Important Correspondence on Jackson County Affairs Chiefly between Leading Officials of the Church in Zion and State Officials of Missouri. 1
Algernon Sidney Gilbert’s Letter to Governor Dunklin.
Liberty, Clay County, Mo.,
January 9, 1834.
Dear Sir:—Since my communication of the 29th of November, and a petition dated 6th of December last, to which my name was attached, I am induced to trespass again upon your patience, with further particulars in relation to the unfortunate faction in Jackson county, on which subject I should be silent, were it not that I entertain a hope of suggesting some ideas that may ultimately prove useful in ameliorating the present suffering conditions of my brethren, and in some degree restoring peace to both parties.
Being particularly acquainted with the situation of both parties at this day, my desire is to write impartially; notwithstanding I feel very sensibly the deep wound that has been inflicted upon the Church of which I am a member, by the citizens of Jackson county. The petition to your Excellency, dated the 6th of December last, was drawn up hastily by Mr. Phelps, and signed by several of us, just before the closing of the mail; and there is one item in particular in said petition that needs some explanation; the request that “our men may be organized into companies of Jackson Guards, and furnished with arms by the state,” was made at the instance of disinterested advisers; and also a communication from the Attorney General to Messrs. Doniphan and Atchison, dated the 21st of November last, gives his views as to the propriety of organizing into regular companies, etc. The necessity of being compelled to resort to arms, to regain our possessions in Jackson county, is by no means agreeable to the feelings of the Church and would never be thought of but from pure necessity.
In relation to a court of inquiry, serious difficulties continue to exist, well calculated to preclude the most important testimony of our Church; and there appears to be no evil which man is capable of inflicting upon his fellow-man, but what our people are threatened with, at this day by the citizens of Jackson county. This intimidates a great many, particularly women and children, and no military guard would diminish their fears so far as to induce them to attend the court in that county. This, with other serious difficulties, will give a decided advantage to the offenders, in a court of inquiry, while they triumph in power, numbers, etc.
The citizens of Jackson county are well aware that they have this advantage, and the leaders of the faction, if they must submit to such a court, would gladly hasten it. The Church are anxious for a thorough investigation into the whole affair, if their testimony can be taken without so great peril as they have reason to fear. It is my opinion, from present appearances, that not one-fourth of the witnesses of our people can be prevailed upon to go into Jackson county to testify. The influence of the party that compose that faction is considerable, and this influence operates in some degree upon the drafted militia, so far as to lessen confidence in the loyalty of that body; and I am satisfied that the influence of the Jackson county faction will not be entirely put down while they have advocates among certain religious sects.
Knowing that your Excellency must be aware of the unequal contest in which we are engaged, and that the little handful that compose our Church are not the only suffers that feel the oppressive hand of priestly power; with these difficulties existing, and many others not enumerated, it would be my wish to adopt such measures as are best calculated to allay the rage of Jackson county, and restore the injured to their rightful possessions; and to this end, I would suggest the propriety of purchasing the possessions of the most violent leaders of the faction; and if they assent to this proposition, if the holdings of about twenty of the most influential in that county (which would embrace the very leaders of the faction) could be obtained, I think the majority would cease in their persecutions, at least, when a due exercise of executive counsel and authority was manifested. I suggest this measure because it is of a pacific nature, well knowing that no legal steps are calculated to subdue their obduracy, only when pushed with energy by the highest authorities of the state.
In this proposal, I believe that I should have the concurrence of my brethren. I therefore give this early intimation of an intention, on the part of some of the leading men in the Church, to purchase out some of the principal leaders of the faction, if funds sufficient can be raised; hoping thereby to regain peaceful possession of their homes; and in making a trial of this measure at a future day, we would deem it important, and of great utility, if we could avail ourselves of counsel and directions from your Excellency, believing there will be a day, in negotiations for peace, in which an executive interposition would produce a salutary effect upon both parties.
In this communication, with honesty of heart, I have endeavored briefly to touch upon a few interesting points, in plain truth, believing that I have given no wrong bias on either side, and with earnest prayers to our great Benefactor, that the chief ruler of this state may come to a full knowledge of the gross outrages in Jackson county, I subscribe myself,
Your obedient servant,
Algernon S. Gilbert.
To his Excellency, Daniel Dunklin, Jefferson City, Missouri.
Letter of the First Presidency to the Scattered Saints.
We your companions in tribulation, embrace the present opportunity of sending you this token of our love and good will, assuring you that our bowels are filled with compassion, and that our prayers are daily ascending to God in the name of Jesus Christ, in your behalf.
We have just received intelligence from you, through the medium of Brother Elliot, of Chagrin, making inquiries concerning the course which you are to pursue. In addition to the knowledge contained in the above on this subject, we say, if it is not the duty of the Governor to call out and keep a standing force in Jackson county to protect you on your lands (which it appears must be done, as we understand the mob are determined to massacre you, if the Governor take you back upon your lands, and leave you unprotected), it will become your duty to petition the Governor to petition the President to send a force there to protect you, when you are reinstated.
The Governor proposes to take you back to your lands whenever you are ready to go (if we understand correctly); but cannot keep up an army to guard you; and while the hostile feelings of the people of Jackson county remain unabated, probably you dare not go back to be left unguarded. Therefore, in your petition to the Governor, set all these things forth in their proper light, and pray him to notify the President, of your situation; and also petition the President yourselves, according to the direction of the Lord. We have petitioned Governor Dunklin in your behalf, and enclosed in it a printed revelation, the same as this which we now send you. The petition was signed by something like sixty brethren, and mailed for Jefferson city, one week ago: and he will probably receive it two weeks before you receive this.
