From Historian to Dissident
Bruce N. Westergren, editor
“Your Humble Petitioners”
[p.111]The situation of our brethren after leaving their homes in Jackson in the most distressing circumstances, in the cold month of November found it difficult to preserve life in many instances, some fled with but few clothes, leaving their beds and bedding, others taking with them what they could carry, and running for their lives, women losing some of their children while fleeing for their lives and thus you may Judge how the poor saints have suffered after having given only a few hints of the distress.
You will find in one of the Nos of the Star printed at Kirtland[,] Ohio[,] a piece headed the mormons which will serve to illustrate (to be published.) Dated Feb. 1834.
I would here remark that a full account of the proceedings of the Jackson Mob is published in the Star at Kirtland commencing at No. 15. to the end of the volume. Liberty Clay County Feb. 19, 1834
To the Judge John S. Ryland of the 5th circuit of Mo.
Sir learning that a court of inquiry is to be held in Jackson [p.112]Co. at the next regular term of the circuit Court for the Co. or that some kind of legal proceedings is to Commence, for the purpose of obtaining the facts, as far as can be, to the criminal transactions and rioutous procedings, or bringing to punishment the guilty in that County[.]
We therefore pray your honour to avail yourself of every means in your power to execute the law and make it honorable, and believing that the testimony of some of the members of our church will be important, and deeming it unsafe to risk our persons in that County without a guard, we request that the order from the Executive already transmited, may be put in force[.]
W. W. Phelps
A. S. Gilbert
Clay County April 9, 1834.
Dear Sir [Governor Dunklin]:
Not with standing you may have become tired of receiving communications from us, yet we beg leave of your excellency to pardon <us> of this as we have this week enclosed a petition to the president of the United States (A[ndrew]. Jackson) setting forth our distressed conditions together with your excellencys views of it as well as the limited powers, with which your are clothed, to afford that protection, which we need to enjoy our rights and lands in Jackson County. A few lines from the Governor of this state, in connection with our humble entreaties for our possessions and privileges, we think would be of considerable consequence towards bringing [p.113]about the desired object, and would be gratefully acknowledged by us, and our society, and we may add by all honorable men.
We therefore as humble petitioners ask the favor of your excellency to write to the President (A. Jackson,) of the U.S.A. that he may assist us, or our society in obtaining our rights in Jackson Co., and help protect us, when there, till we are safe.
Are in duty bound, we will pray.
W W Phelps
Gov. Of Mo. A. S. Gilbert
Liberty Clay County Mo. April 10, 1834
To the president of the United States of America
We the undersigned, your humble petitioners Citizens of the United States of America being members of the Church of Christ reproachfully called Mormons, beg leave to refer the president to our former petition dated Oct. last. and also to lay before him the accompaning hand bill, dated December It, 1833, with assurances that the said handbill exhibits but a faint sketch of the suffering of your petitioners and their brethren, up to the period of its publication[.]
The said handbill shows that at the time of dispersion part of our families fled into the new and unsetled Co. of Vanburen being unable to procure provisions in that Co th[r]ough the winter[.] many of them were compelled to return to their homes in Jackson Co. or perish with hunger But they had no sooner set foot upon that soil, which a few months before we had purchased of the United States, then they were again met by the Citizens of Jackson Co. and a renewal of savage barbarity inflicted upon them, by beating with clubs and sticks, present-[p.114]ing knives and fire arms and threatning with death if they did not immediate flee from the Co. These inhuman assaults upon these families were repeated two or three times through the last winter, till they were compelled at last to leave their possessions, in Jackson Co. and flee with their mangled bodies, in to this Co. (Clay.) Here to mingle their tears and unite their supplications with hundreds of their brethren to our Heavenly Father, and the Chief ruler of our nation.
Between one and two thousand of the people called mormons, have been driven by the force of arms, from the Co. of Jackson, in this state since the first of Nov. last being compelled to leave their highly cultivated fields the greater part of which had been bought of the United States, and of all this [because] of our belief in direct revelation from God to the children of men, according to the Holy [p. 49] Scriptures[.] we know that such illegal violence has not been inflicted upon any sect or community of people by the citizens, of the United States since the decleration of Independence.
