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GOVERNOR DUNKLIN TAKES A HAND
Immediately upon their arrival in Clay County, the Saints retained as attorneys the firm of Wood, Reese, Doniphan and Atchison of Liberty, the best legal talent in western Missouri.
Doniphan, later famed as Missouri's greatest soldier, was a Kentuckian by birth, a Whig. He had been well educated with one of the best lawyers in Kentucky. At the time the Saints sought his aid, he was just past twenty-six years of age, tall (six foot four), with large massive head and high forehead, sandy hair and hazel eyes, always smiling. Already he had begun his marvelous dual career as statesman and soldier. He early made it a rule never to prosecute, always to defend. His speeches were not previously prepared; he spoke so simply a child could understand him. Never talking long, he often took only fifteen minutes to close a case. He was always bashful, and looked bashful when he began to speak, but he did not go far with his defense, before men, women, judge, and jury were in tears. His voice it is said could charm birds and squirrels in the woods.
David R. Atchison, his partner, also a tall man (six foot two) was his senior by just one year. He, too, was from Kentucky, a graduate of Transylvania University, a true type of the storied Southern gentleman, cultured, wealthy, educated, a fine conversationalist, gentle, sincere, honest, and frank. He was a Calhoun Democrat, an uncompromising proslavery leader, who never forsook his principles. A born aristocrat, he was democratic by nature, simple and plain in his tastes.
Amos Reese was a man of quick, high temper, but a good lawyer. He wrote many of the papers for the Latter Day Saints while they were endeavoring to get justice in the courts.
Going for advice to Kentuckians, the Saints got it with a true Kentucky flavor. Doniphan favored asking the governor to arm the Saints, make of them a troop of Jackson Guards and return them to their homes with ample power to defend themselves. "Then," declared Doniphan, "if the Mormons don't fight, they're cowards."
He went to Saline County and saw the Attorney General, R. W. Wells, upon the subject, who wrote A. S. Gilbert as follows:
City of Jefferson, November 21, 1833.
From conversation I have had with the Governor, I believe I am warranted in saying to you, and through you to the Mormons, that if they desire to be replaced in their property, that is, their houses in Jackson County, an adequate force will be sent forthwith to effect that object. Perhaps a direct application had better be made to him for that purpose, if they wish thus to be repossessed. The militia have been ordered to hold themselves in readiness.
If the Mormons will organize themselves into regular companies, or a regular company of militia, either volunteers or otherwise, they will, I have no doubt, be supplied with public arms. This must be on application, therefore as a volunteer company must be accepted up by the Colonel, and that is a matter in his discretion. Perhaps the best way would be to organize and elect officers as is done in ordinary cases--not volunteers; you could give them necessary directions on these points. If the Colonel should refuse to order an election of company officers, after they have reported themselves to him for that purpose, he would, I presume, be court martialed therefore, on a representation to the Governor of the facts. As only a certain quantity of public arms can be distributed in each county, those who first apply will be most likely to receive them. The less, therefore, that is said upon the subject, the better.
I am with great respect your obedient servant.
(Signed) R. W. Wells.1
Three days later, Judge Ryland of Lexington wrote to the Saints, saying he had received a letter from the Governor asking to be informed about the "outrageous acts of unparalleled violence" in Jackson County, and that he was to examine into the outrages. He was holding himself in readiness to go to Jackson County and hold a court of inquiry, etc. "It is a disgrace to the State for such acts to happen within its limits, and the disgrace will attach to our official characters if we neglect to take proper means to insure the punishment due such offenders," he said. A. S. Gilbert replied that he could not get his witnesses together immediately, but would do so as soon as possible, if they could be protected by an adequate guard. Reese concurred that their lives would be in danger if they went back into the county without a guard of militia.
In a previous petition on December 6, Gilbert had asked that the Saints be organized into a company of Jackson County Guards. He now adds an explanation in a long communication under the date of January 8, 1834:
There is one item in particular in said petition that needs some explanation; the request that "our men may be organized into companies of Jackson Guards, and furnished with arms by the State," was made at the instance of disinterested advisers, and also a communication from the Attorney General to Messrs. Doniphan and Atchison, dated the 21st of November last, giving his views as to the propriety of organizing into regular companies, etc. The necessity of being compelled to resort to arms, to regain our possessions in Jackson County, is by no means agreeable to the feelings--of the church, and would never be thought of but from pure necessity.2
He suggests that the Saints would much prefer that appraisers be appointed and the land of those who did not wish to be in the same county with the church to be appraised, and they would be glad to purchase at any fair price.
On the 4th of February the Governor answered with another lengthy communication, in which he said, among other things:
I am very sensible indeed of the injuries your people complain of, and should consider myself very remiss in the discharge of my duties were I not to do everything in my power consistent with the legal exercise of them to afford your society the redress to which they seem entitled. One of your requests needs no evidence to support the right to have it granted; it is that your people be put in possession of their homes from which they have been expelled. But what may be the duty of the Executive after that, will depend upon contingencies.
