The 30 September 1845 meeting of the council occurred in the context of a renewed outbreak of anti-Mormon violence in . In early September rising tensions with anti-Mormon forces in the areas surrounding culminated in mob violence against Mormons and their property in several outlying settlements. On 10 September, learned that anti-Mormon mobs were operating at ’s settlement, , some twenty-five miles south of Nauvoo. The next day Young received further news of the mob’s activities, which reportedly included the burning of six houses. wrote a desperate letter to Young on 11 September informing him of the burnings and reporting that the mob had threatened “the lives of our men women and children” if the Mormons did not remove from the area immediately. Young urged Hancock to attempt to conciliate the mob by offering to sell the Mormons’ property to them but also dispatched a letter to Hancock County sheriff asking him to take “prompt and immediate steps to quell the mob and preserve the lives and property of those who are in danger.” Young asked Backenstos to “inform the as speedily as possible, and see if he will not do some thing in the matter to put a stop to the carreer of the mob and prevent further depredations.”
responded aggressively against what he considered an “insurrection” and promised that he would “quell the mob peacable if I can, & forceably if we must.” Backenstos had only days earlier instructed Young to have the Mormons organize a militia, but Young and others were hesitant to place themselves under the authority of Governor given their mistrust of his intentions. Now Backenstos raised a posse under his own authority to bring the offending mobbers to justice. He was unhappy to hear of Young’s instructions to the Mormons in the outlying settlements to try to sell their land to appease the mob because he felt it was their duty to “protect the settlements.” Backenstos warned that the Mormons needed to be willing to “stand their ground & protect their own property” or non-Mormon citizens such as himself would not be as willing to fight for them in the conflict. He told Young to “hold in readiness at least 2000 well armed men for immediate service at any hour that I or the executive officers may need them to quell the Mob.” Young responded by departing from his initial pacific stance and telling the threatened Mormons, “If the mob comes to disturb you, at the first aggression on yourselves or property give them the cold lead or obey the Sheriff’s council.”
Despite ’s urging that the conflict should be escalated, took further steps to try to mitigate the surging violence. He issued a statement addressed to , the supposed leader of the mob attacking Mormon homes, that stated unequivocally that the entire Mormon community intended to “leave and the next spring.” However, Young stated that their timely removal would occur only if “yourselves and all others will cease all hostile operations, so as to give us the short but necessary time for our journey” and the “opportunity of carrying out our designs peaceably.” A week later a committee was dispatched by a group of citizens from , Illinois, to broker a peace by confirming Mormon plans to leave the . In response, prepared a statement for publication that reiterated the Mormons’ intention to leave in the spring. Despite such overtures from the Mormons, Backenstos was determined that the mobbers would be brought to heel by force of arms alone and informed Young of his intentions to march on , a hotbed of anti-Mormon sentiment; defeat any lawless defenders; and occupy the place until order could be restored. Young again urged restraint on Backenstos and delayed the delivery of cannons that Backenstos had demanded from Nauvoo as well as the additional men to join his posse. Young pleaded with Backenstos to avoid forcing the mob into a situation where they could not flee but felt they must “fight or die,” observing that this would “be construed into a barbarous act and operate upon the public mind against us.” Young urged Backenstos and others to “return with the posse to this place without delay” and “be wise in all their moveme[n]ts and save the lives of their men.” He added, “The life of one good man is worth a 1000 murderers.” Backenstos’s posse occupied and Warsaw but without the feared bloodshed.
Not surprisingly, many of the non-Mormon residents in the surrounding area were outraged that had sided with the Mormon communities. While Backenstos’s firm actions halted the house burnings and plunderings for a time, the resulting outrage at this show of pro-Mormon force heightened tensions to a level not seen since JS’s murder fifteen months earlier—tensions not alleviated by the Mormons’ public declaration of their intention to remove from the place entirely. The Warsaw Signal reported on what it considered to be a murder committed by Backenstos’s posse, and letters detailing alleged Mormon aggressions were sent to a St. Louis newspaper and republished elsewhere, stoking the fires of those opposed to the Mormons.
, fearing that violence was once again spiraling out of control in , responded to ’s initial request for intervention by forces by dispatching General with the state militia to occupy the region. Ford was further alarmed at reports that mobs of angry citizens from neighboring states were intending to travel to Hancock County to fight against the Mormons and issued a stern executive order that any such persons would be “chastised in a most summary manner” and “tried for their crimes and punished according to law.”
After arrived in with troops, he discharged ’s posse on 28 September and affirmed that he would take a neutral part in the difficulties and settle them peaceably. This meeting of the Council of Fifty convened only two days later amid great public tensions and uncertainty as to the course of the troops. told the council that he had made a selection of who from the council should go west: “the whole council, with their families and neighbors.” The council then endorsed the proposal that “the business of our removal be laid before the General Conference,” scheduled to convene in less than a week.
During the meeting, asked to leave and gather information regarding ’s troops, who were reportedly en route to . When Rich returned, he informed the council that Hardin’s troops had arrived in the city and were waiting near the to meet with “the Twelve and authorities of the place.” In addition, and were at ’s home and also wished to meet with church leaders. The council then adjourned so that the Twelve and a few others could meet first with Backenstos and Douglas and then with Hardin.
Tuesday Sepr. 30th. 1845 Council met pursuant to adjournment in the upper room of the and organised at 10 o clock A. M. President in the chair Present , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , & .
The council was opened with prayer by Coun. .
The minutes of the last council was then read and accepted. [p. ]
Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, IL, to Brigham Young, 13 Sept. 1845, underlining in original; Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, IL, to [Brigham Young et al.], 10 Sept. 1845; Jacob B. Backenstos, Carthage, IL, to [Brigham Young], 15 Sept. 1845, Brigham Young Office Files, CHL, underlining in original.
Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878. CHL. CR 1234 1.
See “Murder of One of Our Best Men,” Warsaw (IL) Signal, 17 Sept. 1845, ; “The Civil War in Illinois,” Daily Missouri Republican (St. Louis), 17 Sept. 1845, ; Warsaw, IL, 17 Sept. 1845, Letter to the Editor, Daily Missouri Republican, 20 Sept. 1845, ; and [A. B. Chambers], Warsaw, IL, 18 Sept. 1845, Letter to the Editor, Daily Missouri Republican, 21 Sept. 1845, .
According to Willard Richards, at the start of this meeting Brigham Young related a dream in which he saw a room full of people with animal heads or otherwise misshapen faces. Despite their grotesque appearance, Young said that they “had no power to hurt any body.” Young stated that while he was looking at these people, he conversed with Stephen A. Douglas about “those objects of pity” that they were observing. Douglas commented that he “thought it a curious pass this gen[er]ation had come to.” (Richards, Journal, 30 Sept. 1845.)