JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , [, New Haven Co., CT], 26 Nov. 1842. Featured version copied [ca. 26 Nov. 1842]; handwriting of ; three pages; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes docket and archival marking.
Bifolium measuring 10 × 8 inches (25 × 20 cm) when folded. The bifolium is ruled with twenty-six horizontal lines printed in brown ink, now faded, with header space. The upper left corner of the first recto contains an embossment of “CONGRESS | SOUTHWORTH CO” encircling an image of a bird holding a branch in its beak, likely the insignia of the West Springfield, Massachusetts, paper mill firm established by Wells and Edward Southworth in 1839. The letter was folded twice horizontally for storage and docketed. There is some water damage and fading along the fold patterns.
The document was docketed by , who served as scribe to JS from 1842 to 1844 and as temple recorder from 1842 to 1846. In late 1844, following JS’s death, became one of the interim church trustees and was appointed “first bishop” among other Nauvoo bishops. It was presumably during this time that many of the church’s financial and other administrative records passed into his possession. This document, along with many other personal and institutional documents that Whitney kept, was inherited by Newel K. and ’s daughter Mary Jane Whitney, who was married to Isaac Groo. The documents were passed down within the Groo family. Between 1969 and 1974, the Groo family donated their collection of Newel K. Whitney’s papers to the J. Reuben Clark Library (renamed Harold B. Lee Library in 1973) at Brigham Young University.
JS, Journal, 29 June 1842; “Clayton, William,” in Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:718; Clayton, History of the Nauvoo Temple, 18, 30–31.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901–1936.
Clayton, William. History of the Nauvoo Temple, ca. 1845. CHL. MS 3365.
Andrus and Fuller, Register of the Newel Kimball Whitney Papers, 24; Wilkinson et al., Brigham Young University, 4:255.
Andrus, Hyrum L., and Chris Fuller, comp. Register of the Newel Kimball Whitney Papers. Provo, UT: Division of Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, 1978.
Wilkinson, Ernest L., Leonard J. Arrington, and Bruce C. Hafen, eds. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. Vol. 4. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1976.
On 26 November 1842, JS wrote a letter from , Illinois, to in , Connecticut, responding to Hotchkiss’s concerns regarding JS’s bankruptcy proceedings and the growth of Nauvoo. In 1839 JS, , and (the ’s ) purchased much of the land that would become Nauvoo from the partnership of Hotchkiss, , and . According to the terms of the agreement, the title to the property would not officially transfer to the First Presidency until payment had been made in full. Since making the purchase agreement, Hotchkiss had kept up a regular correspondence with JS concerning the growth of Nauvoo and church leaders’ difficulty making the scheduled annual payments. In January 1842, JS, Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith transferred the Hotchkiss, Tuttle, and Gillet land to JS as trustee-in-trust for the church—likely without Hotchkiss’s knowledge.
In April 1842, faced with this and other debts, JS determined to take advantage of the recently passed General Bankruptcy Act of 1841 and file for bankruptcy. In May 1842, JS informed of his decision, promising him he would still be paid in full but advising that all of JS’s creditors would “have to fare alike” in the proceedings. Hotchkiss responded later that month by warning that declaring bankruptcy would “have a most disastrous influence upon your society both commercially and religiously” and reminding JS that because he did not yet hold legal title to the lands he purchased from Hotchkiss they could not be listed among JS’s assets. JS replied to Hotchkiss in June 1842 reiterating that all JS’s creditors would “have to fare alike.” Although Hotchkiss apparently responded to that letter after he received it, JS never received the reply and it is apparently not extant.
In the meantime, became concerned about the lack of information he was receiving from . On 8 November 1842, after more than four months passed without receiving any word from JS or his associates, Hotchkiss wrote a letter to —the first of the three men listed on the original 1839 bond for the property—inquiring about the sale of city lots and any improvements made to the land. Hotchkiss also reminded him that the church was responsible for paying taxes on the property. When this letter arrived in Nauvoo, Rigdon gave it to JS, presumably because the land had been transferred to JS as trustee-in-trust for the church.
JS responded to ’s letter to on 26 November 1842. Although JS’s bankruptcy proceedings were ongoing, he informed Hotchkiss that based on his current understanding, their contract would not be affected by the process because he considered it to be a trustee-in-trust debt rather than a personal debt. JS therefore declined to provide Hotchkiss with the requested information regarding the sale and development of city lots. JS justified his lack of communication by pointing to the alleged corruption of Rigdon and others running the by withholding or stealing letters. In a postscript, JS suggested that they renew their agreement, presumably with an altered schedule of payments.
The sent copy of the letter is apparently not extant. likely served as scribe for the original letter, though it is unclear if the version featured here is Clayton’s initial draft or a retained copy made before it was sent. In either case, the featured version was retained with JS’s records and later copied into JS Letterbook 2. The sent copy arrived in by 19 December, when responded, acknowledging JS’s difficulties but admonishing him to write more frequently.
The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845. . . . Edited by Richard Peters. 8 vols. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846–1867.
Clayton’s docket began with the word “Copy” encircled and apart from the rest of the docket. This notation may have served either as a description of this letter or as instructions to another clerk to make a copy of the letter.
Dr. Sir— Yours of the 8th. inst to has been received and in consequence of his not knowing any thing concerning the matters therein mentioned nor being in anyways connected or interested in my affairs he of course has handed the letter to me which I shall proceed to answer.
And Sir permit me to say on the subject of the deal between myself as Trustee in Trust for the and you that I am as anxious as ever to have the contract continue good between us, and to meet the obligations specified in the contract. I am not, neither have I ever been wishful to shrink from it in any form whatever, but intend to make payments as fast as my circumstances will admit. But Sir, you are not unacquainted with the extreme hardness of the times, and the great scarcity of money, and which put it out of my power to meet all the payments as they fell due, and which has been the only cause of any failure on my part, and should you feel disposed not to press the payments but offer a lenityequivalent to the state of the times, then sir, I shall yet endeavor to make up the payments as fast as possible, and consider the contract still good between us. I would here say, that when I found it necessary to avail myself of the benifits of the Bankrupt Law I know not but that the Law required of me to include you amongst the list of my creditors, notwithstanding the nature of the contract. [p. ]