Letter to Seymour Brunson and Nauvoo High Council, 7 December 1839
JS and , Letter, , to and Nauvoo high council, [, Hancock Co., IL], 7 Dec. 1839. Featured version copied [between Apr. and June 1840] in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 89–91; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 7 December 1839, JS and wrote a letter to and the rest of the to report on the delegation’s efforts to obtain redress from the federal government. On 5 December, JS and Higbee had written to report on their meeting with President and their plans to meet with the congressional delegation from . In this 7 December letter, JS and Higbee described their efforts to lobby Congress and gave details of two meetings with the Illinois delegation. At these meetings, JS and Higbee presented their grievances against and enlisted the assistance of the Illinois representatives and senators to present to Congress a petition they had started to draft before departing for . Representative John Todd Stuart (a Whig from , Illinois) agreed to help prepare the memorial, and Senator (a Democrat from Jonesboro, Illinois) agreed to introduce it in the Senate.
It is not entirely clear why JS and singled out in the letter’s salutation. They possibly thought Brunson was the most reliable addressee when corresponding by mail. later similarly opted to address all correspondence with the church’s delegation in to Higbee because Smith thought it would “come more safe to his address” while JS was traveling between the capital and .
The original letter is not extant. The version featured here is a copy entered into JS Letterbook 2 by sometime between April and June 1840. made an additional copy of this letter for a third party at about the same time. It is unclear whether Thompson’s copy or Coray’s copy was made first. However, Coray’s copy is featured here because its provenance is more certain. Only one slight substantive difference, noted in the annotation herein, exists between the two copies.
Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives / Petitions and Memorials, Resolutions of State Legislatures, and Related Documents Which Were Referred to the Committee on Judiciary during the 27th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Petitions and Memorials, 1813–1968. Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789–2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are housed in National Archives boxes 40 and 41 of Library of Congress boxes 139–144 in HR27A-G10.1.
To , and the honorable of the , Your humble servant Joseph Smith Jr. and again address you for the purpose of informing you of our proceedings here in relation to our business and prospects of success. We deem it unimportant to say any thing in relation to our journey, arrival & and interview with his Excellency the of these ; as they were mentioned in a Letter lately addressed to and the high Council. We mentioned in that letter the appointment of a meeting to <be> held by the Delegation to consult upon the best measures of getting our business brot before Congress They met yesterday in one of the committee rooms of the Capitol. All the Delegation except the were present, who is now one of the Representatives in Congress and on account of whose absence the meeting was adjourned untill to day at 11 o’clock: however the subject was partially introduced,— and Mr. [John M.] Robinson took a stand against us so far as concerned our presenting claims to be liquidated by the —
We took a stand against him, asserting our constitutional rights— Bro. Joseph maintained the ground in argument against him firmly, and respectfully setting forth the injuries that we have received and the appeals that we have made to to the Judiciary of and also the Govenor: their refusals from time [to] time to do us justice: also the impracticability of doing any thing in the Judiciary Courts of — which tribunal Mr. Robinson thought was the only proper place for our claims, but he finally said, it was his first impression on the subject; not having considered the matter, but would take it into further consideration,
of the Senate made some remarks in our favor, saying he would get the opinion of some of [p. 89]
Reynolds served as governor of Illinois from 1830 to 1834. (Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1800.)
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, the Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1788, and the Congress of the United States, from the First through the One Hundred Eighth Congresses, March 4, 1789, to January 3, 2005, inclusive. Edited by Andrew R. Dodge and Betty K. Koed. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005.
Robinson was a United States senator from Carmi, Illinois, and a Democrat. His statement to JS and Higbee as recorded in this letter, combined with his close political alliance to Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, suggests he was a strong proponent of states’ rights over federal power, a position then at the heart of Democratic Party politics and at odds with the church delegation’s method for seeking redress. (Berry, “Forgotten Statesmen of Illinois: Hon. John M. Robinson,” 77–78.)
Berry, Daniel. “Forgotten Statesmen of Illinois: Hon. John M. Robinson.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 7, no. 1 (Apr. 1914): 77–81.
The church had previously made several appeals for redress to the Missouri courts. In 1834, for example, about a dozen church members were marched to Jackson County, Missouri, under the guard of the state militia in order to testify before a grand jury, but they were informed by the attorney general that the prejudice against the church was too strong in that county for them to receive a fair hearing. (See, for example, the records related to the suits of Partridge v. Lucas et al.,Phelps v. Simpson et al., and Allen v. David et al. housed at Jackson County Records Center, Independence, MO; Petition to George Tompkins, between 9 and 15 Mar. 1839; and Letter from William W. Phelps, 27 Feb. 1834.)
The Saints had requested aid from two different Missouri governors: Daniel Dunklin and Lilburn W. Boggs. (“To His Excellency, Daniel Dunklin,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Dec. 1833, 114–115; Benjamin Kendrick et al., De Witt, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, Petition, 22 Sept. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.)
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.