Opinions of the Press
Extracts from the “Columbia Patriot”—“Banner of Liberty”—“Boone’s Lick Democrat”—“Saturday News”—“Missouri Republican”—“New York Sun”—“Quincy Argus”—Minutes of a public meeting in Quincy—“New York Commercial Advertiser”—Public meeting in New York—Closing remarks.
November 30, 1838–March 16, 1839
Extract of a letter from A. W. Turner, member of the Legislature of Missouri, 1 dated City of Jefferson, November 31st, 1838, 2 originally published in the Columbia (Missouri) Patriot:
“The Mormon war is the most exciting subject before the Legislature or the community; it involves an inquiry the most critical of any ever presented to the Legislature of this country; one in which the rights of a portion of the free citizens of the State is concerned, on the one side, and the rights of another portion of the same citizens on the other. Upon the decision of this subject the character of the State is suspended. If, upon full investigation, it is found (and reported by the committee to the Legislature) that the Mormons are not the aggressors, and that some of them have been murdered, others driven from the State by military force, and others imprisoned by order of the Executive, then our character will be established as the most lawless invaders of religious and civil rights.”
Will the public believe that, with the foregoing view of the subject, the Legislature avoided an investigation?
The following is from a Missouri paper, printed in Callaway County, entitled The Banner of Liberty:
“The Governor of Missouri has negotiated a State loan with the Bank of Missouri, of three hundred and forty thousand dollars. Of this sum, two hundred thousand dollars are to go towards paying the expense of the troops called out to drive the Mormons from the State .”
The following is taken from the Boone’s Lick Democrat , a Missouri paper, under date of January 9, 1839:
“A letter under date of the 29th of November, 1838, has been written by Michael Arthur, of Clay County, to the delegation from that county in the General Assembly now in session, from which the following is an extract: ‘Humanity to an injured people prompts me at present to address you this.
“‘You were aware of the treatment to some extent before you left home, received by that unfortunate race of beings called Mormons, from devils in the form of human beings; inhabiting Davies, Livingston and part of Ray Counties.
“‘Not being satisfied with a relinquishment of their rights, as citizens and human beings, in the treaty forced upon them by General Lucas, of giving up their arms and throwing themselves upon the mercy of the State and their fellow citizens generally (hoping thereby to gain protection of their lives and property); they are now receiving treatment from those demons which makes humanity shudder, and the cold chills run over any man not entirely destitute of humanity. 3
“‘These demons are now strolling up and down Caldwell County in small companies armed, insulting the women in any and every way, and plundering the Mormons of all the means of sustenance (scanty as it was) left them, driving off their cattle, horses, hogs, etc., and rifling their houses and farms of everything thereon; taking beds, bedding, wardrobes, and such things as they see they want—leaving the Mormons in a starving and naked condition. These are facts I have from authority that cannot be questioned, and can be maintained and substantiated at any time.’”
The following appeared in the St. Louis (Mo.) Saturday News. The reader may draw his own contrast between the two statements:
“The Mormons —That self-afflicted class of people who has chosen the fancy name of Mormons has elicited some sympathy and well intended compassion from some of our charitable citizens, and two meetings have been called to devise means of relieving their present wants. Although many of the Mormons deserve hanging, as an atonement for their criminal proceedings and corrupt intentions, they are truly objects of charity.
“But if this intrinsically vagrant race (the Mormons) would relieve themselves from the humiliating necessity of asking charity, they should mind their own business, * * * abandon abolition, and apply themselves to hard labor, as those do who are actively engaged in attempting their relief. 4
“No attempt should be made to retain a single Mormon within the boundaries of Missouri. A colonization society might find advantageous employment in sending them all off to Botany Bay.”
The following resolves were adopted at a public meeting of the people of Davies County, Missouri, and published in one of the journals of the State:
“1st. Resolved, That we esteem the laws of our country our great bulwark, and the only safe refuge to protect us in this and every other emergency.
“2nd. Resolved, That we highly approve of the course of the Executive in placing Gen. Clark in command of the forces ordered out against the Mormons , and that his orders to exterminate and drive them from the State was dictated by the imperious duty of his office as Governor of the State.”
The following is from the Missouri Republican , published at St. Louis:
“To show our readers the amount of injury which is now inflicted on the character of our State, and which there is no means of repelling (the Legislature having refused to inquire into the matter), we copy the following from the proceedings of a—public meeting held in Quincy, Illinois, as published in the Quincy Whig of the 2d. inst:
“‘Mr. Sidney Rigdon rose and read the memorial which his people had presented to the Legislature of Missouri, and other documents, going to show the absence of all law and justice in the course the Missouri authorities had pursued toward them, from Governor Boggs down to the lowest grade of officers.’”
