Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, John Taylor, and some of their closest friends are now in Carthage jail. They spent the night of June 25th to 26th supplicating with the lord until late in the evening. There, they “made Carthage prison into the gate of heaven for a while.” After which the men all “laid promiscuously on the floor, where they slept”.
The morning of June 26th, these men all awoke tangled up in each other with the town of Carthage hustling and bustling about. The militia forces were over 1300 men by this point, many of whom came from local towns who had a particular affinity for hating the Mormons, having dealt with the criminal empire of Nauvoo for the past 5 years. This means some of the highest-ranking leaders of Mormonism, including the prophet and patriarch, Jo and Hyrum, were locked in a jail in hostile territory, incarcerated for the purposes of their own protection.
The only insurance these incarcerated men had that vigilante justice wouldn’t be served was Governor Ford. Ford’s presence during this conflict had kept the region from spiraling into civil war so effectively, but Ford was being fed a lot of false information calculated to murder the Smiths and his circle of trusted militia officers and advisors was shrinking every minute. The Carthage Greys presented a particular problem here. They’d shown tendencies toward violence and mutiny all along and Ford was having a really hard time keeping them in line. They’d resisted his commands a few times, they were the most excited when Jo and his posse entered the city on the night of June 24th, they refused to acknowledge Jo and Hyrum as Generals when Governor Ford was doing the meet and greet the morning of the 25th. The Carthage Greys were the greatest existential threat for the prisoners and Governor Ford knew it, the prisoners knew it, Ford’s advisors probably knew it.
As Carthage began to hustle and bustle on this morning of June 26th, tensions were pretty high. Jo wanted a meeting with Governor Ford. He must have thought all along that if he could just explain himself and his actions the right way to Governor Ford, this whole confusion would be resolved and he’d be allowed to return to Nauvoo unharmed. In spite of what Jo thought, it doesn’t matter how you explain criminal acts, they’re still criminal. However, there was a jury trial coming up in Carthage to get the facts. All 18 city councilors had been released on a collective $7,500 bail to return to Carthage on June 29th for the actual jury trial concerning their decision to declare the Expositor a nuisance. Jo and Hyrum, however, were arrested on extra charges of treason for declaring martial law, which would require a separate criminal hearing. Governor Ford believed the charges of treason would have been legitimate if they were brought in any other place than Carthage, but also considered this extra charge as calculated to make Jo vulnerable to vigilante justice. He was on high-alert.
For that matter, everybody was on high alert. At any point the Nauvoo Legion could come marching into the city, lay waste to it, rescue their prophet and commander in chief, thus setting off the Illinois-Mormon war. Any of the rogue militias could commit mutiny and march into Nauvoo and try their best to siege the city in an attempt to destroy it, bringing out dozens of other militias from all over the state. Governor Ford’s presence was the only thing keeping these tensions at simmering instead of boiling over.
Jo wanted nothing more than for this case to be transferred out of the circuit court at Carthage. Let’s make not mistake here, he was being charged and held in jail by his enemies. He’d acquired those enemies over the course of 5 years because he was a criminal kingpin, but they absolutely were his enemies. He knew he had a better chance of a fair trial, or at least a trial more favorable to him, if this was handled in Quincy or taken to the state supreme court in Springfield.
At 7 ½ [a.m.], Markham, Wasson and Jones were severally sent by Joseph with messages to the Governor; but at 8 got no return. He also sent word to his counsel, that he wanted a change of venue to Quincy, Adams county.
The crimes hadn’t been committed in Adams county and he wasn’t charged in Adams county. The constable, the prosecuting attorney, the jailor, even the Governor, had no legal basis to transfer the case unless they could prove conflict of interest by the justice, by virtue of his being a Carthage citizen. That could possibly be proven, but he wanted to handle the case and therefore wouldn’t recuse himself and it would be a separate legal battle to determine a conflict of interest. They would also need to prove a conflict with the prosecuting attorney, which would be easy because it was Chauncey Higbee, one of the printers of the Expositor who’d personally been the victim of the alleged crimes. Neither of these issues would actually be resolved, but that wasn’t known at the time, which is why Jo was seeking the venue change to Adams county.
When these messengers were sent to Ford, Jo and the other prisoners took breakfast with the jailor, a guy named Mr. Stigall. They seemed to have a lovely conversation.
Joseph and Hyrum had a conversation with the Jailor, Mr. Stigall, who said a week last Wednesday, the mob were calculating to have made an attack on Nauvoo, and they expected about 9000 persons, but only about 200 came. They had sent runners to Missouri, and all round the counties in Illinois.
Calling for an army of thousands on only a fraction respond. Jo could understand what that was like when he wanted 5,000 Mormons to join him for the march to Missouri back in 1834 and only ended up with just over 200. It’s weird, a call to action but almost everybody is too lazy to answer the call. Hmmm… wonder what that feels like.
Jo resolved to simply write a personal communication to Governor Ford asking for a meeting.
His Excellency Gov. Ford:--
Sir: I would again solicit your excellency for an interview, having been much disappointed the past evening. I hope you will not deny me this privilege any longer than your public duties shall absolutely require.
We have been committed under a false mittimus, and consequently the proceedings are illegal, and we desire the time may be hastened when all things shall be made right, and we relieved from this imprisonment.
P.S. Please send an answer per bearer.