If upon inquiry it is found that your people were wrongfully dispossessed of their arms, by Colonel Pitcher, then an order will be issued to have them returned; and should your men organize according to law, which they have a right to do (indeed it is their duty to do so, unless exempted by religious scruples), and apply for public arms, the Executive could not distinguish between their right to have them, and the right of every other description of people similarly situated.3
He also appointed the Liberty Blues to guard them to Jackson County, that they might appear as witnesses in the investigation there.
On February 24, court convened in Independence, and some of the men of the church were present under guard as witnesses in the case of "The State of Missouri verses Colonel Thomas Pitcher." A mob collected and no effort was made to hold court.
In a letter to his brethren, W. W. Phelps describes the scene which would be laughable were it not so serious:
Clay County, February 27, 1834.
The times are so big with events, and the anxiety of everybody so great to watch them, that I feel somewhat impressed to write oftener than I have done, in order to give you more of the "strange acts" of this region. I have just returned from Independence, the seat of war in the West. About a dozen of our brethren, among whom were Brethren Partridge, Corrill, and myself, were subpoenaed in behalf of the State, and on the 23d (February) about twelve o'clock, we were on the bank, opposite Everit's Ferry, where we found Captain Atchison's company of "Liberty Blues," near fifty rank and file, ready to guard us into Jackson County. The soldiers were well armed with United States muskets, bayonets fixed, etc., and to me the scene was one "passing strange," and long to be remembered. The martial law in force to guard the civil! About twenty-five men crossed over to effect a landing in safety, and when they came near the warehouse, they fired six or eight guns, though the enemy had not gathered to witness the landing.
After we were all across, and waiting for the baggage wagon, it was thought not advisable to encamp in the woods, and the witnesses with half the company, marched nearly a mile towards Independence, to build night fires, as we were without tents, and the weather cold enough to snow a little. While on the way the Quartermaster, and others, that had gone on ahead to prepare quarters in town, sent an express back, which was not the most pacific appearance that could be. Captain Atchison continued the express to Colonel Allen for the two hundred drafted militia; and also to Liberty for more ammunition; and the night passed off in warlike style, with the sentinels marching silently at a proper distance from the watchfires.
Early in the morning we marched, strongly guarded by the troops, to the seat of war, and quartered in the blockhouse, formerly the tavern stand of S. Flournoy. After breakfast, we were visited by the District Attorney, Mr. Reese, and the Attorney General, Mr. Wells. From them we learned that all hopes of criminal prosecution were at an end. Mr. Wells had been sent by the Governor to investigate, as far as possible, the Jackson outrage, but the bold front of the mob, bound even unto death (as I have heard), was not to be penetrated by civil law, or awed by executive influence. Shortly after, Captain Atchison informed me that he had just received an order from the Judge, that his company's service was no longer wanted in Jackson County, and we were marched out of town to the tune of "Yankee Doodle" in quick time, and soon returned to our camp ground without the loss of any lives. In fact, much credit is due to Captain Atchison for his gallantry and hospitality, and I think I can say of the officers and company that their conduct as soldiers and men is highly reputable; so much so, knowing as I do, the fatal result, had the militia come, or not come, I can add that the captain's safe return refreshed my mind with Xenophon's retreat of the ten thousand. Thus ends all hopes of "redress," even with a guard ordered by the Governor, for the protection of the court and witnesses.4
The Saints then began a series of appeals to the President of the United States, that were to continue for many years. Governor Dunklin in his next letter the 20th of April, said he was in communication with the Government at Washington, and urged patience.
He says, "Permit me to suggest to you that as you now have greatly the advantage of your adversaries in public estimation, that there is a great propriety in retaining that advantage, which you can easily do by keeping your adversaries in the wrong. The laws, both civil and military, seem deficient in affording your society proper protection; nevertheless public sentiment is a powerful corrector of error, and you should make it your policy to continue to deserve it."5
On April 21, the elders in Liberty addressed the governor as follows, explaining the plan which had been originated to send help to the distressed brethren in Missouri:
Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, April 24, 1834.
Dear Sir: In our last communication of the 10th inst., we omitted to make inquiry concerning the evidence brought up before the court of inquiry in the case of Colonel Pitcher. The court met pursuant to adjournment on the 20th of February last, and, for reasons unknown to us, we have not been able to obtain information concerning the opinion or decision of that court. We had hoped that the testimony would have been transmitted to your Excellency before this, that an order might be issued for the return of our arms, of which we have been wrongfully dispossessed, as we believe will clearly appear to the commander in chief when the evidence is laid before him.
