The Myth Makers Part 3
Mr. Caswall Meets the Press
Scene: It is the usual TV panel. The participants sit behind
large placards designating them as:
The Reverend Henry Caswall
Reporter No. 1—Mr. Ecks
Reporter No. 2—Mr. Wye
Reporter No. 3—Mr. Zee
The Caswall credentials
Moderator: This evening we have as our guest the man whose story of
Joseph Smith and the Greek Psalter has been voted the most effective single
contribution to anti-Mormon literature; it is, to the best of our knowledge,
the only story implicating Smith in a fraud that has never been questioned. We
shall ask Mr. Caswall’s friend, Mr. W. S. Parrott, to introduce him. Mr.
W. S. Parrott: “In our attempt to exhibit Mormonism in
its truly diabolical character, it gives us satisfaction to be able to appeal
to so high and reliable an authority as the Reverend Henry Caswall, vicar of
Figheldean, and Rural Dean of Salisbury.”1 Ladies and gentlemen, I give
you the unquestioned, the unchallenged, the undoubted, the one and only
Reverend Henry Caswall! (Applause.)
Henry Caswall: Thank you, my friends. “It has come to
pass in the course of Divine Providence, that although I am now the pastor of
an English congregation, I have become well acquainted with the early history of
the ‘Latter-day Saints'; and seen and conversed with their ‘prophet,’ at the
head-quarters of their sect in Western America. And, in consequence of the
information which I have thus obtained, I do not merely think the religion of
the ‘Latter-day Saints’ to be erroneous, but I absolutely know that it is
founded upon a base and vile imposture.”2
Reporter 1: You are speaking, then, from firsthand
Caswall: Oh, absolutely! I am reporting “what I saw of
the ‘prophet’ myself, and heard from his lips.”3
Reporter 1: Speaking of reports, Mr. Caswall, here is the
latest: “It was from a Lancashire nonconformist pastor, the Reverend
Thomas Dent of Billington, near Whalley, that Henry Caswall got much of the
material which enabled him to publish in 1843 his well-known book ‘The Prophet
of the Nineteenth Century.’ ” I take it from this, sir, that all of your
information was not acquired firsthand.4
Caswall: Of course not. I used the usual sources. But what
gives my work unique authority is the part of it that was acquired firsthand.
Reporter 2: Was The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century the
only book based on your experience with Joseph Smith?
Caswall: Certainly not. There were others.
Reporter 1: Would you name them for us?
Caswall: Gladly. Let’s see—first in 1842 there was my
book The City of the Mormons, or Three Days at Nauvoo, an enlarged and revised
edition of which appeared in the following year; a long report on the same book
appeared in the Weekly Visitor in 1842; then in 1843 I published The Prophet of
the Nineteenth Century, which is probably my best-known work. I gave a full
account of my visit to Nauvoo in my book The American Church, published in
1851, and also in a book entitled Mormonism and Its Author, published in the
same year. Those were my principal writings.
Parrott: Mr. Caswall is too modest. He forgets that in 1865
he supplied me with a lengthy manuscript on the subject of his visit to Nauvoo,
which I printed in my own book, The Veil Uplifted, or The Religious
Conspirators of the Latter-day Saints Exposed. Do you remember, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: It was my last major effort.
Moderator: My, that’s quite a record. Six printed accounts,
at least, of your dealings with Joseph Smith—and all written by you
Caswall: All but the report in the Weekly Visitor. That was
Reporter 2: Just how well did you know Joseph Smith, Rev.
Caswall: Well enough. He was “a low juggler, without
character, without education, without common prudence or decency.”5
Reporter 2: Others who visited Nauvoo at the time reported
Caswall: I can only report what I experienced. “But,
besides what I saw of the ‘prophet’ myself, and heard from his lips, I made
many inquiries in the neighborhood of Nauvoo, from which I satisfied myself
that Joseph Smith was even more wicked than I could have supposed.”6
Reporter 2: By “even more wicked” you mean that
you had decided that he was wicked before you ever went to Nauvoo?
Caswall: “It is difficult to imagine a human being more
corrupt, or more destitute of redeeming qualities. . . . [There is] little in
his character besides unscrupulous audacity, reckless falsehood, low cunning,
grovelling vulgarity, daring blasphemy, and grasping selfishness.”7
Moderator: Excuse me, Mr. Caswall, we are not asking for
your opinion just yet; what the gentleman asked, and what we would all like to
know, is just how intimately you were acquainted with Joseph Smith.
Caswall: “The task of delineating the prophet’s
infernal character has been certainly far from agreeable to me.”8
Reporter 2: Yes, sir, we understand that; but let’s put it
this way: How many times did you meet Joseph Smith?
Caswall: Once, but that was enough to satisfy myself that he
“was even more wicked than I could have supposed.”
Reporter 2: That will come later, if you please. How long
did you talk with him? An hour? Two hours?
Caswall: I have recorded our conversation with great care,
naturally. At present I cannot recall precisely how long it might have taken.
Reporter 2: But from every one of the accounts you have
written, sir, it seems to me that your meeting with Smith could not possibly
have taken more than ten minutes at the most. That is why I am asking you now.
Your name and fame rest on the much-publicized pronouncement that you “have
seen and conversed with the prophet”; you have published no less than five
books which derive their high authority from that one conversation. Naturally
we want to know how close you were to Smith—no offense.
Caswall: None in the least, sir, though I fail to see how
you arrive at your limit of ten minutes.
Reporter 2: Very easily. In all your reports of the affair
you were introduced to Smith and without any preliminaries you both sat down;
you gave him a book and asked him one question; he asked you a short one in
reply to which you answered in a single short sentence; then he gave a speech
of some fifty-five words and you changed the subject of conversation and asked
Smith a short question to which he did not reply, leaving the room immediately
and without explanation. That was the last of your one and only meeting with
Joseph Smith. It may have lasted ten minutes, but it could all have been over
in three. Even if you dragged it out, it seems from your various accounts that
hardly a hundred words could have passed between you. Now what kind of a . . .
Moderator: I am sure the Reverend Caswall will explain all
this in the course of our interview. Mr. Zee, we have not heard from you.
Reporter 3: I would like to ask Mr. Caswall where these
reports were published.
Caswall: In England, sir.
Reporter 3: All of them?
Caswall: All of them.
Reporter 3: England and America were very far apart indeed
in the 1840s. Did the great width of the ocean in those days give you a measure
of immunity from criticism by publishing in England?
Moderator: Oh, come now, sir; Mr. Caswall can hardly be
asked to take such insinuations seriously. Why do you ask such a question?
Reporter 3: Because the editor of an American journal
reviewing Mr. Caswall’s book in 1843 raises the point. The English reviewers
described Mr. Caswall as an intrepid hero who had “visited ‘an utmost
corner of the habitable globe—or the haunts of a megalotherion,’ ”
an impression which Mr. Caswall’s own writings vividly confirm. The American
editor feels that our friend’s book has grossly misrepresented things; he
writes: “If Professor Caswall has, by his book or otherwise, contributed
in any measure to confirm the prejudices of the British press against our
country and our institutions; if he joins in with the blind and stupid slang of
such publications as the article under consideration [that is, the English
review of his book], we would counsel him to remain in ‘sound, enlightened, and
Protestant England.’ “9 This man feels strongly that you have an ax to
grind, Mr. Caswall.
Caswall: Well, of course the friends of the Mormons could
hardly be expected to applaud my exposures.
Reporter 3: This man I have quoted is no friend of the
Mormons, I can assure you—he hates them as much as you do, for he is the
editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review, from which I have been quoting; he
says of the reviewer who praises your work, “By the way, some of the
reviewer’s statements savor not a little of ignorance of American affairs in
general, and of the facts he undertakes to represent.”10
Moderator: One cannot expect a visitor to a country to be an
expert in everything, sir. Perfect knowledge of affairs is too much to hope
Reporter 3: But an unprejudiced report of what one actually
sees is something else. Our reviewer says that the terms in which Mr. Caswall
depicts the American frontier “to an American, sound really ludicrous,”
which suggested to me that a book written and published in England about Nauvoo
might get away with a good deal, especially since the reviewer observes: “We
would advise him [Mr. Caswall], that with such narrow and prejudiced views of
America . . . he will not long be allowed to teach the youth of the
enlightened, enterprising, and chivalrous west. Even a ‘divinity’ chair cannot
long be occupied by such a ‘professor’ in any portion of the republic.”11
Moderator: Obviously the man was wrought up—his
patriotism is touched, but he does not object to what Mr. Caswall says about
the Mormons, does he?
Reporter 3: He does not accuse him of prejudice towards the
Mormons, but only of extreme superficiality in describing their teachings and
practices. He specifically takes him to task for presuming to write about the
Book of Mormon without having read it. After all, if Mr. Caswall was “narrow
and prejudiced” where America in general was concerned and where no
religious or moral sentiments were involved, and if he was willing to express
his prejudice in distortions that “sound really ludicrous,” what are
the chances of his giving a cool, impartial account of his arch enemy, Joseph
Man with a grievance
Caswall: Arch enemy? I admit, what I have said about Smith has not
been very flattering, but what gives you the idea that he was my particular
Reporter 3: Your dramatic account of your soliloquy on the
bank of the Mississippi on your first evening in Montrose. Do you remember? You
had just arrived at Montrose, across the river from Nauvoo, which you planned
to visit for the first time on the following morning. You walked up and down on
the shore and gazed at the city across the river, bathed in the golden light of
the setting sun. Do you remember the reflections that passed through your mind
Caswall: How can I forget them? I said to myself on the eve
of my momentous visit to the Mormon headquarters, “Why is Kemper College,
the first and only institution of the Church beyond the Mississippi, permitted
to languish, while the Mormon temple, and the Mormon university offer their
delusive attractions to the rising generation? Why is the venerable Bishop of
Illinois permitted to labor almost alone, while the missionaries of Joseph
Smith, with a zeal worthy of the true Church, perambulate his diocese and plant
their standard in every village?”12
Reporter 1: So you viewed Smith and his missionaries as
trespassers on your ecclesiastical domain, perambulating your bishop’s diocese
Caswall: It was worse than that. He was stealing our people.
It was the sight of “immense numbers of English Mormons, who passed near Kemper
College on their way to the prophet and the temple” that induced me to go
there myself;13 I was animated by “nothing but a sense of duty of
Reporter 3: Joseph Smith’s success with “your people”
Caswall: As I said then, “Oh! how mournful to look
around, as I can at present, and to reflect, how many have been enticed away
from their homes, dragged across earth and sea, and brought to this unwholesome
spot, where, with the loss of substance and of health, they are too often left
to perish in wretched poverty and bitter disappointment.”15
Reporter 1: What is Kemper College, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: You mean you don’t know, sir? I am depressed to
hear you ask that. I, sir, was the dean of Kemper College, sent to “these
melancholy regions” to establish an institution of higher learning for the
training of the clergy.
Reporter 2: Whatever happened to Kemper College?
Caswall: That is a painful question, sir. The promised
divinity students never showed up; those students who did come never got around
to paying their tuition; the house generously promised by the trustees of the
university as a shelter for my family in those remote regions was never built;
bickering and mismanagement, for which I was in no way responsible, led from
one thing to another. The college came to nothing, while the Mormon university
flourished, and I returned to England and the obscurity of a country parish.16
Moderator: Hardly obscurity, sir. From there you rocked the
world with your books against Joseph Smith.
Reporter 2: Did you hold Smith responsible for the ruin of
Caswall: I resent that question.
Reporter 2: Excuse me, but you specifically contrasted the
declining cause of your church with the zeal and success of the Mormon
missionaries, and deplored the languishing, as you called it, of Kemper College
in face of the “delusive attractions” of the Mormon university. It
was you who suggested a keen sense of rivalry. Did you recommend any steps
towards meeting the Mormon threat?
Caswall: Indeed, I suggested that “the appointment of a
self-denying missionary to reside in the immediate vicinity of Nauvoo might in
some degree check the rising heresy,” and I also pointed out that “the
success of Joseph Smith appears to warrant a system of emigration and
settlement conducted on religious principles.”17
Reporter 2: Most interesting. You suggested that the best
way to further the cause of your own church in the new land and the success of
your own assignment would be to copy Joseph Smith’s missionary and emigration
policies. You actually reported that Smith’s success warranted an imitation of
his methods. Plainly you were competitors in the same business, and he was
getting the best of it in everything. If Joseph Smith was not actually
responsible for the demise of Kemper College and your own life’s hopes, he was
guilty of succeeding at every point where you had failed. We can certainly
understand your emotional involvement here, and if, as the Methodist reviewer
pointed out, you allow your prejudices to get the best of you in describing
everything in western America, we can hardly expect a fair or impartial picture
of Joseph Smith.
Caswall: I do not resent the virtues or the successes of the
Mormons, but only their crimes. I found the Mormons to be good, devout people, “but
I believe that the leaders of the Mormon sect have been, from the very first,
people of the worst character; atheists in religion, and utterly corrupt in
practice.”18 Smith himself had no virtues; as I said, “It is
difficult to imagine a human being more corrupt, or more destitute of redeeming
Reporter 1: Yet you recommended imitating his religious
activities, both in sending out missionaries and in conducting migrations “on
Caswall: It was not his religious principles that were
objectionable; when the “furious multitude . . . put the false prophet to
death,” it was “not on account of his religion, but for his crimes.”20
Reporter 3: And you yourself were a witness to those crimes?
Caswall: What I saw of the prophet himself and heard from
his own lips “satisfied me that he was even more wicked than I had
Reporter 2: “Even more wicked” means that you
approached Smith with the fixed idea that he was very wicked; and you were not
dismayed or surprised but “satisfied” to find him so.
Caswall: I have so described him. Even “Sidney Rigdon .
. . published a letter in the American papers describing the prophet as one
polluted mass of corruption, iniquity, and fraud—a beast and a false
Reporter 2: Indeed. And in what American papers was that
sensational letter published?
Caswall: I cannot tell you now. If I had it I would quote
Reporter 1: Why don’t you quote it in your book? As a
Christian and a clergyman, how can you say such things of one who did you no
Caswall: “Although it is not in general a Christian
duty to speak ill of any one, especially after he has gone to answer for
himself before his Judge, yet in the case of a deceiver, whose lying doctrines
are perverting thousands from the right way, the ordinary course of duty is
Reporter 2: So in the case of Smith alone the normal rule of
Christian charity and “the ordinary course of duty” are not only
suspended but reversed, so that to speak ill of him is a duty. And why? Because
of his doctrines—you did not say his crimes, but his “doctrines.”
Caswall: I said “lying doctrines” that “have
perverted thousands from the right way.”
Reporter 2: But doctrines nonetheless . . .
Caswall: That “have perverted thousands from the right
Reporter 2: From “the right way” as you see it.
Smith’s crime is that he has found believers of his doctrines.
Reporter 1: How about his followers? You describe them as “respectable”
and sincere Christians. Do you think they suffered deservedly at the hands of
Caswall: I did not call it a mob but a “furious
multitude.” However, “is it not plain that the persecutions of the
Mormons were not persecutions ‘for righteousness sake,’ but the direct
contrary? And when the wrath of an American community was once roused, and the
Mormons were driven out of neighborhoods which loathed them, we can scarcely
wonder, however we may regret, that the innocent should often have suffered for
Reporter 3: Will you not as a minister let God be the judge
in these things?
Caswall: “As I am a minister of Christ, bound by my
Ordination Vows ‘to be ready to drive away from the Church all erroneous and
strange doctrines,’ it is of course my duty to guard my parishioners and others
against being led astray by the false teachings in question.”25
Reporter 2: There you go again, Mr. Caswall! The real issue
is one of “strange doctrines” and “false teachings.” You
say, sir, that Smith was not murdered for his religious teachings but for his
crimes: yet when we ask you what his crimes were, you can only refer us to his
religious teachings. Don’t you believe in charity towards your enemies?
Caswall: “With the knowledge which I possess on the
subject, I should be showing a great want of charity to my countrymen, if I
willingly suffered them to think well of the ‘Latter-day’ doctrine. Nor have
they any right to call me their Enemy, because I tell them the Truth. . . .
[Smith was] a mere cheat and delusion, pernicious to man, and hateful to God.”26
Reporter 2: “Doctrine” again. I also notice that
you speak to Englishmen as one possessing special and firsthand knowledge. You
are obviously out to take the fullest advantage of your position, addressing
yourself to a public that is in no position to question your “firsthand”
report; you have declared it your policy to show no mercy and no quarter where
the Mormons are concerned—to do so, you say, would be “to show great
want of charity” to your countrymen. You have voiced frustration and rage,
singling out Joseph Smith as the special object of your wrath. A fellow
minister and anti-Mormon has protested your obvious prejudice and your
lamentable tendency to exaggerate. Now the question is: since you are the only
witness to the story you tell about Joseph Smith, how far is that story to be
Caswall: As I have just told you, no matter how fiercely I
attack this monster, no matter how the Mormons may resent my words, they do not
have “any right to call me their Enemy, because I tell them the Truth.”
Nothing but the truth?
Reporter 1: Since absolute truth is the vindication of your position,
Mr. Caswall, it is very important for you not to indulge in any
misrepresentation or exaggeration whatever, though, according to your Methodist
reviewer, you are prone to those weaknesses. What did you say was the title of
your first original report?
Caswall: My first book about my experiences with Joseph
Smith was entitled The City of the Mormons, or Three Days at Nauvoo.
Reporter 1: Were you three days at Nauvoo?
Moderator: Mr. Ecks, surely nobody questions that part of
Mr. Caswall’s story.
Reporter 1: I am not questioning it. I am trying to find out
what Mr. Caswall means by “Three Days at Nauvoo.” Could you tell us
how you spent your first day in Nauvoo, Professor? How many hours did you pass
in the town?
Caswall: That was Sunday, 17 April 1842, I crossed the river
just in time to attend the Mormon church service there, which began at about
half past ten o’clock and lasted almost until two in the afternoon.
Reporter 1: Then what did you do?
Caswall: I had lunch at an inn and returned immediately to
Reporter 1: So allowing a full hour for lunch, you were only
five hours in Nauvoo at the most on your first day, and the time was all spent
in a public religious meeting and in a public eating house. That would hardly
give you the time or opportunity to look into the most dark and secret crimes
of the Mormons. When did you cross the river to Nauvoo, the next morning?
Caswall: At ten o’clock. I went straight to Joseph Smith’s
house, but he wasn’t home, so I saw some exhibits, conversed with some Mormons,
and went back to Montrose again.
Reporter 1: According to one of your accounts you spent the
afternoon riding on the prairie around Montrose with an anti-Mormon friend. And
what did you do on the third day?
Caswall: That was when I met Joseph Smith. I crossed the
river with a Mormon doctor, went directly to Smith’s house, and conversed with
him there. Then I had a lively religious discussion with some of his followers.
It is all recorded in my writings.
Reporter 1: And then?
Caswall: And then I returned again to Montrose and “during
the remainder of the day, I employed myself in obtaining testimony from the
persons residing in Iowa in reference to the character and conduct of their
Mormon neighbors. I have every reason to believe that this testimony is
correct, partly because it agrees with what I myself saw in Nauvoo, and partly
because of the character and respectability of the witnesses.”27
Reporter 1: What sort of things did those witnesses report
of the Mormons that were so terrible?
Caswall: Well, for one thing, they said that the Mormons
preached that they had a right to steal anything they wanted.28
Reporter 1: And this astonishing accusation is borne out by
what you yourself saw in Nauvoo?
Caswall: It is.
Reporter 2: Yet you mention no crimes witnessed in any of
your books. You report that the Mormons were not only well behaved but kind and
hospitable in their treatment of you. How can such behavior “agree”
with the atrocity stories you gathered in Iowa?
