JS, Bill of Damages, , Adams Co., IL, 4 June 1839; handwriting of ; eight pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes redactions, use marks, docket, and archival marks.
Two bifolia measuring 12¼ × 7½ inches (31 × 19 cm). The document was folded for transmission and perhaps for filing. At some point, its leaves were numbered in graphite. In the 1840s or early 1850s, church historian docketed the upper left corner of the first leaf: “Joseph’s Bill of Damages | vs. Missouri June 4 | 1839”. Later, the two bifolia were fastened together with a staple, which was subsequently removed. The document has marked soiling and some separation along the folds. An archival marking—“d 155”—was inscribed in the upper right corner of the first leaf.
Following its completion, the bill of damages was temporarily in the possession of and other church scribes, who in June and July 1839 revised and expanded the document for publication. The bill of damages was possibly among the documents a Latter-day Saint delegation carried to in winter 1839–1840. If so, the document was included with the “additional documents” that were in the custody of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 17 February 1840 to circa 24 March 1840, after which the documents were retrieved by the church delegation. The document has probably remained in continuous institutional custody since that time, as indicated by ’s inscription of a copy in JS History, 1838–1856, volume C-1, in 1845 and by the docket and archival marking that were subsequently added to the document.
Richards served as church historian from December 1842 until his death in 1854. (JS, Journal, 21 Dec. 1842; Orson Spencer, “Death of Our Beloved Brother Willard Richards,” Deseret News, 16 Mar. 1854, .)
Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Being the First Session of the Twenty-Sixth Congress, Begun and Held at the City of Washington, December 2, 1839, and in the Sixty-Fourth Year of the Independence of the Said United States. Washington DC: Blair and Rives, 1839.
Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.
Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 441; JS History, vol. C-1, 948–952. Bullock may have added the use marks after he finished copying the document in 1845, and Richards may have added the docket around the same time. The archival marking was added in the twentieth century.
On 4 June 1839, JS prepared a bill of damages describing his suffering and losses during the 1838 conflict in and his subsequent imprisonment. This document was one of several hundred that prepared in an effort to seek redress from the federal government for their losses in Missouri. In March 1839, while JS was imprisoned in the in , Missouri, he wrote to the Saints in , instructing them to document “all the facts and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this state [Missouri] and also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained.” JS explained in a letter to his wife that after documenting the damages, church members should “apply to the Court.” The Saints subsequently altered this strategy, deciding in early May to send to to present Congress with church members’ claims for redress. That month, Latter-day Saints began in earnest to write affidavits, most of which were sworn before local government officials, describing church members’ suffering and detailing the loss of life and property.
JS prepared his bill of damages on 4 June 1839 during a visit to church members in , Illinois. JS’s regular scribe, , was not in Quincy at the time, so assisted JS with the document. Thompson had prior experience as a scribe for the church and had recently been assigned to write a history of the church’s persecutions in . This assignment may have contributed to JS’s decision to work with Thompson on the bill of damages. The earliest extant version of the manuscript, featured here, is lengthy and fairly polished, suggesting there was at least one earlier draft.
The bill of damages begins with a brief description of JS’s travels from , Ohio, to and his experiences in Missouri during summer 1838. The document then focuses on the October 1838 conflict with anti-Mormons in Missouri, including the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Carroll County and the Saints’ aggressive military operations to defend themselves in . In his description of the operations, JS highlighted the participation of state militia leaders—Brigadier Generals and Hiram Parks as well as Colonel of the regiment of the state militia—while deemphasizing the actions of the Latter-day Saints’ “armies of Israel.” The bill also covers the state militia’s occupation of , as well as the incarceration of JS and others during winter 1838–1839, including unfair treatment of the prisoners, their attempts to obtain hearings, and their escape to in April 1839. The document concludes with a list of damages and expenses totaling $100,000. Unlike the vast majority of affidavits that Latter-day Saints made in 1839, JS’s bill of damages was not sworn before a government official.
In June and July 1839, penciled in changes to the text of the bill of damages, apparently in preparation for publication. Since these changes were probably made for a purpose distinct from the intention of the original document, these revisions are not reproduced here. Thompson’s changes, as well as other revisions and additions, were included in the bill of damages when it was published as “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith, Jr.” in the July 1839 issue of the church periodical Times and Seasons.
