Letter to Wilson Law, 14 August 1842
JS, Letter, [near , Hancock Co., IL], to , , Hancock Co., IL, 14 Aug. 1842. Featured version copied [between 14 and 20 Aug. 1842] in JS, Journal, Dec. 1841–Dec. 1842, in Book of the Law of the Lord, pp. 131–133; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124].
On 14 August 1842, while in hiding at ’s house just outside of , Illinois, JS wrote to , major general of the , instructing him to defend the Saints against violence, if necessary. , undersheriff of ; , constable of Adams County; and another officer (possibly ) had arrived in Nauvoo on 8 August and arrested JS and for their alleged involvement in the attempted assassination of former governor . Faced with the threat of extradition to Missouri, JS and Rockwell immediately petitioned Nauvoo’s municipal court for a writ of , which the court granted. Unsure about how to proceed, the arresting officers returned to , Illinois, to receive further instructions from governor . Meanwhile, JS and Rockwell crossed the to , Iowa Territory, where they hid at the homes of members and , JS’s uncle. Perhaps at Carlin’s bidding, on 10 August the Circuit Court issued a writ of habeas corpus of its own, directing Thomas C. King to bring JS before Justice . When Sheriff King returned to Nauvoo later that day to arrest JS, he could not find him.The next night, on 11 August, JS met with , , and others on an in the and discussed the extradition efforts, including rumors that , the territorial governor of , had also issued a warrant for JS’s arrest and extradition to . After the meeting, a few friends escorted JS to the home of to hide. Sayers lived about two and a half miles northeast of the block.While JS was at ’s house, associates sent news of efforts to find and arrest him, and he took steps to evade the authorities. As recorded in JS’s journal, on 13 August, received a letter from , a member of the church living in . Hollister reported that , who had been assigned by governor to receive JS as a prisoner, was leaving “to bring a force from Mo.” Hollister suggested, however, that this might be a ruse to get JS to momentarily let his guard down. JS also learned that local authorities, probably and , threatened to “lay the city [of ] in ashes” if they did not find him.In light of these developments, on the morning of 14 August JS met again with and wrote the letter featured here. In his confidential instructions to Law, JS appealed to the ’s martial heritage, including the American Revolutionary War. Writing as the mayor of and lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion, JS ordered , as the legion’s recently elected major general, to rescue him if he should be captured. He also ordered Law to maintain the peace of the city, if possible, and to meet mob violence with force, if necessary. In late June, when JS had written and asked for advice on how to act in the case of a mob attack, Carlin had instructed him to take a defensive stance. A few days after that, during a 4 July parade in Nauvoo, JS emphasized the legion’s role “to defend ourselves and families from mobs.” A few weeks later, JS had again written Carlin, asking him to issue orders to have the legion in readiness in the event of a mob attack. Carlin refused to do so but promised to protect the city from violence. In response, JS expressed his trust in Carlin’s promise. After Carlin issued a warrant for JS’s arrest and extradition on 2 August, JS apparently lost confidence in the state executive and instead looked to the legion to protect the Saints.Although the letter bears the date of 15 August, it was composed on 14 August. JS may have postdated the original letter to 15 August, or may have misdated it when he copied it. When JS gave the letter to on 14 August, he instructed her to “deliver it to Gen. Law tomorrow.” On the evening of the fourteenth, Emma took the letter to , arriving at about six o’clock. That evening, she and the Saints learned that, contrary to rumors, had not yet issued a writ for JS’s arrest. On the morning of 15 August, soon after reports arrived that a militia was traveling to Nauvoo, Emma personally delivered the letter to . Law responded in a letter he wrote that afternoon, affirming that he was ready to command the legion in the defense of the Saints., who had been with JS at ’s house on 13 August before returning to on 14 August, probably copied the original letter, which is not extant, onto a loose leaf, or he may have later obtained the original letter. He subsequently copied the letter into JS’s journal in the Book of the Law of the Lord, probably between 14 and 20 August, and that copy is featured here.
JS, Journal, 8 Aug. 1842; “The Arrest,” Wasp, 13 Aug. 1842, .
The Wasp. Nauvoo, IL. Apr. 1842–Apr. 1843.
Petition to Nauvoo Municipal Court, 8 Aug. 1842; Orrin Porter Rockwell, Petition to Nauvoo Municipal Court, 8 Aug. 1842, copy; Writ of habeas corpus for JS, 8 Aug. 1842, copy; Writ of habeas corpus for Orrin Porter Rockwell, 8 Aug. 1842, copy, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL.
Thomas R. King, Fillmore, Utah Territory, to George A. Smith, 21 Feb. 1868, Obituary Notices and Biographies, CHL.
Obituary Notices and Biographies, 1854–1877. CHL.
