The murder of him who was familiarly or contemptuously so called, but more respect-fully as well as ironically "The Prophet," has taken the country by surprise, and overwhelm-ed his followers with sudden and deep grief, if not with inextricable confusion. We say his country, because the extraordinary char-acter of the man and the more extraordinary delusion and attachment of his disciples were matters every where talked of, and which the thousand tongues of the press made, for years, the theme of daily public discourse. Doubt-less Joe was a man of genius. . He, who, with-out education, without hereditary rank, with-out money, without civil office or public pat-ronage, and against influence that would dis-hearten almost every other man, can make and keep himself, for so long a time, the cen-tre of so great and strong an attraction, who can dictate the highest public office into such hands as his will may elect, who can build cities, raise and discipline a formidable body of troops, inspirit them with a religious fer-vor to which his own bosom is a stranger, make himself the dread of a large district of the country and set in commotion the civil and military power of a State, needs no oth-er credentials to establish his title to be call-ed a man of genius. He read human nature with no common vision, and combined and wielded its conflicting elements with no com-mon force and dexterity. He possessed acute-ness, boldness, calmness, promptness, and firmness of mind, with a fullness adequate to the conception and accomplishment of large designs. We are even afraid that, by many, his genius will be more admired than his bold and subtle knavery detested. Extraordinary genius and an extraordinary death have a power, in very many minds, to canonize the vices and crimes which nothing but corrupt genius could have hoped or dared to achieve, and which nothing can so well perpetuate as the violent and treacherous death of their founder and patron. The country, we think could well spare his genius and his life, but the manner of his death, it should, by all means, have dispensed with. No man of sober sense can contemplate it without re-gret. It was an act of deliberate, cold-blood-ed, and cowardly assassination—a violation of law and honor, of private obligation and public faith. The shot which pierced the heart of the false prophet, lodged in the bos-om of public safety, and nothing will stanch its wound but the public indignation against the atrocity of the offence.
We have no question of Joe Smith's down-right dishonesty. No man has a right to question it. It was too flagrant to be hon-estly doubted. Its extreme boldness alone has saved it from universal scorn, except by such minds as swallow any amount of im-posture; and the false maxim, "Speak no evil of the dead," should not hinder the freest ex-pression of indignant truth against his detes-tible hypocrisy and mischievous ambition. But how shall the public judge of his follow-ers?—how estimate their character?—how distinguish them from each other and from their fallen chief? By some his disciples are thought of en masse. But his followers were not all villains: nor were they all saints. They were a community of opposite ingredi-ents. No doubt the tendency of all its hete-rogeneous elements was, like that of any oth-er chowder, to combine and assimilate into one controlling taste and odor. Such is the spiritual chemistry of all human combina-tions where there is heat enough to melt them into one, or not cold enough to freeze them in their earliest stratification. But, while those diverse materials were fresh, and as yet but little operated on by each other, though they had some principles of attraction and cohesion, they had, also, as many unsocial and repellent, earnest to retain their habitual characteristics till Joe should electrify them, by successive shocks, into as much consis-tency and harmony as a jumble of opposites is susceptible of. Though the process might be sure at last, it would be slow and some-times stubborn in its movements. A more motley group, so definitely marked, has sel-dom been looked upon by speculators on hu-man character. While they had common el-ements, they had infinitely diversified modi-fications of them. Simple credulity, unso-phisticated ignorance, earnest piety, consci-entious devotion to duty, godly sincerity, self denial, fervid zeal, calm fortitude, true and prayerful desire to be and to do good, accord-ing to the best light that had ever shined on them—all these were there in close amalga-mation and unseemly confusion with shrewd ungodliness, insubordinate passions, head-strong ambition, sordid avarice, reckoning gain for godliness and grasping it by spirit-ual overreaching. These and a host of name-less modifications of bad elements, subject to all the changes which a carnal and time- serv-ing policy might have need of to work out its changeful schemes of fixed selfishness were intermingled in that worldly-religious and carnally spiritual community. Nor have we less question of their master spirit's skill to devise the worst purpose, or fidelity to accom-plish them by whatever means might suit the genius of his plans or the necessity of his shifting exigencies.
But corrupt and corrupting as we verily believe Joe Smith was, and wholly indispos-ed to murmur, as we might have been, had God's providence seen fit to cut off the im-posture of that prophet of lies by a still earli-er close of his unscrupulous career, we are not the less pained that lawless ruffians rob-bed him of life, by breaking down the barri-ers which human and divine government had interposed for its protection.
