Letter from James Arlington Bennet, 20 February 1843
, Letter, , [New Utrecht, Kings Co., NY], to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 20 Feb. 1843; handwriting of ; three pages; JS Materials, CCLA. Includes address, postal stamps, postal notation, endorsement, and docket.
Bifolium measuring 9⅞ × 8 inches (25 × 20 cm) when folded. Each page is ruled with twenty-seven horizontal lines printed in blue ink with header space. Embossed in the upper left corner of the first page is a circular mark enclosing flowers and foliage. The document was trifolded twice in letter style (with the outer edge of the second leaf folded in a triangular pattern to form a seal flap), addressed, and sealed with red wax, the remnants of which are on the second leaf.
The document was endorsed by , who served as JS’s scribe from December 1841 until JS’s death in June 1844 and served as church historian from December 1842 until his own death in March 1854. The document also contains a docket in unidentified handwriting. The letter was likely retained by JS and passed down among Smith family descendants. Sometime before 1961, it was transferred to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ).
On 20 February 1843, wrote a letter from , New York, to JS at , Illinois, regarding recent hearings related to the latest efforts to extradite JS to and JS’s continuing problems with two adversaries, embittered former member and New York Herald editor . JS and James Arlington Bennet had never met, but they had exchanged letters during August and September 1842. Since those exchanges, the two men had not corresponded directly, although between October and December, JS reviewed and approved two letters between , his close friend and personal secretary, and Bennet. Bennet had also written two letters published in the New York Herald defending JS and the Latter-day Saints. In both of these letters, Bennet disclaimed any close connections with John C. Bennett while at the same time expressing his sympathy for and friendship with JS.
In this 20 February letter, which requested remain confidential, Bennet informed JS of his efforts to assist him in his ongoing legal situation, including writing letters on his behalf to both , former governor of , and , former governor of . Bennet evidently also sent a letter to imploring him to stop his defamatory campaign against JS and the church. Further casting himself as a friend and ally of JS, James Arlington Bennet indicated his pleasure at what he perceived to be the financial failure of John C. Bennett’s recently published exposé of JS. Bennet’s sentiments demonstrated his continuing contempt for the man who had first introduced him to JS and the Latter-day Saints. Bennet also expressed his displeasure with , who had recently angered the Latter-day Saint community with derisive comments regarding JS’s extradition hearings in , Illinois.
The postmarks on the letter indicate that mailed it to JS from a week after he wrote it. JS received and read the letter on 15 March 1843 and dictated a response two days later.
I am extremely happy to know that you are now completely free from that unrig[h]teous persecution got up against you by & & that the corrupt attempts to repeal your Charters have failed. But if they had repealed them it would only have given you a little trouble as the Judiciary would most unquestionably have rectified their conduct.
On the reception of your letter on the subject of you[r] peculiar distressed Situation I instantly wrote to Governers & on the subject, stated to both that having seen , I was in full possession of all the facts & evidence in the case & that I was so well satisfied of the gross injustice & unfounded nature of the charge against you I should, in case they persisted in bring<ing> you to trial, appear myself in person for the defence both as evidence against from his confessions to me, and as counsel on your behalf and that they had no chance whatever of success. I sent the letter of your to my wife and one from ’s fatherinlaw, to . This course I have no doubt has had its full effect. I also wrote to at enjoining it on him to abandon the prosecution & to write to & to that effect & if he would not that I should appear for you. I have however never received any answer & I presume from subsequent conduct he paid no regard to my admonition. You destroyed several of his deep laid plans & one in particular in which through me he expected to get a wife worth half a million. But I never was more decieved in a man every way as his discription of himself in his letter to me made me think he was the Magnus Apollo. He is extremely superficial in education & the rest every body may know. If I were to judge the by s Military knowledge I should rate it very low I therefore think you [p. 1]
In his inaugural address on 8 December 1842, newly elected Illinois governor Thomas Ford advocated the repeal of the act incorporating the city of Nauvoo, known as the Nauvoo charter. Following Ford’s remarks, the repeal of the charter became a topic of debate in the Illinois legislature, with a bill to repeal the charter being submitted to the legislature during late 1842 and early 1843. (Journal of the Senate . . . of the State of Illinois, 8 Dec. 1842, 33; Leonard, Nauvoo, 307.)
