Discourse, 7 April 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

He said that soon after reaching , he called on , and asked permission to leave with him the memorial with which he had been entrusted, at the same time briefly stating its contents. ’s manner was very repulsive, and it was only after his (Smith’s) urgent request that he consented to receive the paper and to give an answer on the morrow. The next day Smith again called, when cut short the interview by saying, “I can do nothing for you, gentlemen. If I were to, I should go against the whole state of , and that state would go against me at the next election.” Mr. Smith said he was thunderstruck at this avowal. He had always believed to be a high-minded statesman, and had uniformly supported him as such; but he now saw that he was only a huckstering politician, who would sacrifice any and every thing to promote his re-election. He left him abruptly, and rejoiced, when without the walls of the palace, that he could once more breathe the air of a freeman. [p. [2]]


  1. 1

    JS arrived in Washington DC on 28 November 1839. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839.)  

  2. 2

    The Saints had prepared a memorial to the United States Congress that recounted their suffering and losses in Missouri and requested federal redress. (Memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, ca. 30 Oct. 1839–27 Jan. 1840.)  

  3. 3

    In two earlier accounts, JS reported Van Buren’s statement similarly. He and Higbee wrote on 5 December 1839 that Van Buren had said, “What can I do? I can do nothing for you,— if I do any thing, I shall come in contact with the whole State of Missouri.” On 1 March 1840, JS stated that Van Buren had said, “Help you! how can I help you? All Missouri would turn against me.” (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839; Discourse, 1 Mar. 1840.)  

  4. 4

    It is unknown if JS voted for Van Buren in 1836. Residents in Kirtland, Ohio, voted overwhelmingly for Van Buren that year, even though he lost at the county and state levels. In 1838 JS and other church leaders supported Democratic candidates in Missouri elections. Furthermore, Elias Higbee explained to a congressional committee in February 1840 that the majority of church members had traditionally voted for Democratic candidates for political offices “in consequence of the democratick principles having been taught us [them] from our [their] infancy.” (“Gross Distortion and Abuse,” Painesville [OH] Republican, 1 Dec. 1836, [2]; JS, Journal, 5–7 May 1838; Harper, “‘Dictated by Christ’: Joseph Smith and the Politics of Revelation,” 287–288; Letter from Elias Higbee, 22 Feb. 1840.)  

    Painesville Republican. Painesville, OH. 1836–1841.

    Harper, Steven C. “‘Dictated by Christ’: Joseph Smith and the Politics of Revelation.” Journal of the Early Republic 26, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 275–304.

  5. 5

    An October 1839 issue of a Sangamon County, Illinois, newspaper speculated that the 1840 presidential election would be a close contest between Van Buren and the expected Whig challenger, William Henry Harrison, and that Missouri was one of the states upon which Van Buren could depend for its electoral votes. (“Presidential Prospects in 1840,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 4 Oct. 1839, [2].)  

    Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.

  6. 6

    In a March 1840 discourse, JS stated that “he felt at home in the White House” and that “he felt that he had a perfect right there, as much right as Van Buren, because it belonged to the people, and he was one of the people.” (Discourse, 1 Mar. 1840.)