Letter to John C. Calhoun, 2 January 1844

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<​Copy 3​>
, Illinois, Jany. 2. 1844.
Your reply to my letter of last November, concerning your rule of action towards the Latter Day Saints, if elected President, is at hand: and, that you and your friends of the same opinion, relative to the matter in question, may not be disappointed as to me, or my mind, upon so grave a subject, permit me, as a law abiding Man: as a well wisher to the perpetuity of constitutional rights and liberty, and as a friend to the free worship of Almighty God, by all, according to the dictates of every person’s conscience, to say I am surprized, that a Man, or Men, in the highest stations of public life, should have made up such a fragile “view” of a case, than which there is not one on the face of the Globe fraught with so much consequence to the happiness of men in this world, or the world to come. To be sure the first paragraph of your letter appears very complacent, and fair on a white sheet of paper, and who, that is ambitious for greatness and power, would not have said the same thing? Your Oath would bind you to support the Constitution and laws, and as all creeds and religions are alike tolerated, they must, of course, all be justified or condemned, according to merit and demerit— but why, tell me why, are all the principle men, held up for public stations, so cautiously careful, not to publish to the world, that they will judge a righteous judgment— law, or no law: for laws and opinions, like the vanes of Steeples, change with the wind. One Congress passes a law, and another repeals it, and one statesman says that the Constitution means this, and another that; and who does not know that all may be wrong? The opinion and pledge therefore in the first paragraph of your reply to my question, like the forced steam from the engine of a Steamboat, makes the show of a bright cloud at first, but when it comes in contact with a purer atmosphere, dissolves to common air again.
Your second paragraph leaves you naked before yourself, like a likeness in a Mirror, when you say that “according to your view, the Federal Government, is one of limited and specific powers,” & has no Jurisdiction in the case of the Mormons. So then, a State can at any time, expel any portion of her Citizens with impunity and in the language of , frosted over with your gracious view of the case,” “though the cause is ever so just; government can do nothing for them, because it “has no power.”
Go on, then, , after another set of Inhabitants, (as the Latter Day Saints did) have entered some two or three hundred thousand dollars worth of land, and made large improvements thereon: go on, then, I say, banish the occupants or owners, or kill them, as the mobbers did many of the Latter Day Saints, and take their lands and property as a Spoil: and let the Legislature, as in the case of the Mormons, appropriate a couple of hundred thousand dollars to pay the Mob for doing the Job. for the renowned Senator from South Carolina. Mr. , says, the powers of the Federal Government are so specific and limited that it has no Jurisdiction of the Case! Oh ye people who groan under the oppression of tyrants. Ye exiled Poles, who have felt the Iron hand of Russian grasp: Ye poor and unfortunate among all nations, come to the “Asylum of the Opppressed;” buy ye, lands of the General Government, pay in your money to the Treasury, to strengthen the Army and Navy: Worship God according to the dictates of your own consciences; pay in your taxes to support the Great Heads [p. [1]] of a glorious nation;— but remember, a “Sovereign State”! is so much more powerful than the , the parent government, that it can exile you at pleasure, Mob you with impunity; Confiscate your lands and property: have the Legislature Sanction it: yea, even Murder you, as an edict of an Emperor, and it does no wrong. for the Noble of South Carolina, says, the power of the Federal Government, is so limited and specific, that it has no Jurisdiction of the Case! What think ye of Imperium in imperio
Ye Spirits of the blessed of all ages, Hark! Ye shades of departed Statesmen, listen! Abraham, Moses, Homer, Socrates, Solon, Solomon, and all that ever thought of right and wrong, look down from your exaltations, if you have any, for it is said in the midst of Counsellors there is safety, and when you have learned that fifteen thousand innocent Citizens, after having purchased their Lands of the and paid for them, were expelled from a “Sovereign ” by order of the , at the point of the Bayonet:— their arms taken from them by the same authority: and their right of Migration into said , denied under pain of imprisonment, Whipping, Robbing, Mobbing, and even Death and no Justice or recompence allowed: and from the Legislature, with the at the head, down to the , with a Bottle of Whiskey in one hand and a bowie knife in the other, hear them all declare that there is no Justice for a Mormon in that , and Judge ye a righteous Judgment, and tell me when the virtue of the States was stolen; where the honor of the General Government lies hid; and what Clothes a Senator with Wisdom? Oh nullifying Carolina! Oh little tempestuous Rhode Island! would it not be well for the great Men of the Nation to read the fable of the Partial Judge. And when part of the free Citizens of a State had been expelled contrary to the Constitution, Mobbed, Robbed, Plundered and many murdered, instead of searching into the course taken with Joanna Southcott, Ann Lee, the French Prophets, the Quakers of New England, and Rebellious Niggers in the Slave States, to hear both sides and then judge, rather than to have the mortification to say, “Oh it is my bull “that has killed your Ox— that alters the case? I must enquire into it. And if, and if?”
