Volume 3 Chapter 16 | BYU Studies

Volume 3 Chapter 16


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Chapter 16

Case Of The "Mormons" Before The Missouri Legislature—Close Of The Year 1838.

Varied Reports as to the Intentions of the Saints.

This day [16th December] Elder David H. Redfield arrived in Jefferson City, and on Monday, 17th, presented the petition of the brethren to General David R. Atchison and others, who were very anxious to hear from Caldwell, as there were many reports in circulation, such as "the Mormons kept up the Danite system," "were going to build the Lord's house," and "more blood would be spilled before they left the state," which created a hardness in the minds of the people.

Interview Between David H. Redfield and Governor Boggs.

In the afternoon Brother Redfield had an interview with Governor Boggs, who inquired about our people and property with as much apparent interest as though his whole soul was engaged for our welfare; and said that he had heard that "the citizens were committing depredations on the 'Mormons,' and driving off their stock."

Brother Redfield informed him that armed forces came in the place and abused men, women and children, stole horses, drove off cattle, and plundered houses of everything that pleased their fancy.

Governor Boggs said that he would write Judge King and Colonel Price, to go to Far West, and put down every hostile appearance. He also stated that "the stipulations entered into by the 'Mormons' to leave the state, and to sign the deed of trust, were unconstitutional, and not valid."

Brother Redfield replied, "We want the legislature to pass a law to that effect, showing that the stipulations and deeds of trust are not valid and are unconstitutional; and unless you do pass such a law, we shall not consider ourselves safe in the state. You say there has been a stain upon the character of the state, and now is the time to pass some law to that effect; and unless you do, farewell to the virtue of the state; farewell to her honor and good name; farewell to her Christian virtue, until she shall be peopled by a different race of men; farewell to every name that binds man to man; farewell to a fine soil and a glorious home; they are gone, they are rent from us by a lawless banditti."

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Tuesday, December 18.—Mr. Turner, from the joint committee on the "Mormon" investigation, submitted a report, preamble and resolutions, as follows:

The Turner Committee Report to the Missouri Legislature, 1

In Senate, Tuesday, December 18, 1838.

Mr. Turner, from the joint committee on the Mormon investigation, submitted the following report, preamble and resolutions:

The joint committee to whom was referred so much of the governor's message as relates to the recent difficulties between the people called Mormons, and a part of the people of this state, with instructions to inquire into the causes of said disturbances, and the conduct of the military operations in suppressing them, have taken the same under consideration, and would respectfully submit the following report and resolutions:

They have thought it unwise and injudicious under all the existing circumstances of this case, to predicate a report upon the papers, documents, etc., purporting to be copies of the evidence taken before an examining court, held in Richmond, in Ray county, for the purpose of inquiring into the charges alleged against the people called Mormons, growing out of the late difficulties between that people and other citizens of this state.

They consider the evidence adduced in the examination there held, in a great degree, exparte, and not of the character which should be desired for the basis of a fair and candid investigation. Moreover, the papers, documents, etc., have not been certified in such manner as to satisfy the committee of their authenticity.

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It has been represented to them that the examining court has sent on for further trial, many of that class of citizens called Mormons, charged with various crimes and offenses; under the charge of treason, and for murder and as accessories thereto, before and after the fact, eight; and for other felonies, twenty-seven. Special terms of the circuit court are expected to be held in the several counties, in which the above mentioned crimes are represented to have been committed. Grand juries will then have these charges against said people before them, and must act upon the same documentary evidence which the committee would necessarily be compelled to examine, by which circumstance two co-ordinate branches of this government may be brought into collision—a contingency that should be studiously avoided and cautiously guarded against.

Another insuperable objection that has presented itself to the mind of the committee, and which would induce them to suspend an investigation, under present and existing circumstances, would be the consequences likely to result from a publication of their report. Those persons who have been sent on for further trial, have guaranteed to them the sacred and constitutional right of "a speedy trial by an impartial jury of the vicinage," and if the guilt of the accused should be confirmed by the report of the committee, it would so prejudice public sentiment against them, as to deprive them of that right, which should not be taken away by any consideration involved in this inquiry.

