Histories tend to standardize the Missouri expulsion of Latter-day Saints: escalating tension in 1838 brought armed clashes, which generated a policy of Lilburn W. Boggs to force the minority out of the state—the method was an executive order in his personally harsh language, and about ten thousand Mormons left Missouri under the intimidation of state militia. Some add that troops forced an agreement to leave which Latter-day Saints quietly honored. Some note that field commanders on their own initiative had tried to execute Joseph Smith and others by military trial. [Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.27]
While the above outlines are correct, individual statements are only partly true. Pre-1838 policies controlled 1838 events. There was not a single expulsion order,
but three major versions of it.
The second commanded the punishment of Mormon leaders as an example, and the third retreated from the position that the military would expel or punish. And Mormon exiles did not leave under these orders. Expulsion directives were issued to the head of an expedition activated for a month, and military instructions had no force after the officers and soldiers were discharged at the end of November. Since the Mormon exodus took place from December to April, civilians without any authority enforced an expulsion policy that did not originate with the governor in the first place.
The real story of Mormon exile reduces Governor Boggs to a tool of the strong first-settlers' party in upper Missouri. This group deserves identification and a name; it existed in active and dormant forms for at least two years in about ten counties that ringed the Mormon area. Governor Boggs catered to this faction, to the point of allowing them unlimited freedom against Latter-day Saint settlements, and finally adopting their goals and slogans in his extermination orders. One can view him as a Jackson County member of this party from its beginnings, or as a politician afraid to [p.28] challenge the upper Missouri protectionists. He elevated their expulsion-extermination program to state policy for a time, thus giving local fraternities the support to intimidate Mormon groups until this minority found political protection elsewhere. This regional private pressure caused the extermination orders, dictated their phraseology, and enforced their terms after these militia commands lapsed. The above corrective conclusions will appear by sequencing events in the bitter Mormon drama.
BOGGS' REACTIONS TO THE 1833 EXPULSION
Studying 1838 may create tunnel vision for the epic of banishing Mormons from Missouri. State expulsion then climaxed five years of conflict, during which sizeable Latter-day Saint groups had moved on demand from three different counties: Jackson (1833), Clay (1836), and Carroll (1838).1 In Jackson the Saints were taken by surprise and naively sought to claim their rights of ownership and citizenship. The Jackson resistance of 1833 most resembles the Mormon stance in 1838; there is remarkable similarity between this first county expulsion and the later state expulsion. If Mormons suddenly became "street-wise" in this first case, so did Lilburn Boggs, as resident and participant in Jackson County negotiations, and as lieutenant governor, part of a state administration that publicly deplored banishment but privately surrendered to first-settlers' threats after an abortive attempt to keep the courts open.
In 1833 Boggs passively saw community leaders and officials sign demands for Mormon withdrawal, and next force a gunbarrel contract to abandon the county before spring planting. Mormons hired lawyers and petitioned Governor Dunklin for intervention, but they were directed to courts using juries of their sworn enemies. Since Mormons resisted moving, terror gangs harassed their settlements in a crisis of violence. Latter-day Saints finally used force against force, but some casualties on each side inflamed the populace. County militia was then activated at Independence, ostensibly to bring security to both parties. In the meantime, rumors came to rural settlements that several brethren had been arrested and were about to be lynched. The majority of Mormon men marched to Independence, but were met by citizens now legally mustered, and their commander confiscated Mormon guns as the price of peace. This now enabled raiders to move without opposition to drive out [p.29] the minority. In review, anti-Mormon goals were reached in a few simple stages. Executive paralysis permitted terrorism, which forced Mormons to self-defense, which was immediately labelled as an "insurrection," and was put down by the activated militia of the county. Once Latter-day Saints were disarmed, mounted squads visited Mormon settlements with threats and enough beatings and destruction of homes to force flight.2
Five years later, Mormon leaders made a last appeal to Missouri's legislature before leaving the state. This document was sent by unimprisoned authorities and evidently drafted by Bishop Partridge, who signed first. Because of his clarity and personal knowledge of the whole Missouri experience, his viewpoint is most valuable. Partridge's explanation of Jackson County agrees with the above narrative:
These abuses with many others of a very aggravated nature so stirred up the indignant feeling of our people that a party of them, say about 30, met a company of the mob of about double their number, when a battle took place in which some two or three of the mob and one of our people were killed. This raised as it were the whole county in arms, and nothing would satisfy them but an immediate surrender of the arms of our people, and they forthwith to leave the county…. The next day parties of the mob, from 30 to 70, headed by priests, went from house to house threatening women and children with death if they were not off before they returned. This so alarmed them that they fled in different directions…. In the meantime the weather being very cold, their sufferings in other respects were very great.3
One cannot tell whether the Lieutenant Governor quietly aided the expulsion faction in 1833, or as a political realist advised the Saints to capitulate and leave. But he took a coldly pragmatic view of banishing "these deluded people." This phrase comes from his public answer to rumors that he was forced "by the populace" to call up the militia, or was "driven from this county" because of his public neutrality, since he "could not approbate the proceedings of that portion of the citizens…engaged against this sect of people." While claiming "unpleasant" pressure from the anti-Mormon party, Boggs verified the militia role in removing Mormon weapons and thus allowing terrorists to remove the Mormons. Boggs defended the official disarmament in unfeeling phrases, revealing his perception that military action blocked Mormon defense capability and exposed them to lawless deportation:
The militia were ordered into service by Lieutenant Colonel Pitcher…for the purpose of suppressing the insurrection. I approved of the course adopted [p.30] by Colonel Pitcher as the only means of saving bloodshed, and of restoring order…. On reaching the western edge of the town, the colonel despatched one of the Mormons as a messenger to that portion of his brethren then in arms, with the information that the militia were raised to quell this insurrection, and that they must come forward, surrender their arms, and return to their homes. This, after considerable consultation back and forth, the Mormons at length complied with…. On the next day and on the day afterwards, the Mormons took flight at the threats of the populace, and fled in every direction…. It is true that the dwellings of the Mormons were, to the number perhaps which Mr. Hyde mentions, torn down by the populace under cover of the night. The persons engaged in this matter are not known.4 Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.30
In 1838 the identical process was repeated for upper Missouri, and for a Mormon population ten times the thousand expelled from Jackson County. In both cases the militia was called out "as the only means of saving bloodshed," but by forcing surrender of weapons of the Saints and leaving them unguarded, both 1833 and 1838 troops were a major tool in forcing out the unpopular. In 1833, Lieutenant Governor Boggs looked on, failed to speak for rights of the oppressed, waited until they fired back on their persecutors, and then helped to negotiate surrender of Mormon guns. Likewise in 1838, Governor Boggs looked on, ignored pleas of Mormons being driven from their homes, waited until vigorous self-defense was misrepresented, and commanded the militia to subdue Mormons "as enemies," which at a minimum meant surrender of Mormon guns. In 1833 Jackson County, the governor observed the machinery of the unprotected minority trap. Private violence first forced armed defense, which then gave the removal party the apparent moral advantage to complain of aggression and demand militia action to render the minority defenseless. Boggs had explained in writing the final escalating stages of Mormon eviction in 1833; as governor he certainly remembered the process as he assisted its steps in 1838.
THE NORTHWEST EXPULSION PARTY
Boggs' extermination orders copied private warnings in 1838, but earlier equivalents were used by citizens' groups of Jackson and Clay Counties. The Independence committee drafted clean alternatives—Mormons could leave on schedule or consult their prophets "to inform them of the lot that awaits them."5 Three days later the armed group demanded immediate agreement to leave, with extermination as the penalty: "The mob declared that they or the [p.31] Mormons must leave the county, or they or the Mormons must die."6 In 1833 refugees crossed the Missouri to Clay County, but initial compassion there gradually changed at the prospect of surrendering political control to the steady influx of immigrants. Unrest led to community councils to head off violence. Their resolutions for the Mormons admitted that "the constitution and laws of the country" gave no right "to expel them by force." Yet the Clay committee repeatedly predicted "civil war" if the Saints did not leave.7
Logical relocation was in lightly-settled prairies above the river counties, though many in Clay thought the Latter-day Saints should leave Missouri. Since church leaders there favored a site directly north of Ray County, they were forced to deal with Ray representatives to avoid violence. These gave permission, Mormon negotiator John Murdock wrote in his journal, but would "not let us live with them."8 Local presidency member John Whitmer reported "great uneasiness" in both Clay and Ray in allowing Latter-day Saints to resettle in nearby territory.9 Clay leaders hoped that neighboring counties would cooperate in finding a Mormon location "where they will be, in a measure, the only occupants, and where none will be anxious to molest them."10
A new county was envisioned in these words, and Alexander Doniphan, legislator and occasional Mormon lawyer, proposed and obtained it by the end of 1836. His recollections 45 years afterward are valuable for outlines, though from memory or reporting, they are fuzzy on some details. The motive behind Doniphan's bill was "organizing Caldwell County for the Mormons exclusively." Whether through his aggressive lobbying or tacit consent of local church leaders, non-Mormons understood granting a county was an "agreement" not to settle elsewhere.11
Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.31-32
Mormon sources show an understanding not to relocate main groups in Clay or Ray, but there was no visible promise to be contained in Caldwell. Indeed, much was left undefined, according to Doniphan's frank 1836 letter to W. W. Phelps, of the Mormon regional presidency. The lawyer apologized that "the present limits of your county are contracted" but summarized the northern and southern compromises. The latter was a six-mile strip demanded by Ray County but left open, perhaps to be annexed by Caldwell "when prejudices have subsided and reason and common sense have again assumed the helm." The upper compromise was a black [p.32] cloud, however, for Doniphan "was forced" to create non-Mormon Daviess County above Caldwell because of "the petitions of the people of north Grand River." Mormons later felt free to purchase and settle in this low density county, but this challenged the continuing coalition described by Doniphan's letter.
