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“Mormonism and Masonry” by Samuel H. Goodwin, chap 2

Mormonism and Masonry-slide0
Fair use, to illustrate article's context.

Within this series, we will reproduce the text of Mormonism and Masonry by Samuel H. Goodwin (1862-1951 AD) which was published in 1920 AD and is public domain. It was written to and for Masons/Freemasons.

Portions read like meeting minutes as it covers the inner workings of Masonic administration. Other portions deal with, as the book’s subtitled puts it, the “Origins, Connections and Coincidences Between Mason and Mormon Temple/Templar Rituals.”


Political activities; appointment of John C. Bennett Master in Chancery; Joseph Smith’s pronouncement with reference to candidates; favors Stephen A. Douglas; extraneous influences.

AMONG the sinister forces of the time which reacted unfavorably, politics played no inconspicuous part. With the rapid increase of population at the Mormon capital came a realization, on the part of the politicians of the state, that the Mormon vote was a factor that must be reckoned with. And the concern of the leaders of the two political parties was in no way lessened when they discovered that for all practical purposes, the leaders of the church could turn the Mormon vote to the one party or the other, as their plans or needs might dictate.

If there lingered any doubt on this score in the minds of those who had reason for solicitude it must have disappeared when the prophet unequivocally declared that he and his people would support the men and party who were friendly to their interests [1]. In consequence of this declaration both Whigs and Democrats sought by obsequiousness and flattery, and by ostentatious acts of service and promises of further assistance, to secure this support. Nor were these religionists slow in taking advantage of this situation and using to the utmost the power thus unexpectedly placed in their hands.

At the general conference of the church held early in October, 1840, the decision was reached to petition the Legislature for the incorporation of Nauvoo. In accordance with this plan a committee, including Joseph Smith and Dr. Bennett, was selected to draft the necessary petition and bill. These documents Bennett carried up to Springfield in December of that year. He appears to have been possessed of some ability as a lobbyist, and this, coupled with the persuasive dimensions of the Mormon vote, operating under the “unit rule,” accomplished wonders. When the matter finally came up, it met with no opposition.

In the lower branch only one or two dissenting votes were recorded against the measure, and in the senate, none at all. Indeed, a recent writer declares that in the house, the bill was read by title only. Yet, among the members of the Assembly at that time, were such men, of later national prominence, as Lincoln [2], Trumbull, Bissell, Hardin, Logan and others. And Stephen A. Douglas, then Secretary of State, of Illinois, and leader of the Democratic party, used his influence to expedite-the passage of the bill. This act, granting charter to Nauvoo, was signed by Governor Carlin, December 16, 1840.

This charter, which “included charters for the Nauvoo Legion and the University of the City of Nauvoo,” was of an extraordinary character. The only limitations placed on the powers of the city council were that no law should be passed which was repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, or to that of the state of Illinois. Among other unusual features of this remarkable instrument, was that which authorized the municipal court to issue writs of habeas corpus [3]. This provision, as the sequel shows, was fraught with danger; it was so liable to abuse. And it was abused. It was the misuse of such writs that brought the city and state authorities into conflict, fed the fires of hatred and opposition, and furnished a pretext for mob action.

About the time that the Nauvoo Masons were taking the initial steps in the organization of the lodge, Judge Stephen A. Douglas, then one of the Justices of the State Supreme Court and located at Quincy, visited Nauvoo, addressed the people, was entertained by Joseph Smith, and while there appointed Dr. Bennett Master in Chancery. As noted above, Douglas had aided in securing the passage of the act of incorporation for Nauvoo, and thereby had won the gratitude of the Saints. His action in the present instance greatly increased his popularity with Joseph Smith and his followers, but it subjected him to severe criticism, and “astonished members of both parties by its indiscretion,” the editor of the Warsaw Signal would have us believe. The same writer paid his respects to the appointee with so much of vigor that his strictures drew from Joseph Smith a vitriolic communication, in the course of which the prophet ordered his subscription to the Signal cancelled [4]. That Douglas did not fail to appreciate the political possibilities of the situation and to cultivate the good will of the people of Nauvoo is clearly apparent. On one occasion, for example, he adjourned court, then in session at Quincy, and went up to Nauvoo to witness a review of the Nauvoo Legion [5].

In connection with the political campaign of that year Joseph Smith issued a political pronouncement, referred to on a previous page, which removed all uncertainty concerning the position of the Mormon people and their leaders with reference to the political issues and parties of the day. In this the prophet declared that the Saints did not care a fig for Whig or Democrat; that they all looked alike, and that he would support those who had shown themselves to be friends of the Mormons. Then he added: “Douglas is a master spirit, and his friends are our friends. We are willing to cast our banners on the air and fight by his side”[6] In the gubernatorial election which resulted in the choice of Thomas Ford for governor, the situation had become so tense that the opposing candidate, Joseph Duncan, felt constrained to make opposition to the political activities of the Mormons one of the chief planks in his platform [7]. The election of Ford was counted as “a great Mormon victory” [8].

