New release: “General Smith’s Views” on government

This brief (8 page) political pamphlet (on PG here) presents Joseph Smith’s platform for his presidential campaign. Joseph Smith (General of the Nauvoo Legion) ran for President of the United States in 1844 mostly because none of the other candidates were willing to support the Church against mob violence. (The Ensign ran a good story about the campaign a few years ago.)

So, what does it say? Much of the pamphlet is framed by a discussion, that tends to be neglected, of the patriotic history of the United States. It quotes addresses of many previous presidents and speaks highly of their policies, although he’s not enthusiastic about how the “blooming republic began to decline under the withering touch of Martin Van Buren.” This discussion, on the whole, demonstrates a remarkable patriotism by Joseph Smith, especially considering the legal treatment he was repeatedly subjected to.

Platform-wise, it proposes abolishing slavery by using federal revenue to compensate slaveowners for their resulting losses. (If only.) On economics, he expresses support for a “judicious tariff” and a system of national and state banks. He’s in favor of a hands-off foreign policy but supports the expansion of the United States in all directions, saying:

As to the contiguous territories to the United States, wisdom would
direct no tangling alliance: Oregon belongs to this government
honorably, and when we have the red man’s consent, let the union
spread from the east to the west sea; and if Texas petitions Congress
to be adopted among the sons of liberty, give her the right hand of
fellowship; and refuse not the same friendly grip to Canada and Mexico;

He also advocated radical prison reform:

Petition your state legislatures to pardon every convict in their
several penitentiaries, blessing them as they go, and saying to them,
in the name of the Lord, go thy way and sin no more. Advise your
legislators when they make laws for larceny, burglary or any felony, to
make the penalty applicable to work upon roads, public works, or any
place where the culprit can be taught more wisdom and more virtue; and
become more enlightened. Rigor and seclusion will never do as much to
reform the propensities of man, as reason and friendship. Murder only
can claim confinement or death.

Anyways, it’s a fun little document, and gives you some idea of how a prophet might govern.

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