Sidney Rigdon, JS, et al., Petition Draft (“To the Publick”), circa 1838–1839
, JS, et al., Petition Draft (“To the Publick”), ca. Sept. 1838–ca. Oct. 1839; handwriting of , , , , and two unidentified scribes; 112 inscribed pages with eight inserted slips of paper; JS Collection, CHL.
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 state.” 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 beginning in 1838. The fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from ’s History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates, 1839). In May 1840, the sixth installment drew upon ’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 the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri (Cincinnati: Glezan and Shepard, 1840), a draft of which is presented here. Though no author is named on the title page of the pamphlet, Rigdon was acknowledged as responsible for that publication when it was advertised in the Times and Seasons in 1840 and 1841. Also, much of this draft is in Rigdon’s hand. 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.
The manuscript version of ’s Appeal to the American People presented here is referred to as the “petition draft” titled “To the Publick”. On 1 November 1839, Rigdon’s recently completed petition draft, endorsed by JS, Rigdon, and , was read to a conference of Saints in , Illinois, who then 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.
Although many of the events reported in ’s draft and pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology is often inaccurate. (Consult the annotation in Histories,Volume 2 for corrections 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 his 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.
or admitted to bail, excepting , , , , Joseph Smith Junr. , 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> s battle. Also , Morris Phelps, , , and Norman Shearer, who were put into Jail, to stand their trial for the same crimes. In December At this time the Legislature had commenced its Session, and the following Memorial was presented to the Senate and house of Representatives Respectfully, to obtain a body committee of to investigation investigate the whole afair pertaining to the s Order, the operations of the Mob, and the conduct and opperations of the Militia while at . <-[here comes the memorial]-> But 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 untill the July following; thus utterly refusing to grant the Memorialists their request, or thereby refusing to investigate the subject, and there it stands untill this day, uninvestigated by any legal authority.
After we were cast into prison, we heard nothing but threatnings, 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 Habaes Corpus of , one of the Judges, which with some considerable reluctance was granted; great threatnings were made at this time by the mob, that if any of us were [p. [47[b]]]