“After another had addressed the meeting the same account says: ‘Mr. Rigdon again took the floor, and in a very eloquent and impressive manner related the trials, sufferings and persecutions which his people have met with at the hands of the people of Missouri. We saw the tears standing in the eyes of many of his people while he was recounting their history of woe and sorrow, and, in fact, the gentleman himself was so agitated at different periods of his address that his feelings would hardly allow him to proceed.’
“We are satisfied that his address will have a lasting and good effect, sustained, as it was, by the public documents which he produced.
“We will not attempt to follow him through the cold blooded murder, by the mob of Missouri, of Mormon men and children, the violation of females, the destroying of property, the burning of houses, etc.
“In vain may the press in Missouri protest against these representations. In vain may we declare that Rigdon and his followers were doing injustice, misrepresenting and slandering our people, their institutions and officers, etc., the public abroad will judge us by the course of our Legislature. We have made our bed and must lie down on it.
“A friend, residing in Lafayette County, a few days since called our attention to reports in circulation in New York seriously affecting the character of the State, growing out of this subject, and requesting us to contradict them.
Most cheerfully would we undertake the task, but we know it is hopeless.”
The following is from the New York Sun . After giving some extracts from St. Louis papers, showing the outrages of the people of Missouri against the Mormons, the editor proceeds thus:
“That Captain Bogart must be very much like a blackguard and a coward, if he is not a decided candidate for both titles. He was one of those who started the horrible stories of the ‘cutting up of Missourians, fifty at a hatch, by the Mormons.’ 5 Probably he ran away from his company, and imagined the horrible stories he carried. The shooting down of a flag staff bearing a flag of truce is characteristic of the bravery of a coward, when backed by 3,000 men against 700.
“They must have a primitive mode of administering justice in Missouri. These Mormons are as much citizens as the others, and yet, without trial, upon the ex parte testimony of the persons who had provoked the Mormons to retaliation, the Governor issues orders, if we understand the case, for the expulsion of the Mormons from the State of Missouri.
“The Emperor of Russia, the Shah of Persia, or the Sultan of Turkey could not embrace in his own person more legislative, judicial and executive power than is here assumed. Legislative, in the enactment and promulgation of an edict of banishment. Judicial—extra judicial—in sentencing them to banishment under it. Executive, in summoning the force of the State to put in force his own judgment upon his own edict. Well done, Governor Boggs!
“We are sorry to hear of the massacre of the Mormons by the armed mob; however, this violence, being the natural promptings of infuriated men, is positively less culpable than the cool ignorance and impudent, illegal assumption of the Governor of Missouri.”
From the Quincy (Ill.) Argus , March 16, 1839:
“We give in today’s paper the details of the recent bloody tragedy acted in Missouri—the details of a scene of terror and blood unparalleled in the annals of modern, and, under the circumstances of the case, in ancient history; a tragedy of so deep, and fearful, and absorbing interest that the very life blood of the heart is chilled at the simple contemplation. We are prompted to ask ourselves if it be really true that we are living in an enlightened, a humane and civilized age, in an age and quarter of the world boasting of its progress in everything good and great, honorable, virtuous and high minded; in a country, of which, as American citizens, we could ask whether we are living under a Constitution and laws, or have not rather returned to the ruthless times of the stern Attila—to the times of the fiery Hun—when the sword and flame ravaged the fair fields of Italy and Europe, and the darkest passions held full revel in all the revolting scenes of unchecked brutality and unbridled desire?
“We have no language sufficiently strong for the expression of our indignation and shame at the recent transaction in a sister State, and that State Missouri , a State of which we had long been proud, alike for her men and history, but now so fallen , that we could wish her star stricken out from the bright constellation of the Union. 6 We say we know of no language sufficiently strong for the expression of our shame and abhorrence of her recent conduct. She has written her own character in letters of blood, and stained it by acts of merciless cruelty and brutality that the waters of ages cannot efface. It will be observed that an organized mob, aided by many of the civil and military officers of Missouri, with Governor Boggs at their head, have been the prominent actors in this business, incited too, it appears, against the Mormons by political hatred, and by the additional motives of plunder and revenge. They have but too well put in execution their threats of extermination and expulsion, and fully wreaked their vengeance on a body of industrious and enterprising men, who had never wronged or wished to wrong them, but, on the contrary, had ever comported themselves as good and honest citizens, living under the laws and having the same rights with themselves, to the sacred immunities of life, liberty and property .”
“Wednesday, Feb. 27, 1839. 6 p.m.
