventy years have done much for this goodly land; they have burst the chains of oppression and monarchy; and multiplied its inhabitants from two to twenty millions; with a proportionate share of knowledge: keen enough to circumnavigate the globe; draw the lightning from the clouds: and cope with all the crowned heads of the world.
Then why? Oh! why! will a once flourishing people not arise, phœnix like, over the cinders of Martin Van Buren’s power; and over the sinking fragments and smoking ruins of other catamount politicians; and over the wind-falls of [Thomas Hart] Benton, [John C.] Calhoun, [Henry] Clay, [Silas] Wright, and a caravan of other equally unfortunate law doctors, and cheerfully help to spread a plaster and bind up the burnt, bleeding wounds of a sore but blessed country? The southern people are hospitable and noble: they will help to rid so free a country of every vestige of slavery, when ever they are assured of an equivalent for their property. (Uh, no, they wouldn’t. America literally fought a war over the question of slavery.) The country will be full of money and confidence, when a national bank of twenty millions, and a state bank in every state, with a million or more, gives a tone to monetary matters, and make a circulating medium as valuable in the purses of a whole community, as in the coffers of a speculating banker or broker.
The people may have faults but they never should be trifled with. I think Mr. [William] Pitt’s quotation in the British Parliament of Mr. [Matthew] Prior’s couplet for the husband and wife, to apply to the course which the king and ministry of England should pursue to the then colonies, of the now United States, might be [p. 10] a genuine rule of action for some of the breath made men in high places, to use towards the posterity of that noble daring people:
“Be to her faults a little blind;
“Be to her virtues very kind.”
We have had democratic presidents: whig presidents; a pseudo democratic whig president; and now it is time to have a president of the United States; and let the people of the whole union, like the inflexible Romans, whenever they find a promise made by a candidate, that is not practised as an officer, hurl the miserable sycophant from his exaltation, as God did Nebuchadnezzar, to crop the grass of the field, with a beast’s heart among the cattle.
Mr. Van Buren said in his inaugural address, that he went “into the presidential chair the inflexible and uncompromising opponent of every attempt, on the part of Congress, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, against the wishes of the slave holding states; and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the states where it exists.” Poor little Matty made his rhapsodical sweep with the fact before his eyes, that the state of New-York, his native state, had abolished slavery, without a struggle or a groan. Great God, how independent! From henceforth slavery is tolerated where it exists: constitution or no constitution; people or no people; right or wrong; vox Matti; vox Diaboli: “the voice of Matty”—“the voice of the devil;” and peradventure, his great “Sub-Treasury” scheme was a piece of the same mind: but the man and his measures have such a stricking [striking] resemblance to the anecdote of the Welchman and his cart-tongue, that, when the constitution was so long that it allowed slavery at the capitol of a free people, it could not be cut off; but when it was so short that it needed a Sub-Treasury, to save the funds of the nation, it could be spliced! Oh, granny, granny, what a long tail our puss has got! As a Greek might say, hysteron proteron: the cart before the horse: but his mighty whisk through the great national fire, for the presidential chesnuts, burnt the locks of his glory with the blaze of his folly!
(Now, finally, Jo gets to his own campaign promises after such a long treatise on how great all the past presidents were… except for that fop, Van Buren!)
In the United States the people are the government; and their united voice is the only sovereign that should rule; the only power that should be obeyed; and the only gentlemen that should be honored; at home and abroad; on the land and on the sea: Wherefore, were I the president of the United States, by the voice of a virtuous people, I would honor the old paths of the venerated fathers of freedom: I would walk in the tracks of the illustrious patriots, who carried the ark of the government upon their shoulders with an eye single to the glory of the people: and when that people petitioned to abolish slavery in the slave states, I would use all honorable means to have their prayers granted: and give liberty to the captive; by paying the southern gentleman a reasonable equivalent for his property, that the whole nation might be free indeed! When the people petitioned for a national bank, I would use my best endeavors to have their prayers answered, and establish one on national principles to save taxes, and make them the controllers of its ways and means; and when the people petitioned to possess the teritory of Oregon or any other contiguous teritory; I would lend the influence of a chief magistrate to grant so reasonable a request, that they might extend the mighty eforts and enterprize of a free preople from the east to the west sea; and make the wilderness blossom as the rose: and when a neighboring realm petitioned [p. 11] to join the union of the sons of liberty, my voice would be, come: yea come Texas: come Mexico; come Canada; and come all the world—let us be brethren: let us be one great family; and let there be universal peace. Abolish the cruel custom of prisons, (except certain cases,) penitentiaries, and court-martials for desertion; and let reason and friendship reign over the ruins of ignorance and barbarity; yea I would, as the universal friend of man, open the prisons; open the eyes; open the ears and open the hearts of all people, to behold and enjoy freedom, unadulterated freedom: and God, who once cleansed the violence of the earth with a flood; whose Son laid down his life for the salvation of all his father gave him out of the world; and who has promised that he will come and purify the world again with fire in the last days, should be supplicated by me for the good of all people.
With the highest esteem, I am a friend of virtue, and of the people,
Nauvoo, Illinois, February 7, 1844. [p. 12]
Let it be said, let it be written, let it be done. This was Jo’s platform. This is what he wanted to accomplish as President of the United States. What’s very interesting here is that in everything he said, none of it was revolutionary. Nothing in this pamphlet actually sets him apart from the other candidates other than this is merely a synthesis of frequent campaign pamphlets contemporary with his time. He did invoke God and Jesus more than Henry Clay, but otherwise this was pretty standard. Now comes the question, does a campaign pamphlet like this a serious presidential candidate make? No. Joseph Smith was never a serious contender for the office, in spite of what he and his fellow Mormon leaders thought. However, an important distinction needs to be made here. Just because Jo wasn’t actually a viable candidate, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t treat the issue like he wasn’t a viable candidate. Jo had many goals in his life. He achieved many with relatively few negative consequences. More power, more control, more people looking to him as their leader; this was Jo’s gluttony. Because the presidency was actually unattainable, that made Jo want it even more, and he wasn’t one to give up on his deepest personal desires. Truly, the forbidden fruit is the sweetest.
Thanks to Mary and Shelly for joining us, check the shownotes to find a link to Latter-day Lesbian podcast, and seriously, check out their show, it’s fantastic!
This episode is coming at you a day early!
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Next week we’ll be taking a break from the historical timeline. It will be the interview with Jana Reiss and Benjamin Knoll about Jana’s newest book, The Next Mormons.
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