Joseph Smith’s Voice of Truth Reveals a Secret Enemy Alliance
With the shedding of martyrs’ blood, Joseph and Hyrum were gone. Following a brief respite, John Taylor, though emotionally distraught, returned to some of his duties in the Times and Seasons printing office. There, in the stock room was a new publication printed during that fatal final month of June, 1844. “The Voice of Truth”, drafted by William Phelps under the prophet’s direction, had been intended as a means to articulate a message to all citizens of the country and to promote Joseph’s candidacy for President of the United States.
Included in “The Voice of Truth”, was Joseph’s Views on Government: This pamphlet displayed the intensity of Joseph Smith’s indictment of Van Buren, Benton, Boggs, Calhoun, Clay and a few others. They had dishonored the core values of the Constitution all to perpetuate their own lusts for power and to continue to provide political preferences for their favorites. Political parties were corrupting the integrity of public office. From the pamphlet Joseph expressed his deep concerns for the nation’s welfare:
“Democracy, Whiggery and Cliquery, will attract their elements and foment divisions among the people, to accomplish fancied schemes and accumulate power…
These prophetic utterances were intended to identify those groups of corrupted officials and merchants who planned to smuggle their fortunes at the expense of the masses including the native Indians as victims. They had to be stopped. The prophet went even further by directing attention to the corruptions of a few leaders by name. Their patrons and allies were thus also indicted.
“Then why? Oh! Why! Will a once flourishing people not arise, phoenix like, over the cinders of Martin Van Buren’s power; and over the sinking fragments and smoking ruins of other catamount politicians; and over the wind-falls of Benton, Calhoun, Clay, Wright, and a caravan of other equally unfortunate law doctors…
In this highly charged publication, Joseph drew attention to the political cliques which had permeated the ranks of county, state, and federal governments. Many of the targeted partisan leaders organized to quiet the Illinois prophet leader’s poignant alarms. His murder had been decreed. The clique managers in Missouri, Illinois and the Iowa Territory guaranteed, those executing the cold blooded murders would not experience any convictions.
Prior to the prophet’s decision to participate in the election for the Presidency, he sent letters requesting the opinions of the leading Presidential candidates regarding the unjust treatment of the Saints in Missouri and how they could be recompensed. All of the candidates sent back a very weak response claiming they could do little to help them. On May 13th, 1844 the Prophet finally responded back to Henry Clay, the leading Whig candidate for the American Presidency.
“For the glory of America has departed, and God will set a flaming sword to guard the tree of liberty, while such mint-tithing Herods as Van Buren, Boggs, Benton, Calhoun and Clay, are thrust out of the realms of virtue as fit subjects for the kingdom of fallen greatness; vox reprobi, vox diaboli!”
So it seemed that this “Voice of Truth” was yet to expose the “Voice of Reprobates” and the “Voice of Devils”. Further in the letter Joseph stated with plainness:
“Benton and Van Buren, who make no secret to say, if they get into power, they will carry on Boggs’ exterminating plan to rid the country of Latter Day Saints…”
From the prophet’s writings in the Voice of Truth and the various communications to the Presidential candidates, key focus is given to Senator Benton and Governor Boggs’ evil resolve to eliminate the Mormons. Their reasons included a sense that the Mormons were threatening their secretive economic plans for wealth and power.
The Bank of Missouri had been created by the legislature on Dec. 17, 1816 with Auguste Chouteau as president and an enterprising young man, Lilburn Boggs as cashier. A youthful Boggs was introduced to the aristocracy of St. Louis, namely Auguste Chouteau, William Clark and Thomas Benton. Initially, the Bank of Missouri was relatively stable due to conservative lending practices and because it had the benefit of being the Far Western depository for the United States Government funds. The following year Benton was elected by fellow stockholders to the Board of Directors of the Bank of Missouri.
The image selected for inclusion on the Bank of Missouri bank notes implied a very ambitious pursuit and a very distinct message. The metaphor was straightforward. Front and center was the bust of President Jefferson in recognition of his various Empire of Liberty speeches. In the background a fleet of sailing ships in port, and in the foreground, various forms of cargo of international commerce. The Chouteau’s, Benton, Boggs and the other principals of the Bank of Missouri were committed to achieve what President Jefferson referred to as the noble national endeavor of a commercial transcontinental trade route across America. Benton’s “Road to India” metaphor rose foremost in his personal lifetime pursuits carrying on the Jefferson vision of crossing through the American heartland to secure trade with India, China, Japan and other Eastern trade centers.