If the committee were to find it necessary in the prosecution of their object, to have access to the papers, documents, etc., connected with this difficulty, the probable interference of the several courts being in session, might seriously interrupt their views. It might reasonably be expected that all the evidence of every description, would be in the possession of the courts, to be used on the final trial, and by that means the investigation would be protracted to a much greater length than would be necessary under different circumstances. They would therefore recommend, in order to avoid all the difficulties that have been presented, that a committee, after the adjournment of the general assembly, go into the vicinity of the scene of difficulties, and make their investigation, and report at such time, and in such manner, as the legislature may direct. If this course should be adopted, the committee believe that the session would be much shortened. and heavy expenses saved to the state, which otherwise would necessarily be incurred in sending for witnesses, and bringing them from so great a distance. By a resolution of both houses, the special message of the governor in relation to the subject of inquiry, with the accompanying documents, was referred to the committee, with instructions to select such documents as in their opinion ought to be published with the message, and report to their respective houses. The committee after a full consideration of the subject, with due regard to its importance, are of opinion that it is inexpedient at this time, to publish any of the documents, under the authority of the general assembly, and submit to the two houses the leading reasons for that opinion.

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The documents may be divided into several classes:

First—The affidavits and correspondence preceding each series of authorized military operations.

Second—The orders issued upon such evidence.

Third—The military operations and correspondence consequent thereon; and

Fourth—The evidence taken before a court of inquiry, held for the investigation of criminal charges against individuals.

It was found by the joint committee, at an early period after their organization, that, in order to a full and satisfactory investigation of the subjects referred to them, a mass of additional testimony, oral and written, would be required. This becomes apparent to the committee, from the contents of the documents referred to them. These documents, although they are serviceable in giving direction to the courts of inquiry, are none of them, except the official orders and correspondence, such as ought to be received as conclusive evidence of the facts stated; nor are their contents such as would, without the aid of further evidence, enable the committee to form a satisfactory opinion in relation to the material points of the inquiry.

The copy of the examination taken before the criminal court of inquiry, is manifestly not such evidence as ought to be received by the committee.

First—Because it is not authenticated; and

Second—it is confined chiefly to the object of that inquiry; namely: the investigation of criminal charges against individuals under arrest; for these reasons, but above all, for the reason that it would be a direct interference with the administration of justice, this document ought not to be published, with the sanction of the legislature.

The committee conclude, that it would not be proper to publish the official orders and correspondence between the officers in command, and the executive, without the evidence on which they were founded; and that evidence is not sufficiently full and satisfactory to authorize its publication. To publish the whole together might tend to give a direction to the public mind, prejudicial to an impartial administration of justice in pending cases, while it will not afford the means of forming any satisfactory conclusion as to the cause of the late disturbances, or the conduct of the military operations in suppressing them.

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The committee therefore recommend to each house to adopt the following resolutions.

Resolved, That it is inexpedient at this time, to prosecute further the inquiry into the causes of the late disturbances and the conduct of the military operations in suppressing them.

Resolved, That it is inexpedient to publish at this time, any of the documents accompanying the governor's message in relation to the late disturbances.

Resolved, That it is expedient to appoint a joint committee, composed of————senators, and————representatives, to investigate the cause of said disturbances, and the conduct of the military operations in suppressing them, to meet at such time, and to be invested with such powers as may be prescribed by law. 2

Wednesday, December 19.—Mr. John Corrill presented the petition 3 to the house. While it was reading the members were silent as the house of death; after which the debate commenced, and excitement increased till the house was in an uproar; their faces turned red; their eyes flashed fire, and their countenances spoke volumes.

The Debate on the Petition.

Mr. Childs, of Jackson county, said, there was not one word of truth in it, so far as he had heard, and that it ought never to have been presented to that body. Not long ago we appropriated two thousand dollars to their relief, and now they have petitioned for the pay for their lands, which we took away from them. We got rid of a great evil when we drove them from Jackson county, and we have had peace there ever since; and the state will always be in difficulty so long as they suffer them to live in the state; and the quicker they get that petition from before this body the better.

