Mormon History


Letter from Missouri Governor - 1834


Missouri Intelligencer July 5, 1834



We have but little information, in addition to that published in our last, respecting the difficulties between the Mormons and the people of Jackson. A letter from Independence, dated the 27th ult. says -- "The Mormons have backed out from the expected fight, but yet say this is "Zion," and that it may not be established for one hundred years to come and think they could not be hired to come to this county."

The following private letter from GOVERNOR DUNKLIN to Col. Thornton, (which we find in the last Missouri Enquirer.) will no doubt be interesting to our readers:

Copy of a letter from DANIEL DUNKLIN,
Governor of the State of Missouri, to
Col. J. Thornton, dated


DEAR SIR: -- I was pleased at the receipt of your letter, concurred in by Messrs. Rees, Atchinson and Doniphan, on the subject of the Mormon difficulties. I should be gratified indeed if the parties could compromise upon the terms you suggest, or, indeed, upon any other terms satisfactory to themselves. But I should travel out of the line of strict duty, as chief executive officer of the government, were I to take upon myself the task of effecting a compromise between the parties. Had I not supposed it possible, yes, probable, that I should, as executive of the state, have to act, I should, before now, have interfered individually in the way you suggest, or in some other way, in order if possible to effect a compromise. Uncommitted, as I am to either party, I shall feel no embarrassment in doing my duty; though it may be done with the most extreme regret. My duty in the relation which I now stand to the parties, is plain and straight forward. By an official interposition I might embarrass my course, and urge a measure for the purpose of effecting a compromise, and [if] it should fail, and in the end, should I feel it my duty to ACT contrary to the ADVICE I had given, it might be said, that I either advised wrong, or that I was partial to one side or the other, in giving advice that I would not, as an officer. follow. A more clear and indisputable right does not exist, than that of the Mormon people, who were expelled from their homes in Jackson county, to return and live on their lands; and if they cannot be persuaded, as a matter of POLICY, to give up that right, or to qualify it, my course, as the chief executive officer of the state, is a plain one. -- The constitution of the United States declares, "That the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states." Then we cannot interdict any people, who have a political franchise in the United States, from immigrating to this state, nor from choosing what part of the state they will settle in, provided they do not trespass on the property of others. Our state constitution declares that the people's "right to bear arms, in defence of themselves, and of the state, cannot be questioned." Then it is their constitutional right to arm themselves. Indeed, our militia law makes it the duty of every man, not exempted by law, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, to arm himself with a musket, rifle, or some firelock, with a certain quantity of ammunition, &c. And again, our constitution says, "that all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences." I am fully persuaded that the eccentricity of the religious opinions and practices of the Mormons, is at the bottom of the outrages committed against them.

They have the right constitutionally guaranteed to them, and it is indefeasible, to Living God, and to call their habitation Zion, the Holy Land, or even Heaven itself. Indeed, there is nothing so absurd or ridiculous, that they have not a right to adopt as their religion, so that in its exercise they do not interfere with the rights of others.

It is not long since an impostor assumed the character of Jesus Christ, and attempted to minister as such; but I never heard of any combination to deprive him of his rights.

I consider it the duty of every good citizen of Jackson and the adjoining counties to exert himself to effect a compromise of these difficulties; and were I assured that I would not have to act in my official capacity in the affair, I would visit the parties in person and exert myself to the utmost to settle it. My first advice would be to the Mormons, to sell out their lands in Jackson county, and to settle somewhere else, where they could live in peace, if they could get a fair price for them, and reasonable damages for injuries received. If this failed, I would try the citizens and advise them to meet and rescind their illegal resolves of last summer, and agree to conform to the laws in every particular, in respect to the Mormons. If both these failed, I would then advise the plan you have suggested, for each party to take separate territory, and confine their members within their respective limits, with the exception of the public right of egress and regress upon the highway. If all these failed, then the simple question of legal right would have to settle it. It is this last that I am afraid I shall have to conform my action to in the end, and hence the necessity of keeping myself in the best situation to do my duty impartially.

Rumor says that both parties are preparing themselves with cannon. That would be illegal: it is not necessary to self-defense, as guaranteed by the constitution, and as there are no artillery companies organized in this state, nor field pieces provided by the public; any preparation of that kind will be considered as without right, and, in the present state of things, would be understood to be with criminal intent. I am told that the people of Jackson county expect assistance from the adjoining counties, to oppose the Mormons in taking or keeping possession of their lands. -- I should regret it extremely if any should be so imprudent as to do so; it would give a different aspect to the affair.

The citizens of Jackson county have a right to arm themselves and parade for military duty in their own county independent of the commander-in-chief; but if citizens march there in arms from other counties, without order from the commander-in-chief, or some one authorized by him, it would produce a very different state of things. Indeed, the Mormons have no right to march to Jackson county in arms, unless by order or permission of the commander-in-chief. -- Men must not "levy war" in taking possession of their rights, any more than others should in opposing them in taking possession.

As you have manifested a deep interest in a peaceable compromise of this important affair, I presume you will not be unwilling to be placed in a situation in which perhaps, you can be more serviceable to these parties. I have therefore taken the liberty of appointing you an aid to the commander-in-chief, and I hope it will be agreeable to you to accept. In this situation you can give your propositions all the influence they would have were they to emanate from the executive, without committing yourself or the commander-in-chief, in the event of failure.

I should be glad if you, or some of the other gentlemen who joined you in your communication, would keep a close correspondence with these parties, and by each mail write to me.

The character of the state has been injured in consequence of this unfortunate affair; and I sincerely hope it may not be disgraced by it in the end.

With high respect, your ob't servant,
                                            DANIEL DUNKLIN.

Note 1: Although Governor Dunklin attempted to defuse the situation in western Missouri, arising from the arrival of Joseph Smith's "Zion's Camp" expeditionary force, it was the evident resolve and preparations for resistance among the western citizens themselves that dissuaded the Mormons from re-occupying Jackson county as a de facto theocratical realm. Neither Dunklin nor other state officials viewing the situation there from a distance could well comprehend the insistence of Smith and his followers, that God had already promised Jackson county to them. Smith's failure to establish his followers in and around Independence naturally called into question the power and validity of his "prophecies" naming that place as the Saints' "city of refuge" in the terrible, pre-millennial conflagration he was then still predicting. As things eventually turned out, the Mormons were persuaded to temporarily relocate their "gathering" miles away, at Far West, in the soon to be created county of Caldwell. Their removal there only postponed the inevitable hostilities between the theocracy and the citizens, however.