And they sent the jailor, Mr. Stigall to Governor Ford with this message in hand. A quick note, the mittimus was absolutely not illegal or false. The charges of treason had been alleged by those who’d been unduly burdened by the declaration of martial law in Nauvoo and the justice of the peace was well within his power and merely complying with his legal obligations to issue the mittimus. They were in Carthage on legitimate charges and the mittimus was valid. This was either ignorance or lying to try and get out of jail. One quick note as well… what would happen if Jo was allowed to go free from Carthage by direction of Governor Ford. Do you think he’d come back to Carthage to attend the criminal hearing? Or, would he take the fact that he was imprisoned as the signal that this time his legal troubles meant real business and raise the Nauvoo Legion immediately upon his return to the city in order to carry out the Illinois-Mormon war, which seemed nearly inevitable by this point? If Governor Ford stepped in and nullified the mittimus, allowing Jo and friends to go free, what assurance did he have that the law would be complied with from that point forward? Keeping Jo in jail was the safest thing for everybody at this point.
After that communication was sent to Ford, Piggy-bank Steve Markham and Dan Jones returned from their meeting with Governor Ford, and this is how it is reported in the HoC.
Markham and Jones returned, stating that the Governor said he was taken by surprise last evening, and was very sorry; was afraid we would think he had forfeited his word about having an interview, that the wrath of the people was about to turn on the head of [Joseph H.] Jackson, the mob, &c. That the Governor was doing as fast as he could.
Maybe it did catch him by surprise, maybe that was just the most prudent thing to tell the messengers at that point in time. That word was received at 830 in the morning and the jailor, Mr. Stigall, returned with Ford’s written communication in response to Jo’s previous letter.
The interview will take place at my earliest leisure today.
With that communication, Jo knew he would have his conversation with the Governor at some point this day. Then he could explain everything and all problems would be dealt with. Immediately after receiving this from Governor Ford, Hugh T. Reid, one of Jo’s legal counselors in the affair, came to meet with the prisoners in the jail to discuss the case.
Mr. Reid and others arrived at the jail, and investigated the merits of the case, and concluded to take a change of venue before Justice Greenleaf, of Augusta, Hancock co., and to send for…
And it lists 20 men as witnesses Reid was to send for in order to testify on behalf of Jo and the Nauvoo City Council’s conduct concerning the Expositor and the resulting protests and riots.
Finally, at 9:27 a.m., Governor Thomas Ford, with a personal advisor by the name of Col. Geddes, arrived at the Carthage Jail to have this long-awaited conversation with the prophet. We’re going to spend a lot of time with the HoC and everything it reports was said during this meeting. This was Jo’s chance to make his case to Governor Ford that he shouldn’t be in Carthage Jail. This was his chance to muster every bit of oratory power and persuasion he’d cultivated all 39 years of his life to get out of just one more scrape with the law. It is reported as a conversation and I’ll do my best to emulate how I picture this interaction actually transpired by changing the pronouns to first-person and making it a conversation instead of a report of a conversation from a third-party observer who were John Taylor, John S. Fullmer, and White-out Willard Richards in this case. I’ve done a little bit of synthesizing the accounts into one cohesive conversation. Here it is, from the Vogel HoC vol 6 beginning on page 660.
Joseph Smith stated to them the origin of the difficulty, the facts relating to the Expositor press, the course pursued by the City Council; the legality, as [we] thought, of [our] legislation; then pledged that [I] had made by letter and sent by expresses to [your] Excellency, that [I am] willing to satisfy all legal claims in case it should be show that the City Council had transcended [our] legal hounds, etc., and that the Legion had been called out for the protection of the city, while it was threatened with immediate hostilities by an infuriated mob, until [your] Excellency could afford relief, and not for the purpose of invasion. (The Governor seemed to be satisfied that this was the truth, but still he did not interfere in their illegal imprisonment).
Joseph adverted to all the leading causes which gave rise to the difficulties under consideration in a brief, but lucid, energetic and impressive manner. The Governor said [I am] satisfied it [is] the truth. General Smith then read copies of the orders and proceedings of the City Council of Nauvoo, concerning the destruction of the Expositor press, and of the correspondence forwarded to his Excellency, in relation thereto; and also informed him concerning the calling out of the Legion, and the position they occupied of absolute necessity, not to make war upon, or invade the rights of any portion of the citizens of the State; but it was the last resort, and only defense, in the absence of executive protection, against a large, organized military and mobocratic foe.
This is easily done away with by the simple fact that the Legion was called out by martial law to oppose anybody in the city affecting an arrest of Jo, Hyrum, and the other city councilors. This wasn’t done to oppose a rival militia entering the city, but from vigilantes within the city from affecting vigilante justice for the crimes committed by the city council. Jo called out the Legion not to protect the citizens of Nauvoo, but to protect himself and his closest friends after they’d committed crimes and abused their power. Where Jo is lying is in his intent, which is hard to prove in a court of law, let alone the script of a podcast 180 years in the future, but I don’t see many of Jo’s actions as being for the benefit of his followers when the benefit of himself is sufficient to explain his actions. The conversation continues:
Governor: General Smith, I believe you have given me a general outline of the difficulties that have existed in the country, in the documents forwarded to me by Dr. Bernhisel and Mr. Taylor, but unfortunately there seems to be a great discrepancy between your statements and those of your enemies; it is true that you are substantiated by evidence and affidavit, but for such an extraordinary excitement as that which is now in the country, there must be some cause, and I attribute the last outbreak to the destruction of the Expositor, and to your refusal to comply with the writ issued by Esq. Morrison. The press in the United States is looked upon as the great bulwark of American freedom, and its destruction in Nauvoo was represented, and looked upon as a high-handed measure, and manifests to the people a disposition on your part to suppress the liberty of speech and of the press; this, with your refusal to comply with the requisitions of a writ, I conceive to be the principal cause of this difficulty, and you are moreover represented to me as a turbulent and defiant of the laws and institutions of your county.
