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THE HONOLULU MANUSCRIPT, AND THE BOOK OF MORMON.
BY W. H. WHITSITT, D. D.,
PROFESSOR IN THE BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, LOUISVILLE, KY.
AN important advance has just been made in Mormon research.
The first con-nected and satisfactory account of the busi-ness was given by the Rev. C. M. Hyde, D. D., of the North Pacific Institute, in the Congregation a list for the 30th of July, 1885. THE INDEPENDENT of the 10th of September, 1885, likewise supplies a notice, from the hand of the Rev. Sereno E. Bishop, of Honolulu. These statements, in connec-tion with the brief allusions to the subject that were made by Pres. James H. Fair- child, in the Bibliotheca Sacra for January, 1885, pp. 173- 4, have placed the student in a situation to pronounce upon the question of the genuineness and the importance of the document that has just been brought to light.
Mr. E. D. Howe, of Painesville, O., has written what must still be regarded as the best of all the hundreds of works that have been devoted to elucidate the history of Mormonism. None have been favored more highly than himself, alike by faculty and by opportunity; his industry was also of the most exemplary sort. It will be re- membered that when he was preparing the materials for his book, entitled "Mormon-ism Unveiled," he had the enterprise to send one D. P. Hurlbut, first to Onondaga County, N. Y., and afterward to Monson, Mass., in order to confer with Mrs. Matilda Davison, whose first husband was the Rev. Solomon Spaulding.
The results of his praiseworthy exertions were, in this special instance, every way unsatisfactory. Like many another good wife, Mrs. Spaulding (Davison) was very indefinitely acquainted with the doings of her husband, particularly as respects his endeavors in the line of literary venture. Mr. Howe sets forth the following summary of her acquaintance with the matters in question: "She states that Spaulding had a great variety of manuscripts, and recol-lects that one was entitled the 'Manuscript Found'; but of its contents she has now no distinct knowledge. While they lived in Pittsburgh, she thinks it was once taken to the printing-office of Patterson & Lamb-din; but whether it was ever brought back to the house again, she is quite uncertain. If it was, however, it was then with his other writings in a trunk which she had left in Otsego County, N. Y. This was all the information that could be obtained from her." (Howe, pp. 287— 8.) It would have been a happy thing for Mrs. Spaulding (Davison), and also for the student of Mormon history, if both herself and other members of the Spaulding fam-ily could have been content to abide by the comfortable ignorance which she dis-played in the year 1834. Many other as-sertions and suggestions were later added by them, which have been almost uniform-ly incorrect, and, what is worse, mislead- ing.
Since the old trunk had been left in Otsego County, the place of her latest resi-dence in New York, Mr. Hurlbut was pro- vided with an order directed to its custodian, Mr. Jerome Clark, of the township of Hart-wick, by the terms of which that gentle-man was required to place the literary contents of it in the hands of the bearer. These Hurlbut took away with him and fetched to Painesville, where he committed them to the care of Howe. Howe reports, p. 288:
"The trunk referred to by the widow was subsequently examined, and found to contain only a single MS. book in Spaulding's handwrit-ing, containing about one quire of paper. This is a romance, purporting to have been translated from the Latin, found on twenty-four rolls of parchment in a cave on the banks of Conneaut Creek, but written in modern style, and giving an account of a ship's being driven upon the American coast, while proceeding from Rome to Britain, a short time previous to the Christian era, this country then being inhabited by the Indians. This old manuscript has been shown to several of the foregoing witnesses, who rec-ognize it as Spaulding's, he having told them that he had altered his first plan of writing, by going further back with dates, and writing in the old Scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient. They say that it bears no resemblance to the 'Manuscript Found.'"
The description of the Honolulu Manu-script, which has now been supplied, ren-ders it reasonably apparent that it is the same document as that which Hurlbut ob-tained from the old hair trunk in the gar-ret of Jerome Clark. For example, Howe declares that the production under his hands, "purported to have been trans-lated from the Latin." The Honolulu Manuscript affirms that the original from which it was derived" appeared to be manuscript, written in elegant hand, with Roman letters, and in the Latin language.
