Junius And Joseph
Presidential Politics and the Assassination of the First Mormon Prophet
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: Utah State University Press
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The origins of this study can be traced to a 1980 local history piece written for the Hamilton, Ohio Journal-News by historian Jim Blount. Ed Michaels brought the article to our attention in early 1995; he had kept the clipping tucked away with his genealogical research notes and only unearthed it in 1994, the 150th anniversary of the murder of the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day...
Introduction: Assassination of a Candidate
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JOSEPH SMITH DECLARED HIS CANDIDACY in the 1844 presidential race as a political reformer on an independent ticket. Joseph never gave his own movement an official name; he believed that all political parties were degraded, their leaders corrupt, and that the entire United States government was in need of reform. In print and from the pulpit he advocated a return to the “holy principles of ’76,” the republican...
1. New World Eden: The Promise of America in Late Jacksonian Politics
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THE EARLY TO MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY was a time of constant and rapid change for most Americans. The period witnessed an explosion of religious fervor throughout the northern states, with scores of new religious movements all claiming exclusive authority from God; westward territorial expansion of Anglo-Protestant civilization accompanied by the displacement of native populations; the...
2. "Clear the Way for Henry Clay"
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THE 1844 WHIG CAMPAIGN for the American presidency is best understood as a refinement of strategies developed during the successful 1840 presidential bid of William Henry Harrison. Many of the same individuals figured prominently in both races. Horace Greeley, founding editor of the New York Tribune, in large part responsible for Harrison’s success in 1840, became one of Clay’s most powerful supporters...
3. "To Save the District for the Whigs"
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IN 1843, THE ECONOMY OF Illinois had not yet recovered from the economic decline of the late 1830s. The state suffered from a crushing public debt burden brought on by a succession of Democratic administrations and the limitations of a barely functioning money economy with almost no gold or silver coin in circulation. Paper currency was accepted only at a steep discount. These conditions favored a Whig...
4. "Nauvoo is no place for rational people"
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There seems to be already the premonitory symptoms of a convulsion among them. Many are the spirits that hesitate not to manifest their disaffection and disloyalty to their prophet and leader. Correspondent to the New York Tribune, August 27, 1843¹ WHEN THE RESULTS OF THE Sixth District congressional elections were published, “everything connected with the Mormons became political,” and marked the...
5. The Third Party
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HENRY CLAY SEALED HIS LETTER of October 5 and marked it “Confidential.” It was addressed to former Ohio governor Thomas Corwin, then residing in his hometown of Lebanon, seat of Warren County, northeast of Cincinnati. “I have not been unaware of the project of bringing out J[ohn] McLean” as the Whig presidential nominee, “by my retirement either voluntary or compulsively, of Judge [Jacob]...
6. "Missourians seem determined not to let us alone"
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Several days before the Illinois Whig State Convention in December, Quincy attorney Orville Hickman Browning assured his longtime friend, Congressman John J. Hardin, that he needn’t worry about the August 1843 defeat of Cyrus Walker (due to the last-minute awarding of the Mormon vote to the Democrats) or even his own loss (with Mormon support) to Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. “We are nothing...
7. The Candidate
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“I will show you, sir, that I will raise up a government in these United States which will overturn the present government, and I will raise up a new religion that will overturn every other form of religion in the country.” Joseph Smith to Peter Cartwright, 1839¹ Did Joe Smith . . . say . . . he would be President of the United States, (God would give him the offi ce if he wanted it), and then he would show them what a Bonaparte could do? Warsaw Signal July 7, 1841²
8. Thy Kingdom Come . . . in Texas
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An express has just arrived here from the city of Mexico, bringing the important intelligence that JOE SMITH, the celebrated Mormon Prophet, of the Latter-day Saints, has concluded a treaty with President Santa Anna for the purchase of Texas. news parody in Lee County (Iowa) Democrat, January 20, 1844
9. Two Conventions
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For President, Senator Henry Clay. For Vice-President, Theodore Frelinghuysen. Clay Tribune, New York City, May 4, 1844¹ For President, Gen. Joseph Smith, of Nauvoo, Illinois. “A Western man, with American principles.” The Prophet, New York City, May 25, 1844² THE WHIG NATIONAL CONVENTION COVENED in Baltimore at the Universalist...
10. What Will Be the End of Things?
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We have now fairly entered upon our electioneering campaign: from this time forth, forward is our motto, and in order to ensure success it will be necessary for us to use every exertion . . . Let every man who is a friend to Gen. Joseph Smith . . . use every endeavor to secure the election . . . It is not an idle farce that we are engaged in; but a solid reality . . . Several presses are already beginning to advocate
11. Retributive Justice
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THE DAY THE Nauvoo Expositor goes forth to the world,” Mormon dissident and reformer William Law wrote in his journal on Friday, June 7, “rich with facts, such expositions as make the guilty tremble and rage. 1000 sheets were struck and five hundred mailed forthwith. If the paper is suffered to continue it will set forth deeds of the most dark, cruel and damning ever perpetrated by any people...
