Appendix: Report of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 4 March 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

-[SENATE.]-
-[247]-
26th Congress,
1st Session.
 
IN SENATE OF THE .
March 4, 1840.
Submitted, laid on the table, and ordered to be printed. (Seal)
Mr. [Garret D.] Wall made the following
REPORT:
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the memorial of a delegation of the , commonly called Mormons, report:
The petition of the memorialists sets forth, in substance, that a portion of their sect commenced a settlement in the county of , in the State of , in the summer of 1831: that they bought lands, built houses, erected churches, and established their homes, and engaged in all the various occupations of life: that they were expelled from that in 1833, by a mob, under circumstances of great outrage, cruelty, and oppression, and against all law, and without any offence committed on their part, and to the destruction of property to the amount of $120,000: that the society thus expelled amounted to about 1,200 souls: that no compensation was ever made for the destruction of their property in : that after their expulsion from , they settled in , on the opposite side of the , where they purchased lands, and entered others at the land office, where they resided peaceably for three years, engaged in cultivation and other useful and active employments, when the mob again threatened their peace, lives, and property and they became alarmed, and finally made a treaty with the citizens of that they should purchase their lands, and the Mormons should remove; which was complied with on their part, and the Mormons removed to the county of , where they took up their abode, and re-established their settlement, not without heavy pecuniary losses and other inconveniences: that the citizens of never paid them for their lands, except for a small part. They remained in from 1836 until the fall of 1838, and during that time had acquired, by purchase from the Government, the settlers, and pre-emptioners, almost all the lands in the county of , and a portion of the lands in and Carroll counties; the former county being almost entirely settled by the Mormons, and they were rapidly filling up the two latter counties. Those counties, when the Mormons first commenced their settlement, were, for the most part, wild and uncultivated, and they had converted them into large and well-improved farms, well stocked. Lands had risen in value to $10 and even $25 per acre, and those counties were rapidly advancing in cultivation and wealth: that in August, 1838, a riot commenced, growing out of an attempt of a Mormon to vote, which resulted in creating great excite [p. [1]]ment and the perpetration of many scenes of lawless outrage, which are set forth in the petition: that they were finally compelled to fly from those counties; and on the 11th October, 1838, they sought safety by that means, with their families, leaving many of their effects behind: that they had previously applied to the constituted authorities of for protection, but in vain. They allege that they were pursued by the mob; that conflicts ensued; deaths occurred on each side; and, finally, a force was organized, under the authority of the of the State of , with orders to drive the Mormons from the State, or exterminate them. The Mormons thereupon determined to make no further resistance, but to submit themselves to the authorities of the . Several of the Mormons were arrested and imprisoned on a charge of treason against the ; and the rest, amounting to about 15,000 souls, fled into other States, principally in , where they now reside.
The petition is drawn up at great length, and sets forth, with feeling and eloquence, the wrongs of which they complain; justifies their own conduct, and aggravate that of those whom they call their persecutors, and concludes by saying that they see no redress, unless it be obtained of the Congress of the , to whom they make their solemn last appeal as American citizens, as Christians, and as men. To which decision they say they will submit.
The committee have examined the case presented by the petition, and heard the views urged by their , with care and attention; and, after full examination and consideration, unanimously concur in the opinion that the case presented for their investigation is not such a one as will justify or authorize any interposition by this Government. The wrongs complained of are not alleged to be committed by any of the officers of the , or under the authority of its Government in any manner whatever. The allegations in the petition relate to the acts of the citizens, and inhabitants, and authorities of the State of , of which State the petitioners were at the time citizens or inhabitants. The grievances complained of in the petition are alleged to have been done within the territory of the State of . The committee, under these circumstances, have not considered themselves justified in inquiring into the truth or falsehood of the facts charged in the petition. If they are true, the petitioners must seek relief in the courts of judicature of the State of , or of the , which has the appropriate jurisdiction to administer full and adequate redress for the wrongs complained of, and doubtless will do so fairly and impartially; or, the petitioners may, if they see proper, apply to the justice and magnanimity of the State of —an appeal which the committee feel justified in believing will never be made in vain by the injured or oppressed. It can never be presumed that a State either wants the power, or lacks the disposition, to redress the wrongs of its own citizens committed within her own territory, whether they proceed from the lawless acts of her officers, or any other persons.
The committee therefore report that they recommend the passage of the following resolution:
Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be discharged from the further consideration of the memorial in this case; and that the memorialists have leave to withdraw the papers which accompany their memorial. [p. 2]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    This document was numbered 247 within the series of Senate documents published by the first session of the Twenty-Sixth Congress.  

  2. 2

    TEXT: Illegible circular seal.  

  3. 3

    At this point in the manuscript draft of this committee report, the word “urged” replaced the canceled word “presented.” (“Report from the Committee on the Judiciary on the Memorial of the ‘Latter Day Saints’ Commonly Called Mormons,” 4 Mar. 1840, p. 3b, Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives, Washington DC.)  

