BRIGHAM YOUNG - COLLECTION WITH JOHN H. STEELE, WILLARD RICHARDS, GEORGE MILLER, NEWELL K. WHITNEY - HFSID 348163
BRIGHAM YOUNG and JOHN H. STEELEThe Mormon leader signed this letter as part of a campaign pleading for assistance against anti-Mormon violence less than a year before their migration to Utah. It was written in desperation just after the murder of Mormon prophet Joseph SmithCollectionComprises: (1) Autograph Letter Signed: "Brigham Young" President, "Willard Richards" Clerk of the Quorum of Twelve and "N.K. Whitney" and "George Miller" as Trustees of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, all four being the "Committee, in behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at Nauvoo, Ill.," 3p, 8x13, front and verso. Nauvoo, Illinois, 1845 April 24. Verso of third page addressed to: "His Excellency/John H. Steele/Concord/New Hampshire." The docketed address leaf bears a circular "new-york" postmark, explained by Young in the postscript: "P.S. As many of our communications postmarked 'Nauvoo' have failed of their destination-and the mails around us have been intercepted by our enemies, we shall send this to some distant office, by a special messenger”. Young's letter to Governor Steele, in part: "Suffer us, Sir, in behalf of a disfranchised and long afflicted people to prefer a few suggestions for your serious consideration in hope of a friendly and unequivocal response, at as early a period as may suit your convenience, and the extreme urgency of the case seems to demand. It is not our present design to detail the multiplied and aggravated wrongs that we have received in the midst of a nation that gave us birth. Some of us have long been loyal citizens of the state over which you have the honor to preside, while others claim citizenship in each of the states of this great confederacy. We say we are a disfranchised people. We are privately told by the highest authorities of this state, that it is neither prudent nor safe for us to vote at the polls; still we have continued to maintain our right to vote until the blood of our best men has been shed, both in Missouri, and the state of Illinois with impunity. You are, doubtless, somewhat familiar with the history of our extermination from the state of Missouri, wherein scores of our brethren were massacred, hundreds died through want and sickness, occasioned by their unparalleled sufferings; some millions of our property were confiscated or destroyed; and some fifteen thousand souls fled for their lives to the then hospitable and peaceful shores of Illinois; and that the State of Illinois granted to us a liberal charter, for the term of perpetual succession, under whose provisions private rights have become invested and the largest city in the state has grown up, numbering about 20,000 inhabitants. But, Sir, the startling attitude recently assumed by the State of Illinois, forbids us to think that her designs are any less vindictive than those of Missouri. She has already used the Military of the State, with the Executive at their head, to coerce and surrender up our best men to unparallelled murder, and that too under the most sacred pledges of protection and safety. As a salvo for such unearthly pefidy and guilt, she told us, through her highest Executive officer, that the laws should be magnified, and the murderers brought to justice…To crown the climax of those bloody deeds, the State has repealed all those chartered rights, by which we might have defended ourselves, lawfully, against aggressors. If we defend ourselves hereafter against violence, whether it comes under the shadow of law, or otherwise (for we have reason to expect to both ways,) we shall then be charged with treason, and suffer the penalty - and if we continue passive and nonresistant, we must certainly expect to perish for our enemies have sworn it. And here, Sir, permit us to state, that Gen. Joseph Smith, during his short life, was arraigned at the bar of his country about fifty times, charged with criminal offences, but was acquitted every time by his country, his enemies, or rather his religious opponents almost invariably being his judges…In the name of Israel's God, and by virtue of multiplied ties of country and kindred, we ask your friendly interposition in our favor,- Will it be too much for us to ask you to convene a special session of your State Legislature, and furnish us an asylum, where we can enjoy our rights of conscience and religion unmolested? Or, will you, in a special message to that body, when convened, recommend a remonstrance against such unhallowed acts of oppression and expatriation as this people have continued to receive from the States of Missouri and Illinois? Or, will you favor us by your personal influence, and by your official rank? Or, will you express your views concerning what is called the 'Great Western measure,' of colonizing the Latter Day Saints in Oregon, the Northwestern Territory, or some location remote from the states, where the hand of oppression shall not crush every noble principle, and extinguish every patriotic feeling?...We sincerely hope that your future prompt measures towards us will be dictated by the best feelings that dwell in the bosom of humanity, and the blessings of a grateful people, and of many, ready to perish shall come upon you. We are, Sir, with great respect, Your most obdt. Servants". (2)Draft Autograph Letter by Governor Steele replying to Young's letter, 4p, 8x10. No place, no date.Draft of Steele's reply (in his hand), in part: "To Brigham Young President of the Latter day saints & his associates. Gent- Your letter dated April 24 was duly received & while I join you most heartily in denouncing the atrocious conduct of those who laid violent hands on your late leader, Joseph Smith & his brother Hiram (sic), you will permit me to say that I am by no means prepared to say admit that all the troubles & trials through which your sect has passed, or is likely to pass, were entirely undeserved. I do not say this with any reason or even thoughts of excusing much less justifying your persecutors". BACKGROUND: Brigham Young made this appeal to Governor of New Hampshire, John H. Steele, just 14 months after the founder and prophet of the Mormon movement, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum were shot and murdered in a Carthage, Illinois jail by an angry mob of antagonized followers.Brigham Young, one of the chosen 12 Apostles of the Church, learned of the murders while on a mission in Peterborough, New Hampshire. In August of 1844, Young reached Nauvoo, Illinois, the home of the Mormons, finding the Church in a panic. On August 8, Young was chosen as Smith's successor. Nauvoo was situated amongst towns holding anti-Mormon sentiment. There was resentment of the liberal terms of their city charter which had been granted to them by the state; fear of the Mormons' political power (Smith had a nationwide organization in place for securing his candidacy for U.S. President - in fact, Brigham Young was in New Hampshire on such a mission when he learned of Smith's murder); resentment of their mass voting and envy of their prosperity. The Mormons had previously been expelled from Ohio and Missouri before settling in Nauvoo, Illinois.In January of 1845, Illinois repealed the charter of Nauvoo, leaving the city of 20,000 without legal means to protect its inhabitants or property. It is because of these circumstances that Young and his General Council set out to find a new home for the faithful. They planned a letter campaign to President James A. Polk and to every governor of the Union with the exception of Illinois and Missouri. Brigham Young, in his speech celebrating the Twenty-fourth of July, (recorded in the weekly English church paper, "Milennia Star" October 4, 1862), stated that he only received five replies to the campaign, all of which were rejections. Young used the term "the Great Western Measure" to refer to this whole idea of moving west. After passing the snowbound months near Council Bluffs, Iowa, Young led the first wagons across the plains and entered the Salt Lake Valley (later Utah) on July 24, 1847. There is a tear in the right margin of the third page of Young's letter (verso of address leaf) where the letter was opened at the seal affecting two words, all others intact. Light fold through Young's signature. Steele's draft shows folds, some ink smudges (but words are legible), partial separation at one horizontal fold (all words intact), slight show through, else fine. Otherwise, fine condition. Each framed in Gallery of History style: 54x32. Two items.
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