Moderator: How did we get on this subject?
Reporter 1: We were testing Mr. Caswall’s claim that he used
only truth as his weapon, and I pointed out that he entitled his first book
Three Days at Nauvoo. Now I have done a little figuring and it turns out that
of the seventy-two hours Mr. Caswall is supposed to have spent among the
Mormons at Nauvoo, at least sixty hours, or five-sixths of the time was spent
among the anti-Mormons of Montrose! It was there that he did his real research,
which consisted not in seeing with his own eyes but in gathering gossip. I am
wondering if his claim of absolute truth will hold up, in view of such things.
Caswall: I resent that, sir. There was far more to it than
that. Right among the Mormons “I met with persons at Nauvoo, who were
perfectly acquainted with the wickedness of Smith, and did not even pretend to
deny it, who yet professed to believe firmly that he was a true prophet.”29
Reporter 2: That is remarkable indeed, to be “perfectly
acquainted” with the man’s incredible wickedness and still believe in him.
He was wicked, you said?
Caswall: I assure you, sir, such were his awful profanations
“that nothing but a sense of duty in exposing imposture could have induced
me to commit them to paper.”30
Reporter 3: That’s putting it strongly enough, and certainly
if you found Mormons in Nauvoo who admitted “the wickedness of Smith,”
your long trip was worth the trouble. But tell me, Mr. Caswall, why didn’t you
mention this all-important fact until your last paper on the subject, in 1865?
Caswall: What do you mean?
Reporter 3: In your various books based on your visit to
Nauvoo you milked the situation for all it was worth, yet the presence of loyal
followers of Smith in Nauvoo who were “perfectly acquainted” with his
“wickedness” you did not report until your parting shot in 1865. It
was not until twenty-three years after your first report that you remembered
the most damning evidence of all.
Caswall: It must have slipped my mind.
Moderator: Come, gentlemen, let us get to Mr. Caswall’s
story. I hope the Reverend Caswall will understand that these gentlemen of the
press are quite frank and searching and won’t take offense.
Reporter 2: Before we leave the subject of prejudice I would
like to ask Mr. Caswall about one charge he brings against Joseph Smith, or
rather three charges; namely, that Smith was an adulterer, a murderer, and a
thief. Did you make those accusations, sir?
Caswall: Not three charges, sir, but six.
Reporter 2: These three will do. You said you could prove
these things. How do you prove the first one, that Smith was an adulterer?
Caswall: “There is evidence that, early in his career,
he was heard to say, that ‘adultery was no crime.’ “31
Reporter 2: You only met Smith at the end of his career, and
the same is true of the “neighbors” you interviewed in Iowa, so for
all you know the “evidence” from “early in his career”
might have been trumped up; even so, you don’t say what the evidence was, or
how much “is available,” and what the evidence is supposed to prove.
Not that Smith practiced adultery, but simply that “he was heard to say”
something about it which any smart-aleck might have said. Have you better “evidence”
that Smith was a murderer?
Caswall: I have the best. For on page 218 of Smith’s own
book, the Doctrine and Covenants, occurs the expression, “thine enemy is
in thine hand.”32
Reporter 2: Well?
Caswall: That proves that Smith was a murderer.
Reporter 1: The expression referred to is, I believe, a
biblical one. Doesn’t it occur a number of times in the book of Job? The Lord
told Satan that Job was “in his hand”—yet that did not mean
that Job was to be killed; quite the opposite, Satan was to be held responsible
for what happened, and Job was definitely not to suffer death.
Moderator: Come, gentlemen, let’s not get involved in a
Reporter 1: Not at all. The point is that the passage
referred to, taken in or out of context as you will, cannot possibly be
construed as evidence of intent to murder, let alone of its commission.
Reporter 2: Come, Mr. Caswall, as you know, what interests
us is your personal testimony as to Smith’s doings.
Caswall: And it is on that very personal testimony that I
rest my charge that he was a thief. Smith actually “said these words, as I
am informed by one who heard him.”
Reporter 3: Just a moment, sir. Did you hear him say the
Caswall: The next best thing to it: one of the people I
talked with in Montrose, one of Smith’s neighbors, told me. And he was actually
there and heard him say it!
Moderator: Very well, and what did he hear him say?
Caswall: “He said, . . . ‘The world owes me a good
living: if I cannot get it otherwise, I will steal it; and catch me at it if
you can.’ “
Reporter 2: Who told you that?
Caswall: Never mind, it was somebody in Montrose. It makes
no difference who said it, since Smith made his remark at a public meeting
attended by large numbers of people.
Reporter 1: There were non-Mormons present at the meeting?
Caswall: Of course. My informant was not a Mormon; he was
present and heard it.
Reporter 2: Mr. Caswall, you have said that Smith was
remarkably successful in his bold and ambitious plans. To what do you attribute
Caswall: To his “low cunning” and to “a
genius . . . fertile in its expedients.”33
Reporter 2: Yet this uncommonly shrewd and cunning man gets
up in a big public meeting and, speaking for the record, tells his followers
and his enemies alike that he intends to steal. Do you expect us to believe
Caswall: But he did steal, “he has not a valid title to
a single acre of land around Nauvoo!”34
Reporter 2: Who said so?
Caswall: A man who lived near Nauvoo, in a letter he wrote
to me personally.35
Reporter 2: I suppose that makes it personal testimony. But
you don’t know, sir, who it is that bestows title to land?
Caswall: Governments do, of course.
Reporter 2: Yes, we will not have to go into that. Now if
Smith had no valid title to the land, why did no authorities of county, state,
or nation accuse him of trespassing? That is one type of theft that the Mormons
could not possibly have gotten away with.
Caswall: Well, actually I did not repeat that charge in my
later books. That was in the 1843 edition. In 1851 I wrote that “Smith . .
. purchased the site of the new city at a small price (the title being
insecure), sold building lots to his followers at a great advance, and realized
enormous profits.”36 He was still a thief, you see—he stole from
his own followers.
Reporter 2: So you shift your ground from year to
year—very convenient. Did Smith make his followers buy lots?
Caswall: The same man who wrote me the letter told how “the
history of every dupe reaches Nauvoo in advance, . . . facts being faithfully
reported to the Prophet. He knows how to approach the man when he arrives, and
make him an easy prey. So that all who join the Mormon community enter upon the
the road to beggary and ruin. . . . They desire nothing more of a man than his
money, and he is then at the mercy of the leader of the Mormon Banditti.”37
Reporter 2: Yet in the very year you published this letter,
you visited Nauvoo and described the people in general as having an “appearance
quite respectable, and fully equal to that of the better sort of dissenters . .
. in England,” while some of the Mormons who talked with you and
entertained you were described as looking very prosperous and respectable. Are
you trying to tell us now that these people were all ruined beggars?
Caswall: My basic evidence for Smith’s thievery is a passage
in the Book of Covenants: “It is meet that my servant Joseph should have a
house built.” That definitely proves that “Smith was a Covetous Man.”38
Reporter 3: But Mr. Caswall, didn’t you expect the trustees
of Kemper College to build you a house?
Caswall: We won’t go into that. You must also remember that “Smith
was a Profane Swearer.” I can prove that.
Moderator: Go right ahead, sir, prove it.
Caswall: He told some people who had come from England “that
he meant to go on as he had begun, and take his own course, and kill and
Reporter 1: Who were the people he said that to?
Caswall: Some of his converts who had just arrived from
Reporter 2: A most tactful introduction, I must say. But
even so I fail to see how that makes him “a profane swearer.” Wouldn’t
it have been much better to use that as evidence that he was a murderer? Why
Caswall: You have already objected to hearsay evidence.
Reporter 3: People who intend to kill and destroy in
civilized or any other society do not go about announcing the fact to their
simple and honest followers. For a clever deceiver Smith seems to have used
singularly unguarded language. What could have made him so careless?
The drinking stories
Caswall: Drink, no doubt. “Although a married man and the father
of a large family, Joseph Smith is notoriously addicted to several kinds of
gross debauchery. He has often been intoxicated; and has sometimes justified
his inebriation by asserting, with characteristic invention, ‘that it was
necessary that he should be seen in that condition to prevent his followers
from worshipping him as a God.’ “41
Reporter 2: You say “often intoxicated.” Can you
give us a few examples?
Caswall: Certainly. “About the year 1840, at a
political meeting in Nauvoo, Joseph became intoxicated, and was led home by his
brother Hyrum. On the next Sunday he acknowledged the fact before his assembled
Reporter 2: You got that story from the Mormons?
Caswall: Of course not. It was told me in Iowa—it was
there that I gathered the stories of the prophet’s drunkenness.
Reporter 2: In this case your informant was not even sure of
the year in which the interesting event took place. Can’t you be more specific?
Caswall: Indeed I can: that is the advantage to doing my
research in Montrose, since the Mormons, of course, would not report such
things. Let me tell you: “A shop for the sale of ardent spirits having
been established at Montrose, a small place opposite Nauvoo, over the river,
the ‘prophet’ was often seen intoxicated there by persons who mentioned the
fact to me.”43
Reporter 2: So Smith often got drunk in the small
anti-Mormon town of Montrose?
Reporter 2: And in that state was often seen by the people
Caswall: They told me so personally.
Reporter 2: How would Smith behave on those occasions?
Caswall: “While intoxicated at Montrose, . . . he was
heard by several persons saying to himself, ‘I am a P.R.O.F.I.T. I am a
P.R.O.F.I.T.’ spelling (or rather misspelling) the word deliberately, and
repeating the letters in solemn succession.”44
Reporter 2: So though this clever Smith “with
characteristic invention,” as you put it, asserted that he should be seen
drunk by his followers lest they think him a God, he preferred to do his
drinking among his enemies. Was there perhaps a danger that they might think
him a God?
Caswall: Don’t be absurd, sir.
Reporter 2: But what could be more absurd than that a clever
man with enormous resources at his disposal, when he gets a taste for liquor,
must go to a country store across the river to do his drinking publicly among
your anti-Mormon friends? Somehow, Mr. Caswall, your story does not sound too
Caswall: Actually, sir, it is mild and conservative compared
with one eyewitness report.
Reporter 2: Indeed, and what report is that?
Caswall: That of Robert Richards, in The Californian Crusoe.
You must have it here.
Moderator: We do. This man was a fellow countryman of yours,
Mr. Caswall. His book was published in 1854.
Caswall: He tells much the same story I do, if you will take
the trouble to read it.
Moderator: Hmm, let’s see. Here it is. I will read the
Having occasion to cross the river to Montrose [it seems he
is passing through on his way to California] . . . I happened . . . on leaving
the ferry-boat to take a path which conducted me near a shop which had been
established for the sale of whiskey. I heard a voice which sounded like that of
the prophet, and looking over a fence I saw Joseph Smith himself lying alone on
the grass, with a whiskey bottle by his side, and decidedly far gone in a state
of intoxication. He was talking and laughing, and evidently congratulating
himself, in a soliloquy, on the success of his devices. “I am a prophet,”
he said, “a profitable profit; a profitable prophet indeed I am.
Prophetical profits are good profits, very good profits, capital good profits,
I’ll be hanged if they ain’t. The saints are a pack of fools; but I am a prophet,
a profitable prophet, a prophetical, prophesying, profitable prophet. What was
Mahomet compared with me? He was a jackass. What was Napoleon? He was a
numbskull. What was Alexander? He was a blockhead. I am a greater man than
Moses,—hurrah!—I am a greater man than
Moses,—hurrah!—hip, hip, hip, hurrah!”45
Reporter 2: Mr. Richards heard all that—and remembered it?
Moderator: He says here, “I might have heard much more,
but I retreated precipitately, full of horror and consternation.”46
Caswall: This experience, some years after mine, shows how
often Smith went to Montrose to get drunk.
Reporter 1: Giving his “profit” soliloquy on
Tuesdays and Thursdays for tourists.
Reporter 2: One would think that his faithful followers
would have discouraged such regular behavior. Dear me! Smith not only goes
among his enemies to get drunk and deliver his loud and revealing monologue in
public, but chooses a back lot near the ferry for his scheduled demonstrations.
Reporter 3: Mr. Caswall, this is even a better story than
yours. Do you believe it? Soliloquies are unconvincing even on the stage, but
apparently Joseph Smith, one of the busiest and most conspicuous public figures
in American life, had the time and inclination at the height of his career to
make repeated trips to Montrose to make a spectacle of himself, lying about in
vacant lots and crowded country stores and loudly proclaiming to the world that
he was a fraud.
Reporter 2: It seems that both you and Mr. Richards found
Smith to be exactly the kind of character you expected, Mr. Caswall, and were
both filled with exquisite loathing—Mr. Richards “retreated
precipitately, full of horror and consternation” when he was right on the
verge of getting a priceless earful, while you passed up every chance to know
Smith and the Mormons well, refusing repeated invitations to stay with them
free of charge, and cutting off your conversation with Joseph Smith when it had
Caswall: I assure you, sir, “only the duty of exposing
imposture could have induced me to commit the awful profanations of the man to
Reporter 2: Yet you revel in them. You pounce on the most
lurid tales with the least possible proof in the way of evidence and milk them
for all they are worth.
Caswall: I beg your pardon, sir!
Reporter 2: Didn’t you write this? “We believe that he
[Joseph Smith] is constantly sending out emissaries to do deeds of darkness and
abomination throughout the land. Many here are afraid to speak out, because
they well understand that their lives and property will be in danger.”47
Caswall: I did write it; and you can see from that why there
was so little evidence. Even so, I saw plenty with my own eyes.
Reporter 2: You say in your 1843 book that after attending a
meeting in Nauvoo on your first day there, you promptly returned to Montrose,
and “during the remainder of the day, I employed myself obtaining
testimony from persons residing in Iowa in reference to the character and
conduct of their Mormon neighbors.”48 These reports you describe as
uniformly horrifying and declared of your own personal knowledge that they were
Caswall: Because they agreed “with what I myself saw
and heard in Nauvoo.”50
Reporter 2: That is just it. You had spent a few hours of a
quiet Sunday in Nauvoo—at meeting, with the general public
invited—yet what you managed to see and hear confirmed beyond doubt all
the stories of murder and robbery you picked up in Iowa. It is hard to believe
that you came to Nauvoo with an open mind.
Caswall: Well, what should I think? Here at that meeting
were “numerous groups of English emigrants, together with many little
children, who had been removed from the privileges of their mother Church, and
led by their besotted parents into this den of heresy, to imbibe the principles
of a delusion worse than paganism.”51
Reporter 2: And it was in that state of mind that you
entered the meeting. No wonder you found what you wanted to in Montrose. And
may I again point out that the specific crime—the only crime you could
Caswall: I did not make up the stories.
Reporter 1: Of course you didn’t, sir. Such stories were
being told everywhere. That has made me rather curious about your informants.
Who were the people in Montrose who told you all these things about the
Caswall: My principal informant was my kind host in
Reporter 1: How did he get on with the Mormons?
Caswall: He hated them with all his soul, while the Mormons
on their part “used the most violent language” against my kind
entertainer; they “said that he was their bitter enemy and persecutor,
that he was as bad as the people in Missouri, and that I should not believe a
word that he said.” They most earnestly importuned me not to stay at his
Reporter 1: And it was at his house and under his direction
that you picked up all those stories about Smith’s drunkenness and Mormon
Caswall: It was.
Reporter 1: So out of the seventy-two hours that made up
your famous “Three Days in Nauvoo,” at least sixty of them were spent
at Montrose with this man and his friends, whom the Mormons considered their
worst enemies and unqualified liars.
Caswall: They were prejudiced, the Mormons, that is.
Moderator: Well, gentlemen, we must be getting on, here.
Have we made any progress?
Reporter 2: I think we have. I think Mr. Caswall plainly has
the will, motive, and trained capacity to exaggerate when he speaks of Joseph
Caswall: You did not know Smith as I did, sir!
Reporter 2: By a difference of five (or shall we allow ten?)
minutes. I don’t wish to be captious or insulting, Mr. Caswall, but here is
this fiendishly clever Smith, successful as you say, in his great enterprises,
his followers convinced that he is a man of God—all depends on his skill
as a deceiver to keep up the game. So what does he do? He announces at a public
meeting attended by those who believe him to be righteous and those who are
seeking occasion against him (your friends from Montrose who told you about
it), that the world owes him a good living, that he intends to steal it, and
that they are invited to “catch me at it if they can.” He tells new
converts, just arrived starry-eyed after the long, hard journey from England, “that
he meant to go on as he had begun, and take his own course, and kill and
destroy.” With unlimited resources at his disposal and an all-important
reputation to be preserved, this exceedingly sly fellow cannot get drunk in
Nauvoo, but must go to a public tavern a mile away to get stewed time after
time so that his friends and enemies can enjoy the sight of his colossal
indiscretions. I mention these sordid details as a test of Mr. Caswall’s
impartiality and reliability as a witness.
Moderator: I think we are all agreed that the best thing to
do is to begin at the beginning and let Professor Caswall tell the story in his
own way. Can you take us back to Kemper College and St. Louis, Mr. Caswall?
The 1842 story
Caswall: Well, there I was in Kemper College, with things going badly
and all those vast numbers of Mormons pouring through on their way to Nauvoo with
its temple and university—from England, mind you! I talked to one group
of them in St. Louis, “and suggested to them the importance of not
committing themselves and their property to a person who had long been known in
that country as a deceiver.” But they would not listen. “From that
moment I was determined to visit the stronghold of the new religion, and to
obtain, if possible, an interview with the prophet himself.” Accordingly,
on Friday, 15 April 1842, I took the boat from St. Louis up the river.53
Reporter 2: When did you arrive at Montrose?
Caswall: I got off the boat about ten o’clock Sunday
morning, 17 April 1842. I wanted to cross to Nauvoo immediately, but the ferry
was not working. But there were some people in a skiff who were just going over
to meeting, and they invited me to go with them. They were Mormons going over
to Nauvoo to the Sunday meeting.
Reporter 1: Did you talk with them?
Caswall: I tried to convince them, of course, and one man in
particular. But I found him “thoroughly wedded to his delusion.”
Moderator: I don’t believe it will be necessary for Mr.
Caswall to describe the Sunday meeting—he has already told us his
impression of the respectability of the people he saw there. What we want to
hear is of his meeting with Joseph Smith. Was that on the following day, sir?
Caswall: No, sir, it was not. It was on Tuesday, but Monday’s
experiences were most enlightening. I talked with Smith’s mother and leaders of
Moderator: That should be worth hearing. How did you cross
the river next morning?
Caswall: With another boatload of immigrants.
Reporter 1: What sort of people were they?
Caswall: As I have said, “they were very decent-looking
people, and by no means of the lowest class.”
Reporter 2: Did you argue with them again?
Caswall: I did, but to no avail. “I had laid aside my
clerical apparel, and had assumed a dress in which there was little probability
of my being recognized as ‘a minister of the Gentiles.’ In order to test the
scholarship of the prophet I had further provided myself with an ancient Greek
manuscript of the Psalter written upon parchment, and probably about
six-hundred years old.”54
Reporter 2: Do laymen make a habit of going about arguing
religion with ancient Greek parchments under their arm? Your book and your talk
were bound to raise questions, with only one possible answer.
Caswall: Oh, they did! The people were curious about me, and
they made every effort to discover my identity.
Reporter 2: And you actually think your clever disguise, which
consisted of wearing ordinary clothes, while behaving in a most clerical
manner, was not penetrated by any of them, even though so many of them had
known Church of England ministers all their lives?
Moderator: Please, let Mr. Caswall continue.