General Smith reminded his Excellency… the question in dispute was a civil matter, and to settle which needed no resort to arms, and that [I am] ready at any time, and [have] always been ready to answer any charge that might be preferred against [me], either as the Lieutenant General of the Legion, the Mayor of the City, or as a private individual, in any court of justice, which was unintimidated by a mob or military array, and make all the satisfaction that the law require[s], if any, etc. The Governor said [I have] not called out this foce; but found it assembled in military array, without [my] orders, on [my] arrival at Carthage,… the laws must be enforced, but [you] must be protected, and [I] again pledge… [my] word, and the faith and honor of the State, that [you] should be protected… [I intend] to march [my] forces… to Nauvoo to gratify them,… the prisoners should accompany [us], and then return again to attend the trail before the… magistrate, which… had been postponed for the purpose of making this visit.
What were the reasons for Governor Ford wanting to take the prisoners to Nauvoo under the guard of his militia? All I can do is speculate but I have an idea of what might have been running through his head. The people of Nauvoo didn’t know what was happening in Carthage. Only the previous day did 16 of the 18 charged men return to the city on bail and who knows what they said to the other Mormons there. Plus, with those 16 back in Nauvoo and just Jo, Hyrum, and a few of their closest cronies still in Carthage, danger was even higher that vigilante justice would leave the smaller group dead. Governor Ford had heard so much from the people who hated the Mormons, it would benefit everyone if he could go to Nauvoo with Jo on his right hand to hear what was going on from the mouths of the citizens themselves. Add into this, the mix of people in Nauvoo represented a mix of desired outcomes. The majority of Mormons believed the propaganda spewed by the leadership, that all of this was the result of mobocrats and anti-Mormons; they all wanted their prophet and patriarch back in the city to continue to lead the Mormon revolution. But, there were also plenty who didn’t believe the propaganda, who saw what happened for what it was, a corrupt city government run as a theocracy who destroyed the printing press of a rival church who called the leadership to repentance and the wider church to reform. There were plenty who thought the rumors of polygamy were disturbing and plentiful enough to maybe have some merit who read the Expositor and had all those suspicions confirmed and were infuriated by the revelations. Governor Ford coming to the city and showing those folks that Jo was in custody and working through the proper legal means would be a show of good faith in the legal system at large for these folks who generally distrusted the corruption of Nauvoo. Beyond all of that, Governor Ford taking Jo and Hyrum to Nauvoo in his custody, then returning to Carthage with them still in custody would be a massive show of force to the anti-Mormons who were waiting for Governor Ford to be gone so they could kill Jo. If Ford could pull that off it would inspire trust in the entire system and his office as Governor in the minds of people who were running on the crank of fury and anger which motivated many of their actions.
What would Jo and Hyrum do once in Nauvoo while in custody of Governor Ford? That was another question entirely. The conversation continued.
Joseph alluded to the coming of Constable Bettisworth when [I] gave [myself] up, also to his offer to go before any other justice of the peace, and called upon some twenty bystanders to witness that [I] submitted to the writ, but for fear of [my] life if [I] went to Carthage [I] had preferred to go before Esq. Daniel H. Wells, a gentleman of high legal attainments, who is in no way connected with the Mormon Church.
Come on, Jo, couldn’t you foresee that would be a win for Satan calling your own church “Mormon”. Apparently, the dude could only prophesy of really vague stuff at undetermined times in the future instead of anything consequential like the correct name of his own church.
In relation to the writ served upon us, we were willing to abide the consequences of our own acts; but were unwilling, in answering a writ of that kind, to submit to illegal exactions sought to be imposed upon us under the pretense of law, when we knew they were in open violation of it.
When that document was presented to me by Mr. Bettisworth, I offered in the presence of more than twenty persons, to go to any other magistrate, either in our city of Appanoose, or any other place, where we should be safe, but we all refused to put ourselves into the power of a mob.
What right had the constable to refuse our request? He had none according to law; for you know, Governors Ford, that the statute law in Illinois is, that the parties served with the writ, “shall go before him who issued it, or some other justice of the peace.” Why then should we be dragged to Carthage, where the law does not compel us to go? Does not this look like many others of our prosecutions with which you are acquainted? And had we not a right to expect foul play?
This very act was a breach of law, on his part, an assumption of power that did not belong to him, and an attempt, at least, to deprive us of our legal and constitutional rights and privileges. What could we do under the circumstances different from what we did do? We sued for, and obtained a writ of habeas corpus from the Municipal Court, by which we were delivered from the hands of Constable Bettisworth, and brought before the acquitted by the Municipal Court.
After our acquittal, in a conversation with Judge Thomas, although he considered the acts of the party illegal, he advised that to satisfy the people, we had better go before another magistrate, who was not in our church.
In accordance with his advice, we went before Esq. Wells, with whom you are well acquainted, both parties were present, witnesses were called on both sides; the case was fully investigated, and we were again dismissed.
And what is this pretended desire to enforce law, and these lying, base rumors put into circulation for, but to seek through mob influence, under pretense of law, to make us submit to requisitions that are contrary to law and subversive of every principle of justice?
