JS, Letter, [near , Hancock Co., IL], to , [, Hancock Co., IL], 16 Aug. 1842; handwriting of ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes dockets, notation, and archival marking.
Single leaf measuring 11⅝–11¾ × 7½–7⅝ inches (30 × 19 cm). All edges of the leaf were unevenly cut. The letter was folded and docketed for filing purposes.
The document was docketed by Andrew Jenson, who began working in the Church Historian’s Office in 1882 and served as assistant church historian from 1897 to 1941. A notation by an unidentified Historian’s Office clerk was inscribed presumably in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. By 1973 the document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department, now CHL. The document’s docket, notation, and inclusion in the JS Collection by 1973 suggest continuous institutional custody.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
While in hiding outside of , Illinois, to avoid arrest and extradition to , JS wrote to in Nauvoo on 16 August 1842 asking his opinion on whether JS should leave for a time. On 14 August, JS, as lieutenant general of the , had issued orders to Law, the legion’s major general, to rescue him if he was captured and to prepare to defend the Saints against possible enemy attacks. The next day, JS received Law’s response indicating his willingness to follow the orders and pledging full support to JS. On the night of 15 August, a group of JS’s friends and associates had traveled to the residence of , where JS was hiding, to inform JS of threats the officers seeking his arrest had made against Nauvoo’s citizens. JS’s journal indicates that after a lengthy conversation, “it was considered wisdom” for JS to make plans to depart for the ’s lumber operation at Black River Falls, Wisconsin Territory, should he feel the need to flee.
The next day, apparently in the morning, JS wrote the letter to featured here, again addressing him as the major general of the Nauvoo Legion but also calling him a brother in the gospel and a friend. JS expressed joy in reading Law’s 15 August letter. He informed Law that he thought it might be best if he left for and asked for Law’s thoughts on the matter. The same day JS wrote this letter, he composed one to his wife Emma Smith, in which he outlined preparations she would need to make if they decided to flee to Wisconsin Territory. , who had been staying with JS while he was in hiding, delivered the letters to their recipients. Law responded to JS’s letter in the early afternoon of 16 August, the same day he received it.
, who appears to have been at ’s farm on 16 August, inscribed the version of the letter featured here. Out of all the correspondence with and while JS was in hiding in August 1842, this is the only extant letter on loose paper; all other letters from their correspondence are available only as copies made in JS’s journal. This may represent the original letter written by Clayton as JS dictated it to him. Alternately, it may be a retained copy that Clayton made after drafting the original, in which case the original is not extant. Clayton appears to have used this version when copying the contents of the letter into JS’s journal after returning to , probably between 21 and 23 August.
Those few lines which I received from you written on the 15th. was to me like apples of Gold in pictures of Silver. I rejoice with exceeding great joy to be associated in the high and responsible stations which we hold, whose mind and feelings and heart is so congenial with my own. I love that soul that is so nobly entabernacled in that clay of yours, may God Almighty grant, that it may be satiated with seeing a fuffilment of every virtuous desire and manly desire that you possess. May we be able to triumph gloriously over those who seek our destruction and overthrow, which I believe we shall. The news you wrote me was more favorable than that which was communicated by the brethren. They seemed a little agitated for my safety and advise me for the . But I succeeded admirably in calming all their fears. But nevertheless as I said in my former letter, I was willing to exile myself for months and years, if it would be for the safety and welfare of the people; and I do not know but it would be as well for me to take a trip to the and remain untill arrangements can be made for my most perfect safety when I return. These are therefore to confer with you on this subject as I want to have a concert of action in every thing that I do. If I [k]new that they would oppress me alone, and let the rest of you dwell peaceably and quietly, I think I<t> would be the wisest plan to absent myself for a little season if by that means we can prevent the profusion of blood Please write and give me your mind on that subject and all other information that has come to hand today and what are the signs of the times. [p. ]
Although the usual headquarters for the Nauvoo Legion was probably the office of JS, at the time of this letter JS apparently considered his current place of residence—the home of Edward Sayers—to be a temporary headquarters. (See Minutes, 4 Feb. 1841.)
The Book of the Law of the Lord, Record Book, 1841–1845. CHL.
Among other things, Law had noted that “the GentlemenOfficers”—likely referring to the arresting officers—“are seemingly very unhappy and out of humor with themselves more than with any body else.” (Letter from Wilson Law, 15 Aug. 1842, underlining in original.)
According to JS’s journal, he “advised them not to suffer themselves to be wrought upon by any report, but to maintain an even, undaunted mind,” whereupon they “began to gather courage and all fears were soon subsided, and the greatest union and good feeling prevailed amongst all present.” (JS, Journal, 15 Aug. 1842.)