, 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.
there were a considerable number of those who had been arrested by released. Out of that number was , Esq. who was one of the seven, who had been carried to , and from thence to . They were either all released, or admitted to bail, except , , , , Joseph Smith Jr., and ; who were sent to , Clay County, to , to stand their trial for treason and murder. The treason, for having whipped the mob out of , and taking their cannon from them; and the murder, for the man killed in the battle. Also, , Morris Phelps, , , and Norman Shearer; who were put into jail, to stand their trial, for the same crimes. At this time the Legislature had commenced its session, and a Memorial* was presented to the Senate and house of Representatives; to obtain a committee to investigate the whole affair pertaining to the ’s Order—the operations of the mob, and the conduct and operations of the Militia while at .
After much legislation, disputation, and controversy, and angry speechifying; as the papers of , published at the time, abundantly testify, the Petition and Memorial, were laid on the table, until the July following; thus utterly refusing to grant the memorialists, their request; thereby refusing to investigate the subject; and thus it stands to this day, uninvestigated by any legal authority.
After we were cast into prison, we heard nothing but threatenings, that if any Judge or Jury, or Court of any kind should clear any of us, that we should never get out of the alive. This soon determined our course; and that was to escape out of their hands as soon as we could, and by any means we could. After we had been some length of time in prison, we demanded a of , one of the Judges; which, with some considerable reluctance, was granted. Great threatenings were made at this time by the mob,