That this is a religeous pursecution, is notorious throughout our country, where accomplices in these unparallelled outrages, engaged in the destruction of the Printing office, Dwelling house &c. yet the records of the Judicial tribunals of that County, are not stained by a crime by our people. Our numbers being greatly inferior to the enemy, we were unable to stand in self defence. And our lives at this day are continually threatened by that infuriated people, so that our personal safety forbids <one of> our members going into that County on business.—We beg leave to state that no impartial investigation into this criminal matter can be made, because the offenders must be tried in the County in which the offence was commited, and the inhabitants of the county both magistrates and people, being combined, with the exception of a few, [p.115]Justice cannot be expected.—At this day your petitioners do not know of a Solitary family belonging to our Church but what have been violently expelled from Jackson Co. by the inhabitants thereof.—Your petitioners have not gone into detail with an account of their individual sufferings from death and bruised bodies and the universal distress which prevails at this day in a greater or less degree, throuout our whole body not only because those sacred rights are guaranteed to every religeous sect, have been publically invaded in open hostility to the spirit and genius of our free government, but such of their houses as have not been burned their beds and most of their products of the labor of their hands for the last year have been wrested from them by a band of out laws, congregated in Jackson Co. on the western boundaries of the State of Missouri within about thirty miles of the United States Military Post at Fort Leavenworth on the Missouri River. Your petitioners say that they do not enter into a minute detail of their sufferings in this petition least they should weary the patience of their Venerable Chief whos ordious [arduous] duties they know, are great and daily accumulating.
We only hope to show to him that this is an unprecedented emergency in the history of our country—that the magistracy thereof is set at defiance and Justice checked in the open violation of its laws and that we your petitioners, who are almost wholy native born citizens of these U.S.A., of whom they purchased their lands in Jackson Co. Mo. with intent to cultivate the same, as peacible citizens, are now forced from them, and dwelling in the Counties of Clay[,] Ray and Layfayette in the State of Mo without permanant homes, and suffering all the privations which must nessessarily result from such inhuman treatment, Under these sufferings, your petitioners, petitioned the Governor of this State in December [p.116]last, in answer to which they receved the following letter. City of Jefferson Feb 4, 1834.1 by the fore going letter from the Governor, the president will forgive a disposition manifested by him
Your communication of the 6th Decm. was regularly recieved, and duly considered, and had I not expected to receive the evidenc brought out on the enquired ordered into the Military conduct of Col. Pitcher in a short time after I received your petition, I should have replied long since.
Last evening I was informed that the further enquiry of the court, was postponed until the 20, inst, Then before I can have any thing from this court, the court of civil Jurisdiction, will hold its session in Jackson Co. [and] consequently cannot recieve any thing from one preparatory to arrangement from the other.
I am very sensible indeed indeed of the injury your people complain of, and should consider myself very amiss in the discharge of my dutyes even, were I not to do every thing in my power consistent with the legal exercise of them, to afford your society redress to which they seem entitled, one of your requests needs no evidence to support the right to have it granted, it is, that your people be put in possession of their homes from which they have been expelled. But what may be the duties of the Executive after that, will will depend upon contingencies. If upon enquiry it is found your people were wrongfully dispossessed of their arms of Col. Pitcher, then an order will be issued to have them returned; and should your men organize according to law, which they have a right to do, (indeed it is their duty,) to do so, unless exempted by religious scruples.) and apply for public arms, the Executive could not distinguish between their rights to have them and the right of any other description of people similarly situated.
[p.117]As the request for keeping up a military force, to protect your people and prevent the commission of crimes, were I to comply it would transend the powers with which the Executive of this State is clothed[.]
