Parley P. Pratt, History of the Late Persecution, 1839

While two hundred houses to ashes were burned;—
Our flourishing fields to a desart were turned.
I remembered these crimes still unpunished remained,
And the like oft repeated—again, and again,
From counties adjoining, compelled to remove,
We purchased in Caldwell, Prairie and Grove.
And there ’mid the wild flowers, that bloomed o’er the plain,
Our rights and our freedom, we thought to maintain;
Nor dreamed that oppression would drive us from thence,
The laws of our country we claimed for defence.
But soon as kind autumn rewarded our toil,
And plenty around us began for to smile,
Our foes were assembled—being tempted with gain;
To ravage and plunder, and drive us again.
When many were driven, and plundered, and rob’d;
And some had been murdered by this dreadful mob,—
When cries for redress and protection were vain,
We arose in our strength, our own rights to maintain.
The mob soon dispersed, to the Rulers appealed,
Saying, lend us your aid, and the Mormons will yield,
For surely they never were known to resist
A mob when commissioned by Rulers and Priests.
This soon was considered by far the best plan;
And orders were issued for ten thousand men,
Including the Willson’s and Gillum’s of course,
And all the mob forces, for better, for worse.
These soon were forthcoming, in dreadful array!
Some painted like Indians, all armed for the fray!
The Mormons soon yielded without the first fire,
And the mob[b]ers accomplished their utmost desire.
Some females were ravished—and cattle and grain
Became a free booty—and one pris’ner slain.
Some twenty or thirty were murdered outright,
And ten thousand others were Banished the State!
By what law of the Statute to me is unknown;
But it must be by law all these great things were done;
For the next Legislature the expense to defray,
Voted two hundred thousand, the soldiers to pay.
To resist this oppression—These excellent laws,
Was murder! and treason!! (in technical clause,)
So while women and children were driven away,
Their husbands and fathers in prison must stay.
So now to the Jury and Judge I submit;
I’m not learned in such laws,—they may hang or acquit—
But though they should hang me, or keep me in jail,
The spirit of Freedom and Truth will prevail. [p. 84]
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 beginning in 1838. In April and June 1840, the fifth and seventh installments reprinted passages from Parley P. Pratt’s History of the Late Persecution Inflicted by the State of Missouri upon the Mormons (Detroit: Dawson and Bates 1839). The sixth and eighth through tenth installments drew upon Sidney Rigdon’s pamphlet, An Appeal to the American People. The series concluded with an eleventh installment in October 1840, featuring Missouri militia general John B. Clark’s callous speech to the Saints after their surrender at Far West, Missouri, in November 1838.
Pratt wrote History of the Late Persecution, the document featured here, during his eight-month imprisonment in Missouri jails in 1838–1839. His wife, Mary Ann Frost Pratt, daringly smuggled the manuscript out of the jail. After his escape on 4 July 1839 and reunion with the Saints in Illinois, Pratt left on a mission to England with the Twelve Apostles. When he reached Detroit he paused to visit relatives and arranged for the publication of his history there, obtaining a copyright for his book on 30 September 1839. Revised versions were subsequently reprinted in New York in 1840 as a pamphlet under the same title and as an expanded hardback with the title Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints. (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 89–90, 100–103.) Pratt later drew upon his history when he composed his autobiography in the 1850s.
Pratt’s History of the Late Persecution provides an autobiographical account of events in Jackson, Clay, Caldwell, and Daviess counties, Missouri, beginning in 1833. Some of the material describing events that transpired in Jackson County in 1833 was drawn from an earlier publication Pratt co-authored with Newel Knight and John Corrill, “‘The Mormons’ So Called.” History of the Late Persecution rehearses the conflict that engulfed Caldwell and Daviess counties, the expulsion of the Saints from Missouri, the mistreatment of Mormon prisoners by Missouri authorities, and the smuggling of Pratt’s manuscript copy of the History from jail, concluding with his narrow escape from imprisonment in Columbia, Missouri.