Mormon History

Fascination With Prophets - 1795

Possible Basis for Spaulding’s Prophet Character

Otsego Herald – June 12, 1795

From the TIMES, a London Paper.

We have already published several notices of a Mr. Brothers,
who is called in the London Papers a Prophet --
the following is a more particular account of him.


The GREAT PROPHET of Paddington Street:

Great political convulsions have always been either preceded or accompanied by moral revolutions, of which the factions of all countries avail themselves, to ingratiate their revolutionary systems with those classes of society, that lay most open to seduction and imposture.

Thus the French Revolution was preceded by a number of sects more or less absurd, but all equally extravagant, which prepared the public mind for all sorts of changes. -- Such were the Constitutionists, who played off their tricks with great adroitness; the Martinists, who pretended to penetrate into most hidden mysteries of the Divinity; the Mesmerists, who invited all France to their banquets; the Somnambulists, &c. &c. When the French Revolution was begun, the Prophet of Don Gerle, a Carthusian Monk, and a Member of the Constituent Assembly, made her appearance; and under Robespierre, there sprang up at Paris a number of other visionary dreamers. It seems that there are men in this country, who propote to employ the same means to attain their end. As a man of the name of BROTHERS, appears to be selected to act a prominent part in these scenes, we have been induced to communicate to our readers the following account of his printed prophecies, and the public conferences held at his house, No. 27 Paddington street.

Mr. Brothers introduces himself as a prophet, the friend of God, his own nephew, the chosen Chief of the Jews, and the Sovereign of the Universe. His daily and nightly apparitions amount to about 600, and in all and in every one of them, God reveals to him. that within a fixed time, which is to begin on the 1st of June 1795 and to end in 1798, all Sovereigns shall be struck down and destroyed forever.

Mr. Brothers, born at Newfoundland, is sent from the new, to overthrow the ancient world. At first he was an officer in the navy. "Considering that voluntary swearing which he was obliged to comply with, as a qualification to receive his pay, was unjust, he requested permission to receive it without it. The Earl of Chatham was so good, as to erase in his favor, the word Voluntary from the form of swearing. But soon after Mr. Brothers requested from the Admiralty, a dispensing order, that he might receive his pay but without taking any oath; but they would not grant it. As it was evident that Brothers was put of his senses, he was some time after taken to a workhouse," -- The very next night, God informed him in an apparition, "That he will shake the English Admiralty, as a man would do bread in a basket."

Brothers having heard that a friend of his had his ship seized in the West Indies, by an undersigned infringement of the navigation act, wrote to the Earl of Chatham to procure an indemnification for the poor man but was refused. Therefore the Lord God told him at night, that he would truly enable him to indemnify his friend, for he should be President of the Council and Chancellor of the Exchequer."

Brothers having for some time been confined in Newgate, complains "that a small penny loaf of bread was allowed him for the whole day to live upon," and states that therefore God revealed to him that, since prisoners were so very uncomfortably situated in Newgate, London must be a Sodom and Babylon, and would be destroyed by fire and sword."

All the extravagant visions were anterior to the present. Brothers mind being revolutionary exalted, he found himself, of course, in 1792, at the height of the French Revolution. For this reason he wrote several letters to the King, the Queen and Mr. Pitt, with a view of dissuading them from war against France, because this war would be carried on against righteous people, chosen to execute the plan which God had revealed to him. Since the beginnings of hostilities, Brothers has written several other letters to the King and the Ministers, to induce them to make peace, but his advice has been slighted, and therefore, the King, the Queen, the Royal Family, the Ministers of Parliament, the town of London, and every kingdom of Europe, are to be devoted to unavoidable ruin. This destruction would have been delayed from a regard to his prayers; but as he has been treated like a madman, and moreover Government persists in its perverse intention of continuing the war, that universal destruction is to begin on the 1st of next June. At that period Mr. Brothers will be recognized as the Sovereign of the Universe, the nephew of God, and the Chief and King of the Jews. All the worldly powers are to bow before him, &c. &c. -- "Yet Isabella Wake, who brought him a threepenny loaf every Monday, when he was in Newgate, shall always have an apartment in his palace, and a seat at his table."

Mr. Brothers enjoys the greatest variety of visions and apparitions. In 1792, he was transferred, to Stockholm, where he held several conferences with the ghost of the famous Swedenborg, the chief of the Somnambulists. He there saw through a window, a man walking round an empty elbow chair; and God told him, that this man should murder the king. He would have informed that Monarch of his impending assassination; but knowing that the king of Sweden was to take upon himself the command of the armies destined to act against France, and that it was his intention to penetrate thro' Normandy, and to burn the French fleet at Brest, he abandoned him to his fate.

At the same time the Empress of Russia would have been assassinated, but for the Prophet having been allowed by God to acquaint her with it. Her death is however only delayed; and Mr. Brothers relates all the circumstances under which it is to happen, which no doubt will afford much pleasure to the Conductor of one of our Jacobin prints, who lately assured the Public, that the death of that Princess would be a most fortunate event for humanity.

We forbear to enlarge any further on the visions of the Prophet BROTHERS, and beg only leave to add, that he is daily visited by ladies and gentlemen, who want him to have their fortunes told; by indignant French Emigrants, to whom he professes his protection through his interest with God; and by different descriptions of people, who delight in hearing, even from the mouth of a madman, invectives against the present administration.

Note: Solomon Spalding was married to Matilda Sabin on February 21, 1795, probably in New England. At about the same time the couple moved to Cherry Valley, NY to take up residence near Solomon's brother Josiah, who operated a retail store in that village. Solomon and his bride probably arrived in Cherry Valley a few weeks before Elihu Phinney began publication of his Otsego Herald in the county seat of Cooperstown (boyhood home of James Fenimore Cooper). The literate and curious Spalding would have doubtless read the new little weekly paper with great interest. What he may have thought of accounts of the Canadian "Israelite Prophet," Richard Brothers is any body's guess, but a few dryly humorous pastiches of prophetic impostors may be found in Spalding's Oberlin manuscript -- Brothers' public image may have served as a caricature for those fraudulent oracles of Spalding's imagination.