We also intend to send a petition and this revelation to the President forthwith, in your behalf, and then we will act the part of the poor widow to perfection, if possible, and let our rulers read their destiny if they do not lend a helping hand. We exhort you to prosecute and try every lawful means to bring the mob to justice as fast as circumstances will permit. With regard to your tarrying in Clay county, we cannot advise, you must be governed by circumstances; perhaps you will have to hire out, and take farms to cultivate, to obtain bread until the Lord delivers you.
We sent you a fifty dollar United States note some time ago; if you have received it, please acknowledge the receipt of it to us, that we may be satisfied you received it. We shall do all that is in our power to assist you in every way we can. We know your situation is a trying one, but be patient, and murmur not against the Lord, and you shall see that all these things shall turn to your greatest good.
Inquire of Elder Marsh, and find out the entire secret of mixing and compounding lead and antimony, so as to make type metal, and write us concerning it. Joseph has sent you another fifty dollar note, making in all one hundred dollars; write us concerning it. There is a prospect of the eastern churches doing something handsome towards the deliverance of Zion, in the course of a year, if Zion is not delivered otherwise.
Though the Lord said this affliction came upon you because of your sins, polluting your inheritances, etc., yet there is an exception of some, namely, the heads of Zion; for the Lord said, Your brethren in Zion begin to repent, and the angels rejoice over them. You will also see an exception at the top of the second column of this revelation; therefore this affliction came upon the Church to chasten those in transgression, and prepare the hearts of those who had repented, for an endowment from the Lord.
We shall not be able to send you any more money at present, unless the Lord puts it into our hands unexpectedly. There is not quite so much danger of a mob upon us as there has been. The hand of the Lord has thus far been stretched out to protect us. Doctor Philastus Hurlburt, an apostate Elder from this Church, has been to the state of New York, and gathered up all the ridiculous stories that could be invented, and some affidavits respecting the character of Joseph and the Smith family; and exhibited them to numerous congregations in Chagrin, Kirtland, Mentor, and Painsville; and he has fired the minds of the people with much indignation against Joseph and the Church.
Hurlburt also made many harsh threats, that he would take the life of Joseph, if he could not destroy “Mormonism” without. Brother Joseph took him with a peace warrant, and after three days’ trial, and investigating the merits of our religion, in the town of Painsville, by able attorneys on both sides, he was bound over to the county court. Thus his influence was pretty much destroyed, and since the trial, the spirit of hostility seems to be broken down in a good degree; but how long it will continue so, we cannot say.
You purchased your inheritances with money, therefore, behold you are blessed: you have not purchased your lands by the shedding of blood, consequently you do not come under the censure of this commandment which says, “If by blood, lo your enemies are upon you, and ye shall be driven from city to city;” give yourselves no uneasiness on this account.
Farewell, in the bonds of the new covenant, and partakers in tribulation.
(Signed) Orson Hyde,
Clerk of the Presidency of the Church.
Governor Dunklin to the Brethren in Missouri.
City of Jefferson,
February 4, 1834.
Gentlemen:—Your communication of the 6th December, was regularly received, and duly considered; and had I not expected to have received the evidence brought out on the inquiry ordered into the military conduct of Colonel Pitcher, in a short time after I received your petition, I should have replied to it long since.
Last evening I was informed that the further inquiry of the court was postponed until the 20th inst. Then, before I could hear anything from this court, the court of civil jurisdiction will hold its session in Jackson county; consequently, I cannot receive anything from one, preparatory to arrangements for the other.
I am very sensible indeed of the injuries your people complain of, and should consider myself very remiss in the discharge of my duties were I not to do everything in my power consistent with the legal exercise of them, to afford your society the redress to which they seem entitled. One of your requests needs no evidence to support the right to have it granted; it is that your people be put in possession of their homes, from which they have been expelled. But what may be the duty of the Executive after that, will depend upon contingencies.
If, upon inquiry, it is found that your people were wrongfully dispossessed of their arms by Colonel Pitcher, then an order will be issued to have them returned; and should your men organize according to law—which they have a right to do, indeed it is their duty to do so, unless exempted by religious scruples—and apply for public arms, the Executive could not distinguish between their right to have them, and the right of every other description of people similarly situated.
As to the request for keeping up a military force to protect your people, and prevent the commission of crimes and injuries, were I to comply, it would transcend the powers with which the Executive of this state is clothed. The Federal Constitution has given to Congress the power to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection, or repel invasion; and for these purposes, the President of the United States is authorized to make the call upon the executive of the respective states; and the laws of this state empower the “commander-in-chief, in case of actual or threatened invasion, insurrection or war, or public danger, or other emergency, to call forth into actual service, such portion of the militia as he may deem expedient.” These, together with the general provision of our state constitution that “the Governor shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed,” are all upon this branch of executive powers. None of these, as I consider, embraces this part of your request. The words, “or other emergency,” in our militia law, seem quite broad; but the emergency to come within the object of that provision, should be of a public nature. 2
Your case is certainly a very emergent one, and the consequences as important to your society, as if the war had been waged against the whole state, yet the public has no other interest in it, than that the laws be faithfully executed; thus far I presume the whole community feel a deep interest; for that which is the case of the “Mormons” today, may be the case of the Catholics tomorrow, and after them, any other sect that may become obnoxious to a majority of the people of any section of the state. So far as a faithful execution of the laws is concerned, the Executive is disposed to do everything consistent with the means furnished him by the legislature, and I think I may safely say the same of the judiciary.