If the General Government has no power, to re-instate expelled citizens to their rights, there is a monstrous hypocrite fed and fostered from the hard earnings of the people!— A real “Bull Beggar” upheld by Sycophants; and altho’ you may wink to the Priests to stigmatize; wheedle the drunkards to swear, and raise the hue and cry of Imposter, False Prophet, God dam old Joe Smith, yet remember, if the Latter Day Saints are not restored to all their rights, and paid for all their lossses according to the known rules of Justice and Judgment, reciprocation and common honesty among men, that God will come out of his hiding place and vex this nation with a sore vexation— yea, the consuming wrath of an offended God shall smoke through the nation, with as much distress and woe, as Independence has blazed through with pleasure and delight. Where is the Strength of Government? Where is the Patriotism of a Washington, a Warren, and Adams? and where is a spark from the Watch fire of ’76, by which one candle might be lit that would glimmer upon the confines of democracy? Well may it be said that one man is not a State; nor one State the nation. In the days of General [Andrew] Jackson, when refused the first instalment for spoliations, there was power, force, and honor enough to resent [p. [2]] injustice and insult, and the money came. And shall filled with Negro drivers, and White Men Stealers, go “unwhipt of Justice” for tenfold greater sins than ? No; verily no! while I have powers of body and mind; while water runs and grass grows; while virtue is lovely and vice hateful; and while a stone points out a sacred spot where a fragment of American Liberty once was, I, or my posterity, will plead the cause of injured innocence until makes atonement for all her sins— or sinks disgraced, degraded and damned to hell— “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.”
Why Sir, the power not delegated to the , and the States, belongs to the people, and Congress sent to do the people’s business, have all power— and shall fifteen thousand citizens groan in exile? Oh vain men, will ye not, if you do not restore them to their rights and $2,000,000 worth of property, relinquish to them, (the Latter Day Saints) as a body, their portion of power that belongs to them according to the Constitution? Power has its convenience, as well as inconvenience. “The world was not made for Caesar alone, but Titus too.”
I will give you a parable: A certain Lord had a vineyard in a goodly land, which men laboured in at their pleasure; a few meek men also, went and purchased with money from some of these Chief Men that labored at pleasure, a portion of land in the vine yard, at a very remote part of it, and began to improve it, and to eat and drink the fruit thereof, when some vile persons who regarded not man neither feared the Lord of the Vineyard, rose up suddenly and robbed these meek men and drove them from their possessions, killing many. This barbarous act made no small stir among the men of the vineyard, and all that portion who were attached to that part of the Vineyard where the men were robbed, rose up in grand council with their Chief Man, who had firstly ordered the deed to be done, and made a Covenant not to pay for the cruel deed but to keep the spoil, and never let those meek men set their feet on that soil again neither recompense them for it. Now these meek men, in their distress, wisely sought redress of those wicked men in every possible manner and got none. They then supplicated the Chief Men who held the Vineyard at pleasure, and who had the power to sell and defend it, for redress and redemption, and those men, loving the fame and favor of the multitude, more than the glory of the Lord of the Vineyard, answered, “your cause is just, but we can do nothing for you, because we have no power.” Now, when the Lord of the Vineyard saw that virtue and innocence was not regarded and his vineyard corrupted by wicked men, he sent men and took the possession of it to himself and destroyed those unfaithful servants and appointed them their portion among hypocrites.
And let me say, that all men who say that Congress has no power to restore and defend the rights of her Citizens, have not the love of the truth abiding in them. Congress has power to protect the nation against foreign invasion and internal broil: and whenever that body passes an act to maintain right with any power: or to restore right to any portion of her Citizens, it is the Supreme law of the Land and should a State refuse submission, that State is guilty of insurrection or rebellion, and the president has as much power to repel it as Washington had to march against the “Whiskey Boys of ,” or General Jackson had to send [p. [3]] an armed force to suppress the rebellion of South Carolina!
To close, I would admonish you, before you let your “Candor compel” you again to write upon a subject, great as the Salvation of Man, consequential as the life of the Savior, broad as the principles of eternal Truth, and valuable as the Jewels of Eternity, to read in the 8th. Section and 1st. Article of the Constitution of the , the first, fourteenth and seventeenth “Specific” and not very “limited powers” of the Federal Government, What can be done to protect the lives, property and rights, of a virtuous people, when the administrators of the laws, and law makers, are unbought by bribes, uncorrupted by patronage, untempted by Gold, unawed by fear and uncontaminated with tangling alliances.— even like Caesar’s Wife, not only unspotted but unsuspected! and God, who cooled the heat of a Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, or shut the Mouths of Lions for the honor of a Daniel will raise your mind above the narrow notion, that the General Government has no power,— to the sublime idea that Congress, with the president as executor, is as Almighty in its sphere as Jehovah is in his.
With great consideration I have the honor to be Your obedt. servt.
Joseph Smith
Hon. (“Mr.”!)
Fort Hill S. Carolina
No 3
Fort Hill— Charleston
South Carolina
Jan 2 1844
Joseph Smith to [p. [4]]


  1. 1

    This racial slur was commonly employed by white Americans by the nineteenth century to refer derogatorily to people of African descent. Black Americans strongly objected to the use of the term.a The Church Historian’s Press also condemns the use of this word but retains it in document transcripts to accurately present the historical record and to illuminate the oppressive racial landscape faced by Black Americans. Church leaders today have asked Latter-day Saints to “lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice,” which includes rejecting racist language.b  

    Easton, Hosea. A Treatise on the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; and the Prejudice Exercised towards Them: With a Sermon on the Duty of the Church to Them. Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1837.

    Nelson, Russell M. “Let God Prevail.” Ensign, Nov. 2020, 92–95.

    (aEaston, Treatise on the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States, 40–41.bNelson, “Let God Prevail,” 94.)
  2. new scribe logo

    Docket in handwriting of Leo Hawkins.