They appointed their meetings in various parts of Hancock, M’Donough, and other Counties, which soon resulted in the organization of armed mobs, under the direction of officers who reported to their head-quarters, and the reports of which were published in the “anti-Mormon” paper, and circulated through the adjoining Counties. We also published in the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor (two papers published and edited by me at that time) an account, not only of their proceedings, but our own. But such was the hostile feeling, so well arranged their plans, and so desperate and lawless their measures, that it was with the greatest difficulty that we could get our papers circulated; they were destroyed by postmasters and others, and scarcely ever arrived at the place of their destination, so that a great many of the people, who would have been otherwise peaceable, were excited by their misrepresentations, and instigated to join their hostile or predatory bands.
Emboldened by the acts of those outside, the apostate “Mormons,” associated with others, commenced the publication of a libelous paper in Nauvoo, called the Nauvoo Expositor. This paper not only reprinted from the others, but put in circulation the most libelous, false, and infamous reports concerning the citizens of Nauvoo, and especially the ladies. It was, however, no sooner put in circulation than the indignation of the whole community was aroused; so much so, that they threatened its annihilation; and I do not believe that in any other city in the United States, if the same charges had been made against the citizens, it would have been permitted to remain one day. As it was among us, under these circumstances, it was thought best to convene the City Council to take into consideration the adoption of some measures for its removal, as it was deemed better that this should be done legally than illegally. Joseph Smith, therefore, who was mayor, convened the City Council for that purpose; the paper was introduced and read, and the subject examined. All, or nearly all present, expressed their indignation at the course taken by the Expositor, which was owned by some of the aforesaid apostates, associated with one or two others. Wilson Law, Dr. Foster, Charles Ivins and the Higbees before referred to, some lawyers, store-keepers, and others in Nauvoo who were not “Mormons,” together with the “anti-Mormons” outside of the city, sustained it. The calculation was, by false statements, to unsettle the minds of many in the city, and to form combinations there similar to the anti-Mormon” associations outside of the city. Various attempts had heretofore been made by the party to annoy and irritate the citizens of Nauvoo; false accusations had been made, vexatious lawsuits instituted, threats made, and various devices resorted to, to influence the public mind, and, if possible, to provoke us to the commission of some overt act that might make us amenable to the law. With a perfect knowledge, therefore, of the designs of these infernal scoundrels who were in our midst, as well as those who surrounded us, the City Council entered upon an investigation of the matter. They felt that they were in a critical position, and that any move made for the abating of that press would be looked upon, or at least represented, as a direct attack upon the liberty of speech, and that, so far from displeasing our enemies, it would be looked upon by them as one of the best circumstances that could transpire to assist them in their nefarious and bloody designs. Being a member of the City Council, I well remember the feeling of responsibility that seemed to rest upon all present; nor shall I soon forget the bold, manly, independent expressions of Joseph Smith on that occasion in relation to this matter. He exhibited in glowing colors the meanness, corruption, and ultimate designs of the “anti-Mormons;” their despicable characters and ungodly influences, especially of those who were in our midst. He told of the responsibility that rested upon us, as guardians of the public interest, to stand up in the defense of the injured and oppressed, to stem the current of corruption, and, as men and Saints, to put a stop to this flagrant outrage upon this people’s rights.
He stated that no man was a stronger advocate for the liberty of speech and of the press than himself; yet, when this noble gift is utterly prostituted and abused, as in the present instance, it loses all claim to our respect, and becomes as great an agent for evil as it can possibly be for good; and notwithstanding the apparent advantage we should give our enemies by this act, yet it behooved us, as men, to act independent of all secondary influences, to perform the part of men of enlarged minds, and boldly and fearlessly to discharge the duties devolving upon us by declaring as a nuisance, and removing this filthy, libelous, and seditious sheet from our midst.
The subject was discussed in various forms, and after the remarks made by the mayor, every one seemed to be waiting for some one else to speak.
After a considerable pause, I arose and expressed my feelings frankly, as Joseph had done, and numbers of others followed in the same strain; and I think, but am not certain, that I made a motion for the removal of that press as a nuisance. This motion was finally put, and carried by all but one; and he conceded that the measure was just, but abstained through fear.
Several members of the City Council were not in the Church. The following is the bill referred to:
Bill for Removing of the Press of the “Nauvoo Expositor.”
“Resolved by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, that the printing office from whence issues the Nauvoo Expositor is a public nuisance; and also of said Nauvoo Expositors which may be or exist in said establishment; and the mayor is instructed to cause said establishment and papers to be removed without delay, in such manner as he shall direct.
“Passed June 10th, 1844. GEO. W. HARRIS, President pro tem.
“W. RICHARDS, Recorder.”
After the passage of the bill, the marshal, John P. Green, was ordered to abate or remove, which he forthwith proceeded to do by summoning a posse of men for that purpose. The press was removed or broken, I don’t remember which, by the marshal, and the types scattered in the street.
This seemed to be one of those extreme cases that require extreme measures, as the press was still proceeding in its inflammatory course. It was feared that, as it was almost universally execrated, should it continue longer, an indignant people might commit some overt act which might lead to serious consequences, and that it was better to use legal than illegal means.
