On 16 August 1842, wrote from , Illinois, to JS, who was in hiding just outside of Nauvoo, responding to JS’s letter of the same date. Law agreed that it might be best if JS left for a time to avoid the men who were attempting to arrest him and extradite him to . At the time, JS was staying with member . In his 16 August letter to Law, JS had indicated he might depart Illinois to hide in . JS had asked Law for his advice about leaving and also requested updates on recent developments in Nauvoo. Judging from the opening lines of Law’s reply, it appears that he received JS’s letter sometime around noon.
In ’s response, written about one in the afternoon, he addressed JS, as he had the previous day, both as lieutenant general of the and as a friend. Law reported that “the enemy” had made “no movements” and expressed his belief that, despite reports to the contrary, those seeking to arrest JS would not inflict violence on ’s citizens if JS was not there.
left JS to deliver letters to and on 16 August, and JS expected Derby to return soon. He probably returned to ’s house with Law’s letter later that day. JS did not respond to this letter from Law, who wrote JS another letter on the same topic the next day. either retained Law’s original 16 August letter, which is not extant, or made a copy. He copied the letter into JS’s journal—which was being kept in the Book of the Law of the Lord—several days later, probably between 21 and 23 August, as suggested by changes in the ink Clayton used in the Book of the Law of the Lord.
My Dear Friend— I have just received and read yours of to day & hasten to reply. There is no movements of any kind going on to-day amongst the enemy as far as I can see which helps to strengthen me in my opinion of yesterday, but still it might be a calm before a storm and if so we will meet it when it comes.
You wish my opinion respecting your absenting yourself for some time from those friends that are dear to you as life, and to whom you are also as dear, & from the place and station to which you are call’d by Him who ruleth in the armies of heaven & amongst the inhabitants of the earth. I must confess that I feel almost unworthy to give an opinion on the subject, knowing that your own judgment is far superior to mine, but nevertheless you shall have it freely, it is this I think that if they cannot get you peaceably according to the forms of law, that they will not dare to attempt violence of any kind upon the inhabitants of the , for they are well aware that they cannot insult us with impunity neither use violence only at the risk of their lives, and there are but few men, who are willing to risk their lives in a bad cause, it is the principles & spirit of Liberty, of Truth, of Virtue, & of Religion & equal rights, that make men courageous and valient & fearless in the day of battle and of strife; and just the contrary with the oppressor for nine times out of ten a bad cause will make a man a coward & he will flee when no man pursueth. Now if I am right in thinking that it is you alone they seek to destroy as soon as they find they can not get you, they will cease to trouble the except with spies; and if we knew that you were completely out of their reach, we could either laugh at their folly, or whip them for impertinence or any thing else, as the case might be, for we would feel so happy in your safety that we could meet them in any shape. On the whole I think it would be better for you to absent yourself till the takes the Chair, for I do think if you are not here they will not attempt any violence on the , and if they should they will disgrace themselves in the eyes of the world, and the world will justify us in fighting for our rights, and then you can come out like a Lion and lead your people to glory and to victory in the name of the Lord of Hosts. I know the sacrifice you must make in taking this course, I know it will grieve your noble spirit to do so, for when I think of it myself I feel no desire in life but to fight and to cut off from the earth all who oppress, and to establish that true form of government at once which would guarantee to every man equal rights. I know we have justice on our side in respect of city Laws, & that the acts of municipal court are legal, but the question is are we now able to assert them or had we better wait till we are more able. The latter course will give us peace alittle while, by sacrificing yourliberty and the feelings of your family and friends and depriving usall of your society and governingwisdom. I will only add that I am ready for either course and may God direct us to do that that is best. [p. 172]
JS closed his 16 August letter to Law by stating that he would “wait with earnest expectation for your advices” and that he was “anxious” to receive Law’s response. (Letter to Wilson Law, 16 Aug. 1842.)
Near the close of his letter to Law, JS asked him to “write and give me . . . all other information that has come to hand today and what are the signs of the times.” (Letter to Wilson Law, 16 Aug. 1842.)
Thomas Ford, a Democrat, won the 1 August gubernatorial election with strong support from the Latter-day Saints. Law's recommendation that JS wait for Ford to take office before returning to Nauvoo indicates that church members hoped Ford would be more sympathetic to JS and the Saints than Governor Thomas Carlin had been. Ford, as stipulated by state law, took office in December 1842. (“O Yes! O Yes!,” Wasp, 16 July 1842, ; “Official Returns,” Warsaw [IL] Signal, 13 Aug. 1842, ; Illinois Constitution of 1818, art. 3, sec. 3; Journal of the Senate . . . of Illinois, 8 Dec. 1842, 33.)
The Wasp. Nauvoo, IL. Apr. 1842–Apr. 1843.
Warsaw Signal. Warsaw, IL. 1841–1853.
Illinois Office of Secretary of State. First Constitution of Illinois, 1818. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
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.