Letter from Thomas Rawcliff, 24 May 1843

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May 24/43
Sir
As I am reluctantly compelled to appeal to you, being the only person from whom I can expect any assistance, or advice. I hope you will consider my case, and look over this intrusion. And as I am fully aware of the multiplicity of your affairs, I shall be as brief as the urgency of the case will admit of. In the first place I will show you the cause of me being here as you may think it strange or intruding for one not belonging to your church coming amongst you. When I left in . my parents belonged to the mormons, and may do yet for ought I know; and lived in a small village near , where they entertained your Elders Scores of times to the best of their ability; with both money, and provisions; for it was a kind of home for them when they travelled that way: as they cannot have forgot, unless it be as the old adage says, “that eaten bread is forgotten” but not being a Mormon myself, and wishing to prove all things like St Paul; I frequently discoursed with them on religion, but mostly on friendly terms; ex[ce]pting <​with​> sometimes; whom all the country as well as my self, looked on as being a “drone, that would rather eat two good meal than preach one Sermon. I just mention this to let you see that I am after no patronage from any of you, but all that I want is my rights; I only want “free trade and Sailors rights” as you sometimes express yourself. I want men to do as they would be done by; and <​not​> be laying a snare to catch the unwary in, and to do it under a cloak of Mormonism, And as you are the head of that body of people, and I cannot imagine that you are aware of the devilish transactions that are going on in this place, and the way that your name is used to accomplish them; I determined to appeal to you at once, and see if you would suffer it to be so: and as you always bear a character for defending the poor from being trod under foot by the rich; I want to prove it for myself, and see if you will suffer men holding high offices in the church and city to swindle me out of my little money whether I be mormon or not, and thereby let evil reports go out from among you; but I cannot beleive it until I see it proved. I have never belonged to any church, or sect in the world nor ever beleived in them; but when I heard some of the first Mormon sermons preached in by and others, I thought their doctrine seemed more plausible than the rest; if the scriptures were true: So I did not so hastily set you all down for a set of money speculators as some did; but my mind has changed since then, with respect to a great many, for I firmly beleive that a heap have embraced the this doctrine, for nothing else but to speculate in Land, and shark the innocent out of their money. Well but, in the year 1841 I along with a few others agreed to come along in the vessel to that so many of the twelve came in; they treated us kindly, and so made a favourable impression on our minds, we landed at , and then I went into ; but receiving a letter from my friends with a desire that I would go west and seek out a [pla]ce for them to come to, and they had a desire to Know if they could live peacably among the Mormons at , for they would like if they could to be among the brethren; so I came into the west all anxious to see this notorious place, where it was told me in folk worshipped Jo. Smith. but And I was desirous to meet with old acquaintances <​too​> and expecting expected to see some of them living under their own vines and fig trees, none daring to make them afraid, but to my astonishment, several were dead, and others looking pale and wan; some that were able to work had been out to seek it; but could get none, others had found work but had never been able to find their pay: they were generally discouraged and dejected through dissapointments; some had been to work on the , but said they scarcly durst ask for their pay, for there was a man set there to be the Bos, and would curse them black and blue if they troubled him, and <​all​> the pay they ever looked for was corn. meal or pork; but a bugbear was placed to give it out, and he would kick their arses as soon as look; and they told me other affecting tales about hunger and distress, which made me think to my self can this be , we heard so much about in ; where God talked with men face to face: I never expected to meet with sick people, scarcly any for the people’s faith was strong in , and I thought if there was to be any sick here, they would be healed immediately, and the mormons in generally expected so too; for they thought they only saw through a dark veil, but then they would see clearly; for many of them in spoke in tongues they should live to see Christ come, and go to , and wonderful tales about happiness there, and use to exclaim, “O when I think of thee I long for pinions like a dove” So you may judge, how I was dissapointed to find them in sorrow, longing for the fleshpots of Egypt again; and instead of their own vine and fig tree, perhaps half a dozen or a dozen stoved into some log Cabin where they had not room to whip a cat: and to give 3 or 4 dollars per month for rent, to some good brother, when the whole barracks was not worth 20 dollars stump and rump. I went out into the streets founds out that there is was a law suit to that day between two brothers it seems seemed strange thought I, Goes a little further, and I am told that man’s name is , with the long pipe in his mouth, and that is his family there drinking tea, why thinks I he surely cannot beleive the . So I began ponder on these things, and scores of others until I got back to where I was staying at; and mentioned them over to the people and they