Before Governor Boggs signed the above legislative package, Doniphan sought a Mormon county twice the size. But the lobbying of about 200 old settlers cut back Mormon territory on the north, obviously because of the powerful allies that Doniphan mentions:
I presented the petition in due time and had it referred to a committee of which I was chairman and of which Noland of Jackson was a member, and the other was Head of Randolph. The petitions of the people of north Grand River, the statements of the citizens of Ray, the influence of her members and the prejudices of Noland, Boggs, Jeffery, McLelland, etc., were to be combatted…. I was forced to report a bill making two counties north of Ray instead of one…. After the bill was reported, the member from Ray…wished to extend the Ray line six miles north. This I resisted but foresaw that the governor and party would do what they pleased, so I made a compromise.12
Doniphan was blocked by a restrictionist alliance that was obviously broader than the few counties named. He alludes to the "prejudices and ignorance that are to be found and combatted everywhere in this country on this subject, as well with the legislature as the common herd."13 And a central group spearheaded the opposition to free Latter-day Saint settlement. Besides the northern settlers and Ray representatives to the south, nearby Randolph County is mentioned, along with three Jackson legislators: Abraham McClelland in the senate, and representatives Smallwood V. Noland and Thomas Jeffries. Two years before, these three had signed a buy-out offer of Jackson leaders that stipulated: "The Mormons are not to make any effort, ever after, to settle, either collectively or individually, within the limits of Jackson County."14 In sum, representatives of four major areas and their allies with a common program qualify as a party, particularly when backed up by thousands of constituents handy with ballot and rifle. Doniphan could not overcome the Jackson "prejudices," including those of Boggs; he could only report that "the governor and party would do what they pleased." Two years later Boggs ignored every Mormon plea in the face of area evictions. Since he headed restrictionists in narrowing Mormon territory in 1836, he was no doubt a power center for the expulsionists in 1838.
The petitioners of "north Grand River" had blocked upward extensions of the Mormon county, but they could not check Mormon migration into these loosely settled prairies. Major conflict here was inevitable, no matter how diplomatic Mormons might be, given two unchangeable realities prior to 1838. First was the raw determination of Daviess settlers not to allow a Mormon majority, a position reinforced by their successful 1836 legislative bonding with Boggs and the powerful Jackson men around him, as just discussed. Superimposed on this unwritten decree was Latter-day Saint determination to use unrestricted rights of settlement as they abandoned Ohio for Missouri. The Prophet arrived in March, and by July the "poor camp" from Ohio was underway, numbering over 500. Smaller streams of migrants and converts were arriving in convoys of wagons in summer and fall of 1838. Since the Mormon county of Caldwell had essentially filled the prior year, this heavy migration was channeled north to Daviess.
The recent study of the 1838 conflict sees Caldwell's settlement year of 1837 as a time of good feeling, only to be spoiled in 1838 by a dangerous Mormon defensiveness. But this reverses causation, for Mormon defensiveness existed because leaders could realistically foresee violent opposition to planned expansion into the vacant upper lands. Sidney Rigdon intemperately spoke on the 1838 Independence Day, supposedly tearing open the dam that held tranquil waters. This theory asserts "that the Mormon leaders' fear of violence was exaggerated, even unfounded at that time."15 Readers are assured by vague historical estimates: "Most Missourians were not aware of any unusual strain in their relations with the Mormons" in midsummer of 1838, since there was "a friendly and cooperative spirit…between the Mormons and non-Mormon settlers of northwestern Missouri."16
Reality was otherwise, simply because the region decreed that Mormons must not settle out of their county in major groups. The above view misunderstands why 1837 was largely calm on the surface; it seems to say that northwest feelings must have softened. But peace existed in 1837 because Mormons still fit into the settlers' framework by occupying mainly Caldwell. Small clusters were no threat in outer counties, but when major Mormon settlements moved north, the containment-expulsion doctrine reemerged. Founding extra-Caldwell Mormon centers suddenly revived the 1836 restriction thinking. Up to mid-1838 much optimism was [p.34] expressed by Mormons about coexistence, but accurate history parallels diagnostic medicine—a deadly malignancy may be growing quite unobserved.
Mormon migration re-created the 1836 Clay County problem, and the Mormon "belligerent stance" was a byproduct of stated and unstated settlers' warnings.17 With political innocence and remarkable honesty, Joseph Smith said publicly in mid-1838: "To be mobbed any more without taking vengeance, we will not."18 He obviously sought to reverse the Clay County image of a Mormon as one who would quietly leave to avoid trouble. The climate of this statement appears in official church records. The Prophet arrives from Ohio in March; in April he receives revelation that Far West is the center, but that other stakes would emerge for "the gathering of my saints…in the regions round about" (D&C 115:17-18); he is conscious of immigrating companies from a letter noting about 200 Canadian wagons on the road, and late May and early June are taken up in personally surveying Daviess County sites for northern expansion.19 By weeks of surveying land in their area, Joseph certainly sized up attitudes of residents who successfully petitioned that this territory would not be in the Mormon County in 1836.
In 1837, W. W. Phelps had written of the Daviess reaction to the first two dozen Mormon families who presumed to step over the line: "Public notice has been given by the mob in Daviess County, north of us, for the Mormons to leave that county by the first of August, and go into Caldwell."20 A few years later, Church leaders reviewed these 1837 symptoms that upper Missouri would reject Latter-day Saint transplants:
Sometime in the month of July…some 20 or 30, headed by Mr. Adam Black, a justice of the peace, and Mr. Penniston, a colonel in the militia, went from house to house and warned every man belonging to our society, to leave the county on or before a certain day…or suffer the consequences, as they had resolved upon that day to clear the county of every Mormon in it.21
This unreinforced expulsion plan failed, for Mormons firmly answered that they would not leave Daviess "upon any consideration whatever," and promised that on the named day Mormon men "would be at home well prepared for all such visitors."22 But if Daviess settlers first backed down, the underlying goal was unchanged. Their program appears in surviving papers of a strange [p.35] investigation. Justice Adam Black gives a polite version: "We concluded to go and see these people and request them to leave this county peaceably," an action that adds insight on why the 1838 Mormon posse took so many men to visit him the next year, and were so blunt about their rights.23 These Black papers also quote the scrawled 1837 public warning:
Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.35
Notice is hereby given by request of a portion of the citizens on the north side of Grand River. Any Mormon that comes on this side of Grand River will be…drove back. No Mormon [is to] settle on this side of Grand River; if the[y] do, the[y] may abide by the consequence.24
Thus the Daviess majority petitioned for containment in 1836, threatened that it would be enforced in 1837, and went to war for it in 1838. Through these years upper Missourians did business with Mormons, and some sought their political support. But the safety committees also remained in place. The recent 1838 study of LeSueur misreads a part for the whole in picturing 1837 as a year of good will; this analysis uses the flawed method of relying on vocal Mormon dissenters who rationalized that Missouri was peaceful until Joseph Smith moved from Ohio in 1838 with an agenda of aggression against insiders and outsiders. This was arguable because conflicts escalated with Joseph Smith's 1838 arrival. But the real reason for tension was the movement of all faithful Latter-day Saints to Missouri in the same year that he arrived, plus his vigorous defense of their rights to purchase available lands around the Mormon county. Thus the preconceptions of prior settlers escalated into violent action that year. Because Mormon migration coincided with the Prophet's arrival, the historian may falsely identify him as the problem instead of the victim, with his people, of restrictionists with a rigid Mormon quota.
It was early 1837 when Doniphan reminded Phelps about "the prejudices and ignorance that are to be found and combatted everywhere in this country on this subject."25 Random sources show the hardening of anti-expansion views in 1838 before the Mormon declaration of independence in July. High councilor Calvin Beebe left Far West for neighboring Clinton County in March, about the time Joseph Smith came from Kirtland. But Beebe soon moved nearer to Mormon settlements "because there seemed to be considerable warmth against our people settling in that county."26 About April, Anson Call arrived from Ohio by the rivers. On the steamboat, [p.36] General Wilson of Jackson County warned him against gathering to the Mormon center, and reinforced his point at Jefferson City by introducing him "to about a dozen of the Jackson County boys, Governor Boggs included." They responded with ridicule at "a Mormon going to Caldwell County." Earlier on the boat, Wilson was both crude and accurate when first told that Call's group was headed to Far West:
You will be driven from there before six months…. I am Colonel Wilson of Jackson County. I was one of the principal actors in driving the Mormons from that county and expect to be soon engaged in driving them from Caldwell County…. He advised us to stop in some other place, for if we went to Far West we were sure to be butchered.27
As noted, many histories explain 1838 expulsion by escalating ill will started by Sidney Rigdon's 1838 oration on Independence Day. He is often pictured as firing barrages of rhetoric. Not so, for the oration is far more than "the usual references" to patriotic symbols.28 Instead, Rigdon carefully described the civilizing benefits of Mormon colonization and ended by reiterating their American right to settle anywhere and defend against private violence. Major migrating groups were soon arriving, and by printing Rigdon's speech the First Presidency notified upper Missouri that Saints would protect their settlements. Mormons knew by the two prior county evacuations that an approaching Mormon majority would bring violence—that their critical mass in Daviess would soon provoke demands to leave. By blunt words on the problem, Rigdon contributed to it, but realities run deeper than words. Indeed, dissenter John Corrill rightly blames Daviess Mormon Lyman Wight for increasing tension there by his strong rhetoric. Yet Corrill was a political realist and saw speeches as symptoms. He quotes first residents on the underlying issue: "The Mormons would soon overrun Daviess, and rule the county."29
So on 4 July 1838, President Rigdon first tried to dispel prejudice by fully explaining contributions of Latter-day Saint patriotism, economic improvement through hard work, faith in a Biblical and revealed religion, deep commitment to education and the meaning of the temple whose cornerstones were laid that day.30 Only after pages of positives did closing paragraphs warn that Saints would fight rather than be restricted in settlement: "And that mob that comes on us to disturb us: it shall be between us and them a war of extermination." Yet he immediately clarified this as a [p.37] declaration of defense: "We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people: but shall stand for our own until death."31
Mormon industry was already proverbial for transforming the Caldwell prairie into productive farms and a center city. And leaders planned the extensive settlements and diverse production developed in western Illinois and in their western mountainland later. Besides grouping in Daviess County to the north, Mormons had accepted offers to purchase land in De Witt, by the Missouri River to the southeast. Rigdon's closing message on Independence Day was that Latter-day Saints would not pour capital and labor into improvements and then be driven from them.
The immediate concern in July was Daviess County, where Mormons were a strong minority, perhaps a third of the population. In August, conflict erupted there in an attempt to keep Mormon men from voting. Events moved fast afterward. Mormon leaders next rode in force to Daviess County to demand future protection from Justice Black. Surrounding counties then sent investigating committees or armed reinforcements to support older settlers, who prematurely claimed that Mormons would not cooperate with courts. The readiness of the regional citizens' party is shown by Jackson County resolutions after a Daviess settler requested immediate people-to-people help. At Independence a mass meeting was called, which defined the problem as "difficulties between the citizens of Daviess and other counties, and the Mormons." Proceedings first defined the enemy: "The citizens of Jackson County know the Mormons to be a set of fanatics and impostors and that they are a pest to the community at large." At that time a second meeting was scheduled to sign up volunteers for Daviess County, and a resolution passed "that the Governor be furnished with a copy of the proceedings of this meeting."32 So hostility at Independence had not changed much from 1833 to 1838, an obvious parallel to other counties uneasy at Mormon migration. And the intercounty settlers' groups expected mutual assistance plus the cooperation of the governor. These regional reflexes indicate the protectionist party knew its moves long before Rigdon's speech.