Caswall: As soon as I landed I walked up the straggling main
street of the town until I came to a respectable-looking store, where I began
to converse with the respectable-looking storekeeper. “I mentioned that I
had been informed that Mr. Smith possessed some remarkable Egyptian
curiosities, which I wished to see. I added that, if Mr. Smith could be induced
to show me his treasures, I would show him in return a very wonderful book
which had lately come into my possession.”
Reporter 1: So you started right in by pushing your “very
wonderful book.” That must have excited their curiosity.
Caswall: Indeed it did. The storekeeper “begged to be
permitted to see the wonderful book” and “I produced to view . . .
its mysterious characters. Surprise was depicted on the countenances of all
present.” They regretted that Smith had gone to Carthage for the day and
would not be back until nine o’clock in the evening. They were so excited about
the book that they wanted to send a special rider to bring the prophet back to
Nauvoo immediately to see it.55
Reporter 2: There were others present in the store?
Caswall: There were “many astonished spectators”
when “I unfolded it from the many wrappers in which I had enveloped it.”
Reporter 2: And your book really made a stir among them?
Caswall: “All expressed the utmost anxiety that I
should remain in the City until the prophet’s return.” They were
determined that he should see that book.56
Reporter 2: What did you say to their offer to go right away
and fetch Smith?
Caswall: “This I declined, and told” them “that
my stay in Nauvoo must be very limited. They promised to pay all my expenses,
if I would remain; and assured me that they would ferry me over the river as
often as I desired it, free of charge; besides furnishing me with a carriage
and horses to visit the beautiful prairies in the vicinity.”57
Reporter 2: What more could you want, man? Here was your
golden opportunity to meet Smith face to face and to see “the stronghold
of the new religion” as you called it, from the inside. Those, you said,
were the two objects of your expedition—and you refused! You refused a
proffered meeting with Smith and you refused to stay in Nauvoo.
Caswall: I told them that I didn’t need Smith to read my
book. I said, “I am going to England next week, and doubtless I shall find
some learned man in one of the universities who can expound it.”58
Reporter 2: And with that statement you announced to them
that you yourself did not know what the book was—please bear that in
Moderator: Come gentlemen, let us get on with the story.
What happened next, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: “The store-keeper . . . led me to a room
behind his store” and there explained some of Smith’s Egyptian papyri,
which he showed me—the place was Smith’s office. After that “a very
respectable-looking Mormon asked me to walk over to his house,” where we
talked about religion for a while. Then I went back to the store, “where
the storekeeper expressed his readiness to show me the mummies. Accordingly, he
led the way to a small house, the residence of the prophet’s mother. On
entering the dwelling I was introduced to this eminent personage as a traveler
from England, desirous of seeing the wonders of Nauvoo.”59
Reporter 2: Plainly you had made quite an impression. What did
Mrs. Smith do?
Caswall: First she looked at my “wonderful book. She
then directed me up a steep flight of stairs into a chamber,” where “she
showed me a wretched cabinet, in which were four naked mummies.”
Reporter 2: What was “wretched” about the cabinet?
Was it broken or something?
Caswall: It contained those “most disgusting relics of
mortality. One, she said, was a king of Egypt, whom she named.”
Reporter 1: Most interesting. And what was the name of the
Caswall: I do not remember. Well, Mrs. Smith explained the
relics, and “while the old woman was thus delivering herself, I fixed my
eyes steadily upon her. She faltered, and seemed unwilling to meet my glance;
but gradually recovered her self-possession. The melancholy thought entered my
mind, that this poor old creature was not simply a dupe of her son’s knavery;
but that she had taken an active part in the deception.”60
Reporter 3: You already knew Joseph Smith was a knave?
Caswall: My remark hardly allows of any other
Reporter 3: Yet it was not until then that “the
melancholy thought entered your mind,” as you say, that his mother also
might not be strictly honest. Do you, after what you have said, expect us to
believe either that you were surprised by the thought or that it made you
Reporter 2: Mr. Caswall, at the time you undertook your
investigations in Nauvoo, Mr. Howe’s anti-Mormon classic had been off the press
for eight years and run into several editions. Indeed, you cite from it
extensively in your 1842 report. Permit me to read to you from that work a
quotation from the affidavit of one Abigail Harris. Just like you, Miss Harris
had a conversation with Mrs. Smith about her son Joseph while the latter was
out of town. In reply for a request for a loan of four or five dollars, to help
Joseph out, “I replied,” says Abigail, “he might look in his
stone and save time and money. The old lady seemed confused and left the room,
and thus ended the visit.”61 You depict the old lady’s strange
discomposure in much the same way. Now I wonder, since you had read Howe’s
Moderator: Please, gentlemen, let us not engage in
personalities and innuendos.
Reporter 3: It would be hard to imagine a more personal
remark than that just made by Mr. Caswall about Joseph Smith and his mother.
And on what does he base it? His impression that Mrs. Smith “seemed
unwilling” to meet his stare. Do you like to be stared at, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: I was not staring.
Reporter 3: You said that while she was explaining things to
you, you fixed your eyes steadily upon her. That describes the rudest kind of a
stare. You say she seemed unwilling to meet your glance. Do you willingly stare
back at people? What did you expect Mrs. Smith to do? To have stared back at
you would have been a sure sign (in your book) of unblushing fraud and insolent
prevarication. What do you mean when you say the old lady “faltered”?
Did she fall down?
Caswall: She hesitated in her speech.
Reporter 3: And because this “poor old creature,”
as you call her, hesitates or pauses as she points out to you the various
objects on display—and who would not falter before such an ill-mannered
audience?—you brazenly proclaim that you have discovered proof of
Moderator: Please, Mr. Zee!
Reporter 3: Shall we read Mr. Caswall’s statement again?
Moderator: What did you do after viewing the mummies,
Caswall: I requested a copy of the Book of Mormon and she
sold me one for a dollar. Then I left the cottage and went to the printing
office of the Mormons, where my friend the storekeeper “introduced several
dignitaries of the ‘Latter-day Church,’ and many other Mormons, to whom he
begged to exhibit my wonderful book.”62
Reporter 2: Still the wonderful book. And how did they react
Caswall: “The Mormon authorities . . . formally
requested me to sell them the book, for which they were willing to pay a high
Reporter 2: What was your reply?
Caswall: “This offer I positively refused, and they
next importuned me to lend it to them, so that the prophet might translate it.
They promised to give bonds to a considerable amount.”
Reporter 1: And you refused even to lend it to them on those
Caswall: “I was still deaf to their entreaties, and
having promised to show the book to their prophet on the ensuing day, I left
them and returned to Montrose.”64
Reporter 2: That was the second time that day you promised
to show the book to Smith, wasn’t it?
Reporter 3: Really? I missed that. What happened the other
time, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: It was back at the store, when I first arrived that
morning. The crowd in the store was “very desirous that I should remain at
Nauvoo during the night; but as I had my fears that some of the saints might
have a revelation, requiring them to take my book while I slept, I very
respectfully declined their pressing invitation.”65
Reporter 2: They wanted you to show the book to their
Caswall: Of course. “At length I yielded to their
importunities, and promised, that if they would bring me over from Montrose on
the following morning, I would exhibit the book to the prophet.”66
Reporter 2: Isn’t it rather odd that you have to be “importuned”
to show the book to Smith when, as you have explained, that was your special
purpose in acquiring the book in the first place? Isn’t it strange that since
your whole object in coming to Nauvoo was to bring Smith and the book together,
you only “yielded at length” to their importunities?
Reporter 1: I am still puzzled, Mr. Caswall, by your refusal
of the Mormons’ pressing invitation to stay among them. Here they were offering
you complete cooperation in your project of research, and I cannot but ask
myself why you didn’t make the best of a golden opportunity. I believe you say
somewhere that the Mormons begged you to hear their side of the story.
Caswall: Yes. When “I mentioned the name of my
hospitable entertainer” in Montrose, the Mormons declared that he was one
of their worst enemies, and “again pressed me most earnestly not to return
to Montrose; but I continued firm, and expressed my intention of hearing both
sides of the question.”67
Reporter 1: But as you very well know, you can hear the
other side of the question at any time and place. You had made a long journey
specifically to hear the Mormon side, as you claimed—to visit their
headquarters and meet their prophet. Yet you spent five-sixths of your precious
time gathering gossip against them.
Caswall: We have already discussed that.
Reporter 2: But it is an issue that comes up again and again
in your reports, sir. How about the following day?
Caswall: “The following morning (Tuesday, April 19), a
Mormon arrived with his boat, and ferried me over to Nauvoo. A Mormon doctor
accompanied me. . . . He argued with me as we were on the passage, and evinced
a tolerable share of intelligence and acuteness.”68
Reporter 2: Which means that you must have done the same.
Plainly, sir, you were not advertising yourself to these people as a
dunce—or a layman. What next?
Caswall: I proceeded with the doctor along the street, and “as
I advanced with my book in my hand, numerous Mormons came forth from their
dwellings, begging to be allowed to see its mysterious pages; and by the time I
arrived at the prophet’s house, they amounted to a perfect crowd. I met Joseph
Smith at a short distance from his dwelling, and was regularly introduced to
him by the storekeeper.”
Reporter 2: At this point in the story, I believe, comes
your famous description of the prophet, which has been much quoted. Can you repeat
it for us now?
Caswall: Since we are now speaking in the language of my
1842 reports I will confine the description to them, sir: “He is a coarse,
plebeian person in aspect, and his countenance exhibits a curious mixture of
the knave and the clown. His hands are large and fat, and on one of his fingers
he wears a massive gold ring upon which I saw an inscription. . . . I had not
an opportunity of observing his eyes, as he appears deficient in that open,
straightforward look which characterizes an honest man.”69
Reporter 2: You stared down the prophet’s mother, as I
recall, yet you had, you say, “no opportunity of observing his eyes.”
Did Smith keep his back turned to you during your formal introduction?
Caswall: Now, sir, you are being ridiculous.
Reporter 2: But that is the only possible way Smith could
have kept you, a close and penetrating observer of eyes (as appears elsewhere
in your writings), from observing his own. Did you ever read how Josiah Quincy
described Joseph Smith after visiting him at Nauvoo at about the same time you
Caswall: Of course the Mormons would have their own version.
Reporter 2: Quincy was no more a Mormon than you are. This
is what he said: “By the door stood a man of commanding appearance, clad
in the costume of a journeyman carpenter when about his work. He was a hearty,
athletic fellow, with blue eyes standing prominently out upon his light
complexion, a long nose, and a retreating forehead. . . . ‘A fine-looking man‘
is what a passerby would instinctively have murmured, . . . and one could not
resist the impression that capacity and resource were natural to his stalwart
person. . . . That kingly faculty which directs, as by intrinsic insight, the
feeble or confused souls who are looking for guidance.”70 Quite a
contrast to the miserable knave and clown you met, Mr. Caswall.
Caswall: Everyone is welcome to his opinion.
Reporter 1: This gets more peculiar all the time. Mr.
Caswall, I think that you will agree with me that there are three things that
one does upon being formally introduced to another person: you grasp his hand,
look into his eyes, and exchange a few words. Now, I will grant you that the
words on such occasions are usually a mere formality, but here you had taken a
special trip just to meet this Joseph Smith, yet though you remember and report
verbatim every word he spoke to you after you handed him the Psalter, you fail
to mention that he so much as opened his mouth up until that time.
Moderator: Why should Mr. Caswall bother to report what you
yourself describe as mere formalities, Mr. Ecks?
Reporter 1: Because nothing Joseph Smith would have said or
done on that momentous occasion could have gone unmarked by Caswall. Smith’s
followers, according to you, sir, had for two days been in a fever of
excitement about the mysterious visitor from England and his wonderful book:
they were simply dying to bring you and their prophet together, as you describe
it; of course they told him all about you the minute he got to town. But does
he ask you the usual questions about yourself, your health, your travels, your
impressions of Nauvoo, and the rest, that common curiosity or courtesy demand?
Not a bit of it! The prophet is as silent as a clam until he starts his
fantastic babbling about your manuscript. That seems strange to me. And to make
it even stranger, you say you couldn’t get a good look at the eyes of the man
you were being “formally introduced” to. If they were “blue eyes
standing out prominently,” as Quincy describes them, you could not have failed
to “observe” them, unless Smith actually kept his back turned to you.
Moderator: He couldn’t very well have shaken hands with his
Reporter 1: Exactly. And that brings us to our third point.
Some visitors to Nauvoo from Mr. Caswall’s own St. Louis, men just as hostile
to the prophet as he, reported their own impression on being introduced to
Smith some time later. Among other things, they noted, as reported in the St.
Louis Gazette, that though Smith’s “chest and shoulders are broad and
muscular,” his hands “are quite small for his proportions.”71
But Mr. Caswall in a much quoted and paraphrased statement assures us, “his
hands are large and fat”—”huge” hands, Mr. Richards calls
them, taking his cue from the Professor.72 So I naturally begin to wonder, did
this man actually hold the prophet’s hand and look into his eyes and speak to
Moderator: Please, sir, let Mr. Caswall continue.
Caswall: Smith “led the way to his house, accompanied
by a host of elders, bishops, preachers and common Mormons. On entering the
house, chairs were provided for the prophet and myself, while the curious and
gaping crowd remained standing. I handed the book to the prophet, and begged
him to explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning. I
replied, that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter; but that I should like to
hear his opinion.” ” ‘No,’ he said, ‘it ain’t Greek at all; except,
perhaps, a few words. What ain’t Greek, is Egyptian; and what ain’t Egyptian,
is Greek. This book is very valuable. It is a dictionary of Egyptian
Hieroglyphics.’ Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each
verse he said: ‘Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics; and them which follows,
is the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian.
Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates. . .
. This book ain’t of no use to you; you don’t understand it.”73
Reporter 2: Mr. Caswall, fortunately you were not, as we
have seen, the only person to visit Nauvoo at this time. As the very active
leader of a very active religious movement, Smith, as you know, did a great
deal of speaking and writing, and his words have survived in considerable
abundance. Nowhere at that time is he found to use the kind of grammar you
attribute to him.
Reporter 2: What did you say of his language in 1843?
Caswall: That “the language of the prophet, is gross in
Reporter 2: Did you ever hear him preach?
Caswall: No, but my friends in Montrose did.
Reporter 2: And that is doubtless where you got your
interesting samplings of his fantastic grammar. But would you not agree with
your supporter, Mrs. Brodie, that you are here “exaggerating the
imperfections of Joseph’s grammar”?75
Caswall: There might be some exaggeration.
Reporter 2: Bear in mind, sir, that this quotation just
given is the one and only piece of evidence accepted to this day as sure proof
of the practice of fraud by Joseph Smith, and that you are the one and only
authority for it. This is no time to be taking liberties! Yet in this crucial
sentence you have been guilty not only of exaggeration but of gross and stupid
exaggeration: “them which follows,” “them characters is like the
letters that was engraved on the golden plates.” Do you expect anybody who
knows anything at all about Joseph Smith to believe that he said those words in
1842? He must have forgotten an awful lot since 1839, when another visitor to
Nauvoo reported: “We had supposed . . . to find him a very illiterate,
uncouth sort of man; but from a conversation, we acknowledge an agreeable
disappointment. In conversation he appears intelligent and candid.”76 And
he must have learned an awful lot just after you left Nauvoo, for another
visitor from St. Louis reports a short time afterwards: “Far from being
clownish [he apparently has your description in mind, Mr. Caswall] . . . in his
conversation he is uncommonly shrewd, and exhibits more knowledge of books,
sacred and profane, than his personal appearance at first seems to promise.”77 Now, Mr. Caswall, you have heard that Smith was both uncommonly shrewd and
well-read, while you found him a complete ignoramus and a fool, babbling about
gold plates and reformed Egyptian just as your idea of Joseph Smith, the
eyeless one, would be expected to. What happened after he addressed you thus?
Caswall: I replied, “oh, yes . . . “
Reporter 1: Referring to what? Excuse me, I am lost here.
Caswall: Referring to his statement that the book was of no
use to me. ” ‘Oh yes,’ I replied, ‘ . . . I could sell it, and obtain,
perhaps, enough to live on for a whole year.’ ‘But what will you take for it?’
said the prophet and his elders. . . . I replied, ‘I will not tell you what
price I would take: but if you were to offer me this moment nine-hundred
dollars in gold for it, you should not have it.’ They then repeated their
request that I should lend it to them until the prophet should have time to
translate it, and promised me the most ample security; but I declined all their
proposals. I placed the book in several envelopes, and as I deliberately tied
knot after knot, the countenances of many among them gradually sunk unto an
expression of great despondency. Having exhibited the book to the prophet, I
requested him in return to show me his papyrus, and to give me his own
explanation, . . . hitherto received only at second hand.”78
Reporter 2: So their faces fell in great despondency because
you resolutely refused to sell them a book which their prophet had told them
was “very valuable.” You wouldn’t sell it even for a fabulous sum,
you wouldn’t even lend it to them; nay, you wouldn’t even let them or their
prophet look at it another minute. Why wouldn’t you sell it?
Caswall: Why should I?
Reporter 2: Because you and your college were in financial
straits and could use the money. Because you had but recently acquired the
book, as you explained, for the specific purpose of testing Smith’s
scholarship, and it had now fulfilled that purpose as far as you were willing
to let it, you had no sentimental attachment to it (it was a recent
acquisition), you could not read it (you said you would find a reader in
England), you never made any other use of it thereafter—the mere
possession of the book by you could not prove the fraud. On the other hand, if
you had sold it to Smith as he begged you to, you would have made a handsome
profit and put the prophet on a very hot spot.
Caswall: How do you mean?
Reporter 2: Here all these people were standing around
waiting for Smith to do his stuff. They begged you to give him “time to
translate it,” but you knew and Smith knew that he could never read the
book, and that there were people in the world who could read it. Therefore, the
moment he committed himself before all those sincere and gullible people, your
man had really put his foot into it. You had him where you wanted him, and that
was the time for you to press your advantage. But what did you do? Instead of
forcing Smith to go on with his indiscretions while his people were begging you
to continue the show, you firmly took the book away from your victim and
stuffed it into its wrappings; you came to Smith’s rescue just in the nick of
time. But if you had sold the book to the prophet in the presence of all those
people, he would have to deliver; everybody would know he had it and that he
had called it Egyptian; he would have no choice but to exhibit his ignorance
before all the world.
Caswall: He had already done so, sir.
Reporter 2: On the contrary, everybody in the room believed
him, not you; and your behavior was certainly calculated to confirm their
suspicion—for it was you, not Smith, who shied away from any further
discussion of the Psalter and changed the subject, firmly and finally, just
when everything was supposed to be going your way.
Caswall: Wait for the rest of the story, sir. After I asked
to see the papyrus, Smith “proceeded with me to his office, accompanied by
the multitude. He produced the glass frames which I had seen on the previous
day; but he did not appear very forward to explain the figures. I pointed to a
particular hieroglyphic and requested him to expound its meaning. No answer
being returned, I looked up, and behold! the prophet had disappeared.”
Reporter 3: A supernatural disappearance?
Caswall: Nothing like that. “The Mormons told me he had
just stepped out, and would probably soon return. I waited some time but in
Reporter 2: So you waited and waited but Smith never showed
up again? Incidentally, that is just the way Lucy Smith ran away from Abigail
Caswall: At length I descended to the street in front of the
store. “Here I heard the noise of wheels, and presently I saw the prophet
in his wagon, flourishing his whip, and driving away as fast as two fine horses
could draw him. As he disappeared from view, enveloped in a cloud of dust, I
felt that I had turned over another page in the great book of human nature.”79
Reporter 1: Mr. Caswall, when Smith said the book was of no
use to you, you replied that it was because you could sell it. You didn’t say
you could read it.
Caswall: That is so.