for excuse said, that there would be a great deal of sickness and wickedness &c, untill the got finished they had been told, and at the endowment christ would appear and take some old Nephites curse of[f] the Land; and long serious tales they told about Ghosts and apparitions. and that they people would live up to a celestial law when old Adam came: that was they way they soon silenced me, but still I thoug[h]t this was not according to the doctrine they preached [p. [1]] in , for I could see Doctors having plenty of employment, and scores of things, quites contrary to what was expected by the Mormons in when I was there. I mention these things to show you how people feel cast down when they have left their homes for Christ<​’s​> sake, and find it out that they have been taken with guile; not saying in the least that I was. Well I had not been here many days before a Mormon offered to sell me a peice of Land and as you are well aware, I knew nothing about Tax Titles or Patent Titles or any thing else; and so I advised with a friend or two, who told me that the man was a Mormon brother and I need not be afraid of him, for one of them had bought some Land with the same Title that is Tax title on the recommend of ; well I thought that is sufficient for a bishop is not to be a lover of filthy lucre, so I thought money could not be any temptation to him; and I agreed to give the man 8 dollars per acre for some Land, to which I expected he had a clear deed; as he demanded the whole payment at once; but when I got it, found it out to be a bond for a deed; to be given in two years after two payments had been made on it; so you see the hazard I had to run, In case there had been any fuss here, whether he would have made the payments or not. Or where a man buys Land of the Quincy Company sells the whole of it out in parcels, gets the whole money, and leaves them to settle with the first owner for themselves; can you call it any thing but swindling. for <​Or when​> a person to go to buys a Quarter Section for 400 dollars to be paid for in three yearly instalments, with 50 or 100 dollars down, comes to , takes advantage of a lot of English just landed; calls them brother, and so on, don’t you want to buy a peice of Land? sells them some at the rate of 8 or 10 Dollars per acre, and leaves them to make it up with the Quincy company the best way they can; giving them only bonds for their deeds, and duping them in this way under a cloak of religion, This is only one case out of an hundred that I could tell you; but I want to proceed to buisness of more importance to me at prestent; very soon after I had been sucked in by that brother in the Land affair; One morning, that arch imposter ; whose every Day’s transactions in lying and duplicity; would make the devil blush and and feel his own littleness, for he can out Yankee” all yankees; having got a wind that another green horn had just landed; lost no time, determined to have the first pull, came pouncing on me with a very sanctimonious face, and whined out a long palaver about being sorry for a poor man whose name was John Warre, that was wanting to go back to to fetch his wife, and said you must lend me 25 dollar[s] in the name of God, and the prophet, and you must not deny me, I must have <​it​> for I always go to the handle of the big jug first, and if he bids me God speed; then all the devils in Hell cannot stand against me; he thinking I was a Mormon spun out long yarns about the blessings of &c; and says he, if you will let me have the money, for this poor man 10 days; I will pay it you again and 10 bushels of corn with it, so help me God. and Joseph will be bound wi[th] me for any thing I want. It is not for my own benefit that I want but I feel so <​sorry​> for this poor man that wants to fetch his wife; but I soon found out what he felt a great deal more for them the poor man fetching his wife; the man was leavi[n]g in his possession 150 dollars worth of goods, in clothing, tools, watch, guns, &c &c. and he had sold the man 600 or 700 dollars worth of wild land on the prarie, some were wher by the big mound, at a good round price; and the man was going to fetch something that liked far better than his wife although that may seem rather strange! At last I let him have the money, in good faith that he would pay; after all these vows, and promises, and useing brother Joseph’s name so much; but alas, for the integrity of , that took place in Nov. 1841, and after going scores of times; than my heart aches with his lies, that he tells me every time I go. he has the impudence to tell me he has never had any money, that the those store goods were his brothers, that Joseph borrowed all he got off , and that he had to borrow money to get back from , when he went to show off. and spout against old . and all the while He can keep hearing tell of him paying monies and speculating in Land &c, and one day I caught him in the fact of paying a man about 40 dollars; he has money for anything, but paying his debts; I am waiti[ng] just now to go to to fetch my wife, but he is not so sorry for me, because I have not a lot of clothing to leave him, or else he could be as feeling for me <​too​> and go and delude some other unsuspecting fool, in the name of brother Joseph, and of the most high God out of some <​more​> money. And just to show you <​the​> chains such like wretches as have has over the minds of the people by using your name, I will recite a little discourse I had with a man about him, Says I, do you know this , yes say he, very well by sight. he is the man that Joseph’s had a revelation about building him a new house, and do you suppose God would choose a bad man; no not he. So do you see the effect of this liberty he takes with your