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Mr. Ashley, from Livingston, said the petition was false from beginning to end, and that himself and the "Mormons" could not live together, for he would always be found fighting against them, and one or the other must leave the state. He gave a history of the Haun's Mill massacre, and said he saw Jack Rogers cut up McBride with a corn-cutter.

Mr. Corrill corrected Mr. Childs, and stated facts in the petition which he was acquainted with, and that Mr.Childs ought to know that there could not be the first crime established against the "Mormons" while in Jackson county.

One member hoped the matter would not be looked over in silence, for his constituents required of him to know the cause of the late disturbances.

Mr. Young, of Lafayette, spoke very bitterly against the petition and the "Mormons."

An aged member from St. Charles moved a reference of the bill to a select committee; and, continued he, "as the gentleman that just spoke, and other gentlemen, want the petition ruled out of the house for fear their evil doings will be brought to light; this goes to prove to me and others, that the petition is true."

Mr. Redman, of Howard county, made a long speech in favor of a speedy investigation of the whole matter; said he, "The governor's order has gone forth, and the Mormons are leaving; hundreds are waiting to cross the Mississippi river, and by and by they are gone, and our state is blasted; her character is gone; we gave them no chance for a fair investigation. The state demands of us that we give them a speedy investigation."

Nature of the Testimony.

Mr. Gyer, from St. Louis, agreed with the gentleman from Howard county, that the committee should have power to call witnesses from any part of the state, and defend them; and unless the governor's order was rescinded, he for one would leave the state. Other gentlemen made similar remarks.

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The testimony presented the committee of investigation, before referred to, was the governor's orders, General Clark's reports, the report of the ex parte trial at Richmond, and a lot of papers signed by nobody, given to nobody, and directed to nobody, containing anything our enemies were disposed to write.

Minutes of the High Council at Far West.

The High council of Zion met in Far West, Wednesday, December 19, 1838.

The Council was organized as follows: Ebenezer Robinson, No. 1; Jared Carter, No. 2; Thomas Grover, 3; Reynolds Cahoon, 4; Theodore Turley, 5; Solomon Hancock, 6; John Badger, 7; John Murdock, 8; Harlow Redfield, 9; George W. Harris, 10; David Dort, 11; Samuel Bent 12. The Council was opened by prayer by President Brigham Young, who presided.

Harlow Redfield gave a statement of his feelings. He said his faith was as good as it ever was, notwithstanding he did not feel to fellowship all the proceedings of his brethren in Daviess county; he thought they did not act as wisely as they might have done.

Voted by the Council that John E. Page and John Taylor 4 be ordained to the Apostleship, to fill vacancies in the quorum of the Twelve. They came forward and received their ordination under the hands of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.

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Voted that we send a petition to the general government, and send it by mail.

Voted that Edward Partridge and John Taylor be a committee to draft the above-mentioned petition; also it is their privilege to choose another person to assist them.

Council adjourned until next Wednesday at one o'clock, at same place.

E. Robinson, Clerk.

Return of Don Carlos Smith and George A. Smith.

Tuesday, December 25.—My brother, Don Carlos, and my cousin George A. Smith returned [from missions through Kentucky and Tennessee], having traveled fifteen hundred miles—nine hundred on foot, and the remainder by steamboat and otherwise. They visited several branches, and would have accomplished the object of their mission, had it not been for the troubles at Far West.

When nearly home they were known and pursued by the mob, which compelled them to travel one hundred miles in two days and nights. The ground at the time was slippery, and a severe northwest wind was blowing in their faces; they had but little to eat, and narrowly escaped freezing both nights.

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Redfield's Report.

Wednesday, December 26.—David H. Redfield having returned to Far West, made his report, and the High Council voted that they were satisfied with his proceedings. 5

Experience of Anson Call.