Journal of the Senate of the Thirteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois, at Their Regular Session, Begun and Held at Springfield, December 5, 1842. Springfield, IL: William Walters, 1842.
Leonard, Glen M. Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2002.
At some point between 1831 and 1833, James Arlington Bennet evidently obtained a doctor of laws degree from an unknown institution and began publishing his book The American System of Practical Book-Keeping under the name of “James Bennett, A. & M. Attorney and Counsellor at Law.” Earlier editions of the book did not contain the designation. (Compare the title pages of the 1824, 1831, and 1833 printings of Bennet’s The American System of Practical Book-Keeping: Adapted to the Commerce of the United States in Its Domestic and Foreign Relations, Comprehending All the Modern Improvements in the Practice of the Art; and Exemplified in One Set of Books Kept by Double Entry, published by Collins and Hannay in New York.)
Bennet, James Arlington. The American System of Practical Book-Keeping, Adapted to the Commerce of the United States, in it Domestic and Foreign Relations, Comprehending All the Modern Improvements in the Practice of the Art, and Exemplified in One Set of Books Kept By Double Entry, Embracing Five Different Methods of Keeping a Journal. New York: Collins & Hannay, 1831.
John C. Bennett arrived in Boston around 9 September 1842. He likely remained in the area until at least 15 October 1842, when his book was published by the Boston firm Leland and Whiting. James Arlington Bennet presumably wrote to him prior to the book’s publication. (“Mormonism Exposed,” Daily Atlas [Boston], 9 Sept. 1842, ; “Gen. Bennet’s Mormon Disclosures,” Daily Atlas, 15 Oct. 1842, .)
“Magnus Apollo” is Latin for “the Great Apollo,” a phrase that originated with Virgil. Nineteenth-century Americans and Europeans appropriated the phrase to describe various individuals of renown. (See Works of Virgil, 2:306; Smith, “Old Maid’s Legacy,” 7; Speech of David Pollock, 25; and Burrows and Wallace, Gotham, 329.)
The Works of Virgil, Translated into English Prose, as Near the Original as the Different Idioms of the Latin and English Languages Will Allow. . . . 2 vols. London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1821.
Smith, Richard Penn. “The Old Maid’s Legacy.” Lady’s Book 13 (July 1836): 7–17.
Speech of David Pollock, Esq., on the Summing Up of the Evidence of Traffic, Given before the Committee of the House of Commons, in Support of Sir John Rennie’s, or the Direct Line. The Direct London and Brighton Railway, Session 1836. London: W. Lewis, 1836.
Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
The extent of John C. Bennett’s formal education is unknown. He claimed to have graduated from Ohio University, but extant records do not indicate either his attendance or graduation. He apprenticed in the field of medicine under his uncle Dr. Samuel Hildreth and passed a licensing examination before the Twelfth Medical Society in Ohio in November 1825. In 1833 and 1834, Bennett attempted to establish a college in Ohio called “The Classical, Literary, and Scientific Institution of Scioto Valley, for teaching the Arts and Sciences.” The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill to create the school, but the state senate later rejected the bill on the basis of an unfavorable report. The report stated that Bennett was “the only individual who appear[ed] to take any interest” in passing the bill and that he had tried to sell diplomas to individuals in Ohio from a school he had proposed in Indiana. The Ohio Senate concluded that Bennett had “some Sinister Motive in view, in pressing the passage of the bill” to establish the school. (Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 3–5; “To the Public,” Western Medical Reformer [Cincinnati], Extra, 8 Sept. 1845, 4–7, italics in original; see also S. A. L., Cleveland, OH, 1 July 1845, Letter to the Editors, Western Medical Reformer, June 1845, 13; and “Ohio Legislature,” Western Medical Reformer, Aug. 1845, 35.)
Smith, Andrew F. The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.