, Letter, , to JS, [, Hancock Co., IL?], 21 Feb. 1840. Featured version copied [between Apr. and June 1840] in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 100–103; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
While in on 21 February 1840, wrote a letter to JS, the third in a series of seven extant letters apprising JS of the actions of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which was considering the ’s memorial to Congress. Higbee had testified before the committee the previous day, and the committee had adjourned with the understanding that Senator and Representative of would be allowed the following day to present their version of what had transpired in Missouri. In this letter, Higbee conveyed to JS much of what Linn and Jameson contended, as well as how he rebutted their arguments.
presumably sent this letter by post to , Illinois, where JS would have received it after he returned from on or before 29 February 1840. The original letter is not extant. copied the version featured here into JS Letterbook 2 sometime between April and June 1840.
I have just returned again from the committee room, and made some statements, to which I replied— is much more mild and reasonable (mostly perhaps from policy) than ! who related a long lingo of stuff, which he said was proven before the Legislature in which amounted to about this that Joseph Smith gave the Mormons liberty to trespass on their neighbors property; also <gave> told them that it all belonged to them; as they [were] Israelites. O Upon this the strength of this they became the aggressors. I replied that the People in their declaration of causes that induced them to unite in order to drive the Mormons— The crime of stealing or trespassing was not mentioned; and there was no Docket, either Clerks or Justices that could show it, in , , , or — Counties— and that no Mormons ever heard such teaching or doctrine from Joseph Smith or any other Mormon; that we held to no such doctrine neither believed in any such thing— I mentioned some things contained in our Book of doctrine and Covenants; Government and laws in general. Told them we had published long ago our belief on that subject— Some things I recolected; which were, that all persons should obey the laws of the government under which they lived, and that ecclesiastical power should not be exercised to [p. 100]
This parenthetical phrase may refer to the differences between the way business was conducted in the Senate and in the House. In the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that whereas the Senate conducted itself in a dignified manner, “on entering the House of Representatives of Washington, one is struck by the vulgar demeanour of that great assembly.” (Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2:54.)
Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Translated by Henry Reeve. 2 vols. London: Saunders and Otley, 1835.
Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c., in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; and the Evidence Given before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes against the State. Fayette, MO: Boon’s Lick Democrat, 1841.
During the 1838 “Mormon War” in Missouri, leaders of the Danites, a military society organized among the Mormons, apparently taught that a February 1831 revelation granted them license to “take to your selves spoils of the goods of the ungodly Gentiles for it is written the riches of the Gentiles shall be consecrated to my people the house of Israel.” Higbee had been the captain general in the Danite organization during the conflict in Missouri. In October 1838, some church members organized into militia companies and attacked settlements that harbored anti-Mormon vigilantes. Some members confiscated livestock and other goods for the Saints’ use, and church members defended the practice as in keeping with generally accepted practices of war. Church leaders had previously denied allegations that they directed church members to steal from their neighbors or to willfully act against Missouri laws. (Phelps, Reminiscences, 6–7; Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:39]; see also LeSueur, 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, chap. 7; Baugh, “Call to Arms,” chap. 7; Letter from Elias Higbee, 16 Apr. 1839; Reed Peck, Quincy, IL, to “Dear Friends,” 18 Sept. 1839, p. 48, Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA; Foote, Autobiography, 30; Petition to George Tompkins, between 9 and 15 Mar. 1839; and Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839.)
Phelps, Morris. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 271.
LeSueur, Stephen C. The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1987.
Baugh, Alexander L. “A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1996. Also available as A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2000).
Peck, Reed. Letter, Quincy, IL, to “Dear Friends,” 18 Sept. 1839. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
Foote, Warren. Autobiography, not before 1903. Warren Foote, Papers, 1837–1941. CHL. MS 1123, fd. 1.