Governor Ford’s Wrong Viewpoint—Elder Taylor’s Account of the Interview with the Governor at Carthage—Close of the Prophet’s Journal Narrative of His Life.
Gov. Ford’s Biased Judgment.
[Saturday, June 22nd, 1844, continued].—It appears that the Governor, on arriving at Carthage, ordered the entire mob into service, adopted the lies and misrepresentations circulated against us by our enemies as truth, turned Supreme Court, and decided on the legality of our municipal ordinances and proceedings, which is the business of the judiciary alone. He charges us in his letter, based upon most cursed falsehoods, with violations of law and order, which have never been thought of by us. He treated our delegates very rudely. My communications that were read to him were read in the presence of a large number of our worst enemies, who interrupted the reader at almost every line with, “That’s a damned lie!” and “That’s a G—d—d lie!” He never accorded to them the privilege of saying one word to him only in the midst of such interruptions as, “You lie like hell!” from a crowd of persons present. These facts show conclusively that he is under the influence of the mob spirit, and is designedly intending to place us in the hands of murderous assassins, and is conniving at our destruction, or else that he is so ignorant and stupid that he does not understand the corrupt and diabolical spirits that are around him.
Elder John Taylor gave the following account of his interview with the Governor:
Elder John Taylor’s Account of Interview With Governor Ford at Carthage.
After waiting the Governor’s pleasure for some time, we had an audience—but such an audience! He was surrounded by some of the vilest and most unprincipled men in creation. Some of them had an appearance of respectability, but many of them lacked even that. Wilson, and, I believe, William Law were there, Foster, Frank and Chauncey Higbee, Mr. Marr, a lawyer from Nauvoo, a mobocratic merchant from Warsaw, Joseph H. Jackson, a number of his associates, and the Governor’s secretary—in all fifteen or twenty persons, most of whom were recreant to virtue, honor, integrity and everything that is considered honorable among men. I can well remember the feelings of disgust that I had in seeing the Governor surrounded by such an infamous group, and on being introduced to men of so questionable a character; and had I been on private business, I should have turned to depart, and told the Governor that if he thought proper to associate with such questionable characters, I should beg leave to be excused; but coming. as we did, on public business, we could not of course consult our private feelings.
We then stated to the Governor that, in accordance with his request, General Joseph Smith had, in response to his call, sent us to him as a committee of conference; that we were acquainted with most of the circumstances that had transpired in and about Nauvoo lately, and were prepared to give him the information; that, moreover, we had in our possession testimony and affidavits confirmatory of what we should say, which had been forwarded to him by General Joseph Smith; that communications had been forwarded to his Excellency by Messrs. Hunter, James and others, some of which had not reached their destination, but of which we had duplicates with us. We then in brief related an outline of the difficulties, and the course we had pursued from the commencement of the troubles up to the present, and, handing him the documents, respectfully submitted the whole. During our conversation and explanations with the Governor, we were frequently rudely and impudently contradicted by the fellows he had around him, and of whom he seemed to take no notice.
He opened and read a number of the documents himself, and as he proceeded he was frequently interrupted by, “That’s a lie!” “That’s a G— d—d lie!” “That’s an infernal falsehood!” “That’s a blasted lie!” &c.
These men evidently winced on an exposure of their acts, and thus vulgarly, impudently and falsely repudiated them. One of their number, Mr. Marr, addressed himself several times to me while in conversation with the Governor. I did not notice him until after a frequent repetition of his insolence, when I informed him that my business at that time was with Governor Ford, whereupon I continued my conversation with his Excellency.
During the conversation the Governor expressed a desire that Joseph Smith and all parties concerned in passing or executing the city law in relation to the press had better come to Carthage; that however repugnant it might be to our feelings, he thought it would have a tendency to allay public excitement and prove to the people what we professed—that we wished to be governed by law.
We represented to him the course we had taken in relation to this matter, our willingness to go before another magistrate other than the Municipal Court, the illegal refusal by the constable, of our request, our dismissal by the Municipal Court, a legally constituted tribunal, our subsequent trial before Esq. Wells at the instance of Judge Thomas (the circuit judge), and our dismissal by him; that we had fulfilled the law in every particular; that it was our enemies who were breaking the law, and, having murderous designs, were only making use of this as a pretext to get us into their power.
The Governor stated that the people viewed it differently, and that, notwithstanding our opinions, he would recommend that the people should be satisfied.
