Letter to Editors, 6 May 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

City of . May 6, 1841.
To the Editors of the Times & Seasons,
I wish, through the medium of your paper, to make known, that on Sunday last, I had the honor of receiving a visit from the Hon. , Justice of the Supreme Court and Judge of the fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of , and Esq. of , who expressed great pleasure in visiting our , and were astonished at the improvements which were made. They were officially introduced to the congregation who had assembled on the meeting ground, by the ; and they severally addressed the assembly. , expressed his satisfaction of what he had seen and heard respecting our people and took that opportunity of returning thanks to the citizens of , for confering upon him the freedom of the city, stating that he was not aware of rendering us any service, sufficiently important to deserve such marked honor; and likewise spoke in high terms of our location and the improvements we had made, and that our enterprise and industry were highly creditable to us indeed.
spoke much in favor of the place, the industry of the citizens &c. and hoped they would continue to enjoy all the blessings and priveleges of our free and glorious Constitution, and as a patriot and a freeman he was willing at all times to stand boldly in defence of liberty and law.
It must indeed be satisfactory to this community to know, that kind and generous feelings exist in the hearts of men of such high reputation and moral and intellectual worth.
has ever proved himself friendly to this people; and interested himself to obtain for us our several charters, holding at that time the office of Secretary of State. also ranks high, and has long held a standing at the bar, which few attain, and is considered one of the most able and profound jurists in the .
The sentiments they expressed on the occasion, were highly honorable to them as American citizens, and as gentlemen.
How different their conduct, from that of the official characters in the state of , whose minds were prejudiced to such an extent, that instead of mingling in our midst and ascertaining for themselves our character, kept entirely aloof, but were ready at all times to listen to those who had the “poison of adders under their tongues,” and who sought our overthrow.
Let every person who may have inbibed sentiments prejudicial to us, imitate the honorable example of our distinguished visitors, ( & ) and I believe they will find much less to condemn then they anticipated, and probably a great deal to commend.
What makes the late visit more pleasing, is the fact, that Messrs. & , have long been held in high estimation as politicians, being champions of the two great parties that exist in the ; but laying aside all party strife, like brothers, citizens, and friends, they mingle with us, mutually disposed to extend to us courtesy, respect and friendship, which I hope, we shall ever be proud to reciprocate.
I am, very respectfully, yours &c.
JOSEPH SMITH. [p. 414]


  1. 1

    2 May 1841.  

  2. 2

    For more on the improvements and developments in Nauvoo, see Report of the First Presidency to the Church, ca. 7 Apr. 1841; see also “Nauvoo,” Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 9 Feb. 1841, [2].  

    Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.

  3. 3

    This assembly likely took place in the grove just west of the temple site, the common location for large public meetings in Nauvoo.  

  4. 4

    Conferring the “freedom of the city” was a symbolic gesture of welcome granted to distinguished visitors to a city—similar to the bestowal of a key to the city—that encouraged a guest to come and go freely about the city. (See, for example, “The Approach of Congress,” New York Herald, 1 Dec. 1840, [2]; “For the National Intelligencer,” Daily National Intelligencer [Washington DC], 9 Dec. 1840, [3]; and “Original Anecdote of Decatur,” Pensacola [FL] Gazette, 23 Jan. 1841, [2].)  

    New York Herald. New York City. 1835–1924.

    Daily National Intelligencer. Washington DC. 1800–1869.

    Pensacola Gazette. Pensacola, FL. 1830–1861.

  5. 5

    This honor appears to have been an extension of the gratitude the Nauvoo City Council had previously expressed to other government officials and Illinois citizens for their assistance to the Saints. On 3 February 1841 the Nauvoo City Council resolved to tender “unfeigned thanks” to government officials in Illinois and a month later voted to express particular thanks to Senator Richard M. Young, who introduced the Saints’ memorial for redress into the Senate. The city council also bestowed upon Young the freedom of the city. (Minutes, 3 Feb. 1841; Minutes, 1 Mar. 1841; see also Proclamation, 15 Jan. 1841.)  

  6. 6

    As Illinois secretary of state, Stephen A. Douglas signed legislation benefiting the Saints in their efforts for self-governance, including the Nauvoo city charter, which authorized the Nauvoo Legion, the University of Nauvoo, and the Nauvoo Boarding House Association. (See Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840; and Agreement with William Law, 26 Apr. 1841.)  

  7. 7

    See Psalm 140:1–3.  

  8. 8

    Douglas was a Democrat, while Walker was a Whig.  

  9. 9

    The Saints had previously benefited from bipartisan support. The Nauvoo city charter received unanimous support from both Democrats and Whigs. Douglas and the Whig senator Sidney H. Little were particularly influential in the charter’s passage. In his history of Illinois, Thomas Ford wrote that the Saints received bipartisan support because “each party was afraid to object to them for fear of losing the Latter-day Saint vote, and each believed that it had secured their favor.” (Gregg, History of Hancock County, Illinois, 273; John C. Bennett [Joab, pseud.], Springfield, IL, 16 Dec. 1840, Letter to the Editors, Times and Seasons, 1 Jan. 1841, 2:266–267; Ford, History of Illinois, 263, 265.)  

    Gregg, Thomas. History of Hancock County, Illinois, Together with an Outline History of the State, and a Digest of State Laws. Chicago: Charles C. Chapman, 1880.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Ford, Thomas. A History of Illinois, from Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847. Containing a Full Account of the Black Hawk War, the Rise, Progress, and Fall of Mormonism, the Alton and Lovejoy Riots, and Other Important and Interesting Events. Chicago: S. C. Griggs; New York: Ivison and Phinney, 1854.