JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , , New York Co., NY, 3 Mar. 1842. Featured version copied [ca. 3 Mar. 1842] in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 227–228; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 3 March 1842 JS composed a letter to attorney declining Barney’s earlier proposal to sell him property near , Illinois. Acting as an for the property’s owner, prominent New York City merchant Abijah Fisher, Barney had written to JS on 24 January 1842 offering to sell him twenty acres of land on the swampy western edge of the Nauvoo peninsula at $1,200 per acre.
JS apparently dictated the letter to or directed him how to respond. In the letter, JS acknowledged the receipt of ’s 24 January correspondence and outlined the reasons he was unwilling to purchase Fisher’s land at the proposed price. He also made a counteroffer to purchase the land for $100 per acre or, alternatively, to sell the land for Fisher as an agent. The letter was ostensibly mailed to Barney in , but Barney evidently did not respond to JS’s counteroffer or agency plan. Neither JS nor the purchased Fisher’s land, and the area around the property remained largely undeveloped through the nineteenth century.
JS’s original letter has not been located, but acted as scribe and copied it into Letterbook 2 presumably shortly after it was written.
On 20 January 1843 Fisher sold 120 acres of land in Nauvoo to William Spencer. This sale likely included at least a portion of the 20 acres Fisher offered to JS. (Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. L, pp. 418–419, 26 Sept. 1843, microfilm 954,599, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)
I make these observations that it may be understood in the commencement, that at the prices you suggest it would be useless to prosecute a correspondence on this subject; But, Sir, if the Lands can be furnished at a fair & honourable valuation, & pay according to the spirit of the Times, I am ready to purchase. I say spirit of the Times.— because it seems to be thatSpirit, for so many Banks to break, that it renders the circulating medium of the country so uncertain in its real value, that little is to be had, consequently property in general, the real articles themselves, must take the place of circulating medium; or become that article itself.—
If you would prefer— or Mr. Fisher,— to receive Eastern lands for the 20 acres included within the limits of our , which you have refered to in your letter, I shall be able soon to accommodate you & will give $100. pr Lot, or acre; payable in lands or property in the Eastern States, as soon as convenience will admit of the exchange.
Or if you prefer, to make me an for the sale of the Lots at a stipulated sum, which I will name in the Letter of Attorney I will pay for the same, so fast as I shall collect on the Lots; though I do not think this would be as well for you, as to take Eastern Lands at once for collections on Lands must be uncertain, while the currency remains unchanged, or continues to grow worse: & why I say I will name the sum is, that I have no time to be troubled with an agency, for Lots held so high, that they could not be sold with a tolerable dispatch.
Should either of the above propositions meet your approbations, you will please communicate; and be free to make any communications you may think proper, in relation to the matter.
With sentiments of high consideration, I remain, Sir, most respectfully, your friend & servant.
P. S. The first Number of the Times & Seasons which I have issued as Editor, comes from the press this evening.— And I shall take the liberty to express my friendship to you by mailing a copy of the same to your address, in connexion with this Letter.— [p. 228]
In early 1842 many regions in the United States were still suffering from an economic depression triggered by financial panics in 1837 and 1839. Many banks during this period, including the State Bank of Illinois and the Bank of Illinois, intermittently suspended specie (or “hard currency”) payments to their patrons, causing people to lose confidence in these institutions. Numerous banks ultimately failed, significantly devaluing the banknotes they had issued. These factors meant that many Americans did not have a reliable “circulating medium” that they could exchange for land or for goods and services. (Journal of the Senate . . . of the State of Illinois, 13 Dec. 1838, 45; Marckhoff, “Currency and Banking in Illinois before 1865,” 380; Wallis, “What Caused the Crisis of 1839?,” 11.)
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.
Marckhoff, Fred R. “Currency and Banking in Illinois before 1865.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 52, no. 3 (Autumn 1959): 365–418.
Wallis, John Joseph. “What Caused the Crisis of 1839?” NBER Working Paper Series on Historical Factors in Long Run Growth, Historical Paper 133, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, Apr. 2001. http://www.nber.org/papers/h0133.pdf.
In October 1841 church leaders encouraged Saints living in the eastern United States to exchange their lands for property in Nauvoo. (Brigham Young et al., “An Epistle of the Twelve,” Times and Seasons, 15 Oct. 1841, 2:568.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.