Sidney Rigdon, Appeal to the American People, 1840

with Bishops, Presidents, &c., lest you excite the jeal ousies of the people, and subject yourselves to the same  calamities that have now come upon you. You have  always been the aggressors—you have brought upon your selves these difficulties by being disaffected, and not being  subject to rule—and my advice is that you become as  other citizens, lest by a recurrence of these events you  bring upon yourselves irretrievable ruin.
Amasa Lyman, witness for the defendants, being sworn,  deposeth and saith, that sometime in the forepart of Oc tober last, while on his way from De Witt, some two or  three days after the Church of Latter Day Saints left De  Witt for Far West, in company with a Mr. [James] Dunn, of Far  West, we were taken prisoners by a company of armed  men, numbering from 15 to 25, varying at times. They  had with them a cannon which they said they were going  to take to Daviess County, and were going to commence  a war of extermination with the Mormons, and in case the  inhabitants of Caldwell County interfered they should  share the same fate.
The name of the Captain of the company was W. B.  Henderson, who said he had once been called out to go  to Daviess County, and had acted as a Lieutenant in the  Militia, but he was now going on a different hook, because  he was free from Military law. The witness was detained  by said Company four days, during which time he heard  many threats againts the Mormons. They said they in tended to exterminate the Mormons and take their im provements and wives to themselves. Some of the com pany were for having the prisoners executed, as an off set against some of their men whom they supposed had been  taken prisoners by the Mormons; but on hearing they  had not been taken, our lives were spared. They said  they were going to be assisted by men from Livingston,  Ray, Jackson, Corrill [Carroll], and other counties, also from the  Platt County. There were some in the company from  Linn County. The witness in company with Mr. Dunn,  who was a prisoner also, was taken to a Mr. White’s in [p. 83]
While incarcerated at Liberty, Missouri, in March 1839, JS addressed a letter to the church “at Quincy Illinois and scattered abroad and to Bishop [Edward] Partridge in particular,” instructing the Saints to gather up “a knoledge of all the facts and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of this state.” (JS et al., Liberty, MO, to the church members and Edward Partridge, Quincy, IL, 20 Mar. 1839, in Revelations Collection, CHL [D&C 123:1, 6].) Edward Partridge responded with an account that became the three opening installments of “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” an eleven-part series published in the church’s Illinois newspaper, Times and Seasons, between December 1839 and October 1840. “A History, of the Persecution” will receive comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and will eventually be posted to this website.
Partridge may have intended to tell the entire Missouri story himself, but he fell ill shortly after publication of “A History, of the Persecution” began and died on 27 May 1840. Prompted by Partridge’s illness and subsequent death, the editors of the Times and Seasons, Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith, sought elsewhere for source materials to continue the series. It is probable that they composed the fourth installment to provide a brief transition from Partridge’s account, which ends in 1836, and the conflicts in Caldwell and adjoining counties in 1838. The fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from Parley P. Pratt’s History of the Late Persecutions Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates, 1839). In May 1840, the sixth installment reprinted passages from Sidney Rigdon’s eighty-four page pamphlet, An Appeal to the American People: Being an Account of the Persecutions of the Church of Latter Day Saints; and of the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri (Cincinnati: Glezan and Shepard, 1840). More of Rigdon’s work was reprinted in the eighth through tenth installments, published from July to September 1840. The series concluded with an eleventh installment in the October 1840 issue, featuring General John B. Clark’s callous speech to the Saints after their surrender at Far West, Missouri, in November 1838.
A manuscript version of Rigdon’s Appeal to the American People, referred to as the “petition draft” titled “To the Publick” and endorsed by JS, Rigdon, and Elias Higbee, was read to a conference of Saints in Quincy, Illinois, on 1 November 1839. The conference voted to approve its publication in the name of the church. Orson Hyde and George W. Robinson then collaborated to arrange for publication of the text in late 1839 and early 1840. Though no author is named on the title page, Rigdon was acknowledged as author when the pamphlet was advertised in the Times and Seasons in 1840 and 1841. JS and Elias Higbee had some expectation that funds from the sale of the publication would help defray costs of their trip to Washington DC in late 1839. In July 1840, a second edition was printed by Shepard & Stearns in Cincinnati to raise funds for Orson Hyde and John E. Page’s mission to Jerusalem. (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 103–104, 124.)
Although many of the events reported in Rigdon’s pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology is often inaccurate. (Consult the annotation in Histories, Volume 2 for correction to portions published as part of “A History, of the Persecutions.”) However, his account contains the text of several significant documents. Among these are JS’s 5 September 1838 affidavit concerning the 7 August 1838 visit to Adam Black and those of Joseph and Jane Young and David Lewis regarding the Hawn’s Mill massacre. Consequently, though in many respects Rigdon’s document is more advocacy than history, it offers access to some material not readily found elsewhere.