Mormon History

Reaction to the Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor - 1844

Warsaw Messenger June 14, 1844

E X T R A.

At a meeting of the citizens of Warsaw, convened the 14th June, the following address, reported by Thos. C. Sharp, Esq. was unanimously adopted, and ordered to be published in conexion with the Resolutions adopted by the mass meeting at Carthage yesterday.

The following resolutions were adapted by a meeting of the citizens of Warsaw, on Wednesday last, and the same, as will be perceived by the proceedings that followed, were also adopted by the mass meeting assembled at Carthage yesterday. These Resolutions are of the strongest character, and indicate a depth of feeling which can find vent only in revenge for the repeated insults and injuries which the citizens of this vicinity have endured; as well as for the recent outrage, in destroying by mob violence, the press of the Nauvoo Expositor, a paper opposed to the interest of Joe Smith, and his miscreant band.

In presenting these Resolutions to the world, it seems necessary, least our motives and conduct should be censured, to submit to a candid, public, plain and unvarnished statement, of the situation in which we are placed, but a combination of circumstances, against which no prudence could guard us, and from which no thing but desperate means can rescue us.

The City Council of Nauvoo have, within the last two years, passed a series of ordinances, contrary to the spirit and intent of their Charter, which were intended as they avowed, to screen the adherents of the Prophet, as also the Prophet himself, from arrest, by the state authorities, and to liberate them from custody whenever they should be so arrested. Repeated attempts have been made to arrest Smith, but he has been uniformly screened from the officers of Justice, by the aid of the Municipal Court, which is the tool and echo of himself. Our state authorities have not seen proper heretofore, to call out force sufficient to put thel law in execution. Having repeatedly set all law at defiance, both in his own case, as well as that of his favorites, with impunity, he has grown more daring, and recently, we behold him giving shelter and protection to a criminal who had offended against the laws of the State, rescuing him from the custody of its officers, and refusing to surrender him, until the Executive had given the minister of the Law plenary power, to call in the aid of the military.

The high-handed measures of this self-constituted despot had raised, eved within his own dominion, a powerful opposition. The honest and respectable of his followers became alarmed at the usurpation and tyranny, daily practiced in the city. They protested against his high-handed measures; but they were only heard to be insulted, and spurned with contempt. Finding reformation impossible they manfully came out, and avowed their determination to resist, and subvert his power. To that end they procured a press and printing materials, that they might have an organ through which to speak.

The Prophet finding that his villainies and usurpations were about to be exposed in their naked deformity, and seeing the impossibility of sustaining himself with so powerful an engine as the Press located in the midst of his followers, leveled [all] his villainies and usurpations, determined on its destruction. He called together the City Council, and without shadow of authority and in the teeth of the Constitution of this State, and of the U. States, ordered the destruction of the press and printing materials. This order was promptly obeyed by the Marshall of the city aided by a mob.

But content with this violence within the borders of the city, the brother of this miscreant, publicly threatened the press and material of the Warsaw Signal and the life of its Editor. Having had the audacity to commit one of the most daring outrages ever perpetrated in a free country, here is reason to expect that if opportunity presents itself, the threats against us, will be fulfilled. Nevertheless we fear nothing. We "defy his power and scorn his wealth." The outrages committed by this same villain and his band in Missouri show him to be a devil capable of any deed, however black or damnable, if thereby he can rid himself of his enemies.

Positive proof exists, that he, some time since, sent one of his miscreants to assassinate Gov. Boggs, of Missouri, -- that within the last year he has offered reward to his minions to take the lives of some of our most valuable citizens -- that he is the head of a band of counterfeiters. who are inundating the country with base coin, and that he has about him, an armed and organized band, whose only constitution is, perfect obedience to the commands of this Fiend. With such a desperado and villain in our midst, having the command of two thousand armed and disciplined men, and whom the law cannot reach by any ordinary process, are we safe? When the law ceases to protect life and property; when it is cheated out of its efficacy by an organized banditti, how shall we find protection? When our Political rights are gone, and all legal remedies fail, what shall we do? What can we do, but throw ourselves for protection on that arm which God and Nature intended every man should use as a last resort.

This community will throw itself for protection on its reserved rights, if the safety of our lives and property cannot be ensured to us by legal means; and we hope to be sustained by those generous communities that surround us, who, we are sure will not stand by and suffer with impunity the virtuous to be trampled to dust by a bend of villains. We proclaim to the world in the resolutions that follow, that forbearance has ceased to be a virtue; and for our own safety and protection, the authors of our grievances must be driven from our midst, or submit to the laws. -- The Last outrage, in the destruction of the press of the Expositor at Nauvoo, caps the climax of their iniquity. For this violation of the rights of our neighbors, we have sought redress by legal means: but the offenders who were arrested have been rescued from our officers -- the Law is again put at defiance, and the only recourse left us to take up arms. If we fail in this, (which God forbid) we must bow the knee and submit to the yoke of tyrant, who is the masterpiece of Hell's workmanship. We must leave our property and our homes, or live in constant fear of assassination, or in dread of the destruction of our worldly wealth.

