On 15 August 1842, wrote from , Illinois, to JS, who was in hiding at the house of just outside of Nauvoo. In the letter, Law stated his willingness to carry out JS’s orders to use the as a protective force. Earlier in the day, Law had received a letter in which JS, as lieutenant general of the legion, directed Law, as the legion’s major general, to use force, if necessary, against the Saints’ “persecutors.” On 8 August or soon after, JS was arrested and then released; by 10 August he had gone into hiding to avoid further attempts to extradite him to . Three days later, while still in hiding, he heard rumors that the arresting officers threatened to set fire to Nauvoo. On the morning of 15 August, the day JS received the letter featured here, “several reports were in circulation that the Militia” was marching to Nauvoo, but JS’s journal notes that the rumors were viewed as “only a scheme to alarm the citizens.” According to a notice in the 15 August issue of the Times and Seasons, “a good many strangers” were in the city at that time, requiring the “city authorities to be vigilent.”
In the afternoon of 15 August, wrote this letter to JS, addressing him as his commanding officer in the Nauvoo Legion and as his friend. In his letter, Law agreed with JS’s sentiments about defending the Saints’ rights and informed him of recent military business. Along with the letter, Law sent a militia ordinance for JS to sign, as well as the Nauvoo Legion’s recent election returns. At six o’clock that evening, Law added a postscript about the movements of constable , who was one of the officers assigned to arrest JS.
That same evening, a report arrived in that the local authorities “were determined to have Joseph and if they could not succeed themselves they would bring a force sufficient to search every house in the City.” At about nine o’clock at night, , , , , and others took different routes to ’s farm to meet with JS. After meeting with the group and hearing “the whole statement from those present,” JS reproved them for allowing the reports to excite them. According to his journal, “all fears were soon subsided, and the greatest union and good feeling prevailed amongst all present.” In his letter to , JS had instructed him to convey written information via an aide-de-camp. , who was Wilson’s brother and one of JS’s aides-de-camp, had likely carried Wilson Law’s letter to JS. JS responded to Wilson Law the next day, on 16 August.
The original letter from is apparently not extant, but it was copied by into JS’s journal in the Book of the Law of the Lord. Clayton, who was in until the night of 15 August, when he left for ’s farm, might have copied the letter into JS’s journal before he or someone else carried it to JS on 15 August. Alternatively, Clayton might have copied the letter onto a loose leaf or obtained the original letter from JS and then copied the contents into JS’s journal, probably between 16 and 20 August, after he returned to Nauvoo from Sayers’s farm.
Clayton was with JS between 15 and 16 August and probably did not have the large Book of the Law of the Lord with him. He likely returned to Nauvoo on 16 or 17 August and seems to have copied the letter in the Book of the Law of the Lord soon after returning. He made the copy no later than 20 August, as suggested by the content of these and surrounding entries and the changes in the ink Clayton used. (See Book of the Law of the Lord, 134–135, 164–167.)
I this morning received a line from you by the young man () respecting the Guns &c. One of them is in the stone Shop by the . One I expect to get put into Mr Ivins’ barn and the other I cannot get under lock and key any place I know of yet; but I will have them taken the best care of that I can.
I have also received from the hand of your yourorders at len[g]th respecting matters and things, and I am happy indeed to receive such orders from you, for your views on these subjects are precisely my own. I do respond with my whole heart to every sentiment you have so nobly and so feelingly expressed, and while my heart beats, or this hand which now writes is able to draw and weild a sword you may depend on it being at your service in the glorious cause Liberty and Truth, ready in a moments warning to defends the rights of man both civil and religious. Our commonrights and peace is all we ask and we will use every peaceable means in our power to enjoy these, but our rightswemusthave, peace we must have if we have to fight for them.— There has nothing worthy of notice come to my knowledge to day, the GentlemenOfficers are seemingly very unhappy and out of humor with themselves more than with any body else, they see we have the advantage of them and that the<y> can not provoke us to break the law, and I think they know if they do that we will use them up the right way. I guess they see that in our patience we possess our souls, and I know that if they shed or cause to be shed a drop of the blood of one of the least amongst us that the lives of the transgressors shall atone for it with the help of our God.— I send you the ordinance that was passed by the Court Martial on Saturday last for your approval or otherwise as it cannot become a Law without your approbation.
I also send you the returns of the election for Major General, as you ordered the election, you will please order the of the Legion () to send for a Commission.
With the warmest feelings of my heart I remain most respectfully,
P.S. Afternoon 6 o clock
I have just learned that got a letter about noon and got ready immediately and started off as he said for but I think for giving it up for a bad job
Walker had moved into the home of JS and had helped Emma Smith travel undetected to Sayers’s home on 13 August. (“Four Generations of Walkers,” Deseret Evening News [Salt Lake City], 19 Jan. 1907, 13; Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, “The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith,” Saints’ Herald, 18 Dec. 1934, 1614; JS, Journal, 13 Aug. 1842.)
Possibly Robert Ivins, the assistant commissary general in the first cohort of the Nauvoo Legion, or either James or Charles Ivins, brothers who owned land in Nauvoo. (Returns for Commission in the Nauvoo Legion, 6 June 1842, Illinois Governor’s Correspondence, 1816–1852, Illinois State Archives, Springfield; Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. K, pp. 433–434, 27 Apr. 1842, microfilm 954,599; vol. M, pp. 344–345, 30 Apr. 1842, microfilm 954,600, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)
Illinois Governor’s Correspondence, 1816–1852. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
In light of the persecution they experienced in Missouri, some Saints expressed the need to meet violence with violence. In a July 1838 oration, Sidney Rigdon indicated that the “mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled.” The trauma of the Missouri persecutions and forced expulsion from the state shaped Latter-day Saint rhetoric on justice into the 1840s. The 15 August 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons included an article on attempts to extradite JS to Missouri, wherein the author noted that “Missouri is the last place to go to for justice . . . she must however first atone for her bloody deeds . . . before their confidence can be restored in her justice.” The idea of sacrificial blood had deep roots in America, reaching back to the European colonization and beyond. (Oration Delivered by Mr. S. Rigdon, 12; “Persecution,” Times and Seasons, 15 Aug. 1842, 3:887, italics in original; Juster, Sacred Violence in Early America, 17–75.)
Juster, Susan. Sacred Violence in Early America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.
Ordinance 3, passed by the court-martial on 13 August 1842, described sundry organizational, performance, legal, and disciplinary requirements for the Nauvoo Legion. In this case, the court-martial was a law-making body, rather than a judicial one. In his minutes of legion meetings, Hosea Stout recorded that JS approved this ordinance on 13 August. (Nauvoo Legion, Proceedings, 13 Aug. 1842, Nauvoo Legion Records, CHL; Nauvoo Legion Minute Book,  Aug. 1842, 22–29.)
Two days later, Sloan sent a letter to Illinois adjutant general Moses K. Anderson requesting commissions for Wilson Law and thirty-three other officers. (James Sloan, Nauvoo, IL, to Moses K. Anderson, Springfield, IL, 17 Aug. 1842, Thomas Carlin, Correspondence, Illinois State Archives, Springfield.)
Carlin, Thomas. Correspondence, 1838–1842. In Office of the Governor, Records, 1818–1989. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.