Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839

<Joseph’s Bill of Damage  vs. Missouri June 4  1839>

Insertion in the handwriting of Willard Richards.  

Quincy June 4th 1839
Bill of Damages against the state of Missouri  An account of the sufferings & losses sustained  therein.
March <16.th> 1838 I with my family arrived in Far West  Caldwell County after a Journey of one thousand  miles being weeks on my Journey enduring great  affliction in consequence of persecution &c and expending  about two <or 3> hundred dollars. Soon after my arrival  at that place I was informed that a number  of men living in Daviess County (on the Grindstone  Forks) had offered the sum of one thousand dollars  for my scalp, persons to whom I was an entire strange[r]  & of whom I had no knowledge of the In order to  attain their end the roads were frequently  way laid for &c at one time in particular when  watering my horse in Shoal Creek I distinctly  heard 3 or 4 Guns snaps at me! was credible  informed also that Judge [Austin A.] King of the Fifth Juda◊◊  Circuit gave encouragement to individuals to  carry into effect their diabolical designs and has  frequently stated that I ought to be beheaded  on account of my Religion: In consequence  of such expressions from Judge King and others  in authority my enemies endeavoured to take  every advantage of me and heaping abuses getting  up vexatious law suits and stirring up the minds  of the people against me and the people with whom  I was connected altho we had done nothing  to deserve such treatment but were busely engagd  in our several avocations & desireous to live on  peaceable & Friendly terms with all men. In conse quence of such which threats and abuse which was [illegible] I was  continually subject to my Family were kept  in continual state of alarm not knowing <[illegible]> [p. [1]]
JS’s “Bill of Damages” was drafted as a petition to the federal government for redress following his six-month incarceration in the aftermath of the 1838 Missouri War. The bill includes an account of significant episodes during the Missouri conflict and a record of JS’s personal losses and sufferings. The narrative portion begins with the siege of De Witt and culminated with JS’s escape in Missouri on 16 April 1839 and arrival in Quincy, Illinois, six days later. The bill closes with a broadly itemized account of losses sustained and expenses for which remuneration was sought totaling $100,000.
On 20 March 1839, JS wrote from jail in Liberty, Missouri, to the Saints instructing them to document “all the facts and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this state and also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained.” (JS et al., Liberty MO, to the church and Edward Partridge, Quincy, IL, 20 Mar. 1839.) Following his own counsel, JS created the record of his Missouri losses on 4 June 1839, just a month and a half after his escape from custody. Robert B. Thompson, JS’s recently appointed clerk, acted as scribe for the document. It became the basis for the “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith, Jr.,” first published in July 1839 in the Times and Seasons. (“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith, Jr.,” Times and Seasons, July 1839, 1:2–9.)
Interestingly, the historical narrative recorded in the “Bill of Damages” bridges the chronological gap between JS’s last Missouri journal and his first Illinois journal. The last entry in JS’s September–October 1838 journal is 5 October 1838. On that date, JS left Far West, Missouri, with a detachment to reinforce besieged Saints at De Witt. JS’s “Bill of Damages” begins with the De Witt siege. The narrative portion of the bill ends with JS’s arrival in Quincy, Illinois, on 22 April 1839; the first two entries in JS’s 1839 journal take up his record again at precisely that point. (See JS, Journal, 5 Oct. 1838 and 16 Apr. 1839, in JSP, J1:330, 336.)
The published “Extract,” which was largely based on the “Bill of Damages,” was disseminated to the Saints throughout the nation via newspaper. The document helped shape the Saints’ memory of the persecution in Missouri and their pattern for rehearsing it. As part of JS’s effort to gain sympathy in the court of public opinion, the “Extract” contributed to the church’s campaign seeking redress for grievances suffered in Missouri.