And when you, sir, required us to come out here, we came, not because it was legal, but because you required it of us, and we were desirous of showing to you, and to all men that we shrunk not from the most rigid investigation of our acts.
[Joseph also said] that [I have] sent frequent expresses and letters to the Governor; that Dr. J.R. Wakefield, Dr. J.M. Bernhisel and Mr. Sidney Rigdon also had written letters to the Governor; that [I] had written another letter to the Governor which was sent on the 15th of June by Mr. James; that [I] had written again on the 16th of June, enclosing affidavits, and sent them by Messrs. Edward Hunter, Phillip B. Lewis and John Bills. [Joseph] also read Captain Anderson’s certificate of the proceedings of the mob at Warsaw; also [my] proclamation, [my] orders as Lieutenant General to Major General Dunham, the proceedings of the City Council of Nauvoo, and copies of communications forwarded to Springfield; also [my] letter of the 21st of June which was sent by Dr. Bernhisel, and Mr. John Taylor, and [my] letter of the 22nd, which was sent by Lucien Woodworth and Squire Woods.
Marshal John P. Greene explained about giving passes to persons going in and out of the city, and denied that any arrests had been made.
Jo made his case to Governor Ford. He even had John P. Greene there to confirm that nobody had been arrested during the martial law declaration, which Governor Ford knew to be a lie as his previous letter to Jo before Jo surrendered named 3 people who had been arrested and demanded immediate release of them. This was Jo’s case that he didn’t do anything wrong, and he had the documents, which showed the exact criminality he denied, to back up his claim he didn’t do anything criminal. Jo wanted this handled as a civil issue between himself and the owners of the destroyed Expositor printing press, not as criminal on charges of inciting riot from that destruction and treason for declaring martial law. Jo also REALLY wanted the hearing before Daniel Wells in Nauvoo to satisfy the legal demand to appear in court for the charges, thereby granting him the right of double jeopardy by trying him again at Carthage for the same crime. But, everybody involved knew that was a sham trial and wouldn’t hold water. Here’s Governor Ford’s reply.
[The Governor] referred to the trial before Esq. Wells, which did not satisfy the feelings of the people in and about Carthage. [I admit] that sufficient time had not been allowed by the posse for the defendants to get ready, or to gather their witnesses,… it can be very safely admitted that your statements are true, and [I’m] satisfied now that the people of Nauvoo had acted according to the best of their judgment.
Governor Ford is careful and deliberate with his words here. The Nauvoo councilors and Daniel Wells did act according to their best judgment, but that judgment was clearly flawed. He even admitted that sufficient time wasn’t given to the defendants to collect witnesses, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that the victims of the alleged crimes were also not only not allowed time to collect witnesses, but weren’t even allowed to testify in the first place, which renders all of the legal proceedings, “according to their best judgment,” completely irrelevant. Ford was also sympathetic to the fact that Jo had been told to do what he did by people who were just trying to gain his favor. He’d communicated that to Jo in his initial letter telling the prophet to surrender. If Jo and his city councilors had received bad information from sycophants practicing sophistry to gain the prophet’s favor, they could unwittingly commit crimes while thinking it was according to the best judgment. That may have been a reasonable defense at some point but I don’t tend to give it much credence. Jo knew what he was doing all along and even if individual actions were made out of ignorance, ignorance isn’t a defense in a court of criminal law.
The conversation among these men continued with Jo’s legal counsel eventually chiming in.
Gov. Ford: But you have placed men under arrest, detained men as prisoners, and given passes to others, some of which I have seen.
John P. Greene, City Marshal: Perhaps I can explain. Since these difficulties have commenced, you are aware that we have been placed under very particular circumstance, our city has been placed under a very rigid police guard; in addition to this, frequent guards have been placed outside the city to prevent any sudden surprise, and those guards have questions suspected or suspicious persons as to their business.
To strangers, in some instances, passes have been given, to prevent difficulty in passing those guards, it is some of those passes that you have seen. No person, sir, has been imprisoned without a legal cause in our city.
Gov: Why did you not give a more speedy answer to the posse that I sent out?
Gen. Smith: We had matters of importance to consult upon; your letters showed anything but an amicable spirit. We have suffered immensely in Missouri from mobs, in loss of property, imprisonment and otherwise.
It took some time for us to weigh duly these matters, we could not decide upon matters of such importance immediately, and your posse were too hasty in returning; we were consulting for a large people, and vast interests were at stake.
We had been outrageously imposed upon and knew not how far we could trust anyone; besides, a question necessarily arose, how shall we come? Your request was that we should come unarmed. It became a matter of serious importance to decide how far promises could be trusted, and how far we were safe from mob violence.
Col Geddes: It certainly did look from all I have heard, from the general spirit of violence and mobocracy, that here prevails, that it was not safe for you to come unprotected.
Gov: I think that sufficient time was not allowed by the posse for you to consult and get ready. They were too hasty, but I suppose they found themselves bound by their orders. I think too there is a great deal of truth in what you say, and your reasoning is plausible, yet I must beg leave to differ from you in relation to the acts of the City Council. That council, in my opinion, had no right to act in a legislative capacity, and in that of the judiciary.
They should have passed a law in relation to the matter, and then the Municipal Court, upon complaint could have removed it; but for the City Council to take upon themselves the law-making and the execution of the law is, in my opinion, wrong; besides, these men ought to have had a hearing before their property was destroyed; to destroy it without, was an infringement of their rights; besides, it is so contrary to the feelings of American people to interfere with the press.
