Minutes, , Hancock Co., IL, 26 May 1842. Featured version published in “Public Meeting,” Wasp, 28 May 1842, vol. 1, no. 7, . For more complete source information, see the source note for Notice, 28 Apr. 1842.
On 26 May 1842, in a meeting in , Illinois, JS delivered a speech in which he announced he would not support “the Whig or Democratic parties.” Although this was a public meeting of Nauvoo citizens, it was led by officers of the . , as major general of the Nauvoo Legion, called the meeting to order and JS, as lieutenant general of the legion, was appointed chairman of the proceedings. The meeting centered on JS’s speech and focused on political issues.
The political leanings of the Latter-day Saints in were shaped by their expulsion from and their reception in Illinois. Before moving to Illinois, the Saints had loosely affiliated with the Democratic Party. However, in Illinois they received aid from and were courted by both parties. In May 1839, , a member in , Illinois, informed church leaders in (later ) that church member had published two articles in the Quincy Whig blaming the Missouri persecutions on Democratic officials. In his letter, Thompson expressed concern that the articles would offend the Saints’ Democratic benefactors in Quincy. In a response to Wight’s letters published in the Quincy Whig, the decried “any intention of making a political question of our difficulties with Missouri.” However, when president , a Democrat, turned down JS’s request for redress in late 1839, church members’ political support shifted toward the Whigs.
The Saints sought assistance from the politicians and political parties who courted their support. In late 1840, for instance, some Whigs and Democrats favored passage of the charter in hopes of winning Latter-day Saints’ votes. The following May, Democrat , who had helped secure the charter’s passage while serving as Illinois secretary of state, visited the Saints in Nauvoo. A month later, Douglas, then acting as an associate justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, released JS from arrest, ending an attempt to extradite JS to . That December JS published a letter in the Times and Seasons in which he backed Douglas’s friends and for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. According to , they had helped him win support for Nauvoo’s charter. In his December letter, JS denied any kind of partisanship, noting, “we care not a fig for Whig or Democrat,” but for “our friends.” Nevertheless, Whigs viewed JS’s statements in the letter as partisan.
Later developments threatened to test the Saints’ apparent political alliance with the Democrats. In mid-May 1842, died and replaced him as the Democratic nominee for governor, raising the question among both Latter-day Saints and outside observers of whether the Saints would back Ford. Furthermore, a few days before the 26 May meeting, JS met with Dr. John F. Charles, a Whig politician and , Illinois, resident who had served as a representative of in the legislature.
Despite such interactions with politicians, JS sought to maintain a position of neutrality. In the 26 May public meeting, held on the grounds, JS stated he would not vote with either party “as such,” presumably meaning he would not support the entire Democratic or Whig parties, but rather would consider each candidate on his own merits. After JS’s speech, the Saints denounced the Quincy Whig’s report that JS had prophesied the violent death of ’s former governor . then spoke on politics, the assembled citizens nominated candidates for county and state offices, and recommended putting forth a “full Ticket” of their own candidates. According to the account featured here, the meeting adjourned for two weeks, but within a week, Nauvoo citizens held another public meeting to fill out the ticket. The nominations included , , and for positions noted in the account featured here, along with other nominations, including John F. Charles for state senate. Pratt eventually dropped out of the campaign, and, with the exceptions of Charles, who ran as an independent, and Backenstos, who ran as a Democrat, the individuals nominated at that June meeting did not receive any votes.
, as the meeting’s appointed secretary, likely took minutes of the 26 May meeting. Perhaps using Sloan’s minutes, the Wasp printed a summary of the meeting in its 28 May issue.
The Whigs and the Democrats were the major political parties in 1840s America. Whigs aimed to bring about a more commercial and industrialized national economy, while supporting a national bank and federally backed internal improvements and moral reform. Democrats favored an agricultural economy and popular sovereignty, while opposing federal involvement in banking, internal improvements, and moral reform. (See Howe, What Hath God Wrought, 582–584.)
Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848. The Oxford History of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
See Historical Introduction to Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840. Thomas Ford suggested that the Saints received bipartisan support for the charter because “each party was afraid to object to them for fear of losing the Mormon vote, and each believed that it had secured their favor.” (Ford, History of Illinois, 265.)
Ford, Thomas. A History of Illinois, from Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847. Containing a Full Account of the Black Hawk War, the Rise, Progress, and Fall of Mormonism, the Alton and Lovejoy Riots, and Other Important and Interesting Events. Chicago: S. C. Griggs; New York: Ivison and Phinney, 1854.
See, for example, “Citizens of Illinois—Read and Consider,” Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 28 Jan. 1842, ; “The Mormons—Religion and Politics,” Peoria (IL) Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 21 Jan. 1842, ; and “Joseph Smith,” Quincy (IL) Whig, 22 Jan. 1842, .
Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.
Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer. Peoria, IL. 1837–1843.
With a “full ticket,” a party would nominate a candidate for every position in a pending election. Thomas C. Sharp, editor of the Warsaw Signal and critic of the Latter-day Saints, argued that the Latter-day Saints’ move to nominate a separate ticket precipitated the Anti-Mormon convention held on 29 May 1842. ([Thomas C. Sharp], “The Last Move,” Warsaw [IL] Signal, 9 July 1842, .)
According to previous notice, a very large and respectable meeting of the citizens of the city of , convened at the ground on Thursday the 26th day of May, at one o’clock, P. M.
The meeting was called to order by on whose motion the assembly was duly organized by the appointment of General Joseph Smith, Chairman, and Colonel , Secretary.
The object of the meeting was then stated in a speech of considerable length by Gen. Smith, distinctly avowing his intention not to co-operate or vote with either the Whig or Democratic parties as such.
The meeting then unanimously disapproved of the remarks of the Quincy Whig, in relation to the participation of Gen. Smith in the violent death of of , and unanimously concurred in the opinion that Gen. Smith had never made such a prediction.
, at the solicitation of the Chairman, then spoke at length on State and general politics, and nominated , and , for representatives for the county of at the approaching August Election, which nominations were unanimously concurred in by the assembly.
then made a speech recommending the selection of a full Ticket, which was concurred in; and put in nomination for the State Senate, from ; , for County Commissioner; and , for Sheriff: A Committee was then appointed to take the names of the legal voters in the precinct, and report to the next general meeting of the people, on two weeks from this day, at the same time and place.
Boggs had been shot on 6 May 1842, but he survived. The Quincy Whig noted rumors of Latter-day Saint involvement in the attempted assassination of Boggs and stated that JS “prophesied a year or so ago, his death by violent means.” On 22 May JS wrote to the editor of the Quincy Whig, objecting to the allegations. (“Assassination of Ex-Governor Boggs of Missouri,” Quincy [IL] Whig, 21 May 1842, ; Letter to Sylvester Bartlett, 22 May 1842.)
Both Latter-day Saints and those outside the church considered Rigdon and Pratt two of the most able speakers among the Latter-day Saints. (See Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 22–30; and Bergera, Conflict in the Quorum, 86–87.)
Van Wagoner, Richard S. Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994.
Bergera, Gary James. Conflict in the Quorum: Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002.
Section 7 of Nauvoo’s charter indicated that “all free white male inhabitants who are of the age of twenty one years, who are entitled to vote for state officers, and who shall have been actual residents of said city sixty days next preceding said election shall be entitled to vote for city officers.” The Illinois constitution stipulated that “all white male inhabitants above the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State six months next preceding the election, shall enjoy the right of an elector.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840; Illinois Constitution of 1818, art. 2, sec. 27.)
Illinois Office of Secretary of State. First Constitution of Illinois, 1818. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.