Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 13 September 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

13th. Sept. 1841
Joseph Smith Esqr.
Dear Sir— Yours of 25th. ult. is recd. and permit me to commence this by expressing my surprise at its contents— I am as you suggest acquainted with the losses you sustained and the persicutions you endured in and the consequent destitute conditions of your people when they arrived in and invariably espoused your cause in this section as an injured people and entitled to public sympathy— The manner in which your preachers have been received in many of the eastern States is conclusive evidence that no hostility against your religious tenets exists here and I beleive a universal wish prevails that the Missourians should be punished for their inhuman outrages
Now as regards paying the interest upon the debt in favour of Messrs. & and I shall be very explicit— You state that I pledged my honor not to call for the interest under five years— In this you are entirely mistaken and the contract would certainly destroy such an idea— At the time of executing the papers it was mentioned by that a difficulty might be experienced in paying the first years interest when due & I said that I would not coerce its payment at maturity then— This is all that was said upon the subject but when I saw you last fall you spoke of the interest being defered <​five years​> and mentioned that I would reccollect that to be the understanding but I told you that I could not possibly remember it— You then proposed to pay the whole debt by lands in & — I assented so [p. [1]] far as regarded myself provided I received such property as would yield six pr. cent interest and expressed an opinion that Messs. and would do the same— Here the matter rested untill and Your brother arrived at my house when it is true the subject of receiving lands in payment was again revived but upon enquiry I found that the lands had not yet been procured— I proposed to receive the interest in lands either in or which was agreed to and I held myself in constant readiness for two months to consumate the agreement but have not heard a word from your to this moment and nothing from the until 25th. July when I got a letter from him stating that he was then on his return to and informing me that Mr at was authorised to pay me a tavern stand and some land upon the Note signed by and but did not even allude to the payment of interest or principle upon the other debt— I immediately wrote Mr and got a reply ten or twelve days ago saying that he should be at untill the 15th instant— On the 9th. being last thursday & went to for the purpose of examining the property but then learned to our astonishment that had gone a week before to Mr had also gone to We came home of course much disappointed— I left my 2500 dollar note with a friend to negociate— There may be very sufficient reasons for this course and I shall be as ready to view explanations with a lenient eye as any person ought to be but at present I do not understand it—
What you have said in your last about the [p. [2]] property I sold being a “deathly sickly hole” and the “extortionate price I exacted” was I presume written without reflection I cannot immagine why it should be more unhealthy than the lands immediatley adjoining and if reasons <​causes of sickness​> exist there that do not in other portions of what are those reasons <​causes​>?— The price for this property was at the time has been since and I beleive always will be considered exceedingly reasonable and you will unquestionably remember that I proposed at the time retaining every other lot and only selling one half the property— Does this look like extortion?— But how could I extort?— And what could I exact?— You had then made no purchase of me and I neither exacted or extorted any thing from you but offered you property at a certain price which property you examined to your entire satisfaction and after this e[x]amination agreed to pay the price asked— A free and voluntary act on your part most assuredly— My dear sir I beg you will not accuse me of extortion in such a transaction as this— Nothing on earth can be more remote from exaction— Was there any compulsion?
You allude again to the proposal of our taking lands in the Atlantic states which will yeild six pr. ct. interest— You will do me the justice to acknowledge that I some time since wrote you that I had consulted and that we would receive payment if you chose for our whole debt in that manner— I have been at the expense of two journies to thrown in the interest upon the debt and been twice to and have never yet recd. from you one dollar and still <​you​> complain of my goading without cause and attempting to crush you before you have acquired strength for carrying a burthen— Why you cannot be serious— There is not the slightest foundation for such charges— Is it not right that I should be paid my interest? And may I not in kindness suggest the methods by which it can be accomplished?— ’Tis not credible that you can object to this— Do you doubt my being a friend because I want my money for family expenses?— We view things differently here
Yours Truly [p. [3]]
<​ Ct. SEP 13​>
Rev. Joseph Smith
Hancock County
Illinois [p. [4]]


  1. 1

    Though this letter and others from Hotchkiss are addressed or have a postal stamp from Fair Haven, Connecticut, Hotchkiss’s residence was a mile or two away in New Haven. (Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A; Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B.)  

  2. 2

    Letter to Horace Hotchkiss, 25 Aug. 1841.  