Upper Missouri furor now existed because Daviess expulsionists inflamed supporters already suspicious of Mormon growth in the upper Missouri. Subtracting emotion, the real issues were that Mormon men had traded blows for their right to enter the polling [p.38] place at Gallatin, that Mormon leaders soon showed in force at that county seat to demand civil rights, and that Mormon leaders avoided legal process arising from this intimidation until they could get hearings without danger of being lynched. Documents at this point show total consistency with Rigdon's public warning as church recorder George W. Robinson wrote: "We will not act on the offensive but always on the defensive; our rights and our liberties shall not be taken from us, and we peaceably submit to it, as we have done heretofore."33 Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.38
Caldwell Mormons next intercepted a wagon of guns and ammunition and detained the teamsters. This shipment was intended to reinforce the old settlers of Daviess and Livingston, who had both drawn the line on further Mormon encroachment. Twisting Latter-day Saint intent and words, they petitioned the governor for immediate protection against "those imposterous rebels" who were preparing what "they are pleased to call a war of extermination."34 Although Rigdon used that phrase, in five years of anti-Mormon aggression, language of "extermination" originated before his speech. For instance, in 1836 the First Presidency wrote the Clay County committee that they were continually victimized by "the ruthless hand of extermination."35 After Mormons intercepted the gun shipment in 1838, Boggs sent regional troops and planned personally to lead others to Daviess.36 But the activated head of that military district, David Atchison, ordered a state company to the area, personally negotiated Mormon legal cooperation and reported to the governor on 17 September. Boggs had ordered units to head to Daviess with him about 22 September but Atchison's letter portrayed Latter-day Saints as besieged and seeking peace, which was evidently the reason for Boggs' switch not to visit the area of conflict.37 His first stance was to come to stop supposed Mormon aggression; next he ignored many requests to stop aggression against the Mormons; finally he issued his extermination order by remote control.
Atchison ordered home the irregular forces in Daviess that included volunteers "from the counties of Livingston, Carroll, and Saline."38 These shadow organizations also appear in the small percentage of Mormon affidavits that give detail on individual expulsions. For instance, right after the Daviess election, a Mormon settler living in adjacent Livingston was informed by a committee: "They had resolved that there should not one of our people live in [p.39] that county, and that they would give me four days to leave the county."39 Feelings were the same in Daviess through September, though Atchison's militia and the equalizing Mormon population prevented deportation. But Daviess exile was a constant danger, according to the uneasy letters of Atchison and his commanders. Parks wrote that behind skittish negotiations were steady settlers' threats: "Their intention is to drive the Mormons with powder and lead from this county."40 This intent was slightly postponed by a temporary shift of pressure points on Latter-day Saint settlements.
General Atchison and loyal subordinates defused the Daviess crisis during September, though they could do nothing to remove raw materials for the later explosion they feared. Atchison had disbanded the private nucleus of about 250 from three surrounding counties, assembled "under the pretext of defending the citizens of Daviess County against the Mormons."41 But these intercounty minute men had been in place before the creation of Mormon Caldwell. During the earlier Clay County crisis, Anderson Wilson vividly pictured the old-settlers' party in letters to relatives. He actually moved to Clay a year after the Jackson exiles, but panicked with other citizens at heavy migration in 1836. Fearing Mormon political control and admitting "we are trampling on our law and constitution," Wilson reported town meetings of respectable citizens plus regional support: "I will also show what each county will furnish if needed to drive the Mormons." He then gave figures of about 500 men from each of the surrounding counties who would back up the expulsion organization in Clay county.42 Documents after the 1838 election fracas show the continued existence of these safety committees, and the agitation of Daviess old-settlers to activate them. This resulted in another military organization parallel to the state militia, with many citizens members of both. Atchison vainly dunned Boggs as commander-in-chief to back up lawful forces by condemning the paralegals. In the end Boggs legitimized their program.
CARROLL COUNTY'S EXTERMINATION ORDER
The most exposed Mormon "outpost" was on the Missouri River, De Witt in Carroll County, where non-Mormon speculators had courted Mormon purchase in early 1838. Now post-election fears activated area regulators to move against a few hundred [p.40] Carroll County Mormons. This expulsion history need only be summarized, since there was no provocation and basic events are clear. As expressed by the Partridge-leaders petition a couple of months later: "It is well known that the people of our Church who had located themselves at De Witt, had to give up to a mob and leave the place, notwithstanding the militia were called out for their protection."43
Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.40
When a removal demand came, Latter-day Saints there petitioned the governor, quoting him the regulators' harsh words that Boggs would soon make his own. The Mormon petitioners of Carroll reported their ultimatum on 22 September, two days after receiving it:
Certain inhabitants of this and other counties…threatened, with force and violence, to drive certain peaceable citizens…out of the county, but on deliberation, concluded to give them…till the first of October next to leave said county; and threatened, if not gone by that time, to exterminate them without regard to age or sex.44
This county ultimatum order was soon verified by an investigating Chariton County committee, which found "a large portion of the citizens of Carroll and the adjoining counties" assembled and about to make good their threats against the Mormon defenders: "To use the gentleman's language, they are waging a war of extermination, or to remove them from the said county." The Chariton group then visited the Mormons and "found them in the act of defense, begging for peace, and wishing for the civil authorities to repair there as soon as possible, to settle the difficulties between the parties."45
But in three weeks old settlers' forces expelled their victims. Yet Latter-day Saints did not leave De Witt without finding out where the governor stood on their case. They sent an express messenger, who brought back the same indifference that already frustrated complaining field commanders. If exact words are debatable, the message was clear. John Taylor, passionate convert to civil liberty and the gospel, was one of the outnumbered defenders in early October and summarized the answer: "On the third we agreed with Mr. Caldwell to go to the governor…. After we had defended the place ten days, we obtained the heartless intelligence that his excellency could do nothing for us."46 Boggs' 1840 message to the legislature was sensitive on this point of turning down the last critical appeals of generals and Mormons before open warfare:
Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.41
I received information of the partial interruption of the peace in De Witt, Carroll County, whilst absent from the seat of government, but took no order on the subject, knowing that the officer in command of the militia of that division was fully authorized under the law, and had ample force to preserve the peace.47
This explanation misses reality. De Witt Mormons petitioned the governor on 22 September 1838 and told him they would be attacked if not gone by 1 October. Their final messenger went to the governor 3 October and reported his indifference by 10 October, since Mormons left on 11 October.48 On 4 October, Boggs' Jackson County associate, General Samuel Lucas, sent a grim assessment of the multi-county potential. Fearing inevitable attack and inevitable defense, he warned Boggs one non-Mormon death would bring "from four to five thousand volunteers in the field against the Mormons, and nothing but their blood will satisfy them."49 As a friend of expulsionists from 1833, the governor knew all this. Though several hundred militia had been activated by Atchison's authority, they lacked heart for the job of policing militant fellow-citizens. Even before receiving Lucas' realistic warning, Boggs knew that Atchison's lawful militia was inferior in manpower and morale to the cross-county regulators. Boggs' integrity is questionable in his above legislative claim that Atchison "had ample force to preserve the peace."
Appeasement at De Witt brought dangerous escalation, not abatement of the Mormon problem. If the governor did not know that, he was the only observer ignorant of the consequences. General Atchison, Mormons, rank and file in the settlers' party, and bystanders all said that illegal forces freed by the Carroll capitulation would now move against Daviess County Mormons. Atchison's most aggressive minor officer wrote Boggs 13 October about the next scene of expulsion: "The Daviess and Livingston County people, and many others, are on their way to Daviess County with one field piece, with the determination to prevent their settling in that county at all hazards."50 This was two weeks before the governor's first extermination order. The same view of events was sent by the governor's chief militia commander ten days before the first extermination order: "A portion of the men from Carroll County…. are on their march for Daviess County, where it is thought the same lawless game is to be played over, and the [p.42] Mormons to be driven from that county and probably from Caldwell County."51 [Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.42]
Mormons were on notice that private forces were about to reinstate Daviess demands of removal, still in place after the two-week Carroll diversion. As expressed by the 1838 Mormon petition, the issue now was survival:
From De Witt the mob went towards Daviess County and whilst on their way there, they took two of our men prisoners and made them ride upon the cannon, and told them that they would drive the Mormons from Daviess to Caldwell, and from Caldwell to hell; and that they would give them no quarters, only at the cannon's mouth.52
BOGGS' REASONS FOR STATE EXTERMINATION ORDERS
The governor's first extermination command came 27 October just two weeks after the Carroll County exiles straggled northwest into the Mormon center of Far West. Since the Latter-day Saints had cooperated with all civil and military authorities to mid-October, the so-called "Mormon War" is properly applicable to a two-week attempt then to create a defense perimeter. Mormons controlled Caldwell County, but Daviess to the north was again the field of conflict, with multi-county volunteers aggressive after their De Witt victory. Yet the earlier stand off had been tilted by immigration, principally the 4 October arrival of perhaps 400 from the Kirtland Camp, and Latter-day Saints were now a slight majority in Daviess County.
The latest study of the 1838 conflict downplays the victimization of Mormon settlers, exaggerates their Daviess aggression in this period, and too broadly denies a conspiracy to drive them from the state. But regional conspiracy for that purpose was a fact in October, when businessman-arbitrator William Dunnica wrote in relief from De Witt that the Saints had saved bloodshed by capitulating, ominously assessing the strength and intent of the restriction party:
The citizens of Carroll pledged themselves to assist any county who assisted them, when called on for a similar purpose. There was a company of militia stationed near the place…who, after peace was made, declared that they would not let the Mormons pass to Far West—they said there was no room for them in Caldwell County…. I am inclined to believe that the adjoining counties to Caldwell, will never be contented until they leave the state.53
Neutral militia had withdrawn from Daviess a few weeks earlier. From this point, firsthand information reveals an active expulsion operation in Daviess and beyond. John D. Lee's Missouri memoirs are quite accurate where they can be checked, and on 3 October he risked all to pose as a new settler when isolated Mormon men were being tied to trees and whipped. Confronted in wild country by eighteen "state volunteers," he drew out their plans by a combination of feigned ignorance and bravado:
They then said the Mormons must leave the country, and if we do not make them do so now, they will be so strong that we cannot compel them to go…. That another band of men would come along soon, and they would then go through the Mormon settlements and burn up every house and lynch every d——d Mormon they could find. That the militia had been sent to keep order in Daviess County but would soon be gone, and the work of destroying the Mormons in general would begin.54
Such an infrastructure drove Latter-day Saints out of Jackson and Clay and by mid-October had done the same to the cluster in Carroll and to many scattered Saints in peripheral counties. This upper Missouri movement sprang up with citizen meetings wherever a Mormon group gathered. Full reserves could be drawn from any nearby county. Successful always because of bullying tactics and public apathy, it now moved against one of the two center counties heavily populated by Latter-day Saints. Ten days after John D. Lee confronted the "state volunteers," prisoner Amasa Lyman rode the cannon from Carroll to Daviess and was told "they were going to be assisted by men from Livingston, Ray, Jackson, Carroll, and other counties, also from Platt County."55 Regional war had been declared, and not by the Mormons.
