Letter of Introduction from James Adams, 9 November 1839
, Letter of Introduction, , Sangamon Co., IL, to , , for JS, , and , 9 Nov. 1839; handwriting of ; one page; Martin Van Buren, Papers, Library of Congress, Washington DC. Includes address and archival stamping.
One leaf, measuring 12½ × 7⅜ inches (32 × 19 cm). The document was trifolded in letter style. The upper right-hand corner of the verso contains a round, red-ink stamp of a bald eagle carrying a shield and clutching arrows and an olive branch; the eagle is circumscribed by the words “THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS”.
retained possession of the letter after his 29 November 1839 meeting with JS and . The letter was included in the collection of papers Van Buren’s descendants donated to the Library of Congress in 1904 and 1905.
West, Papers of Martin Van Buren: Guide and Index, 15, 62; West, Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren, 382.
West, Lucy Fisher, ed. The Papers of Martin Van Buren: Guide and Index to General Correspon- dence and Miscellaneous Documents. Alexandria, VA: Chadwyck-Healey, 1989.
West, Elizabeth Howard. Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1910.
On 9 November 1839, wrote a letter of introduction for JS, , and to present to President in . The men sought to request Van Buren’s support for their petition for redress of losses that the and its members had earlier suffered in . While en route to Washington, JS, Rigdon, Higbee, , and stopped in , Illinois, on 4 November to allow Rigdon, who had malaria, to recuperate. James Adams—a veteran of the War of 1812, a prominent probate judge, and a former candidate for the governorship—heard JS preach a sermon in Springfield and afterward invited JS to his home. It is unclear whether Adams had joined the church by the time of JS’s visit, but he had previously demonstrated compassion for church members. For example, one month earlier he took in malaria-stricken , a member of the who was on his way to .
agreed to support the Saints’ cause by writing a letter of introduction for the members of the delegation. Letters of introduction were commonplace in nineteenth-century . When an individual sought an audience with someone of a higher societal or public station, the individual was expected to obtain letters of introduction, typically from people in respected positions. The letters served to verify the credentials of the individual seeking an audience and often vouched for the individual’s character. Over the previous seven months, had collected letters of recommendation from various local and state authorities, including the governor of , .
wrote the letter assuming that would be with JS when he met . At some point on 9 November, however, the delegation decided to leave Rigdon in because of his poor health. When JS wrote a letter to on 9 November, he told her Rigdon would remain in Springfield. Another letter, written by Rigdon on the same day, deputed a package of documents to JS and so that they could continue without him. Yet when JS and left Springfield on 9 November, Rigdon went with them. Whether Adams wrote this letter early on 9 November before the group decided to leave Rigdon in Springfield or later in the day after they determined he would continue traveling with them is unclear.
This letter is addressed directly to , though it is unclear whether was acquainted with Van Buren or other prominent members of the Democratic Party in . JS delivered the letter to Van Buren during their meeting on 29 November 1839.
Kimball, “History,” 113. On the same day Adams composed his letter of introduction for JS, Rigdon, and Higbee, he also certified affidavits for two Saints in Springfield who swore to the value of the property they lost as a result of their expulsion from Missouri. (Abraham Palmer, Affidavit, Springfield, IL, 9 Nov. 1839; Uriah B. Powell, Affidavit, Springfield, IL, 9 Nov. 1839, Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives, Washington DC.)
Kimball, Heber C. “History of Heber Chase Kimball by His Own Dictation,” ca. 1842–1856. Heber C. Kimball, Papers, 1837–1866. CHL. MS 627, box 2.
Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives / Petitions and Memorials, Resolutions of State Legislatures, and Related Documents Which Were Referred to the Committee on Judiciary during the 27th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Petitions and Memorials, 1813–1968. Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789–2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are housed in National Archives boxes 40 and 41 of Library of Congress boxes 139–144 in HR27A-G10.1.
Willis, Etiquette, and the Usages of Society, 9–11.
Willis, Henry P. Etiquette, and the Usages of Society: Containing the Most Approved Rules for Correct Deportment in Fashionable Life, together with Hints to Gentlemen and Ladies on Irregular and Vulgar Habits. Also, the Etiquette of Love and Courtship, Marriage Etiquette, &c. New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1860.
Though Adams’s gubernatorial campaign was ostensibly nonpartisan, he was attacked in Whig newspapers during his political career, indicating he may have sided more closely with Democrats. In January 1840, Adams and John B. Weber worked closely with prominent Illinois Democrats in behalf of the church, which further suggests Adams’s political affiliation. (Election Returns, Chicago Democrat, 6 Aug. 1834, ; Editorial, Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 14 June 1834, ; James Adams, 19 June 1834, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 21 June 1834, ; Springfield, IL, 14 June 1837, Letter to the Editor, Sangamo Journal, 17 June 1837, ; Letter from James Adams, 4 Jan. 1840; Letter from John B. Weber, 6 Jan. 1840.)
I respectfully beg leave to introduce to your Excellency Joseph Smith Junr who in company with & Represent the (usually styled Mormons) Their business is to seek redress for the recent outrages commited on them and their property in . Those outrages are unparralleled in the annals of civilized communities and sir it may appear at first view a novel matter to be brought before the chief executive of the nation. Still Sir I feel conscious a consciousness founded on your affable disposition that you will hear with patience and advise with a desire to sustain the rights of all the citizens of our great Republic.