Painesville Telegraph (Dec. 8, 1832)

Introduction

Many members of the LDS Church have looked to Doctrine and Covenants 87 as one of many proofs for the divine calling of Joseph Smith as a latter-day prophet. This section, said to be given to Joseph Smith on Christmas Day in 1832, seemingly prophesies the coming War Between the States; a war that would not take place for almost another 30 years. Taken out of its historical context, it does seem incredible that Smith could make such a prediction; however, what many Latter-day Saints fail to realize is that rumblings of southern states seceding from the union were being heard long before the war actually began in April of 1861.

Smith’s ability to “predict” the coming Civil War becomes less fantastic when we realize that four days before he came up with the revelation found in D&C 87, a local newspaper called The Painesville Telegraph—located about 11 miles from Smith’s home—had reprinted an article from the December 8, 1832 edition of the Weekly Courier and New York Enquirer entitled “The Crisis.” Though the events leading to the Civil War were far-reaching and very complicated, the author chose in this article to focus primarily on the seditious threats and actions of two southern states, Georgia and South Carolina. Though no one will argue that Smith’s revelation contained more details (many of which did not come to pass), this article stated emphatically that the nation was in severe peril “unless some signal interposition shall arrest the course of events in both these States,” thus showing that a potential Civil War was not an unheard of notion.

We offer for your perusal, The Crisis. Spelling, punctuation, and italics have been left intact.

The Crisis

It has been but too often the ease that petty politicians have sounded the alarm of public danger, when only their own selfish interests were in jeopardy. So frequently has this occurred that the people, like the boy in the fable, hear the cry of Wolf! Wolf! With unconcern, and regarded the most solemn predictions as idle vapouring. But whatever may be the result of the present crisis, or however unheeded the warning, the press will have performed its duty in disclosing the extent of the evil before us, and in contributing its efforts to resist or avoid them.

We have just terminated an election which it is feared may be the last that will be ever held under the present form of government, and many, we might say most, of the ablest men in our nation, have uttered their misgivings. In the brief interval, since that election commenced, the possibilities of dismemberment have increased, and our dangers thickened. Among the first and most prominent indications of the imminency of our peril, we number the recent message of Gov. LUMPKIN to the Legislature of Georgia.

This document was commented upon by many of our contemporaries soon after its appearance. It found favour, however, with few, perhaps none, except among those who are the mere hacks of party. If we have deferred a notice of the publication it is not because we have been unobservant of its bearing. At the present moment, when the public eye is turned to gaze with deep intensity upon the proceedings of South Carolina, it is peculiarly fitting that we should look around and survey the character and full extent of the dangers that beset us.

The doctrines maintained by Gov. LUMPKIN, contain in principle, every feature of nullification; and in practice, are more to be feared than those of Gov. HAMILTON, because resistance is offered to that branch of government which is least capable of enforcing its decrees, by the arm of power. There is another circumstance too, which ought not to be overlooked – The individuals in whose case this great question has been raised were Missionaries – a class of men not often, nor generally popular – and who, in the instance in question, are believed by many, to have undertaken this political crusade for the very purpose of engendering mischief and dissentions. How far this impression may be correct we pretend not to decide. We are not personally their advocate; nor are our sympathies apt to be enlisted on the side of enthusiasts or bigots of any description. But if BUTLER and WORCESTER are bigots, that circumstance cannot impair their rights as citizens, nor impart legality to the acts of Georgia. All history shews that usurpations have been most often accomplished by turning the current of public indignation against obnoxious individuals; and shall wee, because we reprobate particular men, permit the constitution to be pierced, in order to reach them? Shall we Samson-like, pull down the pillars of that constitution, for the purpose of punishing others, when we also must be crushed by its fall? However perverse or misguided the original purpose of the Missionaries may have been, the question is now to be regarded as between the U. States in the department of its judiciary on the one hand, and the State of Georgia, resting on its claimed reserved rights as the pretext for direct, forcible nullification, on the other. Nullification we oppose, in every shape and form – and most promptly of all others, that which asserts its own interpretation of constitutional law to be paramount ad supreme, and resorts to force and violence to sustain it. That Gov. LUMPKIN avows nullification infact, and rejects it only in name, is sufficiently obvious from the most cursory perusal of his message. Towards the end of that communication he adverts distinctly to what he terms “the mystic doctrine of nullification.” He pronounces it to be “unsound, dangerous, and delusive in practice, as well as in theory”; and that “wherever it spreads, it engenders the bitter strifes and animosities, and dissolves the most endearing relations in life.”

Yet this Gov. LUMPKIN, in the former part of the same message, when alluding to the decision of the Supreme Court, says – “I have been prepared to meet this usurpation of Federal power with the most prompt and determined resistance in whatever form its enforcement might have been attempted by any branch of the Federal government.

And what is this but nullification? What casuists can distinguish between it and the doctrines of South Carolina? The latter proposes to nullify an act of the legislative branch of the Federal government – the former to resists by force a decision of the Judiciary branch. The Judiciary is as much a branch of the general government as the legislature and resistance to either is practical nullification. It is true that in South Carolina the parties are respectively designated as Nullifiers and Unionists while in Georgia, the prostrators of the Judiciary have christened their nullification, by the name of Resistance, and contemptuously branded their opponents as Submission-men. But names cannot alter things; — and if Governor LUMPKIN proposes to avail himself of an objection to the phrase, the subterfuge is puerile. The only difference between them is in their application; and of the two sorts of substantial nullification, that of Georgia is the least defensible in principle and the most dangerous in its tendency. It is a direct appeal to the law of the strongest. The “engendering strifes” and “dissolving the most endearing relations in life” is not the climax of its mischief – for it aims at once at armed resistance and CIVIL WAR. It does not propose the peaceable reference of a great constitutional question for the Supreme Judiciary but recklessly nullifies the judiciary itself, at a blow. It does not consent to call a Convention of the States as an advisory body, and promise an ultimate acquiescence in its decision, but claims to be its own arbiter and avenger –”throws itself upon (such) rights as it asserts, ipso arbitrio, to be reserved – and gathering up into the attitude of defiance, bids the Union to come on if it durst! That much is the real meaning of Governor. LUMPKIN, and that he intends to resort to arms in repealing the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court cannot reasonably be questioned for he presses upon the Legislature the policy of organizing a more efficient militia, and recommends the incorporation of volunteer companies throughout the State – for what purpose? – to afford (we quote his words) – “a rallying point, in case of sudden alarm from ANY quarter, foreign or DOMESTIC.”

What then is really the present position of our country? Two states out of twenty-four, have put at defiance two out of the three branches of the General Government! Georgia has set the example of nullification of the Judiciary, which South Carolina is following in relation to Congress. The latterthreatens, what the former has practiced. A few months more will test the permanency of our institutions, and decide the problem whether man is capable of self-government; — for in a few months more, unless some signal interposition shall arrest the course of events in both these States, our national existence is at an end, and ???? may be i