Mormon History

Legislative Debate Over Nauvoo Charters - 1845

Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review January 25, 1845

Illinois  Legislature.


                    Springfield, Jan. 20?, 1845.

For several afternoons past, and to-day, the House has been occupied in the discussion of the Senate bill, providing for the repeal of the Mormon charters. Great interest has been exhibited during the progress of this debate; and the galleries of the Hall have been crowded to suffocation, including among the mass a large number of ladies. Very able speeches have been made by Messrs. Benedict, Yates, Morrison, and Boyakin, in favor of repeal; while the most miserable Mormon slang has been indulged in, by Mr. Babbitt, the Mormon, and Messrs. Loft and Ross, in efforts to clothe the Mormons with just enough power in the nature of a charter, to allow them to continue their outrages upon the old citizens of Hancock, and the surrounding counties. During the able speech made by Mr. Benedict, he read, by permission of Mr. Babbitt, the Mormon representative, an official communication from the "Council of Twelve," to Babbitt, and which Babbitt had laid before the committee of Banks and Corporations, to influence, if not intimidate, their action upon the Senate bill repealing their charters. From this communication, a copy of which I have procured, I take the following extracts as evidence of their disposition to lord it over not only the people but the Legislature of the State. After detailing numerous blessings as a people they have showered upon Illinois, since their residence among us, and discussing to their satisfaction the unconstititionality of any act of the Legislature repealing their charters, the "Council of the Twelve" thus discourse:

"And the sin be upon their own heads." (the members of the Legislature) "and the heads of their abettors, if they will do it. The Lord is our light, whom shall we fear? Therefore let us be as bold and steadfast as Daniel; peradventure the fury of the lions will be stayed until their fangs rest upon our ungodly enemies! Should the Legislature repeal our charters, we shall be obliged in self-defense to spread the details of our unprecendeted wrongs to the extremities of the nation and the world, and then into the ears of the Lord of Saboath. But we will not believe that they will do it. The injustice, cruelty and barbarity of such an act, is too appaling for us to entertain such a thought concerning them. Surely, before they take such a step, they will wipe away the murdered blood that cleaves to the violated faith of the State! *  *  *  *   What more could a bloody mob ask of a State, then they will have done when they take away our charters. Oh Illinois! art thou such a Nero or Caligula!! Oh Brutus! it it thou, that friend that gave us hearty welcome and liberal charters!! So changed. Oh blush at the thought! From the very day of such an act let no chaplain invoke the benignity of the Heavens upon you henceforth. Let the day itself be blotted from your State journals, as a day of delirium and insanity, when the broad current of reason, humanity, and justice, were stayed in their natural channels. But if thou wilt do the unnatural deed to thy fond and loyal child, and still claim the attributes of humanity and justice, then rest assured, as the Lord God of Israel sits upon his eternal throne, the GALLOWS PREPARED FOR MORDECAI SHALL ONE DAY BY THY OWN!!"

Such is the insolent language of a body of Mormons to the Representatives of a free people. Threatening them, that if they repeal the charters, under which they have so flagrantly abused their powers, that those members who thus vote to repeal them, "the gallows prepared for Mordecai shall one day be their own." This celebrated production of the "Council of Twelve," closes with the wholesome admonition to the Mormon Representative:

"Now, Brother Babbitt, the house of Israel have made you their watchman! therefore give the trump a certain sound." (What that "certain sound" is, the Council of Twelve do not explain.) "Fear not them that can kill the body only, but rather fear Him that can cast both soul and body into hell! Dear Brother, see to it that thy skirts are [clean]. And we are persuaded better things of you, though we thus write. Therefore, let us have a whole, unaltered charter."

The debate will be continued on Monday afternoon -- Mr. Manning of Knox, being entitled to the floor, who will advocate Mormonism -- and how much longer no human foresight can predict, as there are some fifteen or twenty members, that are pregnant with speeches, and must be delivered. The committee on Public Accounts and Expenditures, have claims before them growing out of the late Mormon difficulties amounting already upwards to twenty-four thousand dollars, notwithstanding the assertion of honest! Tom Ford, in his special message to the Legislature, that the amount was some eight or nine thousand dollars. If the repeal of these charters is secured through the House, the country will be indebted entirely to the independence of the Southern Democrats, who thus far have refused to be governed by the Executive dictation in a matter deeply involving the interest of all citizens of the State, and in the disposition of which the people without distinction of party feel so much solicitude...

                                                                              Springfield, Jan. 21, 1845.

... Mr. Backenstos introduced a bill, making the counties liable for all costs in criminal cases, where the same cannot be collected from the defendants... The bill after passing through two readings, was referred to the committee on the Judiciary....

The House have just taken a vote upon the Mormon Charters, after being annoyed all afternoon with two Mormon sermons' one from Backenstos, who fleeced the Altonians of no small sum. known as the leading Jack Mormon, and the other from Babbitt, the Mormon. The vote was then taken, and the House repealed the Charters by a vote of 76 to 36; only FORTY MAJORITY. When it came Wollard's turn to vote, he got up , and attempted to excuse himself for voting for repeal, by asserting that Judge Logan's speech had changed his opinion; and alluded to my showing him up in his real colors, by saying that it was an attack that could not injure him, considering from whence it came. He condoled with his brother Jack Mormon, Backenstos, in separating from him, and then voted for repeal. Mr. Wollard will find that he will not only have to explain his Mormon votes to his constituents, but that he will also have to give some satisfactory reason to them why he was one of the twenty-five members in the House that voted to have the State swindled out of Ten Thousand Dollars in the Binding contract. I shall continue to expose all such infamous conduct, let it emanate from Mr. Wollard. his chosen companion, Backenstos, the Jack Mormon, or any one else...

Note 1: The written counsel of the Quorum of the Twelve to Representative Almon W. Babbitt, in 1845, echoes the "blood atonement" sentiments previously expressed in the fervid hymn published in their Nauvoo Times and Seasons, following the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith: "Praise to his [Smith's] mem'ry, he died as a martyr... Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins, stain Illinois while the earth lauds his fame." In subsequent years, the sanguine anticipation of requisite divine retribution (as well as the Saints' individual desires for revenge) against the leaders and people of Illinois was one which crept into personal patriarchal blessings and into the temple endowment ceremonies, as performed in Great Salt Lake City and elsewhere among the fugitive western Mormons. Many a LDS elder in Utah during the second half of the nineteenth century, lived in anticipation of seeing his church's vengeance soon fall upon the "ungodly enemies" that church had left behind in Illinois -- enemies who had caused the "murdered blood" of the prophet to smoke forth from the ground, and who had expelled his followers from their "City Beautiful" on the banks of the Mississippi.

Note 2: Whether or not the LDS leadership pressed their "gallows" intimidations upon the Illinois legislators any more forcibly than through the message expressed in the Twelve's letter to Babbitt, remains unknown at this late date. Babbitt's inability to halt the repeal of the Nauvoo Charters did not end his political career with the Saints -- although his various failures among the Mormons, were credited by some commentators as the ultimate cause of Babbitt's bloody murder, ten years later. See the notes and comments relating to Babbitt, appended to his brother-in-law's letter, published in the May 20, 1850 issue of the Cincinnati Daily Commercial, as well as Patriarch William Smith's pertinent comments, as reprinted in the Jan. 11, 1850 issue of the Liberty Tribune.