, An Appeal to the American People: Being an Account of the Persecutions of the Church of Latter Day Saints; and of the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri, second edition; i-vi, 7–60 pp.; Cincinnati, OH: Shepard and Stearns, 1840. The copy used herein is held at CHL.
A manuscript draft of this pamphlet, simply titled “To the Publick” was presented to a conference of church members at , Illinois, on 1 November 1839. The conference voted to approve the manuscript and authorized its publication on behalf of the church. The pamphlet, when published, carried the endorsement of JS, , and as “Presidents of said Church.”
and collaborated on the publication of the text, which was available in print by May 1840. Though no author is named on the title page, was acknowledged as author in an 1840 Times and Seasons newspaper article, and when the pamphlet was advertised in that church periodical in 1841. JS and held some expectation that funds from the sale of An Appeal would eventually help defray costs of their late-1839 trip to .
By July 1840, and had been authorized to produce a second, revised edition to be published by Shepard & Stearns in . Page related some of the circumstances surrounding its publication and circulation in a letter sent to JS, “. . . at [Ohio] we parted for a few days . . . Elder Hyde went to Cincinnati where in my absince he published a second Edition of the ‘Apeal to the American people’ (2000 copies)[.] when I arrived the work was about completed[.] after disposing of as many of them as posible and suplying the market about cincinnati and the adjacient country he left me with some fourteen or fifteen hundred on hand, to dispose of” (John E. Page, Philadelphia, PA, to JS et al., Nauvoo, IL, 1 Sept. 1841, JS Collection, CHL). Funds from this printing were to be for the express purpose of subsidizing Hyde and Page’s imminent mission to in Palestine.
The second edition was essentially a lightly edited reprint of the first, with a four-page “Publisher’s Preface” added. In the preface, and noted the purpose of the publication, explained the severe hardships imposed by the persecutions upon Page’s own family, provided a detailed account of a vision experienced by Hyde, and expressed enthusiasm about the prospects of the mission. The preface also contained a copy of an official letter of appointment and commendation for Hyde and Page from an April 1840 church conference at , Illinois, signed by JS, and a letter of reference from , governor of .
Although many of the events reported in both editions of ’s pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology of events is often inaccurate. However, Rigdon’s account does contain the texts of several significant documents. Among these are JS’s September 1838 affidavit concerning the 7 August 1838 visit to and those of and regarding the massacre. Consequently, though in many respects Rigdon’s document from a historical perspective is more advocacy than history, it offers access to some important material not readily found elsewhere.
to . Accordingly, on Thursday morning, November 8th, with three guards only, and they had been obtained with great difficulty, after laboring all the previous day to get them. Between and Roy’s ferry, on the , they all got drunk, and we got possession of their arms and horses. It was late in the afternoon, near the setting of the sun. We travelled about half a mile after we crossed the , and put up for the night. The next morning there came a number of men, some of them armed, their threatenings and savage appearance were such as to make us afraid to proceed without more guards. A messenger was therefore despatched to to obtain them. We started before their arrival, but had not gone far before we met with a guard, if we recollect right, of seventy-four men. As to the number, however, we are not certain; and were conducted by them to and put into an old vacant house, and a guard set. Sometime through the course of that day, came in and we were introduced to him. We enquired of him the reason why we had been thus carried from our homes and what were the charges against us. He said that he was not then able to determine, but would be in a short time, and with very little more conversation withdrew. Some short time after he had withdrawn, came in with two chains in his hands, and a number of padlocks. The two chains he fastened together. He had with him ten men armed, who stood at the time of these operations with a thumb upon the cock of their guns. They first nailed down the windows, then came and ordered a man by the name of John Fulkerson whom he had with him, to chain us together with chains and padlocks, being seven in number. After that, he searched us, examining our pockets to see if we had any arms; finding nothing but pocket knives, he took them and conveyed them off.
spent several days in searching the statutes of to find some authority to hold a court martial. (The troops said that he had promised when they left, that there were two or three that they should have the privilege of shooting before they returned.) But he could find none, and after fruitless search of a number of days he came again to see us, and informed us that he would turn us over to the civil authorities for trial. Accordingly, the trial commenced, on the bench, and , attorney. This was surely a new kind of court—it was not an inquisition, nor yet a criminal court, but a compound between. A looker on would be convinced that both the and were not statisfied that some or all of the prisoners had been guilty of some criminal act or acts, but, on the contrary, that their object was to try by all means in their power to get some person to swear some criminal thing against us, though they knew we were innocent.
The first act of the court was to send out a body of armed men to obtain witnesses without any civil process whatever; and after witnesses were brought before the court, they were sworn at bayonet point. Dr. was the first brought before the court. He had previously told Mr. , that if he () wished to save himself, he must swear hard against the heads of the church, as they were the ones the court wanted to criminate; and if he could swear hard against them they would, (that is, neither court nor mob,) dis [p. 47]