Enough has been said in the foregoing paragraphs to indicate somewhat of the methods employed by the politicians of those days, and the sacrifices they were willing to make for personal and party advantage. The effort to win the Saints to the support of one political party or the other continued to be a factor in their affairs as long as they remained in Nauvoo, and it was this rivalry to secure their political adherence that made it possible for them to obtain in return such unusual favors and to wield the influence they did in political affairs, and it was this rivalry that made them alternately courted and hated by those who would use them [9].

Another factor which at first blush might seem to be rather remote from the subject, but which none the less militated against the Masonry of Nauvoo, developed in the county to the south of that in which the city of the saints was located. Some time previous to the date upon which Grand Master Jonas issued his dispensation to the Nauvoo brethren, a campaign was begun to secure the removal of the county-seat from Quincy to Columbus. Quincy was the home of Bodley Lodge, while Grand Master Jonas lived in Columbus. Naturally, the Grand Master was in favor of the proposed change, while quite as naturally the prospect of losing the county seat did not commend itself to the people of Quincy and the membership of the Masonic lodge there. A good deal of bitterness was engendered as a result, and feeling ran so high that when the Grand Master sent communications to the Quincy papers in advocacy of the change, those reflectors of public feeling and opinion refused to print them.10 Not to be baffled in his purpose to carry on the fight, Grand Master Jonas and some of his friends went to St. Louis, purchased the necessary printing outfit, shipped it to Columbus and began the publication of the COLUMBUS ADVOCATE, the very name of which indicated the purpose for, which it was established. While this furnished the Grand Master with a medium through which he might express his views, it did not tend to mollify the feelings of the people of Quincy. One result was, apparently, that the members of Bodley Lodge lost no opportunity to embarrass the Grand Master, and the lodge minutes and the proceedings of Grand Lodge show how this situation reacted unfavorably on the Nauvoo lodges [11].



[1] Times and Seasons, vol. III, p. 651. In a communication by Ex-Gov. C. Duncan, of Ill., written in March, 1843, he deals with this very situation in vigorous language. “Let them see,” he writes, “the cringing of ambitious office seekers of both parties at the feet of the Mormon prophet; especially since he published his manifesto, in the shape of a proclamation ..........”. Miss. Valley Hist’l Ass’n, vol. V, pp. 183-84

[2] Abraham Lincoln not only voted for this bill, as indicated in the text, but congratulated Bennett upon its passage, and this in spite of the fact that many of the Saints erased his name and substituted that of his opponent at the last election. Masonic Voice-Review, (new series) vol. X, p. 261; Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, Roberts, p. 81

[3] Historical Record, vol. VIII, p. 754; Masonic Voice-Review (new series) vol. X, pp. 261-62; Times and

Seasons, vol. 11, pp. 284-86

[4] The letter referred to reads: “You will please discontinue my paper; its contents are calculated to pollute me. And to patronize that filthy sheet, that tissue of lies, that sink of iniquity, is disgraceful to any moral man. Yours with contempt. Joseph Smith. P. S. Please publish the above in your contemptible paper.” Warsaw Signal, June 2, 1841; Masonic Voice-Review (new series) vol. X, p. 262. This letter was dated at Nauvoo, May 26, 1841. A careful reading of the editorial objected to (Warsaw Signal, May 19, 1841) fails to disclose sufficient grounds for so much heat. However, the prophet’s communication was given place in the Signal, accompanied by a half jocular, half ironical response, in the course of which the editor dunned Smith for back subscription amounting to three dollars. Warsaw Signal, June 2, 1841. The foregoing matters have a further interest in connection with the subject, in that the criticisms of Bennett and Douglas, in the columns of the Warsaw Signal, brought a response from the editor of the church paper, in the course of which Bennett is given a clean bill of health. Times and Seasons, vol. 11, (June 1, 1841) , pp. 431-32.

[5] Historical Record, vol. VII, p. 494, 761. A letter from Joseph Smith, under date of May 6, 1841, which appeared in the Times and Seasons, gives an account of this occasion, and notes the fact that Cyrus Walker was also present, and that he and Judge Douglas addressed the people.

[6] Times and Seasons, vol. III, p. 651; Sangamo Journal, June 3, 1842. In the issues of the Warsaw Signal for June 2, and 9, 1841, the editor deals with various matters touching the political power wielded by the Saints. Among others is an article on the “Lee County Whig Convention,” at which the Mormon delegates, 180 in number, declared that if their candidates were not nominated the Latter Day Saints’ vote would be thrown to the other party

[7] Historical Record, vol. VII, p. 530. Because of Duncan’s position, “ ... the Church universally voted for Mr. Ford, who was elected Governor.”

[8] The Sangamo Journal, Sept, 9, 1842, quoting from the Wasp, a Nauvoo periodical edited at the time by a brother of Joseph Smith, a representative-elect of Hancock county.

[9] History of the Church, Period 1, Joseph Smith, Roberts, vol. IV, p. xxi., Introduction. Masonic Voice-Review (new series) p. 263

[10] Masonic Voice-Review, (new series) vol. X, p. 299

[11] Reynolds’ History of Freemasonry in Illinois, p. 174-75; Proceedings Grand Lodge, Illinois, 1842, pp. 52-53


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