Are you going to hang him anyway
and try him afterward?
Samuel Langhorn Clemens
What are the facts about the alleged connection between the book of Mormon and the writings of Solomon Spaulding? The "Spaulding Theory" was the brain¬child of D.P. Hurlburt, commonly referred to as "Doctor Hurlburt." He was neither physician nor lawyer. But he was a seventh son which, according to folk-lore, marked him to become a physician and so his parents baptised him 'Doctor' Philastus Hurlburt, as a given name, not a title.
Spaulding was at one time attached to the Methodist Church from which he was excommunicated for immorality. He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was ordained to the priesthood, and set out on a mission to Pennsylvania where his immoral sexual adventures brought about his recall. A Church court was convened to try his case, which was proven. On his promise to change his ways he was permitted to continue in fellowship. His repentance was feigned, and his immorality continued for which he was excommunicated in June 1833. From that time he harboured hatred for the Prophet and the Saints. He organized mobs of the Church's to fight against it and was arrested and tried by a civil court for an attempt on Joseph Smith's life. The court's verdict was that he be bound over to "keep the peace and be of good behaviour to the citizens of Ohio generally, and Joseph Smith, Junior, in particular for the period of six months."
Hurlburt had heard of Spaulding and his romance whilst he was a Mormon missionary in Pennsylvania. After his excommunication as part of his hostility he set out to construct an explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon which would reflect badly on Joseph and the Church. Spaulding's history provides a wider context to the rumours surrounding him and his alleged part in the Book of Mormon. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College, and had served as a pastor for a short time, but abandoned his ministry when his faith in Christianity failed. He is sometimes referred to as 'Reverend' but there is grave doubt that he was ever ordained.
He was interested in history and, along with many others at that time, excavated ancient burial mounds in his vicinity in the hope of finding artefacts produced by the ancients who fascinated him. What success he had as a gold-digger we do not know, but he determined to write "a fanciful history of the ancient races of this country [America]." He entitled it Manuscript Story. In 1812 while living in Pittsburgh he gave his manuscript to Mr Patterson of Patterson and Lambdin, a firm of printers, to have it published. Patterson returned the manuscript to Spaulding saying that it needed a lot of work and some changes before it could be considered for publication. This was unacceptable to Spaulding who took his story home and locked it in a trunk . In 1814 he left Pittsburgh to live in Amity, Pennsylvania where he died in 1816.
In 1833 when Hurlburt was looking for material to use to against Joseph Smith he obtained Manuscript Found from Spaulding's widow who had remarried and was now Matilda Davison. Mrs Davison, Hurlburt and others closely connected with the Spaulding manuscript, agree that Hurlburt procured it from her. There was no mention of any other Spaulding manuscripts. Mr LL Rice of Honolulu gave his opinion that the author of Manuscript Found probably wrote nothing else which demonstrates his opinion of the literary merit of the Spaulding’s novel.
The discovery of Manuscript Found was meant to sound the death-knell of the Book of Mormon. Theories that the Latter-day Saint's had got their hands on Spaulding's romance and burned it to prevent its identification as the source of the Book of Mormon were immediately defunct. The discovery of Spaulding's work in 1884 proved that the manuscript had remained in the possession of Hurlburt and Howe. Their reasons for not publishing it in Mormonism Unvailed are directly related to its utter failure to support the notion of a Spaulding base for the Nephite scriptures.
The discovery of the manuscript was a happy accident. James H Fairchild, was researching the American Civil War and was aware that a Mr Rice had bought the printing works of Eber D Howe at Painesville, Ohio. Howe had been the editor and publisher of the Painesville Telegraph, and had published Mormonism Unvailed, a work of which he was the reputed author but which was almost certainly the work of Hurlburt. Following the print work sale many of Howe's papers had been shipped to Rice's home in Honolulu.
Whether Rice discovered any information about the war is unknown. He did discover the long lost Spaulding romance, Manuscript Found. When news of the discovery was made public it naturally provoked a great deal of excitement among the enemies of Mormonism. The truth would be known and the Mormons disgraced They were disappointed. The hundred and seventy-five page story bore no relation to the Book of Mormon, except in a very superficial way.
Upon learning of the discovery of Manuscript Found, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints expressed an interest in its. Their leader at that time was President Joseph Smith III who wrote to Fairchild and Rice and received the following replies.