We then remarked to him that, should Joseph Smith comply with his request, it would be extremely unsafe, in the present excited state of the country, to come without an armed force; that we had a sufficiency of men, and were competent to defend ourselves, but that there might be danger of collision should our forces and those of our enemies be brought in such close proximity.
He strenuously advised us not to bring any arms, and pledged his faith as Governor, and the faith of the state, that we should be protected, and that he would guarantee our perfect safety.
At the termination of our interview, and previous to our withdrawal, after a long conversation and the perusal of the documents which we had brought, the Governor informed us that he would prepare a written communication for General Joseph Smith, which he desired us to wait for. We were kept waiting for this instrument some five or six hours.
About five o’clock in the afternoon we took our departure with not the most pleasant feelings. The associations of the Governor, the spirit that he manifested to compromise with these scoundrels, the length of time that he had kept us waiting, and his general deportment, together with the infernal spirit that we saw exhibited by those whom he admitted to his counsels, made the prospect anything but promising.
I had a consultation for a little while with my brother Hyrum, Dr. Richards, John Taylor and John M. Bernhisel, and determined to go to Washington and lay the matter before President Tyler. 1
About 7 P.M. I requested Reynolds Cahoon and Alpheus Cutler to stand guard at the Mansion, and not to admit any stranger inside the house.
At sundown I asked O. P. Rockwell if he would go with me a short journey, and he replied he would.[Abraham C. Hodge says that soon after dusk, Joseph called Hyrum, Willard Richards, John Taylor, William W. Phelps, A. C. Hodge, John L. Butler, Alpheus Cutler, William Marks and some others, into his upper room and said, “Brethren, here is a letter from the Governor which I wish to have read. After it was read through Joseph remarked, “There is no mercy—no mercy here.” Hyrum said, “No; just as sure as we fall into their hands we are dead men.” Joseph replied, “Yes; what shall we do, Brother Hyrum?” He replied, “I don’t know.” All at once Joseph’s countenance brightened up and he said, “The way is open. It is clean to my mind what to do. All they want is Hyrum and myself; then tell everybody to go about their business, and not to collect in groups, but to scatter about. There is no doubt they will come here and search for us. Let them search; they will not harm you in person or property, and not even a hair of your head. We will cross the river tonight, and go away to the West.” He made a move to go out of the house to cross the river. When out of doors he told Butler and Hodge to take the Maid of Iowa, (in charge of Repsher) get it to the upper landing, and put his and Hyrum’s families and effects upon her; then go down the Mississippi and up the Ohio river to Portsmouth, where they should hear from them. He then took Hodge by the hand and said, “Now, Brother Hodge, let what will come, don’t deny the faith, and all will be well.”]
I told Stephen Markham that if I and Hyrum were ever taken again we should be massacred, or I was not a prophet of God. I want Hyrum to live to avenge my blood, but he is determined not to leave me. 2
1. “At this juncture the council was interrupted by the withdrawal of President Smith to give an interview to two gentlemen—one of whom was a son of John C. Calhoun—who had arrived at the Mansion and were anxious to meet with the Prophet” (Life of John Taylor, page, 125). Elder Taylor withdrew at a late hour from the council because of great weariness. “Shortly after he [Elder Taylor] retired, however, the Prophet returned, and the informal council meeting was resumed. The project of laying the case before President Tyler was abandoned. Joseph had received an inspiration to go west and all would be well” (Ibid).
2. Here the direct narrative of the Prophet ends; what happened in the next few days of his life occurred under such circumstances as not to permit of his dictating an account of it to his secretary or clerks, as was his custom.
Concerning the statement in the text about the Prophet’s desire to have Hyrum live, and the purpose of it, Mr. Edward Tullidge, in his Life of Joseph the Prophet, gives a different version of it. He states it: “I want Hyrum to live to lead the Church, but he is determined not to leave me” (Tullidge, p. 491). On what authority Mr. Tullidge makes the change is not known; but there is evidence in addition to his statement that the Prophet did desire Hyrum Smith to succeed him in the presidency of the Church, and even “ordained” him to take that place. At the October conference following the martyrdom of the two brothers, President Brigham Young said: “Did Joseph ordain any man to take his place? He did. Who was it? It was Hyrum. But Hyrum fell a martyr before Joseph did” (Times and Seasons Vol. 5, page 683).