Interview in Carthage Prison between Governor Ford and the Prophet—Taylor’s Report of the Interview—Testimony to the Existence of a Carthage Conspiracy against the Prophet’s Life.
Wednesday, June 26, 1844; 7 A.M.—Joseph, Hyrum, and the rest of the brethren, took breakfast with Stigall, and were then removed to the room upstairs.
Dr. Southwick went to see the Governor.
Messages to the Governor
At 7:30 A.M., Markham, Wasson, and Jones were severally sent by Joseph with messages to the Governor, but at 8 A.M., got no return. He also sent word to his counsel that he wanted a change of venue to Quincy, Adams County.
At 8 A.M., Joseph and Hyrum had a conversation with the jailor, Mr. Stigall, who said a week last Wednesday the mob were calculating to have made an attack on Nauvoo, and they expected about 9000 persons, but only about 200 came. They had sent runners to Missouri, and all around the counties in Illinois.
At ten minutes past 8 o’clock A.M. Joseph wrote to Governor Ford, as follows and sent it by Mr. Stigall:—
Letter—Joseph Smith to Governor Ford—Soliciting an Interview.
Carthage Jail, June 26, 1844.
Ten minutes past 8 A.M.
His Excellency Governor Ford:
Sir.—I would again solicit your excellency for an interview having been much disappointed the past evening. I hope you will not deny me this privilege any longer than your public duties shall absolutely require.
We have been committed under a false mittimus, and consequently the proceedings are illegal, and we desire the time may be hastened when all things shall be made right, and we relieved from this imprisonment.
Your servant, Joseph Smith.
P. S.—Please send an answer per bearer.
Word from Governor Ford.
At 8:30 A.M., Markham and Jones returned, stating that the Governor said he was taken by surprise last evening, and was very sorry. Was afraid we would think he had forfeited his word about having an interview, that the wrath of the people was about to turn on the head of Jackson, the mob, &c. That the Governor was doing as fast as he could.
Twelve minutes before 9. Received the following reply on the same sheet:—
“The interview will take place at my earliest leisure to-day.
Consultation with Counsel
Ten minutes to 9. Mr. Reid and others arrived at the jail and investigated the merits of the case, and concluded to take a change of venue before Justice Greenleaf, of Augusta, Hancock county, and to send for Dr. James H. Lyon, Col. J. Brewer, Edward Bonney, M. G. Eaton, Dr. Abiathar Williams, Thomas A. Lyne, George J. Adams, Dr. J. M. Bernhisel, Daniel H. Wells, Daniel Spencer, Orson Spencer, Dr. J. R. Wakefield, George P. Stiles, Jonathan Dunham, Albert P. Rockwood, Captain G. C. Anderson, William Marks, Hiram Kimball, Lorenzo D. Wasson, and Samuel Searles, as witnesses.
Interview with Gov. Ford.
9:27 A.M. The Governor, in company with Col. Thomas Geddes, arrived at the jail, when a lengthy conversation was entered into in relation to our difficulties; and after some preliminary remarks, at the Governor’s request Brother Joseph gave him a general outline of the state of the country, the tumultuous, mobocratic movements of our enemies, the precautionary measures used by himself, (Joseph Smith) the acts of the City Council, the destruction of the press, and the moves of the mob and ourselves up to that time.
The Following Account of this Interview is from the Manuscript History of the Church in the Historian’s Office, and not Hitherto Published.
Joseph Smith stated to them [Governor Ford and Col. Geddes] the origin of the difficulty, the facts relating to the Expositor press, the course pursued by the City Council; the legality, as they thought, of their legislation; the pledges that he had made by letter and sent by expresses to his Excellency, that he was willing to satisfy all legal claims in case it should be shown that the City Council had transcended their legal bounds, etc., and that the Legion had been called out for the protection of the city, while it was threatened with immediate hostilities by an infuriated mob, until his Excellency could afford relief, and not for the purpose of invasion. (The Governor seemed to be satisfied that this was the truth, but still he did not interfere in their illegal imprisonment). Joseph adverted to all the leading causes which gave rise to the difficulties under consideration in a brief, but lucid, energetic and impressive manner. The Governor said he was satisfied it was the truth. General Smith then read copies of the orders and proceedings of the City Council of Nauvoo, concerning the destruction of the Expositor press, and of the correspondence forwarded to his Excellency, in relation thereto; and also informed him concerning the calling out of the Legion, and the position they occupied of absolute necessity, not to make war upon, or invade the rights of any portion of the citizens of the State; but it was the last resort, and only defense, in the absence of executive protection, against a large, organized military and mobocratic foe.
General Smith reminded his Excellency that the question in dispute [the Expositor case] was a civil matter, and to settle which needed no resort to arms, and that he was ready at any time, and had always been ready to answer any charge that might be preferred against him, either as the Lieutenant General of the Legion, the Mayor of the City, or as a private individual, in any court of justice, which was unintimidated by a mob or military array, and make all the satisfaction that the law required, if any, etc. The Governor said he had not called out this force; [i. e., the one then gathered at Carthage] but found it assembled in military array, without his orders, on his arrival at Carthage, and that the laws must be enforced, but that the prisoners must and should be protected, and he again pledged his word, and the faith and honor of the State, that they should be protected. He also stated that he intended to march his forces (that is, those who had assembled for mobocratic purposes; and whom he had mustered into his service) to Nauvoo to gratify them, and that the prisoners should accompany them, and then return again to attend the trial before the said magistrate, which he said had been postponed for the purpose of making this visit. (John S. Fullmer) Joseph alluded to the coming of Constable Bettisworth when he gave himself up, also to his offer to go before any other justice of the peace, and called upon some twenty bystanders to witness that he submitted to the writ, but for fear of his life if he went to Carthage he had preferred to go before Esq. Daniel H. Wells, a gentleman of high legal attainments, who is in no way connected with the Mormon Church.
Joseph also said that he had sent frequent expresses and letters to the Governor; that Dr. J. R. Wakefield, Dr. J. M. Bernhisel and Mr. Sidney Rigdon also had written letters to the Governor; that he had written another letter to the Governor which was sent on the 15th of June by Mr. James; that he had written again on the 16th of June, enclosing affidavits, and sent them by Messrs. Edward Hunter, Phillip B. Lewis and John Bills. He also read Captain Anderson’s certificate of the proceedings of the mob at Warsaw; also his Proclamation, his orders as Lieutenant General to Major General Dunham, the proceedings of the City Council of Nauvoo, and copies of communications forwarded to Springfield; also his letter of the 21st of June which was sent by Dr. Bernhisel, and Mr. John Taylor, and his letter of the 22nd, which was sent by Lucien Woodworth and Squire Woods.
Marshal John P. Greene explained about giving passes to persons going in and out of the city, and denied that any arrests had been made.
The Governor referred to the trial before Esq. Wells, which did not satisfy the feelings of the people in and about Carthage. The Governor admitted that sufficient time had not been allowed by the posse for the defendants to get ready, or to gather their witnesses, said it can be very safely admitted that your statements are true, and was satisfied now that the people of Nauvoo had acted according to the best of their judgment.
Mr. Reid said that it was very evident from the excitement created by Mr. Smith’s enemies it would have been unsafe for him to come to Carthage, for under such circumstances he could not have had an impartial trial.
The Governor said he came here to enforce the laws on all the people whether Mormons or not; and then expressed his feelings about the destruction of the Expositor press.
Joseph spoke of his imprisonment in Missouri, and of the shameful kidnapping of his witnesses, and their being thrust into prison to prevent them from giving their testimony in his favor.
Governor Ford spoke of the Constitution.
Joseph said we were willing to pay for the press, as he did not want the owners to suffer any loss by it, [i. e. its suppression] neither did he wish such a libelous paper to be published in Nauvoo. As for calling out the Nauvoo Legion, if it was intended to resist the government of the State, it would be treason; but, as they believed, they were endeavoring to defend themselves, and had no such intention as to resist the government—it was all right.
The following report is by Elder John Taylor. 1
Elder John Taylor’s Account of Governor Ford’s and President Smith’s Interview.
Governor—General Smith, I believe you have given me a general outline of the difficulties that have existed in the country, in the documents forwarded to me by Dr. Bernhisel and Mr. Taylor; but, unfortunately, there seems to be a discrepancy between your statements and those of your enemies. It is true that you are substantiated by evidence and affidavit, but for such an extraordinary excitement as that which is now in the country, there must be some cause, and I attribute the last outbreak to the destruction of the Expositor, and to your refusal to comply with the writ issued by Esq. Morrison. The press in the United States is looked upon as the great bulwark of American freedom, and its destruction in Nauvoo was represented and looked upon as a high-handed measure, and manifests to the people a disposition on your part to suppress the liberty of speech and of the press; this, with your refusal to comply with the requisition of a writ, I conceive to be the principal cause of this difficulty, and you are, moreover, represented to me as turbulent and defiant of the laws and institutions of your country.
Gen. Smith.—Governor Ford, you, sir, as Governor of this State, are aware of the prosecutions and persecutions that I have endured. You know well that our course has been peaceable and law-abiding, for I have furnished this State, ever since our settlement here, with sufficient evidence of my pacific intentions, and those of the people with whom I am associated, by the endurance of every conceivable indignity and lawless outrage perpetrated upon me and upon this people since our settlement here, and you yourself know that I have kept you well posted in relation to all matters associated with the late difficulties. If you have not got some of my communications, it has not been my fault.
Agreeably to your orders, I assembled the Nauvoo Legion for the protection of Nauvoo and the surrounding country against an armed band of marauders, and ever since they have been mustered I have almost daily communicated with you in regard to all the leading events that have transpired; and whether in the capacity of mayor of the city; or lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo Legion, I have striven to preserve the peace and administer even-handed justice to all; but my motives are impugned, my acts are misconstrued, and I am grossly and wickedly misrepresented. I suppose I am indebted for my incarceration here to the oath of a worthless man that was arraigned before me and fined for abusing and maltreating his lame, helpless brother.
That I should be charged by you, sir, who know better, of acting contrary to law, is to me a matter of surprise. Was it the Mormons or our enemies who first commenced these difficulties? You know well it was not us; and when this turbulent, outrageous people commenced their insurrectionary movements, I made you acquainted with them, officially, and asked your advice, and have followed strictly your counsel in every particular.
Who ordered out the Nauvoo Legion? I did, under your direction. For what purpose? To suppress these insurrectionary movements. It was at your instance, sir, that I issued a proclamation calling upon the Nauvoo Legion to be in readiness, at a moment’s warning, to guard against the incursions of mobs, and gave an order to Jonathan Dunham acting major-general, to that effect. Am I then to be charged for the acts of others; and because lawlessness and mobocracy abound, am I when carrying out your instructions, to be charged with not abiding the law? Why is it that I must be held accountable for other men’s acts? If there is trouble in the country, neither I nor my people made it, and all that we have ever done, after much endurance on our part, is to maintain and uphold the Constitution and institutions of our country, and to protect an injured, innocent, and persecuted people against misrule and mob violence.
Concerning the destruction of the press to which you refer, men may differ somewhat in their opinions about it; but can it be supposed that after all the indignities to which we have been subjected outside, that this people could suffer a set of worthless vagabonds to come into our city, and right under our own eyes and protection, vilify and calumniate not only ourselves, but the character of our wives and daughters, as was impudently and unblushingly done in that infamous and filthy sheet? There is not a city in the United States that would have suffered such an indignity for twenty-four hours.
Our whole people were indignant, and loudly called upon our city authorities for redress of their grievances, which, if not attended to they themselves would have taken the matter into their own hands, and have summarily punished the audacious wretches, as they deserved.
The principles of equal rights that have been instilled into our bosoms from our cradles, as American citizens, forbid us submitting to every foul indignity, and succumbing and pandering to wretches so infamous as these. But, independent of this, the course that we pursued we considered to be strictly legal; for, notwithstanding the insult we were anxious to be governed strictly by law, and therefore convened the City Council; and being desirous in our deliberations to abide law, summoned legal counsel to be present on the occasion.
Upon investigating the matter, we found that our City Charter gave us power to remove all nuisances; and, furthermore, upon consulting Blackstone upon what might be considered a nuisance, that distinguished lawyer, who is considered authority, I believe, in all our courts, states, among other things, that a libelous and filthy press may be considered a nuisance, and abated as such.
Here, then one of the most eminent English barristers, whose works are considered standard with us, declares that a libelous press may be considered a nuisance; and our own charter, given us by the legislature of this State, gives us the power to remove nuisances; and by ordering that press abated as a nuisance, we conceived that we were acting strictly in accordance with law. We made that order in our corporate capacity, and the City Marshal carried it out. It is possible there may have been some better way, but I must confess that I could not see it.
In relation to the writ served upon us, we were willing to abide the consequences of our own acts, but were unwilling, in answering a writ of that kind, to submit to illegal exactions sought to be imposed upon us under the pretense of law, when we knew they were in open violation of it.
When that document was presented to me by Mr. Bettisworth, I offered, in the presence of more than 20 persons, to go to any other magistrate, either in our city of Appanoose, or any other place where we should be safe, but we all refused to put ourselves into the power of a mob.
What right had that constable to refuse our request? He had none according to law; for you know, Governor Ford, that the statute law in Illinois is, that the parties served with the writ shall go before him who issued it, or some other justice of the peace. Why, then, should we be dragged to Carthage, where the law does not compel us to go? Does not this look like many others of our prosecutions with which you are acquainted? And had we not a right to expect foul play?
This very act was a breach of law on his part—an assumption of power that did not belong to him, and an attempt, at least, to deprive us of our legal and constitutional rights and privileges. What could we do under the circumstances different from what we did do? We sued for, and obtained a writ of habeas corpus from the Municipal Court, by which we were delivered from the hands of Constable Bettisworth, and brought before and acquitted by the Municipal Court.
After our acquittal, in a conversation with Judge Thomas, although he considered the acts of the party illegal, he advised, that to satisfy the people, we had better go before another magistrate who was not in our Church.
In accordance with his advice we went before Esq. Wells, with whom you are well acquainted; both parties were present, witnesses were called on both sides, the case was fully investigated, and we were again dismissed.
And what is this pretended desire to enforce law, and these lying, base rumors put into circulation for, but to seek, through mob influence, under pretense of law, to make us submit to requisitions that are contrary to law, and subversive of every principle of justice?
And when you, sir, required us to come out here, we came, not because it was legal, but because you required it of us, and we were desirous of showing to you and to all men that we shrunk not from the most rigid investigation of our acts.
We certainly did expect other treatment than to be immured in a jail at the instance of these men, and I think, from your plighted faith, we had a right to, after disbanding our own forces, and putting ourselves entirely in your hands; and now, after having fulfilled my part, sir, as a man and an American citizen, I call upon you, Governor Ford, and think I have a right to do so, to deliver us from this place, and rescue us from this outrage that is sought to be practiced upon us by a set of infamous scoundrels.
Gov. Ford—But you have placed men under arrest, detained men as prisoners, and given passes to others, some of which I have seen.
John P. Greene, City Marshal—Perhaps I can explain. Since these difficulties have commenced, you are aware that we have been placed under very peculiar circumstance, our city has been placed under a very rigid police guard; in addition to this, frequent guards have been placed outside the city to prevent any sudden surprise, and those guards have questioned suspected or suspicious persons as to their business.
To strangers, in some instances, passes have been given, to prevent difficulty in passing those guards. It is some of those passes that you have seen. No person, sir, has been imprisoned without a legal cause in our city.
Gov.—Why did you not give a more speedy answer to the posse that I sent out?
Gen. Smith.—We had matters of importance to consult upon. Your letter showed anything but an amicable spirit. We have suffered immensely in Missouri from mobs, in loss of property, imprisonment, and otherwise.