. . . To publish a translation of every particular circumstance mentioned by our author would produce a volume too ex- pensive for the general class of readers." Howe asserts that the original was claimed to have been discovered "in a cave on the banks of Conneaut Creek"; a full descrip-tion of this cave may be read in the "In-troduction" of the Honolulu Manuscript, which indicates that it was situated "near the west bank of the Conneaught River."
Further, the performance which Howe had inspected "was written in modern style," and the witnesses to whom he ap-plied asserted that it bore "no resemblance to the ' Manuscript Found." President Fairchild reports that the present owner of the Honolulu document," Mr. Rice, my-self and. others compared it with the Book of Mormon, and could detect no resem- blance between the two, in general or in de* tail." Professor Hyde also declares: "The story has not the slightest resemblance in names, incidents or style to anything in the Book of Mormon. . . . There is no attempt whatever to imitate Bible language, or to introduce quotations from the Bible." This agrees to a nicety with the fact that the witnesses whom Howe consulted as-sured him that Solomon Spaulding had "told them that he had altered his first plan of writing by going farther back with dates, and writing in the old Scripture style, in order that it might appear more ancient." The above is fully confirmed by such extracts as Mr. Bishop has fur-nished for the use of THE INDEPENDENT.
Howe also states that the book which Hurlbut had fetched from its hiding place in the old trunk gave "an account of a ship's being driven upon the American coast, while proceeding from Rome to Britain"; the Honolulu book describes how " the vessel laden with provisions for the army, cloathing, knives and other impli- ments for their use had now arived near the coast of Britain when a tremendous storm arose and drove us into the midst of the boundless Ocean. Soon the whole crew became lost and bewildered."
Howe likewise reports his document as: further representing that at the moment when the ship landed on the American coast the country was already "inhabited by the Indians"; according to the descrip-tion supplied by Professor Hyde, the same is true of the Honolulu Manuscript. He says: "The wanderings of the shipwrecked party to the west are next described, and account given of the people, the Ohons, then living in the interior, with their man-ners and customs, and their wars with king Bombal and the Kentucks, Hadoram, king of Sciota, the emperor of Labmak and the allied nations under Habosan, king of Chianga, Ulipoon, king of Michegan, etc."
In conclusion, Howe affirms: "This old manuscript has been shown to several of the foregoing witnesses, who recognize it as Spaulding's." Mr. Bishop records an inscription that is found on the last page of the Honolulu Manuscript, as follows:
"The writings of Solloman Spalding proved by Aron Wright, Oliver Smith, John N. Miller and others.
"The testimonies of the above gentlemen are now in my possession. . . . D. P. Hurlbut."
On the other hand, there are certain dis- crepancies between the description sup- plied by Mr. Howe and those which have been recently given to the public. For example, Howe says that the romance was "found on twenty-four rolls of parch-ment." The Honolulu Manuscript men-tions " twenty-eig .... of parch- ment," but this difference may be explained by reference to the fact that Howe, being naturally disgusted with the poverty of the document for his purposes, had cited it from memory, without giving himself the trouble to refer to the text.
Again, Howe asserts that the "MS. book in Spaulding's handwriting contained about one quire of paper"; but Professor Hyde declares that, in the Honolulu book, "one hundred and seventy-one pages are num-bered and written out in full." It is not a violent supposition to refer this second dis-crepancy to the same explanation as that given in the foregoing instance ; and there-by it may be allowed to press the point that Howe speaks in general terms of "about one quire of paper."
Once more, Howe gives the date of the disaster which brought a Roman ship to the American coast differently from the Hono-lulu book, affirming that it fell out " a short time previous to the Christian era," while the original in Honolulu plainly sig-nifies that the occurrence took place during the reign of the Emperor Constantine. This appears to be still another case where Howe trusted to his memory, without being at the trouble to consult the work before him.
