, 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.
, Lieutenant Governor; the latter lived in , the seat of the mob, and County seat of . But no aid or protection could be had.
Having sought protection of the authorities of the , and obtained none, the saints at last had recourse to arms. After they took up arms in their own defence, several battles were fought, in which one of the saints was killed, and a number wounded. Two of the mob were killed, and several wounded. At last a number of them under the command of marched to , where a great multitude of the mob was collected for the purpose of giving them battle. , hearing of their intentions to give battle to the mob, organized the mob, and called them the Militia under the command of . On the arrival of , he was commanded to surrender his arms and those who were with him. This order, was given by the said ; this, they refused to do, until he, , gave the strongest assurances to and company that if they would, they should be protected, and return home in peace, and none should disturb them. After these assurances were given, they gave up their arms. But now, reader for the sequel!
Did these high-minded and honorable men comply with their covenant? no, indeed, but something very different! They seized on the guns and other arms as a prey; and have kept them as plunder to this day; and having the saints disarmed, they carried their violence to all kinds of shameful lengths; men, women and children, were driven from their houses in the night, barefoot and nearly naked. This was about the middle of November. The men were whipped and abused beyond all descripton. A man, by the name of Benjamin Putnam, was whipped to death; his body was taken up a day or two afterwards and buried. Others were whipped until they had to tie handkerchiefs round them, to keep their bowels from falling out. A man by the name of [Lyman] Leonard was knocked down in his house with a chair, and was beat on the head and other parts of the body, until the blood was running from him on the floor. His wife fearing lest they should kill him, ran and threw herself on him; begging for his life; but the [p. 9]