Account of Hearing, between circa 3 and 9 June 1837 [State of Ohio v. JS for Threatening to Take Life]
Account of Hearing, , Geauga Co., OH, between ca. 3 and 9 June 1837, State of OH v. JS for Threatening to Take Life (Painesville, OH, Justice of the Peace Court 1837). Published in Painesville (OH) Telegraph, 9 June 1837, .
Much interest and anxiety seemed to be manifested by the good people of , on Saturday, the 3d of June inst., in consequence of a suit instituted in behalf of the state of , on complaint of Mr. against the defendant, charging him with an attempt to take the life of said , by inducing two individuals to lay in wait for said , near his dwelling in order to shoot him;—which trial was held on that day, at the town-house in this , before Justice [Edward] Flint. Below will be found a brief, but we trust, substantially correct account of the trial.
THE STATE OF ,)
Joseph Smith, Jr.)
, the Prophet.)
Counsel for the .
, for the prosecution called. He testified, that some time in January or Februry last, he was in the Bank called the Mormon Bank, where Smith and others were in conversation; Smith recounting the hardships and privations they had endured, and were still subject to; and that threats had been uttered against the Bank and its officers; that it was possible a suit might be commenced against them: but, said he, I know of no one who would do such a thing, except it is . Smith seemed much excited and declared that should be put out of the way, or where the crows could not find him; he said destroying would be justifiable in the sight of God, that it was the will of God, &c. said he had never heard Smith use similar language before. Not long after witness conversed with Smith on the subject, asked him what he meant by using such language; he said he had no intention to hurt but that the course ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊d by [6 words illegible] him, that he felt injured, and had spoken rashly and inadvertantly in the heat of passion. To the question “does Smith claim to be a Prophet,” answered, “he does sometimes.” Question— Do the members of your society feel bound to receive Smith’s words as revelation? Answer—We do when what he reveals is in accordance with the work of God, but feel bound to receive nothing, farther than it agrees with Scripture.— Question— Was there ever a revelation made by Smith, which was doubted by you? Ans. Yes, there have been things advanced by Smith which we did not believe. Myself and others have conversed together on the expressions of Smith, made in reference to ; we thought we were not bound to receive it as the revealed will of God.
Cross examined— thinks the meeting at the Bank was in January or February.— There were a number present with myself, , and others whose names I do not recollect at this time.
Question— Who participated with Smith in this conversation about ?
Answer— I heard no one make any reply to what he said.
Ques— Does the think that Smith intended to take the life of ?
Ans— I cannot say that I do; though I felt some alarm, spoke to others of it.
Ques.— How was the expression of Smith concerning received by you?
Ans.— We did not receive it as a revelation; we receive nothing as such, except what accords with the Old and New Testaments.
Ques.— How long have you been acquainted with Smith, and what is your opinion of his character as a man?
Ans— I have known him for some time and think him to be possessed of much kindness and humanity toward his fellow beings.
Ques.— Does come among you frequently, or does he seem to shun your place through fear?
Ans.— I have seen him at once or twice lately, apparently without fear of coming among us.
Direct examination resumed— All who were present at the conversation in the Bank, were both officers of the and of the Bank.
Cross examination resumed— I have conversed with on the subject of the prosecution of the officers of the Bank and the threats of Smith against him; he inquired of me whether I would support Smith or turn against him; I told him that I hoped truth might ever prevail with me, but there was much prejudice existing among the members of our society against him, in consequence of his heading a mob to disturb us; though I should not swerve from truth and fairness, even should it go against Smith.
Ques.— Has there ever been any difficulty between yourself and Smith?
Ans.— Yes, there has been at times about the printing business and concerning .
called— says, that in April or May, 1835, he lived with Smith, and was a member of the society. At that time there was much excitement among the members about , his raising a mob, &c. One afternoon I saw Mr. Davis, who said he wished to speak with me privately; we withdrew to a private room and after consulting together about putting out of the way, I went to ’s, borrowed a pair of pistols, cleaned, loaded and fired them once, then loaded them again, and as I returned saw Smith, who said he wished to speak with me. We retired to the garden, he said to me I know where you are going and what your business is; that he had seen Davis and told him I would be a good hand to go with him: said this was a great work, and we must be very wise; then spake of ; said he had injured the society, and that it was better for one man to suffer than to have the whole community disturbed; that it was the will of Heaven that should be put out of the way, and that he would take the responsibility, for the deed was justifiable in the sight of God, and would be rewarded; but when we had killed him, he wanted his body secreted if possible.
-[Here the was about to detail the conversation between Davis and Smith, as related to him by Davis, which was objected to by the Counsel for the defendant, and declared inadmissable by the Court.]-
The then proceeded to say that Smith told him he wished to God the deed had been done, and hoped it would not be given up; that Heaven would reward the doer of a deed so just, &c. After supper, met Davis on the east and west road not far from ’s house; after some hurried expressions from each on the atrocity of the crime, they separated.
Ques.— Was Smith held as a prophet by his followers?
