Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839

holding out the inducement that we were to be  reinstated to our former priveledges: but instead of  being taken to Caldwell we were taken to Richmond  w[h]ere we immured in Prison and bound in—  Chains. After we were thus situated we were under  the charge of Colonel [Sterling] Price of Chariton County  who suffered us to be abused in every maner which  the people thought propper: our situation at this time  was truly painful: we were taken before the  Court of inquiry but in consequence of the proceedi[n]g  of the mob and there threats we were not able to get  such witnesses as would have been servicable. Even  those we had were abused by the states attorney  at the Court and were not permitted to be exam ind by the Court as the laws direct——
We were committed to Liberty Jail and petitio[n]ed  to Judge Hernham for a writ of Habeas Corpus but  on account owening [owing] to the prejudice of the Jailor  all communication was entirely cut off however  at lengthe we succeeded in getting a petition convey ed to the Judge but he neglected <to> paying any  attention to it for Fourteen days and kept us  in suspence: he then ordered us to appear before  him but he utterly refused to hear any of our  witnesses which we had been at great trouble  in providing— Our Laweys [lawyers] likewise refused to  act being afraid of the people: <We likewise  petitioned to Judge King and to the Judges of the supreme Court  but withe the same success— they utterly refused us>
Our vittuals were of the coarsest kind and served  up in a manner which was disgusting after  bearing up under repeated injuries we were  removed to Davies County under a strong guard  we were then arraigned before the grand Jury  who were mostly intoxicated: who indicted me  and the the rest of me companions for Treason [p. 7]
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.