Buckeye's Laments: Two Early Insider Exposes of Mormon Polygamy and Their Authorship

By Bergera, Gary James | Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Buckeye's Laments: Two Early Insider Exposes of Mormon Polygamy and Their Authorship


Bergera, Gary James, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society


On Wednesday, 7 February 1844, the Whig-friendly Warsaw Message published on the front page of its last issue a satirical poem critical of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, entitled "BUCKEYE'S LAMENTATION for want of more wives." Operating on the western border of central Illinois, along the banks of the Mississippi River some twelve miles south of Nauvoo, the bustling headquarters of Smith's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the Message routinely tweaked the noses of the LDS faithful. As Thomas Gregg, the paper's thirty-five-year-old editor, explained, "THE POEM In another part of this sheet, comes to us post marked 'Nauvoo.' It is not perfect in versification, but contains some hits at the Prophet, his Apostles, and their practices, which most readers will understand."1 Increasingly besieged by critics and renegades, the charismatic Smith learned later that day of the thirteen-stanza, 104-line poem and, according to his official History, immediately dismissed it as "a piece of doggerel ... evidently the production of Wilson Law [a Mormon dissident], and breathing a very foul and malicious spirit."2

A veteran journalist, the feisty Gregg represented a growing number of Illinoisans who were becoming increasingly leery of the Mormons' political and theocratic hegemony.3 Less than five months earlier, in late September 1843, Gregg had editorialized that while he despised "the whole system of Mormonism," he nonetheless urged nonviolence: "Let it suffice for the present to say that our remedy must be a peaceable one-a remedy that will not interfere with the Majesty and Supremacy of the Law! We can advocate no measure of redress that does not carry along with it the doctrine of Obedience to the Laws, from the beginning to the end."4

Two months after its appearance, "Buckeye's Lamentation" together with a longer, but equally cheeky companion poem entitled "The Buckey's [sic] First Epistle to Jo," ran on pages 3 and 1, respectively, of the successor to the Message, the Warsaw Signal, edited by twenty-five-year-old Thomas C. Sharp. (Sharp's Signal was actually the forerunner of the Message. He had sold the paper to Gregg, who renamed it, operated it for several years, then sold it back to Sharp.) Like Gregg, Sharp opposed Mormonism; unlike Gregg, he would eventually advocate its violent overthrow. "War and extermination is inevitable!" he would thunder against the hapless Mormons before year's end. "CITIZENS ARISE, ONE and ALL!!!-Can you stand by, and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS! to rob men of their property RIGHTS, without avenging them. We have no time for comment, every man will make his own. LET IT BE MADE WITH POWDER AND BALL."5

"Buckey's First Epistle," running twenty-two stanzas of six lines each, totaled 132 lines. "Buckeye's Lamentation" reappeared with only minor alterations, mostly the converting of italics to small capital letters, though four words were changed. Two days after both poems' publication on 25 April, Joseph Smith's diary noted his reading the "Warsaw Signal about Mormonism." Smith's later history added that he "read in the Warsaw Signal a vile article against the Saints."6 Since the next issue of the weekly Signal did not appear until 1 May, the thirty-eight-year-old Mormon prophet no doubt had the two poems in mind when he allegedly complained of the paper's contents.

The value of Buckeye's poetry lies not in its creative expression but in its accurate, albeit sensationalized, historical disclosures.7 By 1844, Joseph Smith's doctrine of plural, or celestial, marriage had become one of western Illinois's better-known secrets. Despite his and others' denials, Smith himself had married (or been "sealed" to) some thirty women, while thirty or so of his closest male disciples had taken a total of at least an equal number of plural wives.8 These figures do not include the parents, siblings, children, friends, and neighbors of those involved in the new teaching. The poems evince an understanding not only of polygamy's practice but, just as importantly, of its theology. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Buckeye's Laments: Two Early Insider Exposes of Mormon Polygamy and Their Authorship
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.