Mormon History

Evidence for Solomon Spaulding - 1886

Michigan Christian Herald September 16, 1886

A  Question  of  Identity.

The most interesting literary controversy of the time, and the only one which has important practical bearing, is raging around the Book of Mormon, sometimes but incorrectly called the Mormon Bible. This is the foundation stone of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," held by the Mormons as superior in composition and authority to the Bible itself; and whatever affects its validity affects immediately the great superstition that bases upon it. The tradition held by the "Gentiles," or unbelievers, is that pretty nearly the whole thing, except the doctrinal or "religious" parts, is a flat plagiarism from the "Manuscript Found" of Solomon Spaulding, a romance written seventy-five years ago by a broken down preacher at New Salem (now Conneaut), Ohio. The evidence for this has heretofore, to anti-Mormons, seemed to be conclusive. But about two years ago President Fairchild of Oberlin, visiting the Sandwich Islands, found in the possession of an old resident of Northeastern Ohio, who had removed to Honolulu, a written volume of Spaulding's, which he believes to be the original of "Manuscript Found;" and as it does not correspond to any large exten with the Book of Mormon, he proclaims the old-time Gentile theory to be incorrect. In various publications, from Bibliotheca Sacra down to The Magazine of Western History -- an absurd compend of extravagant biography (inserted for handsome consideration), hailing from Cleveland -- President Fairchild has striven to promulgate his views. Apparently he has not labored in vain; for, following others heretofore converted, Mr. George Rutledge Gibson, in the last issue of the New Princeton Review, affirms the Fairchild doctrine in his entertaining paper on "The Origin of a Great Delusion."

But the Oberlin advocates have not yet, as the lawyers say, "made their case." The older theory does not rest, as Mr. Gibson seems to think, upon dim recollections of what was "heard over twenty years before," nor upon "the shadowy resemblance of a few names and incidents common to both." It rests upon historical facts impossible to be gainsaid, impossible to reconcile with any other theory than that of absolute theft and fraud in the evolution of the Book of Mormon. When that shameless product of imposture appeared, in 1830, it was subjected to crucial tests, which are as conclusive to-day as they were half a century ago. Numbers of the relatives and old neighbors of Solomon Spaulding were still living when the Mormon emissaries appeared at Conneaut with the new revelation; and when extracts from it were read in their meetings, Mr. John Spaulding arose, and bursting into tears denounced indignantly the outrageous larceny that had been made of the well-remembered writings of his brother. Mr. Lake, a former partner of Spaulding's in business at Conneaut, and many others, clearly recognized passages read as identical with those they had often heard from the lips of their friend and neighbor, as he rehearsed the beloved pages of his "Manuscript Found."

The evidence is cumulative from this on, for many years. And now a surviving witness of those times has come to add testimony which ought to be final. Mr. James A. Briggs writes from Brooklyn to The Watchman of the 9th instant that in 1833-34 he was one of a self-appointed committee that met in Mentor, O., the former parish of the apostate Rigdon, and close to the "Zion" which the Saints had set up at Kirtland, to investigate the origin of the Book of Mormon. His article is long and interesting throughout; but the pith and point of it are in his first paragraph as follows: "We had the manuscripts of Rev. Solomon Spaulding before us [italics ours], that we compared with the Mormon Bible; and we had no doubt that from Spaulding's writings Rev. Sidney Rigdon got up the Mormon Bible." This conclusion he supports by a lengthy recital of facts and arguments that cannot be broken. He has a copy of the Honolulu find, as printed at Lamoni, and [avers] emphatically that "this is not a copy of the 'Manuscript Found, of Solomon Spaulding."

That work long since disappeared, pretty certainly through Mormon agency; but its contents are distinctly remembered by men yet living; and too many others have set their seal in writing to the general character of its contents, and their correspondence with the narrative portions of the Book of Mormon, to have their positive evidence destroyed by the accidental finding of another Spaulding manuscript in a far off isle of the ocean. That this is a genuine writing of Spaulding, nobody denies; but comparing information from all accessible sources, we can learn of but, one important point of similarity between it and the "Manuscript Found;" and that is the notion of an ancient emigration from the Old World to the New. The names in the one tale are widely different from anything in the Book of Mormon, or remembered to have been in the vanished Spaulding manuscript. The one may have been a preliminary "study" of the other, or another attempt at the same general theme; but, as it does not bear the name "Manuscript Found," neither does it bear the character, and are confident will not take the reputation or place of the latter in history of American literature, religion, or superstition, even if President Fairchild and his following should blindly adhere to their untenable theory.

 

Michigan Christian Herald October 21, 1886

Who  Wrote  the  Book  of  Mormon?
JAS. A. BRIGGS.

