Letter from B. F. Withers, 28 December 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Natchez Mi[ssissippi] Dec 28th. 1841
Majr. Genl. Jos. Smith
Dr Sir,
As the agent of a large and respectable secret association of Gentlmen associated together for the purpose of [blank] I am required to ask of you first, whether or not the Mormons would not prefer building their in a better and a richer country than you now occupy, and where you would not only remain free from molestation, but would in a short time in all probability become the rulers of the Land
Secondly— whether or not the officers & privates of the would unite with our association in an expedition which if successful would secure to all engaged honor & wealth, and whose united strength we believe cannot fail of success— I feel that although an entire stranger to you the importance of the subject matter of this letter is a sufficient apology for my sending it, and as it is written in good faith and for the mutual benefit of both parties I trust it will be answered punctually and candidly— should you be disposed to form the proposed alliance, on rec[eip]t of your answer our expedition and plans so far as matured, together with our strength which exceeds yours shall be fully made known to you— in conclusion permit me to express the high regard and esteem I have for yourself—
respectfully— yr ob[edien]t s[ervan]t
B. F. Withers [p. [1]]
[page [2] blank] [p. [2]]
[page [3] blank] [p. [3]]
<​[illegible postmark]​>
Majr. Genl. Joseph Smith
City of
<​Natchez Mi. Dec 28. 41 B. F. Withers Ans. Febr 8. By ​> [p. [4]]


  1. 1

    JS was the lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion, with John C. Bennett commissioned as the major general. (Commission from Thomas Carlin, 10 Mar. 1841; Bennett, History of the Saints, 18.)  

    Bennett, John C. The History of the Saints; or, an Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Boston: Leland and Whiting, 1842.

  2. 2

    In his 1835 work Democracy in America, French traveler and historian Alexis de Tocqueville opined, “In no country in the world has the principle of association been more successfully used, or more unsparingly applied to a multitude of different objects, than in America.” Fraternal societies such as Freemasonry, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Improved Order of Red Men flourished in the United States by the 1840s. The largest of these groups, the Freemasons, boasted more than eighty thousand members in the United States by 1822. (Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2:31; McClenachan, History of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in New York, 342; Hackett, That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture, 90.)  

    Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Translated by Henry Reeve. 2 vols. London: Saunders and Otley, 1835.

    McClenachan, Charles T. History of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in New York from the Earliest Date. . . . Vol. 2. New York: Grand Lodge, 1892.

    Hackett, David G. That Religion in Which All Men Agree: Freemasonry in American Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

  3. 3

    The Saints had discussed the construction of a temple in Nauvoo since early 1840 and had laid a cornerstone on 6 April 1841. (“A Glance at the Mormons,” Alexandria [VA] Gazette, 11 July 1840, [2]; Discourse, ca. 19 July 1840; “Celebration of the Anniversary of the Church,” Times and Seasons, 15 Apr. 1841, 2:375–377.)  

    Alexandria Gazette. Alexandria, VA. 1834–1877.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  4. new scribe logo

    Postage in unidentified handwriting.  

  5. new scribe logo

    Illegible circular postmark stamped in ink.  

  6. new scribe logo

    Endorsement in the handwriting of Willard Richards.