Mormon History

Joe Smith and His Use of Slander - 1844

Warsaw Messenger April 24, 1844


                                           Nauvoo, April 12, 1844.
Editor; --

In behalf of a character unstained by crime, and hitherto untarnished by the foul breath of slander, I appeal to you, for the privilege, through the columns of your journal, of expressing my sentiments in relation to certain proceedings that have recently taken place in this far-famed and peaceful City; and of defending myself from the foul and false assertions that have repeatedly been attempted to fasten upon a name I hold most dear and sacred

I speak for myself. Others may bear the lash of the Tyrant to their hearts content: but I am resolved, that no man, whatever may be his pretension, or however lofty his professions, shall trample upon my rights with impunity.

In making this expose and defence, I shall take the liberty to speak plain. My statements shall be simple matters of fact, neither colored with fancy, nor fiction, but clothed in the sable livery of truth -- from which the public may form their own conclusions. I ask no sympathy -- my case needs none: I merely ask that respect to which every man is entitled, who deports himself with propriety.

I have been a resident of Nauvoo for upwards of a year past, and, although differing with the people in matters of faith and doctrine, had supposed myself entitled to the same privileges as other citizens -- the right to think, speak, and act on all subjects, independently -- so far as not to infringe upon the interests of others. This I have studiously endeavored to do; and now make the appeal to the circle of my acquaintances, whether or not my deportment has been exceptionable. I have been notified from various sources that there was no favorable feeling entertained towards me by the Prophet.. I was informed by himself, that I was not his friend. I enquired of him how he knew. He replied, "I am a descerner of spirits!" I took no pains to undeceive him.

On the 7th of last month, it was given out that a public meeting was to be held at the Temple, for the transaction of important business. It was stated in the paper, that the "first Presidency" and the "Twelve" would be present -- urging upon the people a general attendance. Accordingly a crowd of several thousand assembled at an early hour. None knew for what purpose the meeting had been called, and of course, nothing could be done in the absence of authority.

In the course of time, his majesty, Joe, made his appearance; and after rushing through the crowd, whom he treated as so many dogs, he mounted the stand, and stated that the object of the meeting was, to obtain the mind of the people in relation to the enforcing of certain ordinances, the officers having found difficulty in discharging their duties, by the interference of certain individuals, who were eternally grumbling and growling, and whom it was impossible for the Devil himself to please. He then pounced upon some of our prominent and most worthy citizens, in his most approved style, denouncing and damning, by wholesale, Lawyers, Doctors, Merchants, and others, who had had the audacity to question his authority, or the purity of his. motives and intentions. After [slanging] different ones upon the same matters of complaint, he proceeded to inform the people that there were certain Croakers and Spies amongst them, of whom they might well be cautious. He had seen an article in the "New York Tribune," purporting to have been written here, giving an exaggerated account of the state of things in this City. The writer had ventured to express an opinion relative to the professed talents of the great "MORMON PROPHET!" -- that there was a system of duping afloat, based upon his pretended revelations -- that monies collected for the building of the Temple was appropriated to private purposes, &c. This was sufficient to enrage his holiness;, and he roared and bellowed away at a strange rate upon the falsity of the statements -- appealing to his own honesty and virtue, as usual, and to the books and records for proofs of his innocence of the charges in question.

The thought suggested itself to my mind that our Penitentiaries would soon be useless, if criminals were allowed to tell their own story. He then went on to state that he knew all about it -- he had powers of discernment (?) -- and who dare dispute him? After he closed his harangue, knowing that he intended to throw the charge upon me, (although too cowardly to mention names,) I rose up and demanded of him if I was the individual alluded to in his remarks. He gave me no satisfaction. I repeated the inquiry several times. He still refused giving an answer. I then told him, that if he had not heard from me, he should. He then imposed a fine of Ten Dollars upon me. Here my brother R. D. Foster, interposed in my behalf; and he, Joe, threatened to fine him too, if he did not shut up: and the notorious W. W. Phelps, who has the honor of being his chief clerk, ordered me into the halls of the Marshal, remarking afterwards, the fine ought to have been fifty dollars.

This was the "head and front of my offending," and this is a specimen of that freedom which an American Citizen enjoys in Nauvoo.

