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William Phelps-Address To Governor Dunkin



WE, the undersigned, citizens of the republic of the United States of America, inhabitants of the State of Missouri, and residents of Jackson county, members of the church of Jesus Christ, (vulgarly called Mormons,) believing in God, and worshiping him according to his revealed will contained in the holy bible, and the fulness of the gospel contained in the book of Mormon, and the revelations and commandments of God through Jesus Christ, respectfully show:—

That, we your petitioners, having purchased lands of the United States, and of the State of Missouri, and of the inhabitants of said State for the purpose of improving the same and peaceably enjoying our rights, privileges, immunities, and religion, according to the Constitution and laws of the State and National Governments, have suffered unjustly and unlawfully in property, in person, and in reputation, as follows: First, in the spring of 1832, some persons, in the deadly hours of the night, commenced stoning or brick-batting some of our houses and breaking in our windows, disturbing ourselves, our wives and our children, and also, some few days after, they called a county meeting to consult measures to remove us, but after some confusion among themselves, they dispersed with doing no more than threatening, on that day. In the fall of the same year, they or some one, burned a large quantity of hay in the stack; and soon after commenced shooting into some of our houses, and at many times insulting with abusive language.

Secondly, about the middle of July last, yea, in fact, previous, they commenced brick-batting our houses again, and breaking in our windows. At this time, July 18th, the following document was in circulation:

"We, the undersigned, citizens of Jackson county, believeing that an important crisis is at hand, as regards our civil society, in consequence of a pretended religious sect of people, that have settled and are still settling in our county, styling themselves Mormons, and intending, as we do to rid our society 'peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must,' and believing as we do, that the arm of the civil law does not afford us a guarantee, or at least a sufficient one against the evils which are now inflicted upon us, and seem to be increasing by the said religious sect, deem it expedient, and of the highest importance to form ourselves into a company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose, a purpose which we deem it almost superfluous to say, is justified as well by the law of nature, as by the law of self preservation.

It is more than two years since the first of these fanatics, or knaves, (for one or the other they undoubtedly are,) made their first appearance amongst us, and pretending as they did, and now do to hold personal communion and converse face to face with the most high God, to receive communications and revelations direct from heaven; to heal the sick by laying on hands, and in short, to perform all the wonder working miracles wrought by the inspired apostles and prophets of old.

We believed them deluded fanatics or weak and designing knaves, and that they and their pretentions would soon pass away; but in this we were deceived. The arts of a few designing leaders amongst them have thus far succeeded in holding them together as a society, and since the arrival of the first of them they have been daily increasing in numbers, and if they had been respectable citizens in society, and thus deluded they would have been entitled to our pity rather than to our contempt and hatred: but from their appearance, from their manners, and from their conduct, since their coming among us, we have every reason to fear, that with but very few exceptions, they were of the very dregs of that society from which they came, lazy, idle and vicious. This we conceive is not idle assertion, but a fact susceptible of proof, for with these few exceptions above named, they brought into our county little or no property with them, and left less behind them, and we infer, that those only, yoked themselves to the Mormon car, who had nothing earthly or heavenly, to lose by the change; and we fear that if some of the leaders amongst them, had paid the forfeit due to crime, instead of being chosen embassadors of the most High, they would have been inmates of solitary cells. But their conduct here stamps their characters in their true colors. More than a year since, it was ascertained that they had been tampering with our slaves, and endeavoring to sow dissentions and raise seditious amongst them. Of this their mormon leaders were informed, and they said they would deal with any of their members who should again, in like case offend, but how specious are appearances, in a late numbers of the Star, published in Independence by the leaders of the sect, there is an article inviting free negroes and mulattoes from other States to become mormons and remove and settle among us, this exhibits them in still more odious colors. It manifests a desire on the part of their society, to inflict on our society an injury that they know would be to us entirely insupportable, and one of the surest means of driving us from the county; for it would require none of the supernatural gifts that they pretend to, to see that the introduction of such a cast amongst us, would corrupt our blacks and instigate them to bloodsheds.

They openly blaspheme the most high God, and cast contempt on his holy religion, by pretending to receive revelations direct from heaven, by pretending to speak unknown tongues; by direct inspiration, and by diverse pretences derogatory of God and religion, and to the utter subversion of human reason:

They declare openly that their God hath given them this county of land, and that sooner or later they must and will have the possession of our lands for an inheritance, and in fine they have conducted themselves on many other occasions in such a manner, that we believe it a duty we owe ourselves, to our wives and children, to the cause of public morals, to remove them from among us, as we are not prepared to give up our pleasant places, and goodly possessions to them, or to receive into the bosom of our families, as fit companions for our wives and daughters the degraded and corrupted free negroes and mulattoes, that are now invited to settle among us.