As now advised, I am of the opinion that a military guard will be necessary to protect the state witnesses and officers of the court, and to assist in the execution of its orders, while sitting in Jackson county. By this mail I write to Mr. Reese, enclosing him an order on the captain of the “Liberty Blues,” requiring the captain to comply with the requisition of the circuit attorney, in protecting the court and officers, and executing their precepts and orders during the progress of these trials. Under the protection of this guard, your people can, if they think proper, return to their homes in Jackson county, and be protected in them during the progress of the trial in question, by which time, facts will be developed upon which I can act more definitely. 3 The Attorney-General will be required to assist the Circuit Attorney, if the latter deem it necessary.
On the subject of civil injuries, I must refer you to the courts; such questions rest with them exclusively. The laws are sufficient to afford a remedy for every injury of this kind; and, whenever you make out a case entitling you to damages, there can be no doubt entertained of their ample award. Justice is sometimes slow in its progress, but is not less sure on that account.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(Signed) Daniel Dunklin.
To Messrs. W. W. Phelps, Isaac Morley, John Whitmer, Edward Partridge, John Corrill and A. S. Gilbert.
Letter of Algernon S. Gilbert to A. Leonard, Esq., Attorney.
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri,
February 13, 1834.
A. Leonard, Esq
Dear Sir:—I have received a line from William Pratt, who called on you a few weeks since, to inquire if your services could be secured in the prosecution of claims for damages by our Church against the citizens of Jackson county; and by his letter it appears that you are willing to engage in our case. So far as I have conversed with the principal leaders of our Church, they are desirous to secure your services, which also meets the approbation of our counsel in this county, viz., Messrs. Reese, Doniphan, Atchison and Wood.
I write this a few moments before closing the mail, and have not time to state particulars as to the extent of the suits, but believe that four or five suits, have been brought by Phelps & Co., for the destruction of the printing office, etc., etc., and by Partridge and others for personal abuse. I understand that at the next Monday term of the circuit court, petition will be made for a change of venue in Jackson county, and I suppose no case can be tried before next June or October term. If it is expedient, some one of our people will call on you in a few days, and during the interim, wish you to drop me a line if convenient.
We have this day received a communication of the 4th instant, from the Governor, in which he states, that he is of opinion that a military guard will be necessary, to protect the state witnesses and officers of the court, and to assist in the execution of its orders, while sitting in Jackson county.
By this mail I write to Mr. Reese, enclosing him an order on the captain of the “Liberty Blues,” requiring the captain to comply with the requisition of the circuit attorney, in protecting the court and officers, and executing their precepts and orders during the progress of these trials.
The foregoing relates to a court of inquiry into criminal matters, to be held in Jackson county, next Monday week.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Algernon S. Gilbert.
The Brethren in Clay County, Missouri, to Judge Ryland.
Liberty, February 19, 1834.
To the Hon. John F. Ryland, Judge of the Fifth Circuit Court Missouri
Sir:—Learning that a court of inquiry is to be held in Jackson county, at the next regular term of the circuit court for that county, or that some kind of legal proceeding is to be commenced for the purpose of obtaining the facts, as far as can be, of bringing to punishment the guilty in that county,—We, therefore, pray your honor to avail yourself of every means in your power to execute the law and make it honorable; and believing that the testimony of some of the members of our Church will be important, and deeming it unsafe to risk our persons in that county without a guard, we request that the order from the Executive, already transmitted, may be put in force.
A. S. Gilbert,
W. W. Phelps,
Another request similar to the above was sent, same date, to Amos Reese, Circuit Attorney.
Letter of W. W. Phelps et al. to Judge Woodward.
Liberty, February 19, 1834.
George Woodward, Judge Advocate, in the case of the State of Missouri, versus Colonel Thomas Pitcher:
Sir:—The undersigned request of you, if it be consistent with custom and law, an official copy of the proceedings recorded by you, in the above stated case, for the purpose of preservation, as an important link in the history of our unfortunate society.
W. W. Phelps,
Algernon S. Gilbert.
Affidavit of Abigail Leonard.
I, Abigail Leonard, depose and say, that on the night of the 20th of February, 1833, in the county of Jackson and State of Missouri, a company of men, about fifty or sixty in number, armed with whips and guns, came to the house of my husband: among them were John Young, Mr. Yocum, Mr. Cantrell, Mr. Patterson and Mr. Noland. Five of the number entered the house among them was John Young. They ordered my husband to leave the house, threatening to shoot him if he did not. He not complying with their desire, one of the five took a chair and struck him upon the head, knocking him down, and then dragging him out of the house; I, in the meantime, begging of them to spare his life, when one of the number called to the others, telling them to take me into the house, for I would “overpower every devil of them.” Three of the company then approached me, and, presenting their guns, declared with an oath, if I did not go in, they would blow me through. While this was happening Mr. Patterson jumped upon my husband with his heels; my husband then got up, they stripped all his clothes from him excepting his pantaloons, then five or six attacked him with whips and gun sticks, and whipped him till he could not stand, and he fell to the ground. I then went to them, and took their whips from them; I then called to Mrs. Bruce, who lived in the same house with us, to come out and help me carry my husband into the house. When carried in he was very much lacerated and bruised, and unable to lie upon a bed, and also unable to work for a number of months. Also, at the same time and place, Mr. Josiah Sumner was taken from the house and came in very bloody and bruised from whipping.
