JS, Bill of Damages, , Adams Co., IL, 4 June 1839; handwriting of ; eight pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes redactions, use marks, docket, and archival marks.
Two bifolia measuring 12¼ × 7½ inches (31 × 19 cm). The document was folded for transmission and perhaps for filing. At some point, its leaves were numbered in graphite. In the 1840s or early 1850s, church historian docketed the upper left corner of the first leaf: “Joseph’s Bill of Damages | vs. Missouri June 4 | 1839”. Later, the two bifolia were fastened together with a staple, which was subsequently removed. The document has marked soiling and some separation along the folds. An archival marking—“d 155”—was inscribed in the upper right corner of the first leaf.
Following its completion, the bill of damages was temporarily in the possession of and other church scribes, who in June and July 1839 revised and expanded the document for publication. The bill of damages was possibly among the documents a Latter-day Saint delegation carried to in winter 1839–1840. If so, the document was included with the “additional documents” that were in the custody of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 17 February 1840 to circa 24 March 1840, after which the documents were retrieved by the church delegation. The document has probably remained in continuous institutional custody since that time, as indicated by ’s inscription of a copy in JS History, 1838–1856, volume C-1, in 1845 and by the docket and archival marking that were subsequently added to the document.
Richards served as church historian from December 1842 until his death in 1854. (JS, Journal, 21 Dec. 1842; Orson Spencer, “Death of Our Beloved Brother Willard Richards,” Deseret News, 16 Mar. 1854, .)
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.
Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.
Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 441; JS History, vol. C-1, 948–952. Bullock may have added the use marks after he finished copying the document in 1845, and Richards may have added the docket around the same time. The archival marking was added in the twentieth century.
On 4 June 1839, JS prepared a bill of damages describing his suffering and losses during the 1838 conflict in and his subsequent imprisonment. This document was one of several hundred that prepared in an effort to seek redress from the federal government for their losses in Missouri. In March 1839, while JS was imprisoned in the in , Missouri, he wrote to the Saints in , instructing them to document “all the facts and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this state [Missouri] and also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained.” JS explained in a letter to his wife that after documenting the damages, church members should “apply to the Court.” The Saints subsequently altered this strategy, deciding in early May to send to to present Congress with church members’ claims for redress. That month, Latter-day Saints began in earnest to write affidavits, most of which were sworn before local government officials, describing church members’ suffering and detailing the loss of life and property.
JS prepared his bill of damages on 4 June 1839 during a visit to church members in , Illinois. JS’s regular scribe, , was not in Quincy at the time, so assisted JS with the document. Thompson had prior experience as a scribe for the church and had recently been assigned to write a history of the church’s persecutions in . This assignment may have contributed to JS’s decision to work with Thompson on the bill of damages. The earliest extant version of the manuscript, featured here, is lengthy and fairly polished, suggesting there was at least one earlier draft.
The bill of damages begins with a brief description of JS’s travels from , Ohio, to and his experiences in Missouri during summer 1838. The document then focuses on the October 1838 conflict with anti-Mormons in Missouri, including the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Carroll County and the Saints’ aggressive military operations to defend themselves in . In his description of the operations, JS highlighted the participation of state militia leaders—Brigadier Generals and Hiram Parks as well as Colonel of the regiment of the state militia—while deemphasizing the actions of the Latter-day Saints’ “armies of Israel.” The bill also covers the state militia’s occupation of , as well as the incarceration of JS and others during winter 1838–1839, including unfair treatment of the prisoners, their attempts to obtain hearings, and their escape to in April 1839. The document concludes with a list of damages and expenses totaling $100,000. Unlike the vast majority of affidavits that Latter-day Saints made in 1839, JS’s bill of damages was not sworn before a government official.
In June and July 1839, penciled in changes to the text of the bill of damages, apparently in preparation for publication. Since these changes were probably made for a purpose distinct from the intention of the original document, these revisions are not reproduced here. Thompson’s changes, as well as other revisions and additions, were included in the bill of damages when it was published as “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith, Jr.” in the July 1839 issue of the church periodical Times and Seasons.
See, for example, James Newberry, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 7 May 1839; Joseph Dudley, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 11 May 1839; Phebee Simpson Emmett, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 14 May 1839, Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845, CHL.
Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845. CHL. MS 2703.
<why> we were thus treated but they utterly refused to hold any conversation with us: The next day a they held a Court Martial upon us and sentenced me with the rest of the prisoners to be shot: which sentence was to be carried into effect on Friday morning in the public Square as they say an Ensample to the rest of the members<: but through the kind providence of God their murderous sentence was not carried into >
The Malitia then went and saluted to my house and drove my Family out of Doors under sanction of and carried away all my property Having oppertunity of speaking to and on asking him the cause of such strange proceedings told him that I was a Democrat had allways being a supporter of the Constitution he answered “I know that and that is the reason why I want to kill you or have you killed:[”] They We were led into Public Square and after considerable Entreaty we were permitted to see our Family’s being attended with a strong guard. I found my Family in Tears expect that they had carried into Effect their sentences: they clung to my garments with weeping requesting to hav an <private> interview with my & in an ajoining room but was refused when taking my departure from me my Family it was an almost more to painful for me, my clung to me and were thrust away at the point of the swords of the soldiery— We were then removed to under the care of and during our stay in there we had to sleep on the floor with nothing but a a mantle for our coverings and a stick of wood for our pillow and had to pay for our own board: While we were in with his troops arrived in and sent an order for our return—— [p. ]
Most Latter-day Saints, including JS, supported the Democratic Party in the 1838 election. Wight stated that Wilson was a Democrat. (JS, Journal, 10 May 1838; Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 30 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy [IL] Whig, 1 June 1839, ; see also LeSueur, “Mixing Politics with Religion,” 184–208.)
Quincy Whig. Quincy, IL. 1838–1856.
LeSueur, Stephen C. “Mixing Politics with Religion: A Closer Look at Electioneering and Voting in Caldwell and Daviess Counties in 1838.” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 33, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2013): 184–208.
Joseph Smith III remembered that when JS “was brought to the house by an armed guard I ran out of the gate to greet him, but was roughly pushed away from his side by a sword in the hand of the guard and not allowed to go near him. My mother, also, was not permitted to approach him and had to receive his farewell by word of lip only.” (“The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith,” Saints’ Herald, 6 Nov. 1934, 1414; see also Letter to Edward Partridge and the Church, ca. 22 Mar. 1839.)
Major General Lucas initially ignored Clark’s 3 November 1838 order to transport the prisoners from Independence to Richmond, the location of Clark’s headquarters. After Lucas received confirmation on 6 November that Governor Boggs had placed Clark in command of the entire militia operation, Lucas arranged for the prisoners to be moved to Richmond, where a preliminary hearing was held to evaluate charges against the prisoners for crimes allegedly committed in the 1838 conflict. (See Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.)