  3. 3

    Hotchkiss had previously expressed sympathy for the Saints because of their experiences in Missouri; he had also encouraged JS to continue to seek redress from the federal government, which could have provided JS with funds to repay his debt to Hotchkiss. (Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 17 Mar. 1840; Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 1 Apr. 1840. For more on the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri, see Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.)  

  4. 4

    After being expelled from Missouri, the Saints began arriving in Quincy, Illinois, in February 1839. They soon purchased land and settled in Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois, and in nearby areas in Iowa Territory. (See Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.)  

  5. 5

    The church’s missionaries were instructed to preach “nothing but the first principles of the Gospel” and to “publish our afflictions. the injustice and cruelty thereof upon the house tops.” These preaching efforts, coupled with printed accounts in newspapers and pamphlets, helped circulate the Saints’ narrative of the Missouri war. A report from the church’s First Presidency in April 1841 stated that “in the eastern states, the faithful laborers are successful, and many are flocking to the standard of truth.” (Letter to Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young, 16 Jan. 1839; Lyman Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to Thomas Reynolds, Jefferson City, MO, 20 Feb. 1841, Governors Records [Thomas Reynolds, 1840–1844], Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City; Report of the First Presidency to the Church, ca. 7 Apr. 1841; see also Gentry and Compton, Fire and Sword, 508–513; William Hyde, Payson, IL, 20 May 1841, Letter to the Editors, Times and Seasons, 15 June 1841, 2:450; and “Summary,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1841, 2:339.)  

    Thomas Reynolds. Records, 1840–1841. Office of the Governor. MSA.

    Gentry, Leland Homer, and Todd M. Compton. Fire and Sword: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri, 1836–39. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011.

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

  6. 6

    Financial records from the original purchase include a schedule of annual interest payments. (See Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A.)  

  7. 7

    A subsequent letter from Hotchkiss’s business partner Smith Tuttle to JS further confused the uncertain terms of the repayment schedule. In that letter, Tuttle expressed certainty that JS and Hotchkiss had simply not “understood each other,” but even Tuttle and Hotchkiss appear not to have shared the same understanding. Tuttle believed that Hotchkiss understood the payments were “only to be delayed two years,” whereas in the letter to JS featured here, Hotchkiss refers to a one-year leniency. (Letter from Smith Tuttle, ca. 15 Sept. 1841.)  

  8. 8

    Hotchkiss had discussed renegotiating the terms of the debt repayment schedule during his visit to Nauvoo in October 1840. At that time, JS signed a promissory note to Hotchkiss and pledged to pay $2,500 within eight months for a different piece of property, an eighty-acre parcel in Nauvoo, referred to as the William White purchase. The next day, Hotchkiss deeded the White property to JS. (Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 23 Oct. 1840; Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. H, p. 625, 24 Oct. 1840, microfilm 954,598, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  

  9. 9

    JS referred to this verbal agreement in a July 1840 letter to Hotchkiss. (Letter to Horace Hotchkiss, 28 July 1840.)  

  10. 10

    In March 1841, Galland and Hyrum Smith were sent to the eastern United States to obtain deeds to lands that they could then transfer to Hotchkiss as payment. The repayment efforts were postponed shortly thereafter when Hyrum returned to Nauvoo and Galland apparently abandoned the assignment. (Authorization for Hyrum Smith and Isaac Galland, 15 Feb. 1841; Snow, Journal, 1838–1841, 103; Philadelphia Branch Record Book, 6 Apr. 1841; News Item, Times and Seasons, 1 May 1841, 2:403; Letter from Smith Tuttle, ca. 15 Sept. 1841.)  

    Snow, Erastus. Journals, 1835–1851; 1856–1857. CHL. MS 1329, box 1, fds. 1–3.

    Philadelphia Branch, Record Book, 1840–1854. CCLA.

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

  11. 11

    New Egypt, New Jersey.  

  12. 12

    Hyrum Smith also wrote a letter to William Smith, transferring the responsibility of managing the transaction with Hotchkiss to William. (Letter from William Smith, 5 Aug. 1841.)  

  13. 13

    Charles Ivins and James Ivins were brothers who joined the church in New Jersey. They were involved in transferring land and a tavern stand in New Jersey to Hotchkiss as payment on the church’s debt to him. (Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 11 Oct. 1841.)  