And furthermore, I cannot but think that it would have been more judicious for you to have gone with Mr. Bettisworth to Carthage, notwithstanding the law did not require it. Concerning your being in jail, I am sorry for that, I wish it had been otherwise. I hope you will soon be released, but I cannot interfere.
Mr. Reid said… it was very evident form the excitement created by Mr. Smith’s enemies it would have been unsafe for him to come to Carthage, for under such circumstances he could not have had an impartial trial.
The Governor said [I] came here to enforce the laws on all the people whether Mormons or not; and then expressed his feelings about the destruction of the Expositor press.
Joseph spoke of his imprisonment in Missouri, and of the shameful kidnapping of his witnesses, and their being thrust into prison to prevent them from giving their testimony in his favor.
I’m sure by this point Governor Ford had to remove his face from his palm to explain that he wasn’t buying this. The record only says “Governor Ford spoke of the Constitution.” Governor Ford knew what had happened in Missouri during the Missouri-Mormon war of 1838 which is why he was handling this matter personally in the first place; he’d seen the consequences of Governor Boggs not handling the matters personally and was determined to not repeat Boggs’s mistake. Jo’s witnesses weren’t detained and withheld from testifying in the November trial because it wasn’t a trial; it was only a court of inquiry to determine if there was enough evidence to move forward with fact-finding and the state’s prosecuting attorney forming a case against Jo and his fellow lawless banditti. They escaped prison before the jury trial could be held which would have called Jo’s witnesses to testify about events during the Missouri-Mormon war. Governor Ford simply “spoke of the constitution” probably to try and teach Jo once and for all about how criminal cases are tried but of course the dude already had his conclusions and wouldn’t change his beliefs no matter how much evidence was presented to the contrary. Ford’s other point there is notable though. Jo’s counsel echoed the same concerns Jo had repeatedly told Ford before, that he didn’t expect to get a fair trial in Carthage and decided to hold the hearing in Nauvoo for that reason. Governor Ford, being no idiot, recognized that no trial in Nauvoo which included Jo was a fair trial and therefore simply replied prudently that he was there to enforce the laws on all people, Mormons or not.
Joseph said we [are] willing to pay for the press, [I do] not want the owners to suffer any loss by it, neither [do I] wish such a libelous paper to be published in Nauvoo. As for calling out the Nauvoo Legion, if it was intended to resist the government of the State, it would be treason; but, as [we believe], [we] were endeavoring to defend [ourselves], and had no such intention as to resist the government—it was all right.
Our first step, therefore, was to stop the foul noisome, filthy sheet, and then the next, in our opinion, would have been to have prosecuted the man for a breech of public decency.
And furthermore, again, let me say, Governor Ford, I shall look to you for our protection. I believe you are talking of going to Nauvoo; if you go, sir, I wish to go along. I refuse not to answer any law, but I do not consider myself safe here.
Gov: I am in hopes that you will be acquitted, but if I go, I will certainly take you along; I do not, however, apprehend danger. I think you are perfectly safe, either here or anywhere else. I cannot, however, interfere with the law. I am placed in peculiar circumstances, and seem to be blamed by all parties.
JS: Gov. Ford, I ask nothing but what is legal, I have a right to expect protection, at least from you, for independent of law, you have pledged your faith, and that of the State for my protection, and I wish to go to Nauvoo.
Gov: And you shall have protection, Gen. Smith. I did not make this promise without consulting my officers, who all pledged their honor to its fulfillment. I do not know that I shall go tomorrow to Nauvoo, but if I do, I will take you along.
We weren’t trying to resist the government when we declared martial law and refused to comply with multiple arrest warrants, we were just trying to defend ourselves against the law trying to arrest us. I wonder if that statement struck Jo as asinine when he said it as it does when we read it now. Don’t worry, Governor Ford, everything is all right.
That was essentially the material bulk of the conversation between Governor Ford and Joseph Smith. It’s kind of hard to nail down exactly what was said, what the body language between Jo and Governor Ford was like, and just generally everything that was shared in the conversation. I removed some portions from the Willard Richards account that makes up the majority of what is contained in the History of the Church because it’s very clearly a propagandized version and contains obvious expansions from the mouth of Jo that he probably never said but was added by Richards and George A. Smith later.
This was the long-awaited interview Jo sought with Governor Ford to allay the excitement, answer all his charges, and provide explanations that no legal recourse was necessary as no legal wrong had been committed.
However, Jo did state immediately after Governor Ford left the meeting something that was recorded by Richards in his journal for that day, making it contemporary and likely very accurate to what Jo said.
Joseph remarked, “I have had a good deal of anxiety about my safety since I left Nauvoo, which I never had before when I was under arrest. I could not help those feelings, and they have depressed me.”
Regardless of what the History of the Church tells us about how well the meeting went, Jo’s remarks immediately after reveal a great deal about his immediate impressions after the conversation. Governor Ford was clearly not one to be easily swayed by partisanship and the mob mentality prevailing among Jo and his enemies. He seems to have clearly understood what happened, what was going on, what Jo was telling him, and already knew how best to act in response to the information. Whether or not this conversation influenced his actions can’t be known but I’m sure it allowed him to view the situation more completely than he did before. This was the last time Jo and Governor Ford would speak.
The men inside the Carthage debtor’s apartment, which is the larger of two rooms on the second floor, took stock of the safety of the room. It was clear that the guards outside were the ones keeping them from escaping because the locking mechanism on the door to the cell was broken.
