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

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction
Page [303]
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4 February 1845 • Tuesday

Editorial Note
On 4 February 1845, twenty-five members of the council convened from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the for the first meeting of the council since 31 May 1844. stated in his journal, “Had a councel with the fifty righted up & organized we droped a number of the members.” According to the minutes, Young called this meeting to “know the brethrens minds whether we shall reorganize according to the rules in the beginning,” to “know whether it is the minds of the council to fill up the places of those who are gone,” and to learn if the council wished “that I should take the place of brother Joseph as chairman.” Members present spoke on these issues in turn by age, though with slight deviation from the order in ’s May 1844 list. Clayton summarized the meeting in his journal: “This is the first time we met since the massacre of President Joseph & . The council was reorganized and president B. Young appointed standing chairman as successor to prest. Joseph Smith by unanimous vote. The vote was then taken in ancient order on each one present & all were received by unanimous vote.” The twenty-five members who were present were sustained as council members, as were fifteen members who were absent. Of these fifteen members, six were in or the surrounding area at the time of this council. It is unclear whether this meeting was hastily called, such that word did not reach all the members, or whether pressing business kept some of the men from attending.
Following the sustaining votes, eleven of the original council members were “rejected” and dropped from the council. Those rejected were the three non-Mormon members of the council; and one of his followers; and , both of whom had led companies of church members out of against the instructions of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and four other men whose loyalties to the Twelve as the leaders of the church were questioned. With the eleven men rejected and the earlier deaths of three council members—JS, , and —the council stood at forty members, including , the recorder; and , the clerk. Clayton wrote, “It was voted to fill up the council at some future time.” ’s invitation for nominations to fill the vacancies produced eighteen names, but no new members were admitted at this time.
Besides reorganizing the council, members discussed a proposal from , a non-Mormon from , Illinois, that the Congress grant the Latter-day Saints a twenty-four-square-mile “Mormon Reserve” in the . Richards had sent a letter about his idea, along with proposed congressional legislation, to on 14 January 1845. On 28 January eight members of the Council of Fifty, led by , along with apostle , had met and read Richards’s letter. summarized the meeting, “The article is well got up and it was concluded to notice it and set the think [thing] in aggitation in order to turn off the attention of the mobocrats until we can finish the .” Miller responded to Richards that day, asking permission to publish the proposal in “our weekly paper, together with our own proposals.” In a meeting of church leaders two days later, Miller described Richards’s letter as “a very extraordinary communication.”
On 3 February 1845 wrote a reply giving his consent for the proposal to be published, along with advice on how to avoid the proposal being seen as “either a Mormon or Anti-Mormon scheme, or perchance a Whig or Democratic.” The Nauvoo Neighbor summarized Richards’s proposal on 5 February 1845, and five days later the Warsaw Signal, a newspaper staunchly opposed to the Latter-day Saints, commented negatively on it. In his 15 February response to the Signal, Richards stated that he had recently returned from where he had met with and “their head men,” emphasized that he was not a Mormon, and stated that he was motivated by a desire to remove the Latter-day Saints from . Richards wrote that church leaders “promised to draw up some propositions on their part, to be published side by side, with mine; they avow a willingness to go any where, even to or to (should it be annexed) or beyond the Indians in Missouri Territory, or up the :—Anywhere, so it be out of the limits of any State or organized territory where they can enact their municipal laws subject only to the Constitution and laws of the .” Richards cited the federal government’s removal of American Indian tribes from the eastern United States during the 1830s as a precedent.
The following minutes of the 4 February council meeting reproduce ’s 14 January 1845 letter and proposed congressional legislation, ’s 28 January response to Richards’s letter, and Richards’s 3 February response to Miller. The minutes then note, “At this stage of the correspondence a few of the council met together and decided to publish the correspondence and also publish with it our views on the subject was appointed to write our views.” It is unclear when this meeting was held, but it occurred before 26 February, the date that Spencer’s response was published on the front page of the Nauvoo Neighbor, along with the earlier correspondence between Richards and Miller. Spencer’s article expressed general support for the proposal, though it noted that the Mormons would need a territory of not less than two hundred square miles. It identified possibilities west of , in , in western , and in . Spencer’s article is reproduced in these minutes, followed by a note indicating that the article was attributed to Miller inasmuch as Miller had corresponded with Richards.
The Mormons likely did not believe that ’s proposal, or their counterproposal penned by , had a genuine likelihood of success. Indeed, ’s 28 January diary entry noting the initial response to the proposal suggests that church leaders thought it might divert the opponents of the Latter-day Saints so that the could be completed. The proposal also advocated positions that the Latter-day Saints would likely not have accepted. If implemented, the proposal would have deprived them of congressional representation and voting rights in presidential elections. Richards’s letter advocated the creation of religious enclaves for the Mormons and others; while gathering in communities was central to Mormon practices, they had not advocated either the exclusion of non-Mormons or the creation of enclaves for other religious groups. In addition, Spencer’s geographic proposals lack precision, and most of them asked for vast swaths of territory. In any event, church leaders never petitioned the federal government to enact Richards’s proposal nor does it appear that any further communication occurred between Richards and church leaders.

