, 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 so foul a business. The scheme of lying, so readily supported by the papers of the country, generally, was invented for the purpose of plundering, robbing, stealing, and driving a people from their homes, and taking their property as a prey to the freebooters who were ready to seize upon it, when the public papers had sufficiently aided them, to enable them to obtain their object without being punished for it.
After the mob had gotten all things sufficiently prepared, and the public mind, as they supposed, completely blinded, having been so well assisted by the public prints of the day, they commenced their operations in earnest, in every part of the . Tearing down houses; men were dragged out, and whipped in the most shocking manner, without regard to age: Of this number, were four revolutionary soldiers, over the age of seventy years, who had offered their lives for the liberty that their oppressors were enjoying; but they now, with sorrow, beheld the liberty for which they fought, torn from them, by the violence of those who were enjoying freedom at the expense of their blood and treasure. Widows also, from sixty to eighty years of age, whose husbands were among the number of the revolutionary patriots, were driven violently from their houses in that inclement season, by this ruthless banditti of wretches, worse than savages, and their property made common plunder, to gratify their rapacity; and those females at that advanced age, and at an inclement season of the year, had to wander in the open prairie, to seek a cover under the rocks, without a house to shelter, or a blanket to cover them, and all this, because they dared to differ from these their oppressors in matters of religion, and for no other cause. The was full of armed men, riding in large companies, from house to house, in every place where the saints were settled, abusing, driving and whipping in a most unmerciful manner, and insulting women brutally. After much abuse and destruction of property, and finding that there was to be no end to these outrages, the saints at last, had recourse to arms; but it was not till after they had petitioned the and authorities of the for aid and protection. was Governor and [p. 8]