Most of the forenoon was spent by Dan Jones and Col. Stephen Markham in hewing with a penknife, a warped door to get it on the latch, thus preparing to fortify the place against any attack.
They were only marginally successful as the latch on the door provided little resistance to the mob which pushed through the following evening. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. They also took serious the charge of every member a missionary, especially when many of those members in the jail cell were high-ranking leaders in the church. They spent a few hours after the meeting with Governor Ford “preaching to the guards, several of whom were relieved before their time was out”. According to White-out Willard Richards’s account of this preaching, “they admitted they were convinced of the innocence of the prisoners.” Richards even went so far as to claim that some of them left after hearing this preaching while saying, “Let us go home, boys, for I will not fight any longer against these men.” Whether that happened or not, I kind of doubt. The people tasked with guarding the prisoners at Carthage were citizens of Carthage who viewed the prisoners as their enemies regardless of anything the prisoners may be able to say. Similar to the conversation with Governor Ford, Jo wasn’t actually as convincing as the record shows to us, or else none of the following events of June 26th and 27th would have happened.
While the prisoners remained in Carthage, it was a time for conversation and personal reflection among them. White-out Willard spent the majority of this incarceration recording in his little pocket journal from which he was able to reconstruct all of this while working on the History of the Church. Jo and Hyrum shared a few moments of discussion.
During the day Hyrum encouraged Joseph to think that the Lord, for his Church’s sake, would release him from prison. Joseph replied, “Could my brother Hyrum but be liberated, it would not matter so much about me; poor Rigdon, I am glad he is gone to Pittsburgh out of the way; were he to preside he would lead the church to destruction in less than five years.”
This conversation wasn’t recorded in Richards’s journal which is notable because everything in the HoC preceding and following it is all straight from his journal. This was added later because Hingepin Sidney Rigdon held a legitimate claim to the throne which Bloody Brigham Young considered a threat. I’ve heard people today trot out this line from Jo that he said Rigdon would lead the church to destruction but Jo never said that. Those words were put in his mouth posthumously by the SLC leadership. Notably as well, the fatalist leanings in Jo’s words were all post-hoc as well. His contemporary words are far more light-hearted and optimistic about the outcome of this whole affair, but White-out Willard Richards and George A. Smith added many statements to Jo’s stay in Carthage that make it seem like he knew he would die a martyr.
Lies and propagandized history aside, the day was still young. Legal counsel for Jo and friends charged that the original mittimus was illegitimate to continue holding the prisoners in the Carthage jail. The charge of treason against Jo and Hyrum needed a separate hearing to determine if they’d continue to be held in Carthage jail or they’d be released on habeas corpus for lack of criminal charges.
One of the counsel for the prosecution expressed a wish to Esq. Reid, that the prisoners should be brought out of jail for examination on the charge of treason; [h]e was answered that the prisoners had already been committed “until discharged by due course of law”; and therefore the justice and constable had no further control of the prisoners, and that if the prosecutors wished the prisoners brought out of jail, they might bring them out on a writ of habeas corpus, or some other “due course of law”; when we would appear and defend.
Jo’s counsel was relatively optimistic about the outcome of this forthcoming examination.
Counselor Reid said that he had got the magistrate on a pin hook, for the magistrate had committed them without examination, and had no further jurisdiction in the case, and he would not agree to a trial unless (Captain) Justice Smith would consent to go to Nauvoo for examination, where witnesses could be had.
The argument Hugh T. Reid was telling Jo about here was essentially that they had been committed to jail without determining if there was any merit to the original charges of treason filed by Henry Norton and Augustine Spencer against Jo and Hyrum. In order to determine if there was any merit, Reid believed the justice would have to convey the prisoners to Nauvoo to hold the trial there where they could examine witnesses about the charges of treason and the declaration of martial law. This would be a severe advantage on the part of Jo and Hyrum because they’d be playing on home turf and witnesses could be produced for any desired outcome in Nauvoo.
Amidst this meeting between the prisoners and their legal counsel, Hugh T. Reid, the town took lunch and, as expected, Governor Ford was surrounded by anti-Mormons hell-bent on vigilante justice.
It was common conversation on the camp ground and in the dining-room of the hotel, in the presence of Governor Ford, “The law is too short for these men, but they must not be suffered to go at large”; and, “if the law will not reach them, powder and ball must.”
While we know the outcome of these legal proceedings and what transpired the following day. The outcome was far less-certain for the people living through this. It was a constant fear in the minds of the anti-Mormons that Jo would somehow get out of these legal troubles like he’d gotten out of every legal battle he’d faced before. It was equally feared by Jo and his friends that this time the charges would actually stick and that Jo had worn out his Teflon coating. If Jo somehow weaseled his way out of the legal system again, the old citizens of Hancock County would make sure that no legal maneuvers would save him from deserved justice of the death penalty. Jo and his friends wanted the previous hearings in Nauvoo to prevail and if they could get this case transferred back to Nauvoo they’d undoubtedly win the fight once again and would roam free to continue devising the Mormon revolution of America. With all the said, a lot was on the line in the afternoon of June 26th and this hearing.
½ past 2. Constable Bettisworth came with Alexander Simpson, and wanted to come in, with an order to the jailor demanding the prisoners committed to his charge, he refused to give them up, until discharged from his custody by due course of law.