Reporter 1: Then if you couldn’t read your own book, why
should Smith be thrown into a panic when you asked him a question about his
book? He knew nobody could read Egyptian at that day.
Caswall: What do you mean?
Reporter 1: I mean that what upsets Smith is not your
Psalter—he had clearly won that round—but a question about his own
papyrus to which he knew perfectly well that you did not know the answer; after
all, you asked him the question. Why should Smith, with his celebrated tact and
courtesy, to say nothing of his extreme shrewdness and brazen resourcefulness (“characteristic
invention” you call it yourself) which was never at a loss, why should
Smith be in mortal terror of a deaf old clergyman, and instead of dissembling
his feeling have rushed from the room in a panic (with characteristic cunning)
to be seen a good while later lashing his horses wildly as he beats a dramatic
retreat from the reverend gentleman who has handled him so brilliantly? This
story, if I may or may not be excused for saying so, is pure ham, my friends,
with the author in the heroic role of the wise, gentle scholar reading the book
of human nature without rancor or guile. Pure ham.
Caswall: But I didn’t say Smith was running away from me.
Reporter 2: Not in 1842 you didn’t. That touch was added in
1843, as were a lot of other things.
Moderator: Before we get to the 1843 accounts, gentlemen,
please let Mr. Caswall finish up his 1842 story. You may continue, Mr. Caswall.
Caswall: Well, after Joseph Smith had disappeared in a cloud
of dust “the Mormons now surrounded me, and required to know whether I had
received satisfaction from the prophet.”
Reporter 1: Showing I was right when I said Smith won the
first round. From that he evidently won the fight, too.
Caswall: What do you mean, sir?
Reporter 1: That if you made a monkey of Smith, as you later
claimed, nobody at the time was aware of it. From what you just said, the
Mormons were quite pleased and satisfied that the prophet had come out on top.
Caswall: I soon corrected that illusion. “I replied
that the prophet had given me no satisfaction, and that on the contrary, he had
proved his own ignorance most effectively.”
Reporter 3: What did they reply to that?
Caswall: Nothing. We changed the subject and talked about
the Church of England.
Reporter 2: You mean you didn’t tell them how Smith had
proved his ignorance? You not only passed up the chance to pull your clever “Psalter
trick” when you were with Smith and before an audience, but actually
failed to mention it when others actually asked you how Smith had performed?
Well, never mind; we’ll come back to it. What did you talk about next?
Caswall: I challenged the Mormons to perform a miracle. “You
maintain,” said I, “that your prophet is sent to establish a third
dispensation. I demand therefore, what signs are given to prove his commission?”80
Reporter 1: Don’t you know that was the worst thing you
could have done from the Mormon point of view? In their eyes, by asking for a
sign you had given yourself completely away.
Reporter 2: And don’t you know that there never was any
Mormon teaching about “a third dispensation”?
Moderator: Let’s save the comments and permit Mr. Caswall to
tell his story.
Caswall: An “old man replied, that the healing of the
sick, the casting out of devils, and the speaking in unknown tongues, were very
frequent in the ‘Latter-day Church.’ I said that signs of that kind were of a
very doubtful description, since the imagination possessed great power over the
nervous system. I inquired whether Smith had ever walked across the
Mississippi, or brought a dead man to life. He replied in the negative.”81
Reporter 2: By the way, Mr. Caswall, do you know in later
years the story was widespread among anti-Mormon writers that Smith actually
tried to walk on the Mississippi? It is interesting that in this earliest
mention of the water-walking business it is you, the non-Mormon, who suggest
and favor such a demonstration, while the Mormons reject such practices.
Caswall: As I say, “he replied in the negative; but
said, that among them the blind received their sight, the ears of the deaf were
opened. I then observed, ‘You perceive that I am rather deaf, and you say that
I have no faith. Now can you open my ears so that I may hear your arguments
more distinctly?’ “
Reporter 1: You actually called for a miracle after
announcing that you had no faith? That’s a good one.
Moderator: I must beg you to be silent, sir, until the
Reverend Caswall is finished. What happened then, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: “Immediately the old man stepped forward, and
before I was aware of his object, thrust his fingers into my ears, and lifting
up his eyes, uttered for about a minute in a loud voice some unintelligible
gibberish. ‘There,’ he said finally, ‘the Holy Ghost prompted me to do that,
and now you have heard the unknown tongue.’ ‘But my hearing is not improved,’ I
said. ‘That,’ he replied, ‘is because you have no faith. If ever you believe
the Book of Mormon, you will immediately recover perfect hearing, through the
gift of the Holy Ghost.’ I looked at him somewhat severely and said, ‘Take
heed, old man, what you say.’ “
Reporter 2: That disconcerting gaze again. Mr. Caswall,
before you go any farther, may I point out that your story is full of fatal
defects. The Mormons practiced healing, but not that way. Who was the old man?
Caswall: I don’t know. Just an old man.
Reporter 2: But you have said that many of the leading
Mormon dignitaries were in the crowd. Do you mean to say they all stood by and
let that old man undertake a fantastic ordinance that, while it no doubt
represents the kind of nonsense you would expect the Mormons to engage in, is
at odds in every particular with what they have always practiced and preached?
If there is anything the Mormons have always deplored it is the idea of asking
Reporter 1: That is what I meant when I said that was the
worst thing you could have done. For any Mormon that would have marked you as a
nothing less than hopeless.
Reporter 2: To this you add the emphatic announcement that
you have no faith, and then challenge them to heal you! And they promptly
comply with your request! And how do they comply? With all the high officials
standing by, an old man, on his own authority, comes forward alone and “thrusts
his fingers in your ears”; and though by your own confession you are “rather
deaf” to begin with, even with his fingers thrust in your ears you can
tell he is speaking gibberish; and though you soon after give him a rousing
sermon on sacrilegious behavior, you patiently put up with that treatment and
let him complete the “ordinance,” when he tells you that you have
heard “the unknown tongue!” For you and you alone, sir, Smith and his
followers seem to have adopted a most peculiar pattern of behavior, never reported
by any other visitors, but exactly like the stereotype of Mormons that you
fully expected to find.
Moderator: It is not our business to speculate on what Mr.
Caswall may have expected to find in Nauvoo. What happened after the healing
fiasco, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: Some Mormon made a remark to the effect that Mormon
preachers did not need the Bible because they were inspired by the Holy Ghost.
Reporter 1: A thing no Mormon ever claimed. To need the
Bible and to need nothing but the Bible are two very different things. It seems
that Mr. Caswall reduces every Mormon belief and practice to an absurdity, and
then claims to have discovered that absurdity brilliantly demonstrated in his
few hours in Nauvoo. It is all so marvelously pat.
Moderator: Will you please let Mr. Caswall tell it his way,
Caswall: ” ‘No,’ I said, ‘it is not inspiration, it is
a Satanic delusion. Your prophet himself has committed himself today, and I
will make the fact known to the world. Would you believe a man calling himself a
prophet, who should say that black is white?’ ‘No,’ they replied. ‘Would you
believe him if he said that English is French?’ ‘Certainly not.’ ‘But you heard
your prophet declare, that this book of mine is a Dictionary of Egyptian
hieroglyphics, written in characters like those of the original Book of Mormon.
I know it most positively to be the Psalm of David, written in ancient Greek.
Now what shall I think of your prophet?’ “82
Reporter 2: “Now?” After all that, you finally
mention the “Psalter trick.” These people knew you could not read the
book, and they believed Smith rather than you. Now in the street you simply
repeat what you have said before to these people and to Smith, and this time
they suddenly believe. You burst out with a triumphant “Now what do you
think?” as if you had introduced some new and sensational proof, yet there
is none. You had missed your chance in the upper room. Did the people believe
you this time?
Caswall: “They appeared confounded for a while; but at
length the Mormon doctor said, ‘Sometimes Mr. Smith speaks as a prophet, and
sometimes as a mere man.’ “83
Reporter 2: They weren’t confounded when Smith was
consulting the Psalter or when he dashed from the room; they were proud of his
performance and asked you if you were duly impressed and were not the least
disturbed by your answer. Now you can repeat your old refrain, that the book is
a Greek Psalter, and lo! they are confounded. Why? What had changed? You had
made it clear that you could not read the book: did they suddenly think you
Caswall: But I had also made it far clearer that I knew
exactly what my book was. I had repeatedly and emphatically declared before
these people and their leaders that the book was a Greek Psalter.
Reporter 2: In that case, how can you possibly expect us to
accept your statement that you had “brought along a Greek Psalter to test
the prophet’s scholarship”? Before you gave him the test, which was to
identify the book, you went around telling everybody the answer—you even
told Smith the answer before he had a chance to take the test! Remember, you
didn’t ask him to read the book, which you couldn’t read yourself, but simply
to tell you what it was—after you had first told him what it was! Would
he have any reason to doubt you? Did you expect him to contradict you?
Caswall: His answer was a surprise.84
Reporter 2: Exactly. Yet only if Smith was willing to play
into your hands by a completely unpredictable and unforeseeable sequence of
perfectly insane statements and actions could there have been any “trick”
at all. It was Smith’s incalculable behavior that gave you every advantage, yet
you, who were supposed in later years to have devised the “trick,”
never take advantage of it. Instead of closing the trap when he walks into it,
you deftly extricate him from it by closing your book. Later, in the street you
say, “Your prophet has committed himself today, and I will make it known
to the world.” Why didn’t you call the attention of those present to the
event at the time it occurred? Why didn’t you press your advantage when you had
it, so that there could be no doubt of the issue, instead of closing your book
before you or anyone else had a chance to ask Smith a single question about its
contents? You called the thing off when Smith was definitely on top.
Moderator: Perhaps, Mr. Wye, Caswall didn’t want to
embarrass the Mormons.
Reporter 2: He had been damning their leader for two days
among them, and according to all his reports they never took offense—isn’t
that right, Mr. Caswall, or shall I quote?
Caswall: No need to quote; they took it all in good part.85
Reporter 2: And in your last discussion in the street with
them (the one we have been talking about) you even confessed to some
fastidiousness about hurting their feelings. Do you recall how they responded
Caswall: ” ‘Speak out,’ said some. ‘Go on,’ said
others. ‘If Smith be not a true prophet,’ I said, ‘you must admit that he is a
gross imposter.’ ‘We must,’ they replied.”86
Reporter 2: They seem to have been a lot more open-minded
than you were, sir. They could conceive of an alternative possibility; you
could not. Here they invite you to prove Smith a fraud, making it clear that
they will take no offense at whatever you may say—and you have already
said plenty! Here was your golden chance to exploit the Psalter trick. You had
called them to witness, “Your prophet has committed himself today,”
and announced your intention to “make it known to the world.” But
they had witnessed nothing. Had you demonstrated to their complete satisfaction
that the book was a Greek Psalter? No, you had been saying that all along, but,
according to you, you could not make them believe you. Did you demonstrate to
their complete satisfaction that Smith could not read the book? You had a golden
opportunity to do so, but you resolutely passed it by. And now comes your last
chance to score a hit in this farewell speech to the Mormons, when they
practically beg you to prove your case against Smith. And what happens? You go
into a long theological discussion, with no mention of the Psalter! And thus
the 1842 version comes to a close.
The 1843 story
Moderator: I am afraid we must hasten on without further discussion to
the 1843 accounts.
Reporter 3: You mean we have to go through all this all over
Reporter 2: No. That is just the point: we are about to hear
a different story now!
Caswall: Not different, sir, “Revised and Enlarged.”
Let me read you the preface to the 1843 edition of The City of the Mormons, or
Three Days at Nauvoo:
The following narrative, the result of a few weeks leisure
on shipboard, is again presented to the public with a deep sense, on the Author’s
part, of the iniquity of an imposture, which, under the name of religion, is
spreading extensively in America and in Great Britain. Mormonism needs but to
be seen in its true light to be hated; and if the following pages, consisting
almost exclusively of the personal testimony of the Author, should assist in
awakening indignation against a cruel delusion and a preposterous heresy, he will
consider himself amply rewarded.
Reporter 1: This seems to support a good deal that was said, but not
acknowledged, by Mr. Caswall, regarding his earlier effort. Here he frankly
admits that he wants to make Mormonism “hated,” to “awaken
indignation” against it, that he has been nursing in leisure a “deep
sense of iniquity,” and that his claim to belief is that his statements “consist
almost exclusively of his own personal testimony”—though I might add
that there is hardly a statement in the book that he did not get from somebody
Moderator: Since our panel seems to be out for blood, Mr.
Caswall, you can expect them to emphasize and probably exploit the details of
your subsequent accounts that are not found in the first one. They will
probably be very suspicious of these. We will anticipate their zeal, and
instead of telling the whole story over again each time, simply examine the
salient points in which new elements are introduced. Sometimes the repetitions
are significant. Here, for example, in an 1843 version you repeat what you said
about “laying aside your clerical apparel,” making it clear that you
were going incognito, for you say, “I had . . . assumed a dress in which
there was little probability of my being recognized as a ‘minister of the
Gentiles’ “—which I think is an important point.87 Then you repeat
that you had got yourself the Greek Psalter with definite purposes in view. Do
you recall that, as of 1843?
Caswall: Yes, indeed: “In order to test the scholarship
of the prophet, I had further provided myself with an ancient Greek manuscript
of the Psalter written upon parchment, and probably about six-hundred years
Moderator: Now, would you repeat your story of those
interesting little details not found in the earlier versions?
Caswall: Well, I landed in Montrose at 9 o’clock Sunday
morning, 17 April, and about an hour later crossed the river in a canoe with
thirteen other people, Mormons on their way to meeting. We were just in time
for the meeting that began at 10:30. It was held in a grove near the temple. I
noted the wholesome nature of the congregation and especially the large number
of English people who had come “to listen to the ravings of a false
prophet.” “The service [if such it may be called] having continued
from half past ten o-clock till two finally concluded.” I then had lunch
at a tavern, where I argued with a “decent and probably intelligent
Reporter 1: What did you argue about?
Caswall: I pointed out “how greatly deficient [the
Mormon services] appeared in dignity and spirituality; and contrasted them with
the decorous and solemn worship of the Church of England.”90
Reporter 2: And you thought that by carrying on like that
there would be “little probability” of your “being recognized as
a ‘minister of the Gentiles’ “? You must have thought all these
respectable and probably intelligent people from the Old Country were extremely
naive and gullible not to recognize an Anglican minister out of uniform. Did
you stay long in Nauvoo after lunch?
Caswall: No. “From the tavern I proceeded to the
landing place and engaged the ferryman to take me over to Montrose.”91
Reporter 2: Your real mine of information was in Montrose, I
Caswall: Yes, I hastened back to Montrose, where “after
the awful proceedings of the morning, I felt happy to be once more among
Reporter 3: “Awful proceedings”?
Caswall: Yes. During the meeting they had actually asked for
money, and “the thought arose in my mind, that these earnest appeals for
money were designed mainly for the ears of the three hundred green saints who
had just arrived.”93
Reporter 2: So after all, it was the thought in your mind
that was awful. Don’t you ever ask for money in the Church of England? In some
of your writings you are rather exercised on the subject. So you were happy to
be among Christians. What kind of a man was your host in Montrose?
Caswall: He was one who possessed “the independence to
resist the encroachments of the Mormons, and the ability to expose their
designs.” For that reason “he has been the object of constant
persecution since the settlement of these people in his vicinity.”94
Reporter 2: And you stayed at this man’s house but you would
not stay with Mormons; you believed everything he told you about them but
nothing the Mormons told you about him. Do you call that “hearing both
sides of the question”?
Caswall: Oh, I heard the Mormon side. I talked with the
ferryman on the way back, and “I afterwards found that his opinion of the
characters of his brethren, ‘the saints,’ was by no means flattering to them.
He told a person in Montrose, that it was ‘no use to hoist a flag at Nauvoo as
a signal to passengers, for it was sure to be stolen.’ “95
Reporter 2: This is an excellent example of the quality and
impartiality of your researches in Nauvoo, Mr. Caswall. You talk with the
Mormon ferryman, and announce to the world as a result that you are prepared to
give a firsthand report. But the ferryman didn’t say that about the flag to
you, did he? No. You got it “afterwards” from “a person in
Montrose,” who told you the ferryman had said it to somebody else. Yet you
have the effrontery to announce that your report “consists almost
exclusively of personal testimony of the author,” such personal testimony
being almost exclusively bits of gossip picked up in Montrose.
Moderator: Come, gentlemen, let’s not lose our tempers. I
notice, Mr. Caswall, you tell almost the same story concerning the second day
of your visit in both the 1842 and the “Revised and Enlarged” edition
of 1843, except that you insert a long religious discussion with “a very
respectable looking Mormon” who invited you to visit his house.96 It is a
wonder to me how you can remember these long conversations word for word. You
must have taken careful notes.
Reporter 1: It is even more wonderful, sir, that while you
are always careful to state the hour of the day, the day of the week, the
month, and the year, thus giving your report an air of great detail and
accuracy, you never once in the whole course of your Nauvoo story designate
anyone by name save Joseph Smith (who as the star of the piece cannot be
omitted) and his mother. Not a single person, Mormon or anti-Mormon, is named
or in any way individually designated. You are careful to state that a large
crowd of witnesses was present at every crucial event of your stay in Nauvoo,
but if the presence of witnesses is to bear any weight we must know who they
were. Why do you never name them?
Moderator: Perhaps Mr. Caswall didn’t want to get involved
Reporter 2: He wouldn’t need to if he was telling the truth.
Mr. Caswall has often commented on the perfect willingness of the Mormons to
acknowledge facts when confronted with them; he has even stated that Mormons
frankly admitted to him that Joseph Smith made mistakes and practiced
deception—but he won’t tell us who those Mormons were. He won’t even give
us the name of his helpful anti-Mormon friends in Montrose! Why not? Since you
tell us that many of the high dignitaries of the church were your witnesses, Mr.
Caswall, it is certain that many of your witnesses kept journals. Couldn’t you
give us some of their names? Don’t you want people to check up on your history?
Moderator: That is a serious accusation, sir, and we shall
have to return to it. For the present let us continue with the 1843 narrative.
So you went back to Montrose, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: There “after tea my kind host provided me with
a horse, and in company with him, I took a delightful ride upon the prairie.”97
Reporter 3: This is interesting. In 1842 you said the
Mormons offered you a horse and carriage to take a ride upon the beautiful
prairies, but you refused because you said you were in a hurry. In 1843 you do
not mention the Mormon offer, but tell of riding with your Montrose friend—an
experience not mentioned in the earlier account.
Moderator: Surely you are not suggesting that Mr. Caswall
has transferred the kindness of the Mormons to his friend.
Reporter 3: Not at all, but I am calling attention to the
fact that almost all the nice things that Mr. Caswall said about the Mormons in
1842 are omitted from the 1843 and subsequent editions—such as this act
of hospitality, for example—though the later edition is an “Enlarged
and Revised” one. Also his last report, that of 1865, is by far the worst.
Reporter 2: I notice, Mr. Caswall, that this 1843 book is
much more anti-Mormon than the earlier one. When you rode out with your host,
he told you about the Indians, but when you state that “the Indians have
the greatest possible contempt for Joseph Smith, and denominate him a
Tshe-wal-lis-ke, which signifies a rascal,”98 you do so as a matter of
personal testimony, whereas actually you are merely stating what your
Mormon-hating friend had told you. So it goes. But how is it that you can remember
a long and difficult Indian name like that, yet don’t remember the name of the
Pharaoh whose mummy you saw or the names of the people you met? How is it that
you can recite long speeches word for word—whole pages of them—yet
do not remember a single word spoken by Joseph Smith until you placed your
Psalter in his hands?
Moderator: Perhaps it is not so much a case of remembering,
sir, as a judicious selection of material.