Writ of habeas corpus for JS, 10 Aug. 1842, copy, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL. Illinois state law granted circuit courts the power to issue writs of habeas corpus. In 1841, when JS was brought before Stephen A. Douglas in a similar extradition attempt, Douglas dismissed the arresting writ as obsolete. An editorial published in the 15 August 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons opined that if JS and Rockwell had “appealed to the district court it might have availed them nothing,” as the judge could not decide on the “guilt, or innocence of the persons charged,” but could only “test the validity of the writ; which if proved to be issued in due form of law, however innocent the parties might be, would subject them to be transported to Missouri—to be murdered.” (An Act Regulating the Proceeding on Writs of Habeas Corpus [22 Jan. 1827], Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois [1834–1837], pp. 327–328, sec. 20; “The Late Proceedings,” Times and Seasons, 15 June 1841, 2:447–449; Statement of Expenses to Thomas King, 30 Sept. 1841; “Persucution,” Times and Seasons, 15 Aug. 1842, 3:889.)
The Public and General Statute Laws of the State of Illinois: Containing All the Laws . . . Passed by the Ninth General Assembly, at Their First Session, Commencing December 1, 1834, and Ending February 13, 1835; and at Their Second Session, Commencing December 7, 1835, and Ending January 18, 1836; and Those Passed by the Tenth General Assembly, at Their Session Commencing December 5, 1836, and Ending March 6, 1837; and at Their Special Session, Commencing July 10, and Ending July 22, 1837. . . . Compiled by Jonathan Young Scammon. Chicago: Stephen F. Gale, 1839.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
JS, Journal, 10 Aug. 1842. In 1868, Latter-day Saint Thomas R. King remembered that one night, probably on 10 August, he took JS and Rockwell in a skiff across the river to Nauvoo and that JS then traveled to his “home by some back way.” At two o’clock the next morning, King took JS back to Zarahemla, but “Rockwell did not come with us.” By 1 December 1842, Rockwell was hiding in Philadelphia. JS remained in the area of Zarahemla until the night of 11 August, when he met others on an island in the Mississippi. (Thomas R. King, Fillmore, Utah Territory, to George A. Smith, 21 Feb. 1868, Obituary Notices and Biographies, CHL; Sybella Armstrong and Orrin Porter Rockwell, Philadelphia, PA, to JS, Nauvoo, IL, 1 Dec. 1842, JS Collection, CHL.)
Obituary Notices and Biographies, 1854–1877. CHL.
Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. I, pp. 309–310, 19 May 1841, microfilm 954,598, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.
U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.
On 12 August, William Walker took JS’s horse across the river “to draw the attention of the Sheriffs and public.” On 13 August, JS received a report that “several small companies of men” had seen his horse and were looking for him on the Iowa side of the Mississippi. (JS, Journal, 12 and 13 Aug. 1842.)
David Hollister, Quincy, IL, to Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo, IL, 12 Aug. 1842, JS Office Papers, CHL; JS, Journal, 13 Aug. 1842.
Law replaced John C. Bennett as major general on 13 August. Bennett appears to have been cashiered from the legion on 30 June 1842. (General Orders for Nauvoo Legion, 2 Aug. 1842; Nauvoo Legion, Proceedings, 13 Aug. 1842, Nauvoo Legion Records, CHL; Nauvoo Legion Minute Book,  Aug. 1842, 29; JS, Journal, 30 June 1842; see also Letter from Thomas Carlin, 27 July 1842.)
Nauvoo Legion Records, 1841–1845. CHL. MS 3430.
Nauvoo Legion Minute Book, 1843–1844. Nauvoo Legion, Records, 1841–1845. CHL. MS 3430, fd. 1.
Letter to Thomas Carlin, 24 June 1842; Letter from Thomas Carlin, 30 June 1842.
JS’s 8 August petition reproduced Carlin’s warrant. (Petition to Nauvoo Municipal Court, 8 Aug. 1842.)
JS, Journal, 14 Aug. 1842. On 20 August, Missouri governor Thomas Reynolds issued a requisition for JS’s arrest, and Chambers later issued a writ based on this requisition. (State of Missouri, Office of the Secretary of State, Commissions Division, Register of Civil Proceedings, vol. A, p. 175; John Chambers, Burlington, Iowa Territory, to John Cowan, 10 Mar. 1843, JS Office Papers, CHL.)
JS Office Papers / Joseph Smith Office Papers, ca. 1835–1845. CHL. MS 21600.
Clayton may have copied the letter on 14 August, as suggested by the page break on page 133 of the Book of the Law of the Lord, or on a later date. Clayton was with JS between 15 and 16 August and probably did not have the Book of the Law of the Lord with him. He likely returned to Nauvoo on 16 or 17 August and seems to have copied the letter into the Book of the Law of the Lord soon after returning and no later than 20 August, as suggested by the content of these and surrounding entries and by the changes in the ink Clayton used. (See Book of the Law of the Lord, 133–135, 164–167.)