, 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; 1–84 pp.; Cincinnati, OH: Glezen and Shepard, stereotypers and printers, 1840. The copy used herein is held at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
While incarcerated at , Missouri, in March 1839, JS addressed a letter to the church “at Illinois and scattered abroad and to in particular,” instructing the Saints to gather up “a knoledge of all the facts and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of this .” Edward Partridge responded with an account that became the three opening installments of “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” an eleven-part series published in the church’s newspaper, Times and Seasons, between December 1839 and October 1840. “A History, of the Persecution” receives comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and is available on this website.
may have intended to tell the entire story himself, but he fell ill shortly after publication of “A History, of the Persecution” began and died on 27 May 1840. Prompted by Partridge’s illness and subsequent death, the editors of the Times and Seasons, and , sought elsewhere for source materials to continue the series. It is probable that they composed the fourth installment to provide a brief transition from Partridge’s account, which ends in 1836, and the conflicts in and adjoining counties in 1838. The fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from ’s History of the Late Persecutions Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates, 1839). In May 1840, the sixth installment reprinted passages from ’s eighty-four page pamphlet, 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 (Cincinnati: Glezan and Shepard, 1840). More of Rigdon’s work was reprinted in the eighth through tenth installments, published from July to September 1840. The series concluded with an eleventh installment in the October 1840 issue, featuring General ’s callous speech to the Saints after their surrender at , Missouri, in November 1838.
A manuscript version of ’s Appeal to the American People, referred to as the “petition draft” titled “To the Publick” and endorsed by JS, Rigdon, and , was read to a conference of Saints in , Illinois, on 1 November 1839. The conference voted to approve its publication in the name of the church. and then collaborated to arrange for publication of the text in late 1839 and early 1840. Though no author is named on the title page, Rigdon was acknowledged as author when the pamphlet was advertised in the Times and Seasons in 1840 and 1841. JS and Elias Higbee had some expectation that funds from the sale of the publication would help defray costs of their trip to in late 1839. In July 1840, a second edition was printed by Shepard & Stearns in to raise funds for Orson Hyde and ’s mission to .
Although many of the events reported in ’s pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology is often inaccurate. (Consult the annotation in Histories, Volume 2 for correction to portions published as part of “A History, of the Persecutions.”) However, his account contains the text of several significant documents. Among these are JS’s 5 September 1838 affidavit concerning the 7 August 1838 visit to and those of and and regarding the massacre. Consequently, though in many respects Rigdon’s document is more advocacy than history, it offers access to some material not readily found elsewhere.
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 judge and attorney 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 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, disturbe him. I intend to do it, said he, in order to escape, for if I do not they will take my life. To aid him in this work, there was standing a body of armed men; a part of this armed body stood in the presence of the court to see that the witnesses swore right, and another part was scouring the county to drive out of it every witness that they could hear of whose testimony would be favorable to the defendants. This course was kept up during the whole time of the court. If a witness did not swear to please the court, he or she would be threatened to be cast into prison. They never pleased the Court when their testimony was favorable to the defendants. One instance is all the proof that need be aduced on this head. A man by the name of Allen was called on, he began to tell the story about ’s burning houses in the south part of , he was kicked out of the house and three men took after him with loaded guns, and he hardly escaped with his life. Every witness that the defendants had, (that these creatures knew of, and they made dilligent search to find all they could) were either arrested under pretention of some charge, or else driven off. When a [p. 66]