Most Mormons know that Joseph Smith ran for the presidency of the United States. Was it a serious run? Did Joseph really think he was going to win? Dr. Derek Sainsbury will answer those questions, and we’ll talk about Joseph Smith’s Presidential platform. I was surprised to learn that General Joseph Smith was pushing his military expertise!
Derek: On January 29, 1844, they nominate him. And he immediately starts writing a political pamphlet called “The Views of General Joseph Smith,” on the powers and policy of the United States government. And it’s mailed to all the leaders of government in the United States, and to all the major newspapers.
GT: General Joseph Smith! He is emphasizing his military background.
Derek: Right, because obviously he can’t win our election or even affect an election as Prophet Joseph Smith. Right? Because it’s got to appeal to a wider group and he is a general in the Navajo Legion by state commission. In fact, he’s a Lieutenant General. He’s the only Lieutenant General between George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant in the history of the United States.
GT: So who mentioned Lieutenant General?
Derek: Governor Carlin.
GT: Oh really?
Derek: Yeah, not necessarily because he thinks he deserves it, but that’s the commission when they do the Nauvoo Legion. That’s the commission that Joseph Smith requests. Both parties when in those early days, are [courting the Mormon vote.] It’s so evenly split [between] Democrat and Whig in Illinois. They’re stumbling over each other.
You’ll notice a 3-D reproduction of Joseph Smith in his military dress uniform. It was done by a fantastic artist named Adam Worthington. He has kindly allowed me to use it in this video, and if you would like a copy of it yourself, please go to Adam’s website, knowbrotherjoseph.com and you can not only see this amazing reproduction, but other 3-D renderings of Joseph Smith and Emma. These are available for purchase, so please support Adam’s amazing artwork!
Mormons are known to be pretty reliably Republican, at least in Utah. It wasn’t that way in Joseph Smith’s day, because the Republican Party didn’t even exist! Mormons alternated between Whig and Democratic support and were seen as swing voters in Joseph’s Smith’s day. Historian Dr. Derek Sainsbury will tell us more about 19th century presidential politics.
GT: Now, it’s interesting, you said Democrat and Whig because there was no Republican party in 1845.
GT: So, Republicans didn’t exist. Are Whigs, were they pretty similar with Republicans back in the day?
Derek: When the Whig Party falls apart, from the ashes of that, you’re going to get a couple of different parties that coalesce into the Republican Party in the 1860s.
Derek: The Whig Party is in response to what’s happening with this new Democratic Party, and they call themselves the Whigs. So they would make fun of Andrew Jackson. They would call him King Andrew, because he was ruling with this whole spoil system and “What I say goes.”
Derek: The Whigs took on the name Whigs because the Whigs were the the political opposition party in England against the king, against the Tories. So, that’s why they called themselves the Whigs because they were in opposition to King Andrew, Andrew Jackson.
Derek: The Democrats and Whigs are evenly split in Missouri, so much so that this large influx of Latter-day Saints is going to determine politics in Illinois, the whole time they’re there.
GT: So they were the original swing voters.
Derek: Well, yeah, in a major sense. They started to be seen that way, by the time of the election. In 1844, they start to be seen that way by major newspapers back in the east, that not only could they decide the vote in Illinois, but maybe they could decide the vote in a bigger way. There was this perception, too, that we had more people than we actually did have. So there was this perception that something could come out of all of this.
Were you aware of the Mormon vote deciding elections as swing voters? What are your thoughts about Joseph Smith’s run for President?