See, for example, James Newberry, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 7 May 1839; Joseph Dudley, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 11 May 1839; Phebee Simpson Emmett, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 14 May 1839, Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845, CHL.
Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845. CHL. MS 2703.
Bill of Damages against the state of & Account of the sufferings & losses sustained therein.
March <16.th> 1838 I with my Family arrived in Caldwell County after a Journey of one thousand miles being 8 weeks on my Journey enduring great affliction in consequence of persecution &c and expending about two <or 3> hundred dollars. Soon after my arrival at that place I was informed that a number of men living in (on the Grindstone Forks) had offered the sum of one thousand dollars for my scalp persons to whom I was an entire strange[r] & of whom I had no knowledge of the In order to attain their end the roads were frequently way laid for &c at one time in particular when watering my horse in I distinctly heard 3 or 4 Guns snaps at me! was credible informed also that of the Fifth Judicia[l] Circuit gave encouragement to individuals to carry into effect their diabolical designs and has frequently stated that I ought to be beheaded on account of my Religion: In consequence of such expressions from and others in authority my enemies endeavoured to take every advantage of me and heaping abuses getting up vexatious law suits and stirring up the minds of the people against me and the people with whom I was connected altho we had done nothing to deserve such treatment but were busely [busily] engagd in our several avocations & desireous to live on peaceable & Friendly terms with all men. In consequence of such threats and abuse which was I was continually subject to my Family were Kept in continuall state of alarm not knowing [p. ]
By the time JS’s party reached Dublin, a small town near Columbus, Ohio, the group was “destitute of money.” In Dublin a “brother Tomlinson” sold his farm “and readily delivered to [JS] three hundred dollars which supplied [the group’s] wants.” JS later recounted that when his group reached Paris, Illinois, tavern keepers refused to admit the Latter-day Saints, relenting only when the traveling party threatened to obtain lodging through force. (“Incidents of Joseph Smith’s Journal,” ca. 1845, , Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, 1839–1860, CHL; JS, Journal, 29 Dec. 1842.)
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
American colonial governments offered “scalp bounties” as a reward for killing Indians; the practice of scalping opponents continued into the nineteenth century. According to Brigadier General Parks, during the 1838 conflict “Morman scalps” were “much in demand” among anti-Mormons. Grindstone Fork, a small settlement in western Daviess County, served as a headquarters for vigilantes during the conflict. (Axtell and Sturtevant, “Unkindest Cut,” 469–472; Taylor, Civil War of 1812, 192; Hiram Parks, Carroll Co., MO, to David R. Atchison, Booneville, MO, 7 Oct. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA; Berrett, Sacred Places, 4:462.)
Axtell, James, and William C. Sturtevant. “The Unkindest Cut; or, Who Invented Scalping?” William and Mary Quarterly 37, no. 3 (July 1980): 451–472.
Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies. New York: Vintage Books, 2011.
Mormon War Papers, 1838–1841. MSA.
Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007.
JS was perhaps referring to the legal difficulties stemming from the confrontation between armed Mormon men and Adam Black on 8 August 1838. Latter-day Saint Warner Hoopes recalled that when King issued a warrant to arrest JS and Lyman Wight, “Judge King & others said they ware in hopes that joseph smith jun & Lyman Wight would not be taken & tried acording to law so that they could have the pleasure of taking their scalps.” (See Historical Introduction to Affidavit, 5 Sept. 1838; and Warner Hoopes, Affidavit, Pike Co., IL, 14 Jan. 1840, Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives, Washington DC.)
Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives / Petitions and Memorials, Resolutions of State Legislatures, and Related Documents Which Were Referred to the Committee on Judiciary during the 27th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Petitions and Memorials, 1813–1968. Record Group 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789–2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are housed in National Archives boxes 40 and 41 of Library of Congress boxes 139–144 in HR27A-G10.1.
TEXT: Below “knowing,” Robert B. Thompson inserted the following letters: “mormmnes”. The letters, which are in the same ink as the rest of the document and were therefore probably inscribed contemporaneously, apparently do not pertain to the sentence above the insertion.