Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846; Volume 1, 10 March 1844–1 March 1845

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction
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10 March 1844 • Sunday

Editorial Note
Letters to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve proposing a new gathering center for Mormon settlement in the provided the immediate impetus for the organization of the Council of Fifty in March 1844. The proposal may have grown out of earlier interest in the southern states as well as the Republic of Texas. JS’s journal notes that a few months earlier, on 27 October 1843, he conversed with and , who had “just retur[ne]d from the south.” Miller was the bishop for the settlement of Latter-day Saints who were logging and milling pine at Black River Falls in . Haws and other Mormon missionaries preaching in Alabama and Mississippi had recently converted scores of southerners. JS’s journal also notes that on 29 October, Miller and Haws met with , JS’s secretary, and ordained an elder in order to send him on a mission to Texas. These notes in JS’s journal suggest that he and Miller shared a new interest in the South and in Texas.
Three months later, interest in was expressed in the pamphlet on JS’s political views published in support of his campaign for the presidency of the . JS met with on 29 January 1844 and instructed him on what should be included in a public statement that would give his position on many political issues. They met again on 5 February to review what Phelps had written, and JS apparently approved of the document on 7 February, the date the published document bears. By 24 February fifteen hundred copies of General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States had been printed. Unlike most northerners, JS advocated the annexation of Texas as part of an ambitious yet peaceful agenda of American expansionism. He proposed that “if Texas petitions Congress to be adopted among the sons of liberty, give her the right hand of fellowship; and refuse not the same friendly grip to and .” Whenever “a neighboring realm peti[ti]oned to join the union,” JS’s position would be “come: yea come Texas: come Mexico; come Canada; and come all the world—let us be brethren: let us be one great family; and let there be universal peace.”
On 7 March 1844 JS explained his position on in an address to a congregation in . He warned that if the did not annex Texas, the republic would form an alliance with the British that would expose America’s western frontier to an attack. JS acknowledged that many opposed annexation because Texas would come into the union as a slave state, upsetting the balance of power between northern and southern states in Congress. He argued, however, that protecting America from British intrigue and invasion was more important. In JS’s view, the congressional balance of power could be restored by converting slave states into free states or by annexing . Anticipating the concern that many would have with such a large number of emancipated slaves, JS stated that the freedmen could be sent through Texas to —to live “where all colors are alike.”
The day after JS delivered this address, arrived in carrying two letters from , where church members had been logging pine since 1841 to supply lumber for the Nauvoo and the . The Wisconsin Saints had recently met to assess their situation. They estimated that by July 1844 they could supply more than enough lumber for both buildings, which would fulfill their original purpose in going to Wisconsin. However, over time they had taken on two new priorities. One was to continue logging in order to raise funds for the church, and the other was a growing interest in proselytizing the American Indians in the area. A delegation of local Indians had recently visited the Wisconsin Saints to inform them that they would have to pay federally regulated rates for further logging on the above the falls. While this development changed the prospects for using the lumber mills to raise money, the meeting helped solidify relations between the Mormons and the Indians. Noting the poor prospects for making money in Wisconsin and the recent proselytizing success in the South, the Wisconsin Saints proposed that they abandon the milling venture and establish a new gathering center in for southern Saints. In terms of raising money for the church, they expected they would do so more successfully by instituting a consecration program among gathered planters. As for the Indians, the Wisconsin Saints felt they could persuade them to move to Texas with them, and that the Saints there could then use Texas as a doorway to proselytize among Indians throughout the Americas.
The Wisconsin Saints appointed a committee—consisting of , , , , and —to write up their views and send them to church leaders in . As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Wight was the ranking ecclesiastical officer and served as the president of the branch at Black River Falls. He was also a trustee of the Nauvoo House Association, which oversaw the construction of the and the lumber operation. The lumber operation had begun at Miller’s suggestion. As president of the Nauvoo House Association and as a bishop, Miller procured and managed the supplies and provisions of the settlement. Hawley and Bird served as counselors to Bishop Miller and helped manage the implementation of a communal economic system among the Wisconsin Mormons. Young, a relatively recent convert, may have been selected to serve as a scribe, though the final versions of the letters are not in Young’s handwriting. The committee assigned Miller and Wight each to draft a letter to send to Nauvoo, which they did separately. After reviewing the two drafts, the committee resolved to send both letters. Each letter is dated 15 February 1844, addressed to JS and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and signed by the five members of the committee. The committee initially chose Young to carry the letters to Nauvoo, but it was later decided that Miller would bear them.
delivered the letters to JS in on the afternoon of Sunday, 10 March 1844. JS perused the letters and some discussion ensued. At 4:30 p.m. JS met in the with Miller, available members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the temple committee. The men reacted favorably to the petition from the Saints. Though his journal entry for this day is somewhat ambiguous, JS apparently suggested the production of a revised version of the Constitution that would protect all men in their rights as well as the possibility of amending the Constitution. After breaking for supper, the group reconvened at “7 eve” in “the assembly room” over JS’s . JS organized the meeting by appointing as chairman, whereupon Richards appointed the clerk. According to the account below, the letters were further discussed, after which JS expressed satisfaction with the “union of feeling” that prevailed among the brethren with whom he was meeting and also between themselves and the Wisconsin Saints. The meeting continued until a “late hour” before being adjourned until the next morning.
’s account of the evening meeting, reproduced below, is evidently a reminiscent reconstruction. The wording of this initial entry for the 10 March meeting, which provides context for the formal organization of the council on 11 March, suggests that it was written sometime after 11 March—probably in July or August 1844. In his narration of the events of 10 March, Clayton does not recount the afternoon meeting that preceded the evening meeting, apparently because he was not in attendance. Clayton’s retelling of the events of the day in the council record mistakenly implies that the Twelve did not meet with JS before the evening meeting. Moreover, Clayton’s account of the evening meeting lacks important details regarding subjects of discussion that are reported for that day in JS’s journal. However, Clayton’s entry in the council record does include transcripts of the letters from and . Whereas Clayton apparently did not have raw contemporary minutes from which to draw, he did have these significant letters. While the lengthy letters from Miller and Wight constitute the bulk of the entry, Clayton framed the letters within a narrative of the council’s origins. Overall, Clayton composed the first entry of the “Record” as an introduction to the Council of the Kingdom.