What went through Joseph Smith's mind in early October as he and the Carroll exiles rode hostile roads back to Far West? The combined irregulars at De Witt had shown no mercy, in line with their advanced warning "to exterminate…without regard to age or sex." A part of this force was on its way to Daviess, where resentment burned deep at the new Mormon predominance. The Prophet knew that immediate ultimatums awaited all non-Caldwell Latter-day Saints. Doniphan's law partner characterized Daviess founders as "rather rude and ungovernable, being mostly backwoodsmen."56 Their meetings had already resolved "to drive the Mormons with powder and lead from this county."57 Mormon farmers in Daviess had mostly been run off their lands without a [p.44] chance to harvest or claim their stock. On 10 October for instance, the day before the De Witt surrender, Daviess Mormon William Seely was visited by an "armed mob," and forced to leave his property "to the plunderers," fleeing to Caldwell County with his family to save their lives.58 Winter was coming on, and the two primitive Mormon cities were glutted, limited by marginal facilities and dwindling supplies. Boggs had ignored every appeal for protection, and area militia now refused to face private expulsion forces.
Joseph Smith's choices were now grim: Move 10,000 to another state in deadly winter, with no assurance that civil rights would be respected elsewhere? Wait for planned attacks, exposing families to starvation and sieges? Or aggressively prevent the regulators from taking over Daviess County and the resources of its largely abandoned countryside?
On arriving at Far West with the Carroll exiles, Joseph Smith preached a blunt sermon on Boggs' gross negligence, and the immediate need of self-defense against mob forces gathering in Daviess. He then accompanied a relief battalion of several hundred from Far West to Adam-ondi-Ahman, the Daviess Mormon center. What followed is a complex mosaic from scores of historical bits and pieces. Ex-Mormon John Corrill sustains a skeletal narrative through these two weeks and reports Joseph Smith's goal to "expel the mob from Daviess and then from Caldwell County." Corrill told Joseph that reinforcements would arrive and retaliate, but the Prophet had faith in public constitutionalism:
Smith replied…they would not have the whole state on them, but only that party which was governed by a mob spirit, and they were not very numerous: and they, when they found they would have to fight, would not be so fond of gathering together against them.59
Mormon operations lasted about ten days, took no lives, failed to engage several hundred canny irregulars, burned perhaps three dozen buildings of potential use against Saints' settlements, and foraged for supplies for the beginning winter. Counterstrikes then destroyed additional Mormon dwellings and property. Mormon patrols perhaps exceeded instructions in forcing some Daviess citizens to leave if they did not declare neutrality or cooperation. But fear of Mormons and anticipation of anti-Mormon hostilities certainly emptied more homes than did confrontation. The legislative [p.45] petition of the Presiding Bishop and senior apostles admitted using defensive force in mid-October:
That instances have been of late, where individuals have trespassed upon the rights of others, and thereby broken the law of the land, we will not pretend to deny. But yet we do believe that no crimes can be substantiated against any of the people who have a standing in our Church of an earlier date than the difficulties in Daviess County. And when it is considered that the rights of this people have been trampled upon from [time] to time with impunity, and abuses heaped upon them almost innumerable; it ought in some degree to paliate for any infraction of law which may have been made on the part of any of our people.60
The above document looked back at events before the extermination order, and protested that the governor decreed corporate guilt for Mormons but corporate innocence for upper country citizens who forced the conflict. Yet learning that Latter-day Saints had taken military control in Daviess, Governor Boggs activated a militia expedition of about 2,000 just a day before the extermination order. This first mobilization was his immediate response to Mormon destruction of two settlements that could threaten their only city in Daviess. That county now contained perhaps 1,500 Mormon residents to about 1,200 older settlers, but Boggs ignored earlier acts of blocking Mormon voting and forcing Mormons off their farms. Boggs' 27 October mobilization only alleged that Mormons, by "armed force, have expelled the inhabitants of that county from their homes." Militia was being sent because "citizens of Daviess County" had petitioned the governor "for protection, and to be restored to their homes and property."61 Though this directive was superseded by the first extermination order the next day, it reveals the governor's viewpoint. Dispossessed Mormons were not recognized; they were distinct from "citizens." Latter-day Saints knew that weeks earlier, when their frantic calls for protection of homes and property at De Witt were ignored by the governor for a sustained period during their banishment from Carroll County. Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.45-46
But the extreme version of "citizen versus Mormon" came 27 October. This initial extermination directive responded to what Boggs later called "the last of the Mormon outrages," the hot skirmish at Crooked River.62 Mormon operations in Daviess had set off unfounded rumors of a coming invasion of Ray County, immediately south of Caldwell. A public meeting there delegated two messengers to visit the governor at once and urge military intervention, [p.46] with an additional resolution that authorities send a force north to prevent "intrusion by the Mormons, to act entirely on the defensive for the present."63 But the initiative to patrol the county line had been seized by Samuel Bogart, an expulsionist who exceeded his orders by allowing his company of 50 men to threaten Mormon settlers, after which he detained three Mormons.64 Fearing for the lives of these three, Mormon commanders mustered about 70, routed Bogart's company and freed the prisoners. Three Mormons were killed, and one of the Ray County militia, besides a number wounded on both sides. The Latter-day Saint group solemnly returned north to bury their dead, though popular panic had them marching south to burn Richmond.65
While Ray County couriers rushed to Jefferson City with a petition to put down the Mormon "insurrection" in Daviess, they were intercepted with a frantic update on Bogart's battle and the upcoming fictitious attack on the county seat. This report was sent by a Lafayette County resident, E. M. Ryland—not attorney-judge John F. Ryland—and was addressed to Boggs' messengers as a citizens' demand for protection.66 This request used the simplistic language of the Carroll citizens' ultimatum, but the coalition platform was broadened now to state expulsion. Ryland assumes that Boggs will call out troops, and outlines what order Boggs should give to them:
They must make haste and put a stop to the devastation which is menaced by these infuriated fanatics, and they must go prepared and with full determination to exterminate or expel them from the state en masse. Nothing but this can give tranquility to the public mind, and reestablish the supremacy of the laws.67
The delegates raced 90 miles in 48 hours, delivering both the demands of the Ray County convention and of Ryland, speaking for the upper Missouri activists: "There must be no further delaying with this question anywhere. The Mormons must leave the state, or we will—one and all."68 The governor recognized the voice of like groups in ten other counties, and quickly penned the original extermination order to General Clark, amending the Daviess mobilization of the day before:
Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operations with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description.69
Although most histories credit Boggs here, in truth he only ratified the program and slogans of the first-settlers party of upper Missouri. His "exterminated or driven from the state" imitates Ryland's "exterminate or expel them from the state"—both repeat the September report sent to the governor by De Witt Mormons, who were "to leave said county" or regional volunteers would "exterminate them."70 Adopting the expulsion-party passwords communicated total support. Yet Boggs was the state's executive, also sworn to support the due process of the Missouri constitution. He no doubt rationalized such orders in terms of his approach to the Mormon problem in his legislative report: "I should truly reflect the wishes and opinions of the people."71 He served special interests in upper Missouri when they demanded extermination orders. This executive was more conduit than commander.
All expulsion directives were issued to John B. Clark as commanding general of the Mormon expedition. By giving him chief authority, the governor indirectly released David R. Atchison, who for nearly two months had consistently sought solutions when citizen forces confronted Latter-day Saints. This policy had drawn arrows for Atchison from the senior settlers' coalition. And Boggs admitted that he sought to please them in passing over Atchison, commander of the military district of main hostilities: "There was much dissatisfaction manifested towards him by the people opposed to the Mormons."72 Atchison had strong ideas on minority rights, even when Mormons used aggressive self-protection in Daviess: "I am convinced that nothing short of driving the Mormons from Daviess County will satisfy the parties opposed to them, and this I have not power to do, as I conceive, legally."73 This was not Boggs' man to carry out the upper-county mandate for deportation.
Atchison made the above comment when still in command, three days before the clash on Crooked River. As false rumors spread about Mormon attacks, the general faced all possibilities and joined Lucas, commander of the adjoining military district, in alerting Boggs to the beginning of civil war, demanding his presence, and reporting their activated force of 2,000 militia would keep the Mormons "in check."74 When the Mormon company defeated Bogart's patrol of Atchison's division at Crooked River, the general had to guard against further strikes that were never planned in the first place. Boggs issued his first extermination order in response [p.48] to this mythical Mormon offensive. He had already directed reinstatement of non-Mormon Daviess refugees the day before the Richmond messengers arrived with overdone data on the Crooked River conflict. Then Boggs prefaced the extermination order with the justification that "appalling" information had come "which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this state."75 This incredible new development was the attack of 70 Mormons on a state patrol of 50, which was intimidating Mormon settlers instead of acting on defensive orders. Ten thousand Mormons were now to be exiled in retaliation. Furthermore, Governor Boggs reiterated this extermination order after he was in possession of more accurate facts, which shows that he was more controlled by politics than events.
THE AMBIGUOUS "RINGLEADERS" ORDER
Jefferson City was three days' travel from the Mormon frontier; from here the governor issued policy and let his generals risk its application. Since he had ignored a dozen official pleas for his presence, Boggs predictably ignored that from Atchison and Lucas right after Crooked River. The new commander Clark intercepted this message and sent it to Boggs with his "decided opinion that it would be best for you to be there." This lawyer-officer had just received the first exterminating order and said the job would be done: "In the meantime I will endeavor to act out your orders in letter and spirit, however great the responsibility."76
The governor replied that duties would keep him from the front, but he nerved up his major general by explaining the original command. This letter issues a second extermination order, infrequently quoted but more important than the first because it was more detailed and issued five days later, giving Boggs time to consider the high voltage he was loosing. But there was no turning back:
It was considered by me that full and ample powers were vested in you to carry into effect my former orders. The case is now a very plain one—the Mormons must be subdued and peace restored to the community. You will therefore proceed without delay to execute the former orders…. I therefore again repeat that you are authorized, and full power is given you to take whatever steps you deem necessary, and such as the circumstances of the case may seem to demand, to subdue the insurgents and give peace and quiet [p.49] to the country. The ringleaders of the rebellion should be made an example of; and, if it should become necessary for the public peace, the Mormons should be exterminated or expelled from the state…. After having restored quiet, you will cause the people of Daviess County, who have been driven from their homes, to be reinstated.77
These were the full instructions to General Clark. They reiterated the governor's decision to exterminate or expel, and added: "The ringleaders of the rebellion should be made an example of." This military command was given in the context of "full power…to take whatever steps you deem necessary." There is no hint that the civil courts would determine guilt. On its face, this order decrees guilt and delegates the punishment, requiring that it be a severe deterrent. This directive was behind at least one major attempt to court-martial Joseph Smith, but the governor would later modify such a blank check.
Quick-moving events left Clark and his gathering force out of the conquest of the Mormon center. The first exterminating order went ahead to troops near Far West, along with the news that Atchison was superseded—in the governor's later words, not "called into service under the late order."78 Doniphan, Atchison's subordinate, still had secondary authority in the new expedition, and Lucas, Atchison's equal in the adjoining military district, quickly marshalled the locally activated 2,000 against Far West and dictated terms of surrender. Joseph Smith and his small force of about 600 capitulated from necessity and principle, for Mormon leaders never sought to resist public authority. Commanding General Clark was still several days' march to the east, frustrated at Lucas' initiative, but in agreement with his military settlement because it followed the model of the fuller extermination order. Yet Lucas had read only the first order, requiring expulsion of the people. So without knowing of Boggs' addendum to make "an example" of the leaders, he required their surrender, "to be tried and punished." Both Boggs and Lucas were following popular demands for removal plus retribution against top Mormons. This Jackson County general added other treaty provisions: Mormon property must be conveyed to repay debts and damages; all arms must be surrendered; after giving up their leaders "the balance should leave the state" but could mark time "until further orders from the commander-in-chief." This treaty was representative [p.50] democracy for the upper country—Lucas reported it "gave satisfaction to the whole army."79
Lucas had demanded custody of the Prophet and his associates for negotiation, but they immediately became powerless prisoners, and the next night seven hostages were told that a military court had sentenced them to the firing squad at 8 am. Extracts exist from the contemporary journal of Lyman Wight:
Sometime about the hour of eleven o'clock [pm] General Doniphan called on me and said to me: "Wight, your case is a damned hard one; you are all sentenced to be shot tomorrow morning at eight o'clock on the public square in Far West, by fourteen to seven, and for this reason I wash my hands against such coolblooded and heartless murder." And also said he should move his troops, numbering three hundred, before sunrise the next morning, and would not suffer them to witness such hardhearted, cruel, and base murder. He then shook hands with me and bade me farewell.80
Others close to the event add details. Mormon commander Hinkle came at night to say he had unsuccessfully defended Hyrum Smith before the court martial of about 14 officers and spectators including ministers, Judge Austin King, and District Attorney Birch. Hyrum remembered Doniphan's gruff farewell to the prisoners at sunrise, as he marched off his brigade in protest: "I will be damned if I will have any of the honor of it, or any of the disgrace of it."81 Doniphan's close law associate, Peter Burnett, was serving with the militia at Far West, heard of the court martial, and immediately assured Doniphan that he would support him, an offer with implications of holding military officers legally accountable for drumhead justice. Burnett considered the Prophet in mortal danger: "Had it not been for the efforts of Doniphan and others from Clay, I think it most probable that the prisoners would have been summarily tried, condemned, and executed."82
General Lucas next left small occupation forces and escorted the "ringleaders" to his home of Independence. This gave the Prophet and associates a recess from attempts to sentence them as scapegoats. But the danger of assassination or military execution was far from over. After wrenching farewells to families, the prisoners were closely guarded for two and a half days to Independence. Though puzzled by the beginning of courteous treatment, the seven leaders had reason to be wary, thinking their captors' original "design was to shoot us."83 Some rumor of an attempted execution reached Boggs, for Lucas defended himself: [p.51] "I never had any idea of trying any of the prisoners by a court martial, but only ordered them to my headquarters to await your further orders."84 Boggs was probably not as concerned about the safety of the leaders as about who had the right to deal with them. Their relaxed treatment at Independence was largely because Jackson generals knew they had borrowed the prisoners without permission. Hyrum Smith remembered General Moses Wilson's comment as they left Independence for Richmond to face military justice once more:
We were informed by General Wilson that it was expected by the soldiers that we would be hung up by the necks on the road, while on the march to that place, and that it was prevented by a demand made for us by General Clark…and that it was his prerogative to execute us himself.85
Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.51
In the meantime Clark and his 2,000 arrived at Far West on Sunday, 4 November, two days after the Prophet and associates had left for Independence. At Far West General Clark implemented Boggs' two extermination-expulsion orders. The general arrested other Mormons accused of violence or property destruction, and announced that all Latter-day Saints must leave the state, on pain of death. He gave the governor a gentler version of what he told the assembled Saints before returning to Richmond to attend the criminal trials: "The morning before I left Far West, I called the whole of the Mormons together," Clark reported. He said he stressed three main issues: (1) all newly arrested "would be taken to Richmond, tried, and punished if found guilty"; (2) the Lucas conditions of "capitulation" must be met; (3) early snows and devastation "induced me to modify the terms, and not require them to remove forthwith"—they could remain "until their convenience suited them in the spring."86
This was Clark's summary, but his Far West speech was taken down with its rough edges. Since state policy blended with private justice in the upper counties, Clark promised official or unofficial slaughter if Mormons stayed beyond spring:
I did not say that you shall go now, but you must not think of staying here another season or of putting in crops; for the moment you do, the citizens will be upon you…. If I have to come again because the treaty which you have made here shall be broken, you need not expect any mercy, but extermination—for I am determined the governor's order shall be executed.87
The general continued with the theme of summary punishment of Joseph Smith and the "ringleaders": "Do not let it enter your mind that they will be delivered, or that you will see their faces again, for their fate is fixed—their die is cast—their doom is sealed."88 Such words suggested an immediate death sentence for the seven hostages of Lucas, especially the First Presidency and Lyman Wight, who had led Mormon forces in Daviess County. As mentioned, Clark had just arrested some 50 other men, to be escorted to Richmond for a criminal hearing. The same court would be used for both groups, though for a time Clark sought to segregate the "ringleaders" for special punishment, as implied by Boggs' second extermination instruction.
The commander took his four dozen prisoners 30 miles south to Richmond, county seat and his headquarters for the military phase-out. Arriving when the "ringleaders" came from Independence, he had given a good deal of thought about how to deal with these special seven. His aim was a severe deterrent indicated by Boggs' instruction to make "an example" of the head Mormons. He first told the governor that he would push punishment "of Jo Smith and those leaders taken by General Lucas," but saw problems: "My whole object is to obey your orders, and settle this matter so as to have the best effect upon the people, and at the same time not compromise the character of the state."89
By this time Boggs had issued a third expulsion order, with extermination language now deleted because he had learned of the Mormon surrender and Clark's compromise that Mormons must remove at the end of winter. This 6 November instruction updated Clark on what to do now that hostilities were over and the leaders imprisoned. Boggs repeated that Daviess County was to be put back together without Mormons, and that the military there should arrest Mormons accused of crimes during October hostilities but hand them "to the civil authority, when you may deem it prudent to do so." Also, the goal of the militia was reviewed:
My instructions to you are to settle this whole matter completely, if possible, before you disband your forces. If the Mormons are disposed voluntarily to leave the state, of course it would be advisable in you to promote that object in any way deemed proper. The ringleaders of this rebellion, though, ought by no means be permitted to escape the punishment they merit.90
Boggs still used tough talk on the fate of the leaders; yet "made an example of" in the second extermination order rings of the firing [p.53] squad, whereas "the punishment they merit" in the context of this third directive could be a criminal conviction.
This third expulsion directive was received on 10 November, and the Prophet and the premier prisoners had arrived the evening before. Clark gets high marks for industry and had worked for a court martial but was wavering when the prisoners demanded to see him. Wight's contemporary journal is terse to the point of simplification. General Clark came into their "old log house" before 8 pm, "who on being interrogated what our crimes were, said he would inform us in the morning, and with a frown passed out of the room."91 Detailed recollections of the leaders agree Clark was vague at first and afterward announced they would have a civil trial. They said that Clark retained the option of a military trial at first. Parley Pratt added Clark's dialogue on his original visit. Clark had avoided stating charges, but said leaders would be tried by court martial. Asked on what legal basis, Clark replied, "according to the treaty stipulations entered into at Far West."92
At Richmond these leading prisoners began to learn how far Clark had pushed for military justice. They arrived Friday at the county seat and were soon visited by young Jedediah Grant, who was new in town and accidentally observed official business in the tavern used as headquarters:
He happened to come in time to see General Clark make choice of his men to shoot us on Monday morning, the 12th day of November; he saw them make choice of their rifles and load them with two balls in each. And after they had prepared their guns, General Clark saluted them by saying, "Gentlemen, you shall have the honor of shooting the Mormon leaders on Monday morning at eight o'clock."93 Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.53
Whether sympathetic or sadistic, the citizen soldiers freely talked. "One of the guards" told Wight that a court martial had been held "two nights previous to their arrival."94 This was apparently said on the morning after Clark declined to give charges. Wight's journal describes this second day at Richmond. Clark entered the jail and abruptly announced criminal charges of treason, murder, arson, and larceny. Next, a keeper chained the seven together with padlocks:
We were then informed that [we] were delivered over to the civil law, and that General Clark, after arriving at this place, had held a court martial and sentenced us to be shot, but fearing this might not be correct, he had sent to [p.54] Fort Leavenworth to the United States officer, whose answer on the subject was that "it would be nothing more, nor nothing less than cold-blooded murder."95 [Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.54]
This was the day that Clark answered Boggs' third expulsion letter. After assuring Boggs he had "ordered the leaders to be bound," the general shared his agonies over how to guarantee severe sentences. He reasoned that a military court was more efficient but legally questionable; yet in a criminal trial Mormon jurors would not convict.96 Clark was a country lawyer known for swaying verdicts with large doses of emotion, and he knew Mormon leaders would be tried in the county where offenses had occurred, the Mormon county of Caldwell.97 Since this procedural snag might block punishment of the top Mormons, Clark wrote that he had "detained General White and his field officers here a day or two, for the purpose of holding a court martial if necessary." But he was nervous about this plan without backup:
I suggest the propriety of trying Jo Smith and those leaders taken by General Lucas, by a court martial for mutiny. This I am in favor of only as a dernier resort. I would have taken this course with Smith at any rate; but it being doubtful whether a court martial has jurisdiction or not in the present case—that is, whether these people are to be treated as in time of war, and the mutineers as having mutinied in time of war—and I would here ask you to forward to me the attorney general's opinion on this point.98
This is a candid moment in the somewhat laundered state papers published to rationalize the expulsion. On 15 November Boggs said he received Clark's question on the legality of a court martial. But when the governor answered an accompanying letter, he was not then shocked by Clark's mention of a military court, making no comment on the subject and closing the 15 November note: "You will hasten your operations, and discharge all the troops as soon as the circumstances of the case will permit."99 However, in another four days Boggs protected himself by suddenly insisting on civil procedure for all Mormon defendants, which he must have known was already underway.100 On 19 November the governor took a stand on Clark's contingent court martial in a letter showing legal consultation:
You will take immediate steps to discharge all the troops you have retained in service as a guard, and deliver the prisoners over to the civil authorities. You will not attempt to try them by court martial; the civil law must govern…. I wish you distinctly to understand that if you have accomplished the object of the expedition, which was to restore peace to the community, and [p.55] to cause the offenders to be brought to justice, that you will discharge all your forces…. The officers retained to serve on court martial will also be discharged…. I should be happy to see you at this place, as you would perhaps be able to explain many things in relation to this perplexing subject, which I cannot at present understand.101
With this 19 November letter, the 1 November command to make examples of the leaders was defined as their delivery to civilian courts. What had Boggs really meant in the second extermination order? Did making "an example of" the leaders merely repeat the approved language of vengeful voters? Was the executive merely careless of consequences? Boggs had military aides on the field and soon learned of Lucas' 1 November court martial at Far West. Yet he sent Clark no caution on the subject. By failing to clarify his own language for nearly three weeks, the governor repeatedly risked the lives of Joseph Smith and his associates. In up-country justice, "example" suggested a clean execution to warn others not to trifle with society. More than once, rougher troops tried to shoot top Mormons. Joseph Smith said that in these dangerous days, the Spirit whispered that God would protect him.102 No order of the governor had done so.
