Letter, Alexander Sympson to Editor, circa February 1844

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Dear Sir.— Through the columns of your Journal, I wish to make a fall and fair statement of an occurrence with myself and the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith, in . I beg your indulgence while I give the particulars, as I wish it to go to the world in its true colors.
On the 17th day of last month, I was waited on by of , at Mr. Davis’ store, of that place, with a request to go immediately to see the Prophet at his own as he had some important business with me. I asked him if he knew what was wanting. He said he did not. I went with him to see what the prophet wanted. On arriving there we were told that he was gone to his in the country. He then requested me to go and see a , who was his clerk; he in all probability could tell what was wanting. On seeing he could tell nothing about the business I was sent for. I went with him to the Steam-boat Hotel, where I board: got my dinner, and was returning to my business in Dr. ’s office, near the . On my way I was again met by this , who informed me that the prophet had left the business with a to attend to, and that he was at the office watiing [waiting] for me, and wished me to call and see him immediately. I again asked if he knew what he wanted; he assured me he did not know. He went to the office, was not there; after waiting and looking for about one hour I told him I could stay no longer. Said he “wait a few minutes longer. I have sent for , and I see the man I sent running across the street he no doubt sees him and will be here with him in a few minutes.” Accordingly I waited some 20 or 30 minutes; they did not appear, and I told him I must leave, that he might tell he could find me in office any time that evening. I was in the act of leaving, when he said— “If you cannot stay any longer I must inform you that I must detain you in behalf of the people of the State of .” I asked him why he did not tell me so at first, and not trifle with me in that way; and where is your authority and what am I detained for? He replied that he hed no precept—that he was a police officer—and by the ordinances he could take me as well with out as with a precept; & that I was accused of an attempt to murder & rob, a who resides some five or six miles from the , on the road: & that the prophet (Mayor) had told him that morning to arrest me. I inquired who made the complaint. He said if he was at ’s office, he could tell. We went to ’s office (it was now 3 o’clock. P. M.) and asked for the papers. He (’s showed me a blank affidavit & warrant, and said he got word to make out those papers this morning, and a has just left the office to find a man that would swear to it; and if he could not find him, he would return and swear to it himself. I remarked, that if could hire a man to swear a D—d lie, he would do so, but if not, he would do it himself.
By this time there had several called to see the prisener. I spoke freely about their procecdings and the power usurped by the prophet; which did not relish so well. The prophet was brought to set matters right. He told me why he had me apprehended; that he had been told I was the man, and he thought it his duty as a Mayor to have me tried; and that they had a right to take a man without a writ in that ; and said he “. you know that I am a man that keeps nothing back. has seen you, and says that you are the identical man that stabbed and robbed him; and sent me word to have you apprehended—which I have done.”
I was held in duress until seven o’clock, or a little after that time. Neither nor the man he went after had yet returned. The Prophet Smith, then made affidavit that he verily believed I was the man who stabbed and robbed . [o]n or about the tenth of December, last. The warrant was issued and served at half past seven o’clock, P. M. We then went to trial. , Esq. was called to [a]ssist . Mr. and Mrs. Badham and the Prophet, Joseph Smith, were sworn in behalf of the . was examined first.
Question— Would you know the man, were you to see him, that stabbed and robbed you?
Answer— I would.
, Esq pointed me out to him, and asked, Is that the man?
Ans.— No, nor nothing like him!
I then asked him if he had ever seen me before. He said he had no recollection of ever having seen me. I asked him if he had sent the Prophet word that he had seen me, and that I was the man who had committed the act, and he wanted me apprehended.
Ans.— I never did.
Mrs. Badham testified that I was not the man, and did not resemble him in the least.
His holiness, the prothet [prophet], came next, and requested to tell his story, without any question being asked. After he had got through, I remarked to the court that I wanted to propound a few questions to the witness. Leave was granted.
Q. Have you the smallest particle of belief whatever, at this time, that I am the man who committed the act with which I am charged?
A. No. sir, I have not now, and I never had.
Q. Why did you swear it in your affidavit?
A. I did not.
I replied— You did, sir. He said he had not. I again told him he did. The affidavit was then read, and he too plainly saw that the affidavit did not agree with his evidence in the case. Said he, extending his hand towards , who had just read the affidavit. Give me that paper. The court hesitated. He asked for it again: he said it was couched in stronger language than he had intended to swear to.
, my attorney, said he hoped the court would not give it up; that it was a part of the record, and that (Smith) had no right to it.
Smith then said he had not sworn to it; that he had signed it, but the oath was not administered to him. -[This is with him and his Justice, .]-
Smith went on to say that what he had done was to befriend me—that he knew that I would be honorably acquitted, and that I would stand fairer than I ever did!!! -[The Lord deliver me from such friends!]-
I was now discha[r]ged by the magistrates.
I informed that I wanted a copy of the papers, and asked him to make out a copy and certify them; he reluctantly consented to do so. After calling several times for the paper,s he told me I could not get them. I asked his reasons for not giving me a copy, and replied that it was not necessary to give his reasons.
I intended to have the papers published, & I have no doubt but his reasons were they do not want the public to see them; but I hope to bring these papers to light at some future time.
In the foregoing I have given a fair, full, and unvarnished statement of facts as they occurred, and ask a candid perusal of a reflecting community. As to injury it can do me, where I am known I disregard it. But I know not where I am to be thrown, and should I ever be pointed out as one who was once tried for an attempt to murder and rob in , I entreat you be not hasty in condemning me, as it is too common in this country. In my native state Kentucky, where I was raised, no man who knows me, would for one instant believe it. Nor do I believe for one moment that there is a man in , or elsewhere, who knows me, can for one moment entertain a doubt as to my innocence. No—not even the immaculate prophet himself! Where was I accused and tried? In . Who by? Why, by a man professing to be a prophet of the Lord, Joseph Smith. Look for one moment at his evidence in the case; first, state in his affidavit that he verily believes I am the man that committed the act— and 3 hours afterwards swear before a court of inquiry that he did not believe it then and never believed it! Is not this enough of itself?
I have but a single request to make to the public—and it is this:— Examine and investigate the transaction, and then decide as to the probability of the charge made by Smith, my accuser. Do this, and I fear not the result. I intend the whole matter shall be investigated in a legal tribunal. He must know that he is not to swear what he pleases and pass with impunity. A Prophet as he pretends to be, he must walk, up to the track.
Yours, . [p. [3]]