Sidney Rigdon, JS, et al., Petition Draft (“To the Publick”), circa 1838–1839
, JS, et al., Petition Draft (“To the Publick”), ca. Sept. 1838–ca. Oct. 1839; handwriting of , , , , and two unidentified scribes; 112 inscribed pages with eight inserted slips of paper; JS Collection, CHL.
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 state.” 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 beginning in 1838. The fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from ’s History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates, 1839). In May 1840, the sixth installment drew upon ’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 the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri (Cincinnati: Glezan and Shepard, 1840), a draft of which is presented here. Though no author is named on the title page of the pamphlet, Rigdon was acknowledged as responsible for that publication when it was advertised in the Times and Seasons in 1840 and 1841. Also, much of this draft is in Rigdon’s hand. 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.
The manuscript version of ’s Appeal to the American People presented here is referred to as the “petition draft” titled “To the Publick”. On 1 November 1839, Rigdon’s recently completed petition draft, endorsed by JS, Rigdon, and , was read to a conference of Saints in , Illinois, who then 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.
Although many of the events reported in ’s draft and pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology is often inaccurate. (Consult the annotation in Histories,Volume 2 for corrections 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 his 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.
cattle, corn, &c to feed their army. Cattle, horses, and grain, was taken with a liberal hand, and they publickly boasted, that they lived on mormon beef, and Mormon corn. The saints dare not leave their homes. for if they did, they were stopped on the way, they were shot at their their horses taken from them, and to all appearance, they soon would be ruined. All the time the mob had their runners, telling that their wives and children were driven from their homes, that their fences were thrown down, and the Mormons were distroying all they had. Their wives and children were either in their camp, or else sent off to some of their friends in the adjoining counties. And all this they pretended was through fear. But <to> certain of their friends, they said, their object in so doing, was to keep the publick ignorant of their real design; for they did not 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 banditta and after much exertion, and much labor, at last the judge ordered out the militia. was ordered as the commander in cheif, being a major general. Brigadier generals, and , were both ordered out with their brigades. They put [p. [17[b]]]