12. Gentlemen of Undoubted Veracity
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JOSEPH SMITH WROTE TO GOVERNOR Thomas Ford on June 14. His letter was accompanied by several statements from witnesses to the razing of the Expositor reaffirming that “The whole affair was conducted by the City Marshal and his posse in the most quiet and orderly manner, without the least noise, riot or tumult.”¹ Joseph’s counselor Sidney Rigdon prepared his own confidential letter to the governor.
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THE NAVOO COMPANY ARRIVED AT Hamilton’s Hotel just before midnight. A “great crowd” of nearly five hundred soldiers greeted them, eager to catch a glimpse of the infamous Joe Smith. The governor told the men to leave, that they would be permitted to see the Mormon prophet in the morning. After rising early, Joseph and Hyrum surrendered themselves to the constable.
14. Distance Lent Enchantment to the View
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“FOR GOD'S SAKE COME BACK and take away your men!” Colonel Williams cried out. His disguised militia unit was running for the safety of the trees, anxious to escape the Carthage Greys who were almost upon the jail. The wounded were just emerging into the sunlight. William Vorhees was hit in the left shoulder. Charles Gallaher was “grazed on the side of the face.” John Willis was wounded in the right...
15. The Kingdom Delayed
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The council [of Fifty] consider it best for all the traveling elders to stop preaching politics—preach the gospel with double energy, and bring as many to the knowledge of the truth as possible. The great event of 1844, so long anticipated, has arrived, without a parallel since the birth of Adam. Willard Richards to Brigham Young, June 30,1844¹ NAUVOO REMAIND IN MOURNING.
16. "Bound by common guilt and danger to commit almost any act to save them from infamy"
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ANXIOUS TO RETURN TO THEIR homes in Carthage and Warsaw, the Old Citizens of Hancock County slogged through the muddy roads rendered nearly impassable by the overfl owing banks of the Mississippi River.¹ The high water mark had been reached on June 27, nearly a week before. That was the day the settlers abandoned their homes, fl eeing the anticipated invasion by Nauvoo’s twelve thousand outraged...
17. Wolf Hunts
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“I did not help to kill Joe Smith, for I did not go to the jail with those who killed him.” Thomas Sharp, Warsaw Signal, September 25, 1844¹ EVEN IN THE FACE OF possible public exposure and the threat of impeachment proceedings by the Whigs in the Illinois legislature, Democratic governor Thomas Ford had little choice but to move forward with his proposed indictments against...
18. The Campaign Continues
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I would rather have the dead body of the Prophet than some men who are alive and I would rather have the clothes of the Prophet stuffed with straw for president of the United States than any man whose name is now before the nation as a candidate, for the straw would not do any harm. Brigham Young, August 18, 1844
19. "To avenge the blood that stains the walls of Carthage jail"
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Every one who had passed through their endowments, in the Temple [at Nauvoo], were placed under the most sacred obligations to avenge the blood of the Prophet, whenever an opportunity offered, and to teach their children to do the same, thus making the entire Mormon people sworn and avowed enemies of the American nation. John D. Lee and W. W. Bishop, Confessions (1877)
20. How Wide the Conspiracy?
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JOSEPH SMITH UTTERED THE FIRST four words of the Masonic distress cry as he fell from the second story window of Carthage jail. Yet none of the Masons in the mob surrounding the jail made any effort to come to his aid. That circumstance gave rise to the suspicion that there was a Masonic conspiracy to take his life, a claim voiced privately and in public by Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young.
Epilogue: Two Endings
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The Republican Ascendancy BY LATE NOVEMBER 1844, PLANS were underway to organize a new political party to oppose the rising power of the Democrats. A meeting was scheduled for St. Louis in the spring anticipating the formation of an “American Republican Party” to replace the fragmented Whig organization. G. T. M. Davis violently disagreed with the strategy and remained unrepentantly Whig.
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Clay’s Men: The Whig Campaign for Illinois in 1844 John J. Hardin—cousin of Mary Todd Lincoln and stepnephew of Kentuckian Henry Clay—was the only Illinois Whig serving in U.S. Congress from 1843–45. Because of his position, Hardin became the lead architect in the Kentucky senator’s crusade to claim Illinois as a Whig state in the 1844 presidential race. The chief political organizers...
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Publication Year: 2005