Under the domain of the Chouteau aristocracy, St. Louis had evolved as the “Gateway to the West”. As the road extended to the Pacific, St. Louis would be transformed, to the heart of commerce for the entire Continent. Arteries already formed included the Great Mississippi to New Orleans, with the Missouri River feeding into the Mississippi near St. Louis and continuing to the north and westward to the Rocky Mountains. The New England seaboard accessed the Great Lakes through the Erie Canal. Plans to supplement this key artery included construction of the Ohio River and Lake Erie Canal and the Illinois River and Lake Michigan Canal to link with the Mississippi and on south to St. Louis. Various entrepreneurs also anticipated connecting Lake Superior to the Great Mississippi. Other important arteries to be developed included the Des Moines River running westward towards Council Bluffs and the Arkansas River and its extensions. Overland routes were also of extreme importance. The Santa Fe Trail, was of particular interest to Benton and Boggs.
For the previous few years Benton had aligned with many of the leading merchants and political heads in St. Louis. He knew what causes to crusade to further enhance his standing in this dynamic and fast paced community. In June 1819 he published his thirteen point program, targeted to gain favor with the St. Louis Junto gentry, which called for the following:
- The change of the Territorial for the State form of government
- The adjustment of the land titles derived from the late Spanish Government in Upper Louisiana
- Protection of the Missouri frontier- through more military outposts
- Protection for the Missouri Fur traders- by building forts on St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River and at the Mandan villages on the Missouri River, and by abolishing the Federally operated trading posts (factory system) in the Indian areas known as “Indian factories”
- To have the principal salt springs granted back to the people and the inferior ones sold out as private property
- Work the lead mines, and have the mines held in “freehold title” in the hands of enterprisers
- Build a national road to Washington City (Washington D.C.)
- Build a post road to New Orleans (also for merchant operations)
- Post routes throughout the territory
- Post routes between St. Louis and Louisville by way of Vincennes
- Have the federal government establish St. Louis as an official Point of Entry
- Build a canal between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River
- Build a canal to unite the Mississippi and Lake Superior with its copper trade
Benton was elected as U.S. Senator in 1821 in the first election after Missouri received statehood. With this bold and progressive Thirteen Point Agenda, Benton was building a political base to articulate and reinforce key messages to unite and inspire an apathetic electorate to sustain his power quest through an entire political lifetime. But these were just part and parcel to his overall quest to build the “Road to India”. Knowledge of the secret South Pass passage originated with his friend Ramsay Crooks. After his perilous expedition, attempting to evade Indian warriors, his party found a clear passage through the Rocky Mountains, later named as “South Pass”. His employer, John Astor, ordered the discovery silenced. Their unique knowledge could prove greatly fortuitous if it could be exploited before others happened on the same sojourn. Astor, Crooks, and the Chouteau’s needed Benton’s help and received it as planned.
Benton’s bill calling for the closure of the government controlled Indian trading areas also included a provision creating the new position of United States Superintendent for Indian Affairs. Naturally, Benton had flexed his political might to have his friend and fellow St. Louis Junto member, William Clark appointed to fill the new position. The Chouteau’s leading the St. Louis Junto, were still under the domination of the American Fur Company. With the new appointment, Clark’s scope of authority extended to all the Indian lands of the settled United States which included thirty six Indian Nations. He reported only to the President and Secretary of War and was charged with issuing trading licenses, and entry permits for all traders and travelers in Indian settlements.
Clark was to work with the U.S. Army in negotiating treaties, establishing tribal boundaries, arresting lawbreakers, and settling disputes regarding the various Indian tribes. Reporting to him, were fifteen Indian agencies, and ten sub-agencies. Also included on the payroll were agents, interpreters, blacksmiths and clerks.
After the law was passed, the U.S. Indian office sent instructions to Governor Clark:
“In order to satisfy the Indians and to induce them to give assent freely to this measure, you are authorized to distribute among them, presents, in goods, to such amount as may be necessary …taking care to obtain the abrogation on as reasonable terms as possible.”
