On July 4th of 1838 Sidney Rigdon stood before a gathering of Saints in Far West, Missouri and “thundered out” the Saints’ own declaration of independence from any further mob violence or illegal activity and delivered an oration that has become known as “Sidney Rigdon’s July 4, 1838 Speech.”
There the Saints were gathered to celebrate the nation’s birthday and to lay the cornerstones of the temple. These were tumultuous times for members of the Church and their northern Missouri neighbors. Elder Parley P. Pratt, who had just returned from missionary service in the East, describes the tense conditions as follows. “War clouds began again to lower with dark and threatening aspect.”
“Sidney Ridgon’s Independence Day speech in1838 added more fuel to the Mormon-Gentile conflict. Thus the stage was set for the frightful conflict and terrible loss of life and property that followed. The Saints would have to pass through still more of the refiners fire before they could find peace.” (Church History In the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2003, 181-192)
The following is a selected and condensed version of the original oration – it being 6000 words and 12 pages – that hopefully will provide you with the tenor of his speech on that momentous occasion. There is a link to BYU Studies at the end of this text where you can access the entire oration.
One thing that becomes obvious in Elder Rigdon’s address is the tremendous love, honor and loyalty that the Saints had for America. It is very moving to know that in the throws of their tremendous adversity they still pledged their full allegiance to these United States of America – flaws and all!
Happy 4th of July!
Oration Delivered by Mr. S. Rigdon on the 4th of July at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri (1838)
Friends and Fellow Citizens;
By your request, I am called upon to address you this day, under circumstances novel to myself, and I presume as much so to the most of you … in grateful acknowledgments to our Divine Benefactor, on the anniversary of our national existence; but not before, have we been assembled by reason of our holy religion; for which cause alone, a very large majority of us is here this day.
As we advanced in life, we heard nothing else from our statesmen and heroes, but the perfection and excellence of our political institutions, and the superiority of our government, over all the governments of the world; whether they existed in former or latter times …
We have been taught from our cradles, to reverence the fathers of the Revolution … and every feeling of our hearts responds in perfect unison to the precept. Our country and its institutions, are written on the tablet of our hearts, as with the blood of the heroes who offered their lives in sacrifice, to redeem us from oppression. On its towers, the flag of freedom waves, and invites the oppressed to enter, and find an asylum. Under the safeguard of its constitution, the tyrant’s grasp is unfastened, and equal rights and privileges flow to every part of the grand whole.
Our government is known throughout the civilized world, as the standard of freedom, civil, religious, and political; by it are the acts of all nations tried, and it serves to expose the frauds, the deceptions, and the crafts, of the old world, in attempting to pawn upon the people, monarchy and arastocracy, for republicanism and freedom.
To preserve it, aught to be our aim in all our pursuits, to maintain its constitution unviolable, its institutions uncorrupted, its laws unviolated, and its order underanged.
In celebrating this, the anniversary of our independence, all party distinctions should be forgotten, all religious differences should be laid aside. We are members of one common republic, equally dependent on a faithful execution of its laws for our protection, in the enjoyment of our civil, political, and religious privileges. All have a common interest in the preservation of the Union, and in the defence and support of the constitution.
It is on the virtue of the people, that depends the existence of the government, and not on the wisdom of legislators …If we preserve the nation from ruin, and the people from war, it will be by securing to others, what we claim to ourselves, and being as zealous to defend another’s rights, as to secure our own.
If on this day, the fathers of our nation, pledged their fortunes, their lives, and their sacred honors, to one another, and to the colonies which they represented, to be free, or to loose all earthly inheritance, not life, and honor excepted. So ought we to follow their example, and pledge our fortunes, our lives, and our sacred honors, as their children and successors, in maintaining inviolable, what they obtained by their treasure, and their blood.
With holy feelings, sacred desires, and grateful hearts to our Divine Benefactor, ought we to perform the duties of this day, and enjoy the privileges, which, as saints of the living God, we enjoy in this land of liberty and freedom, where our most sacred rights, even that of worshiping our God according to his will, is secured unto us by law, and our religious rights so identified with the existence of the nation, that to deprive us of them, will be to doom the nation to ruin, and the Union to dissolution.
It is now three score and two years, since the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, caused the proclamation to go forth among the people of the continents, that the people of this nation should be free …and all this, preparatory to the great work … designed to accomplish in the last days, in the face of all people, in order, that the Son of God, the Savior of the world, should come down from heaven, and reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem …And it is eight years, two months, and twenty eight days, since this church of the last days was organized, by the revelations of that same Jesus, who is coming to reign before his ancients gloriously: then consisting of six members only.
At its first appearance, excitement began to prevail among the people where it made its appearance, and as it increased in numbers, the excitement increased. The first attack made upon it, by its enemies, was by false representation and foul slander.
This scheme not succeeding, the enemies had recourse to prosecutions… But all this not succeeding, according to the expectation of the persecutors; they united to all this power, that of mobs, driving men, women, and children, from their houses, drag[g]ing them out in the dead hours of the night, out of their beds, whipping, tarring and feathering, and otherwise shamefully treating them.
Under all this fire of persecution, the cause has rolled on with a steady course; the increase has been gradual, but constant, and the church, at this time, numbers many thousands …
In assembling on this occasion, our object is, not only to comply with the custom of our nation in celebrating the birth day of our liberties; but also to lay the corner stones of the edifice, about to be build in this place in honor of our God, to whom we ascribe the glory of our national freedom, as well as our eternal salvation …
Next to the worship of our God, we esteem the education of our children and of the rising generation. For what is wealth without society, or society without intelligence. And how is intelligence to be obtained?-by education.
The object of our religion, is to make us more intelligent, than we could be without it, not so much, to make us acquainted with what we do see, as with what we do not see. It is designed to evolve the faculties, to enlighten the understanding, and through this medium, purify the heart. It is calculated to make men better, by making them wiser; more useful, by making them more intelligent; not intelligent on some subjects only, but on all subjects, on which intelligence can be obtained: and when science fails, revelation supplies its place, and unfolds the secrets and mysteries of the unseen world … carries it into heaven and heavenly places, makes it acquainted with God, its Redeemer …
In view then, of what we have already obtained, and of what there is to be obtained, we have assembled ourselves together in this remote land, to prepare for that which is coming on the earth, and we have this day laid the corner stones of this temple of God, and design, with as little delay as possible, to complete it, and to rear up to the name of our God in this city, “Far West,” a house, which shall be a house of prayer, a house of learning, a house of order, and a house of God … accessable to all classes …
Having then knowledge of these things, and the voice of God being unto us … make a covenant with our God by sacrifice …But the day and the hour of his judgements sleepeth not, neither do they slumber …
Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we warn our fellow men, not only by precept, but example also, by leaving our former homes, to which we were bound by the strongest ties, suffering a sacrifice of the greatest share of our earthly possessions.
We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever, for from this hour, we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity.
Neither will we indulge any man, or set of men, in instituting vexatious law suits against us, to cheat us out of our just rights, if they attempt it we say wo be unto them.
We will never be the ag[g]ressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people; but shall stand for our own until death. We claim our own rights, and are willing that all others shall enjoy theirs.
No man shall be at liberty to come into our streets, to threaten us with mobs, for it he does, he shall attone for it before he leaves the place, neither shall he be at liberty, to villify and slander any of us, for suffer it we will not in this place.
We this day then proclaim ourselves free, with a purpose and a determination, that never can be broken, “no never! no never! NO NEVER”!!!
BYU Studies Volume 14, n#77DBE3 (To read the entire text click on this link and then on PDF download. Oration begins on page 517.)