Letter from Robert B. Thompson, 13 May 1839

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

To the of the , Greeting.
I beg leave to call your attention to a subject of considerable importance to our Church, and which if not attended to is calculated (in my humble opinion) to raise a prejudice in the minds of a considerable portion of the community, and destroy those benevolent and philanthropic feelings which have been manifested towards us as a people by a large portion of this community: I have reference to the Letters of Bro [p. 7] which have been inserted in the Whig, I am aware that upon a Cursory view of these, nothing very objectionable may appear; yet if they are attentively considered there will be found very great objections to them indeed: for instance in condemning the Democracy of why condemn that of the Whole Union, And why use such epithets as “Demagogue” to for not answering his letter when it is very probable that he had not received it. Yesterday I was waited upon by Mr Morris who asked me what was intended by such publications, And why we should come out against the democracy of the nation, when they were doing All in their power to assist us; It was something which he could not understand And wished to know if we as a people countenanced such proceedings. I told him for my part, I was sorry that his letters had ever made their appearance, and believed that such a course was at variance with the sentiments of the greater part of our people. Yesterday I brought the subject before the authorities of the who are here, where it was manifest that his conduct was not fellowshipped And the brethren wished to disavow all connexion with such proceedings and appointed a committee to wait on to beg of him not to persist in the course, which if not nipt in the bud will probably bring persecution with all its horrors upon an innocent people by the folly and imprudence of one individual.
From information I understand that the feelings of the are very much hurt by the course which is pursued. I think we ought to correct the publick mind on this subject, And as a Church disavow all connexions with politics; by such a course we may in some measure counteract the baneful influence which his letters have occasioned: But if such a course which he () has adopted, be continued (as I understand that he intends to do) it will block up our way and we can have no reasenable prospect of obtaining justice from the authorities of the whom we wantonly condemn before we have made application.
The same feelings are beginning to be manifested in by those who have been our friends there. The Whigs are glad of such weapons and make the most of them.— You will probably think that I am a little too officious but I feel impressed with the subject, I feel for my brethren; The tears of widows, the cries of orphans & the moans of the distressed are continually present in my mind And I want to adopt and continue a course which shall be beneficial to us—— but if through the imprudence And Conduct of Isolated individuals 3- 4- or 5 years hence our altars should be thrown down our Homes destroyed, our brethren slain, our wives widows and our Children orphans, your unworthy unworthy brother wishes to lift up his hands before God and appeal to him and say, thou who knowest all things, knowest that I am innocent in this matter. I am with great respect, Gen<​t​>. Yours in the Bonds of Christ.
Excuse haste &c &c)
I have not time to Copy)
(N.B Postcript other side. ) [p. 10]
P.S. If you do not intend to be in this week would you favor us with your opinions on this subject &c &c.
Monday Morning
13th May 1839. [p. 11]


  1. 1

    The Quincy Democratic Association organized multiple committees, undertook fact-finding missions, communicated with Sidney Rigdon and possibly others, and publicly called upon citizens of Quincy to set aside prejudice, disregard rumors concerning the refugee Saints, and aid the starving newcomers. (“Proceedings in the Town of Quincy,” Quincy [IL] Argus, 16 Mar. 1839, [1].)  

    Quincy Argus. Quincy, IL. 1836–1841.

  2. 2

    That is, the government officials in Missouri who belonged to the Democratic Party.  

  3. 3

    In his letter to Benton, Wight described the “wicked mis-rule of Democracy” and how the opposition that “commenced in 1832” was “fanned by enthusiastic demagogues; until they have succeeded in driving at least five or six thousand inhabitants” from Missouri. He questioned why Missouri representatives and senators, especially Benton, did not address the persecution. Wight later echoed these sentiments in his letter to the editors of the Louisville Journal. (Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 1 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy [IL] Whig, 4 May 1839, [2]; Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 7 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy Whig, 11 May 1839, [2].)  

    Quincy Whig. Quincy, IL. 1838–1856.

  4. 4

    In 1821 Benton became the first United States senator to represent the newly admitted state of Missouri. Originally a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, he joined the Democratic Party in 1825 when the Democratic-Republicans disbanded. (Meigs, Life of Thomas Hart Benton, 133, 260, 262; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, 646; Arrington and Bitton, Mormon Experience, 98–99.)  

    Meigs, William M. The Life of Thomas Hart Benton. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippencott, 1904.

    Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005, the Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1788, and the Congress of the United States, from the First through the One Hundred Eighth Congresses, March 4, 1789, to January 3, 2005, inclusive. Edited by Andrew R. Dodge and Betty K. Koed. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005.

    Arrington, Leonard J., and Davis Bitton. The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latterday Saints. 2nd ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

  5. 5

    Likely Isaac N. Morris, editor of the Quincy Argus, where Thompson worked as an editor. (“Death of Hon. Isaac N. Morris,” Daily Quincy [IL] Herald, 30 Oct. 1879, 3.)  

    Daily Quincy Herald. Quincy, IL. 1865–1881.

  6. 6

    Thomas Carlin, a Democrat, served as the governor of Illinois from 1838 to 1842.  

  7. 7

    By spring 1839, church leaders were gathering accounts of the violence against the Saints in Missouri and enumerating the Saints’ losses there, in preparation for seeking redress in Washington DC. The Saints directed their petitions for redress to United States president Martin Van Buren, who was a Democrat, as were the majority of the Saints. (Letter to Edward Partridge and the Church, ca. 22 Mar. 1839; Minutes, 4–5 May 1839; Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839.)  

  8. 8

    In May 1839, roughly forty community leaders in Springfield signed a declaration denying the Latter-day Saints permission to use the Christian Church’s building in Springfield. One of the signers, Illinois congressman John T. Stuart, later helped publicize the Saints’ complaints in Washington DC. (Washington, They Knew Lincoln, 199–200; Miller, Lincoln and His World, 317–318.)  

    Washington, John E. They Knew Lincoln. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1942.

    Miller, Richard Lawrence. Lincoln and His World: Prairie Politician, 1834–1842. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

  9. 9

    See 1 Kings 19:10.  

  10. 10

    See Genesis 14:22.  

  11. 11

    See John 16:30.  

  12. 12

    See Philemon 1:13.  

  13. 13

    TEXT: The pagination of this copy of the letter does not include the numbers “8” and “9” because Mulholland inserted a loose leaf, which he numbered “8” and “9,” into JS Letterbook 2 using adhesive wafers..