, 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.
To the Honorable Legislature of the State of , in Senate and House of Representatives convened.
We, the undersigned petitioners, inhabitants of , Missouri, in consequence of the late calamity that has come upon us, taken in connection with former afflictions, feel it a duty we owe to ourselves and our , to lay our case before your honorable body for consideration.
It is a well known fact, that a society of our people commenced settling in , Missouri, in the summer of 1831, where they, according to their ability, purchased lands and settled upon them with the intention and expectation of becoming permanent citizens in common with others.
Soon after the settlement began, persecution began, and as the society increased, persecution also increased, until the society at last was compelled to leave the . And although an account of these persecutions has been published to the world, yet we feel that it will not be improper to notice a few of the most prominent items in this memorial.
On the 20th of July 1833, a mob convened at , a committee of which called upon a few of the men of our church there, and stated to them that the store, , and indeed all other machanic shops must be closed forthwith, and the society leave the immediately. These propositions were so unexpected, that a certain time was asked for to consider on the subject before an answer should be returned, which was refused, and our men being individually interrogated, each one answered that he could not consent to comply with their propo [p. 73]