As suggested in your communication of the 4th of February, we have concluded to organize according to law and apply for public arms, but we feared that such a step, which must be attended with public ceremonies, might produce some excitement, and we have thus far delayed any movement of that nature, hoping to regain our arms from Jackson that we might independently equip ourselves and be prepared to assist in the maintenance of our constitutional rights and liberties as guaranteed to us by our country, and also to defend our persons and property from a lawless mob when it shall please the Executive, at some future day, to put us in possession of our homes, from which we have been most wickedly expelled. We are happy to make an expression of our thanks for the willingness manifested by the Executive to enforce the laws, as he can consistently "with the means furnished him by the legislature," and we are firmly persuaded that a future day will verify to him whatever aid we may receive from the Executive has not been lavished upon a band of traitors, but upon a people whose respect and veneration for the laws of our country, and its pure republican principles, are as great as that of any other society in the United States.
As our Jackson foes and their correspondents are busy in circulating slanderous and wicked reports concerning our people, their views, etc., we have deemed it expedient to inform your Excellency that we have received communications from our friends in the East, informing us that a number of our brethren, perhaps two or three hundred, would remove to Jackson County in the course of the ensuing summer, and we are satisfied that when the Jackson mob get the intelligence that a large number of our people are about to remove into that county, they will raise a great hue and cry, and circulate many bugbears through the medium of their favorite press. But we think your Excellency is well aware that our object is purely to defend ourselves and possessions against another unparalleled attack from the mob, inasmuch as the Executive of this State cannot keep up a military force "to protect our people in that country without transcending his power." We want, therefore, the privilege of defending ourselves and the Constitution of our country, while God is willing we should have a being on his footstool.
We do not know at what time our friends will arrive, but expect more certain intelligence in a few weeks. Whenever they do arrive, it would be the wish of our people in this county to return to our homes in company with our friends under guard, and when once in legal possession of our homes in Jackson County, we shall endeavor to take care of them without further wearying the patience of our worthy Chief Magistrate. We will write hereafter, or send an express. During the intermediate time we would be glad to hear of the prospect of recovering our arms.
With due respect, we are, sir, your obedient servants,
A. S. Gilbert,
W. W. Phelps,
P.S.--Many of our brethren who are expected on, had made arrangements to emigrate to this State before the outrages of the mob last fall. We hope the painful emergency of our case will plead an excuse for our frequent communications.6
The Governor replied as follows:
City of Jefferson, May 2, 1834.
To Messrs. W. W. Phelps and Others; Gentlemen: Yours of the 24th, ult., is before me, in reply to which I can inform you that becoming impatient at the delay of the court of inquiry in making their report in the case of Lieutenant Colonel Pitcher, on the 11th, ult., I wrote to General Thompson for the reasons of such delay; last night I received his reply, and with it the report of the court of inquiry, from the tenor of which I find no difficulty in deciding that the arms your people were required to surrender on the 5th of last November should be returned; and have issued his order to Colonel Lucas to deliver them to you or your order, which order is here inclosed.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
(Signed) Daniel Dunklin.7
City of Jefferson, May 2, 1834.
To Samuel D. Lucas, Colonel Thirty-third Regiment: Sir: The court ordered to inquire into the conduct of Lieutenant Colonel Pitcher, in the movement he made on the 5th of November last, report it as their unanimous opinion that there was no insurrection on that day, and that Colonel Pitcher was not authorized to call out his troops on the 5th of November 1833. It was then unnecessary to require the Mormons to give up their arms. Therefore, you will deliver to W. W. Phelps, E. Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, and A. S. Gilbert or their order, the fifty-two guns, and one pistol reported by Lieutenant Colonel Pitcher to you on the 3d of December last, as having been received by him from the Mormons on the 5th of the preceding November.
Daniel Dunklin, Commander in Chief.8
Dunklin answered a letter from Colonel J. Thornton on behalf of the Saints as follows, dating his reply June 6:
City of Jefferson, June 6, 1834,
Dear Sir: I was pleased at the receipt of your letter concurred in by Messrs. Reese, Atchison, and Doniphan, on the subject of the Mormon difficulties. I should be gratified indeed if the parties could compromise on the terms you suggest, or, indeed, upon any other terms satisfactory, to themselves. But I should travel out of the line of my 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 interferred 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 part, I shall feet no embarrassment in doing my duty; though it may be done with the most extreme regret. My duty in the relation in which I now stand to the parties is plain and straightforward. By an official interposition, I might embarrass my course, and urge a measure for the purpose of effecting a compromise, and it should fail, and in the end, should I find 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 that the Mormon people who were expelled from their homes in Jackson County, to return and live on their lands, and if they can not 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 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 emigrating to this State, nor from choosing what part of the State they will settle in, provided they do not trespass on the property or rights of others. Our State Constitution declares that the people's "right to bear arms, in defense of themselves, and of 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, etc. 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 believe and worship Jo Smith as a man, an angel, or even as the only true and 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 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 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 themselves 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 too in the end; and hence the necessity of keeping myself in the best situation to do my duty impartially.
