, 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.
sitions. One of the mob replied that he was sorry, for the work of destruction would commence immediately. In a short time, the , which was a two-story brick building, was assailed by the mob and soon thrown down, and with it much valuable property destroyed. Next they went to the store for the same purpose, but , one of the owners, agreeing to close it, they abandoned their design. Their next move was the dragging of from his house and family to the public square, where, surrounded by hundreds, they partially stripped him of his clothes, and tarred and feathered him from head to foot. A man by the name of was also tarred at the same time. This was Saturday, and the mob agreed to meet the following Tuesday, to accomplish their purpose of driving or massacreing the society. Tuesday came, and the mob came also, bearing with them a red flag in token of blood. Some two or three of the principal men of the society offered their lives, if that would appease the wrath of the mob, so that the rest of the society might dwell in peace upon their lands.— The answer was, that unless the society would leave “en masse,” every man should die for himself. Being in a defenceless situation, to save a general massacre, it was agreed that one half of the society should leave the by the first of the next January, and the remainder by the first of the following April. A treaty was entered into and ratified, and all things went on smoothly for a while. But some time in October the wrath of the mob began to be again kindled, insomuch, that they shot at some of our people, whipped others, and threw down their houses, and committed many other depredations: indeed the society of saints were harrassed for some time both day and night—their houses were brickbatted and broken open—women and children insulted, &c. The store house of & Co. was broken open, ransacked, and some of the goods strewed in the streets. These abuses, with many others of a very aggravated nature, so stirred up the indignant feelings of our people that a party of them, say about 30, met a company of the mob of about double their number, when a battle took [p. 74]