Letter from Emma Smith, 3 May 1837
- Source Note
wrote this letter, dated 3 May 1837, to her husband while he was absent from , Ohio. JS’s location during the latter part of April and for much of May 1837 remains unknown. In a previous letter to JS, dated 25 April 1837, Emma discussed her efforts to obtain goods and money, as well as the difficulty she faced at JS’s mercantile store in , Ohio. In this 3 May letter she described how the family’s financial situation had worsened, as money and goods she had expected to receive were not available and creditors were demanding repayment. Because of coverture laws, Emma Smith had no legal identity of her own, no legal right to JS’s goods or property, and no ability to intervene with his creditors. JS was liable not only for his own debts but also for those of his business partners and any individuals for whom he had acted as surety, or guarantor on a loan. Emma specifically noted here that the partnerships in which JS was involved were causing financial problems for their family. Beginning in spring 1837, JS faced litigation on his and others’ outstanding debts. Emma may have been referring to these debts, some of which were being pursued in court at the time, when she wrote that creditors claimed “an unaccountable right to every particle of property or money that they could lay their hands on” and that she felt everyone else had a “better right to all that is called yours than I have.”told JS she was resolved to do what she could to ensure that any subsequent transactions benefited JS and their family. She also wrote that the situation would be improved if JS returned and addressed the matters she could not. It was perhaps this need for someone to act in financial matters that prompted Emma’s postscript about giving power of attorney to , who served as clerk for the H. Smith & Co. store in and as counselor to . Emma may also have thought if JS returned, he could relieve tensions that were growing among church members and counter a group of dissenters that was forming in his absence. Members of this group, including , , , and others, confronted JS in May after he returned to Kirtland.