(Signed) Abigail Leonard.
The following letter from W. W. Phelps reached the hand of the Prophet at Kirtland at a time when he had received some eastern papers deploring the success attending upon the preaching of “Mormonism” in the East. The Prophet introduces the letter of Elder Phelps in his history in the following language: “Thus, while the press was mourning the prosperity of the work, and the Saints were rejoicing in the East, troubles changed and multiplied in the West, as may be seen by the following letter:”
Letter of Wm. W. Phelps to the Brethren in Kirtland, Detailing the Farcical Effort of the Officers of Missouri to Enforce the Law.
Clay County, Missouri, Feb. 27, 1834.
Dear Brethren—The times are so big with events, and the anxiety of everybody so great to watch them, that I feel somewhat impressed to write oftener than I have done, in order to give you more of the “strange acts” of this region. I have just returned from Independence, the seat of war in the West. About a dozen of our brethren, among whom were Bishop Partridge, Elder Corrill and myself, were subpoenaed in behalf of the state; and on the 23rd of February, about 12 o’clock, we were on the bank opposite Everett’s Ferry, where we found Captain Atchison’s company of “Liberty Blues”—nearly fifty rank and file—ready to guard us into Jackson county. The soldiers were well armed with United States muskets, bayonets fixed, etc., and to me the scene was “passing strange,” and long to be remembered; the martial law in force to guard the civil! About twenty-five men crossed over to effect a landing in safety, and when they came near the warehouse they fired six or eight guns, though the enemy had not gathered to witness the landing.
After we were all across, and waiting for the baggage wagon, it was thought most advisable to encamp in the woods, and the witnesses, with half the company, marched nearly a mile towards Independence, to build night fires, as we were without tents, and the weather cold enough to snow a little. While on the way, the quartermaster and others, that had gone on ahead to prepare quarters in town, sent an express back, which was not of the most pacific appearance. Captain Atchison continued the express to Colonel Allen for the two hundred drafted militia, and also to Liberty for more ammunition; and the night passed off in warlike style, with the sentinels marching silently at a proper distance from the watch fires.
Early in the morning we marched, strongly guarded by the troops, to the seat of war, and quartered in the blockhouse, formerly the tavern stand of S. Flournoy; after breakfast we were visited by the District Attorney, Mr. Reese, and the Attorney-General, Mr. Wells. From them we learned that all hopes of criminal prosecutions were at an end. Mr. Wells had been sent by the governor to investigate, as far as possible, the Jackson outrage; but the bold front of the mob; bound even unto death (as I have heard), was not to be penetrated by civil law, or awed by executive influence. Shortly after, Captain Atchison informed me that he had just received an order from the judge that his company’s service was no longer wanted in Jackson county; and we were marched out of town to the tune of Yankee Doodle, in quick time, and soon returned to our camp without the loss of any lives. This order was issued by the court, apparently, on account of the speedy gathering of the old mob, or citizens of Jackson county, and their assuming such a boisterous and mobocratic appearance. Much credit is due to Captain Atchison for his gallantry and hospitality, and I think I can say of the officers and company that their conduct as soldiers and men is highly reputable; so much the more so, knowing as I do, the fatal results of the trial had the militia come or not come. I can add that the Captain’s safe return refreshed my mind with Xenophon’s safe retreat of the Ten Thousand! Thus ends all hope of “redress,” even with a guard ordered by the Governor for the protection of the court and witnesses. 4
Before a crop is harvested it becomes ripe of itself. The dreadful deeds now done in Jackson county, with impunity, must bring matters to a focus shortly. Within two or three weeks past some of the most savage acts ever witnessed have been committed by these bitter branches. Old Father Lindsey, whose locks have been whitened by the blasts of nearly seventy winters, had his house thrown down, after he was driven from it; his goods, corn, etc., piled together and fire put to it, but fortunately after the mob retired, his son extinguished it.
The mob has quit whipping and now beats with clubs. Lyman Leonard, one of the number that returned from Van Buren county had two chairs broken to splinters upon him, and was then dragged out of doors and beat with clubs till he was supposed to be dead, but he is yet alive. Josiah Sumner and Barnet Cole were severely beaten at the same time. The mob have commenced burning houses, stacks, etc.; and we shall not think it out of their power, by any means, to proceed to murder any of our people that shall try to live in that county, or perhaps, only go there.
Such scenes as are happening around us are calculated to arouse feelings and passions in all, and to strengthen the faith and fortify the hearts of the Saints for great things. Our Savior laid down His life for our sakes, and shall we, who profess to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God—shall we, the servants of the Lord of the vineyard, who are called and chosen to prune it for the last time—shall we, yea, verily we, who are enlightened by the wisdom of heaven—shall we fear to do at least this much for Jesus who has done so much for us? No; we will obey the voice of the Spirit that God may overcome the world.
I am a servant, etc.,
W. W. Phelps.
Second Petition to the President of the United States.