Rumor says that each party 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 corn 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 a 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 someone 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 the 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 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 a failure.
I should be glad if you or some of the other gentlemen who joined you in your communication, would keep a dose 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 obedient servant,
(Signed) Daniel Dunklin.9
By this time the brethren from Kirtland, organized into what was known as Zion's Camp, were on their way to Missouri. Accompanying the letter was another order for the return of the Latter Day Saints' arms, as they had not been returned:
City of Jefferson, June 9, 1834.
Herewith you have a second order for the delivery of your arms now in the possession of the militia of Jackson County. Colonel Lucas has resigned his command, he informs me. If Lieutenant Colonel Pitcher shall be arrested before you receive this, you will please hold up the order until I am informed who may be appointed to the command of the regiment.
(Signed) Daniel Dunklin.
Thomas Pitcher, Lieutenant Colonel Commandant of the 33d Regiment; Sir: On the 2nd day of last May I issued an order to Colonel Lucas to deliver the fifty-two guns and one pistol which you received from the Mormons on the 5th day of November last, and reported to him on the third day of the succeeding December to W. W. Phelps, E. Partridge, John Corrill, John Whitmer, and A. S. Gilbert, or their order. On the 24th, ult., Colonel Lucas wrote and informed me that he had resigned his commission and left the county of Jackson. You as commandant of said regiment are therefore commanded to collect the said arms, if they are not already in your possession, and deliver them to the aforesaid gentlemen or their order.
Daniel Dunklin, Commander in Chief.10
Negotiations continued for some time. The Saints in Clay County finally consented to meet their brethren of Zion's Camp and urge them to disperse. The Jackson County representatives agreed to pay certain indemnity for property despoiled and confiscated, but never did, nor did they return the arms taken from the Saints as the Governor ordered.
On November 25, 1834, Honorable J. T. V. Thompson,11 a senator, wrote from Jefferson City as follows, enclosing an excerpt from the Governor's message:
Dear Sir: I will say to you, that your case with the Jackson people has been mentioned to the highest officer of the State, the Governor. He speaks of it in his message and so much of his message will be referred to a committee. I am not able to say what will be their report, but I will write you again.
I have the honor, etc.
J. T. V. Thompson.12
The extract from Governor Dunklin's message referred to in the above letter is as follows:
In July, 1833, a large portion of the citizens of Jackson County organized themselves and entered into resolutions to expel from that county a religious sect called Mormons, who had become obnoxious to them. In November following they effected their object, not however without the loss of several lives. In the judicial inquiry into these outrages, the civil authorities who had cognizance of them, deemed it proper to have a military guard for the purpose of giving protection during the progress of the trials. This was ordered, and the Attorney General was requested to give his attention during the investigation, both of which were performed, but all to no purpose. As yet none have been punished for these outrages, and it is believed that under our present laws conviction for any violence committed upon a Mormon can not be had in Jackson County. These unfortunate people are now forbidden to take possession of their homes; and the principal part of them, I am informed, are at this time living in an adjoining county, in a great measure, upon the charity of its citizens. It is for you to determine what amendments the law may require so as to guard against such acts of violence for the future.13
Thus encouraged, the Saints sent a petition to be presented by David R. Atchison then in the Senate. He and J. T. V. Thompson both favorable to the saints attempted to move for reinstatement. But in spite of all friendly efforts all negotiations eventually failed to obtain either reinstatement or indemnity.
1 Times and Seasons, Volume 6, pages 912, 913; Church History, Volume
1, pages 363, 364.
2 Times and Seasons, Volume 6, pages 962, 963. See Church History, Volume 1, pages 402, 403.
3 Times and Seasons, Volume 6, pages 977, 978. See Church History, Volume 1, page 405.
4 Church History, Volume 1, pages 407-409. The Evening and the Morning Star, pages 276, 277 (Kirtland reprint).
5 Times and Seasons, Volume 6, page 1059; Church History, Volume 1, pages 416, 417.
6 Times and Seasons, Volume 6, page 1072; Church History, Vol. 1, pages 418, 419.
7 Times and Seasons, Volume 6, page 1073; Church History, Volume 1, page 420.
8 Times and Seasons, Vol. 6, p. 1073, 1074; Church History, Vol. 1, pp. 420, 421.
9 The Evening and the Morning Star, pages 349, 350; Church History, Volume 1, pages 488, 491.
10 Times and Seasons, Volume 6, page 1088; Church History, Volume 1, pages 491, 492.
11 Church History Volume 1, pages 534, 535.
12 Millennial Star, Volume l5, page 185; Church History, Volume I, page 534.
13 Messenger and Advocate, Volume 1, page 41; Church History, Volume I, page 534.
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