The legitimacy of every document produced by anybody here was rightfully being challenged. Until Constable Bettisworth could prove that the order to remove the prisoners from the jail was legitimate. It could be a plot by friends of the prisoners to escape, or it could be a plot by the anti-Mormons to assassinate the prisoners right then and there. The jailor, Stigall, was smart to refuse the order until it was proven legitimate. However, this also had the effect of exciting the militia outside the jail who expected Constable Bettisworth to exit the jail with Jo in handcuffs behind him. When he left the jail upon the refusal of the jailor to deliver the prisoners, they viewed it as yet another act of opposition.
Jo immediately sent a letter to his legal counselors, James Woods and Hugh T. Reid.
Sirs:--Constable Bettisworth called a little while since, and wanted to come in, the guard would not; we have since learned that he wanted to take us before the magistrate, and we have since learned that there is some excitement because we did not go, and we wish to see you without delay.
We are informed that Dr. [Robert D. Bob-the-builder] Foster has said that they can do nothing with us, only by powder and ball, as we have done nothing against the law.
GET OVER HERE NOW, THEY’RE ABOUT TO KILL US! This all caused a huge cloud of chaos to descend over the city. Judge Robert F. Smith wanted to hold the preliminary hearing for treason to answer the charge that the original mittimus committing them to Carthage Jail was based on invalid charges and therefore invalid itself. When the jailor refused to give up the prisoners, Justice Robert F. Smith told Governor Ford about the situation.
Justice Robert F. Smith then inquired what he must do? Governor Ford replied, “We have plenty of troops; there are the Carthage Greys under your command, bring them out.”
Accordingly, 40 minutes after the constable first showed up to take the prisoners before Justice Robert F. Smith, he came back with the Carthage Greys, who’d shown themselves to be a bit more headstrong against Governor Ford’s orders the previous day and a half.
20 min. to 4. Upon the refusal of the jailor to give up the prisoners, the constable with the company of Carthage Greys, under the command of Frank Worrell, marched to the jail, and, by intimidation and threats compelled the jailor against his will and conviction of duty, to deliver Joseph and Hyrum to the constable, who forthwith, and contrary to their wishes compulsorily took them.
Joseph, seeing the mob gathering and assuming a threatening aspect, concluded it best to go with them then;
Just as Governor Ford and Justice Morrison had concluded before, and now Jo seemed to realize, the jail was the safest place for them. Now, however, he was being dragged out kicking and screaming to his hearing through the city square of Carthage, where over a thousand armed men wanted him dead and he didn’t have the cover of the jail walls for them to breach before committing the assassination.
… putting on his hat, [Joseph] walked boldly into the midst of a hollow square of the Carthage Greys; yet evidently expecting to be massacred in the streets before arriving at the Court House, politely locked arms with the worst mobocrat he could see, and Hyrum locked arms with Joseph, followed by Dr. Richards, and escorted by a guard. Elders Taylor, Jones, Markham, and Fullmer followed, outside the hollow square, and accompanied them to the Court Room.
This hearing was to charge Hyrum and Jo with treason by the complaints which had imprisoned them the previous evening. They didn’t get assassinated right then and there when they were extremely vulnerable and surrounded by enemy militias and escorted by the Carthage Greys. Governor Ford was in town, though, so daddy was keeping an eye on everything that was going on and ensuring good order was followed.
4 o’clock. Case called by Robert F. Smith, Captain of the Carthage Greys. The counsel for the prisoners then appeared, and called for subpoenas for witnesses on the part of the prisoners, and expressed their wish to go into the examination as soon as the witnesses could be brought from Nauvoo to Carthage. This was objected to most vehemently by the opposite counsel.
Did the opposite counsel object because the defense wanted witnesses, or because Hugh T. Reid asked to transfer the case to Nauvoo where they could call witnesses from within the city as he’d stated in his previous meeting with Jo and the boys? I find the latter explanation more plausible; the last thing the citizens of Carthage wanted was for this case to go to Nauvoo where it would be swept away and the prisoners would walk free, but simply having witnesses at the Carthage trial here would make plenty of sense and be expected in the due process of law.
The court deliberated for a while about whether or not the original mittimus was legitimate. There was a discrepancy in the date of the mittimus signed by Justice Robert F. Smith versus the mittimus Constable Bettisworth issued to the prisoners in Hamilton’s Hotel and used to lock them up in Carthage.
It was a moot point, however, as the available mittimus committed them to prison until a full jury trial could be heard.
The counsel on behalf of the state is absolutely amazing. The prosecuting attorney was, once again, Chauncey L. Higbee, who was qualified to serve that position but was far from an independent and unbiased prosecutor in the case as it concerned what happened after his Expositor printing press was destroyed and he’d repeatedly tangled with Jo in the Nauvoo court system before. Also there was a guy named Onias Skinner, who hasn’t come up in our timeline before but he was a member of the anti-Mormon political party. Also, Sylvester Emmons, the editor of the Nauvoo Expositor and Thomas Morrison, the original justice who issued the arrest order Jo defied in Nauvoo the day after the Expositor was destroyed. The final name of the state’s legal counsel is simply remarkable. He’s a guy we’ve talked about on the show a ton because of his frequent and scathing reports against the Mormons in his paper, the Warsaw Signal. Yes, Thomas Coke Sharp, the ultimate anti-Mormon, one of the founders of the anti-Mormon political party, and recipient of a death threat by Hyrum Sidekick-Abiff Smith, that Thomas Coke Sharp, served as the final member of the prosecuting counsel. This who’s who of anti-Mormons would likely remain the state’s legal counsel in the coming jury trial for treason. They all had conflicts of interest and should have all recused themselves from the case, but these guys viewed the Mormon problem created by Jo as a personal affront to their own liberties and they would never let this case slip through their hands if they had the opportunity to throw the book at Jo and send him to the gallows.
