Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States

Smith's latest triumph over his Missouri enemies, with the

feeling that he had the governor of his state back of him,

increased his own and his followers' audacity. The Nauvoo Council

continued to pass ordinances to protect its inhabitants from

outside legal processes, civil and criminal. One of these

provided that no writ issued outside of Nauvoo for the arrest of

a person in that city should be executed until it had received

the mayor's approval, anyone violating this ordinance to be

liable to imprisonment for life, with no power of pardon in the

governor without the mayor's consent! The acquittal of O. P.

Rockwell on the charge of the attempted assassination of Governor

Boggs caused great delight among the Mormons, and their organ

declared on January 1, 1844, that "throughout the whole region of

country around us those bitter and acrimonious feelings, which

have so long been engendered by many, are dying away."

Smith's political ideas now began to broaden. "Who shall be our

next President?" was the title of an editorial in the Times and

Seasons of October 1, 1843, which urged the selection of a man

who would be most likely to give the Mormons help in securing

redress for their grievances.

The next month Smith addressed a letter to Henry Clay and John C.

Calhoun, who were the leading candidates for the presidential

nomination, citing the Mormons' losses and sufferings in

Missouri, and their failure to obtain redress in the courts or

from Congress, and asking, "What will be your rule of action

relative to us as a people should fortune favor your ascendancy

to the chief magistracy? "Clay replied that, if nominated, he

could "enter into no egagements, make no promises, give no

pledges to any particular portion of the people of the United

States," adding, "If I ever enter into that high office, I must

go into it free and unfettered, with no guarantees but such as

are to be drawn from my whole life, character and conduct." He

closed with an expression of sympathy with the Mormons "in their

sufferings under injustice." Calhoun replied that, if elected

President, he would try to administer the government according to

the constitution and the laws, and that, as these made no

distinction between citizens of different religious creeds, he

should make none. He repeated an opinion which he had given Smith

in Washington that the Mormon case against the state of Missouri

did not come within the jurisdiction of the federal government.

These replies excited Smith to wrath and he answered them at

length, and in language characteristic of himself. A single

quotation from his letter to Clay (dated May 13, 1844) will


"In your answer to my question, last fall, that peculiar trait of

the modern politician, declaring 'if you ever enter into that

high office, you must go into it unfettered, with no guarantees

but such as are to be drawn from your whole life, character and

conduct,' so much resembles a lottery vender's sign, with the

goddess of good luck sitting on the car of fortune, astraddle of

the horn of plenty, and driving the merry steeds of beatitude,

without reins or bridle, that I cannot help exclaiming, 'O, frail

man, what have you done that will exalt you? Can anything be

drawn from your LIFE, CHARACTER OR CONDUCT that is worthy of

being held up to the gaze of this nation as a model of VIRTUE,

CHARACTER AND WISDOM?'. . . 'Your whole life, character and

conduct' have been spotted with deeds that causes a blush upon

the face of a virtuous patriot; so you must be contented with

your lot, while crime, cowardice, cupidity or low cunning have

handed you down from the high tower of a statesman to the black

hole of a gambler . . . . Crape the heavens with weeds of woe;

gird the earth with sackcloth, and let hell mutter one melody in

commemoration of fallen splendor! For the glory of America has

departed, and God will set a flaming sword to guard the tree of

liberty, while such mint-tithing Herods as Van Buren, Boggs,

Benton, Calhoun, and Clay are thrust out of the realms of virtue

as fit subjects for the kingdom of fallen greatness--vox reprobi,

vox Diaboli."

Calhoun was admonished to read the eighth section of article one

of the federal constitution, after which "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." 1

*For this correspondence in full, see Times and Seasons, January

1, and June 1, 1844, or Mackay's "The Mormons," p. 143.

Smith's next step was to have judge Phelps read to a public

meeting in Nauvoo on February 7, 1844, a very long address by the

prophet, setting forth his views on national politics.* He

declared that "no honest man can doubt for a moment but the glory

of American liberty is on the wane, and that calamity and

confusion will sooner or later destroy the peace of the people,"

while "the motto hangs on the nation's escutcheon, `every man has

his price.'"

* For its text, see Times and Seasons, May 15,1844, or Mackay's

"The Mormons," p.133.