“The members of the Democratic Association, and the citizens of Quincy generally, assembled in the court house, to take into consideration the state and condition of the people called ‘The Latter-day Saints,’ and organized the meeting by appointing Gen. Leach, chairman, and James D. Morgan, secretary.
“Mr. Whitney, from the committee appointed at a former meeting, submitted the following report:
“The select committee, to whom the subject was referred, of inquiring into and reporting the situation of the persons who have recently arrived from Missouri; and whether their circumstances are such that they would need the aid of the citizens of Quincy and its vicinity, to be guided by what they might deem the principles of an expanded benevolence, have attended to the duties assigned them, and have concluded on the following
“The committee believe that their duties at this time and on this occasion, are all included within the limits of an expanded benevolence and humanity, and which are guided by that charity which ‘never faileth.’ From the facts already disclosed, independent of the statement furnished by the committee, they feel it their duty to recommend to this association that they adopt the following resolutions:
“Resolved , That the strangers recently arrived here from the State of Missouri, known by the name of The Latter-day Saints, are entitled to our sympathy and kindest regard; and that we recommend to the citizens of Quincy to extend to them all the kindness in their power to bestow, as to persons who are in affliction. * * *
“Resolved , That the committee last aforesaid be instructed to use their utmost endeavors to obtain employment for all these people who are able and willing to labor; and also to afford them all needful, suitable and proper encouragement. * * *
“All of which is submitted.
“J. W. Whitney, Chairman.
Quincy, February 27, 1839.
“Mr. Rigdon then made a statement of the wrongs received by the Mormons from a portion of the people of Missouri, and of their present suffering condition.
“On motion of Mr. Bushnell, the report and resolutions were laid upon the table till tomorrow evening.
“On motion of Mr. Bushnell, the meeting adjourned to meet at this place on tomorrow evening at seven o’clock.”
“Thursday evening, Feb. 28.
“Met, pursuant to adjournment.
“The meeting was called to order by the chairman.
“On motion of Mr. Morris, a committee of three was appointed to take up a collection; Messrs. J. T. Holmes, Whitney and Morris were appointed.
“The committee subsequently reported that $48.25 cents had been collected.
“On motion the amount was paid over to the committee on behalf of the Mormons.
“On motion of Mr. Holmes, a committee of three, consisting of S.
Holmes, Bushnell and Morris, was appointed to draw up subscription papers and circulate them among the citizens, for the purpose of receiving contributions in clothing and provisions.
“On motion, six were added to that committee.
“On motion of J. T. Holmes, J. D. Morgan was appointed a committee to wait on the Quincy Grays, for the purpose of receiving subscriptions.
“Mr. Morgan subsequently reported that $20 had been subscribed by that company.
“The following resolutions were then offered by J. T. Holmes:
“Resolved, That we regard the rights of conscience as natural and inalienable, and the most sacred guaranteed by the Constitution of our free Government.
“Resolved, That we regard the acts of all mobs as flagrant violations of law, and those who compose them individually responsible, both to the laws of God and man, for every depredation committed upon the property, rights, or life of any citizen.
“Resolved, That the inhabitants upon the western frontier of the State of Missouri, in their late persecutions of the class of people denominated Mormons, have violated the sacred rights of conscience, and every law of justice and humanity.
“Resolved, That the Governor of Missouri in refusing protection to this class of people, when pressed upon by a heartless mob, and turning upon them a band of unprincipled militia, with orders encouraging their extermination, has brought a lasting disgrace upon the State over which he presides.
“The resolutions were supported in a spirited manner by Messrs. Holmes, Morris and Whitney.
“On motion, the resolutions were adopted.
“On motion, the meeting then adjourned.
“Samuel Leach , Chairman.
“J. D. Morgan, Secretary.”
From the New York Commercial Advertiser.
“Meeting in Behalf of the Mormons
“Last evening, pursuant to public notice, a large meeting assembled at National Hall, to listen to the recital of the wrongs and sufferings of the Mormons, and to devise means for the relief of their women and children.
“The meeting was organized by placing Mr. Charles King in the chair, and Mr. Marcus Spring as Secretary. The Chairman having briefly stated the object of the meeting, and read the circular letter signed by Governor Carlin, of Illinois; Senator Young, from that State, and other residents, vouching for the trustworthiness of Mr. Green, who is deputed by this people to make their case known to the country, the Chairman introduced Mr. Green to the meeting.
“Mr. Green proceeded to give a plain, unadorned, and, as is believed, unexaggerated narrative of the settlement of the Mormons in Missouri, of the constant outrages to which they were subjected, and the series of persecutions which were only ended by their forcible expulsion from the State; and the surrender, without compensation, of the lands and houses they had acquired by their own money, or built with their own hands.