This Council was organized on the strength of the contents of two letters from the brethren in the which president Joseph Smith received by the hands of and on Sunday the 10th. day of March A. D. 1844. The letters read as follows:—
Black River Falls.
February 15th. 1844
To the First Presidency and the quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Dear Brethren, Through the goodness and mercy of God the Eternal Father, and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are permitted to write and send by a special messenger, a concise [p. [1]]
10 March 1844 • Sunday

Editorial Note
Letters to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve proposing a new gathering center for Mormon settlement in the provided the immediate impetus for the organization of the Council of Fifty in March 1844. The proposal may have grown out of earlier interest in the southern states as well as the Republic of Texas. JS’s journal notes that a few months earlier, on 27 October 1843, he conversed with and , who had “just returned from the south.” Miller was the bishop for the settlement of Latter-day Saints who were logging and milling pine at Black River Falls in . Haws and other Mormon missionaries preaching in Alabama and Mississippi had recently converted scores of southerners. JS’s journal also notes that on 29 October, Miller and Haws met with , JS’s secretary, and ordained an elder in order to send him on a mission to Texas. These notes in JS’s journal suggest that he and Miller shared a new interest in the South and in Texas.
Three months later, interest in was expressed in the pamphlet on JS’s political views published in support of his campaign for the presidency of the . JS met with on 29 January 1844 and instructed him on what should be included in a public statement that would give his position on many political issues. They met again on 5 February to review what Phelps had written, and JS apparently approved of the document on 7 February, the date the published document bears. By 24 February fifteen hundred copies of General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States had been printed. Unlike most northerners, JS advocated the annexation of Texas as part of an ambitious yet peaceful agenda of American expansionism. He proposed that “if Texas petitions Congress to be adopted among the sons of liberty, give her the right hand of fellowship; and refuse not the same friendly grip to and .” Whenever “a neighboring realm petitioned to join the union,” JS’s position would be “come: yea come Texas: come Mexico; come Canada; and come all the world—let us be brethren: let us be one great family; and let there be universal peace.”
On 7 March 1844 JS explained his position on in an address to a congregation in . He warned that if the did not annex Texas, the republic would form an alliance with the British that would expose America’s western frontier to an attack. JS acknowledged that many opposed annexation because Texas would come into the union as a slave state, upsetting the balance of power between northern and southern states in Congress. He argued, however, that protecting America from British intrigue and invasion was more important. In JS’s view, the congressional balance of power could be restored by converting slave states into free states or by annexing . Anticipating the concern that many would have with such a large number of emancipated slaves, JS stated that the freedmen could be sent through Texas to —to live “where all colors are alike.”
The day after JS delivered this address, arrived in carrying two letters from , where church members had been logging pine since 1841 to supply lumber for the Nauvoo and the . The Wisconsin Saints had recently met to assess their situation. They estimated that by July 1844 they could supply more than enough lumber for both buildings, which would fulfill their original purpose in going to Wisconsin. However, over time they had taken on two new priorities. One was to continue logging in order to raise funds for the church, and the other was a growing interest in proselytizing the American Indians in the area. A delegation of local Indians had recently visited the Wisconsin Saints to inform them that they would have to pay federally regulated rates for further logging on the above the falls. While this development changed the prospects for using the lumber mills to raise money, the meeting helped solidify relations between the Mormons and the Indians. Noting the poor prospects for making money in Wisconsin and the recent proselytizing success in the South, the Wisconsin Saints proposed that they abandon the milling venture and establish a new gathering center in for southern Saints. In terms of raising money for the church, they expected they would do so more successfully by instituting a consecration program among gathered planters. As for the Indians, the Wisconsin Saints felt they could persuade them to move to Texas with them, and that the Saints there could then use Texas as a doorway to proselytize among Indians throughout the Americas.
