, 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.
amounting to several thousand dollars. A store was broken open, the goods thrown into the street and trampled under foot. Mr. , one of the Bishops of the church, was taken from his house, with another man, into the public square, and there the mob attempted to strip him naked; to this he objected, and finally they agreed to let him keep on his shirt and pantaloons, and they tarred and feathered him, and the other man, whose name was . , a lawyer, was the leader in this business; and on that occasion boasted that his word was the law of the , and that the saints should leave it, or be put to death. So much for a would be honorable lawyer. A prosecution was entered against one of the men, who was taken in the very act of taking the goods, and trampling them under foot. The writ was obtained at the office of a man by name of , who was a justice of the Peace, or called so. When the man was brought for trial, though it was proven that he was taken in the very act of destroying the goods; he was acquitted, and no cause of action was found; but shortly afterwards, there was a writ issued from the same office, against those who prosecuted the said , for destroying the goods, for false imprisonment, and they were holden to bail for their appearance at the County court; and for the want of bail, they were thrown into jail. This, is a correct sample of the way the laws were administered in .
Before this banditti commenced the destruction of property, they appointed committees to go and wait on the saints, and order them out of the , under pain of death. The object of those warnings was, to make them go and leave all their property as prey to the mob. At which all the authorities of , from the down, winked, as will appear hereafter. While those committees were threatening the saints with death, if they did not leave the forthwith, and leave all their property a prey to them; they kept the public papers teeming with lies, and they found many papers in the country, ready to aid them in their abomination, by giving circulation to their lies and slanders. This, I must say, to the shame and disgrace of the editors, who have devoted their papers [p. 7]