DescriptionEarly Mormon Settlement in Utah: An 1849 Letter. Only two years after Brigham Young established the Mormon settlements in Utah, artist John Sartain offers a lengthy and charitable assessment of the Church of Latter Day Saints, despite the origin of their "faith and the trick by which Joseph Smith accomplished the work..." and predicts "that in a few months they will be erected into a sovereign and independent state under the title of Deseret."
Autograph Letter Signed, "John Sartiain," four pages, 8" x 10", Philadelphia, October 23, 1849, addressed in his hand on the integral leaf to his sister, Ann Sartain Pratt in London. Expected folds, a few minor toned spots, else fine condition.
John Sartain (1808-1897), the English-born artist, printer and publisher, best known for pioneering mezzotint engraving in the United States, updates his sister on the progress of the Mormon settlements in Utah established in 1847. His sister in London apparently had a friend who was planning to emigrate to the United States to join with the Latter Day Saints in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, as Sartain observes that:
"...Judging from indications in your last letter I expect that by this time you have lost your companion Miss Hawkins unless something unexpected delayed the departure of their party. I think you said they were to leave London in September (last month). Well, they have a long and weary way before them, but when they at length reach the valley of the Great Salk Lake and are once settled down, they may bless their lucky stars that the light of Christianity broke on their souls in the shape of Mormonism, since it will save them not merely from the sharks and tigres [sic] of business competition in the persons of professing loving Christian Brethren, who hold a bible up before your eyes that they may cheat you unobserved,--but it will place them in a beautiful and fertile country, with every enjoyment that any reasonable being can desire, (except the opera, which however I do not think by any means regard as reasonable enjoyment) where an ample living can be secured by every body, and then when death comes a parent can die without mourning over the uncertain prospects of his children, doubtful whether they may not have to die of starvation. This is the result of the grand humbug called modern christian civilization, a system expressly adapted to the rapacity of rich land holding nobility, whose trucking lickspittles and jackals are the very reverend christian clergy & the merchants, manufacturers and dealers, these combined and leagued together, tread the working people down into the dust by dexterously appropriating to their own use the produce of the producer, leaving those who have earned it to starve. I congratulate Hawkins from my soul for having the strength and fortitude to lift himself up out of that devil's den of Christian civilization into the free clear pure air of heaven, it is a long pilgrimage to attain it, but worth the labor. The Mormons planted their first settlement at Salt Lake but four years ago and there is more than a thousand miles of desert without water to cross to reach it & yet in this short time it has become a fertile and beautiful place with upwards of sixty thousand people, their state constitution has been formed & sent to Congress for its approval, in which they have inserted nothing that gives their own religion preference over others & here is no doubt that in a few months they will be erected into a sovereign and independent state under the title of Deseret. Whether their belief is a delusion is nothing to the purpose, they are a better people than the other professors and that is enough. The origin of thier [sic] faith and the trick by which [Joseph] Smith accomplished the work I know, & if you take interest enough to wish it I will tell you all about it so if you desire you only have to say so..."
Sartain was an outlier in his sympathy for the Church of Latter Day Saints, who were viewed by most with great suspicion and quite often with outright hostility. The Mormons fled their settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois after a mob murdered Joseph Smith in 1844. Once settled in Utah, under Brigham Young's leadership, the Mormons petitioned Congress to establish the state of Deseret. Their entireties were rebuffed by Congress, who found their practice of polygamy repugnant.
Sartain continues his letter discussing some financial issues and offering an update on his new publishing effort, Sartain's Union Magazine, an established publication based in New York in which he acquired a half interest in 1848 and moved to Philadelphia.
"I have reason to think that next year the Magazine will be very successful, that is, profitable for it is successful now but without being the other. But the first years experience is generally up hill work especially in the matter of profit, still it has done remarkable well to rise from 70000 to 17000 sales monthly in less than four months. I shall not be surprised if our list should reach thirty thousand copies by March next. The expenses are heavy to meet costing about eight hundred dollars a month for the plain white paper alone, and one month cost more than a thousand, so you may guess what the covering it with matter & pictures must add to it. ...we have engaged William Howitt & Mary Howitt & Miss Harriet Martineau of England as contributors for ours solely, & also Frederica Bremer of Sweden, the last is to be our Editors guest while she stays in Phil[Adelphia]. & engages to write for no other Mag. in America. She and two others have been writing for us for months already and we have already received the materials to commence with the others..."
What Sartain failed to mention was that his next issue was to print his recently deceased friend Edgar Allen Poe's poem, "The Bells," which the poet had left him before his demise earlier the same month as the present letter. The poem appeared in the November 1849 issue of Sartain's Union Magazine which would also publish the first authorized printing of Poe's "Annabel Lee," also posthumously, in January, 1850.
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