Ans.— He was; I had ever been taught by both Smith and , to regard him as such.
Cross examined— I first saw Smith in the state of , in the year 1830; did not embrace his religion until I came to in 1831. Since then I have been to ; was a member of the society there; returned in 1833 or ’34. When I returned to I engaged in the printing business carried on by Davis, , and Smith.— Smith was sometimes called into the office to reprimand me for not obeying what I considered unjust and tyranical requirements.
Ques.— Did you ever use pistols for any other purpose than destroying ?
Answer.— Yes, I have used them to guard Smith’s house.
Ques.— Did you never get pistols to waylay Smith?
Ans.— No, though such has been the report.
Ques.— Are you a member of the society now?
Ans.— I am not; I was excommunicated about two months since for lack of faith, non-observance of duties and contempt of the quorum of High Priests. I left about five weeks ago; went to to visit my family.
Ques.— Had you any conversation with Smith about the affair before you went to ?
Ans.— I had; he told me he expected to be prosecuted, and that he had heard I would swear against him; he then urged upon me the necessity of favoring him and the society.
Direct examination resumed— I borrowed the pistols of , in obedience to the command of Smith communicated to me by Davis.
called.— He had no remembrance of hearing such conversation as had been related by witnesses to have taken place in the Bank; though he has often heard ’s name mentioned. He has heard others say and has said himself, that if should attack them at the head of a mob, he should be the first to suffer Many rumors were afloat, which caused us to expect a mob, and prepare ourselves for defence. I never heard Smith threaten ’s life.
Ques.— Does Smith exert much influence over his people?
Ans.— Considerable; we feel bound to follow his directions so far as they agree with the doctrines of the Bible.
Cross examined.— is an officer of the society and present at all their deliberations; has never known anything of a conspiracy against ; their Articles of Faith forbid any such thing. Have heard of ’s borrowing pistols, and at a meeting called to inquire into his conduct, was satisfied by the witnesses then called on, that he had borrowed them.
called—Has heard Smith and others say, if or any other man should head a mob against him, they ought to be put out of the way, and it would be our duty to do so. There has been much excitement prevailing among us in consequence of the attack on Smith and , in , where they were tarred and feathered, and we have been ordered to arm ourselves for defence, that we might be prepared to resist similar aggressions.
Cross examined.— I believe our only means of safety was to arm ou[rselves] [2 words illegible] have [1 line illegible] frighten or injure [5 words illegible] near our place and fired cannon, but Smith always told us to hurt none unless they were the aggressors; I believe Smith to be a tender-hearted, humane man.
called.— Does not recollect distinctly, but thinks he has heard ’s name mentioned at the Bank; was often there when Smith was present, but has no remembrance of hearing Smith utter any threats against or others.
Cross examined— Am an officer in the church; have been acquainted with Smith for some time; think him to be of kind and charitable disposition; have often heard him exhort his people to do no violence.
Here the Counsel for the rested and being called on the part of the defence, testified— That about two years since, he had heard that Davis and had conspired against the life of ; that on receiving this information, he went to Smith and stated the case to him, requesting him to see to it. had never had any conversation with either Davis or on the subject; Smith said he had known nothing of the conspiracy until then. , together with Smith, was often at the Bank when the prosecution of its officers was spoken of; but never heard Smith make any threats, though we often discussed the question, how far we should suffer, before we offered violence in self-defence.
Cross examined.— The reason he did not go to Davis and himself, on hearing of the conspiracy, was because Smith had more influence with them. Davis was never considered strictly subservient to the rules of our society. was excommunicated about two or three months since.
Ques.— Why did you let them continue in your Church so long after you considered them guilty of such conduct?
Ans.— We supposed that had desisted from their evil course.
Ques.— Does Smith exert much influence over his followers?
Ans.— Yes, they regard him as an inspired man, and have regarded him in that light since I became acquainted with them and their religion, which will be eight years the next fall.
Ques.— Do you believe Joseph Smith, Jr. to be a Prophet?
Ans.— I do not believe he is such a Prophet as yourself or Mr. Howe. (Laughter.)
called— Testimony in substance the same as that of .
called.— is a brother of the defendant; went with him to last February; on their return, they were informed that had said he would take defendant’s life, and that he () would swear the defendant had threatened to destroy . and his brother on arriving at , went to the Bank; there met ; spoke to him on the subject— declared it was an absolute falsehood; a lie as black as the depths of hell.
Cross examined.— Believes his brother to be a prophet; an inspired man, capable of revealing future events.
recalled by the prosecution.— Believes Joseph Smith Jr. to be a Prophet:— believes that he translated the Golden Bible.
Some other witnesses were called, but their testimony was similar to that of the last two or three. The summing up and arguments of the Counsel on both sides, were remarkably clear, able and eloquent; and the whole affair terminated by the Court’s requiring Mr. Joseph Smith, Jr. $500 bonds for his appearance at Court. , and each $50 for their appearance as witnesses in the case. [p. ]