See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On the morning of 8 September 1842, JS dictated to his scribe a letter from , Illinois, to in , New York, updating him on the state of affairs in the wake of ’s public criticisms of JS and the Latter-day Saints. JS wrote the letter in response to James Arlington Bennet’s 16 August 1842 letter, which JS received by 7 September. Although Bennet had started corresponding with John C. Bennett earlier that year, Bennet’s 16 August letter was the first that JS received from him, and the two men had never met in person.
In his 16 August letter, praised the character of several church members whom he had recently met, including , , and . He also gave JS his assessment of and noted that Bennett had approached him about publishing an exposé of JS and the church, a proposition he refused. In his reply, JS added his praise for Richards, Foster, and Bernhisel and asserted that the church was filled with thousands of men of similarly high character. JS also expressed his opinion of John C. Bennett and recounted the persecution he and several other church members experienced because of Bennett’s charges. JS described his and the Saints’ circumstances as inconsistent with the liberties and values celebrated throughout the country. He also conveyed his belief that the persecution would spread to other groups and eventually engulf the world in violence if other Americans did not rise up to protect the Saints’ citizenship rights. Finally, JS explained the difficulty he and others were having with the post office.
JS was hiding at ’s home in when he dictated this letter. Because it lacks addressing and postal markings, the version featured here appears to be a draft of the letter. Around the same time the letter was sent, and copied the text of the letter into JS’s journal. The Sangamo Journal published an excerpt of the letter in its 4 November 1842 issue, stating that the letter had been printed in the 22 October 1842 issue of the New York Herald. According to church member , the letter was read publicly to a congregation in Nauvoo on 11 September 1842. likely received the letter by late September or early October. On 24 October, he wrote a letter to in which he continued his discussion of JS’s challenges in the wake of ’s accusations.
Differences between the draft of the letter that JS dictated to and the version in JS’s journal are noted.
Church leaders had contacted Bennet by mid-April 1842, at which time he was commissioned as an officer in the Nauvoo Legion. (Moses K. Anderson to James Arlington Bennet, Certificate, Springfield, IL, 30 Apr. 1842, Thomas Carlin, Correspondence, Illinois State Archives, Springfield.)
Carlin, Thomas. Correspondence, 1838–1842. In Office of the Governor, Records, 1818–1989. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
As noted above, JS received Bennet’s 16 August letter in Nauvoo on 7 September. This and other correspondence between the two indicate that mail took about three weeks to travel between Nauvoo and New Utrecht.
and intimidating an innocent and children; and insulting them in a most diabolical manner, threatening their lives &c, if I am not to be found; with a gang of Missourians with them, saying, they will have me dead or alive, and if alive, they will carry me to in chains; and when there, they will kill me at all hazards. And all this is backt up, and urged on, by the of this , with all the rage of a demon, putting at defiance the constitution of this — our chartered rights, and the constitution of the ; for not as yet, have they done one thing that was in accordance to them; while all the citizens of this , enmasse, have petitioned the with remonstrances, and overtures, that would have melted the heart of an adamantine, to no effect. And at the same time, if any of us open our mouths, to plead our own cause, in the defence of law and justice, with <we> are instantly threatened with Militia & extermination Great God! When shall the oppressor cease to prey and glut itself upon innocent blood. Where is patriotism? Where is liberty? Where is the boast of this proud, and haughty nation? O humanity! where hast thou fled? hast thou fled <forever.>
I now appeal to you, sir, inasmuch as you have subscribed yourself our friend; will you lift your voice, and your arm, with indignation, against such unhallowed oppression? I must say sir, that my bosom swells, with unutterable anguish, when I contemplate the scenes of horror [p. 5]
While it did not call for the extermination of church members in Illinois, an editorial in the Warsaw Signal stated that the citizens of Warsaw, Illinois, hoped that JS would resist arrest when officials arrived in Nauvoo to apprehend him so that they “should have had the sport of driving him and his worthy clan out of the State en masse.” In a subsequent issue, the paper’s printer, Thomas Gregg, disavowed the statement. (“Recent Attempt to Arrest the Prophet,” Warsaw [IL] Signal, 13 Aug. 1842, , italics in original; “To the Readers of the Signal,” Warsaw Signal, 20 Aug. 1842, .)