There is but one question to settle as to the "Book of Mormon;" is it the work of men who were inspired, or is it the manufacture of Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith?

The fact that the historical portion of the "Book of Mormon" was taken from the work of Rev. Solomon Spaulding's "Manuscript Found" was clearly and undeniably established in my article published in "The Watchman," Boston, Sept. 9, 1886, by the testimony of some eight or more credible witnesses, whose testimony in the matter has never been impeached, or shaken. And if it be true now as in the olden time, "that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established," then we have the established and overpowering fact that the "Book of Mormon" in the historical part was taken from the "Manuscript Found," that was conceived in and born of the brain of Rev. Solomon Spaulding.

Have we any proof that the Rev. Solomon Spaulding ever wrote the "Manuscript Found?" Yes, the same evidence, that we have that the historical part of "Manuscript Found" is in the "Book of Mormon." If one is ignored the other must be. The "Manuscript Found" and the "book of Mormon" must stand or fall together. There is no separating them. They are indivisible.

What has become of the "Manuscript Found" that was written by Rev. Solomon Spaulding? The last person in whose possession it was, so far as we can trace it, is Dr. D.P. Hurlbut. In 1854 [sic] Mrs. Davison, the widow of Mr. Spalding, gave D.P. Hurbut an order for the delivery to him of her copy of her husband's "Manuscript Found." And she and her daughter were folly [sic] convinced that Hurlbut obtained the document and sold it to the Mormons. In confirmation of this we quote from a letter of Rev. Mr. Storrs of Holliston, Mass., of June 28, 1841, to Rev. John A. Clark, D. D., in which he says:

"Dr. Hurlbut took the manuscript. It is reported in Missouri that he sold it for $400, that the manuscript is not to be found."

Rev. D. B. Austin of Monson, Mass., says: "Dr. Hurlbut stated some time after he had received the Manuscript that he had $400 out of it."

The "Manuscript Found" is in the possession of Dr. D. P. Hurlbut. What did he do with it? Did he sell it to the Mormons? He denied it. He got the manuscript. His statements in regard to it were conflicting. He made no explanation. He kept silent. When I wrote to him a short time before his death, and said to him we were the only persons living who were at the Mentor, Ohio, meeting in 1834, and asked him to tell me what he did with the manuscript of Spaulding we had there, he made no reply. I have believed for fifty years that I have seen and held in my hands the "Manuscript Found" from which the "Book of Mormon" was gotten up by Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith.

This is the last trace we have of the "Manuscript Found."

The following extract of a letter to me, dated Little Mountain, Ohio, Sept. 23, '86, is from Mr. E. J. Ferris, Esq., a gentleman 85 years old, hale and hearty, who has lived in Lake Co., since 1823, and who heard Rigdon preach. He says:

"A few days since I received a newspaper containing an article on the origin of the Mormon Bible, that I read with much interest. I have no doubt that you are right in your opinion that Sidney Rigdon and Joe Smith were in complicity in manufacturing the Mormon Bible out of the Romance of Spaulding.

Sidney Rigdon was a sharp fellow, a smooth talker, cunning and wily, and he held such an influence over the Disciples in Mentor and Kirtland at the time the Book was brought here that he supposed he could carry with him the whole body of what was then called Campbellites. And he did carry away very many. The most of them in Lake County left him."

There is another link in the chain of evidence of a living and very intelligent witness as to his opinion of the origin of the Mormon Bible.

Now, Mr. Editor, does my long time and excellent friend, President Fairchild of Oberlin, ignore the testimony of many who say that the "Book of Mormon" was manufactured out of the "Manuscript Found" of Rev. Solomon Spaulding, because he doubts if we had the veritable manuscript of Spaulding at the meeting in Mentor, in 1854[sic]?

I would refer my enquirer desirous of learning the origin of the "Book of Mormon" to Mr. Robert Patterson, 198 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa.

A letter from my old friend, Mr. L.S. [sic] Rice, dated Honolulu, Feby. 21, 1886, says the words "Manuscript Found" do not occur on the wrapper or in the Manuscript at all. The wrapper was marked in pencil, "Manuscript Story, Conneaut Creek." Mr. Rice says "I should as soon think the Book of Revelation and Don Quixote were written by the same author as this story and the "Book of Mormon," My friend, Mr. Rice died at Honolulu, May 14, '86, aged 85.

I can but regret that the writer is the only one of the number who met in Mentor, at the now Garfield home, in 1854 [sic], to investigate Mormonism. All but myself have gone to that land where life is ever upward, onward in the light and glory and peace of the Everlasting Father. 177 Washington St., Brooklyn, New York, Oct. 14, 1886

 

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