Wilson Law

A Sidelight on the Expositor Incident



A Nauvoo newspaper born on 7 June 1844 lived for only one issue, but it had far-reaching effects on the Church, culminating in the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. The Nauvoo Expositor was the product of some then recent apostates from the Church at Nauvoo, who claimed disenchantment with Joseph Smith’s political views, the practice of polygamy, and other issues. On 10 June 1844, the city council, acting under its charter, declared the Expositor a “public nuisance” and ordered its abatement. This order was carried out by the marshal with the assistance of the Nauvoo Legion. The editors later made complaint before Justice of the Peace Thomas Morrison in Carthage, Illinois, against Joseph Smith and other members of the city government on the charge of riot. It was while the Prophet and the others were answering this charge in Carthage that the two Smith brothers were thrown in jail on a new charge of treason. Two days later they were murdered by a mob.

One of the Expositor editors, Wilson Law, filed a deposition in 1848 at the trial of his former associate, Robert D. Foster, for embezzling school funds. The deposition, which has been recently found, details the dissidents’ account of the destruction of the press and their activities a few days thereafter. Although the bitter anti-Mormon bias of the deponent should be considered, the account is important for what it reveals of the whereabouts of the Laws and Robert D. Foster in the crucial period between the destruction of the newspaper and the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on 27 June 1844. It also records the Expositor affair through the eyes of one of its apostate editors as well as sketches an interesting tale of life on the Mississippi in the 1840s. The original, which is in this writer’s personal collection of historical manuscripts, is presented below in its entirety.


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