JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , , Hancock Co., IL, 26 May 1841. Featured version published in “Highly Important!!” Warsaw Signal, 2 June 1841, vol. 2, no. 4, p. . Transcription from a digital color image obtained from the Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations in 2018.
Each weekly issue featured four pages that measured 21¼ × 15¾ inches (54 × 40 cm). Each page was printed in six columns, with each column measuring 17¼ × 2¼ inches (44 × 6 cm).
On 13 May 1840, , Illinois, resident D. N. White inaugurated a weekly newspaper known as the Western World. In November 1840, White sold the paper to , a Warsaw lawyer. Sharp continued to publish the paper under the name of the Western World through 5 May 1841. Beginning with the 12 May 1841 issue, Sharp changed the name of the newspaper to Warsaw Signal. The second volume of the Signal was published each Wednesday and contained fifty-two issues, culminating in the 4 May 1842 issue. In addition to national news, the newspaper contained news articles, editorials, and advertisements for , Illinois, and its surrounding regions.
On 26 May 1841, JS wrote a letter to , the editor of the Warsaw Signal newspaper, asking Sharp to cancel JS’s subscription. Sharp, the twenty-two-year-old son of a Methodist minister, had lived in , Hancock County, Illinois, since September 1840 and had edited the town’s weekly Whig newspaper, formerly called the Western World, since November of that year. JS subscribed to the Warsaw publication and likely wrote the letter featured here in response to a 19 May 1841 editorial titled “The Mormons,” published in the Signal. In the editorial, Sharp refuted accusations that he, as a staunch Whig, had attempted to gain the political favor of the because he feared the political power of the church. Sharp’s editorial declared that he would take a stand against the “inordinate power which the Prophet and the leaders of the Church possess over their people.”
’s strident editorial of 19 May and JS’s caustic response of 26 May marked a shift in their relationship, which had appeared neutral or even friendly but became quite bitter. Before May 1841, Sharp had published informative articles about the church; its troubles; the foundations and organization of , Illinois; and the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Nauvoo . Sharp had even attended the 6 April cornerstone event at JS’s invitation and had sat on the scaffold next to JS as an honored guest. Just over a month later, however, Sharp began to publish articles critical of the church and its leaders, warning citizens of about the Latter-day Saints’ political power, the church’s growth and town-building, and JS’s alleged control over all aspects of his followers’ lives. In his paper, Sharp also argued for the need of an anti-Mormon party in the county. JS’s letter illustrates the mutual contempt the two men developed for one another, which continued to play out publicly, often in the columns of the newspaper.
JS probably received the 19 May issue of the Signal within a day or two of publication and presumably wrote shortly thereafter. The original letter is apparently not extant. As requested by JS, Sharp published the letter in the next issue of the Warsaw Signal, dated 2 June 1841. Sharp introduced the letter by calling it a new revelation “from his holiness, the Prophet.” In the same issue, Sharp also responded to the letter with a taunting demand that JS pay the three dollars owed to the paper for a past year’s subscription, declaring, “For mercy’s sake don’t get a revelation that it is not to be paid.”
Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 427; [Thomas Sharp], “Salutatory,” Western World (Warsaw, IL), 11 Nov. 1840, ; on the partisan nature of the Warsaw Signal, see “The New Volume,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, 12 May 1841, .
Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.
“The Mormons,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, 19 May 1841, . In the 1 June 1841 issue of the Times and Seasons, the editors published a strong rebuttal to the 19 May article in the Warsaw Signal and to another article in that paper that questioned the character of John C. Bennett. (“The Warsaw Signal,” Times and Seasons, 1 June 1841, 2:431–432.)
Warsaw Signal. Warsaw, IL. 1841–1853.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
See, for example, “The Mormons,” Western World (Warsaw, IL), 3 Feb. 1841, ; “The Mormons,” Western World, 24 Feb. 1841, ; “The Mormons,” Western World, 7 Apr. 1841, ; “The Mormons,” New-York Tribune, 22 Apr. 1841, .