Smith proposed an abundance of remedies for these evils: Reduce

the members of Congress at least one-half; pay them $2 a day and

board; petition the legislature to pardon every convict, and make

the punishment for any felony working on the roads or some other

place where the culprit can be taught wisdom and virtue, murder

alone to be cause for confinement or death; petition for the

abolition of slavery by the year 1850, the slaves to be paid for

out of the surplus from the sale of public lands, and the money

saved by reducing the pay of Congress; establish a national bank,

with branches in every state and territory, "whose officers shall

be elected yearly by the people, with wages of $2 a day for

services," the currency to be limited to "the amount of capital

stock in her vaults, and interest"; "and the bills shall be par

throughout the nation, which will mercifully cure that fatal

disorder known in cities as brokery, and leave the people's money

in their own pockets"; give the President full power to send an

army to suppress mobs; "send every lawyer, as soon as he repents

and obeys the ordinances of heaven, to preach the Gospel to the

destitute, without purse or scrip"; "spread the federal

jurisdiction to the west sea, when the red men give their

consent"; and give the right hand of fellowship to Texas, Canada,

and Mexico. He closed with this declaration: "I would, as the

universal friend of man, open the prisons, open the eyes, open

the ears, and open the hearts of all people to behold and enjoy

freedom, unadulterated freedom; and God, who once cleansed the

violence of the earth with a flood, whose Son laid down his life

for the salvation of all his father gave him out of the world,

and who has promised that he will come and purify the world again

with fire in the last days, should be supplicated by me for the

good of all people. With the highest esteem, I am a friend of

virtue and of the people."

It seems almost incomprehensible that the promulgator of such

political views should have taken himself seriously. But Smith

was in deadly earnest, and not only was he satisfied of his

political power, but, in the church conference of 1844, he

declared, "I feel that I am in more immediate communication with

God, and on a better footing with Him, than I have ever been in

my life."

The announcement of Smith's political "principles" was followed

immediately by an article in the Times and Seasons, which

answered the question, "Whom shall the Mormons support for

President?" with the reply, "General Joseph Smith. A man of

sterling worth and integrity, and of enlarged views; a man who

has raised himself from the humblest walks in life to stand at

the head of a large, intelligent, respectable, and increasing

society; . . . and whose experience has rendered him every way

adequate to the onerous duty." The formal announcement that Smith

was the Mormon candidate was made in the Times and Seasons of

February 15, 1844, and the ticket--



Nauvoo, Illinois.

was kept at the head of its editorial page from March 1, until

his death.

A weekly newspaper called the Wasp, issued at Nauvoo under Mormon

editorship, had been succeeded by a larger one called the

Neighbor, edited by John Taylor (afterward President of the

church), who also had charge of the Times and Seasons. The

Neighbor likewise placed Smith's name, as the presidential

candidate, at the head of its columns, and on March 6 completed

its ticket with "General James A. Bennett of New York, for

Vice-President."* Three weeks later Bennett's name was taken

down, and on June 19, Sidney Rigdon's was substituted for it.

There was nothing modest in the Mormon political ambition.

* This General Bennett was not the first mayor of Nauvoo, as some

writers like Smucker have supposed, but a lawyer who gave his

address as "Arlington House," on Long Island, New York, and who

in 1843 had offered himself to Smith as "a most undeviating

friend," etc.

Proof of Smith's serious view of his candidacy is furnished in

his next step, which was to send out a large body of missionaries

(two or three thousand, according to Governor Ford) to work-up

his campaign in the Eastern and Southern states. These emissaries

were selected from among the ablest of Smith's allies, including

Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, and John D. Lee. Their absence from

Nauvoo was a great misfortune to Smith at the time of his

subsequent arrest and imprisonment at Carthage.

The campaigners began work at once. Lorenzo Snow, to whom the

state of Ohio was allotted, went to Kirtland, where he had

several thousand pamphlets printed, setting forth the prophet's

views and plans, and he then travelled around in a buggy,

distributing the pamphlets and making addresses in Smith's

behalf. "To many persons," he confesses, "who knew nothing of

Joseph but through the ludicrous reports in circulation, the

movement seemed a species of insanity."* John D. Lee was a most

devout Mormon, but his judgment revolted against this movement.

"I would a thousand times rather have been shut up in jail," he

says. He began his canvassing while on the boat bound for, St.

Louis. "I told them," he relates, "the prophet would lead both

candidates. There was a large crowd on the boat, and an election

was proposed. The prophet received a majority of 75 out of 125

votes polled. This created a tremendous laugh."**

* "Biography of Lorenzo Snow."

** "Mormonism Unveiled," p.149.

We have an account of one state convention called to consider

Smith's candidacy, and this was held in the Melodeon in Boston,

Massachusetts, on July 1, 1844, the news of Smith's death not yet

having reached that city. A party of young rowdies practically

took possession of the hall as soon as the business of the

convention began, and so disturbed the proceedings that the

police were sent for, and they were able to clear the galleries

only after a determined fight. The convention then adjourned to

Bunker Hill, but nothing further is heard of its proceedings. The

press of the city condemned the action of the disturbers as a

disgrace. Mention is made in the Times and Seasons of July 1,

1844, of a conference of elders held in Dresden, Tennessee, on

the 25th of May previous, at which Smith's name was presented as

a presidential candidate. The meeting was broken up by a mob,

which the sheriff confessed himself powerless to overcome, but it

met later and voted to print three thousand copies of Smith's


The prophet's death, which occurred so soon after the

announcement of his candidacy, rendered it impossible to learn

how serious a cause of political disturbance that candidacy might

have been in neighborhoods where the Mormons had a following.

Sidney Rigdon Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail