Letters from John C. Bennett and James Sloan, 17 May 1842
, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 17 May 1842, retained copy appended to , Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , , Hancock Co., IL, 17 May 1842; handwriting of and ; signatures of and ; one page; Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL. Includes docket and notation.
Single leaf measuring 10½ × 7½ inches (27 × 19 cm), ruled with thirty-six blue lines (now faded). There is a one-half-inch tear at the top center of the leaf and notable yellow staining at the top and center of the page. The document was folded twice for filing.
, who served as city recorder from February 1841 to July 1843, docketed and filed the document with other records of the city of Nauvoo. In 1845, the city of Nauvoo was disincorporated. Many if not most of the city records were listed in an inventory that was produced by the Church Historian’s Office (now CHL) in 1846, when they were packed up with church records that were taken to the Salt Lake Valley. Subsequent inventories of church records in Salt Lake City indicate continuous institutional custody.
“An Act to Repeal the Nauvoo Charter,” 14th General Assembly, 1844–1845, Senate Bill no. 35 (House Bill no. 42), Illinois General Assembly, Enrolled Acts of the General Assembly, 1818–2012, Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
Illinois General Assembly. Enrolled Acts of the General Assembly, 1818–2012. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
“Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” –; “Index of Records and Journals in the Historian’s Office 1878,” ; “Index to Papers in the Historians Office,” ca. 1904, 7, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
On 17 May 1842, , city recorder of , Illinois, wrote to JS, vice mayor of the city, to inform him that had officially resigned as mayor. Bennett had been accused of sexual promiscuity in Nauvoo, having seduced women under the pretense that JS and other church leaders secretly condoned such behavior. After Bennett failed to reform, JS and other church leaders prepared a notice withdrawing fellowship in the from Bennett, which they signed on 11 May but did not immediately make public. Before the notice was publicized and the extent of Bennett’s immoral behavior became common knowledge, he appears to have begun to distance himself from the Nauvoo community.
may have had a public altercation with on the same day Bennett wrote his letter of resignation. Smith, who had signed the notice withdrawing fellowship from Bennett, stated in a July 1842 affidavit that on 17 May he had heard the testimonies of several women who accused Bennett of seduction. At the same time, Smith learned of other unspecified criminal acts Bennett had committed. Determined to prosecute Bennett, he confronted him outside JS’s . According to Hyrum Smith, Bennett acknowledged his guilt, begged for forgiveness, and asked Smith to keep his actions from the public. JS apparently joined the dispute and, after questioning Bennett, demanded that he write an affidavit affirming that JS had not approved of Bennett’s actions and that JS had never taught that “illegal illicit intercourse with females was, under any circumstances, justifiable.” Bennett wrote the affidavit as JS requested and swore to it before alderman ; later, however, Bennett claimed that he complied only because JS threatened him with violence if he refused. Although it is uncertain whether these confrontations occurred before or after Bennett decided to resign as mayor, the issues that led to the confrontation influenced his decision to resign.
’s 17 May letter to asked him to notify JS, as vice mayor, of Bennett’s resignation and promised to provide Sloan with all mayoral records in his possession. Sloan wrote to JS from the city recorder’s office the same day, noting his intention to file Bennett’s letter of resignation and his willingness to follow JS’s orders regarding city records. With Bennett stepping down, the duties of mayor fell to JS, who had been elected vice mayor in January 1842. The city council elected JS as Bennett’s successor at their next meeting on 19 May, but until that time JS served as the mayor pro tempore.
The original sent copy of ’s letter to JS is apparently no longer extant, but language in the retained copy indicates that in the sent copy Sloan copied ’s letter below his own. Sloan used Bennett’s letter itself to create a retained copy of the letter he wrote to JS, appending it below Bennett’s original letter. The last line of the letter is incomplete, with Sloan noting that he delivered a copy of his and Bennett’s letters but neglecting to include the recipient or a date. JS was the addressee, but it is unclear when he received the letter. He spent time at home and in his various offices on 17 May and could have received Sloan’s letter that day. When the notice of a new election and new mayor was printed in the 21 May 1842 issue of the Wasp, it gave the end of Bennett’s tenure as mayor as 17 May, indicating that both JS and Sloan recognized that as the date of Bennett’s official resignation.
filed ’s original letter and the retained copy of his letter to JS in the city records. The retained copy of Sloan’s letter to JS is featured here.
“New Election of Mayor, and Vice Mayor, of the City of Nauvoo,” Wasp, 21 May 1842, .
The Wasp. Nauvoo, IL. Apr. 1842–Apr. 1843.
Mayor’s Office, City of ,
May 17th, A[D]. 1842.
To , Esq.
Circumstances of a personal nature have induced me to tender you my resignation of the office of Mayor of said , to take effect from and after this date. You will be so good as to notify the Vice Mayor that it now devolves upon him to enter upon the duties of said office of Mayor. The books & papers of the office will be handed over to your orders, to be placed at the disposal of my successor.
Accepted, May 17th. 1842.
Recorders Office, City of ,
May 17th. 1842.
<To> Lieut Genl. Joseph Smith, Vice Mayor of the City of ,
Esq has lodged with me a Document in Writing signed by him as Mayor, (of which the following is a Copy,) which he required me to notify you of, & I do so accordingly. (the above came in here.)
I am most respectfully
yr. Obdt. Servt.
,— City Recorder.
I await your Orders as respects the Books & Papers, as also all other Matters concerning the Corporation wherein my official Situation may require me to act.
I delivered the Copy of the above to [blank] [p. ]