Letter from Orson Hyde, 9 June 1844

  • Source Note

Document Transcript

June 9th. 1844.
Dear Brethren,
I arrived in this place again last evening, and met here Elders and who presented me with a letter from you; tho’ it was severe, I was glad to receive it. I am aware that our council stands on the summit of all earthly power, and that he who presides over it is God’s messenger to execute justice and judgment in the Earth, and that any seeming neglect to maintain his dignity and honor, and that also of the council generally, touches a very tender place, and renders the delinquent justly entitled to the censure and warm reproof of your dignified and honorable body.
While, therefore, I acknowledge that the blow which has fallen upon me, has been inflicted by the hand of friendship nerved with a jealous regard for rights which Heaven has made your own, I pray you to indulge me a little while I relate the circumstances under which I have been placed, and earnestly beg your honorable body to consider them. If I have committed an error, there is one avenue of consolation which is not closed up; and that is, I have committed it with a heart unres[er]vedly devoted to your best interest.
You say, distinctly, in your letter, that “the people are the Sovreign,” and intimate that Senators and representatives are not sent here to do their own will, but the will of the people who sent them. This very position was taken by who, on reading the bill, asked [p. 1] me if the subject of the memorial had been discussed by and among the people generally, and if we had obtained an expression from them favourable to the measure? If I had answerd him in the affirmative, he would [have?] immediately written home and ascertained that the people were ignorant of the move. This answer he would have received before an action would be had; and this would have thrown me into the shade, far upon the back ground of falsehood. I must therefore say unto him that it has not. I could see the drift of his mind and will give it in my own language as I cannot recollect his verbatim.
I am sent here to protect the rights of all people, and execute their wishes. If the prayers of one are granted without the knowledge of others, it would be a cause of jealousy on their part, and they would have cause to censure me for acting without their knowledge or consent. By this memorial, Congress is called to act in a matter which involves the interest and fate of the many when indeed the many have not been consulted; and how can a representative execute the wishes of the people when the people have not acquainted him with their wishes by forwarding to him their names in black and white, or at least, a respectable majority of them? It is the people that are the Sovreign and not one man. Congress, by this memorial, is called to act in a matter of general interest upon the prayer of one man <​person​>. You say that the bill is not exclusively for the Mormons, but for the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians [p. 2] and all others whether religious or not religious who are disposed to avail themselvs of its benefits: Why then were not all these parties consulted? We are not the representatives of the Mormons alone, but of all other classes, and we go in for ‘equal rights.’
The foregoing is a fair description of the reasoning and views of our representatives in Congress; not their precise words, but their exact views.
I was told by decidedly, that Congress could not constitutionally appoint Mr. Smith a member of the Army of the . I am not a lawyer or a politician, and heretofore have cherished a strong distaste for both these pursuits which is the cause of my presen[t] limited knowledge in these matters; and I am so constituted that I cannot make brass supply the place of knowledge, and even if I could, it would not go as par [far] among the members of Congress. They will be their own jud[g]es of what is constitutional or unconstitutional. Have not Presidents Smith and been to this place in earlier days, and poured upon the heads of this nation their richest streams of eloquence upon subjects entitled to deeper and warmer sympathies than that with which I am entrusted? Have they not exhausted their skill and wisdom to show the constitutionality of their cause, and the jurisdiction Congress had in the cause <​premises​>? But did they succeed? Did they not find that and all others would be their own judges of the Constitution after all was said and done? If, then, Bros Smith and with their superior [p. 3] skill and wisdom could not make “one hair white or black,” how can it be expected that I, with less skill and power, could make an impression upon the same flinty materials!! I do assure you that they are all little Matties in this respect here.
’s decission upon the unconstitutionality of that “one item” influenced my conduct <​me​> to do that which I shall probably never do again; that is, to alter the document. My reasons for doing it were these. As this appointment belongs to the Executive alone, I will erace that item, and let the bill try its luck in Congress: if it shall pass, then I will take that addressed to the executive and get his approval and Signature without that alteration, and thus between the two powers get the entire memorial passed, embracing through the Executive that “one item.” In case the bill should not pass in Congress, I still have the same opportunity to apply to the President and get his approval if possible. I have now come here with the memorial to the pres’t. entire, without alteration, and shall probably present it tomorrow. The truth of the matter was, I wanted to save the knowledge of our prophet from being impeached by Congress, by his asking a thing not constitutional, and as it was the universal opinion of all with whom I conversed that the <​bill​> would not, nor could not pass any how, I thought there could be nothing lost by eracing that part, and there might be something saved. The bill has been rejected in both houses, and now I am prepared to go to the which will be tomorrow, and when [p. 4] that is done. I know not what more I can do. I cannot recall the memorials that have been laid before Congress, and been acted upon and rejected: But I do repeat it again, that no measure can pass Congress unless it is a popular one, for the people are the Rulers, and if a measure is not popular with them, they will not pass it right or not right. If our former experience has not proven this declaration to be true to our satisfaction, we shall find it to be so hereafter, if the present government shall be permitted to stand.
That my exertions to save Bro. Joseph from the charge of ignorance in the estimation of Congress should be interpreted into a disposition to let his honor perish through fear or cowardice, grieves me much. The West is not farther from the East than my heart is from acting upon a principle of that kind; and that my course should meet the “decided disapprobation and indignation of the council” grieves me more. When I received the memorials and left home, it was in good faith that Congress would do something for us, and I asked bro. Joseph something about responsibility &c. His own words to me were, “go and do the best you can, act like a king and get the very best things done for us that you can.” Also my letter of commendation over his signature as Mayor authorizes me to transact such business as I may deem necessary expedient and beneficial for the party I represent. These are not direct authority to do as I have done, yet I considered them a shadow of authority, and where I could see no injury or loss to be sustained in the operation, but a little prospect of saving something, I ran the venture to make the alteration [p. 5]
After being here eight days and talking with the members, and reasoning with them, it wanted no more of a prophetic spirit to tell what Congress would do, or rather what they would not do, than it does to tell that a man’s back must be towards the South if his face is towards the North. says that it is now said in council, that it was not expected that Congress would do any thing for us. The memorials were only to tease them, and that we might as well tease them with one thing as another. If I had left home with such instructions I should never have altered a letter, but as I said before I say again, that it was in good faith that they would do something that I left home. Pursuant to that impression I went to work as industriously and prudently as possible, but instead of meeting your approbation, I have met your “decided disapprobation and indignation”. Your discernment is superior to mine. I therefore say that I am sorry that I have committed the error, and if the council will forgive this offence, I will assure them that I shall never again, under any circumstances, be inclined to take alike responsibility. If I knew of any thing more that I could say or do to give you satisfaction, I would most certainly do it.
Believing, <​therefore,​> that your magnanimity will give the foregoing reasons and explanations due consideration, I honor the vote of the council, and ask you to accept the assurances of my hearty co-operation and good-will, asking the honor to still to subscribe myself your Ob’t. Serv’t.
. [p. 6]
<​P.S.​> Bros. and will probably soon send you an account of their course, the success that has attended their labours, the prospects they have before them, and the spirit that reigns in the Capital and among the Members of Congress. They are men of acknowledged perseverance and fidelity. They are in good spirits, yet I do not think they will send any thing very flattering. I hope they however may. As above,
[18 lines blank] [p. 7]
The within slip is from the National Intelligencer in this place.
<​ JUN 10​>
Post Master
<June 9. 1844
’s Letter>
<​June 28​>
<​Copied​> [p. [8]]


  1. new scribe logo

    Docket in handwriting of Thomas Bullock.  

  2. new scribe logo

    Notations in unidentified handwriting.