To the communities that surround us we appeal! Will you come to the rescue? Will you aid us to rid the Earth of a pest such as has never before poluted its surface since it was redeemed from Chaos? Come on then Ye men of generous souls! Lay aside sectional prejudices and former grudges, and unite with us in the cause of Virtue and Liberty! We are no mob setting ourselves up above the law, but we seek to establish by every means in our power the supremacy of the law over villains that have long defied it.

And we would say to such as heretofore have been connected with the Mormon Church, but are yet desirous of supporting the supremacy of the laws and their government, that there is no disposition on our part to molest them in person or property; it is only such as make themselves accessory to his crimes, by the defence and support of Smith, and such of his followers as may unite with him in resistance to the laws.

An indignation meeting was held at Carthage on June 13, 1844, by Hancock County citizens opposed to the Mormons and the course of action taken in Nauvoo. Among the resolutions passed on that occasion was the following:

"Resolved, that the time, in our opinion, has arrived, when the adherents of Smith, as a Body, should be driven from the surrounding settlements, into Nauvoo. That the Prophet and his miscreant adherents, should then be demanded at their hands, and if not surrendered, a war of extermination should be waged to the entire destruction, if necessary for our protection, of his adherents."

At a mass meeting of the citizens of Hancock county, convened at Carthage on the 13th day of June, 1844 Mr. Knox was appointed president, John Dory and Lewis F. Evans, vice-presidents; and William Y. Head, secretary.

Henry Stephens, Esq., presented the following resolutions, passed at a meeting of the citizens of Warsaw, and urged the adoption of them as the sense of this meeting.

Preamble and Resolutions.

Whereas information has reached us, about which there can be no question, that the authorities of Nauvoo did recently pass an ordinance declaring a printing press and newspaper published by the opponents of the Prophet a nuisance, and in pursuance thereof did direct the Marshal of the city and his adherents to enter by force the building from whence the paper was issued, and violently (if necessary) to take possession of the press and printing materials, and thereafter to burn and destroy the same; and whereas, in pursuance of said ordinance, the Marshal and his adherents, together with a mob of Mormons, did, after sunset on the evening of the 10th instant, violently enter said building in a tumultuous manner, burn and destroy the press and other materials found on the premises.

And whereas Hyrum Smith did, in the presence of the City Council and the citizens of Nauvoo, offer a reward for the destruction of the printing press and materials of the Warsaw Signal, a newspaper also opposed to his interests;

And whereas the liberty of the press is one of the cardinal principles of our government, firmly guaranteed by the several constitutions of the states, as well as the United States;

And whereas, Hyrum Smith has within the last week publicly threatened the life of one of our valued citizens, Thomas C. Sharp, the editor of the Signal;

Therefore, be it solemnly

Resolved by the citizens of Warsaw in public meeting assembled, that we view the recent ordinance of the city of Nauvoo, and the proceedings thereunder as an outrage of an alarming character, revolutionary and tyrannical in tendency, and being under color of law as calculated to subvert and destroy in the minds of the community all reliance on the law.

Resolved, that as a community we feel anxious, when possible, to redress our grievances by legal remedies; but the time has now arrived when the law has ceased to be a protection to our lives and property. A mob at Nauvoo, under a city ordinance, has violated the highest privilege in government; and to seek redress in the ordinary mode would be utterly ineffectual.

Resolved, that the public threat made in the Council of the city, not only to destroy our printing-press, but to take the life of its editor, is sufficient, in connection with the recent outrage, to command the efforts and the services of every good citizen to put an immediate stop to the career of the mad prophet and his demoniac coadjutors. We must not only defend ourselves from danger, but we must resolutely carry the war into the enemy's camp. We do therefore declare that we will sustain our press and the editor at all hazards; that we will take full vengeance, terrible vengeance, should the lives of any of our citizens be lost in the effort; that we hold ourselves at all times in readiness to co-operate with our fellow-citizens in this state, Missouri and Iowa, to exterminate, utterly exterminate the wicked and abominable Mormon leaders, the authors of our troubles.

Resolved, that a committee of five be appointed forthwith to notify all persons in our township suspected of being the tools of the prophet to leave immediately on pain of instant vengeance. And we do recommend the inhabitants of the adjacent townships to do the same, hereby pledging ourselves to render all the assistance they may require.