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, April 10, 1834.
To the President of the United States of America
We, the undersigned, your petitioners, citizens of the United States of America, and residents of the county of Clay, in the state of Missouri, being members of the Church of Christ, reproachfully called “Mormon,” beg leave to refer the President to our former petition, dated in October last; and also to lay before him the accompanying hand-bill, dated December 12th, 1833, with assurances that the said hand-bill exhibits but a faint sketch of the sufferings of your petitioners and their brethren, up to the period of its publication.
The said hand-bill shows, that at the time of dispersion a number of our families fled into the new and unsettled county of Van Buren; but being unable to procure provisions in that county through the winter, many of them were compelled to return to their homes in Jackson county or perish of hunger. But they had no sooner set foot upon that soil—which a few months before they had purchased of the United States—than they were again met by the citizens of Jackson county, and a renewal of savage barbarities was inflicted upon these families by beating with clubs and sticks, presenting knives and fire arms, and threatenings of death if they did not flee from the county. These inhuman assaults upon a number of these families were repeated at two or three different times through the past winter, till they were compelled at last to abandon their possessions in Jackson county, and flee with their wounded bodies into this county, here to mingle their tears and unite their supplications, with hundreds of their brethren, to our Heavenly Father and the chief ruler of our nation.
Between one and two thousand of the people called “Mormons” had been driven by force of arms from the county of Jackson in this state since the first of November last, being compelled to leave their highly cultivated fields—the greater part of their lands having been bought of the United States—and all this on account of our belief in direct revelation from God to the children of men according to the Holy Scriptures. We know that such illegal violence has not been inflicted upon any sect or community of people by the citizens of the United States since the Declaration of Independence.
That this is a religious persecution is notorious throughout our country; for while the officers of the county, both civil and military, were accomplices in these unparalleled outrages, engaged in the destruction of the printing office, dwelling houses, etc., yet the records of the judicial tribunals of that county are not stained by any record of crime committed by our people. Our numbers being greatly inferior to the enemy were unable to stand in self defense; and our lives, at this day, are continually threatened by that infuriated people, so that our personal safety forbids one of our number going into that county on business.
We beg leave to state that no impartial investigation into this criminal matter can be made, because the offenders must be tried in the county where the offense was committed, and the inhabitants of the county, both magistrates and people, with the exception of a few, being combined, justice cannot be expected. At this day your petitioners do not know of a solitary family belonging to our Church in Jackson county but what has been violently expelled from that county by the inhabitants thereof.
Your petitioners have not gone into detail with an account of their individual sufferings from death, and bruised bodies, and the universal distress which prevails at this day, in a greater or less degree throughout our community. Not only have those sacred rights guaranteed to every religious sect been publicly invaded, in open hostility to the spirit and genius of our free government; but such of their houses as have not been burnt, and their lands and most of the products of the labor of their hands for the last year, have been wrested from them by a band of outlaws congregated in Jackson county, on the western frontiers of the United States, and this within about thirty miles of the United States military post at Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri river.
Your petitioners say that they do not enter into a minute detail of their sufferings in this petition lest they should weary the patience of their venerable chief, whose arduous duties they know are great, and daily accumulating. We only hope to show him that this is an unprecedented emergency in the history of our country, that the magistracy thereof is set at defiance, and justice checked in open violation of its laws; and that we, your petitioners, who are almost wholly native born citizens of these United States, of whom we purchased our lands in Jackson county, Missouri, with intent to cultivate the same as peaceable citizens, are now forced from them, and are now dwelling in the counties of Clay, Ray and Lafayette, in the state of Missouri, without permanent homes, and suffering all the privations which must necessarily result from such inhuman treatment. Under these sufferings your petitioners petitioned the governor of this state in December last, in answer to which they received the following letter: 5
* * * * * * * * *
By the foregoing letter from the Governor, the President will perceive a disposition manifested by him to enforce the laws as far as means have been furnished him by the legislature of this state. But the powers vested in the executive of this state appear to be inadequate for relieving the distresses of your petitioners in their present emergency. He is willing to send a guard to conduct our families back to their possessions, but is not authorized to direct a military force to be stationed any length of time for the protection of your petitioners. This step would be laying the foundation for a more fatal tragedy than the first, as our numbers at present are too small to contend single handed with the mob of said county; and as the Federal Constitution has given to Congress the power to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, or repel invasions: and for these purposes the President of the United States is authorized to make the call upon the executive of the respective states; therefore, we your petitioners, in behalf of our society, which is so scattered and suffering, most humbly pray that we may be restored to our lands, houses, and property in Jackson county, and protected in them by an armed force, till peace can be restored. And as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Here followed one hundred and fourteen signatures, among whom were: Edward Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, Isaac Morley, A. S. Gilbert, W. W. Phelps, etc., etc.
Letter of Algernon S. Gilbert et al. to the President Accompanying Foregoing Petition.
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, April 10, 1834.