Reporter 2: But that makes me even more suspicious. What his
Montrose informant said the Indians called Smith is neither here nor there. It
is mere gossip. The name of that informant, on the other hand, may be a most
useful clue. If Mr. Caswall’s story is true, he has nothing to lose and
everything to gain by placing in our hands every possible means of checking up
on it. Why, then, does he display such skill in leading the reader away from
every promising check and control?
Moderator: We must be getting on. Let’s go now to the
crucial events of the unforgettable third day. You crossed the river in the
morning with a Mormon doctor with whom you discussed religion. According to
your account it was you who brought up the subject of the Trinity and displayed
Caswall: Yes, the doctor “uttered a horrid blasphemy.”
Reporter 3: And what is your idea of a horrid blasphemy?
Caswall: He said: “We believe that the Father is God,
the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; that makes three at least who are
God, and no doubt there are a great many more.”99
Reporter 2: Don’t you believe the first part of his
Caswall: Of course, it is simply the Creed.
Reporter 2: And the doctor was not, apparently, an
Episcopalian or a follower of the School of Alexandria. Is that a crime? Don’t
bother to answer, sir. My point is simply that your quarrel with Smith and his
people is a doctrinal one.
Moderator: So you landed with the doctor and walked to Smith’s house.
As in your 1842 account, the curious people come out to see your wonderful
Caswall: Yes. “By the time I arrived at the prophet’s
house, they amounted to almost a crowd.”
Reporter 3: Come again? Would you repeat that, sir?
Caswall: I said, “they amounted almost to a crowd.”100
Reporter 3: But in 1842 you said that they “amounted to
a perfect crowd”—now it is “almost a crowd.” You are
revising downward again. Why?
Reporter 2: If Mr. Caswall has toned down his 1843 account,
that can only mean that he went too far in 1842.
Caswall: A very minor change, sir. By a “perfect crowd”
one can mean “practically a crowd,” “almost a crowd,” . . .
Reporter 2: Or barely a crowd? I grant you, sir, if this
were the only instance of toning down, we could overlook it; but it is only the
beginning. In 1842 you said you were “accompanied by a host of elders,
bishops, preachers, and common Mormons.” How did you know they were
bishops? Did they wear miters?
Moderator: They might have been pointed out to Mr. Caswall
Reporter 2: Then why does he omit that part in 1843, when he
says he was “accompanied by many elders, preachers, and other Mormon
dignitaries”? The “perfect crowd” has become “almost a
crowd,” the colorful “host” has become a colorless “many,”
the only specific officials—bishops—have disappeared, but to make
up for that the “common Mormons” have vaguely become “dignitaries.”
You see how Mr. Caswall is increasingly careful not to mention anything
specific. In 1842 you say of Smith “his hands are large and fat,” but
in 1843 in your second book you change this to the more plausible and less
easily tested remark: “his hands are large and awkward.”101 You may
honestly think a man is awkward whether he is or not, but when you say he is
fat you have committed yourself. So in The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century
you again tone down your earlier report. Then Smith and the Mormons wanted you
to name a price for your book. Do you remember what you answered, as of 1843?
Smith has said, as you will recall, “That book ain’t of any use to you.”
Caswall: And I replied: “Oh yes, it is of some use; for
if I were in want of money, I could sell it for something handsome.”102
Reporter 2: This is certainly a comedown! In 1842 you said
you answered (you see, I have been unsportingly taking notes): “Oh yes . .
. I could sell it, and obtain, perhaps, enough to live on for a whole year.”
Now, I submit that there is a difference between “something handsome”
and “enough to live on for a whole year.”
Moderator: I think we can allow some latitude . . .
Reporter 2: Here? Bear in mind, sir, that Mr. Caswall in
writing the 1843 edition was making a revised enlargement —he had the
earlier text before his eyes: every change he made was deliberate. If he was
quoting correctly, from his notes or any other source, in 1842, what need to
change a single syllable? Note that he always revises the story in the direction
of greater plausibility. But no matter how fantastic a story may sound, if it
is true there is no need to tone it down. But to return to the price of the
book. I find here that you told the Mormons in your 1842 story: “I will
not tell you what price I would take; but if you were to offer me this moment
nine hundred dollars in gold for it, you should not have it.” Now, what do
you say in 1843? Will you read it?
Caswall: I told them “I would not sell it to them for
many hundred dollars.”103 Many hundred, nine hundred—what’s the
difference? A slight revision.
Reporter 2: A considerable difference, and a not-so-slight
revision, sir. In the first book you name a definite offer as below your price:
nine hundred dollars in gold—a fabulous sum for a book you had just
acquired, and couldn’t read, and never made any further use of. Why didn’t you
take their offers?
Moderator: There’s no point in going over that again.
Reporter 2: Excuse me. This time I merely mean to show that
Mr. Caswall himself grasped the absurdity of his story when he thought it over,
for nothing is said about nine hundred dollars in gold in the 1843 or later
Moderator: Should he go into all those details in every
Reporter 2: He should most certainly repeat them in the second
Moderator: Let us hear the 1843 story of the Psalter, sir.
Caswall: When an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalms was
exhibited to him as a test of his scholarship, he boldly pronounced it to be a “Dictionary
of Egyptian hieroglyphics.” Pointing to the capital letters at the
commencement of each verse, he said, “Them figures is Egyptian
hieroglyphics; and them which follows is the interpretation of the
hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian. Them characters is like the letters
that was engraved on the golden plates.” He afterwards proceeded to show
Reporter 2: Just a minute, please. In this account you have
left out the very crucial fact that first of all you told Smith what the book
was. You have also omitted his statement “What ain’t Greek is Egyptian;
and what ain’t Egyptian is Greek.” In 1842 you said Smith called the Greek
capitals Greek, but in 1843 you explicitly state that “pointing to the
capital letters, . . . he said, ‘Them figures is in Egyptian hieroglyphics‘ ”
and make no mention of his calling anything Greek. These, I submit, are very
material alterations in your story. Then further, you also omit his remark, “This
book ain’t of no use to you; you don’t understand it.” And all these
significant omissions, mind you, in an enlarged edition!
Caswall: I omitted them in The Prophet of the Nineteenth
Century, but they are all included in The City of the Mormons, or Three Days at
Nauvoo, of the same year.
Reporter 2: But the former is by far your most famous and
important book. Can’t you see that in abridging the story as you have you leave
out details that offer important hints as to its truthfulness? The shorter
version was given in a book that centers completely about the dominant theme of
your personal association with the prophet. Your meeting with him was a very
brief one. The book is padded with all sorts of fourth- and fifth-hand
information, which shows that you were not crowded for space; yet when you
chose to delete, you cut out the very heart of your history, the one part of
the story that you were qualified to tell at firsthand. Then after Smith’s
absurd and ungrammatical declaration you say, “He afterwards proceeded to
show his papyri.” Here again you omit the very suspicious and incongruous
statement in your other account that it was you who took the damning Psalter
away from Smith before he could make another speech about it or before you or
anyone else could ask him any questions, and that it was you who changed the
subject and asked to see the papyri. Those little omissions are really quite
important, sir. They make your story much more plausible.
Moderator: Tell us about the papyri now, if you will.
Caswall: He proceeded, as I said, “to show his papyrus,
and to explain the inscriptions; but probably suspecting that the author
designed to entrap him, he suddenly left the apartment, leaped into his light
wagon, and drove away as fast as possible. The author could not properly avoid
expressing his opinion of the prophet to the assembled Mormons; and was engaged
for several hours in a sharp controversy with various eminent dignitaries.”105
Reporter 3: I must agree with Mr. Wye, that this is a very
different story from the other one, and that the differences are significant.
When someone asked you before whether Smith left the room because he was afraid
of you, you pointed out that you made no such claim. But now you do make it,
albeit cautiously, using such subjective and moot words as “probable,”
“suspect,” and “design.”
Reporter 2: In your 1842 story, Mr. Caswall, you do not say
that Smith left the room suddenly—which has now become an important part
of the story. You did not see him leave, you were absorbed in looking at the
papyrus, so you could not have known whether he left suddenly. Do you know
Caswall: Of course not. It is an “unknown tongue,”
as Smith’s own mother made clear in describing his use of the Urim and Thummim.
Reporter 2: Then Smith had no reason for suspecting that you
knew Egyptian. But look where Smith is seized with panic. You ask him the
meaning of a hieroglyphic symbol, and then he suspects that you “design to
entrap him.” This is the first mention of any trick or trap anywhere, yet
it is not the Greek Psalter at all, but Smith’s own familiar papyrus, of which
of course you know nothing, that puts the prophet at your mercy. He is so
terrified that the stranger who knows no Greek will catch him on a point of
hieroglyphics that he rushes from the room, leaps into a wagon, and drives away
“as fast as possible.” Did you see him leap into the wagon? From your
first account that is of course out of the question, yet in this case the
reader is bound to take it for granted that you did, since your book is based “almost
entirely on the personal testimony of the Author.” You said nothing about
leaping in the first edition, which paints a very different picture: there you
waited long for the prophet’s return, and then finally (“at length,”
as you put it), you gave up waiting and went down to the street, and it was not
until you got there that you heard the noise of wheels and then the prophet
came in sight furiously lashing his splendid steeds in his superbly tactful
effort to escape having to explain the meaning of that hieroglyphic symbol to
you. Couldn’t he have escaped you by simply stepping into another room or
house? Obviously the two stories don’t fit at all. What was Smith doing while
you waited so long for his return? Was he leaping into a wagon kept three miles
away so that he could drive back at breakneck speed to the store for you to see
him twenty minutes later? Was he doing a slow leap? If you didn’t know where he
had gone, why did he need to leave town in total panic and with such a
Caswall: “He probably suspected an intention on my part
to trap him.”
Reporter 2: What a motive for the wily Joe Smith to go
completely off his head! You don’t know that he suspected you, he “probably”
did; and he knew nothing for sure, he only probably suspected; and he did not
probably suspect that you had him, but only that you designed to; and not that
you could expose him, but only probably suspected that you designed to entrap
him. It is all as vague as that. But there is nothing vague in Smith’s
behavior—he puts on a four-star display of utter terror in the presence
of you and “various eminent dignitaries.” That is certainly a story
Caswall: It is indeed, sir.
Reporter 2: Then why do you leave it out in all subsequent
versions of the Nauvoo story? Why do you never mention it again?
Moderator: Please, gentlemen, we shall get to that in good
time. Mr. Caswall, will you tell us what happened next?
Caswall: Well, the 1843 story of the argument that followed
is a good deal like that of 1842.
Reporter 1: Is the story of the old man and the healing in
Caswall: No, that is left out, but I do include a speech I
gave them on their manner of worship. “How miserable were your services
last Sunday,” I said. “How cold your worship, how unedifying and
farcical your preaching. The Holy Ghost was manifestly absent from your
assembly, which resembled a Jewish synagogue more than a Christian
Reporter 2: Indeed. I find it strange that while you are
trying to expand this one brief episode of a book you omit picturesque and
essential details in one account while putting in their place equally
picturesque and essential details omitted from another. I can understand Mr.
Caswall’s desire for variety in his stories in order to sell as many versions
of it as possible; but if his story is to be the testimony that forever damns
Joseph Smith, he should be careful to tell just one story. This he does not do.
Moderator: Let us allow Mr. Caswall to proceed. Perhaps
those things will explain themselves. Mr. Caswall, did the Mormons ask you in your
1843 version what you thought of Smith’s performance?
Caswall: Oh yes, that is there. “The Mormons now
Reporter 2: “Now?” Hadn’t they been surrounding
you in numbers all the time?
Caswall: ” . . . surrounded me, and requested to know
whether I had received satisfaction from the prophet’s explanation. I replied
that the prophet had given me no satisfaction, and that, on the contrary, he
had proved his own ignorance most effectually. They wished to know my own
religious opinions,” and we became involved in a theological discussion.107
Reporter 2: But no mention of the Psalter. Here you missed
your second chance.
Reporter 3: Mr. Caswall, you seemed to have spoken to the
Mormons very boldly.
Caswall: I told them then and there, “I think it likely
that most of you are credulous and ignorant, but well-meaning persons, and that
the time at least has been when you desired to do the will of God. A knot of
designing persons, of whom Smith is the center, have imposed upon your
credulity and ignorance, and you have been most thoroughly hoaxed by their
artful devices. . . . And oh! how gladly would I see you delivered from this
awful delusion, and returning to the bosom of that Holy Catholic Church, from
which many of you have apostatized.”108
Reporter 1: I admire your phenomenal memory, sir.
Reporter 3: And I your phenomenal courage—you
certainly gave it to them!
Caswall: “As the City Council had passed an ordinance,
under which any stranger in Nauvoo speaking disrespectfully of the prophet might
be arrested and imprisoned without process, [I] deemed myself happy in leaving
Nauvoo unmolested, after plainly declaring to the Mormons that they were dupes
of a base and blaspheming imposter.”109
Reporter 2: Very interesting. Where can I find out about
Caswall: In Mr. John C. Bennett’s book.
Reporter 2: Is that where you found out about it?
Caswall: I quoted it as my authority.
Reporter 2: And where did Mr. Bennett get his authority?
Caswall: As you will see here, he quotes from the Louisville
Journal for 3 August 1842.110
Reporter 2: But that news item only appeared four months
after your visit to Nauvoo. You aver that it was awareness of that ordinance
that made you “happy in leaving Nauvoo unmolested.” But there was no
such ordinance when you were there; the only ordinance was a fictitious one
invented long after your departure. You learned of it from the sources
indicated and worked it into your story of 1843 as a personal experience. This
little detail supplies a useful clue, if we needed one, to Mr. Caswall’s
Moderator: Come now, let’s not embarrass our guest.
Reporter 1: Do you remember your parting words to the
Mormons of Nauvoo, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: I have them here: “I have been among you three
days; I have expressed my sentiments freely respecting your religion and your
prophet, and I heartily thank you that you have listened to me with attention,
and that although you have had me altogether in your power, you have not put me
under the Mississippi and kept me there.”111 “During the remainder
of the day, I employed myself in obtaining testimony from persons residing in
Iowa in reference to the conduct and character of their Mormon neighbors. . . .
This testimony . . . agrees with what I myself saw and heard in Nauvoo.”112
Reporter 2: Those last happen to be the very words with
which Mr. Caswall describes his first afternoon in his 1842 versions.
Apparently he transposes his own words as freely as he borrows from others.
Reporter 3: It seems a poor return, sir, for the unfailing
hospitality you enjoyed in Nauvoo, to hasten back to Montrose to continue
gathering your stories against those “credulous and ignorant, but
well-meaning persons” who had treated you so kindly. It is also perfectly
apparent from your farewell address that the Mormons did not resent your
presence among them, no matter how bold and obstreperous you were. Yet nowhere
do you so much as hint in any of your accounts that there was ever another
Gentile in Nauvoo beside yourself. I find that very odd.
Reporter 1: And isn’t it rather mean of you to tell the
world that you considered yourself happy in leaving Nauvoo unmolested, when all
you ever found there was a desire to be helpful to you?
Reporter 2: And to return the Mormons’ courtesy by thanking
them for not drowning you in the Mississippi, as if that were their custom?
Reporter 3: Didn’t the Mormons want you to stay longer?
Moderator: Please, gentlemen, one at a time!
Caswall: As we ferried back to Montrose for the last time,
the Mormon doctor “said that no man could obtain salvation, who devoted so
little attention to the truth of God as I had done; and that instead of
spending only three days, I ought to have remained at least three weeks at
Reporter 2: Don’t you think he was right, in view of all the
books and articles you were going to publish about your famous visit to the
Caswall: “I told him that I had seen quite enough to
convince any person of ordinary understanding that Smith was an imposter.”114
Reporter 2: And thereby, sir, you gave yourself away. You
showed definitely that your real object in coming to Nauvoo was not to study
the Mormons and hear both sides of the question, as you claim, but to “get
something” on Smith. You didn’t go to convert the Mormons, for you “had
laid aside your clerical garb.” You were determined specifically, as you
say, to get an interview with Smith, and you reached that decision in a moment
of anger and frustration. You couldn’t hope to learn much about the Mormons in
three days of brief conducted tours, and a five-minute conversation with a
religious leader is hardly adequate to satisfy a real seeker for knowledge; but
the three-day visit and the five-minute talk were enough to accomplish your
purposes, as you so clearly put it, “quite enough to convince any person
of ordinary understanding that Smith was an imposter.” That was the
purpose of your mission, and when that was accomplished you had no more
interest in staying another hour in Nauvoo.
Caswall: Now you are talking like the doctor. “It was
in vain that I attempted to correct the doctor’s false positions; the stream of
his heretical eloquence had begun to flow. . . . He said that the truth of
Mormonism did not depend on the character of Smith or of any other man.”115
Reporter 2: And you call that heretical talk?
Moderator: We must not judge the Reverend Caswall too
harshly. Remember, he found himself in an awkward position. He had come to
expose these people, and naturally had to be on his guard.
Reporter 1: In that case, the bold, heroic speeches must
have been brave Ciceronian afterthoughts.
Reporter 3: I have been thinking that myself. Here Mr.
Caswall was obviously too timid to wear clerical garb—though the Mormons
were as kind to clergymen as to anyone else, and that certainly would not have
hindered his testing of the prophet’s scholarship but helped it. He was also
plainly too timid to spend a night in Nauvoo—says he was afraid they
would steal his book, speaks of the risk he was running among the Mormons, and
all that. Yet this same Caswall, according to him, gives fiery speeches
denouncing Smith and all the Mormon leaders on the streets of Nauvoo and in the
presence of those Mormon leaders. You will remember that Cicero used to run
away from the opposition and then, at a safe distance, compose the rousing
speeches he would have given in their presence. I wonder if Mr. Caswall is not
doing the same thing? The fact that he does not hesitate to quote the same
speeches differently in different books is irrefutable evidence that he does
invent things. The question is, how far does he go?
Moderator: I believe Mr. Caswall wanted to tell us about his
exposure of the prophet.
Caswall: Yes. After he had driven away and the old man had
tried to heal me, I referred again to the false prophet: “Would you
believe him if he should say that English is French?” I asked. And when
they replied that they could form their own opinions, I answered, “You
heard your prophet declare that this book of mine is a Dictionary of Egyptian
hieroglyphics, and, farther, that it is written in characters like those of the
original Book of Mormon. I know it most positively to be the Psalms of David,
written in ancient Greek. Now what shall I think of your prophet?”116
Reporter 2: Mr. Caswall, why did you italicize the words “like
those of the original Book of Mormon”? Was there any possibility that the
characters in your book might have been like those on the plates?
Caswall: Don’t be absurd, sir; there were no plates!
Reporter 2: But there were characters. Didn’t you know that?
For Joseph Smith to say what you have him say—in italics—he would
have to be ignorant, as you apparently are, of the fact that all the “dignitaries
and high officials” in attendance at your demonstration knew very well
what the characters “of the original Book of Mormon” looked like, for
Smith had had them copied and widely circulated. Your fatal blunder is to
assume that only Smith knew what the characters looked like—a natural
assumption for you to make, but one that no Mormon would be guilty of. Then
again, if you had read the Book of Mormon you could have spared yourself an
even worse blunder. Had you read the Book of Mormon?
Caswall: While I was at Montrose I grasped the contents and
what it mainly consisted of after I had opened it at half-a-dozen places.
Reporter 2: Well, if you had opened it at a few more you
would have known that Joseph Smith would never in the world have claimed to
recognize Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphic, and Book of Mormon characters in the
same document. The Book of Mormon itself makes it very clear that the script of
the people who wrote it was strictly a New World invention, known to no other
people on earth, and therefore could not possibly turn up in an Old World
document containing Greek and hieroglyphic. Though “Reformed Egyptian”
was the ultimate origin of the Book of Mormon characters, it had been “altered”
beyond recognition by the Nephites. If you had been less eager to incriminate
Smith, Mr. Caswall, you might have been more thorough in your researches and
avoided falling into your own traps.