It took some time for us to weigh duly these matters. We could not decide upon the matters of such importance immediately, and your posse were too hasty in returning. We were consulting for a large people, and vast interests were at stake.
We had been outrageously imposed upon, and knew not how far we could trust anyone; besides, a question necessarily arose, how shall we come? Your request was that we should come unarmed. It became a matter of serious importance to decide how far promises could be trusted, and how far we were safe from mob violence.
Geddes—It certainly did look from all I have heard, from the general spirit of violence and mobocracy that here prevails, that it was not safe for you to come unprotected.
Gov.—I think that sufficient time was not allowed by the posse for you to consult and get ready. They were too hasty; but I suppose they found themselves bound by their orders. I think, too, there is a great deal of truth in what you say, and your reasoning is plausible; yet, I must beg leave to differ from you in relation to the acts of the City Council. That council in my opinion, had no right to act in a legislative capacity, and in that of the judiciary.
They should have passed a law in relation to the matter, and then the Municipal Court, upon complaint, could have removed it; but for the City Council to take upon themselves the law-making and the execution of the laws, in my opinion, was wrong; besides, these men ought to have had a hearing before their property was destroyed; to destroy it without was an infringement of their rights; besides, it is so contrary to the feelings of the American people to interfere with the press.
And furthermore, I cannot but think that it would have been more judicious for you to have gone with Mr. Bettisworth to Carthage, notwithstanding the law did not require it. Concerning your being in jail, I am sorry for that, I wish it had been otherwise. I hope you will soon be released, but I cannot interfere.
Joseph Smith—Governor Ford, allow me, sir, to bring one thing to your mind, that you seem to have overlooked. You state that you think it would have been better for us to have submitted to the requisition of Constable Bettisworth, and to have gone to Carthage.
Do you not know, sir, that that writ was served at the instance of an anti-Mormon mob, who had passed resolutions and published them to the effect that they would exterminate the Mormon leaders; and are you not informed that Captain Anderson was not only threatened when coming to Nauvoo, but had a gun fired at his boat by this said mob at Warsaw, when coming up to Nauvoo, and that this very thing was made use of as a means to get us into their hands, and we could not, without taking an armed force with us, go there without, according to their published declarations, going into the jaws of death?
To have taken a force would only have fanned the excitement, as they would have stated that we wanted to use intimidation, therefore we thought it the most judicious to avail ourselves of the protection of the law.
Gov.—I see, I see.
Joseph Smith—Furthermore, in relation to the press, you say that you differ with me in opinion; be it so, the thing after all is a legal difficulty, and the courts I should judge competent to decide on that matter.
If our act was illegal, we are willing to meet it; and although I cannot see the distinction that you draw about the acts of the City Council, and what difference it could have made in point of fact, law, or justice, between the City Council’s acting together or separate, or how much more legal it would have been for the Municipal Court, who were a part of the City Council, to act separate, instead of with the councilors.
Yet, if it is deemed that we did a wrong in destroying that press, we refuse not to pay for it. We are desirous to fulfill the law in every particular, and are responsible for our acts.
You say that the parties ought to have had a hearing. Had it been a civil suit, this of course would have been proper; but there was a flagrant violation of every principle of right, a nuisance, and it was abated on the same principle that any nuisance, stench, or putrified carcass would have been removed.
Our first step, therefore, was to stop the foul, noisome, filthy sheet, and then the next, in our opinion, would have been to have prosecuted the men for a breech of public decency.
And furthermore, again, let me say, Governor Ford, I shall look to you for our protection. I believe you are talking of going to Nauvoo; if you go, sir, I wish to go along. I refuse not to answer any law, but I do not consider myself safe here.
Gov. I am in hopes that you will be acquitted; but if I go, I will certainly take you along. I do not, however, apprehend danger. I think you are perfectly safe, either here or anywhere else. I cannot, however, interfere with the law. I am placed in peculiar circumstances and seem to be blamed by all parties.
Joseph Smith—Governor Ford, I ask nothing but what is legal, I have a right to expect protection at least from you; for, independent of law, you have pledged your faith, and that of the State, for my protection, and I wish to go to Nauvoo.