This, as was foreseen, was the very course our enemies wished us to pursue, as it afforded them an opportunity of circulating a very plausible story about the “Mormons” being opposed to the liberty of the press and of free speech, which they were not slow to avail themselves of. Stories were fabricated, and facts perverted; false statements were made, and this act brought in as an example to sustain the whole of their fabrications; and, as if inspired by Satan, they labored with an energy and zeal worthy of a better cause. They had runners to circulate their reports, not only through Hancock County, but in all the surrounding Counties. These reports were communicated to their “anti-Mormon” societies, and these societies circulated them in their several districts. The “anti-Mormon” paper, the Warsaw Signal, was filled with inflammatory articles and misrepresentations in relation to us, and especially to this act of destroying the press. We were represented as a horde of lawless ruffians and brigands, anti American and anti-republican, steeped in crime and iniquity, opposed to freedom of speech and of the press, and all the rights and immunities of a free and enlightened people; that neither person nor property were secure: that we had designs upon the citizens of Illinois and of the United States, and the people were called upon to rise en masse, and put us down, drive us away, or exterminate us as a pest to society, and alike dangerous to our neighbors, the State, and commonwealth.
These statements were extensively copied and circulated throughout the United States. A true statement of the facts in question was published by us both in the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor; but it was found impossible to circulate them in the immediate Counties, as they were destroyed at the post-offices or otherwise by the agents of the “anti-Mormons,” and, in order to get the mail to go abroad, I had to send the papers a distance of thirty or forty miles from Nauvoo, and sometimes to St. Louis (upward of two hundred miles), to insure their proceeding on their route, and then one half or two thirds of the papers never reached the place of destination, being intercepted or destroyed by our enemies.
These false reports stirred up the community around, of whom many, on account of religious prejudice, were easily instigated to join the “anti-Mormons” and embark in any crusade that might be undertaken against us; hence their ranks swelled in numbers, and new organizations were formed, meetings were held, resolutions passed, and men and means volunteered for the extirpation of the “Mormons.”
On these points Governor Ford writes: “These also were the active men in blowing up the fury of the people, in hopes that a popular movement might be set on foot, which would result in the expulsion or extermination of the `Mormon’ voters. For this purpose public meetings had been called inflammatory speeches had been made, exaggerated reports had been extensively circulated, committees had been appointed, who rode night and day to spread the reports and solicit the aid of neighboring Counties, and at a public meeting at Warsaw resolutions were passed to expel or exterminate the `Mormon’ population. This was not, however, a movement which was unanimously concurred in. The County contained a goodly number of inhabitants in favor of peace, or who at least desired to be neutral in such a contest. These were stigmatized by the name of `Jack Mormons,’ and there were not a few of the more furious exciters of the people who openly expressed their intention to involve them in the common expulsion or extermination.
“A system of excitement and agitation was artfully planned and executed with tact. It consisted in spreading reports and rumors of the most fearful character. As examples: On the morning before my arrival at Carthage, I was awakened at an early hour by the frightful report, which was asserted with confidence and apparent consternation, that the `Mormons’ had already commenced the work of burning, destruction, and murder, and that every man capable of bearing arms was instantly wanted at Carthage for the protection of the County.
“We lost no time in starting; but when we arrived at Carthage we could hear no more concerning this story. Again, during the few days that the militia were encamped at Carthage, frequent applications were made to me to send a force here, and a force there, and a force all about the country, to prevent murders, robberies, and larcenies which, it was said, were threatened by the `Mormons.’ No such forces were sent, nor were any such offenses committed at that time, except the stealing of some provisions, and there was never the least proof that this was done by a `Mormon.’ Again, on my late visit to Hancock County, I was informed by some of their violent enemies that the larcenies of the `Mormons’ had become unusually numerous and insufferable.
“They admitted that but little had been done in this way in their immediate vicinity, but they insisted that sixteen horses had been stolen by the `Mormons’ in one night near Lima, and, upon inquiry, was told that no horses had been stolen in that neighborhood, but that sixteen horses had been stolen in one night in Hancock County. This last informant being told of the Hancock story, again changed the venue to another distant settlement in the northern edge of Adams.”
In the meantime legal proceedings were instituted against the members of the City Council of Nauvoo. A writ, here subjoined, was issued upon the affidavit of the Laws, Fosters, Higbees, and Ivins, by Mr. Morrison, a justice of the peace in Carthage, the County seat of Hancock, and put into the hands of one David Bettesworth, a constable of the same place.
Writ issued upon affidavit by Thomas Morrison, J. P., State of Illinois, Hancock County, ss.
“The people of the State of Illinois, to all constables, sheriffs, and coroners of the said state, greeting:
“Whereas complaint hath been made before me, one of the justices of the peace in and for the County of Hancock aforesaid, upon the oath of Francis M. Higbee, of the said county, that Joseph Smith, Samuel Bennett, John Taylor, William W. Phelps, Hyrum Smith, John P. Green, Stephen Perry, Dimick B. Huntington, Jonathan Dunham, Stephen Markham, William Edwards, Jonathan Holmes, Jesse P. Harmon, John Lytle, Joseph W. Coolidge, Harvey D. Redfield, Porter Rockwell, and Levi Richards, of said County, did, on the 10th day of June instant, commit a riot at and within the County aforesaid, wherein they with force and violence broke into the printing-office of the Nauvoo Expositor, and unlawfully and with force burned and destroyed the printing-press, type, and fixtures of the same, being the property of William Law, Wilson Law, Charles Ivins, Francis M. Higbee, Chauncey L. Higbee, Robert D. Foster, and Charles A. Foster.
These are therefore to command you forthwith to apprehend the said Joseph Smith. Samuel Bennett, John Taylor, William W. Phelps, Hyrum Smith, John P. Green, Stephen Perry, Dimick B. Huntington, Jonathan Dunham, Stephen Markham, William Edwards, Jonathan Holmes, Jesse P. Harmon, John Lytle, Joseph W. Coolidge, Harvey D. Redfield, Porter Rockwell, and Levi Richards, and bring them before me, or some other justice of the peace, to answer the premises, and farther to be dealt with according to law.
“Given under my hand and seal at Carthage, in the County aforesaid, this 11th day of June, A. D. 1844. THOMAS MORRISON, J. P.” (Seal.)