Reporter 1: It’s getting late. If it is all right with you,
I would just as soon get on to Mr. Caswall’s next batch of dispatches. When do
The 1851 story
Moderator: In 1851. I don’t think these versions of the Nauvoo story of
Mr. Caswall need detain us long. There are a number of points, however, on
which our experts of the press might wish to question our celebrated guest. Mr.
Reporter 1: I notice that our toning-down process has gone
on unabated. For instance the description of Joseph Smith. In 1851 you write: “Smith
was a clownish-looking man, but with a decidedly knavish expression. His hands
were large and fat, and his manner, though awkward, was energetic; . . . his
white hat was enveloped in a piece of black crape.”117 This is the first
we have heard of Smith’s energetic manner, and the first mention in your
writings of his famous white hat. Now, since this is a very abbreviated
account, how does it happen to contain details not found in the much fuller
accounts written at or near the time? In the ensuing years a number of writings
had appeared telling about Smith’s fabulous white hat. In 1865 you go so far as
to refer to Joseph Smith as “Old Holy White Hat Joe.” Yet in your
long book accounts of your meeting with Smith published in 1842 and 1843 you
make absolutely no mention of the hat, which later becomes Smith’s trademark.
Isn’t this another case of working into your eyewitness picture of Smith bits
of information picked up later, like the item about the Nauvoo ordinance?
Reporter 3: As you described your meeting originally, sir,
Smith met you “at a short distance from his dwelling,” and
immediately returned to the house with you. Are we to believe that he put on a
hat just to step outside and lead you into the house? I only mention that
because you yourself do not mention the hat until 1851.
Moderator: Please, let Mr. Caswall tell his own 1851 story
about the interview.
Caswall: Smith “having been previously informed by his
people of my wonderful book, now took it in his hands and asked me if I had any
idea of its meaning. I replied that I believed it to be a Greek Psalter, but
that I would like to hear his opinion.”118
Reporter 2: Mr. Caswall, you may recall that we pointed out
the absurdity in your other versions of having you start out by telling the
prophet what your book was, when your object was to test his scholarship by
having him identify it. It is instructive to note that you have now taken steps
to rectify the mistake.
Reporter 2: By admitting that Smith knew all about the book
ahead of time, “having been previously informed by his people” about
it. This is a new touch. You had no hesitation in telling him what you thought
the book was, because he had already been tipped off “by his people.”
But in that case, your “test of scholarship” breaks down. So you do
not conduct the test at all, but give the whole initiative to Smith: in 1851 he
is on to everything ahead of time and takes the initiative from the first;
knowing what you have already said about it, he takes the book into his hands
and challenges you to tell him “its meaning.” The initiative is all
Caswall: You are citing my book The American Church of 1851,
sir. But if you will only turn to my other book published in the same year, you
will find I am true to my original story.
Reporter 1: Then why publish two versions?
Reporter 3: Which is the other 1851 book?
Caswall: Mormonism and Its Author.
Reporter 2: I notice that Smith’s invisible eyes are not
mentioned in these later versions. Another absurdity in the original account
has thus been covered up. . . . But what is this? If Mr. Caswall has been
leaving things out, he has most certainly made up for it by the introduction in
his 1851 stories of sensational new material! In both books!
Moderator: What is this sensational new material?
Reporter 2: Listen to this. “In order to test the ‘Prophet’s’
inspiration in regard to the dead languages, I had brought with me an ancient
manuscript of the Greek Psalter, which I still retain as a valuable memorial of
the event. Taking this in my hand, I crossed over to Nauvoo on Monday morning,
and inquired for the ‘Prophet.’ “119
Caswall: What’s wrong with that?
Reporter 2: Heretofore Mr. Caswall has said most explicitly
that his purpose in acquiring the Psalter was to test Smith’s scholarship. Now
he is out to test his inspiration, a totally different thing. If Smith failed
in the 1842 test he would prove himself a poor scholar and an ignoramus; but
now if he fails he will demonstrate that he lacks inspiration—that he is
a false prophet. Of course the test is silly—inability to read Greek does
not prove one a false prophet, yet this is Mr. Caswall’s official position as
of 1851. It is also a very risky position for a minister of the Gospel to take.
Caswall: How, “risky?”
Reporter 2: Because the wicked seek for such signs. Remember
that you suggested having Smith walk on the water or raise the dead to prove
his prophetic calling. No true prophet would comply with such a request. When
they challenged Jesus to prove that he was a prophet at his trial, he answered
not a word, even though they devised a clever trick to put him to the test
(Luke 23:64). Now, let Mr. Caswall tell us how he opens the conversation in the
other book, Mormonism and Its Author. If you will remember, Mr. Caswall, you
first mentioned that Smith “seemed very coarse and clownish, and certainly
had not the open and straight-forward look which we naturally expect to see in
an honest man”—though this time you say nothing about having no
opportunity to see his eyes, which in my opinion discredits your first account
entirely. What did you say to Smith?
Caswall: “On entering his house, chairs were provided
for Joseph and myself, while a good many ‘Latter-day Saints’ stood round. . . .
I then placed the book in his hands, and said, that as I had been told that he
was a prophet of God, gifted with the power of understanding unknown tongues, I
hoped he would explain its contents. He asked me if I had any idea of its
meaning. I replied that I believed it to be the Psalms of David in Greek. ‘No,’
he said, ‘it ain’t Greek at all.’ . . . He then said, that the letters in the
book were ‘like the letters that were engraved on the plates of the Golden
Reporter 2: You put that last statement of Smith’s in
Caswall: Naturally. It was a quotation.
Reporter 2: But in 1842 you quoted Smith as saying: “Them
characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates.”
Now, in 1851 you had access to your other books, from which you quote at
length. So you have deliberately changed the text: that last statement of Smith’s
in your 1851 edition is perfectly grammatical. Why did you take the liberty to
correct Smith’s grammar after all those years—did you want him to make a
better impression? I hardly think so. No, now you are out to prove Smith not an
ignoramus, but a false prophet. Of course, the crux of the whole matter is your
opening speech to Smith about his being a prophet of God with the power of
understanding unknown tongues, etc. That speech establishes the test as a test
in inspiration instead of scholarship. But there is no hint of that
all-important speech in any of the earlier versions. I don’t think we need to
ask Mr. Caswall to explain: it is as plain as day that he has been thinking it
over and shifted his point of attack. Without wishing to embarrass Mr. Caswall
further, I would like to ask him to continue, as of 1851, that is.
Caswall: “I might go on to mention a further
conversation which I had with Joseph Smith.”
Reporter 3: A further conversation? But I thought this was
the only one.
Caswall: We conversed further, didn’t we?
Reporter 3: But “a further conversation” is
something else. At least it definitely gives the impression that this was not
your one and only conversation with Smith.
Caswall: I didn’t say I had another conversation, I simply
said, “I might mention a further conversation.”
Reporter 3: “A further conversation” that you
might mention certainly implies that there is a good deal that you are not
telling here, and that you had other conversations with Smith.
Moderator: Implies it, perhaps, Mr. C., but does not state
Reporter 3: Insinuation seems to be a fine art in stories
about Joseph Smith. What was this further conversation, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: I do not recount it in my 1851 books. I merely say,
“I might go on to mention a further conversation which I had with Joseph
Smith; and I might describe how suddenly he took his departure, when he began
to suspect that I knew a little more than he at first imagined.”121
Reporter 2: At the last telling you had said that Smith “probably
suspected you of a design to entrap him.” Now you have changed that to the
certainty that Smith was alarmed by your knowledge. Why should that alarm him?
Did he think you knew hieroglyphic—but no, in this story you do not even
mention hieroglyphics! Now the Psalter is everything, and nothing must be
allowed to detract from its importance. Well then, he “began to suspect”
that you knew “a little more than he at first imagined.” How do you
know what he at first imagined? Would Smith have any reason to doubt that you
knew what was in your own book? But tell us what happens next, please.
Caswall: Well, as I said, Smith took his departure “when
he began to suspect that I knew a little more than he at first imagined. I
might also state the conversations which I held with some of the Mormons, in
Nauvoo, in order to convince them that Smith had proved himself to be a
Reporter 1: You might have, but you didn’t.
Caswall: In my other book of 1851 I was somewhat more
explicit. “The ‘Prophet’ afterwards exhibited to me the same sheets of
papyrus which I had seen on the previous day, and began to give his usual
Reporter 3: How do you know it was “usual” if you
had never heard it before?
Caswall: I had talked to his mother.
Reporter 3: But you say this was “his usual
Reporter 1: And if Smith was on such familiar ground, why should a
perfectly natural and routine question from you throw him into a panic?
Reporter 2: Please, gentlemen, let us be fair! Mr. Caswall
makes no mention of the prophet’s panic in his 1851 books.
Reporter 1: Indeed, I thought that was the most striking and
picturesque part of the story. But what about the team of horses, and dashing
down the street in a cloud of dust and all that—simply delightful!
Reporter 2: Alas! Not a word of all that in 1851. Indeed, we
never hear of the wagon again after 1843.
Reporter 3: Why not, Mr. Caswall? That was easily the best
part of the story. Sheer drama. And in all your later versions you don’t even
mention it. If it was true in 1843 and 1842, why do you never tell it again?
Moderator: Perhaps there wasn’t room.
Reporter 3: Oh, come now! Through the years Mr. Caswall
tells his story again and again—in book-length accounts. He must borrow
from everywhere to fill up pages, yet never has room to tell in full of the one
brief conversation he had with Joseph Smith—so he leaves out the most
entertaining and colorful episode of the whole thing so that he can quote at
length from dull letters received from English clergymen and American gossips.
That is too much to take, sir. The total disappearance of the wagon story is a
most suspicious circumstance—to my mind full proof that it never
Moderator: Let us leave speculation and let Mr. Caswall tell
Caswall: As I said when so rudely interrupted, Smith “began
to give his usual explanation. But his suspicions appeared now to be awakened,
and he suddenly departed leaving me in the midst of the credulous and fanatical
multitude. I then told the bystanders that the book was certainly nothing but a
Greek Psalter, and endeavored to make them understand how thoroughly the
prophet had committed himself by positively declaring it to be a dictionary of
Reporter 2: This, I submit, is a wholly different story from
the original one.
Moderator: Is there anything there that Mr. Caswall did not
Reporter 2: The same elements are there, but in a new and
marvelous combination. In this story Caswall is out to discredit Smith’s claim
to inspiration, and he is going to do it by the Greek Psalter. So it is
necessary for him to take full advantage of the opportunity which he let slip
completely in the earlier accounts. Now the demonstration must have inspiration
as its object and be clearly understood as such—a thing not even
mentioned in the first accounts, which are very specific in making scholarship
the subject of the test. Now the long argument and discussion must take place
not in the street but in the room, and pivot about the Greek Psalter. It will
not do to have everyone leave the room, as they did before: Caswall must make
his point then and there—he is immediately “left in the midst of the
fanatical multitude”; there is no place here for the long, quiet wait for
Smith’s return, the descent to the street, the ridiculous wagon scene, the long
theological discussions which only touch on the Psalter incidentally. Caswall
immediately pounces on one point alone, proof that Smith “had committed
himself by positively declaring” the Greek Psalter to be a dictionary of
Moderator: What happened after you exposed Smith then and there
in the room?
Caswall: I did not say I exposed him then and there in the
Reporter 2: How could you have said it more plainly than
this? “. . . he suddenly departed, leaving me in the midst of the
credulous and fanatical multitude. I then told the bystanders that the book was
certainly nothing but a Greek Psalter, . . . ” etc. “Then” means
“at that time,” whereas in your earlier accounts you don’t mention
the Psalter until later, at another time and place, and you pass up every
opportunity to use it in your demonstration.
Reporter 1: You say in 1851 that Smith left the room when “his
suspicions appeared to have been awakened,” but you don’t say suspicions
Moderator: Please let Mr. Caswall continue.
Caswall: “After much fruitless argument, which,
however, they took in good part.”
Reporter 1: A “credulous and fanatical multitude,”
as you call them, took your valiant endeavors to prove their prophet a fraud “in
good part”? You call that fanaticism?
Moderator: Please, Mr. Ecks, Mr. Caswall has already
explained that the people did not believe him.
Caswall: You heard me say it was “fruitless argument.”
Reporter 2: So you didn’t convince them at all.
Caswall: It was fruitless.
Reporter 2: But in 1842 and 1843 you said that the Mormons
were quite crestfallen as a result of your discourse, and even admitted that
Smith made mistakes like other men, and had been deceived regarding the
Psalter. That does not seem like fruitless argument. It is a brilliant
victory—which you never mention after 1843! What happened after the
fruitless argument which didn’t offend the Mormons at all?
Caswall: “One of their number, perceiving my partial
deafness, endeavored to work a miracle for my complete restoration. But
observing that the touch of his finger and the use of the unknown tongue were
in this instance without effect, he assured me that the actual cure was
deferred until I should receive Joseph as a true prophet.”125
Reporter 2: To save embarrassing questions, may I be
permitted simply to compare this with Mr. Caswall’s earlier account? In 1843 it
was Caswall himself who called attention to his deafness and challenged the
Mormons to cure it, after telling them he had no faith; in 1851 the initiative
is all with them. The silly 1843 gesture of thrusting fingers into both ears
has in 1851 become a simple “touch of his finger.” We might elaborate
on these inventions, but let us hear Mr. Caswall’s parting speech.
Caswall: “I felt really grateful to these people for
allowing me, when I was completely in their power, to escape so easily with my
book, as well as with my life and liberty. Having expressed myself to this
effect, I entered the ferryboat.”126
Reporter 2: Here it is again! Do you forget, sir, that in
your 1843 account you did not return to Montrose that last time by the ferry,
but in a “small skiff” rowed by the Mormon doctor and two other men
using boards, because the oars had been stolen?127 That was a very picturesque
detail. Why do you enter the ferryboat this time, and forget that delightful
canoe that went around and around in the current?128
The 1865 story
Moderator: Gentlemen, let us remember that we represent the News, and
not the Editorial Department. Now let us get on to the final version of Mr.
Caswall’s story, that published in 1865.
Reporter 1: I notice that the author, W. S. Parrott, gives
himself the title of “Voluntary Missionary.” What is a Voluntary
Missionary? Aren’t all missionaries voluntary?
Reporter 2: In this case Mr. Parrott devoted and appointed
himself to the profession of traveling about England giving lectures on the
Mormons. His mission was to the English, his calling “to exhibit Mormonism
in its truly diabolical character.” Mr. Caswall’s report forms the
backbone of his book, The Veil Uplifted.
Reporter 1: Would you say that was so, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: The unique value of my contribution in 1865 is that
“I have given my own testimony as to what I myself saw of the false
prophet, and heard from his own lips, within his own house.”129
Reporter 1: Then naturally that is the most important part
of your story.
Caswall: Yes. “This testimony helps to destroy the very
foundations on which the ‘Latter Day’ doctrine is built, . . . for if Smith was
an imposter, as very plainly appears, then the ‘Book of Mormon’ is an imposition,
and the ‘Book of Covenants,’ and other ‘Latter Day’ writings, are a mass of
Reporter 3: Which leaves no doubt that you, in testifying of
your personal experiences with Joseph Smith, are the all-time star witness
against the whole “Latter Day” movement.
Reporter 2: So perhaps you will forgive us for seeming
hypercritical. After all, sir, it is you who have been Smith’s unsparing critic
for many long years. Now with an introduction such as Mr. Parrott has given
you, we can expect a thoroughly accurate and full account of your brief visit
Caswall: Well of course, I can’t tell everything.
Reporter 1: This report is economical and to the point. I
see here that you have left out the first two days entirely, Mr. Caswall. Here
you concentrate on one episode only—your meeting with Smith. For that
reason I think we can expect it to be a particularly full and accurate account.
In 1865, how did you describe that momentous meeting?
Caswall: “I met him at a short distance from his own
house, in company with a good many of his followers, who were aware that I
intended to exhibit a wonderful book to their prophet.”
Reporter 2: Excuse me for interrupting already, but this is
not the story you told earlier. In 1842 you said, “As I advanced, with my
book in my hand, numerous Mormons came forth from their dwellings, begging to
be allowed to see its mysterious pages; and by the time I arrived at the
prophet’s house, they amounted to a perfect crowd.” In 1843 this perfect
crowd had dwindled to “almost a crowd,” and finally in 1865 it is not
around you but around Smith that the crowd gathers, in anticipation of seeing
you show the book to him. It is another picture entirely of how the crowd had
gathered. You described the prophet as usual?
Caswall: “The appearance of Joseph was very far from
saintly; and indeed, conveyed the idea of a knave, much more than of a prophet.”131
Reporter 2: Every man is entitled to his opinions, sir, but
what has happened to the objective evidence that makes your testimony so
valuable? Where are the eyes you could not see and the huge fat hands? It is
those priceless details for which the world is beholden to you. How do you
think a prophet should look? Have you ever seen a prophet?
Caswall: Don’t be blasphemous, sir. Have a care! “On
entering the house, chairs were provided for Joseph and myself, while a good
many ‘Latter-day Saints’ stood around, anxiously expecting to hear their
prophet explain the meaning of the book.”
Reporter 1: The first part of your quotation is simply a
verbatim repetition of the earlier versions, showing that you used them and
cannot plead lapse of memory. But the second part, the anxious expectation, is
an added touch. It is apparent, sir, that you are doing everything to play up the
one central episode of the Psalter; but it was not always so.
Moderator: Please continue, Mr. Caswall.
Caswall: “I placed the book in his hands, and said,
that, as I had been told that he was a prophet of God, gifted with the power of
understanding unknown tongues, I hoped he would explain its contents.”
Reporter 1: This is the strangest story yet: now its whole
issue pivots on the supernatural. You had repeatedly stated earlier that your
object was to test his scholarship; then in 1851 you suddenly announced that it
was to test his “inspiration.” Which was it as of 1865?
Caswall: “As he had given out that God had inspired him
with an understanding of unknown tongues, I fixed upon what I considered a very
fair method of putting him to the proof.”
Reporter 2: So now you are out wholly to test Smith’s
prophetic inspiration, and you have deliberately devised a test beforehand
which in your opinion will do just that. We see now the “Psalter trick”
at last full blown, purged of all the dross, irrelevant, confusing, and
contradictory details of the earlier stories. Twenty-three years of fixing have
at last brought forth a clear, streamlined account that neatly cooks Smith’s
goose. But is this the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? If
so, what of your other tales? In 1865 you concentrate your whole attack on the
Psalter. What about your conversation with Smith?
Caswall: “He asked me if I had any idea of its meaning.”
And then told me that the letters in the book were “like the letters that
were engraved on the plates of the Golden Book!”132
Reporter 2: Smith’s answer is still in quotes, but what has
happened to his outrageous grammar? And what about your answer to Smith that
you believed the book to be a Greek Psalter? That is left out entirely because
it would knock in the head your claim that you had “fixed upon a method”
of testing his inspiration by asking him to identify the book.
Caswall: The rest of the account is the same as in 1851. “I
might go on to mention a further conversation which I had with Joseph Smith;
and I might describe how suddenly he took his departure, when he began to
suspect that I knew a little more than he at first imagined, . . . etc.”133
Reporter 2: But after mentioning the conversations (as if
there were many of them) you come quickly to the point, I believe.
Caswall: Indeed I do: “But the fact which I desire to
be particularly noticed is, that the Founder of Mormonism, the Head of the ‘Latter-day
Saints,’ boldly and confidently pronounced a part of the Holy Bible to be a
Dictionary of Egyptian hieroglyphics!”134
Reporter 2: As I said—in 1865 you have it all finally
worked out. Everything is now subordinated to the Psalter story. In the other
versions and as late as 1851 you declared that all your protests to the Mormons
on the subject were “fruitless” and that they were convinced that
Smith was right. But what do you say in 1865?
Caswall: I told those people, “You heard your prophet
declare that this book of mine is a dictionary of Egyptian hieroglyphics, and,
farther, that it is written in characters like those of the original Book of
Mormon. I know it most positively to be the Psalms of David, written in ancient
Greek. Now what shall I think of your prophet?”
Reporter 1: This is the crucial speech, all right, and you
have put it in quotation marks. Is that what you said?
Caswall: It is.
Reporter 1: Then why is the first part of the speech, the
all-important “you heard your prophet declare,” etc., that sets the
problem up so beautifully, entirely missing in all your other versions?
Reporter 2: What follows is even more important. Mr.
Caswall, this is the way you described the reaction to your speech in the 1842
version: “They appeared confounded for a while; but at length the Mormon
doctor said, ‘Sometimes Mr. Smith speaks as a prophet, and sometimes as a mere
man.’ . . . I said, ‘Whether he spoke as a prophet or as a mere man, he has
committed himself.’ “135 That was in 1842. Note here that Caswall wins.
Suddenly, without any apparent reason, the Mormons surrender, and admit that
Smith was mistaken about the Psalter. That is, of course, the key to the whole
business. Yet that all-important incident never appears again in any of Mr.
Caswall’s other accounts! Why not, if it was true? In 1865, the best Caswall
can do is to prove Smith’s falseness by a labored syllogism. What was it you
said, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: “Now this certainly goes a great way to prove
that Joseph Smith could not have been a prophet of God, nor even a good man. If
he really possessed the power which he claimed, of reading books in ancient
tongues, he would have been likely to know the true Bible even though written
in Greek; and since he said that the letters of the book were like those
written on the golden plates, it would have been all the easier for him to
understand them, because, by his own account, he had translated the writing on
those plates by the help of God. But most surely, if he had been a good man, he
would have honestly confessed that he did not know the meaning of the book
which I showed him; and would not have positively said to me and to the Mormons
who were standing by, that the Psalms of David were an Egyptian dictionary. How
foolish, then, it is, for any person who knows this fact, to believe this story
about the Angel and the Golden Book!”136
Reporter 2: Mr. Caswall, this is how you climaxed your
demonstration in 1842: “I replied that the prophet had given me no
satisfaction, and that on the contrary, he had proved his own ignorance most
effectively.” Ignorance is the theme, not prophetic inspiration. Now,
having shifted your ground, you must go into this long rigmarole to shore up
your new position. But it would be impossible for you to deny that it is all
invented in retrospect. Did you suddenly remember this long speech for the
first time in 1865? Why was all this laborious argument necessary if the
Mormons collapsed like a punctured balloon, as in the 1842 version?
Reporter 3: Mr. Caswall, where were the Gentiles all this
Caswall: What do you mean?
Reporter 2: That Nauvoo was an open city where the Gentiles
like yourself circulated freely among the Mormons, who resented neither your
presence nor your preachments. You say your non-Mormon friends were eager and
willing to offer you every assistance in prosecuting your researches. Your host
in Montrose could spend the afternoon riding with you in the prairies; why
couldn’t a non-Mormon companion have gone with you as a witness for an hour or
two when you went to make your carefully prepared test of the prophet’s
Caswall: I did not need non-Mormon support. “I met with
persons at Nauvoo, who were perfectly acquainted with the wickedness of Smith,
and did not pretend to deny it, who yet professed to believe firmly that he was
Reporter 2: Now that is a most important point. Yet you do
not mention it until twenty-three years after your visit to Nauvoo! If these
people were perfectly acquainted with Smith’s wickedness, which they did not
even pretend to deny, why did you waste five-sixths of your precious three days
in Nauvoo gathering testimonies among the anti-Mormons of Iowa? The whole thing
seems devised in retrospect.
Caswall: There is no retrospect about the Psalter. In my
very first account in 1842 I said that I had provided myself with a Greek
Psalter with a specific objective.
Reporter 2: Which was to test the prophet’s scholarship,
with not a word about inspiration. Oh, I don’t deny for a moment that you
intended to test the man, and what is more, that you had prepared a trap.
Caswall: But you said I did not mention any trap until 1851.
Reporter 2: Correct. You most certainly did “design to
entrap him,” as you put it. But you never got the chance—the
original plan was never tried.
Moderator: You sound like Nero Wolfe, sir. What original
What was the “Psalter trick”?
Reporter 2: Before I tell you that, it must be understood that the “Psalter
trick,” as described in 1851 and after, was not the original plan. It
could not possibly have been.
Reporter 3: Why not?
Reporter 2: Because the success of the whole test depended
on Smith’s taking everything into his own hands and making a complete fool of
himself in a way that could not possibly have been foreseen. In the earlier
versions Smith surprises everyone by his unpredictable and unaccountable
behavior; the trick is only a trick because he insists on turning the tables
against himself and dashing down the street in terror. Now, no one could have “fixed
upon a method” of making him do that. Mr. Caswall could not possibly have
anticipated by any stretch of the imagination the tactless and utterly
senseless way in which Smith played into his hands; he might have imagined all
sorts of crazy behavior on his part, but not as a reliable reaction to a
carefully laid plan. Did he know Smith had a wagon? Did he count on him to use
Moderator: Mr. Caswall never claimed that that was part of
Reporter 2: But without Smith’s clowning (Mr. Caswall has
taught us the word) there would have been no trick at all.
Reporter 1: But in his early versions Mr. Caswall never
refers to a trick, but only to a “test”—a test of Smith’s
Reporter 2: Exactly. In his first accounts the best he can
do is to put Smith to a scholarly test and show him up as an ignoramus. This is
what he writes in 1843: “His language is uncouth and ungrammatical,
indicating very confused notions respecting syntactical concords. When an
ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalms was exhibited to him as a test of his
scholarship, he boldly pronounced it to be a ‘Dictionary of Egyptian
hieroglyphics!’ “138 You will note that the object of the Psalter here is
to show up Smith’s ignorance by testing his scholarship. But in 1865 the talk
is all of “unknown tongues.” Am I right, Mr. Caswall?
Caswall: I was testing Smith in the light of his own claims:
“As he had given out that God had inspired him with an understanding of
unknown tongues,” I said to him “that, as I had been told that he was
a prophet of God, gifted with the power of understanding unknown tongues, I
hoped he would explain its contents.”139 Now, if he really possessed the
power which he claimed . . .
Reporter 2: But Greek was not an unknown tongue—in
those days any minister worth his salt was supposed to be able to read it. You,
in fact, had told the Mormons (who told it to Smith) that anyone with even a
slight acquaintance with Greek could read your book easily. Could such a book
test anyone in “the power of understanding unknown tongues?”
Reporter 3: Had it ever been “given out” by Joseph
Smith that he could and would read any ancient document on request? You are
testing not what he claimed, but what you claimed for him. This is akin to your
requesting the Mormons to perform a miracle on your ears: it would have been
completely against Smith’s teachings and principles to comply. As I have said
before, sir, you are totally unaware of the Mormon concept of spiritual gifts.
Smith claimed no such “power” as you assume he did.
Reporter 2: Mr. Caswall, in 1839 you wrote in your book
America and the American Church: “The Mormonites . . . consider the study
of the Hebrew language to be a religious duty; and at one of their settlements,
in Ohio, they recently engaged the son of a Jewish rabbi, a distinguished
Hebrew teacher, to instruct the whole community.”140 That, sir, plainly
shows that Smith did not count on getting all languages by revelation—and
you knew it. As early as 1831 a non-Mormon newspaper reports: “Mr. Smith
arrived in Kirtland the next day; and being examined concerning his
supernatural gifts by a scholar, who was capable of testing his knowledge, he
confessed he knew nothing of any language save the king’s English.”141 So
you see, someone had already beaten you to it in putting the prophet’s
scholarship to the test, and we know exactly what the man’s answer was to that
challenge. He had to translate by the gift and power of God precisely because
he himself knew no language but English. . . . But he never made a public
display of that gift—he knew that gifts of the Spirit do not operate on
such terms. But to return to Nauvoo. You have told us, Mr. Caswall, that you “fixed
upon a plan” ahead of time, and as part of that plan brought along a Greek
Psalter with the definite object of testing the prophet’s scholarship. But the
minute we get a look at that Psalter it becomes apparent that your “plan
to test the prophet’s scholarship” was really a trick “designed to
Caswall: What do you mean?
Reporter 2: I mean that after widely announcing that you
were going to give the prophet a very easy test by asking him to read a book so
simple “that a slight acquaintance with Greek would enable any person to
decipher its meaning,” you were going to confront him with a text in a
rare and difficult script that nobody in America could read! Let us imagine
that a student who has studied Greek all through college comes up for a final
examination; a text is placed before him, not in the critical editions that
scholars use, but in the odd and illegible script of six hundred years ago,
decipherable only to a few experts in paleography. Wouldn’t the student rightly
object that it was not an examination in Greek at all, but in Greek
Caswall: In case he couldn’t read it, all Smith would have
to do was to say so. As I pointed out in 1865, the test he failed to pass was
the test of showing himself to be an honest man.
Reporter 2: Exactly. You knew Smith couldn’t read the
book—if he said he could, he would be trapped; and if he said he could
not, then you would have him. You would instantly close your book (as you say
you did) and triumphantly announce that Smith “had effectively proven
himself an ignoramus” and that you would now “make it known to the
Moderator: But if the book was in an illegible
script—if it was a trick manuscript—Joseph Smith would only have to
point that out.
Reporter 1: Ah! I begin to see a light! One thing that has
been puzzling me all along is why Mr. Caswall was so reluctant to let anybody
get a good look at his Psalter, especially since he made such capital of it.
Caswall: But I did give them a good look at it—that
first day in the store.
Reporter 1: Yes, that first day in the store, where you
could be quite certain that nobody knew any Greek, and so nobody would question
your statement that the book was simple, straightforward Greek that anybody
with “a slight acquaintance” of the language could read. Even then
you didn’t let the book out of your hands. And after that? Not only did you
refuse to sell it for a staggering sum but you wouldn’t even let the Mormons
take it overnight, though they offered you fabulous security; you refused to
stay in Nauvoo overnight, you say, specifically because you feared that the
Mormons might get hold of your book. Smith had barely got a look at the book
when you took it away from him and hurriedly wrapped and tied it, though the “test”
had barely begun, and the Mormons were simply dying to see more of it. You
absolutely refused to let the book out of your hands even when there was not
the slightest danger of losing it.
Reporter 2: And if you didn’t trust the Mormons with it, Mr.
Caswall, why didn’t you at least trust the Gentiles?
Caswall: Trust the Gentiles?
Reporter 2: Yes. You possessed the book to the end of your
life “as a memento,” you said, of your visit to Smith. It may have been
an interesting memento, but in your hands it was not evidence. Now, if you had
sold it to the Mormons, as they begged you to for three days, and got a signed
receipt for it from Smith (you say he also wanted to buy it from you), you
could have gone back to St. Louis with welcome and much-needed funds for your
darling college, plus written evidence of your Psalter trick. You didn’t do any
of that: you clung to your unreadable book and took it back to England with
you. But why didn’t you exploit it there? It was your Exhibit A, your only
exhibit, in fact; why was it never put on public display? Why did you never use
it in illustrating any of your books? The anti-Mormon world would have prized
this treasure almost as greatly as the Mormons, if only as a rather sensational
museum-piece. Yet to the end you kept it by you, and it has never been heard of
since. I think the explanation of this may be that any real scrutiny of the
book would betray the trick.
Caswall: But I said from the first that it was an old parchment
Reporter 2: And you also said it was easy to read for anyone
knowing a little Greek. There are such manuscripts, but this plainly was not
one of them. As long as the book was in your possession, Mr. Caswall, you could
tell your story, but if it ever got out of your hands the thing could easily
backfire. I can think of no other reason why you should have guarded it so
Moderator: You seem to know a great deal about this, Mr.
Wye. What do you think actually did happen?
Reporter 2: Ah, there we are on dubious ground. The first
thing to remember is that Mr. Caswall, in the retirement of his rural English
deanery, makes happen what he wants to happen, as his evolving history shows.
In that case we are not bound to accept any claim of his as a statement of what
actually did happen.
Moderator: Do you even doubt that he was in Nauvoo?
Reporter 2: Of course not. But what he did there is another
thing. He may have seen Smith driving out in a wagon, for on 19 April 1842, he
did drive out in a wagon to inspect some lands—but he was not running
away from Caswall! The fact that Mr. Caswall himself omits that part of the
story in all versions after 1843 admits that: it is much too good to leave out
if it is true. Again, Smith actually was in Carthage on April 18, so that Mr.
Caswall was very probably told as much, and very probably did not meet him on
that day. In fact, what is clearest from all his accounts is what did not
happen. I doubt very much that he ever met Smith, in view of his professed
inability to see his eyes, the fantastic conversation and lack of conversation
that took place between the two men, and his comments on Smith’s oversized
hands—deleted from later versions. Such deletions were counter-balanced
by the picturesque introduction in 1851 of the Old White Hat—another
Reporter 1: So all we have is negatives?
Reporter 2: Not at all. The negatives belong only to the
third day. Now, it is an interesting and very significant thing that Mr.
Caswall, in all his various accounts, leaves the story of his first two days in
Nauvoo, if we can call them that, unchanged—if variety interests him, why
does he not play around freely with those days as he does with the third day?
All his manipulations, deletions, additions, and alterations have to do with
the story of the third day, his world-famous meeting with Joseph Smith. Here he
is not satisfied with the original and carefully works it over through the
years to make it hold water. The whole account of the meeting with Smith, from
the landing to the departure on that third day, must be put on the dubious
list, because Mr. Caswall gives conflicting versions of every episode and
speech. And if he was willing to indulge in creative writing after 1842, I see
no reason why he should not have done the same in the 1842 version itself. See
what damage you have done, Mr. Caswall!
Caswall: Damage? It is not damage to make this monstrous
perversion hateful in the eyes of the world. “The reader of the preceding
history,” as I said in conclusion, “can have distinguished little in
his [Smith’s] character besides unscrupulous audacity, reckless falsehood, low
cunning, grovelling vulgarity, daring blasphemy, and grasping selfishness,
combined with a genius eccentric in its aims, fertile in its expedients, and
mad in its ambition.”142
Mrs. B. carries on
Reporter 2: No, no. I don’t mean that. I mean your own cause. You
have exposed to view not only your own eager mendacity, but that of some of our
most esteemed writers. Listen to one of the latest repetitions of your story:
One visitor, Henry Caswall, an Episcopalian preacher from a
St. Louis college, armed himself with an ancient manuscript psalter written in
Greek and, pretending to be ignorant of its contents, offered it to Joseph for
scrutiny. Under the prophet’s questioning he finally admitted that he believed
the language to be Greek, but this Joseph contradicted. Caswall, exaggerating
the imperfections of Joseph’s grammar, later related the story as follows.
At this point the author we are quoting, instead of relating
the story, gives the grotesque quotation beginning, “No, it ain’t Greek at
all,” etc., followed immediately by the conclusion:
When the prophet left the room, Caswall turned triumphantly
to the men present and exposed the trick. “They appeared confounded for a
while,” he wrote, “but at length the Mormon doctor said: “Sometimes
Mr. Smith speaks as a prophet, and sometimes as a mere man,” etc.143
Now look how you have led this poor soul astray, Mr.
Caswall. She gives as her only authority for all this your 1842 City of the
Mormons, or Three Days at Nauvoo, yet obviously it is the later version she is
following. Take her story point by point. First, she says you “tricked
Joseph Smith” with a Greek Psalter. But in your 1842 account, which she
gives as her only source, no trick of any kind was mentioned or implied. She
says the trick consisted of arming yourself with an ancient manuscript Psalter
written in Greek and “pretending to be ignorant of its contents.”
This is a direct contradiction of your own specific declaration of 1842, that
far from pretending to be ignorant of the book’s contents, you protested loudly
and repeatedly to Smith’s followers that you knew exactly what the book
was—you told them what it was, and you also told Smith what it is. He
does not have to squeeze this information out of you; you did not “finally
admit” the language was Greek “under the prophet’s questioning”:
you volunteered the information promptly and immediately—there was no
cross-examination. There was no “scrutiny” of the text by Smith
before he got your explanation out of you; in fact, there was no scrutiny at
all—Smith had hardly looked at the thing before you took it away from him
and wrapped it up, to the great chagrin of the Mormons. You did not then “turn
triumphantly to the men present.” To make your trick effective, Mrs.
Brodie must have it all happen there on the spot; and so she carefully omits
the telling details of how you later went down to the street, saw Smith dash by
in his wagon, and then got into a long hassle with the Mormons, toward the end
of which you mentioned the Psalter without exploiting your “triumph.”
Of course there was in 1842 no “triumph,” since it was the Mormons
who claimed the victory; and you definitely did not “expose the trick,”
you simply repeated what you had been saying all along. Then comes the payoff:
you have won—the Mormons are suddenly confounded, and the doctor frankly
admits that Smith was wrong. But if it happened that way, why do you always leave
that part out after 1843? And why, incidentally, do you never name the doctor
who conducted you around Nauvoo? Of course, Mrs. Brodie, whose monument of
primary research we have been quoting, conveniently forgets to mention that
there is not just one, but at least six primary and contradictory documents all
written by you; and such disturbing details as the fact that in your 1842
report it is not the Greek Psalter at all, but a hieroglyphic text that trips
up the prophet, are passed by in silence.
Moderator: After all, Mr. Wye, you can hardly blame Mr.
Caswall for liberties that others have taken with his writings. Mrs. Brodie has
taken it upon herself to improve on the Caswall story: nowhere does Mr. Caswall
say that he ever pretended to be ignorant of the contents of his book; at no
time does he say or imply that he only admitted that the book was Greek “under
the prophet’s questioning”; even in his 1865 version the trick is not
anything as neat and foolproof as Mrs. Brodie makes it out to be by having the
professor press his advantage on the spot, “turn triumphantly to the men
present and expose the trick”—there was no such exposure described
by him. Mr. Caswall may have stretched things a good deal, but Mrs. Brodie is
responsible for her own performances.
Reporter 2: And this is just one of them, I admit. But the
mischief began with Mr. Caswall—others have caught his spirit and carried
on in the tradition.
Recapitulation and finale?
Moderator: I think it is about time to sum things up now. It is
customary on these programs to ask our guest to leave the studio during the
final appraisal. Mr. Caswall, have you anything you would like to tell or ask
us before you leave? It has been very instructive and helpful having you here
with us, and if our investigators have been a bit brusque at times, we want to
ask your forgiveness. Is there anything you would like to say in closing?
Caswall: It has been a privilege and a pleasure to meet with
you, gentlemen, though “the task of delineating the prophet’s infernal
character has been certainly far from agreeable to the author; . . . Joseph
Smith, without his blasphemy and vulgarity, would be a very different being
from the ‘Prophet of the Nineteenth Century.’ “144 That is all I have to
say. Good day, gentlemen. (Exit Caswall)
Moderator: Now that our guest has been escorted from the
studio and taken to lunch in the Byzantine Room of Barchester Towers, we shall
ask our panel of experts for their frank appraisal of the Greek Psalter story.
It is claimed that Joseph Smith once declared in the presence of witnesses that
a Greek Psalter was a dictionary of hieroglyphics. Did he or didn’t he?
Reporter 2: The first thing to notice is that only one
witness to the tale has ever been found—and that just happens to be the
man who invented the Psalter trick; isn’t it just possible that this ingenious
and imaginative soul also invented the Psalter story?
Reporter 1: That is what we want to determine if we can. It
is certain that deception has been practiced, either by Smith or by Caswall.
Which is it?
Reporter 3: First step: look for the motive! Let’s compare
Smith’s possible motives with Caswall’s. What could Smith have gained by
declaring a Greek Psalter, which he couldn’t read, to be a dictionary of
hieroglyphics—which he knew it was not?
Reporter 1: Maybe he really thought it was—self-deception, you know.
Reporter 3: Really thought it was a mixture of Greek,
hieroglyphic, and reformed Egyptian that looked just like the characters on the
golden plates? Hardly! He would certainly be making that up if he said it. So
what would that get him?
Reporter 1: A chance to show off before his followers.
Reporter 2: But as far as his followers were concerned,
Smith was already tops—he didn’t have to impress them! And he knew that
he could not impress the owner of the book, who had already told everybody what
he thought it was. Moreover, far more than a gesture of omniscience is involved
here, for Smith actually offered to buy the book for a great sum of money,
knowing that it was not worth it and that once he had bought it before all
those witnesses he would be stuck with it and called upon for an exhaustive
demonstration—which he could not give! In the capacity of Caswall’s
favorite idiot, Smith might have hailed a bundle of illegible parchment as an
Egyptian treasure and offered to purchase it on the spot for a fabulous sum,
but no rational, let alone cunning, human being would have done it. Notice that
everything Smith does in the presence of Caswall is not only foolish but
utterly suicidal—he invariably does the worst possible thing from his
point of view and the best possible thing from Caswall’s. No, gentlemen, we are
more or less stuck for motives where Smith is concerned. But how about Caswall?
Reporter 3: The poor man has spilled the beans all over the
place. Even without our Methodist Quarterly Review, my notes scream prejudice
on every page. Caswall went to Nauvoo with the fixed idea that Joseph Smith was
totally depraved—he preached it on the journey. We do not have to assume
a professional jealousy of Smith, since Caswall is good enough to tell us about
it himself, specifying that Smith has succeeded where he had failed, and
describing him as an unscrupulous competitor but for whose “delusive
attractions to the rising generation” his own church and school might have
had better success. He declares a policy of no mercy and no quarter to Joseph
Smith, to think or speak well of whom could only indicate “great want of
charity.” His host and principal informant in Montrose was the bitterest
enemy of the Mormons in all the region. In a revealing preface he has shouted
his prejudice from the housetops, declaring that the whole purpose of his
activity is to make Mormonism hateful in the eyes of the world. He has
announced that the purpose of his visit to Nauvoo was to “help destroy the
very foundations on which the Latter-day doctrine is built,” and that his
lethal weapon is to be the “Psalter trick.” Here Caswall says, “I
have given my own testimony as to what I myself saw of the false prophet, and
heard from his own lips, within his own house. And this testimony helps to
destroy the very foundation on which the ‘Latter-day’ doctrine is built.”145 That is Caswall’s last statement on the subject, and, as Mr. Zee has said,
it supplies us with both the motive—Mr. Caswall’s single-minded
dedication to one objective—and the means by which he meant to encompass
it. Now the question is, did those means include the outright invention of the
Psalter story? What do you think, Mr. Ecks?
Reporter 1: Well, first of all I ask myself, would he have
gone so far? Would Mr. Caswall actually lie?
Reporter 3: He is certainly willing to exaggerate. Even Mrs.
Brodie admits that.
Reporter 1: But Caswall tones things down progressively in
Reporter 3: Which means that he goes beyond
exaggeration—which can be an impulsive and emotional thing without intent
to deceive—to cool and deliberate invention and manipulation, or, if you
Reporter 2: And along with the toning down and deletion of
certain things we have the equally conspicuous tendency to add and embellish,
which, in the nature of anything as brief, direct, and simple as the Psalter
story, bears the mark of fabrication. Also, through the years Caswall shows a
marked tendency to move from the specific to the general—to shift his
ground—a plain indication that he was not standing on sure ground in the
beginning. From the point of view of veracity it might not be so bad to omit
from all subsequent editions the nice things he said about the Mormons in
1842—that is a mark of prejudice rather than deceit; but it is another
matter when he goes on through the years adding long and elaborate speeches
which are supposed to be given verbatim but which grow like snowballs: here we
are manifestly faced with inventions of the author.
Moderator: Can’t we just call them embellishments?
Reporter 2: We can. But no plea of pardonable exaggeration
or embellishment can excuse the complete revamping of the story that takes
place in 1851, when everything shifts from a test of scholarship to a test of
inspiration, and a whole new introductory speech by Caswall is invented as a
prelude to the exhibit. What Caswall wanted was the opportunity to discredit
Joseph Smith once and for all, and he determined that his trip to Nauvoo should
furnish him with a perfect opportunity.
Reporter 1: How could he count on that?
Reporter 3: By producing the whole thing in retrospect. All
Mrs. Eaton needed was a reputation of having actually lived in Palmyra to make
her an authority on everything Joseph Smith said and did. All the Reverend
Caswall needed was to be able to say truthfully that he had actually spent
three days at Nauvoo: from there he was on his own, an unchallenged authority
free to invent at will and at leisure. If the Mormons questioned what he said,
of course he would brush that aside as prejudiced. He was on pretty safe
ground, but still he was taking no chances. It is wonderful to see the
precautions the man took against being found out or even questioned.
Reporter 2: Exactly. And if his story were true, he would
want to be questioned about it: he would fall all over himself to supply
corroborating evidence. Look how eager he is to imply the presence of many
witnesses for every episode he reports, yet he never supplies their names or
any other information that might be used to check up on his story. Instead of
inviting the public to confirm and follow up his adventures, he takes the
greatest pains to prevent any possible inquiry about them. He is always careful
that he and only he shall tell the story—not even Gentile witnesses are
allowed to be present! This man wants no witnesses. You may have noticed that I
emphasized the point of his disguise.
Reporter 1: And you always pointed out that it must have
been a very flimsy disguise. Why?
Reporter 2: The disguise is an important clue. With all his
talk of sacred duty, clerical vows, and the like, Caswall nonetheless lays off
the clerical garb that would have got him a warm reception in Nauvoo and in no
way interfered with his Psalter trick. I doubt if even his natural timidity
would induce the reverend to go about his missionary labors without his cloth
unless he had a very special reason—that of making it as hard as possible
to check up on him.
Reporter 1: But all along you insisted that the disguise was
a very flimsy one; that it wouldn’t fool anybody.
Reporter 2: And I insist again. The “disguise” is
a remarkably poor one, and Caswall could not for an hour have concealed his
profession from the Mormons. Note the absurdity of having the Mormons
completely baffled and wildly curious as to his identity, while at the same
time he went around town being formally introduced to everyone: by what name?
Most everyone in Nauvoo had been in St. Louis, some of them many times—did
he suppose for a moment that none of the Mormon leaders who were always on hand
would recall the name of the man who had headed the college there for years?
Remember, Caswall complained that some of his own students had been wooed away
Reporter 1: So the disguise was no good. Then why did he
bother with it?
Reporter 2: Because the disguise is purely for the benefit
of the reader. Caswall wants his readers to think that he was successfully disguised.
Just as he will never have to name or identify any of those witnesses of whom
he is constantly speaking, so no Mormon can ever claim to remember, recognize,
or refute the man who so brilliantly tricked Smith—for he was in
disguise! A minister in his robes would be easily recalled, but a common traveler
could be anybody.
Moderator: But this common traveler is supposed to have
created an immense sensation.
Reporter 2: Another reason for believing that it didn’t
happen that way. For nobody in Nauvoo, official or unofficial, reports the
earth-shaking event. I am not referring to the Psalter, but simply to Mr.
Caswall’s sensational visit and street-sermons. Remember how the “perfect
crowd” that followed him up the street in the 1842 account dwindles to nothing
at all by 1865? So much for the immense sensation. Now, consider Caswall’s
reluctance to sell the book.
Moderator: We already have. He refused to sell it for $900
Reporter 1: Did he really think it was worth all that? He
had recently acquired it, he says, for the specific purpose of testing Smith,
but after the test he refuses to sell it. This is another step in covering up
his traces: by rejecting every offer for the book he is removing it from the
category of evidence. Henceforth its only value is the value he chooses to put
upon it “as a memento of his visit to Joseph Smith.”
Reporter 2: If his story is true, his behavior is
unaccountable, and so is Smith’s—begging to buy a book that is worthless
to him and will only put him in a tight spot. But if he is making the story up,
then it all makes perfect sense, for then he would have to produce the
certificate or the money and, worse still, there would be a damaging witness to
his trickery at large. The Psalter would show at the very least that he had
loaded the dice when he went “to test the prophet’s scholarship.” But
Caswall is always careful that there shall be no witness and no evidence to
testify to his activities in Nauvoo.
Reporter 3: I find the behavior of the Mormons even stranger
than that of Caswall.
Moderator: What do you mean?
Reporter 3: Caswall may have had a good reason for not
wanting things to go on too long, but consider the amazing apathy of the
multitude. Here were all these people who by Mr. Caswall’s clever tactics had
been worked up to a fever pitch of excitement about the book. Curiosity has
reached the point of hysteria when, to crown everything, the prophet announces
not only that the book is in very deed a wonderful one—far more wonderful
than its owner had supposed—but that he knows what is in it. Yet no one
asks him a single question! No report of this marvel ever spreads abroad, even
as gossip. No Mormon or Gentile reports it. No one, including Smith, protests
when Caswall brings the examination to an abrupt halt before it has even got
started. Caswall favors with italics Smith’s declaration that the characters in
the book are like those on the golden plates. What a sensation such an
announcement would have created in Nauvoo—the news would spread like
wildfire! Why didn’t it? Where is it mentioned anywhere? There in the upper
room a hundred questions immediately spring to mind. But there was no
questioning period there; Caswall himself must keep up the conversation by
asking to see the papyri. Smith is all the things Caswall thought he would be: “Even
more wicked than I could have supposed him to be,” is his expression. His
unbelievable speech is completely out of keeping with the known manner of Smith
at the time, but perfectly in character with the idiotic slob of the Caswall
stereotype. The false prophet immediately starts swaggering and boasting,
rudely contradicting his distinguished guest—he and he only knows the
answers; he uses the three or four minutes at his disposal with devastating
economy as he prates of Egyptian hieroglyphics and golden plates and characters
in reformed Egyptian and the angel, all in the most preposterously crude
language. Of course he must identify the book as “Reformed Egyptian,”
though that was a New World invention, not to be found in any Old World
document. This is another fatal slip, but Caswall, who had not read the Book of
Mormon, didn’t know it: everything must be true to his idea of what the boob
Joseph Smith would say.
Reporter 2: Not only is Caswall the sole witness to what is
supposed to have happened in Nauvoo—never mentioned in any other writings
than his—but what is more, he knows he is!
Reporter 1: What makes you so sure of that?
Reporter 2: The great freedom with which he improvises. He
could only take the liberties he does if he were quite sure that no one else
would ever tell the story. And why is he so absolutely certain that no one else
ever will tell that story or any part of it? Why is he perfectly free to tell
it as he chooses? Simply because it is a product of his own imagination. To
close the door to inquiry, he has fixed it so that no one will ever identify
his Mormons, and they will never identify him.
Moderator: So what is your final opinion, Mr. Wye?
Reporter 2: That the Greek Psalter story is the end product
of a long process of revising and reediting in an attempt to provide a story of
fraud that would stick. The original plot called for a frame-up and a trap:
there was to be an interview with Smith at which he was to fail to recognize a
Greek Bible. To make sure that he would fail, a doctored text was used, a text
that no scholar in America could read, though Caswall was to announce publicly
that the test would be a very simple and elementary one. The moment Smith had
admitted or in any way displayed his incapacity to read the book, it was to be taken
from him, tied up in many wrappings, and scrupulously kept out of the hands of
the Mormons, no matter how much they offered for it. Only then, after the book
had been sealed, would Caswall announce that Smith “had effectively
demonstrated his ignorance,” since the bearer of the book “knew it
positively to be a Greek Psalter.” Then the professor would be free to “make
known to the world” how the prophet had exhibited his gross ignorance.
Only the interview never took place, as is clear (a) from
the fact that it is nowhere mentioned save in Caswall’s own writings, though
Nauvoo was an open city and the interview was supposed to have caused a great
sensation; (b) from the intrinsic absurdities with which Mr. Caswall’s account
of it abound, e.g., his inability to see Smith’s eyes; (c) from Caswall’s
willingness to change his story to suit any later convenience; it is absolutely
certain that he composed and altered various episodes in retrospect. That would
not be so bad if we had, in the key episode (the identification of the Psalter
by Smith), an unchanging nucleus. But (d) that is the very part of the story
which has been doctored the most.
Since the interview did not take place, Caswall was free to
follow Cicero’s method of reporting “in his leisure time” fully and
lovingly all the things that should have happened, had the plan been tried,
with Smith the perfect clown and Caswall the Christian hero. It is an old and
familiar device. It is clearly and repeatedly stated in the earlier versions
that the purpose of the interview was to expose Smith’s ignorance by putting
his scholarship to the test. An afterthought or minor embellishment of the
original version—that since Smith had declared the Psalter to be what was
tantamount to another Book of Mormon, he could not be an honest man, and since
he was not honest he could not be a true prophet—is later adopted as the
leitmotif of the story, and after 1851 it is pretended that the purpose of the
test from the first was not to test Smith’s scholarship but the divinity of his
calling. Accordingly, the story is thoroughly revamped to fit the new thesis.
Reporter 3 (with a start): How long have we been off the
air? Do you realize what time it is?
Reporter 1: We must have wasted hours with that old fellow.
Reporter 2: Hardly wasted. Here is the most respected, the
most scholarly, the most unassailable witness who ever testified to the
villainy of Joseph Smith, and it has been our privilege not only to test his
veracity but actually to see what makes him tick. A rewarding experience,
gentlemen—”another page,” as Mr. Caswall would say, “in
the great book of human nature.”
*The Myth Makers was originally published in Salt Lake City by Bookcraft in 1961.
1. W. S. Parrott, The Veil Uplifted, or the Religious
Conspirators of the Latter-Day Saints Exposed (Bristol: Taylor and Sons, 1865),
2. Ibid., 14-15.
3. Henry Caswall, Mormonism and Its Author: Or, a Statement
of the Doctrines of the ‘Latter-Day Saints’ (London: SPCK, 1851), 2.
4. W. H. G. Armytage, “Liverpool, Gateway to Zion,”
Pacific Northwest Quarterly 48 (April 1957): 39.
5. Henry Caswall, The Prophet of the 19th Century; or, the
Rise, Progress, and Present State of Mormons or Latter-Day Saints (London:
Rivingtons, 1843), vi.
6. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 19.
7. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 222.
8. Ibid., vii.
9. Daniel P. Kidder, “Mormonism and the Mormons,”
Methodist Quarterly Review 25 (January 1843): 127.
10. Ibid., 124.
11. Ibid., 125, 127.
12. Henry Caswall, City of the Mormons, or Three Days at
Nauvoo, in 1842, 2nd ed. (London: Rivingtons, 1843), 59.
13. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 223.
14. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 57.
15. Ibid., 44.
16. Henry Caswall, America, and the American Church, 2nd ed.
(London: Mozleys, 1851), 307-10.
17. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 60.
18. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 26.
19. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 222.
20. Caswall, Mormonism and Its Author, 24-25.
21. Anonymous, Is Mormonism True or Not? (London: Religious
Tract Society, 1855), 9.
23. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 19-20.
24. Ibid., 23.
25. Caswall, Mormonism and Its Author, 2.
26. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 15 (emphasis added).
27. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 49.
28. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 23.
29. Ibid., 25.
30. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 57.
31. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 23.
32. Ibid., 24.
33. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 222.
34. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 85-86.
35. Ibid., 84-85.
36. Caswall, America, and the American Church, 351.
37. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 85-86.
38. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 21.
39. Ibid., 20-21.
41. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 222.
42. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 22.
43. Ibid., 21 (emphasis added).
44. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 50.
45. Robert Richards, The Californian Crusoe (London: Parker,
47. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 87.
48. Ibid., preface.
49. Ibid., 49.
51. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 224.
52. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 22.
53. Ibid., 4-5.
54. Ibid., 5.
55. Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons, 1st ed. (London:
Rivington, 1942), 20-21. Religious Tract Society, The Visitor: or Monthly
Instructor for 1842 (London: Religious Tract Society, 1842), 405-6.
56. Ibid., 21.
59. Religious Tract Society, Visitor, 406-7.
60. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 27. Religious
Tract Society, Visitor, 408.
61. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed; Or, a Faithful Account
of That Singular Imposition and Delusion (Painesville, OH: the author, 1834),
253-54; Religious Tract Society, Visitor, 406-7.
62. Religious Tract Society, Visitor, 408.
65. Ibid., 406.
66. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 21. Religious
Tract Society, Visitor, 406.
67. Ibid., 22.
68. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 33-34. Religious
Tract Society, Visitor, 408.
69. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 35. Religious
Tract Society, Visitor, 408.
70. Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past from the Leaves of
Old Journals (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1888), 380-81.
71. John Quincy Adams, The Birth of Mormonism (Boston:
Gorham, 1916), 101.
72. Richards, Californian Crusoe, 61.
73. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 35-36. Religious
Tract Society, Visitor, 408-9.
74. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 50.
75. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York:
Knopf, 1947), 290.
76. Missouri Republican, Daily, 3 May 1839.
77. Henry Brown, History of Illinois (New York: New World,
78. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 36. Religious
Tract Society, Visitor, 409.
79. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 37.
80. Ibid., 41.
82. Ibid., 43.
84. Charles Kelly and Hoffman Birney, Holy Murder: The Story
of Porter Rockwell (New York: Minton, Balch, 1934), 7.
85. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 42-49.
86. Ibid., 43-44.
87. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1843 ed.), 5.
89. Ibid., 9, 16, 18; Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century,
90. Caswall, City of the Mormons,18.
92. Ibid., 19.
93. Ibid., 15.
94. Ibid., 19.
96. Ibid., 23.
97. Ibid., 30.
98. Ibid., 31.
99. Ibid., 35.
101. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 223.
102. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 36.
103. Ibid., 37.
104. Ibid., 36-37.
105. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 223-24.
106. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 43.
107. Ibid., 38.
108. Ibid., 44-45.
109. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 224.
111. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 46.
112. Ibid., 49.
113. Ibid., 47.
116. Ibid., 43-44.
117. Caswall, America, and the American Church, 357-58;
Caswall, Mormonism and Its Author, 4-5.
118. Caswall, America, and the American Church, 358.
119. Ibid., 356.
120. Caswall, Mormonism and Its Author, 5.
123. Caswall, America, and the American Church, 358.
124. Ibid., 358-59.
125. Ibid., 359.
127. Caswall, City of the Mormons, 46-47.
128. Ibid., 49.
129. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 19.
131. Ibid., 17.
132. Ibid., 18.
135. Caswall, City of the Mormons (1st ed.), 44.
136. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 18-19.
137. Ibid., 25.
138. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 223.
139. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 17-18, 25.
140. Henry Caswall, America and the American Church (London:
Mozley, 1839), 323.
141. Francis Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America:
The Book of Mormon, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Utah Printing, 1942-51), 2:114.
142. Caswall, Prophet of the 19th Century, 222.
143. Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 290.
144. Caswall, Prophet of the Nineteenth Century, vii-viii.
145. Parrott, Veil Uplifted, 19 (emphasis added).