Sidney Rigdon, Appeal to the American People, 1840, Second Edition

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 knowledge 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]). Among the earliest responses to JS’s call was Sidney Rigdon’s 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: Glezen and Shepard, 1840).
A manuscript draft of this pamphlet, simply titled “To the Publick” was presented to a conference of church members at Quincy, Illinois, on 1 November 1839 ([Sidney Rigdon et al.], Petition Draft, ca. Sept. 1838–ca. Oct. 1839, JS Collection, CHL). The conference voted to approve the manuscript and authorized its publication on behalf of the church. The pamphlet, when published, carried the endorsement of JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith as “Presidents of said Church.”
Orson Hyde and George W. Robinson collaborated on the publication of the text, which was available in print by May 1840. Though no author is named on the title page, Rigdon was acknowledged as author in an 1840 Times and Seasons newspaper article, and when the pamphlet was advertised in that church periodical in 1841 (“A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons, May 1840, 1:99; Advertisement, Times and Seasons, 1 Jan. 1841, 1:272). JS and Elias Higbee held some expectation that funds from the sale of An Appeal would eventually help defray costs of their late-1839 trip to Washington DC (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:103–104).
By July 1840, Orson Hyde and John E. Page had been authorized to produce a second, revised edition to be published by Shepard & Stearns in Cincinnati. Page related some of the circumstances surrounding its publication and circulation in a letter sent to JS, “. . . at Dayton [Ohio] we parted for a few days . . . Elder Hyde went to Cincinnati where in my absince he published a second Edition of the ‘Apeal to the American people’ (2000 copies)[.] when I arrived the work was about completed[.] after disposing of as many of them as posible and suplying the market about cincinnati and the adjacient country he left me with some fourteen or fifteen hundred on hand, to dispose of” (John E. Page, Philadelphia, PA, to JS et al., Nauvoo, IL, 1 Sept. 1841, JS Collection, CHL). Funds from this printing were to be for the express purpose of subsidizing Hyde and Page’s imminent mission to Jerusalem in Palestine.
The second edition was essentially a lightly edited reprint of the first, with a four-page “Publisher’s Preface” added. In the preface, Hyde and Page noted the purpose of the publication, explained the severe hardships imposed by the Missouri persecutions upon Page’s own family, provided a detailed account of a vision experienced by Hyde, and expressed enthusiasm about the prospects of the mission. The preface also contained a copy of an official letter of appointment and commendation for Hyde and Page from an April 1840 church conference at Nauvoo, Illinois, signed by JS, and a letter of reference from Thomas Carlin, governor of Illinois.
Although many of the events reported in both editions of Rigdon’s pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology of events is often inaccurate. However, Rigdon’s account does contain the texts of several significant documents. Among these are JS’s September 1838 affidavit concerning the 7 August 1838 visit to Adam Black and those of Joseph and Jane Young regarding the Hawn’s Mill massacre. Consequently, though in many respects Rigdon’s document from a historical perspective is more advocacy than history, it offers access to some important material not readily found elsewhere.