Few recognized the magnitude of what the junior senator from Missouri accomplished with his Congressional peers. Benton had closed down the federal government trading post network while alleging mismanagement, and replaced the national system with himself as the Senate Chairman of the Committee of Indian Affairs, William Clark as the national Superintendant of Indian Affairs and the Chouteau’s and Pierre Menard paid by the government to assist in negotiating treaties with the Indian tribes and who were granted many of the exclusive licenses for trading with the same Indian tribes.
This new structure allowed William Clark to negotiate treaties and set the amounts of annual annuities the government would fund the Indian tribes. Senator Benton was in the position to ensure Congressional acceptance of the treaties and annuities negotiated by Clark. When the annuity payments were made to the Indians they usually had nowhere to spend it other than the many Chouteau operated trading forts operating under the American Fur Company network. The entire system was being managed primarily by key leaders of the previously aligned members of the St. Louis Junto.
With the closing of the federal trading posts secured by Benton, the key Missouri River Indian post at Fort Osage was to convert to private ownership. As planned, George Sibley previous factor, Lilburn Boggs deputy factor, and Paul Baillio, subagent, all former management of the government owned Fort Osage signed an agreement to purchase the balance of the inventory of trade goods still remaining at the Fort. Sibley was the only one of the three considered worthy of securing the debt necessary to purchase the inventory. He signed personally for the loan of approximately $7,000 to the government for their partnership. Benton, the crafty politician, in this masterful stroke had managed to put Astor and his massive American Fur Company, George Sibley and Lilburn Boggs in his debt.
This group of Sibley, Boggs and Baillio were quite confident of a successful enterprise. They were well known to the Indians and many of the trappers and traders. While in St. Louis, Boggs had become familiar with George Sibley as a close neighbor. Seeking an opportunity to strike out on his own in 1819, Lilburn Boggs left employment with Chouteau, Benton, Reddick and Pilcher of the Bank of Missouri, to start a store in Franklin. While there, the opportunity to work with Sibley presented itself and he became Sibley’s deputy factor at Fort Osage.
Senator Benton earned the nickname “Old Bullion” because of his focus on “hard” money, like gold and silver. Benton believed that the stability of hard currency over paper was important and advantageous to the nation in general and western farmers in particular. Senator Benton was acutely interested in the activities and overall success of the trail marking expedition to Santa Fe. Benton was still focused on developing trade routes with Mexico for more gold and silver bullion. He was anxious to determine if the rivers could provide effective transportation means for merchant trade. He wrote to George Sibley April 12:
“In executing the late act for marking a road to N. Mexico, you will have an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the intervening country… A problem yet to be solved, is to ascertain how much water transportation can be had between Missouri & Mexico. The trade carried on between them will not be in heavy and bulky articles, such as tobacco, flour, whiskey &c. which require large boats and deep rivers; but it will be in dry goods, and light articles, and small boats and shallow streams may be useful. In this point of view it would be well to ascertain the character of the Kanzas, Osage, Arkansas, and of the Rio del Norte as far as the Passo; the periods of high and low water,…”
Senator Benton was again very anxious to enlighten George Sibley as to the extreme importance of his mission. He corresponded from St. Louis on June 30:
“On my return home, I found your Letter of the 24th Inst. The dispositions which have been made for carrying into effect the Act of Congress for marking out the Road to Mexico, are, in my opinion, judicious, and well calculated to ensure the satisfactory execution of the Work.
The appropriation of $30,000 was not made as a limit beyond which, the expenditure was not to go. I put it in myself, and if I had said 10 or 15,000 more it would have passed just as easily. If further appropriations shall be found to be wanting, it will be made, without the least hesitation. In executing the Work, I would wish The Commissioners not to consider themselves limited, either as to time or money. It is not a County or State Road, which they have to mark out, but a highway between Nations, and which when once fixed, cannot be altered for Ages & Centuries to come.”
George Sibley would be engaged in the work of the survey commission taking meticulous time in marking and mapping as they made their way the length of the Santa Fe Trail. He would be gone during 1825 and 1826. In Sibley’s absence, Lilburn Boggs acted as his agent in Jackson County, Missouri.
 Robert Nelson, Enemy of the Saints (Baltimore: Publishamerica, LLLP, 2011), 44
William Nisbet Chambers, Old Bullion Benton (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1956), 90
 Ibid.,88-89 as printed in St. Louis Enquirer June 1819
 Kristie C. Wolferman, The Osage in Missouri (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), 101
 Ibid., 212-213
 Ibid., 213