JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , , New Haven Co., CT, 25 Aug. 1841; handwriting of ; address in handwriting of ; four pages; Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, Springfield, IL. Includes address, postal stamp, postal notation, and docket.
Two leaves (at one time a bifolium but now separated), each measuring 9¾ × 7¾ inches (25 × 20 cm). The letter was written on all four pages. It was then addressed, trifolded twice in letter style, sealed with a red adhesive wafer, and stamped at the Nauvoo post office. The letter was later refolded for filing.
The custodial history of the letter is unknown before it came into the possession of the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop in Chicago, Illinois, which sold it in 1972 to the Illinois State Historical Library (now the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum).
On 25 August 1841, JS wrote a letter in , Illinois, to his creditor in , Connecticut, discussing JS’s debts. JS’s letter was a response to a communication a month earlier, wherein Hotchkiss expressed his confusion and dissatisfaction that JS had not paid his debts through his , as had been arranged. Although JS commissioned Galland to obtain deeds to land in the eastern and transfer them to Hotchkiss as payment for the debts, Galland never accomplished the task. By July, Galland informed Hotchkiss that he was returning to Nauvoo. Meanwhile, JS had not been informed that Galland, upon whom JS and the were relying, had apparently abandoned his assignment. JS had even begun to place increased trust in Galland—in a May 1841 letter, he asked his primary agent, , to turn his responsibilities over to Galland.
The lack of payment particularly displeased because he had deferred the first interest payment on the debt for two years. According to the bond and promissory notes from the initial purchase in 1839, JS was to pay an annual interest of $3,000 for twenty years, after which the principal would be due. However, according to the letter featured here, JS believed that Hotchkiss had agreed to defer the first five interest payments and accept lands as payment for both the principal and the interest. Hotchkiss’s September response reveals that he remembered agreeing to accept land payments for the interest only. The miscommunication was frustrating for both parties, but in the ensuing correspondence, JS and Hotchkiss renegotiated the agreement to pay the debt with the eastern lands.
made a copy of the 25 August letter before it was sent. That copy was retained in JS’s . The original was mailed on 28 August through the post office and is the version featured here. received the letter and responded three weeks later with a letter recounting his various attempts to accommodate JS’s repayment efforts—efforts that had been unsuccessful thus far. Hotchkiss presumably showed the letter featured here to his business partner, , who then also wrote a letter to JS.
into an arrangement according to the powers that I had deligated to them, That you would not receive any of the principal at all, but the interest alone, which we never considered ourselves, in honor or in justice bound to pay under the expiration of five years, I presumed you are no stranger, to the part of the plat we bought of you, it being a deathlysickly hole, and that we have not been able in consequence to realize any valuable consideration from it, although we have been keeping up appearances, and holding out inducements, to encourage emigration that we scarcely think justifiable in consequence of the mortality, that almost invariably awaits those who come from far distant parts, <and> at that with a view to enable us to meet our engagements, And now to be goaded by you for a breach of good faith and neglect, and dishonorable conduct seems to me to be almost beyond endurance, you are aware that we came from destitute of every thing but physical form, and had nothing but our energies and perseverence to rely upon to meet the payment of the extortionate sum, that you exacted for the Land that we had of you, Have you no feelings of commisseration, or is it your design to crush us, with a ponderous load before we are able to walk, or can you better dispose of the [p. ]
The death toll in Nauvoo more than doubled between 1840 and 1841, rising from 63 to 175. Most deaths appear to have been associated with malaria, which was spreading throughout the marshlands of the Nauvoo area. The population increase would also have influenced the rising death toll. (See Ivie and Heiner, “Deaths in Early Nauvoo,” 163–173.)
Ivie, Evan L., and Douglas C. Heiner. “Deaths in Early Nauvoo, 1839–46, and Winter Quarters, 1846–48.” Religious Educator 10, no. 3 (2009): 163–173.
Immigration to Nauvoo from the British Isles and the eastern United States had increased during the previous year. In that time, a published account in the Times and Seasons encouraged church members to immigrate and relocate to Nauvoo. The revelations of January and March 1841 further encouraged Saints to gather in Nauvoo, and a large influx of immigrants was expected in the following months. By July 1841 over eight hundred converts from the British Isles had immigrated to Nauvoo. (Alanson Ripley, “Nauvoo,” Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:123; Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124]; Revelation, ca. Early Mar. 1841 [D&C 125]; “British Emigration to Nauvoo,” 5–6, in Historian’s Office, Church Emigration, CHL.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Historian's Office. Church Emigration, no date. CHL.
Insertion in graphite at a later date in unidentified handwriting.