I leave to the public to make their own comments, pass on to another outrage of a more recent date, upon my rights, by this self-same self-styled Prophet and usurper.

I was in the company of some one hundred or more where Joe was declaiming in the same old tone, against certain individuals. He stated he had rebuked Presidents, Congressmen and judges, and they all took it in kindness, and thanked him for it, considering it evidence of the authenticity and divinity of his mission and profession; but he had to regret that he found more difficulty in governing these certain ones in Nauvoo, than any thing he had ever undertaken. After he got thro' with his "sermon," as he termed it, he proceeded to leave the room. As he was passing out his eye rested upon me -- he bowed very hypocritically, and held out his hand. I refused to speak, or to accept his hand. He immediately became enraged, and demanded why I did not speak. I told him I did not regard him as my friend, and could not respect him as such. He then called me a fool, liar, and other venomous epithets, which I consider unnecessary to repeat, as it would be a waste of time and a disgrace to paper. However, the only specific charge he could adduce against me, was that I had the misfortune to be connected with a dishonest family. I then became excited, and demanded an explanation. In reply he stated he knew of nothing to sustain the charge except that my brother, Dr. Foster, had stolen a Raw Hide, (a riding whip,) on a certain occasion, and he would swear to it on a stack of Bibles Heaven high, and he did not know but some of the same blood ran in my veins. I felt exasperated, but I concluded to let it pass with that contempt which it, and its author so richly merited. During this affair, a certain Col. Markham interfered in behalf of Joe, laid his hands upon me, and told me to remember who I was talking to, and to be careful what I said. I told him to keep his hands off, and we would manage our own affairs, as we were both of age. -- Others, who knew no more than to obey the nod of this modern impostor, surrounded me, with their menaces and contemptible mimicry -- to all of which I replied, I could tell a tale, that would astound you, and make your ears to tingle.

Such is but a faint picture of the state of things in this peaceful City of the Saints, this asylum of rest. If professions were sufficient it might be granted but being cognizant of facts as they transpire, this is all but the case. Other instances of a still more oppressive and aggressive character, could be adduced, wherein the rights of individuals have been invaded, their interests sacrificed, their characters assailed, and the peace of their families destroyed, by the repeated insults and injuries of this Monster in human shape. But enough has been said to make out this case -- let others speak for themselves. For my own part, despite consequences, I will not tamely yield the right to any man to usurp unwarrantable authority over my person and character, and the dictation of his own depraved will. I will speak, and I will be heard in my own defence. I am fully aware of the hazardous position of any one who dares to maintain what he deems his right, in contradistinction to the powers that be -- that no man's blood will be spilt in vain in the contest for right. No, so long as there is justice in Heaven, or revenge on earth so sure shall that same blood be avenged a thousand fold. I have, then nothing to fear from assaults by day, or assassinations by night, if the forfeiture of my life should lead a general investigation , and purification of the iniquities that sing to hundreds and thousands who are not yet entrapped in the snare of the destroyer.

In seeking redress for these our grievances, we are only met by a repetition of insult and injury. Their ordinances are but a mimicry of law, compounded of hypocrisy and absurdity; and their justice is not worthy the name.

But, leaving out the mass, for many of whom I entertain the most sincere regard, I look upon JOE as being the moving cause of all this confusion and folly; having an unparalleled degree of confidence in himself, amounting to barefaced impudence -- and assisted by a cabinet equally rotten and corrupt, who are continually, by night and by day, concocting and plotting schemes for their own aggrandizement, at the expense of the innocent and unsuspecting -- and having such an unbounded influence with the mass of the people, whom, through the aid of his assumed authority and self-made revelations, he wields to his own purposes. These are some of the means by which we are compelled to submit to any insult and injury his head may dictate, or his wicked heart suggest. The public may then judge for themselves as to the complaints we make, and the wretched state of that society whose government is placed in such hands.

I will add no more at present, but simply leave myself in the hands of your readers to judge for themselves, by the inviolable rights, guaranteed to us as American citizens, and by all those various ties that bind up the social compact, to say whether we have not abundant reason for this our complaint; and in view of the foregoing facts, whether we have not equal reasons for this our defence.
                           Respectfully, &c.,
                                         CHARLES A. FOSTER.