Legislative action on the subject
November 1838–December 1838
The State legislature were soon in session; and from this body, so high in responsibility, we had hoped for some redress and protection. 1 Memorials and petitions from those aggrieved, and others, were addressed to the legislature, praying for an investigation of the whole matter, and for redress and protection against the criminal proceedings of the Governor and his troops, in seizing our property, murdering our citizens, kidnapping our leaders and others, and driving us from the State.
Yes, in fact, American citizens petitioned a republican legislature for the privilege of occupying and cultivating their own lands, purchased of the Government of the United States, and for the privilege of dwelling in the houses built by their own hands, on their own real estate. How strange! How incredible, in the nineteenth century! Who can realize it? And yet it must stand on record, and go down to posterity as a fact, a stubborn, undeniable public fact.
The following extract of a petition addressed to the legislature of Missouri, dated Dec. 10, 1838, Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, and signed by a committee appointed by the citizens, will show for itself the foregoing to be true.
It read as follows:
“The last order of Governor Boggs, to drive us from the State or exterminate us, is a thing so novel, unlawful, tyrannical and oppressive that we have been induced to draw up this memorial and present this statement of our case to your honorable body, praying that a law may be passed rescinding the order of the Governor to drive us from the State; and also, giving us the sanction of the Legislature to inherit our lands in peace. * * * In laying our case before your honorable body we say that we are willing, and ever have been, to conform to the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State.
“We ask, in common with others, the protection of the laws. We ask for the privilege guaranteed to all free citizens of the United States and of this State to be extended to us, that we may be permitted to settle and live where we please, and worship God according to the dictates of our conscience without molestation. And while we ask for ourselves this privilege, we are willing all others should enjoy the same.” 2
If the necessity for such a petition seems strange, how much more strange appears the fact, that such petition was denied by the Legislature of a State? And to crown the whole, all investigation was utterly refused; nay more, the Legislature itself became accessory to these crimes, by appropriating two hundred thousand dollars to pay the murderers and robbers for committing these crimes.
This last act of outrage sealed with eternal infamy the character of the State of Missouri. She fell to rise no more. She should be looked upon by her sister States as a star fallen from the American constellation; a ruined and degraded outcast from the family of States. The whole civilized world will detest and abhor her as the most infamous of tyrants. Nay, tyranny itself will blush to hear her deeds mentioned in the annals of history.
The most cruel persecutors of the Christians or Reformers in pagan or papal Rome will start with astonishment from their long slumbers, and, with a mixture of envy and admiration, yield to her the palm. As a State she has acted the part of a pirate, a wholesale murderer and robber. Every department — civil, military, executive and legislative — tramples all law under foot, and plunges into crime and blood.
Many of the State journals have tried to hide the iniquity of the State by throwing a covering of lies over her atrocious deeds. But, can they hide the Governor’s cruel order for extermination or banishment? Can they conceal the fact of the disgraceful treaty of the generals with a portion of their own officers and men at Far West?
Can they conceal the fact that ten or twelve thousand citizens, of all ages and of both sexes, have been banished from the State without trial or condemnation? Can they conceal the fact that the State Legislature appropriated two hundred thousand dollars to pay the criminals for committing these crimes; and this while the petitions of the sufferers lay on the table before them, praying for investigation, redress and protection? Can they conceal the fact that citizens have been kidnapped and imprisoned for many months, while their families, friends and witnesses have been driven from the State?
Can they conceal the blood of the murdered husbands and fathers, or stifle the cries of widows and orphans?
Nay, the rocks and the mountains may cover them in unknown depths; the awful abyss of the fathomless deep may swallow them up, and still their horrid deeds will stand forth in the broad light of day, for the wondering gaze of angels and of men — they cannot be hid.
1 Missouri had been a state for seventeen years.
2 Joseph Smith later wrote: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” ( Smith, History of the Church, 4:541; see also Articles of Faith 1:11).