Tuesday Feby 4th. 1845 Council met in the upper room of the at 11 o clock A.M. The morning was extremely cold. Present, president in the chair, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . , Recorder & Clerk.
The called upon brother to sing a song which was done, after which the council was opened by prayer by .
The then said he would relate the reflections of his own mind in relation [p. [303]]
4 February 1845 • Tuesday

Editorial Note
On 4 February 1845, twenty-five members of the council convened from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the for the first meeting of the council since 31 May 1844. stated in his journal, “Had a councel with the fifty righted up & organized we droped a number of the members.” According to the minutes, Young called this meeting to “know the brethrens minds whether we shall reorganize according to the rules in the beginning,” to “know whether it is the minds of the council to fill up the places of those who are gone,” and to learn if the council wished “that I should take the place of brother Joseph as chairman.” Members present spoke on these issues in turn by age, though with slight deviation from the order in ’s May 1844 list. Clayton summarized the meeting in his journal: “This is the first time we met since the massacre of President Joseph & . The council was reorganized and president B. Young appointed standing chairman as successor to prest. Joseph Smith by unanimous vote. The vote was then taken in ancient order on each one present & all were received by unanimous vote.” The twenty-five members who were present were sustained as council members, as were fifteen members who were absent. Of these fifteen members, six were in or the surrounding area at the time of this council. It is unclear whether this meeting was hastily called, such that word did not reach all the members, or whether pressing business kept some of the men from attending.
Following the sustaining votes, eleven of the original council members were “rejected” and dropped from the council. Those rejected were the three non-Mormon members of the council; and one of his followers; and , both of whom had led companies of church members out of against the instructions of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and four other men whose loyalties to the Twelve as the leaders of the church were questioned. With the eleven men rejected and the earlier deaths of three council members—JS, , and —the council stood at forty members, including , the recorder; and , the clerk. Clayton wrote, “It was voted to fill up the council at some future time.” ’s invitation for nominations to fill the vacancies produced eighteen names, but no new members were admitted at this time.
Besides reorganizing the council, members discussed a proposal from , a non-Mormon from , Illinois, that the Congress grant the Latter-day Saints a twenty-four-square-mile “Mormon Reserve” in the . Richards had sent a letter about his idea, along with proposed congressional legislation, to on 14 January 1845. On 28 January eight members of the Council of Fifty, led by , along with apostle , had met and read Richards’s letter. summarized the meeting, “The article is well got up and it was concluded to notice it and set the think [thing] in aggitation in order to turn off the attention of the mobocrats until we can finish the .” Miller responded to Richards that day, asking permission to publish the proposal in “our weekly paper, together with our own proposals.” In a meeting of church leaders two days later, Miller described Richards’s letter as “a very extraordinary communication.”
On 3 February 1845 wrote a reply giving his consent for the proposal to be published, along with advice on how to avoid the proposal being seen as “either a Mormon or Anti-Mormon scheme, or perchance a Whig or Democratic.” The Nauvoo Neighbor summarized Richards’s proposal on 5 February 1845, and five days later the Warsaw Signal, a newspaper staunchly opposed to the Latter-day Saints, commented negatively on it. In his 15 February response to the Signal, Richards stated that he had recently returned from where he had met with and “their head men,” emphasized that he was not a Mormon, and stated that he was motivated by a desire to remove the Latter-day Saints from . Richards wrote that church leaders “promised to draw up some propositions on their part, to be published side by side, with mine; they avow a willingness to go any where, even to or to (should it be annexed) or beyond the Indians in Missouri Territory, or up the :—Anywhere, so it be out of the limits of any State or organized territory where they can enact their municipal laws subject only to the Constitution and laws of the .” Richards cited the federal government’s removal of American Indian tribes from the eastern United States during the 1830s as a precedent.
The following minutes of the 4 February council meeting reproduce ’s 14 January 1845 letter and proposed congressional legislation, ’s 28 January response to Richards’s letter, and Richards’s 3 February response to Miller. The minutes then note, “At this stage of the correspondence a few of the council met together and decided to publish the correspondence and also publish with it our views on the subject was appointed to write our views.” It is unclear when this meeting was held, but it occurred before 26 February, the date that Spencer’s response was published on the front page of the Nauvoo Neighbor, along with the earlier correspondence between Richards and Miller. Spencer’s article expressed general support for the proposal, though it noted that the Mormons would need a territory of not less than two hundred square miles. It identified possibilities west of , in , in western , and in . Spencer’s article is reproduced in these minutes, followed by a note indicating that the article was attributed to Miller inasmuch as Miller had corresponded with Richards.
The Mormons likely did not believe that ’s proposal, or their counterproposal penned by , had a genuine likelihood of success. Indeed, ’s 28 January diary entry noting the initial response to the proposal suggests that church leaders thought it might divert the opponents of the Latter-day Saints so that the could be completed. The proposal also advocated positions that the Latter-day Saints would likely not have accepted. If implemented, the proposal would have deprived them of congressional representation and voting rights in presidential elections. Richards’s letter advocated the creation of religious enclaves for the Mormons and others; while gathering in communities was central to Mormon practices, they had not advocated either the exclusion of non-Mormons or the creation of enclaves for other religious groups. In addition, Spencer’s geographic proposals lack precision, and most of them asked for vast swaths of territory. In any event, church leaders never petitioned the federal government to enact Richards’s proposal nor does it appear that any further communication occurred between Richards and church leaders.

Tuesday Feby 4th. 1845 Council met in the upper room of the at 11 o clock A.M. The morning was extremely cold. Present, president in the chair, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . , Recorder & Clerk.
The called upon brother to sing a song which was done, after which the council was opened by prayer by .
The then said he would relate the reflections of his own mind in relation [p. [303]]
Page [303]