Gov.—And you shall have protection, General Smith. I did not make this promise without consulting my officers, who all pledged their honor to its fulfillment. I do not know that I shall go tomorrow to Nauvoo, but if I do, I will take you along. 2
10:15 A.M.—The Governor left after saying that the prisoners were under his protection, and again pledging himself that they should be protected from violence, and telling them that if the troops marched the next morning to Nauvoo, as he then expected, they should probably be taken along, in order to insure their personal safety, with how much sincerity may be seen by the following affidavits:—
Affidavit—Alfred Randall—Threats against the Prophet’s life in Carthage.
Territory of Utah,
Great Salt Lake City. ss
Personally appeared before me, Thomas Bullock, Recorder of Great Salt Lake County, Alfred Randall, who deposes and says, that about ten o’clock on the morning of the (26th) twenty sixth day of June, one thousand eight hundred and forty-four, he was in Carthage, Hancock county, Illinois, and as the troops, under Governor Thomas Ford, were in squads around the square, he went up to several of them, and heard one of the soldiers say: “When I left home I calculated a see old Joe dead before I returned.” when several others said, “So did I,” “So did I,” and “I’ll be damned if I don’t,” was the general reply.
One fellow then spoke up and said “I shouldn’t wonder if there is some damned Mormon hearing all we have to say.” Another who stood next to Randall, replied, “If I knew there was, I would run him through with my bayonet.”
In a few minutes Randall went to another crowd of soldiers, and heard one say, “I guess this will be the last of old Joe.” From there Randall went to Hamilton’s Hotel, where Governor Thomas Ford was standing by the fence side, and heard another soldier tell Governor Thomas Ford, “The soldiers are determined to see Joe Smith dead before they leave here.” Ford replied, “If you know of any such thing keep it to yourself.”
In a short time Randall started for his own home, stayed all night, and arrived in Nauvoo on the twenty-seventh of June, when Governor Ford was making his notorious speech to the citizens. And further this deponent saith not.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this twelfth day of February, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-five.
Recorder, Great Salt Lake County.
Affidavit—Jonathan C. Wright—Conspiracy against the Prophet’s Life at Carthage.
On the 26th day of June, A. D. 1844, near the mansion in the city of Nauvoo, I fell in company with Col. Enoch C. March and Geo. T. M. Davis, Esq.. from Alton, Illinois, editor of the Telegraph, who had just arrived from Carthage, where they said they had been for some days, in company with Governor Ford and others, in council upon the subject of the arrest and trial of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, who were then prisoners in the county jail in Carthage.
After considerable conversation between myself and them on the subject of the Mormon religion, and the reasons why I had embraced that faith, and renounced my former religious discipline—viz, that of the Methodists, Mr. March asked me what I thought of Joe Smith, and if I had any hopes of his return to Nauvoo in safety.
I answered that I knew Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of the living God, as good and virtuous a man as ever lived upon the earth; that the Book or Mormon was true as holy writ, and was brought forth precisely in the way and manner it purported to be, by the gift and power of the Lord Almighty, and from no other source; and that the revelations he had received and published were eternal truth, and heaven and earth would pass away before one jot or tittle of the same should fail, and all that he pretended and testified to concerning the ministration of holy angels from the heavens to him, the Urim and Thummim, the voice of God, his correspondence with the heavens, was the truth and nothing but the truth; and that in relation to his return I had no doubt but that he would be honorably discharged upon his trial by the court, and would be preserved in safety from the power of his enemies; that he was in the hands of his God, whom he loved and faithfully served; and He, who held the destinies of nations in His own hands, would deliver him from his enemies, as He had done hundreds of times before.
