The Yankee Mahomet.
THE YANKEE MAHOMET.
To the Editor of the American Review:
I HAVE thought that at a time when public attention is so generally turned towards the different elements which are mingling to form
the population of the western limits of our country, and the influence which that population must, at no very distant period, exert upon our national destiny, the following sketch of Mormon history might not be uninteresting to a portion of the readers of your Review.
In treating of Mormonism, I propose to state the origin of the system; to explain
its structure; to represent the causes of its past and present rapid dissemination, and to give a sketch of its history from the Establishinent of the "stake" at Kirtland to the present time.
And, first, it will be necessary to relate a few events connected with the origill of the "Book of Mormon," a work which bears to the remainder of the sacred writings of the Mormon Church, a relation similar to that I of the four Gospels and Acts to the more elaborate and didactical Epistles of the New Testament.
Those who were acquainted with the early life of the founder of Mormonism, with his ignorance and character for stupidity, wondered much at the publication of so invention-displaying and elaborate a work, of which he claimed to be sole author and proprietor; and as the prophet daily lived down his own boasts of superior virtue and wisdom, the wonder grew into a suspicion
of the genuineness of his claims of exclusive authorship. A short time served to
give this suspicion basis and confirmation, and a number of affidavits filed almost simultaneously in different parts of New-York and Pennsylvania, and by witnesses between whom there was no opportunity of collusion, showed clearly the sources of the pretended inspiration.
Of these affidavits I shall only give the substance of one of the most important,
which embodies nearly all the information possessed by the world on the subject. I quote from the information given by John
Spaulding, the brother of the subject of the testimony
"Solomon Spaulding was born in Ashford, Conn., A. D. 1761. He graduated at Dartmouth College, and was afterwards regularly ordained a minister. After preaching three or four years, he gave up his profession, and commenced mercantile business, in partnership with his brother Josiah, in Cherry Valley, N. Y., where he soon failed. In 1809 he removed to Conneaut, Ohio, where he engaged himself in building an iron forge; but in this business also he soon failed.
"Casting about him for some method of retrieving his losses, he conceived the design of writing a historical romance upon a subject then much mooted in the scientific world, the origin of the Indian tribes. This design he carried into exe-
cution between 1809 and 1812, and the produce of his labors was a novel entitled the 'Manuscript Found.' In this work lie mentioned that the American continent was colonized by Lehi, the son of Japheth, who sailed from Chaldea soon after
the great dispersion, and landed near the isthmus of Darien. Lehi's descendants, who were styled Jaredites, spread gradually to the north, bearing with them the remains of antediluvian science, and building those cities the ruins of which we
see in Central America, and the fortifications which are scattered along the Cordilleras.
"Long after this, Nephi, of the tribe of Joseph, emigrated to America with a large portion of the ten tribes whom Shalmanezer led away from Palestine, and scattered among the Midian cities. This remnant of Joseph was soon after its arrival divided into two nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites. These nations made war constantly against each other, and in the year A. D. 420, a great battle was fought in western New-York, which terminated in the destruction of the armies of both the belligerent parties, and the annihilation of their power. One man only was left; Mo[r]oni, the son of Mormon, who hid the records of the Nephites near Conneaut, Ohio, previously at his death."
In 1812 Mr. Spaulding went to Pittsburg to negotiate for the publication of
this work. He presented it at the office of Patterson & Lambden, but his proposals were made without success. It seems, however, that the firm did not give him a decided refusal, since the manuscript was left at their office. In 1814 Mr. Spaulding moved from Pittsburg, where he had settled, to Washington county, Penn., where in 1816 he died.
The Yankee Mahomet.
From the above facts, which might be substantiated by a vast amount of confirmative testimony, did our limits permit, we are forced to the conclusion that, previously to his publication of the Book of Mormon, which consists of the historical matter above condensed, and of various prophecies concerning himself, together with a large amount of religious matter, Smith had obtained access to the "Manuscript Found."
How he gained this access it is impossible, with any degree of certainty, to say. We know the Manuscript Found to have been left with Patterson & Lambden in 1812, but all subsequent inquiries as to its fate have been ineffectual. One member of the firm rarely engaged in business, and has forgotten the affair altogether; the other is dead.
We know, however, that Sidney Rigdon, who was next to Smith the most important man in the Church, was an intimate acquaintance of Lambden, and that during the three or four years previous to the publication of the Book of Mormon, he prepared the minds of over a thousand people for sudden conversion to the Mormon faith, by preaching the main doctrines of the system.
Many maintain that it was Rigdon who obtained the manuscript of Spaulding, modified it, chose Smith as his tool and cats-paw wherewith to feel of public opinion, and afterwards joined the sect which he himself had in fact created.
The following testimony, however, although not actually proving any thing to the purpose, would seem to indicate Smith as the originator as'well as prosecutor of the scheme, although I am inclined to think that there did exist an understanding between him and Rigdon long before 1 830, the time of the publication of the sacred writings.
I make an extract from the testimony of Mrs. Spaulding, widow of the author --
"In 1817, the year subsequent to my husband's death, I removed to Onondaga county, in New-York, and from thence to Hartwick, Otsego county, in the same State, having with me a truuk containing his writings. At time latter place I married again; and soon after went to Massachusetts. From 1817 to 1820 the trunk remained at Onondaga Hollow. After my marriage in 1820, it was removed to Hartwick, where it remained until 1832. A man of the name of Smith was, between 1823 and 1827, frequently seen prowling round the house without any ostensible object, so suspicious were his manceuvres, that he was
once or twice arrested as a common vagabond, and only escaped the penalties of the law by running away."
Mrs. Spaulding, at the time of giving this testimony, was old, and family misfortunes had impaired her memory, so as to destroy her recollection of the smaller circumstances attendant upon the removal of the trunk. She remembers, however, that the above-mentioned trunk contained quite a number of writings, at the time when she left it at Onondaga hollow; and although no one was known to have visited it between 1817 and 1832, it was found, by examination in the latter year, to contain but one manuscript, and that unimportant.
The fact that Smith was near this vicinity and engaged in questionable business at
the time, during which his revelations were in course of preeparation, seems therefore, in connection with the others above mentioned, to show that he himself purloined the manuscript, one copy of which had been left with Patterson & Lambden. Spaulding was then the innocent author of the Book of
Mormon, and Smith the plagiarist and impostor who gave it to the world as inspiration.
But to understand thoroughly any system, we must seek in the early life of its founder for those ultimate causes which have given it its peculiar nature and distinguishing characteristics. I think that we may find the elements of Mormonism in the early life of Smith.
Joseph Smith was born on the 23d of December, 1805, in the town of Sharon,
Vt., of poor and vicious parents, whose influence was, in his early years, constantly exerted to suppress the development of any of the higher qualities of the humnan soul to the exercise of which his disposition might incline him.
When he was about ten years old, his family removed to Palmyra, N. Y., in the
vicinity of which they resided about eleven years. His childhood was spent in following the occupation of a money-digger, one in which the ignorance and credulity of his parents constantly promapted them to engage themselves and family, to the great detriment of all industrial pursuits. The mounds and sepulchrcs of the extinct races of our Iand, holding out as they did promises of
treasure to the ignorant, gave, the country over, strong motives to the idle and avaricious
The Yankee Mahomet.
for the continuation of this article please see:
American Whig Review for June 1851