Sidney Rigdon, Appeal to the American People, 1840

In presenting the following narrative, to the  American People, it was the intention of the  Author, to present facts, and only facts. He  does not pretend to be personally acquainted with  all the things written in the following account, nor  with but few of them, except those which took  place from the 4th of April, 1838; but he has  documents on hand, from those who were eye  witnesses to the whole scene, from the commence ment in Jackson County, until the close.
From these documents, the greater part of  which, have been attested under oath; and the  remainder will be, as soon as the writers are called  on for it, so that the public may rely on its truth. [p. [3]]
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.