    Memorial of Ephraim Owen, Jr. H.R. Doc. no. 42, 25th Cong., 3rd Sess. (1838).

  4. 4

    Higbee was the only remaining delegate sent to Washington DC who presented the church’s memorial to the Committee on the Judiciary. (Letter from Elias Higbee, 20 Feb. 1840–A; Letters from Elias Higbee, 2122 Feb. 1840.)  

  5. 5

    At this point in the manuscript draft, the word “grievances” replaced the canceled word “acts.” (“Report,” 4 Mar. 1840, p. 4.)  

    “Report from the Committee on the Judiciary on the Memorial of the ‘Latter Day Saints’ Commonly Called Mormons,” 4 Mar. 1840. Committee Reports and Papers of the Committee on the Judiciary from the 26th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Committee Papers, 1816–2011. Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789– 2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are in SEN26-AD7.

  6. 6

    At this point in the manuscript draft, the word “relief” replaced the canceled word “redress.” (“Report,” 4 Mar. 1840, p. 4.)  

    “Report from the Committee on the Judiciary on the Memorial of the ‘Latter Day Saints’ Commonly Called Mormons,” 4 Mar. 1840. Committee Reports and Papers of the Committee on the Judiciary from the 26th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Committee Papers, 1816–2011. Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789– 2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are in SEN26-AD7.

  7. 7

    At this point in the manuscript draft, “full and adequate redress, for the wrongs complained of and doubtless will” replaced the canceled passage “and the Committee cannot doubt their disposition to.” (“Report,” 4 Mar. 1840, p. 4.)  

    “Report from the Committee on the Judiciary on the Memorial of the ‘Latter Day Saints’ Commonly Called Mormons,” 4 Mar. 1840. Committee Reports and Papers of the Committee on the Judiciary from the 26th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Committee Papers, 1816–2011. Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789– 2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are in SEN26-AD7.

  8. 8

    At this point in the manuscript draft, “feel justified in believing” replaced the canceled phrases “will not permit themselves to doubt” and “are persuaded.” (“Report,” 4 Mar. 1840, p. 4.)  

    “Report from the Committee on the Judiciary on the Memorial of the ‘Latter Day Saints’ Commonly Called Mormons,” 4 Mar. 1840. Committee Reports and Papers of the Committee on the Judiciary from the 26th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Committee Papers, 1816–2011. Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789– 2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are in SEN26-AD7.

  9. 9

    The church had previously made several appeals for redress to the Missouri courts. (See, for example, the records related to the suits of Phelps v. Lucas et al., Partridge v. Lucas et al., and Allen v. David et al. housed at Jackson County Records Center, Independence, MO; Petition to George Tompkins, between 9 and 15 Mar. 1839; and Letter from William W. Phelps, 27 Feb. 1834.)  

  10. 10

    At this point in the manuscript draft, the word “officers” replaced the canceled phrase “her citizens.” (“Report,” 4 Mar. 1840, p. 5.)  

    “Report from the Committee on the Judiciary on the Memorial of the ‘Latter Day Saints’ Commonly Called Mormons,” 4 Mar. 1840. Committee Reports and Papers of the Committee on the Judiciary from the 26th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Committee Papers, 1816–2011. Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789– 2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are in SEN26-AD7.

  11. 11

    In response to this report, church leaders said that the committee’s referral of the Saints “to the Justice and magnanimity of the State of Missouri,” and its presumption that Missouri would treat the Saints fairly, was “a great insult to our good sense, better judgment, and intelligence; when from numerous affidavits which were laid before the committee: Proved, that we could only go into the State of Missouri, contrary to the exterminating order of the Governor, and consequently at the risk of our lives.” (Minutes and Discourse, 6–8 Apr. 1840.)  

  12. 12

    At this point in the manuscript draft, the phrase “Congress cannot constitutionally grant any redress upon the grievance set forth in the petition” was revised to read “Congress hath not any constitutional jurisdiction in the matter of.” The passage was then entirely canceled and not replaced. (“Report,” 4 Mar. 1840, p. 5.)  

    “Report from the Committee on the Judiciary on the Memorial of the ‘Latter Day Saints’ Commonly Called Mormons,” 4 Mar. 1840. Committee Reports and Papers of the Committee on the Judiciary from the 26th Congress. Committee on the Judiciary, Committee Papers, 1816–2011. Record Group 46, Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789– 2015. National Archives, Washington DC. The LDS records cited herein are in SEN26-AD7.

  13. 13

    Members of the church’s delegation to Congress submitted several documents in support of their memorial, including pamphlets and affidavits. (Journal of the Senate of the United States, 26th Cong., 1st Sess., 17 Feb. 1840, 179; Letter from Elias Higbee, 24 Mar. 1840.)  

    Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Being the First Session of the Twenty-Sixth Congress, Begun and Held at the City of Washington, December 2, 1839, and in the Sixty-Fourth Year of the Independence of the Said United States. Washington DC: Blair and Rives, 1839.