, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to JS, [, Hancock Co., IL], 29 Jan. 1843; handwriting of ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes docket.
Single leaf, measuring 9¾ × 7⅞ inches (25 × 20 cm) and ruled with twenty-six horizontal lines. The upper left corner of the recto includes a circular embossment, now illegible. The leaf is cut along the left side of the recto and contains remnants of another page, suggesting that the leaf was originally part of a bifolium. The letter was trifolded twice in letter style. It was later refolded for filing.
JS presumably received the letter and kept it among his papers. At some point between 1853 and 1856, Jonathan Grimshaw, who served as a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Department) during that time, created a wrapper for the letter and docketed that leaf. The document was listed in an inventory that was produced by the Church Historian’s Office circa 1904. By 1973 the document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The document’s early docket as well as its inclusion in the circa 1904 inventory and in the JS Collection by 1973 indicate continuous institutional custody.
Historian’s Office, Journal, 7 June 1853; Wilford Woodruff, Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, to George A. Smith, 30 Aug. 1856, in Historian’s Office, Letterpress Copybooks, vol. 1, p. 364. Grimshaw evidently created this wrapper after 4 November 1853, as he used a canceled letter from Thomas Clark to Thomas Bullock dated 4 November 1853 to serve as the wrapper, using the reverse side for the docket. (Wrapper for Sylvester Emmons to JS, 29 Jan. 1843, JS Collection [Supplement], CHL.)
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On 29 January 1843, wrote JS at , Illinois, to inquire if JS intended to seek a second term as mayor of Nauvoo in the upcoming 6 February 1843 election. A respected lawyer who was not a member of the , Emmons was evidently encouraged to run for mayor by some of his and JS’s mutual acquaintances. Despite such encouragement, Emmons intended to run only if JS did not seek election to continue in the office. Emmons also hoped to secure JS’s endorsement, which would make him a more appealing candidate to Nauvoo’s Latter-day Saint voters.
likely wrote in response to a letter that JS published in the 28 January issue of the Wasp. In that letter, JS asserted that his “feelings revolt at the idea of having any thing to do with politics” and stated that he wished to “attend strictly to the spiritual welfare of the church.” Although JS was commenting on his involvement in county politics rather than on his position as mayor of , his words may have left the public uncertain of whether he desired to continue working in Nauvoo’s government. Although Nauvoo city elections were scheduled for 6 February, JS was not officially nominated as a mayoral candidate until a 1 February caucus meeting, which he did not attend. Such lack of electioneering suggests that he subscribed to the ideal of the disinterested public servant, which explains why Emmons and others may have been unaware of his intentions to run even though the election was only a week away.
The absence of postal markings on the letter indicates that it was delivered to JS by hand or in an envelope or wrapper that is no longer extant. JS presumably received the letter in on or shortly after the day it was written. It is unknown if JS replied to , but Emmons did not run for the mayoral office and instead ran for a seat on the city council.
Since the 1830s, municipal and state politicians believed that the Saints voted in blocs and would follow JS’s lead in voting. (See Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 397, 508–509; and Arrington and Bitton, Mormon Experience, 50–52.)
Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.
In the United States during the early nineteenth century, democratic tradition held that candidates should not seek office too vigorously but should instead assume an air of selfless public service if called upon by voters. Even the practice of paying elected officials made some Americans uncomfortable, as it suggested the possibility of less virtuous political aims. The rhetoric about disinterested public service did not always match reality. Many candidates for local office published broadsides, advertised their candidacies in newspapers, or at the very least printed circulars announcing their candidacy. While JS did not engage in such practices, he did seek to cultivate goodwill among those who opposed him politically. (See Pocock, “Election Practices in Early Ohio,” 49–50; Wood, Radicalism of the American Revolution, 287–305; JS, Journal, 2 and 4 Feb. 1843; and Historical Introduction to Oath, 11 Feb. 1843.)
Pocock, Emil. “‘A Candidate I’ll Surely Be’: Election Practices in Early Ohio, 1798–1825.” In The Pursuit of Public Power: Political Culture in Ohio, 1787–1861, edited by Jeffrey P. Brown and Andrew R. L. Cayton, 49–68. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1994.
Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1992.
Many enquiries are made of me who is going to run for Mayor of the I have generally answered that you was a candidate for reelection which I presumed to be an the fact— still some say they are credibly informed that you do not wish to run for the office in consideration of which a number of my friends solicit me to run (my friends being your friends for I wish no others) now Sir if you decline <intend> running it will meet with my hearty approbation as there is no other person upon whom the office could devolve that would perform its incumbent duties with as much justice and fidelity as yourself, and in whose administration the dignity of the office would be preserved and the best interests of the promoted— In that case I would not suffer my name to be mentioned as a candidate— but if you decline running and would deighn to favor me with your support I would be a candidate for the suffrages of Citizens of among whom as far as I am known I think there is not one hostile feeling if I am to judge from the kind and hospitable manner in which they have always treated me though bound with them [p. ]
On 19 May 1842, two days after John C. Bennett’s resignation as mayor, the Nauvoo City Council appointed JS to fill the position in Bennett’s stead, swearing him in to office that same day. (Oath, 21 May 1842.)