To the President of the United States
We, the undersigned, some of the leading members of the Church of Christ, whose names are subscribed to the accompanying petition, beg leave to refer the President to the petition and hand-bill herewith. We are not insensible to the multiplicity of business and numerous petitions, by which the cares and perplexities of our chief ruler are daily increased; and it is with diffidence that we venture to lay before the executive, at this emergent period, these two documents, wherein is briefly portrayed the most unparalleled persecution and flagrant outrage of law that has disgraced the country since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, but knowing the independent fortitude, and vigorous energy for preserving the rights of the citizens of this republic, which has hitherto marked the course of our chief magistrate, we are encouraged to hope, that this communication will not pass unnoticed, but that the President will consider our location on the extreme western frontier of the United States, exposed to many ignorant and lawless ruffians, who are already congregated, and determined to nullify all law that will secure to your petitioners the peaceable possession of their lands in Jackson county. We again repeat, that our society are wandering in adjoining counties at this day, bereft of their houses and lands, and threatened with death by the aforesaid outlaws of Jackson county.
And lest the President should have been deceived in regard to our true situation, by the misrepresentations of certain individuals, who, from religious, political, and speculative motives, are disposed to cover the gross outrages of the mob, we beg leave to refer him to the Governor of this state, at the same time informing him that the number of men composing the mob of Jackson county, may be estimated at from three to five hundred, most of them equipped with fire-arms.
After noting the statements here made, if it should be the disposition of the President to grant aid, we most humbly entreat that early relief may be extended to suffering families, who are now expelled from their possessions by force of arms. Our lands in Jackson county, are about thirty miles distant from Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri river.
With due respect, we are, sir, your obedient servants,
A. S. Gilbert,
W. W. Phelps,
P. S.—In February last a number of our people were marched under a guard furnished by the governor of the state, into Jackson county, for the purpose of prosecuting the mob criminally; but the Attorney-General of the state, and the District Attorney, knowing the force and power of the mob, advised us to relinquish all hope of criminal prosecution to effect anything against that band of outlaws, and we returned under guard, without the least prospect of ever obtaining our rights and possessions in Jackson county, by any other means than a few companies of the United States regular troops, to guard and assist us till we are safely settled.
A. S. G.
W. W. P.
The foregoing letter and petition were forwarded by mail the same day, April 10th; also the following:
Letter of the Brethren to Governor Dunklin Asking Him to Write the President in Connection with Their Petition.
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri,
April 10, 1834.
To His Excellency, Daniel Dunklin, Governor of Missouri
Dear Sir:—Notwithstanding you may have become somewhat tired of receiving communications from us, yet we beg of your Excellency to pardon us for this, as we have this day forwarded a petition to the President of the United States, setting forth our distressed condition, together with your Excellency’s views of it, as well as the limited powers with which you are clothed, to afford that protection which we need, to enjoy our rights and lands in Jackson county. A few lines from the Governor of the state, in connection with our humble entreaties for our possessions and privileges, we think would be of considerable consequence towards bringing about the desired result, and would be gratefully acknowledged by us, and our society, and we may add, by all honorable men.
We therefore, as humble petitioners, ask as a favor of your Excellency to write to the President of the United States, that he may assist us, or our society, in obtaining our rights in Jackson county, and help protect us when there, till we are safe. As in duty bound, we will ever pray.
W. W. Phelps,
A. S. Gilbert,
Letter of W. W. Phelps to U.S. Senator Benton of Missouri on the Subject of the Petition to the President.
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri.
April 10, 1834.
Dear Sir:—As our society has just sent a petition and hand-bill to the President of the United States, setting forth their distressed condition since expelled from their homes by the Jackson county mob; and as you may remember that I was about to establish last summer, previous to the destruction of my office by the mob, a weekly newspaper, in favor of the present administration. I have thought best to address this communication to your honor, and refer you to said petition and hand-bill, and assure you, at the same time, that my determination is to publish a weekly paper, in Jackson county, in favor of the present administration as soon as our society is restored to its legal rights and possessions.
As a people we are bound to support our republican government and its institutions; and more than all, my press, which was wrested from me, is now printing a mean opposition paper, by “Kelly and Davis.” Any communication from you will be well received by
Your obedient servant,
W. W. Phelps.
Hon. Thomas H. Benton.
Letter from Governor Dunklin to the Brethren, Answering the One Inviting Him to Write the President on the Subject of the Saints’ Petition.
City of Jefferson,
April 20, 1834.
To Messrs. W. W. Phelps, Edward Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, and A. S. Gilbert:
Gentlemen:—Yours of the 10th inst., was received yesterday, in which you request me as executive of this state to join you in an appeal to the President of the United States for protection in the enjoyment of your rights in Jackson county. It will readily occur to you, no doubt, the possibility of your having asked of the President protection in a way that he, no more than the executive of this state, can render. If you ask for that which I may be of opinion he has power to grant, I should have no objection to join in urging it upon him; but I could no more ask the President—however willing I am to see your society restored and protected in their rights—to do that which I may believe he has no power to do, than I could do such an act myself. If you will send me a copy of your petition to the President, I will judge of his right to grant it; and if of opinion he possesses the power, I will write in favor of its exercise.
I am now in correspondence with the federal government, on the subject of deposits of munitions of war on our northern and western borders, and have no doubt but I shall succeed in procuring one, which will be located, if left to me, (and the Secretary of War seems willing to be governed by the opinion of the executive of this state), somewhere near the state line, either in Jackson or Clay county. The establishment will be an “arsenal,” and will probably be placed under the command of a lieutenant of the army. This will afford you the best means of military protection, the nature of your case will admit. Although I can see no direct impropriety in making the subject of this paragraph public, yet I should prefer it not to be so considered for the present, as the erection of an arsenal is only in expectancy.
