Letter to the Citizens of Hancock County, circa 2 July 1842
JS, Letter, [, Hancock Co., IL], to the Citizens of , IL, ca. 2 July 1842. Featured version published in “To the Citizens of Hancock Co.,” Wasp, 2 July 1842, vol. 1, no. 12, . For more complete source information, see the source note for Notice, 28 Apr. 1842.
The 2 July 1842 issue of the Wasp published a letter from JS to the citizens of , Illinois, regarding the upcoming state election, to be held on 1 August. At a public meeting in on 26 May, JS had vowed not to support or “vote with either the Whig or Democratic parties as such” in the election. Nauvoo residents at that meeting and a meeting held less than a week later nominated a separate ticket of candidates to fill the and county offices, not all of whom were Latter-day Saints. On 29 May, the county’s Anti-Mormon Party held a convention and nominated its own slate of candidates. , editor of the Warsaw Signal and consistent critic of the Latter-day Saints, asserted that the Anti-Mormon convention had been organized in response to the move by JS and Nauvoo citizens to nominate a separate ticket.
Despite ’s assertion, the Anti-Mormon Party had been active for more than a year. The party, which emerged in the summer of 1841, had been championed by Sharp and the Warsaw Signal. In May 1841, the paper described the Latter-day Saints as a political threat and pledged “to oppose the concentration of political power in a religious body.” A few weeks later, Sharp warned readers that the Saints voted according to JS’s dictates. Sharp also reported on a recent meeting in which the assembled group resolved to oppose candidates seeking Latter-day Saint support. At another meeting, held on 19 June, William H. Roosevelt, a local Democrat, proposed a convention to nominate candidates critical of Latter-day Saint influence. On 28 June 1841, the Anti-Mormon Party held its first convention in , Illinois; attendees nominated Richard Wilton and Robert Miller for school and county commissioner, respectively. Convention speakers called on citizens to favor candidates adhering to the “principles of Anti-Mormonism.” In July, the Signal reminded readers that JS’s followers “have allowed him to dictate how they should vote,” referencing the Saints’ voting patterns in and in the previous two elections. Both Wilton and Miller were elected that August.
In late 1841, when JS announced the Saints would support Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, some perceived the potential for Latter-day Saint bloc voting as a growing threat. In response to this political threat, repeatedly emphasized the importance of taking combined action against Latter-day Saint political influence. At the Anti-Mormon Party convention held in on 29 May 1842, the assembly nominated a full ticket, which appeared in subsequent issues of the Signal along with the Whig and Democratic tickets. In response to the convention, JS published the letter featured here, which called for independent candidates. He declared that candidates who rejected the principles of the Anti-Mormon Party and met certain qualifications would receive the support of the Latter-day Saints in the .
Perhaps in response to JS’s letter, many men announced their candidacy in the next two issues of the Wasp. The candidates either omitted their party affiliation, appealed to independent voters, ran as independents, or added “independent” to their affiliation. Ultimately, citizens and Latter-day Saints in the surrounding region overwhelmingly supported the Democratic ticket in the August election, helping to ensure that party’s success and the Anti-Mormon Party’s defeat. After the election, lamented that the whole Democratic ticket, or “more properly Mormon ticket,” as he described it, “is elected.”
The original letter is apparently not extant, but its contents were printed in the 2 July 1842 issue of the Wasp.
Letter to Friends in Illinois, 20 Dec. 1841. Religious bloc voting was a notable feature of antebellum politics, and Illinois was no exception. In 1841, for example, Archbishop John Hughes successfully marshalled Irish Catholic voters to elect candidates who would support the reorganization of New York City’s public schools. The next year, the new legislature accomplished the desired reorganization. Though Irish Catholics also voted as a bloc in Illinois, the Latter-day Saints were perceived as the greater political threat. Some contemporary newspapers, including Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune, commented on Latter-day Saint bloc voting. (Murphy, American Slavery, Irish Freedom, 79–82; Flanders, “Kingdom of God in Illinois,” 153; “The August Election,” New-York Tribune, 17 Aug. 1841, .)
Murphy, Angela F. American Slavery, Irish Freedom: Abolition, Immigrant Citizenship, and the Transatlantic Movement for Irish Repeal. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010.
