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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

“The Latter day saints” commenced their  settlements in Missouri, in the August of  1831. The first settlement was made in Jackson  county on the west line of the state, not far from  the missionary station of the Revd Isaac Mc Coy,  Baptist missionary among the Indians at the  time Jackson county was very thinly settled, the  greater part of it the settlers were, what is called  in the western country, “squatters,” that is, persons  who settle on the publick lands without purchasing  them. Some considerable part of Jackson coun ty had not come into market. On these lands co nsiderable settlements had been made, cabbins ha[d]  built, and some land cleared.
When “the latter day saints” began to  emigrate into the country, there was a good deal  of uneasiness manifested by a certain portion of  the settlers, at first, principally, by those who  had settled on the publick lands lest the new  settlers should be disposed to purchase at the land  sall sales, which were expected to take place that season,  the lands on which they had made improvements, or  enter such lands as might be subject to entry,  that they had taken possession of. But this une asiness gradually lessened, till it finally died away.  The sales came on, purchases were made by every man  as suited them him, and no difficulty occured; every  man went to building on and improving his land,  as seemed good to himself.
Shortly after the first settlement was  made, a considerable tide of emigration set in, which  continued to increase untill the summer of 1833;  by this time, the emigration of <the> saints was far  greater than that of all others. This began to  create great uneasiness, murmerings were and  complainings were heard, continually, about it,  and about the rapid improvements which were  making in the county. From murmering, they  went to holding publick meetings to take measures  to prevent the evil to put a stop to the emigration, and  not only put a stop to the emigration, but driv  drive those out of the county, who were settled there. [p. 1[a]]
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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