"Exterminate The Mormons!"
"We will rid Jackson county of the 'Mormons,'
peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must.
If they will not go without, we will whip and kill the men;
we will destroy their children, and ravish their women"
One of the foremost concerns of the established settlers in Missouri at the time of Mormon migration was the slave question. In 1838 the twenty-six states of the Union were equally divided for and against slavery. Missouri was for it but Latter-day Saints were against it and threatened to upset the balance in the nation. There was far more than an ideology at stake. There was the searing question of economic consequences for those whose profits were related to the labour costs of a slave-economy. The Saints met vicious waves of deadly persecution. Of these, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:
July, which once dawned upon the virtue and independence of the United States, now dawned upon the savage barbarity and mobocracy of Missouri. Most of the clergy acting as missionaries to the Indians, or to the frontier inhabitants, were among the most prominent characters that rose up and rushed to destroy the rights of the church, as well as the lives of her members. One Pixley, who had been sent by the Missionary Society, to civilize and Christianize the heathen of the West, was a black rod in the hands of Satan, as well as a poisoned shaft in the power of our foes, to spread lies and falsehoods.
He [Pixley] followed writing horrible accounts to the religious papers in the East, to sour the public mind from time to time, besides using his influence among Indians and whites to overthrow the church, on the first of July he wrote a slanderous article entitled. 'Beware of False Prophets,' which he actually carried from house to house to incense the inhabitants against the church to mob them and drive them away.
Institutional anti-Mormonism among the clergy of other denominations and civic officers was well marked.
. . . all the justices, judges, constables, and sheriffs, and military officers, headed by such western missionaries as the Reverends McCoy, Kavanaugh, Hunter, Fitzhugh, Pixley, Likens, and Lovelady, consisting of Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and all the different sects of religionists that inhabited that country, with that great moral reformer and register [registrar] of the land office at Lexington, forty miles east, known as the head and father of the Cumberland Presbyterians, even the Reverend Finis Ewing, publicly publishing that "Mormons were the common enemies of mankind, and ought to be destroyed."
The view that some Missourians had of the Latter-day Saints is evident in an article expressing their opinion of Mormons and what they feared they would bring with them.
At a meeting of the citizens of Jackson county, Missouri, called for the purpose of adopting measures to rid themselves of the sect of fanatics called Mormons, held at Independence on the 20th day of July, 1833, -which meeting was composed of gentlemen from every part of the county, there being present between four and five hundred persons: the meeting was organized by calling Colonel Richard Simpson to the chair and appointing James H Flournoy and Colonel Samuel D Lucas, secretaries, -it was resolved, that a committee of seven be appointed to report an address to the public, in relation of the object of this meeting: and the chair named the following gentlemen to wit:: Russel Hicks, Esq., Robert Johnson, Henry Chiles, Esq., Colonel James Hambright, Thomas Hudspeth, Joel F. Chiles and James M. Hunter. The meeting then adjourned and convened again, when Robert Johnson, the chairman of the said committee, submitted for the consideration of the meeting, the following address:
"This meeting, professing to act, not from the excitement of the moment, but under a deep and abiding conviction, that the occasion is one that calls for cool deliberation, as well as energetic action, deems it proper to lay before the public an expose of our peculiar situation, in regard to this singular sect of pretended Christians; and a solemn declaration of our unalterable determination to amend it.
"The evil is one that no one could have forseen, and is therefore unprovided for by the laws; and the delays incident to legislation would put the mischief beyond remedy.
"But little more than two years ago, some two or three of these people made their appearance on the Upper Missouri, and they now number some twelve thousand souls in this county; and each successive autumn and spring pours forth its swarms upon us, with a gradual falling of the character of those who compose them; until its seems that those communities from which they come, were flooding us with the very dregs of their composition. Elevated, as they mostly are, but little above the condition of the blacks, either in regard to property or education; they have become the subject of much anxiety on that part, serious and well grounded complaints having been already made of their corrupting influence on our slaves.
"We are daily told, and not by the ignorant alone, but by all classes of them, that we (the Gentiles,) of this county are to be cut off, and our lands appropriated by them for inheritances. Whether this is to be accomplished by the hand of the destroying angel, the judgement of God, or the arm of power, they are not fully agreed among themselves.
"Some recent remarks in the Evening and Morning Star, their organ in this place, by their tendency to moderate such hopes, and repress such desires, show plainly that many of this deluded and fanatical people have been taught to believe that our lands were to be won from us by the sword. From this same Star we learn that for want of more honest and commendable employment, many of their society are now preaching through the states of New York, Ohio, and Illinois; and that their numbers are increased beyond every rational calculation; all of whom are required as soon as convenient to come up to Zion, which name they thought proper to confer upon our little village. Most of those who have already come are characterized by the profoundest ignorance, the grossest superstition, and the most abject poverty.
"Indeed, it is a subject of regret by the Star itself , that they have come not only unable to buy an inheritance, which means some fifteen acres of wild land for each family, but destitute of the means of procuring bread and meat. When we reflect upon the extensive field in which the sect is operating, and that there exists in every country a leaven that embraces with such avidity, notions the most extravagant and unheard of, and that whatever can be gleaned by them from the purlieus of vice, and the abodes of ignorance, is to be cast like a waif into our social circle it requires no gift of prophecy to tell that the day is not too far distant when the civil government of the country will be in their hands; when the sheriffs, the justices, and the county judges will be Mormons, or persons wishing to court their favor from motives of interest or ambition.
"What would be the fate of our lives and property, in the hands of jurors and witnesses, who do not blush to declare, and would not upon occasion hesitate to swear, that they have wrought miracles, and have been the subjects of miraculous and supernatural cures, have converse with God and His angels, and possess and exercise the gifts of divination and unknown tongues, and fired with the prospect of obtaining inheritances without money and without price - may be better imagined than described.
"One of the means resorted to by them, in order to drive us to emigrate, is an indirect invitation to the free brethren of color in Illinois, to come up like the rest, the land of Zion. True, they say this was not intended to invite, but to prevent their emigration; but this weak attempt to quiet our apprehension, is but a poor compliment to our understanding. The article alluded to, contained an extract from our laws, and all necessary directions and cautions to be observed by colored brethren, to enable them upon their arrival here, to claim and exercise the rights of citizenship.
Contemporaneous with the appearance of this article, was the expectation among the brethren here, that a considerable number of this degraded caste were only awaiting this information before they should set out on the journey. With the corrupting influence of these on our slaves, and the stench, both physical and moral, that their introduction would set afloat in our social atmosphere, and the vexation that would attend the civil rule of these fanatics, it would require neither a visit from the destroying angel, not the judgement of an offended God, to render our situation here unsupportable. True, it may be said, and truly no doubt, that the fate that has marked the rise and fall of Joanna Southcote and Ann Lee, will also attend the progress of Joe Smith; but this is no opiate to our fears, for when the fabric falls, the rubbish will remain.
"Of their pretended revelations from heaven - their personal intercourse with God and His angels - the maladies they pretend to heal by the laying on of hands - and the contemptible gibberish with which they habitually profane the Sabbath, and which they dignify with the appellation of unknown tongues, we have nothing to say; vengeance belongs to God alone. But as to other matters set forth in this paper we feel called on by every consideration of self-preservation, good society, public morals, and the fair prospects, that if not blasted in the germ, await this young and beautiful country, at once we declare, and we do hereby most solemnly declare:-
1- That no Mormon shall in future move and settle in this county.
2. That those now here, who shall give a definite pledge of their intention, within a reasonable time to remove out of the county, shall be allowed to remain unmolested until they have sufficient time to sell their property, and close their business, without any material sacrifice.
3. That the editor of the Star be required forthwith to close his office, and discontinue the business of printing in this county; and as to all other shops and stores belonging to the sect, their owners must in every case strictly comply with the terms of the second article of this declaration; and upon failure prompt and efficient measures will be taken to close the same.
4. That the Mormon leaders here, are required to use their influence in preventing any further immigration of their distant brethren to this county, and to counsel and advise their brethren here to comply with the above requisitions.
5. That those who fail to comply with these requisitions, be referred to those of their brethren who have the gifts of divination, and of unknown tongues, to inform them of the lot that awaits them.
Which addresses being read and considered, were unanimously adopted. And thereupon it was resolved that a committee of twelve be appointed forthwith to wait on the Mormon leaders, and see that the foregoing requisitions are strictly complied with by them; and upon their refusal, the said committee do, as the organ of this county, inform them that it is our unwavering purpose and fixed determination, after the fullest consideration of all the consequences and responsibilities under which we act, to use such means as shall insure their full and complete adoption; and that said committee, so far as may be within their power, report to this present meeting. Ant the following gentlemen were named as said committee:-
Robert Johnson, James Campbell, Colonel Moses Wilson, Joel F. Chiles, Hon. Richard Frost, Abner F. Staples, Garr Johnson, Lewis Franklin, Russel Hicks, Esq., Colonel S.D. Lucas, Thomas Wilson and James M. Hunter, to whom was added Colonel R. Simpson, chairman.
And after an adjournment of two hours, the meeting again convened, and the committee of twelve reported that they had called on Mr. Phelps, editor of the Star; Edward Partridge, the Bishop of the; and Mr Gilbert, the keeper of the Lord's store house, and some others; and that they declined giving any direct answer to the requisition made of them, and wished an unreasonable time for consultation, not only with their brethren here, but in Ohio.
Whereupon it was unanimously resolved by the meeting, that the Star printing office should be razed to the ground, the type and the press secured. Which resolution was, with the utmost order, and the least noise and disturbance possible, forthwith carried into execution, as also some other steps of similar tendency; but no blood was spilled, nor any blows inflicted. The meeting then adjourned till the 23rd instant, to meet again to know further concerning the determination of the Mormons.
Resolved, that the secretaries of this meeting send copies of the same to principal editors in the eastern and middle states for publication; that the Mormon brethren may know at a distance that the gates of Zion are closed against them - that their interests will be best promoted by remaining among those who know and appreciate their merits.
RICHARD SIMPSON, Chairman
S.D. Lucas ) J.H. Flournoy )Secretaries
The fears of the citizens of Independence are understandable when viewed in the light of this report. They were afraid of being outnumbered and overwhelmed by growing numbers of Mormon immigrants of whose blackened reputations they had received notice from hostile presses and were consequently fearful that they would be forced from their land as Mormons claimed to the "Land of Zion." Doubtless some Latter-day Saints had drawn parallels between their move to "Zion" and the settlement of ancient Israel into Palestine, and it is probable that many of the Missourians, similarly aware of Old Testament history had drawn their own parallels, recapitulate the fate of overwhelmed and displaced Canaanites. The fears expressed by the people of Jackson County in the above article may be summarised as follows:
1. being outnumbered by Latter-day Saint settlers, which they thought would lead to Mormon political and economic domination of the area
2. having freed slaves move into their town and its environs, which they considered socially unacceptable
These are the only fears expressed in a long article. The rest of the article is an emotional appeal to the feelings of Jackson County people and those in adjacent parts of the country. It portrays Latter-day Saints in explicit terms using emotionally loaded language to present images which exaggerated fears and overworked imaginations had cultivated. It is an image of hate constructed by ministers of fear.
Their characterisation of the Mormons makes impressive reading. They are described as:
• a sect of fanatics
• pretended Christians
• the very dregs (of other communities)
• little above the condition of the blacks
• corrupters of slaves
• intent on depriving the inhabitants of their lands by force
• lacking in honest and commendable occupations
• characterized by the profoundest ignorance, the grossest superstition,
and the most abject poverty
• coming from the purlieus of vice, and the abodes of ignorance
• claiming to talk with God and angels
• claiming to have been miraculously cured
• having gifts of divination and unknown tongues
• intending to force the inhabitants to move out
• a degraded caste
• producing a physical and a moral stench
• pretending to receive divine revelations
• talking contemptible gibberish when speaking in tongues.
Taken at face value the inventory of charges is dazzling and incriminating. Stripped of its emotional charge the catalogue is immediately less frightening. The charges can be applied to any faith group that establishes it own identity and believes and practices the charismatic gifts spoken of in the New Testament, a gift claimed by the objectors for, if they had not the spirituasl endowmenthow could they denounce the utterances of Spirit-moved Saints as 'gibberish?'
It is true that many of the Saints were poor, not from idleness, but as the consequence of their faith, for which reason they had uprooted themselves from their families, farms and homes to join the Camp of Israel.
Many Saints were forced continually to be on the move as a result of the same kinds and degrees of heartless persecution that the Jacksonians now threatened. The citizens did not give the Saints time to sell property and possessions, but drove them out at the points of guns. At this time the Saints who were not fleeing towards Zion were fleeing from it!.
The two complaints registered against the Saints were understandable; the designations of their characters and practices were not What is difficult to equate with those who claim to be both civilised and Christian people are the lengths to which they were prepared to go to get rid of the Mormons and ensure that none came among them. They were:
- to get the Mormons to agree to leave within a specified time or be expelled
- to force the Evening and Morning Star to cease publication forthwith - the first example of silencing the freedom of the press in the history of the United States.
- to force shops belonging to the Church to close within a specified time or be closed by force
- that Church leaders prevent further movement into the county, and advise those already there to leave.
The Saints did not reject these proposals but asked for time to discuss them with Church leaders at Kirtland, where the main body of the Church was. Their request fell on deaf ears. Then the Saints asked for three months to take care of their business before moving. This was flatly denied. The Saints asked for ten days. The citizens, now a howling mob, gave them fifteen minutes!
Although Article 2 of the Meeting's resolutions had guaranteed a "reasonable time," they were in no mood to be reasonable. Consequently, as the report states, the printing house was torn down, its press thrown out of a window, its type pied. The report hints at similar violent steps being taken without saying what they were. They add that no blows were struck and no blood spilled. Doubtless this was to persuade those who would read the report that although they had acted outside the law they had, nevertheless employed considerable restraint. This was a disavowal of what had happened. When the printing house was demolished, two of William W Phelps' children were in the living quarters and were buried under piles of brick and rubble.
The mob also burned many writings and books including the Book of Commandments that was in process of being printed. The citizens then turned their destructive fury on the stores of Gilbert, Whitney and Company, tearing the shop down and destroying its goods. Gilbert promised the mob that he would pack up and leave within two days, at which they ceased their vandalism.
The mob broke into many of the Saints' houses to take hold of Church leaders. Terrified families ran out in all directions afraid for their lives. Bishop Edward Partridge and brother Charles Allen were caught and dragged some distance into the town square. There they were given the choice of either denying the Book of Mormon or leaving the county. They would do neither. Bishop Partridge recounted:
I was taken from my house by the mob, George Simpson being their leader, who escorted me about half a mile, to the court house on the public square in Independence; and then and there, a few rods from said court house, surrounded by hundreds of the mob, I was stripped of my hat, coat and vest and daubed with tar from head to foot, and then had a quantity of feathers put upon me; and all this because I would not agree to leave the county, and my home where I had lived two years.
Before tarring and feathering me I was permitted to speak. I told them that the saints had suffered persecution in all ages of the world; that I had done nothing which ought to offend anyone; that I was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ; but, to leave the country, I was not then willing to consent to it. By this time the multitude made so much noise that I could not be heard; some were cursing and swearing, saying "call upon your Jesus," etc.; others were equally noisy in trying to still the rest, that they might be enabled to hear what I was saying.
Until after I had spoken, I knew not what they intended to do with me, whether to kill me, to whip me, or what else I knew not. I bore my abuse with so much resignation and meekness, that it appeared to astound the multitude, who permitted me to retire in silence, many looking very solemn, their sympathies having been touched, as I thought: and as to myself, I was so filled with the Spirit and love of God, that I had no hatred towards my persecutors or anyone else.
The statement in the report of the citizens committee that "no blood was spilled, nor any blows inflicted,"contradicts the truth about the pillage and personal outrage the mob visited upon the Saints. Whilst sparing no effort to blacken the character of the Saints they were equally concerned to mask their own conduct behind a seemingly respectable hypocritically deceptive tissue of lies, as if embarrassed by their actions against Mormons.
References to freed slaves in connection with the Saint's immigration are overstated. There were no more than half a dozen former slaves in Church membership in Missouri. The language employed about slaves, bond or free, demonstrates Missourians' deeply held prejudice against African Americans. The overt lack of respect for black civil rights is echoed in their bigotry towards Mormons. The extent of this bigotry and the lengths to which the mob was prepared to go to accomplish the resolutions of the 20th July meeting is shown by events which took place three days later.
A mob of some five hundred men assembled just outside Independence. They had rifles, pistols, knives, clubs and whips. At a signal they stormed the town behind a blood-red flag screaming oaths and threats. They tore down homes of the Saints in a desperate search for Church leaders, who they threatened to flog with fifty to one hundred lashes. While the mob was thus engaged, their slaves were ordered to destroy the Saints' crops. Their message was brief and terrifying:
We will rid Jackson county of the 'Mormons,' peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must. If they will not go without, we will whip and kill the men; we will destroy their children, and ravish their women.
That the threats were made by 'Christian gentlemen' did nothing to lessen the impact on Saints whose wish was to live in peace, follow their religion, raise crops, and enjoy their families. A major player in the drama was Lieutenant General Lilburn W. Boggs, Governor of the sovereign State of Missouri. He walked among the ruins of the Saints' homes and told Church members that he could not help them. His advice was to get out of the state.
You now know what our Jackson boys can do, and you must leave the country!
In course of time Governor Boggs issued his infamous "Exterminating Order."
October 27 1838
Since the order of the morning to you, [...] I have received by Amos Rees, Esq., and Wiley C. Williams, one of my aids, information of the most appalling character, which changes the whole face of things and places the "Mormons" in the attitude of open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made open war upon the people of this state.
Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operations and endeavour to reach Richmond, in Ray County, with all possible speed. The "Mormons" must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State, if necessary for the public good.
Their outrages are beyond description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may think necessary. . . .
Governor and Commander-in-Chief
No one who reads the story of the actions of the Missourians against Mormon men, women and children will be surprised that the Saints took up arms in their own defence. The extermination order is one of the most disgraceful acts of any sovereign state against the people it had a constitutional duty to protect. The harrowing story of the Missouri persecutions has been told elsewhere and does not need to be repeated here. Suffice it to say that as a result of unspeakable depredations the Saints left Jackson county, seeking asylum in Ray county, Missouri, whose citizens received them with sympathy.
Six months after Governor Bogg's order the last of them left the state of Missouri to establish themselves in country where no one else wished to live. The place was Commerce, Illinois, which was a waste swampland. Under the vital faith and creativity of the Latter-day Saints it became Nauvoo, the City "Beautiful." Following the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo was renamed "The City of Joseph."
HOME NEXT PAGE