Flanders, Robert Bruce. “The Kingdom of God in Illinois: Politics in Utopia.” In Kingdom on the Mississippi Revisited: Nauvoo in Mormon History, edited by Roger D. Launius and John E. Hallwas, 147–159. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
Notices, Wasp, 9 July 1842, ; Notices, Wasp, 16 July 1842, . In response to a letter to the editor, Sharp printed the “Peoples’ Independent Ticket” below the other tickets in the 16 July issue of the Warsaw Signal. After an initial rise of announcements for new candidates, such announcements soon dramatically declined, as seen in the 23 July issue of the Wasp, and a few candidates even withdrew their names, perhaps sensing that Nauvoo citizens were leaning Democratic. Of the five announcements in the Wasp on that date, four were for candidates included in the Democratic ticket, which appeared under a separate heading of the same issue. (“To the Editor of the Signal,” Warsaw [IL] Signal, 16 June 1842, ; “August Election,” Wasp, 23 July 1842, ; Notices, Wasp, 23 July 1842, .)
As a people, the are found “more sinned against, than sinning.”—In political affairs we are ever ready to yield to our fellow citizens of [t]he , equal participation in the selection of candidates for office—we have been disappointed in our hopes of being met with the same disposition on the part of some of the old citizens of the —they indeed seem to manifest a spirit of intolerance and exclusion, incompatible with the liberal doctrines of true republicanism. At the late Anti-Mormon convention, a complete set of candidates, pledged to a man to receive no support from, and to yield no quarters to, Mormons, are commended to all the citizens of this for their suffrages! As a portion of said citizens of we embrace the occasion to decline this ticket for the want of reciprocity in its term, [a]nd honesty and intelligence in the character of some of its candidates.
If the old citizens of the are still desirous of equal participations with us in the choice of candidates, we are ready to co-operate with them—If independent gentlemen will announce themselves, and possess the requisite qualities, capacity and integrity, they will receive the united support of our people in the —The time for holding a convention seems to have already gone by—there is time enough for the friends of justice and fair play to elect a ticket, to be announced in the independent manner we have suggested. Let the gentlemen who have the courage to oppose the spirit of dictation which governed the Anti-Mormon convention candidates, show themselves, and we will exercise enough, on the terms proposed in this article, to ensure complete success.
This common phrase is attributed to William Shakespeare. In King Lear, the titular figure describes himself as “a man more sinn’d against than sinning.” After an informant for the Daily Commercial Bulletin applied the phrase to the Latter-day Saints in Missouri in late September 1838, a host of newspapers reprinted the statement or otherwise reapplied the phrase to the Saints. (Shakespeare, King Lear, act 3, sc. 2, ll. 59–60, in Riverside Shakespeare, 1323; “Mormon Troubles Ended,” Daily Commercial Bulletin [St. Louis], 29 Sept. 1838, ; see also “The End of the Mormon Troubles,” Public Ledger [Philadelphia], 15 Oct. 1838, ; “The Mormon War Ended,” Boston Recorder, 30 Nov. 1838, 191; “The Mormons,” Sun [Baltimore], 20 Mar. 1839, ; and “The Mormons,” Daily National Intelligencer [Washington DC], 31 May 1839, .)
The Riverside Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Edited by G. Blakemore Evans, J. J. M. Tobin, Herschel Baker, Anne Barton, Frank Kermode, Harry Levin, Hallett Smith, and Marie Edel. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
Daily Commercial Bulletin. St. Louis, MO. 1835–1841.
Public Ledger. Philadelphia. 1836–1925.
Boston Recorder. Boston. 1830–1849.
Sun. Baltimore. 1837–2008.
Daily National Intelligencer. Washington DC. 1800–1869.
Using the term republicanism to mean tolerance and inclusion was common in this period. Republicanism related to ideas of civic virtue and the inevitability of temporal vicissitude, which had important functions in antebellum America. Even so, the term was rather amorphous and had multiple meanings and uses during this time. (See Appleby, “Republicanism and Ideology,” 461–473; and Rodgers, “Republicanism,” 11–38; for more on the republican rhetoric used by Latter-day Saints and their appeal to the concepts associated with republicanism, see Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty, 1–5.)
Appleby, Joyce. “Republicanism and Ideology.” American Quarterly 37, no. 4 (Fall 1985): 461–473.
Rodgers, Daniel T. “Republicanism: The Career of a Concept.” Journal of American History 79, no. 1 (June 1992): 11–38.
Winn, Kenneth H. Exiles in a Land of Liberty: Mormons in America, 1830–1846. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.
The Anti-Mormon ticket included William H. Roosevelt for senator, Wesley Williams and Edson Whitney for representatives, Stephen H. Tyler for sheriff, John J. Brent for county commissioner, William D. Abernethy for school commissioner, and Benjamin Avise for coroner. (“August Election,” Warsaw [IL] Signal, 9 July 1842, .)
TEXT: The capital T in “SMITH” and a number of subsequent uppercase T’s of the same font were set in italic type, suggesting that the Nauvooprinting office had exhausted its supply of uppercase T’s in roman type.