Permit me to suggest to you, that as you now have greatly the advantage of your adversaries, in public estimation, there is a great propriety in retaining that advantage, which you can easily do by keeping your adversaries in the wrong. The laws, both civil and military, seem deficient in affording your society proper protection; nevertheless, public sentiment is a powerful corrector of error, and you should make it your policy to continue to deserve it.
With much respect, and great regard,
I am your obedient servant,
The Brethren in Missouri to Governor Dunklin, Informing Him That They Expect the Arrival of Reinforcements from Their Brethren in the East.
Liberty, Clay County, Mo.,
April 24, 1834.
Dear Sir:—In our last communication of the 10th instant, we omitted to make inquiry concerning the evidence brought up before the court of inquiry, in the case of Colonel Pitcher. The court met pursuant to adjournment, on the 20th of February last, and for some reason unknown to us, we have not been able to obtain information concerning the opinion or decision of that court; we hoped that the testimony would have been transmitted to your Excellency before this, that an order might be issued for the return of our arms, of which we have been wrongfully dispossessed, as we believe will clearly appear to the commander-in-chief, when the evidence is laid before him.
As suggested in your communication of the 4th of February, we have concluded to organize according to law, and apply for public arms; but we feared that such a step, which must be attended with public ceremonies, might produce some excitement; and we have thus far delayed any movement of that nature, hoping to regain our arms from Jackson county, that we might independently equip ourselves, and be prepared to assist in the maintenance of our constitutional rights and liberties, as guaranteed to us by our country; and also to defend our persons and property from a lawless mob, when it shall please the executive at some future day, to put us in possession of our homes, from which we have been most wickedly expelled. We are happy to make an expression of our thanks for the willingness manifested by the executive to enforce the laws, so far as he can consistently “with the means furnished him by the legislature;” and we are firmly persuaded that a future day will verify to him that whatever aid we may receive from the executive has not been lavished upon a band of traitors, but upon a people whose respect and veneration for the laws of our country, and its pure republican principles are as great as that of any other society in these United States.
As our Jackson foes and their correspondents are busy in circulating slanderous and wicked reports concerning our people, their views, etc., we have deemed it expedient to inform your Excellency that we have received communications from our friends in the East, informing us that a number of our brethren, perhaps two or three hundred, would remove to Jackson county in the course of the ensuing summer; and we are satisfied that when the Jackson mob get the intelligence that a large number of our people are about to remove into that county, they will raise a great hue-and-cry, and circulate many bugbears through the medium of their favorite press; but we think your Excellency is well aware that our object is purely to defend ourselves and possessions against another outrageous attack from the mob, inasmuch as the executive of this state cannot keep up a military force “to protect our people in that county, without transcending his powers.” We want, therefore, the privilege of defending ourselves and the constitution of our country, while God is willing we should have a being on His footstool.
We do not know at what time our friends will arrive, but expect more certain intelligence in a few weeks. Whenever they do arrive, it would be the wish of our people in this county, to return to our homes, in company with our friends, under guard; and when once in legal possession of our homes in Jackson county, we shall endeavor to take care of them, without further wearying the patience of our worthy chief magistrate. We will write hereafter, or send an express. During the intermediate time, we would be glad to hear of the prospects of recovering our arms.
With due respect, we are, sir, your obedient servants,
A. S. Gilbert,
W. W. Phelps,
P. S. Many of the brethren who are expected here soon, had made arrangements to emigrate to this state before the outrages of the mob last fall. We hope the painful emergency of our case will plead an excuse for our frequent communications.
Letter of Governor Dunklin Replying to the Communication of April 24th from the Brethren in Clay County.
City of Jefferson, May 2, 1834.
To Messrs. W. W. Phelps and others:
Gentlemen:—Yours of the 24th ultimo is before me, in reply to which I can inform you, that becoming impatient at the delay of the court of inquiry in making their report in the case of Lieutenant-Colonel Pitcher,—on the 11th ultimo I wrote to General Thompson for the reasons of such delay; last night I received his reply, and with it the report of the court of inquiry, from the tenor of which, I find no difficulty in deciding that the arms your people were required to surrender on the 5th of last November, should be returned; and have issued an order to Colonel Lucas to deliver them to you or your order, which order is here enclosed.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Following is the order referred to above:
City of Jefferson, May 2, 1834.
To Samuel D. Lucas, Col. 33rd Regiment:
Sir:—The court ordered to inquire into the conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Pitcher, in the movement he made on the 5th of November last, report it as their unanimous opinion that there was no insurrection on that day, and that Colonel Pitcher was not authorized to call out his troops on the 5th of November, 1833. It was then unnecessary to require the Mormons to give up their arms. Therefore, you will deliver to W. W. Phelps, Edward Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, and A. S. Gilbert, or their order, the fifty-two guns and one pistol reported by Lieutenant-Colonel Pitcher to you on the 3rd of December last, as having been received by him from the Mormons on the 5th of the preceding October, [November].
Letter to Governor Dunklin Answering His of April the 20th Wherein He Cautioned the Saints to Keep Their Enemies in the Wrong.
Liberty, Clay County, May 7, 1834.
Dear Sir:—Your favor of the 20th ultimo, came to hand the 1st instant, which gives us a gleam of hope that the time will come when we may experience a partial mitigation of our sufferings. The salutary advice at the conclusion of your letter is received with great deference.