“Mr. Green was himself an actor and witness in many of the scenes he described, and he related them without any attempt at ornament or appeal to passion.
“When Mr. Green took his seat, Joseph Blunt, Esq., addressed the meeting with ability and great effect, and offered the resolutions that will be found below. He was eloquently followed and seconded by Hiram Ketchum, Esq. The resolutions were further supported by several speakers, among whom were Dr. D. M. Reese and W. L. Stone, Esq.; when the question was taken on them separately, and they were carried almost without a dissenting voice.
“Upon a suggestion from the Chair, that as the wants of the sufferers were urgent, good might arise from some immediate contributions a mechanic in his working jacket stood up, saying that having often witnessed the good effects of example on such occasions, he proposed, although, as he added, the sum he could give was humble, if nine others would do likewise, to give five dollars, and immediately walked up to the table and deposited the money. The challenge was accepted by several others, and a sum exceeding fifty dollars was collected on the spot.
“The meeting then adjourned, it being understood that, the committee named to receive and distribute contributions would at once enter upon their duties.
“Resolved, That as Americans, we have heard with shame and indignation the narrative given by Mr. Green of the persecutions, sufferings and lawless violence of which a body of American citizens have been the subjects and the victims, for no other apparent cause than that without hindrance to others, or violation of any law of the land, they had acted upon the right guaranteed them by the Constitution of the United States of a free exercise of religion.
“Resolved, That, without meaning to express any opinion whatever, as to the religious views or practices of the Mormons as a sect, we condemn and desire to bear our testimony against mob law, lynch law and all other forms of outrage and violence where an excited populace becomes at once jury, judge and executioner.
“Resolved, That the Mormons, as wronged, persecuted, exiled and defrauded Americans, are entitled to the sympathy and support of their countrymen; and that especially in behalf of the women and children, driven from their homes at the point of the bayonet, we appeal to the known benevolence of our fellow citizens at large for pecuniary aid.
“Resolved, That the Chairman and Secretary be a committee, with power to add to their numbers, to obtain subscriptions in aid of the women and children of the Mormons; such subscriptions to be applied after due investigation by the committee themselves.
“Resolved, That these resolutions be signed by the Chairman and Secretary, and published in the newspapers.
“Charles King, Chairman.
“Marcus Spring, Secretary.”
From the foregoing numerous extracts the public can see that my horrible tale of woe is not a fiction; but an awful reality. I might fill a volume with similar quotations from the public journals of every part of the Union, but I forbear, with the full conviction that the foregoing are sufficient to show that an impartial public, who stand entirely unconnected with our Society, as religionists, bear out my narrative in its awful tale of woe and suffering; and I now submit the subject to the perusal of all people, willing to meet my statements in the foregoing at the bar of Him who knows all secret things, and who judges righteously.
1 In this chapter, Parley masterfully juxtaposed sample newspaper reports from Missouri and New York with the feelings of the people of Quincy, Illinois, to report what he had experienced for the previous eight months. He draws upon voices of citizens (including some from Missouri) to call attention to the unlawful, reprehensible, and outrageous acts of Missouri’s chief executive.
2 Since there is no November 31, the actual date must have been November 30 or December 1.
3 The Prophet Joseph used language similar to this: “Therefore it is an imperative duty that we owe, not only to our own wives and children, but to the widows and fatherless, whose husbands and fathers have been murdered under its iron hand; which dark and blackening deeds are enough to make hell itself shudder, and to stand aghast and pale, and the hands of the very devil to tremble and palsy” (D&C 123:9–10).
4 For many reasons the Missourians in Jackson County distrusted the Saints from the beginning, a feeling that spread to Clay, Ray, and other counties.
“Many feared that they would be outnumbered by the religiously motivated settlers from the East. It was easy to predict that with a few hundred more Saints, they could change the political scene and wrest control of the county.
“Entrepreneurial Saints took over some of the Sante Fe Trail trade business from local residents with considerable success. They established a printing business, and The Evening and Morning Star, the first periodical in the area, was published. Because this was an exclusive newspaper, catering to the needs of the Saints, local and national issues were represented from that point of view. [They also published a community newspaper, The Upper Missouri Advertiser , which served both Mormons and non-Mormons.] Some of the Saints, too, boasted that a great many more members of the Church would be arriving soon to claim their inheritance in Zion. This caused great alarm among the locals.
“The Missouri frontiersman hated the Indians, while the Saints claimed the Indians to be one of the tribes of Israel and a chosen people. The Missourians were slave owners while the Saints were against slavery” (Proctor, Witness of the Light, 125).
5 See chapter 21, footnote 12.
6 The irony is that Illinois repeated Missouri’s conduct a few years later.