name, But now he has got to using your name in a different style to me; for one day, he says, if Joseph would pay me what he is owing me I could pay you right off, for when we settled up, he was owing me 1800 Dollars, and I cannot get a picayune; while he has thousands of dollars, and if I was to say anything he would come right out and curse me on the stand; and do me a great deal of injury among the ignorant; where he has so much influence; There is <​also​> a report that he is going out a preaching Mormonism, and if it be true, I will venture a prophesy that it is not for god’s Glory, but his <​own​> benefit; that he is going to seek out customers for his good titled Lands, for any that he baptizes can do no less than buy of him, and I throw this out as a hint, as to what has induced a good many more to go a preaching, so that they may have the first chance to fleece them. [p. [2]] I could tell you a thousand of His tricks almost, and the way he carries on; but most likely you know more about him than I do; and so I’ll leave him and his proceedings in your hands, to see if you can do any thing for me in this case; he has wanted me to assist him to sell Land to some of the English; but I could not, and now I am to get it as I can; and this is a Mormon I suppose, A <​mormon​> Magistrate, Surgeon General to the ! Doctor of Medicin one of the Grand jury for the county paying Taxes for 1300 acres of Land on the prarie and 60 or 70 city Lots!! Merchant in dry good and Groceries, builder of brick and Mammoth bones; erecting a large tavern to beautify the city of the saints &c &c, and specially authorized to build by revelation a large brick house for the prophet!!! on some unknown scale, I say unknown, because God was never so put to it before that he cannot <​could not​> find a man to do his buisness of more honest principles, than such a fellow as this, that can could build him a house without having to go a swindling poor labouring men out of their little earning<​s,​> by such damnable lies, and hypocrisy; but, there is a report going through this ; and has been for some time, that it is not a sin to suck the blood of the . I should like to know if this be true, in any sense of the word. And, as I have another important part of my tale to tell you, I will commence without delay; It is concerning the Messrs Laws One Day last October Gen: came to my house, and says to me, Sir, have you not a little money, some 200 or 300 Dollars that you are not useing? if you have you would greatly oblige us, by lending it to us for 2 or 3 months; we can give you any kind of security, that is necessary; and you can have it back again as soon as ever you want it after that time. well says I, Sir, I have a little money, but I have some to pay in April next on some Land, and I owe some to another man, to pay at that time; and, if I could positively have the money back at that time, without <​any​> chance of a failure in the world; why I could let it go; for I shall not want it till then; but mind you, I would not be disappointed at the time for half the amount; O says he, you need not be afraid, for we have so many resources, that it is impossible they should all fail, we have made a contract with the government for hemp at $180 per ton, that is safe; my is gone to to fetch £200 and he will be back long before that time. we shall be exporting flour early next spring, we have lots of money owing us; brother Joseph owes us 700 Dollars; and we expect him to pay us before it be long, and we expect to sell some land this next winter or Spring: so you see we could turn us an hundred ways by the time you would want it, and you would oblige the whole by lending it, for we cannot get bolting cloth to our Mill; and we cannot bolt the people’s flour: so you see it is not for our benefit alone, but every body’s. Well says I, sir, you talk very reasonable, but, if the Mormons were to be drove from here through this old affair, then who might I look to for my money. pugh! they never will be drove I know. Now look here, brother Joseph told me there would be no disturbance, and there is no likeliness of it either; but, chance that should take place; I’ll tell you what I would do, before you should be disappointed one hour, I would go right off to my father in , he owns 900 acres of land, and has plenty of cash, and would let me have it first word, and bring you the money. Well, you promise very fair I said, and, if you would be half as punctual as your word, I durst lend it you. but, came in this way and deluded me out of $25, and his prospects prospect for paying was quite as good as yours, and his expectations still more brilliant, and flattering. but I have never been able to get the first picayune yet, so I don’t know what to think. O says he, we are not such characters as , we don’t do buisness in the way does, and would be ashamed to get people money in the way he does; I am really sorry for you about ’s case, but I would be after him pretty quick, for he has just come from the east and no doubt he has money, I should think if you would appeal to his honour publicly, he could not deny you; and so after a good deal more talk on desultory topics, he left me to consider on it, and I was to give him an answer the next day, and challenged me to find any body they were indebted to; as I should be the first person, that had lent them money in this place; having only asked before me, but he had not the money by him or he would have lent it them the first word: So, after I had thoughts on all these great big tales for a while, I was overwhelmed with wonder! and thoughts, if there be any honest punctual men in these are they; or any thing in Mormonism either; for one is the Major Gen. of the , the other, one