Mr. Howe further declares: "The fact also that Spaulding, in the latter part of his life inclined to infidelity, is established by a letter in his handwriting now in our pos-session." This letter was likely given a place in the middle of the manuscript for convenience of preservation and reference. It is an interesting circumstauce that it has probably also been recovered along with the Honolulu book. Professor Hyde re-ports: "There are two manuscript leaves in the parcel, of the same size and hand-writing as the other 171 pages of manu-script. A few sentences will show the views of the writer:
" ' It is enough for me to know that proposi-tions which are in contradiction to each other cannot both be true, and that doctrines and facts which represent the Supreme Being as a barbarous and cruel tyrant can never be dic-tated by infinite wisdom. . . . But, notwith-standing I disavow my belief in the divinity of the Bible, and consider it a mere human produc-tion, designed to enrich and aggrandize its authors, yet, casting aside a considerable mass of rubbish and fanatical rant, I find that it con-tains a system of ethics or morals which cannot be excelled on account of their tendency to ame-liorate the condition of man.' "
It may be worth while to inquire con-cerning the process by which this docu-ment was conveyed to Honolulu. Pro-fessor Hyde reports that, in the year 1839, just five years after it was deposited with Howe by Mr. Hurlbut, the former sold his printing office and the Painesville Tele-graph, of which he was editor, to Messrs. L. L. Rice and P. Winchester, who con- tinued to carry on the business. Shortly after Rice and Winchester purchased the effects of Howe, they are believed to have bound up a certain stock of the loose sheets of Howe's " Mormonism Unveiled," and to have sent them forth a second time into circulation. At any rate, there is an edition of that valuable production which is dated Painesville, 1840, which goes un-der the title of " History of Mormonism," but which, with the exception of the title-page, is asserted to be the same work as Howe had published in 1834. The parties in question were amply entitled to proceed in this way; for the reason that the un-bound sheets above described were a por-tion of their purchase from the owner of the printing office.
After forty years of active labor, Mr. Rice retired from business, and in the year 1879 went to reside with his daughter, Mrs. J. M. Whitney, at Honolulu. In the month of July, 1884, he received the honor of a visit from President Fairchild, of Oberlin College, who suggested that Mr. Rice should examine his collection of pam-phlets, for the purpose of finding out whether he might have in it some rare pro-ductions relating to the conflict against slavery in the United States. Giving him-self to the labor of this enterprise, his pains were rewarded by the discovery that has here been discussed. In his paper for the Bibliotheca Sacra, President Fairchild says: " Mr. Rice has no recollection how or when this manuscript came into his possession." But subsequent consideration, it would ap- pear, has suggested to his mind the for-gotten transfer of the Painesville Telegra-ph, "with all the appurtenances of the print-, ting office." Perhaps the Honolulu Manu-script was not even mentioned in that transaction, because, before the year 1839, Mr. Howe had lost it out of sight and out of mind amid the rubbish of his establish-ment. Meanwhile, for the past five and forty years, both himself and Hurlbut have been exposed to a shower of old-wives' gos-sip and ignorant suspicion. Notwith-standing Mrs. Spaulding (Davison) in the year 1834 was entirely unable to declare what fate had befallen the "Manuscript Found," and could not be at all sure that it had ever been returned from the printing- house of Patterson & Lambdin in Pitts-burgh, it has been confidently claimed that Hurlbut actually recovered it in the old hair trunk, sold it to the Mormons, who de-stroyed it, and, with the money obtained from that source, purchased a farm near Gibsonburg, O.
Mr. Howe, in his turn, could give no ac-count of it. He said it was is his posses- sion "till after the publication of ' Mor-monism Unveiled,' and then disappeared, and was lost, I suppose by fire."It will vindicate the reputation of both these gen-tlemen that it has now been brought to light. Professor Howe gives us notice that Mormon missionaries of the Island of Oahu are eager to publish the Honolulu book, in order to show that it has no connection with the Book of Mormon. Nobody ever claimed that such a connection existed, who had any kind of right to form a judg-ment. This entire investigation has no bearing of any sort upon the issue whether Spaulding was the author of the Book of Mormon. That question rests upon grounds that are quite aloof from any that have been here traversed, and must, be judged upon its own merits. But it is hoped that no obstacle will be placed in the way of Mor-mon missionaries who may desire to per-form such a service to science and to Messrs. Howe and Hurlbut. A certified copy might be speedily committed to their charge. The original would be safe and serviceable in the keeping of the Librarian of Oberlin College.
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