Resolved, that the time, in our opinion, has arrived, when the adherents of Smith, as a body, should be driven from the surrounding settlements into Nauvoo. That the prophet and his miscreant adherents should then he demanded at their hands; and, if not surrendered, a war of extermination should be waged to the entire destruction, if necessary for our protection, of his adherents. And we hereby recommend this resolution to the consideration of the several townships, to the Mass Convention to be held at Carthage, hereby pledging ourselves to aid to the utmost the complete consummation of the object in view, that we may thereby be utterly relieved of the alarm, anxiety and trouble to which we are now subjected.

Resolved that every citizen arm himself to be prepared to sustain the resolutions herein contained.

Mr. Roosevelt rose and made a brief but eloquent speech, and called upon the citizens throughout the country to render efficient aid in carrying out the spirit of the resolutions. Mr. Roosevelt then moved a committee of seven be appointed by the chair to draft resolutions expressive of our action in future.

Mr. Carlin moved to amend the motion of Mr. Roosevelt, so that the committee should consist of one from each precinct; which motion, as amended, was adopted.

The chair then appointed the following: Col. Levi. Williams, Rocky Run precinct; Joel Carlin, Augusta; Samuel Williams, Carthage; Elisha Worrell, Chili; Captain Maddison, St. Mary's; John M. Ferris, Fountain Green; James Rice, Pilot Grove; John Carns, Bear Creek; C. L. Higbee, Nauvoo; George Robinson, La Harpe; and George Rockwell, Warsaw, were appointed said committee.

On motion of Mr. Sympson, Walter Bagby, Esq., was requested to address the meeting during the absence of the committee. He spoke long and eloquently upon the cause of our grievances, and expressed his belief that the time was now at hand when we were individually and collectively called upon to repel the innovations upon our liberties, and suggested that points be designated as places of encampment at which to rendezvous our forces, that we may be ready when called upon for efficient action.

Dr. Barnes, one of the persons who went with the officers to Nauvoo for the purpose of arresting the rioters, having just arrived, came into the meeting and reported the result of their proceedings, which was, that the persons charged in the writs were duly arrested, but taken from the officers' hands on a writ of habeas corpus from the Municipal Court, and discharged, and the following potent words entered upon the records -- honorably released.

On motion of O. C. Skinner, Esq., a vote of thanks was tendered to Dr. Barnes for volunteering his services in executing said writs.

Francis M. Higbee was now loudly called for. He stated his personal knowledge of the Mormons from their earliest history -- throughout their hellish career in Missouri and this state -- which has been characterized by the darkest and most diabolical deeds which have ever disgraced humanity.

The committee appointed to draft resolutions brought in the following report, which, after some considerable discussion, was unanimously adopted:

Whereas, the officer charged with the execution of a writ against Joseph Smith and others, for riot in the county of Hancock, which said writ said officer has served upon said Smith and others; and whereas said Smith and others refuse to obey the mandate of said writ; and whereas in the opinion of this meeting, it is impossible for said officer so raise a posse of sufficient strength to execute said writ; and whereas it is the opinion of this meeting that the riot is still progressing and that violence is meditated and determined on, it is the opinion of this meeting that the circumstances of the case require the interposition of executive power. Therefore,

Resolved, that a deputation of two discreet men be sent to Springfield to solicit such interposition.

2nd, Resolved, that said deputation be furnished with a certified copy of the resolution, and be authorized to obtain evidence, by affidavits and otherwise, in regard to the violence which has already been committed, and is still further meditated.

Dr. Evans here arose and expressed his wish that the above resolutions would not retard our operations, but that we would each one arm and equip ourselves forthwith.

The resolutions passed at Warsaw were again read by Dr. Barnes, and passed by acclamation. On motion of A. Sympson, Esq., the suggestion of Mr. Bagby, appointing places of encampment, was adopted -- to-wit., Warsaw, Carthage, Green Plains, Spilman's landing, Chili and La Harpe.

On motion, O. C. Skinner and Walter Bagby, Esqs., were appointed a committee to bear the resolutions adopted by this meeting to his Excellency the Governor, requiring his executive interposition.

On motion of J. H. Sherman, a central corresponding committee was appointed.

Order that J. H. Sherman, H. T. Wilson, Chauncey Robinson, William S. Freeman, Thomas Morrison, F. M. Higbee, Lyman Prentiss, and Stephen H. Tyler be said committee,

On motion of George Rockwell,

Resolved that constables in the different precincts hold themselves in readiness to obey the officer in possession of the writs, whenever called upon, in summoning the posse.

On motion, the meeting adjourned.

JOHN KNOX, President.
LEWIS F. EVANS, Vice-Presidents.
W. Y. HEAD, Secretary.