ENFORCEMENT OF LAPSED ORDERS
Were Mormons driven out of Missouri under Boggs' extermination orders? An affirmative answer requires specific explanation. In review, there were two extermination directives, one on 27 October ("must be exterminated or driven from the state") and the other on 1 November ("should be exterminated or expelled from the state"). Both were issued to the expedition commander, General Clark, who forwarded the initial order to field officers Lucas and Doniphan. Lucas' "treaty" then committed Latter-day Saints to "leave the state," at a time to be defined by "further orders from the commander-in-chief." As Clark arrived in a few days, he ratified Lucas' arrangements and postponed the required exodus "until their convenience suited them in the spring." Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.55-56
Lucas gave terms of exile on 31 October and Governor Boggs no doubt was informed by 6 November when he sent General Clark the third command to rid Missouri of Mormons. Extermination phrases were now absent because generals had negotiated removal, which was the theme of Boggs' third general order: "If the [p.56] Mormons are disposed voluntarily to leave the state, of course it would be advisable in you to promote that object in any way deemed proper." This final expulsion order, though verbally milder, shows what the governor intended. "If necessary for the public peace" was a verbal condition of extermination-expulsion in Boggs' first two deportation directives to Clark. But this was only the statutory requirement for activating troops—the executive's final communication to Clark reviewed "the object of the expedition, which was to restore peace to the community."103 That was the general goal—the authorized means was force of Mormon evacuation. His mandates were carried out well by militia generals, Boggs told the legislature. Lucas, who decreed removal at Far West, "was justified by the circumstances" and merited the governor's "fullest approbation." Boggs added public superlatives of Clark—he had lived up to the executive's "high expectations" and had intelligently "executed this disagreeable duty."104 Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.56
In bicentennial 1976, Missouri's Governor Bond formally revoked Governor Boggs' first exterminating order, a profound moral gesture.105 Yet on a legal level, the commander's orders expired when the Mormon expedition terminated. Clark was put in charge of "the whole force" on 27 October in the first extermination-expulsion order, and the parallel expulsion orders were repeated on 1 November and 6 November. After surrender and court custody of leaders, the executive reminded Clark of statutory limits in his final letter of 19 November: "So soon as an insurrection is quelled and peace restored, the military authority ceases."106 Ten days later the Major General submitted his final report, indicating that "the whole of the forces placed under my command" were now "discharged." The operation was over; military directives were inoperative.107
Yet in reality, Mormon expulsion mainly occurred after the last militia units vanished at the end of November. Boggs assured the legislature of a fait accompli in early December, though few Mormons had migrated then, and their unimprisoned leaders were petitioning for a law "rescinding the order of the governor to drive us out of the state."108 Northwest representatives scorned and tabled that request. They spoke for past honor and present action. Representative Daniel Ashby, an officer in the bloody ambush of Haun's Mill, ennobled the victory: "What we did was in our own defense, and as we had the right to do." As for the legislature reversing [p.57] expulsion, was clear on what lagging Saints could expect—their memorial "came from a grand a set of villian[s] as ever lived, and such as should not be suffered to live in the state."109 The militia was gone, but deadly force awaited Saints rash enough to remain beyond winter. So Boggs' militia orders had lapsed but were effective because private regulators were still at the ready. Enforcers and rationalizers continued to venerate "the governor's order" because it dignified forced removal by unauthorized civilians.
The governor's troops had accomplished a great deal before discharge. They radically repositioned Latter-day Saints in the month when extermination orders were officially operative. Militia crippled Mormon economic power by destroying, confiscating, or declaring property forfeited, and Missouri Saints were stripped of arms. During mass migration the governor cleaned up his paper trail on guns. But he used weasel words in commanding his aide to return weapons to owners: "If, in any case, you think an improper use would be made of them, you can retain such."110 And Mormons generally did not receive them.111 Without means of defense, Clark's threat at Far West was prophecy if Mormons stayed: "The citizens will be upon you.112
Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.57
In early November the militia supervised a fourth county expulsion. Clark assigned to General Robert Wilson the expulsion orders in the Daviess center of Adam-ondi-Ahman. Wilson told Latter-day Saints there he would stay ten days with protective troops; if they did not move to Caldwell during that time, they would have to face "the just indignation of the citizens."113 Daviess militia officers signed permits allowing Latter-day Saints "to remove from Daviess to Caldwell County, there remain during the winter, or remove out of the state unmolested."114 And Daviess commander Robert Wilson took care of the spring contingency as he duplicated Clark's declaration at Far West: Mormons "need not think to put in another crop—if you do, the mob will kill you."115 Saints left Daviess at once, only to move again by spring, as citizen pressure increased. Thus the state operation compacted Mormons in Caldwell county and crushed their ability to resist.
The circuit court at Richmond also played an extra-judicial role in expulsion. As discussed, Boggs' third expulsion order dictated that "ringleaders" be turned over to the legal system for "the punishment they merit."116 In this popular view the leaders were obviously guilty, so the court's purpose was to determine [p.58] punishment. This consensus compromises the objectivity of the Richmond hearing during November. With good reason Mormon defendants called it a "mock trial," though it was technically not a trial but an examination of the prosecution's case to determine whether there was "probable ground" for later grand jury investigation and a jury trial afterward.117 This preliminary hearing lasted from 12 November to 29 November and judged testimony against the First Presidency and about 50 rank and file accused in the Mormon protection of Daviess and Caldwell in mid-October. Five were made scapegoats for a non-Mormon death in Bogart's battle and were held that winter on a murder charge. About half of the arrested Mormon soldiers were dismissed, and about half were charged with arson and robbery but released on bail. But the "ringleaders" were treated differently. The First Presidency and three others were charged with treason for directing a vigorous defense. One must ask whether the practical circuit judge really believed in the "probable ground" of the supposed Mormon kingdom, unanswerable to state and federal law, which with a thousand men declared war on a Missouri population of a quarter million. He knew that Mormons expressed intense patriotism and cooperated with all authority until the breakdown in civil protection at the end. The Richmond result is politically tainted with the punishment of leaders promised by Boggs, Lucas, and Clark. Only Joseph Smith, his counselors, and Daviess militia activists were charged with treason, an offense virtually unknown in criminal law, but so serious that bail would not be allowed. Too conveniently, this made the leaders hostages until the spring term of court, which coincided with the final Mormon expulsion. Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.58
The judge at Richmond was Austin A. King, a democrat who became governor a decade after committing Mormon leaders to Liberty Jail. A new resident of Richmond, he was appointed circuit judge of the upper counties in 1837 by Governor Boggs.118 Mormons smarted under his patronizing comments during the inquest. Although Latter-day Saint defendants were frustrated by the overdone accusations in this hearing, prisoners also bitterly complained of minority bias: the judge used his court to warn Mormons to keep their compelled commitment to leave.
