, An Appeal to the American People: Being an Account of the Persecutions of the Church of Latter Day Saints; and of the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri; 1–84 pp.; Cincinnati, OH: Glezen and Shepard, stereotypers and printers, 1840. The copy used herein is held at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
While incarcerated at , Missouri, in March 1839, JS addressed a letter to the church “at Illinois and scattered abroad and to in particular,” instructing the Saints to gather up “a knoledge of all the facts and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of this .” Edward Partridge responded with an account that became the three opening installments of “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” an eleven-part series published in the church’s newspaper, Times and Seasons, between December 1839 and October 1840. “A History, of the Persecution” receives comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and is available on this website.
may have intended to tell the entire story himself, but he fell ill shortly after publication of “A History, of the Persecution” began and died on 27 May 1840. Prompted by Partridge’s illness and subsequent death, the editors of the Times and Seasons, and , sought elsewhere for source materials to continue the series. It is probable that they composed the fourth installment to provide a brief transition from Partridge’s account, which ends in 1836, and the conflicts in and adjoining counties in 1838. The fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from ’s History of the Late Persecutions Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates, 1839). In May 1840, the sixth installment reprinted passages from ’s eighty-four page pamphlet, An Appeal to the American People: Being an Account of the Persecutions of the Church of Latter Day Saints; and of the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri (Cincinnati: Glezan and Shepard, 1840). More of Rigdon’s work was reprinted in the eighth through tenth installments, published from July to September 1840. The series concluded with an eleventh installment in the October 1840 issue, featuring General ’s callous speech to the Saints after their surrender at , Missouri, in November 1838.
A manuscript version of ’s Appeal to the American People, referred to as the “petition draft” titled “To the Publick” and endorsed by JS, Rigdon, and , was read to a conference of Saints in , Illinois, on 1 November 1839. The conference voted to approve its publication in the name of the church. and then collaborated to arrange for publication of the text in late 1839 and early 1840. Though no author is named on the title page, Rigdon was acknowledged as author when the pamphlet was advertised in the Times and Seasons in 1840 and 1841. JS and Elias Higbee had some expectation that funds from the sale of the publication would help defray costs of their trip to in late 1839. In July 1840, a second edition was printed by Shepard & Stearns in to raise funds for Orson Hyde and ’s mission to .
Although many of the events reported in ’s pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology is often inaccurate. (Consult the annotation in Histories, Volume 2 for correction to portions published as part of “A History, of the Persecutions.”) However, his account contains the text of several significant documents. Among these are JS’s 5 September 1838 affidavit concerning the 7 August 1838 visit to and those of and and regarding the massacre. Consequently, though in many respects Rigdon’s document is more advocacy than history, it offers access to some material not readily found elsewhere.
wish their women and children there, when they drove the Mormons out, lest they might get hurt. The saints were all the time, making application to the authorities of the country, to put down the mob. Messengers after messengers were sent to the Military officers, and to the Judge of the Court to get them to send to the , if necessary, and put an end to the ravages of this banditti: and after much exertion, and much labor, at last, the Judge ordered out the militia. was ordered out as the commander-in-chief; being a Major General. Brigadier Generals, and , were both ordered out with their brigades. They put their forces under orders, and took up their line of march for —the scene of trouble.
On their arrival, they took a position between where the mob was encamped, and . Instead, however, of these generals, which was their duty to have done, going and arresting this band of plunderers and murderers, which they truly were; and having them forthwith brought to justice; they went to tampering with them. The mob complained to them, that their property had been stolen and destroyed, by the saints. The officers went to their houses, which they had evacuated, and found some of them open, and all their property in them, as they left it, and nothing disturbed. They continued the investigation, until they became satisfied that if any of their (the mob’s) property was taken, they took it themselves, to raise a false alarm; or at least, the officers, all said so. The mob openly and fearlessly declared to them that “they lived on Mormon beef and Mormon corn.” The saints required of the officers, that they should be arrested and brought to justice, for plundering their property; unlawfully assembling to drive peaceable citizens from their homes; and for threatening their lives, and keeping them in fear; in open violation of the laws of the . When these things were pressed upon them, they excused the matter, by saying that their troops were so mutinous and rebellious they dare not venture to do it. The course they took, to quell the mob, however, was a singular one: and if those gentlemen think, that in doing as they did, they discharged their duty; and can feel as if their oath of [p. 30]