Discourse, 25 February 1843
JS, Discourse, [, Hancock Co., IL, 25 Feb. 1843]. Featured version copied [ca. 25 Feb. 1843] in JS, Journal, bk. 1, 21 Dec. 1842–10 Mar. 1843, pp. –; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS, journal, 1842–1844.
On 25 February 1843, JS delivered a discourse in , Illinois, to the Nauvoo City Council regarding the city government’s ability to demand payment for fees and taxes in gold and silver coin. At the time of this sermon, Nauvoo was in a dire financial situation owing to a proliferation of city scrip. This discourse demonstrated JS’s increasing preference for using “hard money” to finance the city and the construction of the and the .During the financially depressed years of the late 1830s and early 1840s, many Americans became either “soft money” or “hard money” supporters. Soft money advocates called on municipalities and private banks to continue printing paper money to increase inflation and relieve debtors, while hard money advocates believed the proliferation of paper currency would destabilize the economy and unfairly disadvantage creditors. Consistent with the soft-money trends, began issuing its own city scrip in early 1842. Because the scrip was redeemable by the city treasury, however, it became a source of financial problems for Nauvoo. On 13 January, a little more than a month before this February discourse, informed the Nauvoo City Council that the city treasury then had only about forty dollars of currency that could be accepted in other towns. Evidently aware of the limited acceptability of the city scrip, several Nauvoo residents had asked to exchange the scrip for currency that would be honored in locations outside of Nauvoo. The following day, the city collector presented a report to the council showing that during 1841, only $43.06 of taxes was paid in cash, while $430.50 was paid in city scrip. Together with Clayton’s letter, the report demonstrated the city’s growing financial difficulties occasioned by the city scrip, which had been issued in order to promote growth in the city but held no worth in other towns.Responding to these problems, JS expressed his own displeasure about the decreasing worth of ’s paper money and encouraged the Saints not to use it to purchase stock in the or to donate toward the . During a 21 February discourse, JS called for gold and silver coin rather than jewelry, brass kettles, and other items—including paper money—to fund the construction of buildings, promising his audience that using gold and silver would establish sound currency in the city. On 23 February, JS burned twenty-three dollars of Nauvoo city scrip and reportedly declared, “So may all uncurrent. & unsound money go down as this burns.” On the morning of 25 February 1843, the Nauvoo City Council met and debated “a Bill for regulating the Currency.” The bill mandated that “Gold and Silver Coin only be received as lawful tender in payment of City Taxes, and of debts, and also of fines.” In addition, the proposed ordinance prohibited the further release of city scrip and fined individuals for passing any paper currency within the city.JS’s journal suggests that during the city council’s morning session, JS questioned whether the council should pass the ordinance. Upon consulting the Constitution between the morning and afternoon sessions, he determined that the first clause of article 1, section 10, allows states to accept gold and silver coin as legal tender and that the state of allowed the to do the same. In addition, JS’s reading of the clause apparently convinced him that the Illinois stay and appraisal laws were unconstitutional. Convinced that the proposed ordinance regulating currency was the proper course for the city to take, JS delivered his 25 February 1843 discourse to the Nauvoo City Council during its afternoon session. The city council passed an ordinance regulating currency in Nauvoo at its 4 March meeting.made the only extant record of this sermon in JS’s journal. Although JS gave the discourse in a meeting of the City Council, the city council minutes for 25 February 1843 do not include any of his comments to the group.
See Howe, What Hath God Wrought, 373–395; and Lepler, Many Panics of 1837, chap. 1.
Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848. The Oxford History of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Lepler, Jessica M. The Many Panics of 1837: People, Politics and the Creation of a Transatlantic Financial Crisis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
William Clayton, Nauvoo, IL, to Nauvoo City Council, 13 Jan. 1843, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL.
Collector’s Report, 14 Jan. 1843, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL.
Nauvoo City Council Minute Book, 4 Mar. 1843, 167. The council amended the ordinance between the time the group discussed it on 25 February and passed the final version on 4 March to ensure that city scrip could still be used for payment in certain instances. (See Nauvoo City Council Rough Minute Book, 4 Mar. 1843, 10.)
Article 1, section 10, clause 1, reads, “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.” Nauvoo’s charter allowed the city to collect taxes and “enforce the payment of the same in any manner to be provided by ordinance, not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, or of this State.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840.)
An Act to Amend “An Act concerning Judgments and Executions, Approved, January 17th, 1825” [19 Feb. 1841], Laws of the State of Illinois [1840–1841], pp. 168–171; An Act Entitled “Act Regulating the Sale of Property on Judgments and Executions” [6 Jan. 1843], Laws of the State of Illinois [1842–1843], pp. 186–189. The 1843 act expanded on an act passed in 1841. Following the financial panics of 1837 and 1839, many states passed similar stay and appraisal laws to allow relief for debtors. (An Act Regulating the Sale of Property [27 Feb. 1841], Laws of the State of Illinois [1840–1841], pp. 172–173; Balleisen, Navigating Failure, 12.)
Laws of the State of Illinois, Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835. Vandalia, IL: J. Y. Sawyer, 1835.
Balleisen, Edward J. Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
See Nauvoo City Council Rough Minute Book, 25 Feb. 1843, 8–9.