, Letter, Ratisbon (Regensburg), Bavaria, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, 17 July 1841. Featured version published in “Letter from Elder Hyde,” Times and Seasons, 15 Oct. 1841, vol. 2, no. 24, 570–573. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
On 17 July 1841, wrote a letter from Regensburg, Bavaria (now in Germany), to JS in , Illinois, to share information regarding his mission abroad. This was Hyde’s third letter to JS since arriving in Europe.
After leaving on 20 June 1841, arrived in , the Netherlands, where he met with the area’s chief rabbi to discuss the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land. Hyde traveled through the Netherlands, unsuccessfully seeking audiences with local Jewish leaders before continuing on to . After traveling through Mainz and Frankfurt, Hyde stopped in Regensburg, where he boarded with a hospitable German family for nearly two months. The family reportedly taught him German in exchange for English lessons and offered him the use of their carriage during his stay.
planned to travel to , but because he had failed to send his passport to the Austrian consulate upon his arrival in Frankfurt, he was required to forward the passport to Munich and await approval before he could legally enter Austria. While he waited, Hyde concentrated on learning German and writing. This letter to JS was one among many of his resulting works. Combining a mission report and travelogue with sentimental expression, the letter outlines Hyde’s efforts to fulfill his charge to “be [an] agent and representative in foreign lands . . . and converse with the priests, rulers and Elders of the Jews.”
JS likely received this letter in in September 1841. The original letter is apparently not extant, but it was published in the 15 October issue of the Times and Seasons; that is the version featured here.
An 1837 travel handbook warned travelers that “without the signature of an Austrian ambassador or minister on his passport, no traveller is allowed to enter the Austrian dominions.” If a signature was not procured before reaching the border, travelers would be “turned back to seek the signature . . . of an Austrian minister, in the nearest capital.” (Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany, 107, italics in original.)
Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany; Being a Guide to Bavaria, Austria, Tyrol, Salzburg, Styria, &c., the Austrian and Bavarian Alps . . . . London: John Murray and Son, 1837.
Postal transmission times were irregular. Letters from England to Nauvoo generally took between thirty and ninety days to arrive. Hyde’s letter was written on 17 July and received before 2 October in Nauvoo, when JS read it aloud at a churchconference, suggesting JS received it sometime in September. (JS History, vol. C-1, 1228.)
it of the matter does not dwell, is lost—the life and animation thereof, die away into a cold monotony, and it becomes almost entirely another thing. This step is according to the best light I can get, and hope and trust that it is according to the mind of the Lord. The people will hardly believe but that I have spoken German before; but I tell them, neicht, not. The German is spoken in Prussia, , and in all the States of ——the south of Russia, and in fine more or less all over Europe. It appears to me, therefore, that some person of some little experience ought to know this language so as to translate himself without being dependant on strangers. If I am wrong in my movement, pray that the spirit of the Lord may direct me aright. If I am right, pray that Heaven may speedily give me this language. It is very sickly in Constantinople, Syria and Alexandria, at present; I would rather, therefore, wait until cool weather before I go there. I might have written most of this letter in German; but as you would more readily understand it in English, I have written it in English.
With pleasure I leave the historical part of my letter, to touch a softer note, and give vent to the feelings of my heart.
I hope and trust that the cause which you so fearlessly advocate, is rolling forth in , with that firm and steady motion which characterizes the work of Jehovah. The enemies which we are forced to encounter are numerous, strong, shrewd and cunning. Their leader transfuses into them his own spirit, and brings them into close alliance with the numerous hosts of precious immortals who have been earlier taken captives by the haughty Tyrant, and sacrificed upon the altar of iniquity, transgression and sin. May it please our Father in Heaven to throw around thee his protecting arms,—to place beneath thee Almighty strength, ever buoy thy head above the raging waves of tribulation through which the chart of destiny has evidently marked thy course. Happy in the enjoyment of the distinguished consideration with which Heaven’s favor, alone, has endowed me. of bearing, with you, some humble part in laying the foundation of the glorious kingdom of Mesiah which is destined, in its onward course, to break in pieces and destroy all others and stand forever.
The friendship and good-will which are breathed towards me through all your letters, are received as the legacy which noble minds and generous hearts are ever anxious to bequeath. They soften the hard and rugged path in which Heaven has directed my course. They are buoyancy in depression,—joy in sorrow; and when the dark clouds of desponding hope are gathering thick around the mental horizon, like a kind angel from the fountain of mercy, they dispel the gloom, dry the tear of sorrow, and pour humanitie’s healing balm into my grieved and sorrowful heart. Be assured, therefore, Bro. Joseph, that effusions from the altar of a greatful heart are smoking to Heaven, daily, in thy behalf; and not only in thine, but in behalf of all Zion’s suffering sons and daughters whose generous magnanimity will ever environ and adorn the brow of the object of their compassion. Tho’ now far separated from you; and also from her who, with me, has suffered the chilling blasts of adversity, yet hope lingers in this bosom, brightened almost into certainty by the implicit confidence reposed in the virtue of that call which was borne on the gentle breeze of the spirit of God through the dark shades of midnight gloom, ’till it found a mansion in my anxious and enquiring heart, that my feet shall once more press the American soil; and under the shade of her streaming banner, embrace again the friends I love.
I never knew that I was, in reality, an American, until I walked out one fine morning in along the wharf, where many ships lay in the waters of the Rhine: Suddenly my eye caught a broad pendant floating in a gentle breeze over the stern of a fine ship at half-mizzen-mast; and when I saw the wide-spread Eagle perched on her banner, with the stripes and stars under which our fathers were led on to conquest and victory, my heart leaped into my mouth, a flood of tears burst from my eyes, and before reflection could mature a sentence, my mouth, involuntarily, gave birth to these words, “I am an American!”
To see the flag of one’s country in a strange land, and floating upon strange waters, produces feelings which none can know except those who experience them. I can now say that I am an American. While at home, the warmth and fire of the American spirit lay in silent [p. 572]
According to a medical journal article published in 1847, Egypt, Syria, and Constantinople were recognized as primary sources of the plague. Despite some reports of the plague abating, outgoing ships from these areas were required to undergo a mandatory period of quarantine. (“Mediterranean Quarantine Regulations,” 280; Orson Hyde, Trieste, Austrian Empire, to “Dear Brethren and Sisters at Nauvoo,” 17 Jan. 1842, in Hyde, Voice from Jerusalem, 22.)
“Mediterranean Quarantine Regulations.” Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal 67 (1847): 259–297.
Hyde, Orson. A Voice from Jerusalem, or a Sketch of the Travels and Ministry of Elder Orson Hyde, Missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to Germany, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Liverpool: P. P. Pratt, 1842.