This unethical agenda was reported by the only minor Mormon tainted with treason, Caleb Baldwin. Perhaps he was punished in part for his fiery tongue, for this indignant survivor of [p.59] the Jackson and Clay expulsions demanded a fair trial and twice recorded Judge King's retort that "there was no law for Mormons"—that "they must be exterminated."119 Church leaders also exposed King in their sworn testimony at Nauvoo. Hyrum Smith heard the judge insist that Boggs' decree controlled their case, "that there was no law for us, nor the Mormons in the State of Missouri; that he had sworn to see them exterminated, and to see the governor's order executed to the very letter."120 Lyman Wight heard such words in open court—King said he would have literally fulfilled the exterminating order "ere this time," had it been directed to him.121 Parley P. Pratt told of a Mormon witness questioned on the point of spring sowing, with the judge's lecture: "If you once think to plant crops or to occupy your lands any longer than the first of April, the citizens will be upon you: they will kill you every one, men, women and children."122
Thus King was also a spokesman for the expulsion party in 1838. He justified this upper-county alliance twice after non-Mormon Michael Arthur asked his Clay County representatives for a small force to protect the Saints from marauders as troops left at the end of November.123 This patrol was clearly not given, since King's defensive letter to Boggs claims that charges against terrorists would be immediately dealt with by King's court, claiming "virtue enough in this community to aid and sustain me in so laudable an undertaking."124 But the same letter discloses the narrow side of his virtuous citizenry:
The Mormons appear lately to have taken new courage, and to be determined not to move. The citizens are equally determined they shall, for nothing but expulsion or the other alternative will satisfy this community…. I can easily find men in this community, noted for their good moral character and correct deportment, who are determined the Mormons shall not reside among them.125
This Christmas letter silhouettes the shadow society that expelled the Mormons. The raw message is that the Mormon problem will be solved quicker without gestures of protection. And what else is the meaning of King's chairmanship of the 26 December public protest of Ray County against Arthur's accusations that "demons" from "Daviess, Livingston, and a part of Ray County" were pillaging destitute Latter-day Saint families?126 Public meetings were called in these three counties and two others, and for a more profound reason than wounded honor. Even with their society [p.60] temporarily shattered, Latter-day Saints were slow to abandon lands and homes. Unless Boggs' military goals were still politically honored and enforced, Mormons could not be trusted to go. Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.60
Thus county resolutions at the turn of the year were restatements of mutual support, regional reissues of the lapsed orders that were still private law. The pattern is clear in key sentences in the Ray County model drafted under Judge King's supervision:
Resolved, That we have seen with deep regret the efforts of certain newspaper writers to misconstrue and misrepresent the true spirit, intent and meaning of the governor of this state in his order, calling out the militia for the late Mormon expedition. That in our opinion, the order fairly construed, has nothing in it illegal, and that the exigency of the occasion rendered the order highly expedient.127
These midwinter resolutions formally looked backward but were rewarnings of what would happen by spring.128 Mormons well read the signs of the times as the legislature tabled their petition in early 1839, and upper Missouri meetings supported Boggs' past orders. So thousands of the faithful began to leave, wet and shivering through winter snows. Sorrows can now be studied in depth through Clark Johnson's publication of nearly 700 Mormon claims for damages, a percentage of which narrate events and personal reactions.129 Victims variously attribute their exile to Governor Boggs' "order," the treaty of General Lucas, the Far West speech of General Clark, or menacing local gangs. These and other memoirs report deadly warnings and selective assaults that dislodged an army of exiles. First there was the militia under formal orders to subjugate and expel. But the displacement party was in full control after Clark and his army vanished. This teamwork of initial military action and private follow-up drove out the Mormons, with "the extermination order" having a much longer life in the civilian sector, to which it was never issued. Unjailed Mormon officials asked the legislature to nullify an "order" unofficially in force. Mormon leaders sought its revocation and the treaty made under it, their representative explained, "so that men should not have the privilege of abusing them under a legal pretence."130
Were the 1838 extermination orders the result of "several related problems" bringing about the Mormon War of that year?131 Who made what tactical mistake, or whose property was burned in offensive and defensive moves in 1838 is not central—such frictions are incidents to displacing a minority that grew beyond [p.61] predetermined quotas. In Liberty Jail Hyrum Smith talked to a county commissioner and the jailor, both respected citizens, who each said of Mormon expulsion: "The whole plan was concocted by the governor down to the lowest judge in that upper country early in the previous spring."132 The rationale of this Clay County view is historically accurate. Commissioner Turnham said that state-wide expulsion was simply a repeat of Jackson expulsion, "for fear that we should become too numerous in that upper country."133 Joseph Smith arrived at Far West in early spring of 1838 and said that he was met by suspicion and anger in non-Mormon circles.134 Every reason exists to believe this, for the coming of the Prophet with his settlement plans signalled to upper Missouri that the Mormon presence would increase. That was what northwest leaders and Governor Boggs resisted in 1836, and actively worked against in 1838. Firm limits were drawn on Mormon access to northwest Missouri long before the August election of 1838. From that point Governor Boggs supported restrictionists in three consecutive stages: two months of silent cooperation with old settlers' ultimatums; one month official militia campaign and occupation; and five months of administrative stonewalling, allowing private groups to force out the whole people. Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.61-62
The first extermination order was far more than executive reflex at the mirage of a regional Mormon offensive. Although "issued in an environment of hostility and fear," the order came from deeper wells.135 Four days after the first order, fear faded when the Prophet walked into General Lucas' camp and sent back word to surrender without a shot. But ending hysteria did not end the expulsion policy, which created the extermination orders and outlasted their demise. After confining Mormons to their Caldwell County reservation in 1836, Boggs and the restriction alliance still controlled Missouri government in 1838. In that year the Latter-day Saint center shifted from Ohio to Missouri. But instead of welcoming Mormon industry and resources, upper counties chose to exclude them for their cohesive religion. Demands for statewide eviction increased in direct proportion to increased immigration in 1838. The expulsion party then spoke and acted decisively, counting on the continued support of Governor Boggs. This political faction was a conspiracy, defined as a group banded together for illegal purposes—for taking political control by military methods. The conspiracy was state-wide in the sense that the central [p.62] government supported the northern county coalitions. The timing was determined by 1838 Latter-day Saint expansion in Missouri. If there had been no Daviess County confrontation or Crooked River skirmish, history would record equivalent precipitating incidents of different names. The givens were upper-county determination to limit Mormon clusters outside of Caldwell, Latter-day Saint insistence on rights of free settlement, and a governor willing to use state machinery to support the northwest faction of his party. With this 1838 combination, the minority was doomed to leave. Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.62
As General Moses Wilson escorted the top prisoners to Jackson County, he talked freely to men who would soon be taken off his hands for punishment. Parley P. Pratt wrote down the "tenor of the conversation," which accurately describes each violent expulsion in Missouri, from a county or from the state:
We know perfectly that from the beginning the Mormons have not been the aggressors at all. As it began in '33 in Jackson County, so it has been ever since. You Mormons were crowded to the last extreme and compelled to self-defense, and this has been construed into treason, murder and plunder. We mob you without law; the authorities refuse to protect you according to law; you are compelled to protect yourselves, and we act upon the prejudices of the public, who join our forces, and the whole is legalized for your destruction and our gain.136
JOSEPH SMITH AND CIVIL RIGHTS
The Prophet was a constitutionalist, despite his peremptory image in exposures of Missouri Mormon dissenters and in the recent 1838 study borrowing their perspective. Since Boggs' extermination orders expressed the contemporary view that majorities could "expel unwanted persons or groups from their communities," we are told that "Mormons asserted this right when they drove dissenters from Caldwell County."137 This comparison of an elephant to a mouse deserves comment as it relates to Joseph Smith, whose strong influence is in the background of the flight of four former Mormons and their families from Far West in June of 1838. These excommunicated leaders were warned out of town for sustained slander of the First Presidency, and for filing lawsuits in a community depleted of resources in coming to a new country. These individualists had moved with the Church to continue the infighting that severely impaired Mormonism at Kirtland in the prior year. [p.63] Authorities considered further tolerance a spiritual danger to their flock and an invitation to persecution if twisted images of the presidency were continually thrown to non-Mormon enemies seeking expulsion pretexts. An opposition newspaper was planned.138
Those exiled by fright were Book of Mormon witnesses Oliver Cowdery, David and John Whitmer, as well as former apostle Lyman Johnson.139 Yet a dozen other articulate dissidents remained in Far West to its fall, besides other non-Mormons who were socially part of the Saints' center. Like many responsible contemporaries, Joseph Smith experimented with prior restraint of defamation in times of danger. But the flight of the Cowdery-Whitmer group is an exception in Joseph Smith's policy of full rights for Mormons and neighbors. Arriving in Far West in mid-March of 1838, the Prophet intensely sought civil security and soon dictated a political motto that began: "The constitution of our country, formed by the fathers of liberty; peace and good order in society; love to God and good will to man."140 A year later, after tedious winter imprisonment, he wrote a valedictory with unaffected political idealism:
The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard…. We brethren are deprived of the protection of this glorious principle by the cruelty of…those who…forget that the Mormons, as well as the Presbyterians and those of every other class and description, have equal rights to partake of the great tree of our national liberty.141 Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.63-64
The trade-off thesis of the 1838 Mormon expulsion claims that "both the Mormons and Missourians" believed that "majority rule" justified minority evictions.142 However, Mormon belief was defined by their Prophet, who through this period and beyond asserted that individual rights must be protected against majority tyranny. On the other hand, expulsionist party statements, typified by 1836 correspondent Anderson Wilson, admitted, "We are trampling on our law and constitution, but we can't help it."143 There is no parity in viewpoint here. If the Prophet and early Saints imperfectly protected some dissenters, they sincerely worked for a rule of law and largely succeeded. Joseph Smith's militaristic statements in Missouri were made in the face of impending or actual warfare. He arrived in spring and, after four months of normal living, suffered three months of savage hostility against Latter-day Saints, followed by five months imprisonment. He sounds aggressive when he was engineering defense for scattered thousands without civil protection. [p.64] His militaristic words in this period have a condition, "if he was not let alone."144 His stated goal was peaceable possession, but he used warnings and defensive power moves to ward off violence.
Doubt is thrown on Joseph Smith's constitutional commitment by claiming that he directly controlled Sampson Avard's oath-bound companies, which were early called Danites.145 Their extreme indoctrinations stressed extra-legal terrorism and blind obedience, but the Prophet's contact is not close enough to justify the full endorsement implied in the following statement: "Joseph Smith did indeed know about and approve of the Danite organization."146 Missouri sources bring the society into existence in June, and Mormon dissidents thought it generated the June demand to the Whitmer-Cowdery group to flee Far West. The only official contemporary reference explains the Danite goals and notes that this "company, or a part of them exhibited on the fourth day of July."147 This poses the issue of whether they were really a loyalist association operating within official Mormon troops rather than their unproved image as a paramilitary group with its own power of initiative. On 4 July 1838, Far West saw patriotic pageantry and the laying of the temple cornerstones. Officers in charge of cavalry and infantry included known Danite leaders, but at least four also held state commissions in the Caldwell County militia.148
The above source calling 4 July troops Danites was written by George W. Robinson, a Danite officer and Church recorder. In making this entry, he outlined Danite purposes:
We have a company of Danites in these times, to put to right physically that which is not right, and to cleanse the Church of very great evils which hath hitherto existed among us, inasmuch as they cannot be put to right by teachings and persuasions.149
Robinson's record worries about non-Mormon violence, so his first sentence here speaks of community defense. Whereas militia units were raised by counties, Mormon protection required integrated command across county lines. This need probably motivated creation of Danite officers in addition to Mormon militia officers. Robinson's second purpose is internal: "to cleanse the Church of very great evils which hath hitherto existed among us." These "very great evils" include the slanders, unfair lawsuits, and threats directed at Mormon leaders by schismatic Mormons, often bitter because of financial losses. These problems characterized chaotic [p.65] 1837 in Ohio and also the carryover year of 1838, when Joseph Smith arrived in Missouri and drew fire from migrating Mormons with unresolved frustrations. But faithful Mormons sought to surround their leaders with protection and foster unity among the Saints. Tensions arose, similar to wartime pressures on civil rights in modern democracies. But there was also fanaticism of would-be leaders apparently driven by ambition.