Under such a state of things, even our beautiful county would cease to be a desirable residence, and our situation intolerable! We, therefore agree, that after timely warning, and receiving an adequate compensation for what little property they cannot take with them, they refuse to leave us in peace, as they found us, we agree to use such means as may be sufficient to remove them, and to that end we each pledge to each other our bodily powers, our lives, fortunes, and sacred honors.

We will meet at the court house at the town of Independence, on Saturday next, 20 Inst. to consult ulterior movements."

Among the hundreds of names attached to the above document were:—

Lewis Franklin, Jailor. N. K. Olmstead, M. D.

Samuel C. Owens, County Clerk. John Smith, J. P.

Russel Hicks, Deputy Clerk. Sam'l. Weston, J. P.

R. W. Cummins, Indian Agent. William Brown, Const.

Jones H. Flournoy, P. Master. Abner F. Staples, Capt.

S. D. Lucas, Col. and Judge of the Court.

Thomas Piteher, Deputy Const.

Moses G. Wilson, Merchants

Henry Childs, Att'y, at Law. Thomas Wilson, Merchants

On Saturday the 20th. July last, according to the foregoing document there assembled suddenly in the town of Independence at the court house, between four and five hundred persons who sent Robert Johnson, James Campbell, Moses Willson, Joel F. Childs, Richard Fristoe, Abner F. Staples, Gan Johnson, Lewis Franklin, Russell Hicks, S. D. Lucas, Thomas Wilson, James M. Hunter, and Richard Simpson, to some of your petitioners namely, Edward Partrage, A. S. Gilbert, John Corril, Isaac Morley, John Whitmer, and W. W. Phelps, and demanded that we should immediately stop the publication of the Evening and Morning Star, and close printing in Jackson county, and that we as Elders of said church should agree to remove out of the county forthwith. We asked for three months for consideration—They would not grant it—We asked for ten days—They would not grant it but said fifteen minutes was the longest, and refused to hear any reasons: Of course the conversation broke up.

The four or five hundred persons, us a Mob, then proceeded to demolish or raise to the ground, the printing office and dwelling house of W. W. Phelps, & Co. Mrs. Phelps, with a sick infant child and the rest of her children, together with the furniture in the house, were thrown out doors; the press was broken, the type pied—the book work, furniture, apparatus, property, &c. of the office were principally destroyed and the office thrown down, whereby seven hands were thrown out of employment and three families left destitute of the means of subsistence.

The loss of the whole office, including the stoppage of the Evening and Morning Star, a monthly paper, and the Upper Missouri Advertiser, a weekly paper, was about six thousand dollars, without the damages, which must result in consequence of their suspension.

The mob then proceeded to demolish the store house and destroy the goods of Gilbert Whitney, & Co. but Mr. Gilbert assuring them that the goods should be packed by the 23rd Inst: they then stopped the destruction of property and proceeded to do personal violence. They took Edward Partridge, the bishop of the church from his dwelling house by force, and a Mr. Allen, and stripping them of their coats, vests and hats, or caused them to do it themselves, tarred and feathered them in the presence of the mob before the court house. They caught other members of the church to serve them in like manner, but they made their escape—With horrid yells and the most blasphemous epithets, they sought for other leading Elders, but found them not—It being late, they adjourned until the 23rd. Inst.

On the 23 Inst. early in the day, the mob again assembled to the number of about 500, many of them armed with rifles, dirks, pistols, clubs and whips; one or two companies riding into town bearing the red flag, raising again the HORRID YELL—They proceeded to take some of the leading elders by force declaring it to be their intention to whip them from fifty to five hundred lashes apiece, to demolish their dwelling houses, and let their negroes lose to go through our plantations and lay open our fields for the destruction of our crops.

Whereupon John Corril, John Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, A. S. Gilbert, Edward Partridge, and Isaac Morley, made no resistance, but offered themselves a ransom for the church, willing to be scourged or die, if that would appease their anger toward the church, but being assured by the mob that every man, woman, and child would be whipped or scourged until they were driven out of the county, as the mob declared that they or the mormons must leave the county, or they or the mormons must die.

