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Sidney Rigdon, JS, et al., Petition Draft (“To the Publick”), circa 1838–1839

Sidney Rigdon, JS, et al., Petition Draft (“To the Publick”), circa 1838–1839

These meetings were publick things, called  and held in the face of the goverment, published  in the publick papers. At these meeting, they  publickly, declared that they would put the laws  of the country at defiance, in order to accomplish  their object, as well as justice and humanity,  which finally they did.
In order to justify themselves in vio lating the laws of both God and man, the laws  of both the state of Missouri and the United  States, they had recorc recorse recourse to fabri cating and circulating the foolishest and senseless  lies, that mortals could invent, thinking, by  that means, to justify them<selves> before the publick. Such as  the saints were building building strong fertifications  bringing canon and other military implements into the  country; that wagons loaded with coffins were coming  in great numbers, and that these coffins were full of  amunitions and military stores. That the saints were  Coniving us with the Indians, and stiring up the  negroes to rebel against their masters, with a  multitude of like minded things of a similar  character; Which all tend to establish the ignorance  and corruption of their authors. To such low  and mean subterfuges we were the principle men of  Missouri Jackson county driven and vicinity  driven, to accomplish an object at which hu manity to the latest ages must recoil. We  shall give the names of the principle acters in this  scene of abomination, that the Amarican people  may hereafter know them.
After having, as they supposed  made a sufficient preperation to accomplish  their object, and fabricated and circulated , through the medium of their papers public  papers, a necessary quantity of lies to blind  the publick mind,— for they verily supposed  all the Amarican people were so distitute of  truth of and humanity as themselves— they co menced their opperations.
These scenes transpired between the first  of July and the middle of November 1833— [p. [1[b]]]
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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. 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). In May 1840, the sixth installment drew upon 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 the Barbarities Inflicted on Them by the Inhabitants of the State of Missouri (Cincinnati: Glezan and Shepard, 1840), a draft of which is presented here. Though no author is named on the title page of the pamphlet, Rigdon was acknowledged as responsible for that publication when it was advertised in the Times and Seasons in 1840 and 1841. Also, much of this draft is in Rigdon’s hand. 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.
The manuscript version of Rigdon’s Appeal to the American People presented here is referred to as the “petition draft” titled “To the Publick”. On 1 November 1839, Rigdon’s recently completed petition draft, endorsed by JS, Rigdon, and Elias Higbee, was read to a conference of Saints in Quincy, Illinois, who then 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. (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 103–104.)
Although many of the events reported in Rigdon’s draft and pamphlet can be corroborated from other sources, his chronology is often inaccurate. (Consult the annotation in Histories, Volume 2 for corrections 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 his 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.

Facts