The federal Constitution has given to Congress the power to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections or impel invasions, and for these purposes the President of the United States is authorized to make the call upon the Executive of the respective States. And the laws of the state empower “the Commander in Chief in case of actual or threatened invasion[,] insurection or war, or public danger, or other emergency, to call forth into actual service, such portion of the Militia as he may deem expedient.” These together with the general provisions in our State constitution that, “the Governor shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed,” and call upon this bra[nch] of Executive power. None of these as I [p. 53] consider embrace this part of your request. The “Words, or other emergencies,” in our Militia law, seem quite broad, but the immergency to come within the object of that provision should be of a public nature. Your case is certainly a very emergent one, and the consequences as important to your society as if the war had been waged against the whole State, yet the public has no other interest in it than that the laws be faithfully executed, this for, I presume the whole community feel a deep interest, for that which is the case of the Mormons of to day may be the case of the Catholics tomorow, & and after them any other sect that may become obnoctious, to a majority of the people of any Section of the State. So far as a faithful execution of the laws are concerned, the Executive is disposed to do every thing consistent with the means furnished him by the Legislature and I think, I may safely say the same of the Judiciary.
[p.118]As now advised I am of opinion that a Military guard will be nescessary to protect the State witnesses and officers of the Court, and to assist in the execution of its orders while sittin in Jackson County, By this mail I write to Mr Rees embracing him an order and the Capt. of the “Liberty Blues.” requiring the Capt, to comply with the requisition of the Circuit Attorney in protecting the Court and officers, and executing their precepts and orders, during the process of the trials. Under the protection of this guard, your people can if they [p. 54] think proper, return to their homes in Jackson County, and be protected in them during the progress of the trials in question, by which time facts will be developed upon which I can act more definitely. The attorney general will be required to assist the Circuit attorney, if the latter deems it neccessary.
On the subject of Civil injuries, I must refer you to the Courts, such questions rest with them exclusively. The laws are sufficient to afford a remedy for every injury of this kind, and whenever you make out a case entitling you to damages, there can be no doubt entertained of their ample award. Justice is sometimes Slow in its progress, but it is not less sure on this account.
To Messrs. Very Respectfully your
W. W. Phelps (Signed) Obt. Servt.
Isaac Morley Daniel Dunklin.
John Corrill and
A. S. Gilbert
By the foregoing letter from the Governor will perceive a disposition manifested by him to enforce the laws as far as means have been furnished by the Legislature of this State, But [p.119]the powers vested in the Executive of this State seem to be inadequate for relieving the distresses, of your petitioners in this present emergency. He is willing to send a guard to conduct our families back to their possessions but is not authorized to direct a military force, to be stationed any length of time, [p. 55] for the protection of your petitioners. this step would be laying a more fatal tragedy than the first, as our numbers at present are to small to contend single handed with the Mob of said County.—And as the federal constitution has given to congress, the power to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, or repel invasions.—”And for these purposes, the President of the United States is authorized to make the call upon the Executive of the respective States.” Therefore we your petitioners in behalf of our Society, which is so scattered, and suffering, most humbly pray that we may be restored to our lands, houses and property in Jackson County, and protected in them by an armed force till peace can be restored, and as in duty bound we will ever pray.
Signed by 51 leading members of said Church.
Liberty Clay Co. Mo April 10. 1834.2
To the President of the U.S.A.
We the undersigned whose names are subscribed to the accompanying petition, some of the leading members of the church of Christ, beg leave to refer the president to the handbill and petition here with. We are not insensible of the multiplicity of business, and numerous petitions, by which care and perplexity of our Chief Ruler is daily increased; and it is with difidence that we venture to lay before the Executive at this emergent period these two documents, wherein is briefly por-[p.120]trayed, the most unparallelled persecution and flagrant outrage of law that has disgraced our country since the declaration of Independence. But knowing the independent fortitude and vigorous energy, for preserving the rights of the Citizens of this Republic, which has hitherto marked course of our Chief Magistrate, we are encouraged to hope, that this communication will not pass unnoticed, but that the President, will consider our locations on the extreme frontier of the United States, exposed to many ignorant and lawless ruffians, who are already congregated, and determined to nullify all law, that will procure to your petitioners the privilege of a peacible possession of their lands in Jackson Co.
We again repeat, that our Society is wandering in adjoining counties at this day, bereft of their houses and lands, and threatened with death by the aforesaid outlaws, of Jackson Co. And lest the President should be deceived in regard to our true situation, by the misrepresentations of certain individuals, who are disposed to cover the gross outrages of the Mob, from religeous, Political, and speculative motives, we beg leave to refer him to the Governor of Mo. at the same time informing him that the <number of> men composing the mob of Jackson Co. may be estimated at from three to five hundred most of them, prepared with fire arms.
