JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , [, New Haven Co., CT], 30 June 1842. Featured version copied [ca. 30 June 1842] in JS Letterbook 2, p. 237; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 30 June 1842 in , Illinois, inscribed a letter on behalf of JS to in . The letter was written in response to a 27 May 1842 letter from Hotchkiss, one of JS’s largest creditors, in which he expressed concern about JS’s decision to petition for bankruptcy. In that letter, Hotchkiss worried that this action would “have a most disastrous influence upon your society both commercially and religiously.” In JS’s response, he reiterated the argument he had made in a 13 May 1842 letter to Hotchkiss—that he had no other options and no other means of meeting his debts.
In his 27 May letter, asked JS to clarify how he had represented, in his bankruptcy application, the land and promissory notes that were part of his 1839 agreement with Hotchkiss and his partners. In the letter featured here, JS noted that they had been included in his bankruptcy schedules, but he did not provide Hotchkiss with any additional details. JS had included the land in question among his assets, which Hotchkiss had warned him not to do, since JS had not finished paying for the land and therefore Hotchkiss and his partners still held title to it. Hotchkiss had also asked JS to explain how he intended to repay his creditors, but JS only reiterated that all his creditors would “fare alike.” JS did not respond to Hotchkiss’s offer for a new arrangement to repay the 1839 bond. Desperate for news after hearing nothing more from JS, Hotchkiss wrote to in November 1842 making further inquiries about payment and JS’s bankruptcy proceedings.
The letter JS sent to is apparently not extant, but a copy was made by in JS Letterbook 2. Clayton presumably made the copy about 30 June 1842, the date the original letter was written.
Dr Sir— Yours of the 27th. May, has been received which I shall now briefly answer.
In regard to my application for the benefit of the Bankrupt act, there was no other course for me to pursue than the one I have already taken and as I have said before all my creditors will have to fare alike Your papers are inventory’d along with all the other property.
The influence this step may have upon our society either commercially or religiously is a matter we cannot stop to consult, as we had no alternative left. We have been compelled to pursue this course on account of the extreme pressure of the times, which continued to bear harder upon us untill we took the step we have.
A great pressure of buisness prevents my writing more at the present, your therefore excuse a short communication
JS’s insistence that all his creditors would “fare alike” most likely meant that he intended to leave repayment of his debts to the bankruptcy court, rather than make new arrangements for repayment with Hotchkiss. (See Letter from Horace Hotchkiss, 27 May 1842.)
The “extreme pressure of the times” included the nationwide depression that followed the Panic of 1837. In his 13 May letter to Hotchkiss, JS had explained further difficulties that had forced him to petition for bankruptcy, most of which related to financial losses incurred by the church “through the influence of Mobs & designi[n]g men.” Specific challenges included significant property losses in Missouri, the debts the church contracted after the expulsion as leaders sought to provide land for the Latter-day Saint refugees in Illinois and Iowa Territory, and other unspecified debts, which may have included a debt to the federal government for the purchase of the steamboat Des Moines. (Letter to Horace Hotchkiss, 13 May 1842.)
In June 1842, Wilford Woodruff noted in a letter to Parley P. Pratt that he had “never seen Joseph as full of business as of late he hardly gets time to sign his name.” (Wilford Woodruff, Nauvoo, IL, to Parley P. Pratt, Liverpool, England, 18 June 1842, Parley P. Pratt, Correspondence, CHL.)
Pratt, Parley P. Correspondence, 1842–1855. CHL. MS 897.