Letter from John C. Bennett, 27 July 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Quarter Master General’s. office
, Illinois July 27th. 1840
To the
Rev &
" Joseph Smith Jr.
Respected Friends:—
I wrote you a few days ago from this place but I my great desire to be with you and your people prompts me to write me again at this time; and I hope it will not be considered obtrusive by friends whom I have always so highly esteemed as yourselves.
At the last district and circuit Court of the , holden at in June last I had the honor of being on the grand Inquest of the for the District of , and hoped to have seen you there; but was quite disappointed. I attended the meeting of your people opposite Mr Lowry’s Hotel but did not make myself known as I had no personal acquaintance in the Congregation.
It would be my deliberate advice to you to concentrate all of your at one point— If with for its commercial Emporium is to be that point, well,— fix upon it and let us co-operate with a general concerted action. You can rely upon me in any event. I am with you in Spirit, and will be in person as soon as circumstances permit, and immediately if it is your desire. Wealth is no material object with me; I desire to be happy and am fully satisfied that I can enjoy myself better with your people [p. 170] with my present views and feelings than with any other. I hope that time will soon come when your people will become my people and your God my God, At the time of your peril and bitter persecution in you are aware I proffered you my utmost energies, and had not the conflict have terminated so speedily I should have been with you then. God be thanked for your rescue from the hands of a savage but cowardly, foe! I do not expect to resign my office of “Quarter Master General of the State of ,” in the event of my removal to , unless you advise otherwise: I shall likewise expect to practice my profession; but at the same time your people shall have all the benifit of my speaking powers and my untiring energies in behalf of the good and holy faith. In necissariis unitas, in non necessariis libertas, in omnibus charitas, shall be my motto, with the suaviter in modo fortiter in re. Be so good as to inform me circumstantially of the population of & , the face of the country, climate, soil, health etc etc How many of your people are concentrated there? Please to write me in full immediately. Louisvill[e] paper will accompany this— please inquire for this it.
With sentiments of profound respect and esteem, suffer me to subscribe myself—
Yours Respectfully
. [p. 171]


  1. 1

    Although JS responded to Bennett on 8 August 1840, saying, “I have not the pleasure of your acquaintance,” Bennett had apparently met JS and Rigdon when William E. McLellin introduced him to them on 12 and 13 January 1832. (Letter to John C. Bennett, 8 Aug. 1840; McLellin, Journal, 12–13 Jan. 1832, 13.)  

    McLellin, William E. Journal, 18 July–20 Nov. 1831. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 1. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

  2. 2

    The United States Circuit Court for the District of Illinois was moved to Springfield in the late 1830s, where court was held twice each year, in June and December. Federal district judge Nathaniel Pope presided over the June 1839 court, and Bennett served on the jury. (History of Sangamon County, Illinois, 84–85; Meese, “Nathaniel Pope,” 19, 21.)  

    History of Sangamon County, Illinois; Together with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages, and Townships. . . . Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co., 1881.

    Meese, William A. “Nathaniel Pope.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 3 (January 1911): 7–21.

  3. 3

    In April 1839, church leaders chose the Commerce area as the Saints’ new gathering place, and a general conference of the church approved the decision in October 1839. (Minutes, 24 Apr. 1839; Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839.)  

  4. 4

    See Ruth 1:16.  

  5. 5

    Bennett was referring to a letter he wrote during the “Mormon War” in Missouri. He mentioned this same letter in his letters of 25 and 30 July 1840, but the earlier letter has not been located. However, in a January 1841 letter to the “Saints scattered abroad,” JS, Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith described having earlier received a letter from Bennett in which he offered “his assistence in delivering us out of the hands of our enemies, and restoring us again to our privileges . . . with all the forces he could raise for that purpose.” (Letters from John C. Bennett, 25 and 30 July 1840; Proclamation, 15 Jan. 1841.)  

  6. 6

    Bennett was commissioned “Quarter-Master-General of the Militia of the State of Illinois” on 20 July 1840, seven days before writing this letter to JS and Rigdon. (Commission for John C. Bennett, 20 July 1840, Governor’s Correspondence, 1840, Military Affairs, in Illinois Governor’s Correspondence, 1816–1852, Illinois State Archives, Springfield; Bennett, History of the Saints, 15.)  

    Illinois Governor’s Correspondence, 1816–1852. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.

    Bennett, John C. The History of the Saints; or, an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842.

  7. 7

    This Latin phrase means “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” It is a popular Christian saying sometimes attributed to Augustine. (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 650.)  

    Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. Vol. 7, Modern Christianity, the German Reformation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, [1958]. Reproduction of the 1910 edition published by Charles Scribner’s Sons.

  8. 8

    This Latin phrase means “gently in manner, strongly in deed.”  

  9. 9

    In his 8 August 1840 reply, JS described the physical setting of Nauvoo, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River; the town’s population of nearly three thousand; and the prospects for commercial growth in the area. (Letter to John C. Bennett, 8 Aug. 1840.)  

  10. 10

    Bennett had enclosed an extract from the Louisville Journal, edited by George Prentice and George Weissinger, with his letter two days earlier. (Letter from John C. Bennett, 25 July 1840.)