The mob then chose a new committee, consisting of Samuel C. Owens, Lconidas Oldham,' G. W. Simpson, M. L. Irwin, John Harris, Henry Childs, Harvey H. Younger, Hugh L. Breazeal, N. K. Olmstead, James G. Sadler, William Bowers, Benjamin Majors, Zachariah Waller, Harman Gregg, Aaron Overton and Samuel Weston, who with Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley, John Corril, W. W. Phelps, A. S. Gilbert and John Whitner, entered into the following stipulation.

"Memorandum of agreement between the undersigned of the mormon society, in Jackson county Missouri, and a committee appointed by a public meeting of the citizens of said county, made the 23rd day of July, 1833.

It is understood that the undersigned members of the society, do give their solemn pledge each for himself, as follows to wit:—

That Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, Wm. E. McLellin, Edward Partridge, Lyman Wight, Simeon Carter, Peter and John Whitmer, and Harvey Whitlock, shall remove with their families out of this county on or before the first day of January next, and that they, as well as the two herein after named, use all their influence to induce all the brethren now here to remove as soon as possible—One half, say, by the first of January next, and all by the first day of April next. To advise and try all means in their power to stop any more of their sect from moving to this county, and as to those now on the road, they will use their influence to prevent their settling permanently in the county, but that they shall only make arrangements for temporary shelter, till a new location is agreed on for the society. John Corril and A. S. Gilbert are allowed to remain as general agents to wind up the business of the society, so long as necessity shall requires; and said Gilbert may sell out his merchandise now on hand, but is to make no new importations.—

The Star is not again to be published, nor a press set up by any of the society in this county.—

If the said Edward Partridge, and W. W. Phelps move their families by the first day of January as aforesaid, that they themselves will be allowed to go and come in order to transact and wind up their business.

The committee pledge themselves to use all their influence to prevent any violence being used so long as a compliance with the foregoing terms is observed by the parties concerned." To which agreement is subscribed the names of the above named committee, as also those of the mormon brethren named in the report as having been present.

The damages, which your petitioners have sustained in consequence of this outrage and stipulation are, at present, incalculable. A great number of industrious inhabitants who were dependent on their labors for support, have been thrown out of employment and are kept so by the threatenings of those who composed the mob. [See their resolutions as published in the Western Monitor number 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.] In estimating the damages which have resulted from the beginning to this time from those illegal and inhuman proceedings against your poor and persecuted petitioners, were they to name many thousands of dollars, it would be short of a remuneration. Most of the mechanic's shops have been closed, two pair of Blacksmith's bellows have been cut in pieces. Our merchant, as you will see by the foregoing stipulation, has been forbidden to import or bring into the county any more goods, by which his business has been ruined. Soon after the above stipulation was made, some of your petitioners proceeded to make a new location in Van Buren county on the south, but the settlers in that county drew up an agreement among themselves to drive us from that county after we had commenced laboring there, they threatened to shoot our cattle and destroy our labor, and in fact, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but we have not where to lay our heads"—We were obliged to return.

Since the stipulation was entered into, some of our houses have been broken open and the inmates threatened to be shot if they stirred, and also, some of our houses have been stoned or brick-batted.

Also, that since some publications, have appeared in the Western Monitor and other papers, censuring the conduct of the mob, the leaders have began to threaten life, declaring that if any of the mormons attempted to seek re-Aress by law or otherwise, for character, person or property, they should die!

NOW THEREFORE, for ourselves, as members of the church, we declare, with the exception of poverty, which has not yet become a crime, by the laws of the land, that the crimes charged against us, (so far as we are acquainted,) contained in the documents above written, and those in the proceedings of the mob, as published in the Western Monitor of August 2nd, are not true. In relation to inviting free people of color to emigrate to this section of country—And other matters relative to our society, see the 109th, 10th, and 11th, pages of the Evening and Morning Star and the Extra accompanying the same, dated July 16th,—which are annexed to this petition. Our situation is a critical one, we are located upon the western limits of the State, and of the United States-where desperadoes can commit outrages and even murder, and escape in a few minutes, beyond the reach of process—where the most abandoned of all classes from almost every state may too often pass to the Mexican states, or to the more remote regions of the Rocky Mountains to escape the grasp of justice-where numerous tribes of Indians, located by the general Government amid the corrupting influence of midday mobs, might massacre our defenseless women and children, with impunity:—