The theory of the origin of the Book of Mormon in the traditional manuscript of Solomon Spaulding, will probably have to be relinquished. That manuscript is doubtless now in the hands of Mr. L. L. Rice, of Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands, formerly an anti-slavery editor in Ohio, and for many years State Printer at Columbus. During a reason to Honolulu, I suggested to Mr. Rice that he might have valuable anti-slavery documents in his possession, which he would be willing to contribute to the rich collection already in the Oberlin College Library. In pursuance of this suggestion, Mr. Rice began looking over his old pamphlets and papers, and at length came upon an old, worn and faded manuscript of about one hundred and seventy-five pages, small quarto, purporting to be a history of the migrations and conflicts of the ancient Indian Tribes, which occupied the territory now belonging to the States of New York, Ohio and Kentucky. On the last page of this manuscript is a certificate and signature, giving the names of several persons known to the signer, who have assured him that to their personal knowledge the manuscript was the writing of Solomon Spaulding. Mr. Rice has no recollection how or when this manuscript came into his possession. It was enveloped in a coarse piece of writing paper, and endorsed in Mr Rice's handwriting, "A Manuscript Story."
There seems to be no reason to doubt that this is the long-lost story. Mr. Rice, myself, and others compared it with the Book of Mormon and could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or in detail. There seems to be no manner of incident common to the two. The solemn style of the Book of Mormon, in imitation of the English Scriptures, does not appear in the manuscript. The only resemblance is that both profess to set forth the history of lost tribes. Some other explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon must be found, if any explanation is required.
(Signed) James H. Fairchild.
Mr L. L. Rice replied:
Honolulu, Sandwich Islands
March 28, 1885.
Mr Joseph Smith: --The Spaulding Manuscript in my possession came into my hands in this wise. In 1839-40 my partner and myself bought of E. D. Howe the Painesville Telegraph, published at Painesville, Ohio. The transfer of the printing department, types, press &c., was accompanied with a large collection of books, manuscripts, &c., this manuscript of Spaulding's among the rest. So, you see, it has been in my possession forty years. But I never examined it, or knew the character of it, until some six or eight months since. The wrapper was marked, "Manuscript Story - Conneaut Creek." The wonder is, that in some of my movements, I did not destroy or burn it with a large amount of rubbish that had accumulated from time to time.
It happened that Pres't Fairchild was here on a visit, at the time I discovered the contents of it, and it was examined by him and others with much curiosity. Since Pres't Fairchild published the fact of its existence in my possession, I have had applications for it from half a dozen sources, each applicant seeming to think that he or she was entitled to it. Mr Howe says when he was getting up a book to expose Mormonism as a fraud at an early day, when the Mormons had their headquarters at Kirtland, he obtained it from some source, and it was inadvertently transferred with the other effects of his printing office. A. B. Deming of Painesville, who is also getting up some kind of book I believe, on Mormonism, wants me to send it to him. Mrs. Dickinson, of Boston, claiming to be a relative of Spaulding, and who is getting up a book. to show he was the real author of the Book of Mormon, wants it. She thinks, at least, it should be sent to Spaulding's daughter, a Mrs. Somebody- but she does not inform me where she lives. Deming says that Howe borrowed it when he was getting up his book, and did not return it, as he should have done, &c.
The Spaulding Manuscript does not purport to be a "story of the Indians formerly occupying this continent; but is a history of the wars between the Indians of Ohio and Kentucky, and their progress in civilization, &c. It is certain that this Manuscript is not the origin of the Mormon Bible, whatever some other manuscripts may have been. The only similarity between them, is in the manner in which each purports to have been found-one in a cave in Conneaut Creek-the other in a hill in Ontario County, New York. There is no identity of names of persons or places; and there is no similarity of style between them. As I told Mr. Deming, I should as soon think the Book of revelations was written by the author of Don Quixote, as that the writer of this Manuscript was the author of the Book of Mormon. Deming says Spaulding made three copies of "Manuscript Found," one of which Sidney Rigdon stole from the printing office in Pittsburgh. You can probably tell better than I can, what ground there is for such an allegation.