  14. 14

    Hotchkiss appears to have confused the payment of two separate transactions here. The Ivins brothers apparently signed the promissory note for $2,500 that JS gave Hotchkiss in October 1840 in connection with the William White purchase; evidently, the Ivins brothers intended to pay the note on JS’s behalf. The “interest or principle” refers to the larger 1839 purchase and the $3,000 annual interest payment that was due on that principal. (Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 23 Oct. 1840; Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 11 Oct. 1841; Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A; Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B; Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839.)  

  15. 15

    It is unknown why William Smith left the area before transferring the deeds to Hotchkiss. In his 5 August letter to JS, William confirmed that he expected Hotchkiss to arrive within a few days to receive the property. In early September, William Smith visited Philadelphia on his way back to Nauvoo. (Letter from William Smith, 5 Aug. 1841; Letter from John E. Page, 1 Sept. 1841.)  

  16. 16

    Smith Tuttle stated in his letter to JS that “it was no fault of Mr Ivins as he did not know that Mr H. would call on him.” (Letter from Smith Tuttle, ca. 15 Sept. 1841.)  

  17. 17

    See Letter to Horace Hotchkiss, 25 Aug. 1841.  

  18. 18

    Nauvoo, situated along the banks of the Mississippi River, was swampy, humid, and infested with mosquitoes carrying malaria. Describing the setting, early settler Helen Mar Kimball wrote, “The weather was excessively warm, and the bottom land being swampy, nearly everyone who had come there was sick upon the bank of the river.” These conditions led to rampant sickness and rising death rates. (Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Scenes in Nauvoo,” Woman’s Exponent, 15 July 1881, 10:26; Hinckley, “Saints and Sickness,” 142–143; Ivie and Heiner, “Deaths in Early Nauvoo,” 163–173.)  

    Woman’s Exponent. Salt Lake City. 1872–1914.

    Hinckley, Joseph B. “Saints and Sickness: Medicine in Nauvoo and Winter Quarters.” Religious Educator: Perspectives on the Restored Gospel 10, no. 3 (2009): 137–149.

    Ivie, Evan L., and Douglas C. Heiner. “Deaths in Early Nauvoo, 1839–46, and Winter Quarters, 1846–48.” Religious Educator 10, no. 3 (2009): 163–173.

  19. 19

    For the details of the real estate transaction, see Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A; Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B; and Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839.  

  20. 20

    A letter detailing this agreement with Tuttle has not been located. A July 1841 letter from Hotchkiss suggests that he expected the land exchanges to meet payments only for “the interest due to myself Mr Tuttle and Mr Gillet.” (Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 24 July 1841.)  

  21. 21

    It is unclear if Hotchkiss traveled to Illinois twice after the Saints purchased his land in 1839. Documents show that Hotchkiss was in Illinois in 1837 when he and John Gillet laid out Commerce City. He also visited in 1840 when he sold the William White property to the church. (Gregg, History of Hancock County, Illinois, 955; Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 23 Oct. 1840; Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. H, p. 625, 24 Oct. 1840, microfilm 954,598, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  

    Gregg, Thomas. History of Hancock County, Illinois, Together with an Outline History of the State, and a Digest of State Laws. Chicago: Charles C. Chapman, 1880.

  22. 22

    Hotchkiss had agreed to sell the Saints land in Illinois that he had bought from William White and offered them a bond until the deed could be obtained; however, Hotchkiss could not acquire the deed until the payment he owed White was fulfilled. In April 1840, JS paid White the amount that Hotchkiss originally owed on the property. JS hoped Hotchkiss would condone this deviation from the “common rules of business” as he dealt directly with White instead of going through Hotchkiss. Shortly thereafter, JS gave Hotchkiss a promissory note for the remaining $2,500 in interest owed on the White purchase. The note stipulated that the amount would be paid in eight months (by June 1841). At the time of the letter featured here, Hotchkiss had not received this payment. (Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B; Receipt from William White, 23 Apr. 1840; Letter to Horace Hotchkiss, 28 July 1840; Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 23 Oct. 1840.)  

  23. 23

    As mentioned in this letter, Hotchkiss and Tuttle traveled to New Egypt, New Jersey, on 9 September 1841. There is no clear indication of an earlier trip to New Jersey. In early 1840, however, Hotchkiss had also traveled from Connecticut to Philadelphia to seek out JS and could have passed through New Jersey during that journey. (Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 17 Mar. 1840.)  

  24. new scribe logo

    Postal place and date stamped in red ink.  

  25. new scribe logo

    Postage in unidentified handwriting.