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.
These meetings were publick things, called and held in the face of the goverment, published in the publick papers. At these meeting, they publickly, declared that they would put the laws of the country at defiance, in order to accomplish their object, as well as justice and humanity, which finally they did.
In order to justify themselves in violating the laws of both God and man, the laws of both the state of and the , they had recorcrecorse recourse to fabricating and circulating the foolishest and senseless lies, that mortals could invent, thinking, by that means, to justify them<selves> before the publick. Such as the saints were building building strong fertifications bringing canon and other military implements into the country; that wagons loaded with coffins were coming in great numbers, and that these coffins were full of amunitions and military stores. That the saints were Coniving us with the Indians, and stiring up the negroes to rebel against their masters, with a multitude of likeminded things of a similar character; Which all tend to establish the ignorance and corruption of their authors. To such low and mean subterfuges we were the principle men of driven and vicinity driven, to accomplish an object at which humanity to the latest ages must recoil. We shall give the names of the principle acters in this scene of abomination, that the Amarican people may hereafter know them.
After having, as they supposed made a sufficient preperation to accomplish their object, and fabricated and circulated, through the medium of their papers public papers, a necessary quantity of lies to blind the publick mind,— for they verily supposed all the Amarican people were so distitute of truth of and humanity as themselves— they comenced their opperations.
These scenes transpired between the first of July and the middle of November 1833— [p. [1[b]]]