Col. March replied, “Mr. Wright, you are mistaken, and I know it; you do not know what I know; I tell you they will kill Joe Smith before he leaves Carthage, and I know it, and you never will see him alive again.” Said I, “Enoch, I do not believe it, he is in the hands of God, and God will deliver him.” Says he, “I know better; when you hear of him again, you will hear he is dead, and I know it. The people at Carthage wanted permission from the Governor to kill you all and burn up your city, and Ford (the Governor) asked me if I thought it was best to suffer it. I replied, “No, no, for God’s sake, Ford, don’t suffer it, that will never do, no never. Just see for a moment, Ford, what that would do; it would be the means of murdering thousands of innocent men, women and children, and destroying thousands of dollars’ worth of property, and that would never do, it would not be sanctioned, it would disgrace the nation. You have now got the principle men here under your own control, they are all you want, what more do you want? When they are out of the way the thing is settled, and the people will be satisfied, and that is the easiest way you can dispose of it; and Governor Ford concluded upon the whole that was the best policy, and I know it will be done.”
Mayor’s Office, Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory,
Jan. 13th, A. D. 1855.
Personally appeared before me, Jedediah M. Grant, Mayor of said City, Jonathan Calkins Wright, who being duly sworn, deposeth and saith that the foregoing statement contained in his report of the conversation between himself and Enoch C. March, in presence of Geo. T. M. Davis, Esq., on the 26th day of June, 1844, in the city of Nauvoo, is true to the best of his knowledge and belief; and further this deponent saith not.
Jonathan Calkins Wright.
Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 13th day of January, 1855, in Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.
J. M. Grant,
Mayor of Great Salt Lake City.
Affidavit:—Orrin P. Rockwell—Gov. Ford in Nauvoo.
Personally appeared before me, Thomas Bullock, County Recorder in and for Great Salt Lake County, in the Territory of Utah, Orrin P. Rockwell, who being first duly sworn, deposeth and saith that about the hour of 3 o’clock in the afternoon of the 27th day of June, one thousand eight hundred forty-four, a short time only before Governor Ford addressed the citizens of Nauvoo, he (Ford) and his suit occupied an upper room in the mansion of Joseph Smith, in the city of Nauvoo, when he, the said Rockwell, had of necessity to enter said upper room for his hat, and as he entered the door, all were sitting silent except one man, who was standing behind a chair making a speech, and while in the act of dropping his right hand from an uplifted position, said. “The deed is done before this time,” which were the only words I heard while in the room, for on seeing me they all hushed in silence. At that time I could not comprehend the meaning of the words, but in a few hours after I understood them as referring to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage jail.
Orrin P. Rockwell,
Subscribed and sworn to before me, the fourteenth day of April, 1856.
Recorder of Great Salt Lake County.
Affidavit:—Wm. G. Sterrett—Conduct of Gov. Ford and Posse While in Nauvoo.
State of Deseret, Great Salt Lake County.
Personally appeared before me, Thomas Bullock, Recorder in and for Great Salt Lake County, this third day of October, one thousand eight hundred and fifty, William G. Sterrett, who being first duly sworn, deposeth and saith that on the twenty-seventh day of June, one thousand eight hundred and forty-four, in the city of Nauvoo, county of Hancock, and State of Illinois, I heard Thomas Ford, Governor of Illinois, address an assembly of several thousand citizens, gathered around the frame of a building situated at the corner of Water and Main streets. He reproached the people in severe terms for the course they had taken in resisting the posse comitatus, and among other things, “The retribution thereof will be terrible, and you must make up your minds for it. I hope you will not make any more trouble, but be a law-abiding people, for if I have to come again it will be worse for you.”
And your deponent further saith, that about half-past five in the afternoon the said Governor Thomas Ford and his guard visited the Temple and the workshops on the Temple block,
Mr. Alpheus Cutler, one of the building committee of the Temple, sent me to watch them in and about the Temple. I was close to the Governor when one of his men called him to look at one of the oxen of the font in the basement of the Temple, that had part of one horn broken off. The Governor stepped up to it, and laying his hand on it remarked, “This is the cow with the crumply horn, that we read of.” One of the staff continued, “That tossed the maiden all forlorn,” and they all had a laugh about it.
Several of the horns were broken off the oxen by the Governor’s attendants. A man who stood behind me said, “I’ll be damned but I should like to take one of those horns home with me, to show as a curiosity, but it is a pity to break them off.”