As to this Manuscript, I can not see that it can be of any use to anybody, except the Mormons, to show that it is not the original of the Mormon bible. But that would not settle the claim that some other manuscript of Spaulding's was the original of it. I propose to hold it in my own hands for a while, to see if it can be put to some good use. Deming and Howe inform me that its existence is exciting great interest in that region. I am under a tacit, but not a positive pledge to president Fairchild, to deposit it eventually in the Library of Oberlin College. I shall be free from that pledge, when I see an opportunity to put it to a better use.
Yours, &c., L. L. Rice
P. S.- Upon reflection, since writing the foregoing, I am of the opinion that no one who reads this Manuscript will give credit to the story that Solomon Spaulding was in any wise the author of the Book of Mormon. It is unlikely that anyone who wrote so elaborate a work as the Mormon Bible, would spend his time getting up so shallow a story as this, which at best is but a feeble imitation of the other. Finally, I am more than half convinced that this is his only writing of the sort, and that any pretence that Spaulding was in any sense that author of the other, is a sheer fabrication. It was easy for any body who may have seen this, or heard anything of its contents, to get up the story that they were identical.
L. L. R.
When Manuscript Found was proved not to be the origin of the Book of Mormon, the possibility of other Spaulding manuscripts was invented. That another Spaulding story could be the source of the Book of Mormon may have been suggested by the letter from Rice, in spite of Rice's statement that this was highly unlikely. It is important to note that other writings were not brought into play until the ghost of Manuscript Found had been laid to rest. Unimpeachable evidence exists to discount the existence of any other Spaulding manuscript than Manuscript Found."
In 1839 Spaulding's widow wrote that the manuscript had been returned to her from Patterson's print shop. Her daughter, Matilda M'Kinstry corroborated this fact in a letter written in 1880. In 1885 the great-niece of Spaulding quoted Mrs M'Kinstry's letter in support of the fact that the manuscript was taken back to them from Patterson's by Spaulding, and that it remained in their possession until it was lent to Hurlburt. She wrote that Spaulding himself had assured her that he "recovered his original manuscript when Mr. Patterson refused to publish it." This last piece of information suggests an early date for the recovery of the manuscript by the Spaulding family. There is no mention of any copies of the manuscript being made. which would have been laborious and time consuming.
The sequence of the manuscript's travels is now known.
From Spaulding it went to Patterson; from Patterson it was returned to Spaulding; From Mrs Spaulding (Davidson) it went to Hurlburt; and from Hurlburt it passed to Howe from whose premises it went to Rice in Honolulu; and from Rice, by way of Fairchild, it went to Oberlin College, Columbus Ohio, where it remains.
At no time was the manuscript in the possession of either Rigdon, Smith, Pratt or Cowdery. Was there another manuscript? None has appeared but one did it would not affect the case. By an appropriate irony the mover of the "Spaulding theory" supplied the means whereby that particular manuscript, which he swore was the source of the Book of Mormon is proved to be the one Spaulding obtained from Mrs Davison, swore in Mormonism Unvailed that it was the origin of the Book of Mormon and is the same one unearthed by Rice and Fairchild at Honolulu in 1884. When Hurlburt got hold of Manuscript Found he wrote out a certificate on its final page and added his signature.
The writings of Solomon Spaulding Proved by Aaron Wright, Oliver Smith, John N. Miller and others.
The testimonies of the above gentlemen are now in possession.
(Signed) D. P. Hurlburt
When Manuscript Found was discovered in Honolulu by Rice and Fairchild it had a very interesting addition to it which James H Fairchild describes in his letter to Joseph Smith III of the Reorganized Church.
Mr. Rice began looking over his old pamphlets and papers, and at length came upon an old, worn and faded manuscript of about one hundred and seventy-five pages, small quarto, purporting to be a history of the migrations and conflicts of the ancient Indian Tribes, which occupied the territory now belonging to the States of New York, Ohio and Kentucky. On the last page of this manuscript is a certificate and signature, giving the names of several persons known to the signer, who have assured him to their personal knowledge the manuscript was the writing of Solomon Spaulding.
By this instrument Hurlburt reaches out his guilty hand from the tomb to witness that the manuscript discovered in Howe's effects was the same manuscript he had mischievously pretended was the fountainhead of the Book of Mormon. No other writing by Spaulding is known to exist. Nor was it suggested that any did, until after the publication of that found in Hawaii.
To enable the reader to judge for themselves a significant portion of Manuscript Story is reprinted in Appendix 'C'. To those with more scholarly rigour, the complete manuscript is available at: