[From The Mormons by Gunnison, 1852]



THE leaders began to feel confident of sustaining any desirable measures and ruling the counties. Their followers had greatly increased, and were obedient to their will. They now injudicious! boasted of their power, and proclaimed that hereafter they shout not submit to vexatious lawsuits, nor yield to the violence of mob. The favor of the Almighty was on their side, and "one could chase a thousand." On the other hand, the older inhabitants complained of the loss of property, and alleged that no confidence could be placed in contracts made with the Mormons. When credit we given, they could not find the persons to collect dues: fictitious names were used to obtain goods and chattels, and when enquiries were made for certain persons, nobody could be found who eve heard of them. Also they began to fear that the doctrine of the Saints' right to property, would render their possessions insecure Crimination and recrimination became frequent and mutual. But we may readily believe that the fears of the Missourians were more aroused on the prospect of losing political ascendancy. In their meetings to consult on the alarming state of affairs, they resolve that " the rule of the counties should never be submitted to the control of Joseph Smith."

Peace and prosperity had given leisure for more sober reflection t the thoughtful and sincere among the Mormons. They began to consider the tendency of their doctrines, the uncharitableness of their principles, and the consequences to result from exclusive clan ship; but more than this, the truthfulness of the leaders and claim of their prophet. The result was, that many dissented and joined in the sentiments of their ncighbors. These were hated and feared far more than those styled Gentiles; and to expel the " traitors'" as well as to guarantee and protect against open enemies, the chief persons organized a secret society, with signs and " Key-words," called the Big Fan, and afterwards known as the Danites. These were sworn to obey the Presidency in all things, right or wrong; and drive off, or put out of sight in a mysterious manner, all who were obnoxious or irretrievably lost, to them; and suspicions strangers in Far West were to be removed. That persons suddenly disappeared or " slipped their breath" is often affirmed by themselves, but they say they were horse-thieves and vile wretches, who left society for its good.

The sanguine preaching of enthusiastic priests had infused boasting valor into the mass, and a warlike tone pervaded all classes against any who should attack them or dispute their pretensions,—the same as now prevails in the mountains against the ideas of oppression. Rigdon became excessively violent, and taught the Saints that they must expect to fight;—that traitors must be dealt with according to the law of the Lord, instancing the fate of Judas, whose bowels, he said, were trampled out by the Apostles; and Ananiap and Sapphira, who were killed by Peter. In a fourth of July oration, commended by the prophet in his Journal published among them, he threw down the gauntlet to the State and all opposers, and pronounced, " woe to them, in the name of Jesus Christ." They declared themselves able to march through the Capital, and if the mob obliged them to fight, they would not stop until St. Louis was in their possession. It would seem that the disgrace of failing to build Zion, as predicted, and the insults and injuries already received, had wrought up this leader, and those kindred in spirit, to desperation; and perceiving the mobocratic feeling rising a third time, they desired to overawe it, if possible, by a threatening demonstration, or stake their fortunes on the hazards of a war to the knife, by which they might clear the neighborhood of the disaffected; and on the plea of selfdefence, afterward make peaceable terms with the State authorities When such dispositions existed on both sides, causes "light as air " could bring them into collision; and mutual acts of plunder and retaliation became frequent. At an election of county officers an open fracas began. The Mormons drove off their opponent and confiscated property, and burnt some houses, after driving women and children into the woods, where considerable sufforing prevailed;—in one or two instances children were born of hous less and terror-stricken mothers. A company of militia w called together and were encamped on a small river, and we there attacked by a party of Mormons, and some killed; they sub posing the troops to be a mob marching to destroy their property.

Complaints of these seditions were made to Governor Boggs and he ordered out the State troops to enforce order upon all the citizens;—even if it was found necessary to exterminate the obnoxious Mormons, who were presumed to be the fomenters of the discord. The principal leaders were secured, and a trial had before Judge King; and Smith, Rigdon, and P. P. Pratt incarcerated. For the evidence and proceedings of this trial, the testimony of citizens, dissenters, and Mormons, reference must be made to the official publication of the State and that of the United States Senate. We are here dealing with events, and leave every person curious to know the truth or falsity of the causes of the war, to form his own opinion.

But in the account given by the Apostle Pratt (which is not there to be found) we have a picture of horrors and inhumanity toward his people which would surpass our belief, if we did not know that a lawless mob were the actors in the scenes, or an uncontrolled, exasperated soldiery. There were too many authenticated facts that make the blood curdle as we contemplate them, deny that foul injustice was often practised;—and the deeds savage brutality, whose disgusting details we pass in silence, make us sigh that they could be enacted by American citizens. Pratt avers that the flesh of their martyred comrades was cooked and offered to the prisoners in jail for food. At How's mills, twenty of his brethren were lulled into fancied security by professions of friendship, and when defenceless in a log building at night, they were coolly shot, through the crevices;—and after the massacre they found a lad of nine years of age, concealed under a forge, and, dragging him out, deliberately blew off the top of his head—the miscreant boasting of his manly prowess, and all dancing with the exultation of fiends incarnate

The prisoners were carried from one jail to another, and their trial for treason delayed; their sufferings greatly enhanced from the uncertainty which hung over the fate of their wives and children. At last these leaders escaped; while on one of the journeys, the guard sank into a deep sleep after a drunken frolic, and thence they found their way to Illinois, to join those who had preceded them.

The Mormons had been driven from the state. The sufferings of that defenceless multitude, whose arms and property had been surrendered, as they crossed the State to Commerce, on the Mississippi, over the bleak prairies, and amid the storms of wind and snow, in November, were most intense. The aged and the young, the sick and-the delicate women, the infants, and even those born on the road, houseless and unsheltered, were to be seen in that crowd of forlorn, persecuted, and unresisting exiles. The rivers were without bridges, the waters flowed with chilling anchor ice, the currents, swollen by recent rains, had to be forded or swum, as the delay of bridging would kill by starvation or cold. Thirty or more persons had been murdered, others were—sinking under exposure, grief, and hardship, and as one was relieved by death, a bark coffin would enclose him, and a wave of the prairie sea pass over the mortal romaine, and the sad cortege move on. Families wore scattered, widows with helpless children clinging to them, and piteously clamoring for food; hunger, want, and disease through all ranks—this was the exodus of a people under an inclement sky, from their homes of plenty and comfort. That fearful journey was made where fuel could scarcely be found to cook the scanty stores' and where cattle died of starvation, for they could not be trusted to range far for grass, and must be tethered at night, nor permitted leisure to graze by day, but convoy along the starving pilgrims to a place of refuge. All that brotherly kindness can do, was exhibited then—the crust was; shared with the first neighbor whose store was exhausted, the robust cheered the weak, and the hearts of all united in sympathy

But what have not those persecutors to answer for ? There is One who hath said, "vengeance is mine, I will repay," and if he that steals must restore fourfold, surely he that causes a pang of human suffering, cannot expect less than a like retribution in the future of Providence.

Twelve thousand persons arrived on the banks of the Mississippi in destitute plight; their tale of distress touched the hearts of the Illinoisians, and they hospitably received them. Provisions and clothing were hastily gathered and freely bestowed—this generous conduct is a bright ray, piercing through the murky clouds of that dark tragedy.

Let us reflect a moment on what has been presented before us. Can we blame a sad, revengeful remembrance of those times by the Mormons ? We may ask them to forgive—to forget, never. And has a remuneration been made them for the wholesale spoliations of those whose crime was laid in their mistaken view of the rights of conscience ? Note have heard of none. But we have heard that one appeared in Jackson County to sue out a writ of possession of his land, and the citizens collected and stamped him under their feet, until his bowels gushed out, and then buried him; this was all the homestead he secured. Such exhibitions of justice do not satisfy the mountain brethren that purity and right prevail in Missouri—yet, afar off, they are preparing memorials, praying permission to return, and fondly hope yet to possess the heart-beloved Zion.

Those who misled the credulous multitude in the war should have been punished. After the first conflict, they declared the war must derive its support from their opponents, and consecrated their cattle, hogs, and honey to their own use, under the names of "buffalo, and bear-meat, and olive oil." These contributions from the Gentiles were gathered by an armed band called the Fur Company, as indemnifications for losses sustained by the mobs. They forcibly drove out people, and inflicted some of the misery which they afterwards endured in their own exodus. We may admit that the rulers were corrupt, and ambitious of ruling that part of the country—these could have been secured and punished, and the innocent, deluded ones, saved from the awful misery which awaited them. To those surviving those times, a semblance of compensation can be made by giving them the cultivated lands of their mountain homes—it could only be a show of gift, for there they have well earned their comforts in toil and battle against Indian marauders.

This expulsion of the Mormons from one State to another in the closing months of 1838, is here stated as an historical fact; and it may show that this century is not so much advanced in philanthropy, that it will tolerate error of opinion without question, or that it seeks to correct it only by argument' and the enlightenment of general education. There is great need of progress in charity, and the knowledge of- treating what is ridiculous by letting it fall into contempt without notice. Crime may be punished and restrained by what raises folly into wisdom in the estimation of thousands.

This violence in Missouri gave a new impetus to Mormonism. The people were concentrated thereby, and unanimity of views and opinions again prevailed. The dissenters were driven away—the weak in faith were made strong, under the harangues of teachers who loudly proclaimed that so "Christ and his Apostles were made to suffer." They were to pass through like tribulation. But something more confirmed them. They had assumed the name and were included under the ban of extermination. After the storm arose, it was too late to evade the consequences;—they could not recant and receive favor with the mob. No credit would be, or was given to defections made under such circumstances,—it was looked upon as a ruse in order to save their property, and they vrere not trusted. Root and branch must be cleared away.

Thus every thing conspired to make them twofold more the children of Mormonism than before. And this, we observe, has been the case with several dissenters. They have gone back to the first love:—they feel a stigma rests on them for having once joined that belief, and their vanity is more powerful than their judgment. These "brands from the burning " are received with open arms, for they show that other religions are unsatisfactory' and they are the proud trophies of victory of the new religion;— no wonder that the unstable seek for peace, in a delusion that treats them so kindly. Even the most notorious, such as Rigdon and Cowdery, former members of the first dynasty, have been invited to return, we are informed.

It is remarkable that the wife of the Prophet, "Emma, the Elect Lady," according to his Revelation, and the first three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, who affirm that " an angel came down from heaven " and laid the golden plates " before their eyes " and that " the voice of God " declared the truth of them in their hearing; also the chief of the Eight witnesses who declare with "words of truth and soberness" they handled them with their hands; together with Martin Harris and the Editor of the Gospel Messenger' and some of the ablest advocates of the doctrines in earlier times,—have left the society, without apparently affecting the faith or enthusiasm of the later converts. It was when these men were leaving that the Danite band was formed to fan them' and keep their mouths closed, and others from deserting,—they were the fruits of peace and prosperity.


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001