The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt – Revised and Enhanced Edition
Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor
Letter to Judge Austin A. King
May 13, 1839
“Richmond Prison, May 13th , 1839.
“Hon. Sir – Having been confined in prison near seven months, and the time having arrived when a change of venue can be taken in order for the further prosecution of our trials, and the time when I can speak my mind freely, without endangering the lives or liberties of any but myself, I now take the liberty of seriously objecting to a trial anywhere within the bounds of this State, and of earnestly praying to your honor and to all the authorities, civil and military, that my case may come within the law of banishment ! enacted by Governor Boggs, and so vigorously enforced upon from ten to fifteen thousand of our Society, including my wife and little ones, together with all my witnesses and friends.1
“My reasons are obvious, and founded upon notorious facts which are known to you, sir, and to the people in general of this republic, and, therefore, need no proof; some of them are as follows:
“First: I have never received any protection by law, either of my person, property or family, while residing in this State, to which I first emigrated in 1831.
“Secondly: I was driven by force of arms from Jackson County, wounded and bleeding, in 1833, while my house was burned, my crops and provisions robbed from me or destroyed, and my land and improvements kept from me until now, while my family was driven out, without shelter, at the approach of winter.
“Thirdly: These crimes still go unpunished, notwithstanding I made oath before the Hon. Judge Ryland, then acting District Judge, to the foregoing outrages, and afterwards applied in person to his excellency, Daniel Dunklin, then Governor of the State, for redress and protection of myself and friends, and the restoration of more than a thousand of our fellow citizens to our homes.
“Fourthly: My wife and children have now been driven from our house and improvements in Caldwell County, and banished the State on pain of death, together with about ten thousand of our Society, including all my friends and witnesses, and this by the express orders of his excellency, Lilburn W. Boggs, Governor of the State of Missouri, and by the vigorous execution of this order by Generals Lucas and Clark, and followed up by murders, rapes, plunderings, thefts and robberies of the most inhuman character, by a lawless mob who had, from time to time, for more than five years past, trampled upon all law and authority, and upon all the rights of man.2
“Fifthly: All these inhuman outrages and crimes go unpunished, and are unnoticed by you, sir, and by all the authorities of the State. Nay, rather, you are one of the very actors. You, yourself, threatened in open court the extermination of the ‘Mormons’ if they should ever be again guilty of cultivating their lands.
“Sixthly: The Legislature of the State has approved of and sanctioned this act of banishment, with all the crimes connected therewith, by voting an appropriation of two hundred thousand dollars for the payment of troops engaged in this unlawful, unconstitutional and treasonable enterprise.
“In monarchial governments the banishment of criminals after their legal trial and condemnation has been frequently resorted to, but the banishment of innocent women and children from house, and home, and country, to wander in a strange land, unprotected and unprovided for, while their husbands and fathers are retained in dungeons, is an act unknown in the annals of history, except in this single instance, in the nineteenth century, when it has actually transpired in a republican State, where the Constitution guarantees to every man the protection of life, liberty and property, and the right of trial by jury.
“These, sir, are outrages which would put monarchy to the blush, and from which the most despotic tyrants of the dark ages would turn away with shame and disgust. In these proceedings, sir, Missouri has enrolled her name on the list of immortal fame. Her transactions will be handed down the stream of time to the latest posterity, who will read with wonder and astonishment the history of proceedings which are without a parallel in the annals of time.
“Why should the authorities of the State strain at a gnat and swallow a camel?
“Why be so strictly legal as to compel me to pass through all the forms of a slow and pretended legal prosecution (previous to my enlargement), out of a presence of respect to the laws of the State, which have been openly trampled upon and disregarded towards us from first to last?
“Why not include me in the general wholesale banishment of our Society, that I may support my family, which are now reduced to beggary in a land of strangers?
“But, sir, when the authorities of the State shall redress all these wrongs, shall punish the guilty according to law, and shall restore my family and friends to all our rights, and shall pay all the damages which we, as a people, have sustained, then I shall believe them sincere in their professed zeal for law and justice; then shall I be convinced that I can have a fair trial in the State.
“But until then I hereby solemnly protest against being tried in this State, with the full and conscientious conviction that I have no just grounds to expect a fair and impartial trial.
“I, therefore, most sincerely pray your honor, and all the authorities in the State, to either banish me without further persecution, or I freely consent to a trial before the Judiciary of the United States.
“With sentiments of consideration and due respect, I have the honor to subscribe myself,
“P. P. Pratt .”
1 Parley was pleading that the “extermination order” of Governor Boggs be used on his behalf. He knew he would never receive a fair trial in Missouri, so he asked Judge King to allow him, under the governor’s executive order, to be banished from the state.
2 The irony is that many of the leaders of the Missouri militia who laid siege to Far West also had driven the Saints out of Jackson County in 1833. In fact, some of the most notorious mobsters, such as Moses Wilson, were now generals in command of the militia.