JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , [, Sangamon Co., IL?], 24 June 1842. Featured version copied [ca. 24 June 1842], in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 233–235; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 24 June 1842, JS wrote a letter to governor explaining ’s improper conduct in , Illinois, and asking the governor for direction on what the Latter-day Saints should do if a mob from entered the city. JS wrote the letter after being informed of rumors that Bennett was working with Missourians to kidnap him. In 1839, JS and others escaped from Missouri custody after being imprisoned for various charges, including treason, and since then at least one attempt had been made to extradite him back to Missouri: In June 1841, JS was served an arrest warrant, signed by Carlin, which was intended to lead to JS’s extradition, though he was quickly released after the warrant was ruled defective. Later, after JS was rumored to have been involved in a failed assassination attempt on former Missouri governor in May 1842, fears that Missouri would again attempt to extradite him increased.
JS also wrote this 24 June letter in his capacity as lieutenant general of the to report the conduct of , one of the senior officers in the legion, and to discover whether Bennett had resigned his commission. In addition, JS seemed concerned that Bennett might begin spreading slanderous rumors about him that would influence ’s opinion. Although the Saints had held Carlin in high regard for welcoming them to in 1839 and helping them obtain the charter for , the relationship had become strained after Carlin issued the arrest warrant for JS’s extradition to . Hoping to deflect any negative reports Bennett might convey to Carlin, JS used this letter to provide his own account of what had happened with Bennett.
The letter featured here echoed a letter JS wrote the day before to members and “all the honorable part of community.” That letter also provided information about ’s conduct, asserting that Bennett was a fraud and a liar and specifically explaining when JS had known about Bennett’s improper behavior and what JS did to address it.
The original letter to is not extant. copied it into JS’s second letterbook, likely soon after the letter was composed, but did not include Carlin’s location in the copy. Carlin received the letter within a few days and responded on 30 June, answering JS’s specific questions, but it is not known whether the letter was sent to Carlin in , Illinois, where he was located on 22 June, or to , Illinois, where he answered the letter.
“The Late Proceedings,” Times and Seasons, 15 June 1841, 2:447–448; “Assassination of Ex-Governor Boggs of Missouri,” Quincy (IL) Whig, 21 May 1842, ; Letter to Sylvester Bartlett, 22 May 1842. The Nauvoo City Council had established a city watch on 20 May 1842 apparently, at least according to one source, because of fears that Missourians would enter Nauvoo and retaliate for the assassination attempt on Governor Boggs. On 26 June 1842, JS and other church leaders “united in Solemn prayer that God . . . would deliver his anointed, his people. from all the evil designs of Governor Boggs. & the powers of the state of Missouri, & of Governor Carlin. & the authorities of Illinois.” (Mayor’s Order to City Watch, 20 May 1842; “The Mormons,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 3 June 1842, ; JS, Journal, 26 June 1842.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
It becomes my duty to lay before you some facts relative to the conduct of our Major, General ; which have been proven beyond the possibility of dispute, and which he himself has admitted to be true, in my presence.
It is evident that his general character is that of an adulterer of the worst kind, and although he has a and Children living, circumstances which have transpired in , have proven to a demonstration that he cares not whose character is disgraced whose honor is destroyed nor who suffers so that his lustful appetite may be gratified and further he cares not how many, nor how abominable the falsehood he has to make use of to accomplish his wicked purposes, even should it be that he brings disgrace upon a whole community.
Some time ago, it having been reported to me that some of the most aggravating cases of adultery had been committed upon some previously respectable females in our , I took proper measures to ascertain the truth of the report, and was soon enabled to bring sufficient witnesses before proper Authority to establish the following facts, More than twelve months ago went to a Lady in the and began to teach her that promiscuous intercourse between the sexes was lawful and no harm in it, and requested the privilege of gratifying his passions but she refused in the strongest terms saying that it was very wrong to do so, and it would bring a disgrace on the Finding this argument ineffectual he told her that men in higher standing in the church than himself not only sanctioned but practised the same deeds, and in order to finish the controversy said and affirmed that I both taught and acted in [p. 233]
Bennett married Mary Barker in 1826. The couple had a daughter, Mary, who was born in 1827 or 1828, and a son, Joseph, who was born in December 1828 but died shortly after birth. In his 23 June letter to church members, JS stated that Bennett had “two or three children,” but the letter did not identify the children by name. (Smith, Saintly Scoundrel, 5–6; Letter to the Church and Others, 23 June 1842.)
Smith, Andrew F. The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
The Nauvoohigh council held a series of meetings in May 1842 to investigate charges of adultery and fornication brought against several church members, including Bennett. (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 20, 24, 25, 27, and 28 May 1842; Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, May 1842, CHL.)
Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.
Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, May 1842. CHL.