Letter from James Arlington Bennet, 16 August 1842
, Letter, , New Utrecht, Kings Co., NY, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 16 Aug. 1842; handwriting of ; four pages; JS Materials, courtesy of Community of Christ Archives, International Headquarters, Independence, MO. Includes address and dockets.
Bifolium measuring 9⅛ × 7½ inches (23 × 19 cm). A paper mill insignia, embossed in the top left corner of the first leaf recto, reads “D. FELT & Co. | NEW YORK”, encircling an eagle. The document was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer, the wafer remaining on the recto of the second leaf.
, who served as scribe to JS from 1842 to 1844, docketed the document, as did an unidentified scribe. The letter was likely retained by JS and passed down among Smith family descendants. By 1961, the family had donated the letter to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ), and it is now housed in the Community of Christ Library and Archives.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Co., 1901–1936.
Richard Howard, email to Rachel Killebrew, 5 June 2017, copy in editors’ possession.
On 16 August 1842, , a prominent educator and journalist, wrote a letter to JS detailing his thoughts on various members he had encountered and outlining his position on and the allegations Bennett had made against JS. Although Bennet had not met JS in person, he had become acquainted with the Latter-day Saints earlier in 1842 and had—apparently at John C. Bennett’s instigation—received an honorary degree from the University of Nauvoo; had the “freedom of the city” of , Illinois, conferred upon him; had a street in Nauvoo named after him; and received a commission as inspector general in the . In May 1842, he had proven himself a friend to JS and the Saints by defending them against charges of free love and communalism in a letter he published in the New York Herald under the pseudonym “Cincinnatus.” Bennet’s letter to JS answered one JS had written to him on 30 June 1842, which had delivered to Bennet while in his company from 5 to 7 August.
explained in his 16 August letter that had asked him to help publish an exposé of JS and the church but that he had refused. Bennet believed that , the editor of the New York Herald, planned to publish and promote the book, but Bennet advised JS not to worry about John C. Bennett’s allegations. Bennet was confident that John C. Bennett’s claims would bring greater attention to and interest in the church and that his exposé would not present anything that JS had not already been charged with in various newspapers. James Arlington Bennet also expressed his satisfaction with leaders of the church he had met, including , a church and JS’s scribe; , who presided over the church’s in ; and , who was in New York City.
Although there are no postal markings on the letter, an entry in JS’s journal states that the letter was conveyed to JS by mail and that he received it a few days before 7 September 1842. On 8 September, he dictated a reply.
I know of no reason why the Wasp was not continued to be Sent to me— I dont like the name. Mildness should Characteris[e] every thing that comes from & even a name as Paley says in his Ethics has much influence on one side or the other. My respects to you[r] its Editor. .
I would just say that Gen. appeared to me to be in very low spirits, and I find that many communications intended for you, from me, has never reached you. Those Books were made over to on the presumption that he would in his own name present them for the benefit of the .
William Paley, archdeacon of Carlisle in the Church of England, was a lecturer at Cambridge University in moral philosophy, divinity, and the New Testament. He published Moral and Political Philosophy in 1785, based on his Cambridge lectures. Paley argued that “even names are not indifferent. When the multitude are to be dealt with, there is a charm in sounds. It was upon this principle, that several statesmen of those times advised Cromwell to assume the title of king, together with the ancient style and insignia of royalty.” (Paley, Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, 304, italics in original; Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, 446–447.)
Paley, William. The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. 8th American ed. Boston: West and Richardson, 1815.
Schneewind, J. B., ed. Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
William Smith, JS’s brother, was the initial editor of the Wasp. By August 1842, William appears to have been only a nominal editor, with John Taylor assuming editorial responsibilities for the newspaper. (See Times and Seasons, 1 Aug. 1842; and “Letter from Col. Robinson,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 26 Aug. 1842, .)