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

The following Narrative professes to be a plain,  unvarnished statement of facts, penned by one who  was a personal sufferer in the scenes which it unfolds  to the world. It makes few pretentions to literary  merit, being written in a cold, dark, and dreary pri son, and amid the chat, noise and confusion of several  prisoners; and in the midst of the howling, laughing,  contention, song-singing, gambling and blasphemy of  a gang of demons in human shape, who were placed  as guards over us. It was written by one who was  held in bondage, to be tried for his life, in a state  where all law and justice were at an end; the highest  authorities of the state having banished his wife and  three little infant children from their homes, robbed  of their all, to wander in a land of stangers, together  with all his friends and witnesses. It was written by  one who was daily in danger of being assassinated  while prisoner, and who, to all human appearance,  had no prospect of ever living to publish his work.  And even the writings themselves were providentially  and very narrowly preserved from destruction, and  sent out of prison by stratagem, when eagerly sought  for by those who dreaded to have truth come to light.  The fact is, a goose-quill in our fingers was more ter ror to the guilty authorities of Missouri, than the sling stone of the stripling son of Jesse, or the jaw bone in [p. [iii]]
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.