The Wisconsin Saints appointed a committee—consisting of , , , , and —to write up their views and send them to church leaders in . As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Wight was the ranking ecclesiastical officer and served as the president of the branch at Black River Falls. He was also a trustee of the Nauvoo House Association, which oversaw the construction of the and the lumber operation. The lumber operation had begun at Miller’s suggestion. As president of the Nauvoo House Association and as a bishop, Miller procured and managed the supplies and provisions of the settlement. Hawley and Bird served as counselors to Bishop Miller and helped manage the implementation of a communal economic system among the Wisconsin Mormons. Young, a relatively recent convert, may have been selected to serve as a scribe, though the final versions of the letters are not in Young’s handwriting. The committee assigned Miller and Wight each to draft a letter to send to Nauvoo, which they did separately. After reviewing the two drafts, the committee resolved to send both letters. Each letter is dated 15 February 1844, addressed to JS and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and signed by the five members of the committee. The committee initially chose Young to carry the letters to Nauvoo, but it was later decided that Miller would bear them.
delivered the letters to JS in on the afternoon of Sunday, 10 March 1844. JS perused the letters and some discussion ensued. At 4:30 p.m. JS met in the with Miller, available members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the temple committee. The men reacted favorably to the petition from the Saints. Though his journal entry for this day is somewhat ambiguous, JS apparently suggested the production of a revised version of the Constitution that would protect all men in their rights as well as the possibility of amending the Constitution. After breaking for supper, the group reconvened at “7 eve” in “the assembly room” over JS’s . JS organized the meeting by appointing as chairman, whereupon Richards appointed the clerk. According to the account below, the letters were further discussed, after which JS expressed satisfaction with the “union of feeling” that prevailed among the brethren with whom he was meeting and also between themselves and the Wisconsin Saints. The meeting continued until a “late hour” before being adjourned until the next morning.
’s account of the evening meeting, reproduced below, is evidently a reminiscent reconstruction. The wording of this initial entry for the 10 March meeting, which provides context for the formal organization of the council on 11 March, suggests that it was written sometime after 11 March—probably in July or August 1844. In his narration of the events of 10 March, Clayton does not recount the afternoon meeting that preceded the evening meeting, apparently because he was not in attendance. Clayton’s retelling of the events of the day in the council record mistakenly implies that the Twelve did not meet with JS before the evening meeting. Moreover, Clayton’s account of the evening meeting lacks important details regarding subjects of discussion that are reported for that day in JS’s journal. However, Clayton’s entry in the council record does include transcripts of the letters from and . Whereas Clayton apparently did not have raw contemporary minutes from which to draw, he did have these significant letters. While the lengthy letters from Miller and Wight constitute the bulk of the entry, Clayton framed the letters within a narrative of the council’s origins. Overall, Clayton composed the first entry of the “Record” as an introduction to the Council of the Kingdom.

This Council was organized on the strength of the contents of two letters from the brethren in the which president Joseph Smith received by the hands of and on Sunday the 10th. day of March A. D. 1844. The letters read as follows:—
Black River Falls.
February 15th. 1844
To the First Presidency and the quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Dear Brethren, Through the goodness and mercy of God the Eternal Father, and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are permitted to write and send by a special messenger, a concise [p. [1]]
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