Sunday, November 2, 2014

A British Influence on Nauvoo Industrialization?

In a tantalizing paper A Dam for Nauvoo from 1978, Donald L. Enders of Maid of Iowa fame reports that Joseph Smith Jr was pushing for a dam to power mechanization and industrialization in Nauvoo in 1841, when the Church leadership was worried about the influx of English poor, none of whom were farmers.

Enders quotes Joseph Smith Jr as writing:
There are great numbers of the Saints in England who are extremely poor and not accustomed to the farming business, who must have certain preparations made for them before they can support themselves in this country, therefore, to prevent confusion and disappointment when they arrive here, let those men who are accustomed to making machinery, and those who can command a capital, though it be small, come here as soon as convenient, and put up machinery and make other such preparations as may be necessary, so that when the poor come on they may have employment to come to. (Times and Seasons 2 (1 January 1841), p.259)
This might mean that the influx of British converts, who were coming from a country that had been playing the industrial revolution game for at least 50 years, and whose poor city proletariat provided a fertile field to harvest for the English missionaries,  might have contributed a decisive push in the direction of industrialization for Joseph Smith Jr's thinking.

Of course, the specifics are again the use of water power, just as had been the case in Palmyra. Donald L. Enders, who wrote his thesis on the Des Moines Rapids at BYU, fails to mention steam mills such as the one that the Law brothers built.

Even after Joseph Smith Jr's lynching, Saint publications like the Nauvoo Neighbor were thinking in terms of what had been doable as far back as 1800, not in terms of the manufacturing that had since arisen in Rochester and would soon overtake Nauvoo in Chicago.
Here is the proud and gallant Mississippi, with her rapid current, rumbling to the broad Atlantic, seeming to say (as she quickens her pace over the rugged rocks of the lower rapids, just opposite our beautiful Nauvoo), only improve my shores and banks, ye saints . . . and I will propel your mills, cottons and woolen manufactories, by which your laborers can find employ, and your poor can be adorned after the similitude of a palace.
(Nauvoo Neighbor, 12 March 1845, p. 2.) 

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