Strange as it may seem to some, it is quite as plain to others, that the people of this coun-try do not enough feel the grasp of despotism and the cruel wounds of anarchy, to under-stand the worth of good government and the necessity of maintaining public prosperity by upholding the supremacy of law. A number unwisely and grievously large seem bent on finding out its value by experimenting against its most sacred principles and most product-ive virtues. More wisdom should be taught on this subject, publicly and from house to house, and still more should be practiced by by such as can plead no deficiency of instruc-tion.
While we deplore we do not wonder, that men in the vicinity of Joe Smith's spiritual encampment were greatly vexed at its com-position, attitude, and fanatical energies. That they were impatient of such enormous impositions, even on strangers, is not matter of surprise; nor, least of all, was it marvelous that when their own families and dearest kin-dred and friends were absorbed into that whirlpool of corrupt superstition, to be wreck-ed in its merciless circumvolutions, they broke from the moorings of law, to rescue, if possible, the weak who were about to perish in its abyss, and to cut off the purpose of others equally infatuated to be sucked into the same moral gulph. It was hardly in natnre to hold back men urged on by such and so many temptations. Grace accomplishes a great work when it triumphs over theenergies of such a crisis in human passions.
While we say these things, we would care-fully abstain from any remark that might seem to justify or excuse lawless violence, and, es-pecially, the savage murder of a defenceless prisoner, for the protection of whose life from ruthless passion or deliberate barbarity the faith of the State was openly pledged. It was base and cowardly, and its strong ten-dency is to demolish greater interest than it could presumptuously hope or pretend to up-hold. Nor yet would we deal out deserved censure on the actors in that foul assassina-tion, and wholly spare such as were the guil-ty occasion of the atrocity. If we could, we would excite, every where, a just indignation against lawless violence, and a wholesome dread of corrupt superstition. Both are of-fensive and baleful to all social interests do-mestic and civil, and their pernicious tendency should be exposed that it may be shunned. The present time emphatically calls for the best influences of the country to rebuke such evils.
We close this article with a few remarks on a subject which is viewed with at least the interest of curiosity, and spoken of with many surmises, by thoughtful and virtuous men.—The inquiry is heard, from various quarters, What will be the effect of Joe Smith's assas-sination, upon his followers, and upon the su-perstition and fanaticism which his perverse genius devised and guided, and which his sud-den death has left to his disciples as their principal inheritance?
What they will do, or be, or whether they will cease to be, are questions which nothing can wisely answer but the events themselves. Guessing, at present, is as far as human fore-sight can reach, and one guess is nearly as good as another. There are, no doubt, mar-tyr spirits in the camp of Nauvoo; but what their martyrdom would come to, should an op-portunity be given and they see fit to try it, too many contingencies keep us from divin-ing. Truth is apt to live with fresh vitality, in spite of the rack and the faggot, and error, in some of its vigorous forms, may linger, with spasms of unwonted energy, when furious zeal has cut off its head.
But some, we know, are ready to say, It is the nature of persecution to prolong the exis-tence of both error and truth, and to re-create, for either, a head to the body it has severed from its guiding power. This is by no means an axiom in respect to physics or morals. It is not a necessity even in regard to truth; much less in respect to error. If it is the tendency of persecution to secure such a re-sult, it is one that may be, and often has been, counteracted and defeated. What may be brought to pass, in a given case, de-pends on its own circumstances, often such as no human eye can comprehend, in their num-ber, complicated relations, activity, and force. To dare to be wise, in such a case, is a rash-ness that differs much from the genius of true courage.
Principles, which by themselves seem to be clear, often fade into obscurity before brighter lights. Some may imagine, that, to have been a follower of such an imposter as Joe Smith, argues an incapacity to be a lead-er, and especially of such a band at such a time. They may be right in their conjec-ture: at least the result may not disprove it. And yet it may be well to remember that ca-pacity itself is often a creature of circum-stance. Probably Smith's own designs grew on his hands, and new hopes were fed on those which had been already gorged. The necessities he had unexpectedly created may have given him a power to meet them which himself, nor his devotees had dreamed of his possessing. Often men's abilities grow out of their own unforeseen ambition and oth-er men's unexpected wants.
Looking into the history of men who have disappointed themselves and those who best knew them, by the number and greatness of their achievements, one is almost tempted to say that time and chance breathe souls into sluggish clay, and mould the passive lump for honor or infamy—that they transform souls that are, making heroes of cowards, virtues of vices, and changing the monotony of human hearts into tones as various as all harmonies and discords are susceptible of. But we will not say it. We much prefer sub-scribing to the doctrine of a prophet who came unharmed out of the fire of persecution to live forever in the hearts of the wise, that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will." We would not, nor would we have others forget, that it is never quite safe to pry deep into the future, to find out the particular events which are hoarded up in it, to be un-locked only when their developement shall best subserve the purposes of INFINITE WIS-DOM.
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