Thursday, December 27.—Anson Call went to Ray county, near Elk Horn, to sell some property, and was taken by ten of the mob and one old negro. Some of the mob were two of Judge Dickey's sons, a Mr. Adams, and a constable. They ordered him to disarm himself. He told them he had no arms about his person. They ordered him to turn his pockets wrong side out. They then said they would peel off his naked back before morning, with a hickory gad. They beat him with their naked hands times without number; they struck him in the face with a bowie knife, and severely hurt him a number of times.

After abusing him about four hours, saying he was a——"Mormon," and they would serve him as they had others, tie him with a hickory withe and gad him, and keep him till morning, they then started off and came to a hazel grove; while consulting together what course to pursue with him, he leaped into the bush, when they pursued him, but he made his escape and returned to Far West.

Action of Missouri Legislature.

After much controversy and angry disputation, as the papers of Missouri, published at the time, abundantly testify, our petition and memorial was laid on the table until the 4th of July following; thus utterly refusing to grant the request of the memorialists to investigate the subject. 6

After we were cast into prison, we heard nothing but threatenings, that, if any judge or jury, or court of any kind, should clear any of us, we should never get out of the state alive.

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State Appropriation of $2,000.

The state appropriated two thousand dollars to be distributed among the people of Daviess and Caldwell counties the "Mormons" of Caldwell not excepted. The people of Daviess thought they could live on "Mormon" property, and did not want their thousand, consequently it was pretended to be given to those of Caldwell. Judge Cameron, Mr. McHenry, and others attended to the distribution. Judge Cameron would drive in the brethren's hogs (many of which were identified) and shoot them down in the streets; and without further bleeding, and half dressing, they were cut up and distributed by McHenry to the poor, at a charge of four and five cents per pound; which, together with a few pieces of refuse goods, such as calicoes at double and treble prices soon consumed the two thousand dollars; doing the brethren very little good, or in reality none, as the property destroyed by them, [i. e. the distributing commission] was equal to what they gave the Saints. 7

Course of the Minority in the Legislature.

The proceedings of the legislature were warmly opposed by a minority of the house—among whom were David R. Atchison, of Clay County, and all the members from St. Louis and Messrs. Rollins and Gordon, from Boone county, and by various other members from other counties; but the mob majority carried the day, for the guilty wretches feared an investigation—knowing that it would endanger their lives and liberties. Some time during this session the legislature appropriated two hundred thousand dollars to pay the troops for driving the Saints out of the state.

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Course of the State Press.

Many of the state journals tried to hide the iniquity of the state by throwing a covering of lies over her atrocious deeds. But can they hide the governor's cruel order for banishment or extermination? Can they conceal the facts of the disgraceful treaty of the generals with their own officers and men at the city of Far West? Can they conceal the fact that twelve or fifteen thousand men, women and children, have been banished from the state without trial or condemnation? And this at an expense of two hundred thousand dollars—and this sum appropriated by the state legislature, in order to pay the troops for this act of lawless outrage? Can they conceal the fact that we have been imprisoned for many months, while our families, friends and witnesses have been driven away? Can they conceal the blood of the murdered husbands and fathers, or stifle the cries of the widows and the fatherless? Nay! The rocks and mountains may cover them in unknown depths, the awful abyss of the fathomless deep may swallow them up, and still their horrid deeds will stand forth in the broad light of day, for the wondering gaze of angels and of men! They cannot be hid.

Some time in December Heber C. Kimball and Alanson Ripley were appointed, by the brethren in Far West, to visit us at Liberty jail as often as circumstances would permit, or occasion required, which duty they faithfully performed. We were sometimes visited by our friends, whose kindness and attention I shall ever remember with feelings of lively gratitude; but frequently we were not suffered to have that privilege. Our food was of the coarsest kind, and served up in a manner which was disgusting.

Thus, in a land of liberty, in the town of Liberty, Clay county, Missouri, my fellow prisoners and I in chains, and dungeons, saw the close of 1838.

Chapter 16 Notes

1. In the previous publication of this history only part of this report is given, but here the whole document is inserted.