After they had passed round the font, one of them remarked, “This temple is a curious piece of workmanship, and it was a damned shame that they did not let Joe Smith finish it, so that we could have seen what sort of a finish he would have put on it, for it is altogether a different style of architecture from any building I have ever seen or read about.” Another said, “But he is dead by this time, and he will never see this temple again.”
I replied, “They cannot kill him until he has finished his work.” The Governor thereupon gave a very significant grin, when one of his suit who stood next to me said, “Whether he has finished his work or not by God he will not see this place again, for he’s finished before this time.”
Another of his suit pulled out his watch and said, “Governor, it’s time we were off, we have been here too long already. Whether you go or not, I’m going to leave, and that damned quick.” The Governor said, “Yes, it’s time for us to be going.” They then all left the stone shop, mounted their horses, which were hitched near the temple, and went out of the city towards Carthage by way of Mulholland Street, taking with them one of the horns that the company had knocked off. Further this deponent saith not.
Wm. G. Sterrett.
Sworn to and subscribed before me, this day and year first above written.
Great Salt Lake County Recorder.
While Joseph was writing at the jailor’s desk, William Wall stepped up, wanting to deliver a verbal message to him from his uncle John Smith. He turned round to speak to Wall, but the guard refused to allow them any communication.
At noon Joseph wrote to Judge Thomas as follows:
Letter: Joseph Smith to Judge Thomas—Engaging Thomas as Legal Counsel.
Carthage Jail, June 26, 1844.
His Hon. Judge Thomas.
Dear Sir,—You will perceive by my date that I am in prison. Myself and brother Hyrum were arrested yesterday on charge of treason without bringing us before the magistrate; last evening we were committed on a mittimus from Justice Robert F. Smith, stating that we had been before the magistrate, which is utterly false; but from the appearance of the case at present, we can have no reasonable prospect of anything but partial decisions of law, and all the prospect we have of justice being done is to get our case on habeas corpus before an impartial judge; the excitement and prejudice is such in this place, testimony is of little avail.
Therefore, sir, I earnestly request your honor to repair to Nauvoo without delay. and make yourself at home at my house until the papers can be in readiness for you to bring us on habeas corpus. Our witnesses are all at Nauvoo, and there you can easily investigate the whole matter, and I will be responsible to you for all the trouble and expense.
1. This report of the Prophet’s interview with Governor Ford, it is only proper to say, was not written until a number of years after the interview took place. (See ms. Statement, Feb. 22, 1847, on Atlantic Ocean; also in Taylor’s Journal, kept at Nauvoo, 100. f. with “The Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, opening paragraphs, published in Tyler’s “Mormon Battalion.”) The extract above quoted is taken from “Taylor’s Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” written at the request of George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff “Church Historian,” hence no earlier than 1854-1856, since Geo. A. Smith did not become Historian until the year first given, and Wilford Woodruff, assistant Historian in the second. The interview therefore, though given in dialogue form, can only be Elder Taylor’s recollection of it, and could not be a verbatum report.
2. Thomas Gregg, author of the History of Hancock County, page 372, gives the following statement of Col. Thomas Geddes mentioned in the above interview as the companion of Governor Ford. If true, and it is quite in keeping with all the circumstances and with both the character and subsequent actions of the Governor, then it is a very important statement as showing the double dealing of which Governor Ford was always suspected in relation to his course with reference to the difficulties between the citizens of Nauvoo and their enemies. And now Col. Geddes as reported by Gregg:
“While the Smiths were in jail, I went to the jail in company with Governor Ford, and there we conversed with them for some time, the burden of Smith’s talk being that they were only acting in self-defense, and only wanted to be let alone. After leaving the jail, and while returning from it, the Governor and I had still further conversation about the subject matter. After some time the Governor exclaimed, “O, it’s all nonsense; you will have to drive these Mormons out yet!” I then said: “If we undertake that, Governor, when the proper time comes, will you interfere?” “No, I will not,” said he; then, after a pause, adding, “until you are through!”