Influenced by the precepts of our beloved Savior, when we have been smitten on the one cheek, we have turned the other also, when we have been sued at the law, and our coat been taken, we have given them our cloak also, when they have compelled us to go with them a mile, we have gone with them twain, we have borne the above outrages without murmuring:—But we cannot patiently bare them any longer: according to the laws of God and man, we have borne enough. Believing, with all honorable men, that whenever that fatal hour shall arrive that the poorest citizen's person, property, or rights and privileges, shall be trampled upon by a lawless mob with impunity, that moment a dagger is plunged into the heart of the Constitution, and the Union must tremble! Assuring ourselves that no republican will suffer the liberty of the press; the freedom of speech, and the liberty of conscience, to be silenced by a mob, without raising a helping hand, to save his country from disgrace. We solicit assistance to obtain our rights; holding ourselves amenable to the laws of our country whenever we transgress them.

Knowing, as we do, that the threats of this mob, in most cases, have been put into execution, and knowing also, that every officer, civil and military, with a very few exceptions, has pledged his life and honor, to force us from the county, dead or alive; and believing that civil process cannot be served without the aid of the Executive; and not wishing to have the blood of our defenceless women and children stain the land which has once been stained by the blood of our fathers to purchase our liberty; we appeal to the Governor for aid; asking him by express proclamation, or otherwise, to raise a sufficient number of troops, who, with us, may be empowered to defend our rights, that we may sue for damages in the loss of property—for abuse—for defamation, as to ourselves—and if advisable try for treason against the government;—that the law of the land may not be defied, nor nulified, but peace restored to our country:—And we will ever pray.

[On the foregoing we may remark, that it falls far short of setting forth the actual suffering situation of the petitioners, and the wanton and malicious conduct of the inhabitants by whom they were surrounded. Excepting a few individuals, those who were engaged in the outrage were persons of little or no reading; and being thus ignorant, were the more easily persuaded to believe, that their privileges and rights as citizens were about to be unlawfully taken from them; and when once roused to acts of violence, were constantly heated by the insinuations of a few, who ought to have been the first to rise in the defence of innocence and virtue, and bring to justice wild infatuated violaters of the peace of society by the majesty of the civil law.

We insert the following communication from his Excellency the Governor of Missouri, in answer to the foregoing petition. The candid patriotic spirit which it breaths, is truly becoming a man entrusted with the honor of extending an arm in support of those who are unjustly trampled upon; and of having it in his power to enforce due reverence to the Constitution.—Ed. Star.]

"City of Jefferson, Executive Department, Oct. 19th, 1833.

To Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, Isaac Morley, John Corril, A. S. Gilbert, John Whitmer, and others:—

Your memorial soliciting my interposition against violence threatened you, and redress for injuries received by a portion of the citizens of Jackson county, has been received, and its contents duly considered. I should think myself unworthy the confidence with which I have been honored by my fellow citizens, did I not promptly employ all the means which the Constitution and laws have placed at my disposal, to avert the calamities with which you are threatened.

Ours is a Government of laws, to them we all owe obedience, and their faithful administration is the best guarantee for the enjoyment of our rights.

No citizen, nor number of citizens, have a right to take the redress of their grievances, whether real or imaginary, into their own hands: Such conduct strikes at the very existence of society, and subverts the foundation on which it is based. Not being willing to persuade myself that any portion of the citizens of the State of Missouri are so lost to a sense of these truths as to require the exercise of force, in order to ensure a respect for them.

After advising with the Attorney General, and exercising my best judgment, I would advise you to make a trial of the efficacy of the laws, the Judge of your circuit is a conservator of the peace. If an affidavit is made before him by any of you, that your lives are threatened and you believe them in danger, it would be his duty to have the offenders apprehended and bind them to keep the peace. Justices of the peace in their respective counties have the same authority, and it is made their duty to exercise it. Take, then, this course, obtain a warrant, let it be placed in the hands of the proper officer, and the experiment will be tested whether the laws can be peaceably executed or not. In the event they cannot be, and that fact is officially notified to me, my duty will require me to take such steps as will enforce a faithful execution of them.

With regard to the injuries you have sustained by destruction of property, &c. the law is open to redress, I cannot permit myself to doubt that the courts will be open to you, nor that you will find difficulty in procuring legal advocates to sue for damages therein.


Your ob't servant,



Independence. Mo."Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2 (June 1833-September 1834)