Mormon History

Definition of a Jack Mormon - 1845

Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review August 23, 1845

Communications.       
                                                              Warsaw, Ill., Aug. 15, 1845.

To the Editors:

You will perceive, by the vote which I send you, that the old citizens of Hancock county feel themselves entirely deprived of one of the dearest rights they ever possessed -- the Elective Franchise.

In an election for County Commissioner, &c. on Monday of last week, Robert Miller, a very popular man and good citizen, received but 90 votes for that office; while the candidate of the Mormons received over 2,300 -- 1,900 of which were at Nauvoo.

And on Monday last, at a special election for Sheriff, to fill the office rendered vacant by the resignation of Minor R. Deming, another good citizen, Major Scott, of this place, failed to call out more than 300 or 400 votes, against that notorious Jack, J. B. Backenstos, who outrageously traduced the people of this county on the floor of the last Legislature.

The returns are not all in, but without doubt this man is elected to fill the place which good men have filled in times gone by. I do not envy him his place. Such men as he suit the Mormons better than those of their own stripe. They are ever found willing to do all the little dirty work up cleaner, than even the lowest and meanest of the "brethren," and take their pay in the various little offices the Mormons are able to dispense to them. I generally aim to be moderate in my feelings; but if there is a despicable being on earth, and one who deserves to be most cordially hated and loathed by his fellow men, it is that being called a Jack-Mormon!   Yours,   X.


Note: The term "Jack," during the 19th century, stood for an underling or minor associate, who was not openly beholding to his master or benefactor. Thus, a "Jack Mason" was a non-member of the Freemasons, who nevertheless did their bidding -- a "Jack Mormon" was a friend of the LDS, who had not been baptized into the church, etc. Politicians and other socially active persons, who might at any time come under close public scrutiny, no doubt found a measure of personal security in secretly employing their "jacks" or "knaves" to perform certain, necessary tasks, the outcomes of which might not easily be traced back to the real instigators. After the Saints moved west, the notion of a "Jack Mormon" did not fit their new monopolistic situation in the Great Basin, and "Jack Mormons" were thenceforth designated as inactive, unfaithful, or disobedient members of the LDS Church.
 

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