Letter to Orville Browning and Nehemiah Bushnell, 7 December 1841
JS, Letter, [, Hancock Co., IL], to and , , Adams Co., IL, 7 Dec. 1841. Featured version copied [not before 10 Dec. 1841] in JS Letterbook 2, p. 217; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 7 December 1841 JS replied to a letter sent by , Illinois, attorneys and regarding the payment of two promissory notes he owed to the mercantile firm Halsted, Haines & Co. The debt originated in 1836, when the , Ohio, firm of purchased mercantile goods from Halsted, Haines & Co. , , and had been appointed in 1833 to raise money for building the in by collecting monetary donations from members. In addition to collecting donations, they began operating a mercantile store in Kirtland. In 1835 and 1836 the partners purchased wholesale goods on credit from various merchants in New York City and , New York. In October 1836 the firm purchased goods from Halsted, Haines & Co. with a single promissory note totaling $6,162.23, due 11 April 1837. Cahoon, Carter & Co. was unable to pay by the due date, and the debt was later renegotiated with the help of , Ohio, lawyer . On 1 September 1837 three new promissory notes were created, dividing the original debt into three separate payments, due twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four months later. The promissory notes were signed by the principals—Cahoon, Carter, and Hyrum Smith—as well as thirty other individuals, including JS, who signed as sureties. In August 1839 JS, through his financial , presumably entered into an agreement to personally assume and pay the outstanding debt belonging to Cahoon, Carter & Co.
In fall 1841 two of the promissory notes apparently remained outstanding, and Halsted, Haines & Co. commissioned the law firm Browning & Bushnell to collect payment. Because JS had agreed to assume the debt, the firm informed him of this arrangement in a letter dated 23 November 1841. In JS’s 7 December response, he informed and that because of financial losses he had suffered in and he did not have the necessary resources to pay the notes, and he requested additional time to gather the funds. The original letter is not extant, but acted as scribe and later copied the letter into Letterbook 2, the version featured here, probably soon after the original was created but not before 10 December 1841. It is not known whether Browning and Bushnell received the letter, but it appears that the debts mentioned in the letter were not paid before JS’s death in June 1844.
Your letter of 23rd Ultimo, concerning two notes placed in your hands by Messrs, & Co against myself and thirty one others for collection, was duly received.
In reply I must inform you, that I am not in the possession of means, belonging to me individually to liquidate those notes at present. The reason is apparent to every one; I need not relate to you the persecution I have suffered and the loss & confiscation of all my effects at various times, as a reason of my inability; you know it all, and so do the gentlemen whose notes you hold for collection. But I wish you to say to them, that if they will give me my time, (and no more than than I must necessarily have,) they shall have their pay in some way or other; that I have the means at command in the east, which, with a sufficient indulgence, will enable me to pay them every whit, but unless this is granted me it will be impossible for me to do so. All I ask of those gentlemen and of this generation is, that they should not tie up my hands, nor thwart me in my opperations; if this is granted me, I pledge my word, yea my sacred honor that all that can in fairness be demanded at my hands, either now or at any time, shall ultimately be adjusted to the satisfaction of all concerned. This is all that I can say at this time, or do, hoping that you will communicate to Msrs. & Co the contents, or at all events the purport of this letter, together with my sincere regard for their welfare, and as regards you, Gentlemen, I remain
JS may be referring to the sale of church members’ land in the eastern United States to pay the church’s debts, an initiative that had been under way for some time; individuals who donated their land for this purpose were eligible to receive land in Nauvoo. (Brigham Young et al., “An Epistle of the Twelve,” Times and Seasons, 15 Oct. 1841, 2:567–570; see also Historical Introduction to Authorization for Hyrum Smith and Isaac Galland, 15 Feb. 1841.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.