Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 1 April 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

1st. April 1840
Rev. Joseph Smith Junr.
My Dear Sir— After writing you at, and then going to and not finding you, I addressed a letter to , and recived a reply from by which I first [learned?] of your return to and at the same time I got the committees report upon your application to congress for redress of the outrages perpetrated upon your people by the Missourians. I am not, I must confess, much disappointed in the result; as [I?] know the vaccilating, fawni[n]g character of many, in both Houses of Congress; and these are not their worst traits either, for they not only lack the moral courage, to do right, but will know do what they know to be positively wrong, if they can make political capital, by it, and will abandon you, me, or any one else, with perfect indifference, and heartless treachery, if by doing it they can obtain governmental favour, or political preferment— If we should not put our faith in Princes, it appears most emphatically true, that we should repose no confidence in politicians— The idea conveyed in the report, that exact justice will <​be​> meted to you by the judicial tribunals of , is too preposterous to require comment—
It is indeed a new doctrine, that we should apply to robbers or their supporters to condem themselves— to restore the valuables they have stolen— & to betray each other for the murders they have committed. I do not believe, (tho, I am sorry to say it) that you will ever receive a just or honorable remuneration for your losses of property; or any reparation for the personal indignities, privations and sufferings, which your people have sustained in — The greatest reliance which your people have for regaining your wealth is the <​in​> the honorable conduct of your people; their pure morals— their correct habits— their indefatigable industry— their untiring perseverance, and their well directed [p. 123] enterprise. These constitu[t]e a capital which can never be shaken by man, and form the basis of all that is great in commercial influence on [or?] in the attainment of pecuniary power—
informs me that is probably in , it would have afforded me much pleasure, to have seen you all at my house, and it was my intention, to spend some time at while you were there; but my health has been so very infirm, that it has prevented me form [from] executing nearly all the arrangements, I had proposed for myself, for the last eight months. Knowing the aditions constantly joining your society, it has occurred to me, that some of them may be unprovided with farming lands; and I mention at this time, that I am interested in a Tract of about 12000 acres of very choice lands consisting of timber and prairie, fifteen or twenty miles from , upon which and several other families are settled, and cultivating most excellent farms— it is in one of the best neighborhoods in the — I do not know what my copartners in this tract would say about disposing of what remains unsold of the tract (say eight to nine thousand acres) but I should be disposed to sell upon reasonable terms, provided twenty to forty families valuable for their prudence industry, and good habits from your society, can be found to form a small colony of practical farmers— I am also interested with the same gentleman in lands near , in Henry and Mercer Counties, and believe this would on many accounts an othe[r] extremely desirable place or location for a colony of your people— I have said nothing to those owning with me relative to this subject, but suppose they would be governed materially by two considerations; namely the characters of the purchasers and the fact of their being actual setlers or not— If you think two small colonies of the right sort can be formed from your society, you will oblige [p. 124] me by informing me at your earliest opportunity
The price of the balance in the tract near , including an average proportion of timber, and an average proportion of prarie, will be, I should think 4[.]50/100 dollars per acre. None of the prairie, alone has been sold less than 3 dollars, and some at 3 and a half, and I am co[n]fident that four and a half dollars is for timber and prarie is verry low, and espicially as a credit except for a small amount would be extended to the purchasers— The other tract is nearly all prarie, but the finest selection of that region— It is probably worth three and a half dollars pr. acre— As my paper is out I have only room to request my respects, presented to all friends at
I beg you to tell the editor of the Times and Seasons that as soon as my health allows me to go to the Bank, I shall send them $10,
Your Obt. Servt.
[p. 125]


  1. 1

    Though this letter and others that Hotchkiss wrote to his business partners and to JS are either addressed or postmarked from Fair Haven, Connecticut, Hotchkiss’s residence was a mile or two away in New Haven. (Bonds from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A and B.)  

  2. 2

    Higbee wrote to Hotchkiss on 24 March 1840 and enclosed a copy of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s report regarding the rejection of the Saintsmemorial for redress. (Letter from Elias Higbee, 24 Mar. 1840; Report of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 4 Mar. 1840.)  

  3. 3

    See Psalm 146:3.  

  4. 4

    The Committee on the Judiciary’s report to the Senate recommended that the Mormons should “seek relief in the courts of judicature of the State of Missouri, or of the United States, which has the appropriate jurisdiction to administer full and adequate redress for the wrongs complained of, and doubtless will do so fairly and impartially.” (Report of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 4 Mar. 1840.)  

  5. 5

    As an alternative to appealing to the United States or Missouri courts for redress, the Committee on the Judiciary suggested that “the petitioners may, if they see proper, apply to the justice and magnanimity of the State of Missouri—an appeal which the committee feel justified in believing will never be made in vain by the injured or oppressed.” The committee was presumably proposing that the Saints petition Missouri’s executive rather than the state’s judiciary. (Report of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 4 Mar. 1840.)  

  6. 6

    Due to continued ill health, Rigdon remained in Philadelphia after JS left the city. Rigdon left Philadelphia for New Jersey on 5 March 1840 and wrote to JS on 3 April that he intended to return to Philadelphia. (Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 14 Jan. 1840, 2; Letters from Elias Higbee, 9 and 24 Mar. 1840; Letter from Sidney Rigdon, 3 Apr. 1840.)  

  7. 7

    The 17 April 1840 issue of the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer reported that “about 300 houses have been put up in Nauvoo since last October,” and “the increase of population by immigration is very great. Our informant states that several families arrive every day.” (“Latest from the Mormons,” Peoria [IL] Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 17 Apr. 1840, [2].)  

    Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer. Peoria, IL. 1837–1843.

  8. 8

    Hotchkiss, Tuttle, and Gillet owned lands near Springfield in Sangamon and Logan counties. Gillet and some of his extended family resided at Lake Fork, Logan County, northeast of Springfield. (Horace Hotchkiss, New York, to John Gillet, 7 Nov. 1846; John Gillet, Nauvoo, IL, to Smith Tuttle, Fair Haven, CT, 15 July 1844; John Gillet to Smith Tuttle, 1 Aug. 1841, Gillett Family Papers, 1736–1904, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.)  

    Gillett Family Papers, 1736–1904. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.

  9. 9

    Others in western Illinois also advised purchasing lands in equal portions of timber and prairie. Land speculator Anthony Hoffman wrote to a former neighbor in New York: “It is always best for a Man, to pu[rcha]se a lot, part Prairie, and part, Timber, or one of each, which c[a]n easily be done. . . . A good Prairie lot near Timber is worth from 3 to $4[.]00. and lower in proportion to its distance from Timber, just so with a Timber lot, whether far from, or near Prairie.” (Anthony M. Hoffman, Rushville, IL, to John Reid, Argyle, NY, 1 Nov. 1833, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.)  

    Hoffman, Anthony. Letter, Rushville, IL, to John Reid, Argyle, NY, 1 Nov. 1833. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.

  10. 10

    Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith were the editors of the church’s monthly periodical, Times and Seasons. The subscription rate was only one dollar per year, but the printed terms offered one free volume of the paper to anyone who sent an advance payment of ten dollars for enlisting ten subscribers. This policy may explain Hotchkiss’s rationale for offering to send ten dollars. (Masthead, Times and Seasons, Apr. 1840, 1:96.)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.