Letter to John C. Bennett, 7 March 1842

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Editor’s Office, , Ill.,
March 7th, 1842.
Respected Brother:—I have just been perusing your correspondence with Doctor [Charles V.] Dyer on the subject of American Slavery, and the students of the Mission Institute, and it makes my blood boil within me to reflect upon the injustice, cruelty, and oppression, of the rulers of the people—when will these things cease to be, and the Constitution and the Laws again bear rule? I fear for my beloved country—mob violence, injustice, and cruelty, appear to be the darling attributes of , and no man taketh it to heart! O, tempora! O, mores! What think you should be done?
Your friend,
JOSEPH SMITH. [p. 724]


  1. 1

    This may refer to a space in the printing office, located on the northwest corner of Water and Bain streets, or to JS’s office on the second floor of his mercantile store in Nauvoo. (Editorial, Times and Seasons, 1 Dec. 1841, 3:615; Masthead, Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:718; Clayton, History of the Nauvoo Temple, 16; Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 4 May 1842, 11; JS, Journal, 3 and 8 Mar. 1842.)  

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

    Clayton, William. History of the Nauvoo Temple, ca. 1845. CHL. MS 3365.

  2. 2

    While the Quincy Mission Institute was established to train evangelical missionaries, one former student recalled that “all who came . . . were of the same stamp—the Institute was a fountain of anti-slavery principle.” Many members of the institute were deeply involved in the formation of the Illinois Anti-slavery Society and acted as “conductors” in the Underground Railroad, actively aiding fugitive slaves attempting to escape servitude in Missouri. In July 1841 two students and one employee of the institute—James Burr, George Thompson, and Alanson Work—crossed the Mississippi River north of Palmyra, Missouri, to aid several slaves in their attempt to escape to Canada. Betrayed by the slaves, however, the men were captured by slave-owning farmers, bound with ropes, and incarcerated. Though defense attorneys argued that the men had broken no law, Burr, Thompson, and Work were convicted by a Missouri jury for larceny of slaves and sentenced to twelve years in prison in September 1841. (Prinsloo, “Abolitionist Factory,” 50–56; Thompson, Prison Life and Reflections, 17–23, 81, 85–90; Asbury, Reminiscences of Quincy, Illinois, 72–73.)  

    Prinsloo, Oleta. “‘The Abolitionist Factory’: Northeastern Religion, David Nelson, and the Mission Institute near Quincy, Illinois, 1836–1844.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 105, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 36–68.

    Thompson, George. Prison Life and Reflections; or, A Narrative of the Arrest, Trial, Conviction, Imprisonment, Treatment, Observations, Reflections, and Deliverance of Work, Burr and Thompson, Who Suffered an Unjust and Cruel Imprisonment in Missouri Penitentiary, for Attempting to Aid Some Slaves to Liberty. Oberlin, OH: James M. Fitch, 1847.

    Asbury, Henry. Reminiscences of Quincy, Illinois, Containing Historical Events, Anecdotes, Matters concerning Old Settlers and Old Times, Etc. Quincy, IL: D. Wilcox and Sons, 1882.

  3. 3

    Both Dyer and Bennett had used a nearly identical phrase in earlier correspondence. (“Correspondence between Dr. C. V. Dyer and Gen. J. C. Bennett,” Times and Seasons, 15 Mar. 1842, 3:724.)  

  4. 4

    Variously translated as “Oh the times! Oh the customs!” or “Shame on the age and on its principles!” this Latin phrase was famously used in a speech by Roman orator and lawyer Cicero in 63 BC. (Yonge, Orations of Cicero against Catiline, 280.)  

    Yonge, C. D., trans. The Orations of Cicero against Catiline. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1919.