Letter from Elias Higbee, 21 February 1840

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Feb 21st. 1840
Dr. Bro,
I have just returned again from the committee room, and made some statements, to which I replied— is much more mild and reasonable (mostly perhaps from policy) than ! who related a long lingo of stuff, which he said was proven before the Legislature in which amounted to about this that Joseph Smith gave the Mormons liberty to trespass on their neighbors property; also <​gave​> told them that it all belonged to them; as they [were] Israelites. O Upon this the strength of this they became the aggressors. I replied that the People in their declaration of causes that induced them to unite in order to drive the Mormons— The crime of stealing or trespassing was not mentioned; and there was no Docket, either Clerks or Justices that could show it, in , , , or Counties— and that no Mormons ever heard such teaching or doctrine from Joseph Smith or any other Mormon; that we held to no such doctrine neither believed in any such thing— I mentioned some things contained in our Book of doctrine and Covenants; Government and laws in general. Told them we had published long ago our belief on that subject— Some things I recolected; which were, that all persons should obey the laws of the government under which they lived, and that ecclesiastical power should not be exercised to [p. 100] to control our civil rights in no; particularly that ecclesiastical power should only be used in the ; and then no further than fellowship was concerned— I think they injured their cause to day. There is another appointment for them on the morrow at 10, o’clock. Their friend they said, was sick, consequently could not attend to day— said he thought it would be time enough to take it up in the Congress when they could not get justice in the State, and that he was confident, there was a disposition in the State of to do us justice should we apply: That the reason of their refusing to envestigate before, was, the trials of the prisoners were pending. And further said (when speaking of the trials before ) that he understood from Gentlemen that the prisoners commended the for his clemency and fair dealing towards them; and acknowledged they were guilty, in part, of the charges preferred against them. said he presumed I was not present when sd. men were tried. I replied in the negative; that I was not there, neither any body else that could be a witness in their favor. The Lawyers advised them to keep away if they desired the salvation of their lives. I observed that I had read the proceedings of the Legislature but did not now recollect them; but since yesterday I had have been reflecting on the subject and recollect a conversation, I had with Mr. who was the bearer of the petition to Jefferson City and he informed me, the reason why they refused an investigation was on account of the upper members being so violently opposed to it, that they used their utmost exertions and finally succeeded in getting a majority against it; and the reason of their taking this course was, in consequence of one of their members being in the Massacre at , Viz. Mr. Ashley [Daniel Ashby] & was a leader of the first mob in , which the militia were called out to suppress.
[said] if it must come our out in Congress, it [p. 101] it should be fully investigated, and they the committee, should have power to send for persons and papers— For if we had a right to claim damages of the , so had they, if all were true concerning the acts alledged against the Mormons; that they had a right to ask the Government, to pay the war against the Mormons— But finally seemed to disapprove of the exterminating order. which was admitted to have existed by . or was issued by their Legislature, but that no one ever thought of carrying it into effect. He said that merely advised the mormons to leave the : to which I replied, ’s speech was before them; that I had stated some of its contents yesterday; and if it were necessary, I could prove it by four or five hundred affidavits
Then stated something about the prisoners making their escape— and that he had no doubt, but that they could have a fair trial in , for the Legislature, to his certain knowledge, passed a law whereby they had a right to choose, any county in the State, to be tried in; to which I replied, that I understood such a law was passed; but notwithstanding they could not get their their trials in the County wherein they desired: for they were forced to go to , whereas they desired to have their trials at Palmira; where they could get their Witnesses, as that was only, sixteen miles from the river, and the other, was a great distance— He said certainly would not go contrary to law— I told him there were some affidavits in some affidavits in those documents that would tell him some things very strange concerning then wished to know if the affidavits were from any body else save Mormons: I replied that there were some others; but how many I knew not— He then wanted to know how they were certified— whether any clerks name was attached in the business— I told him they were well authenticated by the Courts of record; with the clerk’s name attached thereto [p. 102] After these things, and some <​other​> were said, the Committee refused to consult on the subject. Only the same three attended that were in yesterday— The Chairman observed, they had not expressed any opinion relative to the subject; but observed that his mind was made up in relation to the matter— I think from all I have discovered, Mr. [Oliver H.] Smith of will be on the side of justice But how the thing will terminate I cannot tell—
Mr. Crittendon [John J. Crittenden] & Mr. [Robert] Strange are the two absent members of the committee—
Yours in the bonds of love,
Joseph Smith. Jr. [p. 103]