In all major accounts, the Danite founder and most influential leader was Sampson Avard, who testified in the Richmond hearing against Mormon leaders in exchange for legal immunity. Point for point, he propped up the state's theory of a separate Mormon state, which makes Avard a courtroom tool instead of a reliable witness. Although he testified that Joseph Smith dictated all Danite policy, this is the one thing Mormon dissenters could not nail down.150 Danites did take oaths for secrecy, for protection of fellow members, and for total obedience to any First Presidency directives. And Avard gave liberal instruction in retribution against disloyal Danites, Mormon dissenters, and anti-Mormon aggressors. However, those attending Danite meetings agree that Joseph Smith rarely visited, only spoke to thank the group for their loyalty, but did not publicly hear Avard's extremes. For instance, Reed Peck, a lukewarm Danite officer, testified:
Dr. Avard, in speaking to the society, remarked that it would be impossible for the presidency to explain the object of the society to every member, but that the presidency would explain their views or wishes to the head officers, and they to the members of the society. I was present at one meeting when the officers of the society were presented and introduced to the presidency, each officer receiving a blessing from them. Avard stated that he had procured the presidency to come there, to show the society that what he had been doing was according to their direction or will; and while there, the presidency approved of Avard's course in the society. Dr. Avard, however, did not explain to the presidency what his teaching had been in the society.151
No history of this group can be written from the fragments remaining after dropping much of Avard's tainted testimony. Only outlines exist in datable journals and recollections, which give organization in June, meetings in July and August, and members' signals for mutual protection at the election fracas in August. Avard's prominence and the organization's visibility diminishes after that. This fits Mormon defense realities, since in concept the Danites were a select group, estimated at the time as no more than 300 in number.152 But intercounty regulators converged on Daviess [p.66] and Carroll Counties after the election fight, and then all able Latter-day Saint men were organized, up to a final total of about 900.153 The original term for the elite corps persisted, but in the later October drilling at Far West, Albert Rockwood makes the public "armies of Israel" synonymous with "Danites." He says the name was used because Daniel prophesied the success of God's kingdom in the latter-days.154 So "Danite" does not consistently refer to Avard's special forces. Rockwood arrived at Far West in mid-September, when full Mormon reserves were utilized, not just the restricted Avard Society. Anson Call also applies "Danite" broadly; he describes Avard's group and adds: "I belong[ed] to this organization and so did the whole of the military force."155 That suggests that the October defense forces had assimilated the Danite bands and their officers. Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.66
The historian knows a little about Danite meetings but has no proof of a purely Danite military action. At Adam-ondi-Ahman meetings, Wight spoke fiercely about not giving ground to Daviess expulsionists. At Far West meetings, Avard's overblown rhetoric prevailed, contrasted with Joseph Smith's realism in his only provable visit to the society there. Joseph Smith's speech was described in some detail by John Corrill and Reed Peck. This military organization was only for protection, Joseph Smith said, and the reported discourse continued:
Relating the oppressions the society had suffered, and they wanted to be prepared for further events; but said he wished to do nothing unlawful, and if the people would let him alone, they would preach the gospel and live in peace.156
The only predominantly Danite event was the unplanned Daviess election riot. A dozen Mormons were provoked while walking in to vote, some gave the distress sign, and with improvised clubs they held their own against great odds. Conflicts afterward involved Danites but as part of community forces. Since reports of the voting riot had two Mormons killed and unburied, about 150 Caldwell men immediately went to Daviess to protect Adam-ondi-Ahman. By crossing county lines, these men can be labelled "vigilantes," but there is a big difference between Mormon irregulars seeking constitutional guarantees and the expulsionists, who fielded private forces to take away constitutional rights. The contemporary church record says the reinforcing company was led by [p.67] the "First Presidency, General Higbee, General Avard"; church recorder George W. Robinson names himself as field leader and adds Colonel Lyman Wight to the leaders at their Daviess destination.157 Finding reports of deaths and hostilities incorrect, the Caldwell group joined with some Daviess Mormons to require Justice of the Peace Adam Black to sign a pledge to protect their civil rights. In Esquire Black's version, Wight and a small company came to bargain and threaten, and then Avard and a large company followed to do the same. Learning that Joseph Smith was in the second group, Black asked to see him. After a more reasonable conversation, Black signed his own statement that he would "support the constitution of this state, and of the United States, and will support no mob."158 Black also described bloodthirsty threats from Avard, which Joseph Smith did not approve:
Witness said to Avard, you must be of a savage nature, and he replied he was, that he was an old Virginian, that it was his disposition and he could not help it. Witness then asked Mr. Smith if he protected Dr. Avard in his savage disposition, or if he possessed such a heart. He replied no.159
Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.67
In this sole operation with Avard on center stage, Joseph Smith rejected his aggressive ways, which must be connected to Avard's lack of military position afterward. Six weeks later, the Prophet led a relief expedition to Carroll County, and Avard did not go; next, the final Daviess relief expedition was sent, and Avard went along and was in one large staff council, though he had no command.160 In fact, in describing final Daviess operations, Avard gives an undated dismissal:
I once had a command as an officer, but Joseph Smith, Jr., removed me from it. And I asked him the reason, and he assigned that he had another office for me. Afterwards Mr. Rigdon told me I was to fill the office of surgeon, to attend to the sick and wounded.161
This was before the Crooked River clash, for Avard had nothing to do with command or council then, and only helped the wounded.162
These conflicts of Joseph Smith with Avard support Lorenzo Dow Young's recollection, which should be credited because of its rich detail. In "late summer" Young was invited to Danite sessions in Far West and was offended at the secret principle of taking "vengeance on their enemies." After several meetings Avard demanded that Lorenzo take the oath of loyalty on the spot, only to [p.68] have Young openly criticize Avard with support from many members:
From the meeting I went direct to Brother Brigham and related the whole history of the affair…. He added, "I will go at once to Brother Joseph, who has suspicioned that some secret wickedness was being carried on by Dr. Avard." Dr. Avard was at once cited before the authorities of the Church and cut off for his wickedness.163
The day Avard began to testify in the Richmond inquest, defendant Lyman Wight wrote a disdainful profile of the former paper general, emphasizing Avard's aspirations for power:
And in order to raise himself in the estimation of the Church, [he] invented schemes and plans to go against mobocracy which were perfectly derogatory to the laws of this state and of the United States, and frequently endeavored to enforce them upon members of the Church, and when repulsed by Joseph Smith, he would frequently become chagrined. At one time he told me that the reason why he could not carry his plans into effect was that the First Presidency of the Church feared that he would have too much influence.164 Regional Studies, Missouri, R. Anderson—Clarifications, p.68-69
Wight wrote at the time, and with inside military knowledge. Avard's "invented schemes" went beyond Joseph Smith's vigorous defense measures, but Avard did not disclose his full program to the Prophet in attempting to create his own loyalties. Several sources verify Avard's demotion and possible Missouri excommunication. Moreover, in prison Joseph told the Church he had only lately learned "that many false and pernicious things which were calculated to lead the Saints far astray and to do great injury have been taught by Dr. Avard as coming from the presidency." Joseph's denunciation specifies "frauds and secret abominations and evil works of darkness," which equate with Avard's teachings of noble deception and secret violence. This targets Avard's organization but not the community troops later labelled Danites.165 Joseph singled out Avard by naming the errors taught by secret Danitism: oaths over ethics and intimidation and retribution against enemies. In this context, the Prophet reminded the Church of two gospel principles that would correct Avard's morally sick program. Instead of "organization of bands" with "oaths by penalties," Joseph would stand for public truth "of a bold and frank and an upright nature." Instead of teaching reprisal and revenge, the Prophet eloquently explained that Mormonism stood for "great liberality toward all others that are not of our faith," and that civil administration must guarantee [p.69] "to all parties, sects, and denominations and classes of religion—equal, coherent [and] indefeasable rights."166
It is too easily said that the "lawless activities of the Saints can be traced directly to Joseph Smith."167 In the first place, reasonable defense is not defined as lawless, either in private or international justice. As to Joseph Smith's Missouri record, he regularly sought legal solutions and cooperated with courts and militia officers until the authority of these institutions vanished—until Governor Boggs sent back a non-message when appealed to before the Carroll County expulsion. Actions at the end were adjustments to lack of law, not a pattern of contravening it. Civil War was thrust on the Mormons, who did not seek it and yet resisted imminent expulsion with what power they could muster. In Joseph Smith's own explanation, "It is because we were honest men and were determined to defend the lives of the Saints at the expense of our own."168 His deep respect for state and federal rights is completely consistent with armed resistance, if necessary, to preserve them.
With faith that there must be a national remedy for every constitutional freedom, the Prophet traveled to Washington, only to be reminded that he lived in a political period of states' rights. He and Elias Higbee wrote from the capital that Van Buren heard them out, sympathized at their suffering, but declined to "come in contact with the whole state of Missouri."169 Sectional interest was politically compelling to the president, just as regional interest had been politically compelling to Governor Boggs. The Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment, and legally enforceable national citizenship were decades, even a century away, yet Joseph Smith eloquently spoke about a new era. Justice for minorities moved him to an 1844 candidacy, as many private comments show: "If I ever get in the presidential chair, I will protect the people in their rights and liberties."170 In his major campaign document, the Prophet favored federal authority strong enough to guarantee civil privileges ignored or violated by a state: "The governor himself may be a mobber, and instead of being punished as he should be for murder or treason, he may destroy the very lives, rights and property he should protect."171 The Prophet's candidacy began with disillusionment at answers of national figures on the issue of national protection for the Mormon minority. Joseph Smith repeatedly named civil justice as a main motive in seeking presidential office: "As the [p.70] world have used the power of government to oppress and persecute us, it is right to use it for the protection of our rights."172
The sequel to Missouri expulsion orders is the Prophet's active search for national executive and judicial powers to broaden civil rights, a process largely accomplished at the sesquicentennial of his death. To Joseph Smith's credit, he used every opportunity to advance this process by speaking, lobbying at state and national levels, and seeking local and national office:
I would not have suffered my name to have been used by my friends on any wise as president of the United States or candidate for that office if I and my friends could have had the privilege of enjoying our religious and civil rights as American citizen[s], even those rights which the constitution guarantee[s] unto all her citizens alike. But this we as a people have been denied from the beginning. Persecution has rolled upon our heads from time to time from portions of the United States like peels of thunder because of our religion. And no portion of the government as yet has stepped forward for our relief. And under view of these things, I feel it to be my right and privilege to obtain what influence and power I can lawfully in the United States for the protection of injured innocence. And if I lose my life in a good cause, I am will[ing] to be sacrificed on the altar of virtue, righteousness and truth in maintaining the laws and constitution of the United States, if need be for the general good of mankind.173