Since our last of the 24th ultimo, the mob of Jackson county have burned our dwellings; as near as we can ascertain, between one hundred and one hundred and fifty were consumed by fire in about one week; our arms were also taken from the depository (the jail) about ten days since, and distributed among the mob. Great efforts are now making by said mob to stir up the citizens of this county (Clay) and Lafayette, to similar outrages against us; but we think they will fail of accomplishing their wicked designs in this county. We here annex a copy of the petition to the President, signed by about one hundred and twenty.
With great respect, etc.,
A. S. Gilbert,
W. W. Phelps.
Daniel Dunklin, Governor of Missouri.
Letter to Colonel S. D. Lucas Asking about Arms Surrendered at Independence.
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri,
May 15, 1834.
Colonel S. D. Lucas
Sir:—We have this day received a communication from the Governor of this state, covering the order herewith, and we hasten to forward the said order to you by the bearer, Mr. Richardson, who is instructed to receive your reply. We would further remark that under existing circumstances, we hope to receive our arms on this side the river, and we would name a place near one of the ferries for your convenience, as the arms are few in number, we request that they may be delivered with as little delay as possible.
A. S. Gilbert,
W. W. Phelps,
P. S.—We will thank you for a written communication, in answer to this letter, and the accompanying order. 6
All hope for relief from the general government was destroyed on receipt of the following communication from the city of Washington:
Reply of the General Government to the Petition of the Saints.
War Department, May 2, 1834.
Gentlemen:—The President has referred to this department the memorial and letter addressed to him by yourselves and other citizens of Missouri, requesting his interposition in order to protect your persons and property.
In answer, I am instructed to inform you, that the offenses of which you complain, are violations of the laws of the state of Missouri, and not of the laws of the United States. The powers of the President under the constitution and laws, to direct the employment of a military force, in cases where the ordinary civil authority is found insufficient, extend only to proceedings under the laws of the United States.
Where an insurrection in any state exists, against the government thereof, the President is required on the application of such state, or of the executive (when the legislature cannot be convened), to call forth such number of the militia, as he may judge sufficient to suppress such insurrection.
But this state of things does not exist in Missouri, or if it does, the fact is not shown in the mode pointed out by law. The President cannot call out a militia force to aid in the execution of the state laws, until the proper requisition is made upon him by the constituted authorities.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
To Messrs. A. Gilbert, W. W. Phelps, Edward Partridge, and others, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri.
End of Volume I.
Chapter 35 – Notes
1. In order to group the correspondence concerning the troubles in Jackson county as close to the recital of those events in the text of the Prophets narrative as may be, several of the communications in this chapter are taken from the place assigned them by previous editors and given in this concluding chapter of Volume I.
2. In my judgment, it does seem that under the powers conferred upon the executive by the provision of the fundamental law of the state—the constitution—and the militia law he quotes, the governor could have granted the request of the Saints to be protected in their homes, until peace was restored. Surely the clause, “or other emergency,” in the section of the law just referred to, was broad enough to justify him in protecting, by the State militia, twelve hundred citizens of the United States in their homes until mob-violence had subsided—until respect for the civil law had been restored, and these citizens allowed to dwell in safety upon the lands they had purchased from the general government. Under these provisions he could have “curbed those cruel devils of their will,” without “doing even a little wrong, in order to do a great right”—without “wresting the law to his authority.”
3. It required no great wisdom, however, to forsee that for the Saints to return to their homes, and then be left there without protection—left to the mercy of human wretches, in whose veins ran none of the milk of human kindness—would not be far removed from suicide, as the mob greatly outnumbered the Saints. To return under these circumstances would only be laying the foundation for a greater tragedy than the one already enacted; and the brethren wisely concluded not to attempt to regain possession of their homes, until some measure was adopted to protect them when there—until “God or the President ruled out the mob.”
4. Thus ended the only effort that was ever made by the officers of Missouri to bring to justice these violators of the law. One class of citizens had conspired against the liberties of another class, and being the stronger had, without the authority of the law, or shadow of justification, driven twelve hundred of them from their possessions, and there was not virtue enough in the executive of the state and his associates to punish the offenders. The determination of the mob to resist the law was stronger than the determination of the state officers to execute it and make it honorable. And yet the constitution of the state made it the imperative duty of the executive to “take care that the laws are faithfully executed;” and the laws of the state empowered the commander-in-chief of the militia (the governor) “in case of * * * insurrection, or war, or public danger, or other emergency, to call forth into actual service such portion of the militia as he might deem expedient.” With this power placed in his hands by the laws of the state, Governor Dunklin permitted mobs to overawe the court of inquiry he himself had ordered, and allowed them to continue unchecked in their unhallowed deeds of devastation and violence. And while the mobocrats triumphed over law and order, the governor’s letters to the leading Elders of the Church contained many pretty, patriotic sentiments, but he lacked the moral courage to execute the law of the state.
6. The arms were never returned to their owners. Before Lucas received the Governor’s order, forwarded to him by the brethren, he had left Jackson county, settled in Lexington, Missouri, and resigned his commission. Subsequently Governor Dunklin issued a second requisition for the arms, this time directing it to Colonel Pitcher; but between the issuing of the two orders, the first to Lucas and the second to Pitcher, the arms were distributed among the mob, and they insolently boasted that the arms should not be returned, notwithstanding the order of the chief executive of the state.