out of the three of the first Presidency of the church, and surely God would never appoint bad men for these offices; they must be good, yes, “old tried ones,” and, I thought if there be nothing in Mormonism, they will be punctual to their word, for the sake of their characters; and after reasoning in this way awhile, I concluded to let them have it; and they were to give me flour for the use of it. and [Law] said I must remind them about a month before it was due, chance they should forget <​it​> through the variety of their dealings, well I did so in march, and it was to be due on the 19th. of April, (the sum I lent them was 150 Dollars I had forgot to mention that—) and told me they had the money by them their, for they had sold some Land but, he supposed I should not want it before it was due; no I said I did not want it before the time. but I should want it to the day; for I was making preparations to go to ; as I was obliged to go, and I was only waiting for that and some other money, that, that owed me. You shall have it to the hour Sir, says he. For I was as confident as of my own existence, that I should get it at the appointed [p. [3]] time, and I had got such an opinion of them as to being gentlemen and punctual, that, if an angel had appeared and told me they would not pay me at the time; I could scarcly have beleived it <​him​> I should have been jealous he was a bad one, like your brother said the other sunday, I wish such sermons as your preached were was adhered to a little more, I mean about honesty &c— but I beleive it just goes in at one ear, and then out at the other. but the corruption of this place will soon be its own downfall, for people after being duped out of their money and wages (as it is the universal cry) will not set down patiently and die off to please their deceivers, but they’ll warn others to beware, as it is every ones duty to do. And try to stop such wide spreading ruin and wretchedness, from stalking to thru this the place; just to enrich a few speculators. I should not have wrote this had not the last week after <​me​> going a few times to ask, and beg of them for my money, as I was really in great need of it; not only being a great loss to me in my little way, but likewise stopping two of us from going to , and a man that I was owing some money to, having come 200 miles to receive it. but all this could not reach his righteous soul: for he told me just like as they have done before every time. that they could get no money, and that I need not keep coming for they were as honest men as I was and would pay me as soon as they could get it; so you may judge they [the] state of my mind at present, having made every preparation, to go off to as near as I can, keeping a house a going, and a housekeeper to hire. and another man that has been working for me waiting to go back with me; and the man that has come for the money I owe him; having a wife in that should have come with my friends to last fall. but as they are not coming yet, than they see me, on account of the bad reports that people give of this place, that have gone back to .
So, now Sir, I will conclude with a hope, that you will use that infl[uenc]e of which you are possesed; as it never can be employed in a better cause, than in doing justice to the poor and needy; for I do not no [know] what to do at the present time; my hopes are blasted, and I am fast sinking into despair, for told me if I did not like to wait until they got it, that I might take my own course I suppose they are intending to takeing advantage of the this new and damnable law, for he said they would not sacrifice property under half its value to pay any debt, and they value the hemp field at 100 dollars per acre, and so just to pay this debt, they would condescend to take 50 Dollars for a few acres in cash. so you see the case as it stands: and I know they sold 40 acres of Timber land to , and a man about a fortnight ago, and got half the payment down; and when I told them of it, said it was only a transfer about an old affair that took place in winter, when they [the] man that bought it told me, it was nothing of the kind; but a new bargain, and the money paid right down, A good many mormons and some holding high offices in your church have advised me not to write at all to you, for you were so closely connected with Laws that you will only make a fool of me a on the stand, for said they you often hear tell of people lending money, but do you ever hear of any getting it back again excepting some of their Land at 10 time its value
 
To Joseph Smith Esq
Mayor of the City of
Ill.
 
May 24— 1843
Thomas Rawcliff to Joseph Smith about & swindling him [p. [4]]
As I could not put all I had to say I thought I wou[l]d insert this slip with the conclusion on it that is if you want to know any more particulars I am ready at any time to wait on you at your house and as to you abusing me for it, I cannot beleive it untill I see it although I have been told it would only be a grand joke for your and Laws privately to chuckle over and I had better be mute or I should be some of these nights, but I am determined to risk all this and throw the case before you and if you have any thing to say to me I live close to ’s and shall be there if wanted to defend what I have stated in the paper hoping you will do your best to get them to pay me for which I shall ever be thankful and remain Yours
Respectfully. Thomas Rawcliff
P. S.
And Sir, I shall warn all the English to beware of the way buisness is carried on in here fearless of any consequences [p. [5]]
I shall keep a copy of this letter if there should be any thing said so that I can refer [p. [6]]

Footnotes

  1. new scribe logo

    Docket in handwriting of Thomas Bullock.