After noting the statements here made, if it should be the disposition of the President, to grant aid, we most humbly entreat, that early relief may be extended to suffering families, who are now expelled from their [p. 57] possessions by firearms. Our lands in Jackson Co; are about thirty miles distant from Fort Leavenworth, on the Mo. River.
With due respect we are
Sir your Obt. Servt.
A. S. Gilbert
[p.121]W. W. Phelps
In Feb. last a number of our people were marched under a guard furnished by the Governor of the State into Jackson Co. for the purpose of prosecuting the mob criminally but the Attorney General of the State, and the District Attorney, knowing the force and power of the Mob, advised us to relinquish all hopes, of criminal prosecution to affect anything against the band of outlaws, and we returned under Guard without the least prospect of our obtaining our rights and possessions in Jackson Co. with any other means than a few companies of the United States <regular> troops, to guard and assist us, until we are safely setled.
Signed by the same as the foregoing.
Liberty Clay Co. Mo. April 24, 1834.
Dear Sir [Governor Dunklin]:
In your last communication of the 9th ints we omited to make enquiry concerning the evidence brought up before the court of enquiry, in the Case of Col. Pitcher, the Court met pursuant to adjournment on 20 of Feb. last and for some reason unknown to us, we have not been able to ascertain information concerning the opinion or decision of the Court.—We had hoped that the testimony would have been transmitted to your Excellency before this, that an order might be issued for the return of our arms, of which we have been wrongfully dispossessed, as we believe will clearly appear to the [p.122] commander in Chief when the evidence is laid before him.—as suggested in your communication of Feb. 4, [W]e had concluded to organize according to law, and apply for public arms, but we feared that such a step, which must be attended with public ceremonies, might produce some excitement. We have thus far delayed any movement of that nature, hoping to regain our arms from Jackson Co. that we might independently equip ourselves and be prepared to assist in the maintainance of our constitutional rights and liberties as guaranteed to us by our Country, and also to defend our persons and property from a lawles mob, when it shall please the executive, at some future day, to put us in possession of our homes, from which we have been most wickedly expelled, We are hapy to make an expression of thanks for the willingness manifested by the executive to enforce the laws as far as he can constitutionally, “with the means furnished him by the Legislature,” and we are firmly pursuaded that a future day will [p. 59] verify to him, that whatever aid we receive from the Executive, has not been lavished upon a band of traitors, but upon a people whose respects and veneration for the laws of our country, and its pure republican principles are as great as that of any other society in these United States.
As our Jackson foes, and their correspondants are busy in circulating slanderous and wicked reports concerning our people their views &c. we have deemed it expedient to inform your Excellency that we have received communications from our [people] at the East, informing us, that a number of brethren, perhaps 2 or 3 hundred, would come to Jackson Co. in the course of the ensuing season, and we are satisfied that when the Jackson mob get the inteligence, that a large number of our people are about to remove into that County, they will raise a great hew and cry, and circulate many bug bears3 through the [p.123]medium of their favorite press. But we think your Excellency is well aware that our object is purely to defend ourselves, and possessions, against another unparallelled attack from that mob. in as much as the Executive of this State cannot keep a military force “to protect our people in that County without transcending his powers.” We want therefore the privilege of defending ourselves, and the constitution of our country while God is willing we should have a being on his footstool. We do not now know at what [time] our friends from the east will arrive, but ex [p. 60] pect more certain inteligence in a few weeks. Whenever they do arrive, it would be the wish of our people, in this Co., to return to our homes in company with our friends, under guard, and when once <more> in legal possession of our homes in Jackson Co. we will endeavor to take care of them, without further wearying the patience of our worthy Chief Magistrate. We will write hereafter or send an express—during the intermediate time, we would be glad to hear of the prospect of recovering our arms.
With due Respect
We are, Sir:
Your Obt. servt.
A. S. Gilbert
W W. Phelps