2. The above report is taken from a book containing the documents, the correspondence, orders, etc., in relation to the disturbances with the "Mormons;" and the evidence given before the Hon. Austin A. King, judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the state of Missouri, at the courthouse in Richmond, in a criminal court of inquiry, begun November 12, 1838, on the trial of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others, for high treason and other crimes against the state, pp. 1-4. The book is published by order of the general assembly.

3. This was the petition of the 10th of December, signed by Edward Partridge, Heber C. Kimball, John Taylor et al. in behalf of the citizens of Caldwell county, which petition appears in chapter 15. of this volume. Subsequently, viz., in 1841, when the Missouri legislature published, by order of the general assembly, what is alleged to be the documents in relation to the disturbances with the "Mormons," etc., neither this document nor any account of the debate which followed its introduction, as here referred to appears.

4. Of John Taylor a biographical note has already been given. See page 154. The following facts concerning John E. Page are given by himself:

The subscriber was born of Ebenezer and Rachael Page, their first child, February 25th, A. D. 1799. My father was of pure English extraction; my mother of English, Irish, and Welsh extraction. My place of birth was Trenton Township, Oneida county, State of New York. I embraced the faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was baptized August the 18th, 1833, by the hands of Elder Emer Harris (own brother to Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon). I was ordained an Elder under the hands of Elders Nelson Higgins, Ebenezer Page, Jun., and others. My baptism took place in Brownhelm, Lorain county, Ohio; my ordination in Florence, Huron county, of the same state, on the 12th of September, 1833.

I moved to Kirtland, Geauga county Ohio, in the fall of 1835.

On the 31st day of May, 1836, I started on a mission to Canada West, Leeds county. I was gone from my family seven months and twenty days.

On the 16th day of February, 1837, I again left Kirtland with my family, a wife and two small children, taking with me all the earthly goods I possessed, which consisted of one bed and our wearing apparel of the plainest kind, to continue my mission in the same region of country as before.

In July following the commandment came forth for me to occupy a place in the quorum of the Twelve.

On the 14th day of May, 1838, I started with a company of Saints, made up of men, women and their children, for the state of Missouri, where we landed with a company occupying thirty wagons, in the first week of October, at a place called De Witt, some six miles above the outlet of Grand river, on the north side of the Missouri river, where we were attacked by an armed mob, and by them barbarously treated for nearly two weeks. We then went to Far West, Caldwell county, where we united with the general body of the Church, and with them participated in all the grievous persecutions practiced on the Church by means of a furious mob, by which means I buried one wife and two children as martyrs to our holy religion, since they died through extreme suffering for the want of the common comforts of life—which I was not allowed to provide even with my money.

On the 19th of December, 1838, at Far West, Elder John Taylor and myself were ordained as Apostles under the hands of Elders Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, in the quorum of the Twelve, to fill some vacancies in the quorum, which had occurred by apostasies. In two year's time I had baptized upwards of six hundred persons, and traveled more than five thousand miles, principally on foot and under the most extreme poverty, relative to earthly means, being sustained alone by the power of God and not of man, or the wisdom of the world.—John E. Page.

5. David H. Redfield, it will be remembered, was the messenger form the citizens of Caldwell county to the Missouri state legislature, bearing with him the petition of the 10th of December, and it is, of course, from his report of the manner in which the petition was received and the report of the debate thereon that the Prophet makes up his account of that affair.

6. The bill providing for an investigation of the "Mormon" difficulties was finally laid upon the table until the 4th of July in the house by a vote of 48 in favor of such action and 37 against such procedure. Seven members were absent. The matter was not again taken up until the legislature of 1840, of which more later.

7. Of this matter of distributing the legislature's appropriation the late President John Taylor in his discussion with Schuyler Colfax, Vice-President of the United States, 1870, says: "The legislature of Missouri, to cover their infamy, appropriated the munificent (?) sum of $2,000 to help the suffering 'Mormons.' Their agent took a few miserable traps, the sweepings of an old store; for the balance of the patrimony he sent into Daviess county and killed our hogs, which we were then prevented from doing, and brought them to feed the poor 'Mormons' as part of the legislative appropriation. This I saw."