Jo’s counsel, James Woods, Esq., stated in court “they were committed to jail without any examination whatever.” After which, Hugh T. Reid, the other counselor for Jo and his buddies, “urged a continuance of the case till the witnesses could be obtained from Nauvoo, for the defense.”
This was simply a hearing to determine if the prisoners should remain in Carthage jail because the state had enough evidence to seek discovery and witnesses based on the charges of treason. No witnesses were available from Nauvoo and couldn’t be produced any moment before the next afternoon and that was only if a rider was sent from Carthage immediately after the hearing to subpoena those witnesses. The earliest the prosecution could undertake a trial would be the next day at noon.
Mr. Skinner suggested that the court adjourn until 12 o’clock tomorrow.
Mr. Woods proposed that the court adjourn until witnesses could be got together, or until tomorrow at any time, and again adjourn if they are not ready, without brining the prisoners into court.
The witnesses were probably named but White-out Willard didn’t seem to catch their names or he couldn’t write fast enough. This hearing took less than an hour and there was a lot of confusion so I don’t blame Richards’s record for being a bit light.
Understandably, Nauvoo citizens didn’t know what was going on in Carthage and when they received a subpoena to appear in Carthage where they may or may not have learned that Jo and Hyrum were in jail for treason, what would they think? Jo had prepped the Mormons for war and the Carthaginians were the sworn enemies of the Mormons, would they comply with the subpoenas?
Mr. Reid hoped no compulsory measures would be made use of by the prosecution in this enlightened country.
Subpoena the witnesses but please don’t arrest them. They’ll comply without the use of force, no need to hit them with tear gas, shoot them with rubber bullets, or run them over with SUVs, they won’t resist. The prosecution responded.
Mr. Skinner: [“]If witnesses cannot be had after due diligence by the defense, a continuance will be granted.[“]
The hearing concluded.
On motion of counsel for the prisoners, examination was postponed till tomorrow at 12 o’clock noon, and subpoenas were granted to get witnesses from Nauvoo, twenty miles distance; whereupon the prisoners were remanded to prison, with the following mittimus
And then it prints a new mittimus signed by Justice Robert F. Smith that day based on the continuance of the trail until tomorrow. After which the prisoners were “Returned to jail, and Joseph and Hyrum were thrust into close confinement.” At this point, the rest of the prisoners, Richards, Taylor, Fullmer, Dan Jones, Piggy-bank Steve Markham, were all placed in the debtors jail apartment, with Jo and Hyrum in the prison cells in the adjacent room. Upon hearing of this increased security, whatever the reasons for doing it, Governor Ford sent an order to the jailor.
I would advise the jailor to keep the Messrs. Smith in the room in which I found them this morning, unless a closer confinement should be clearly necessary to prevent an escape.
It seems that locking Jo and Hyrum in the cell was a bit excessive punishment without justification and Governor Ford could recognize that.
After this hearing, which Jo and Hyrum somehow survived without being assassinated, a curious old man entered the city of Carthage. He was largely unknown by any of the residents, but he was a welcome sight for the prisoners to see out the windows of the jail cell. Uncle John Smith. Jo and Hyrum’s uncle had received the letter from Jo a week and a half ago to only give up the arms of the Mormons living in Macedonia to the militia if the militia pried those guns from their cold, dead fingers. This old man approached the jailor in view of Jo and Hyrum looking out the window.
Patriarch John Smith came from Macedonia to the jail to see his nephews Joseph and Hyrum; the road was thronged with mobbers; three of them snapped their guns at him, and he was threatened by many others who recognized him; the guard at the jail refused him admittance.
Joseph saw him through the prison window, and said to the guard, “Let the old gentleman come in, he is my uncle.” The guard replied they did not care who the hell he was uncle to, he should not go in.
Joseph replied, “you will not hinder so old and infirm a man as he is from coming in”; and then said, “come in, uncle”; on which, after searching him closely, the guard let him pass into the jail, where he remained about an hour. He asked Joseph if he thought he should again get out of the hands of his enemies, when he replied, “My brother Hyrum thinks I shall; I wish you would tell the brethren in Macedonia that they can see by this, that it has not been safe for me to visit them; and tell Almon W. Babbit, I want him to come and assist me as an attorney at my expected trial tomorrow before Captain R. F. Smith.”
Father [Uncle John] Smith then left the jail to convey this message to A. W. Babbit, who was at Macedonia.
Almon Babbit would arrive in Carthage by the next day carrying an unexpected message with him. We must wait before we’re able to discuss that message specifically. Uncle John ended up meeting Almon Babbit on the road back to Macedonia and told Babbit of Jo’s request. He replied cryptically, “You are too late, I am already engaged on the other side.” Other side of what? Was he working with the enemies? Or was he engaged in Macedonia with Illinois militias occupying the city and didn’t think it prudent to leave the city for Carthage? We’ll never know what was actually meant by that statement because it was probably a fabrication by the compiler of the HoC, George A. Smith, who wrote it after Almon Babbit had been excommunicated from the SLC church, merely months before he was mysteriously killed in Nebraska territory in 1856.
After Uncle John’s visit, Jo received a much-appreciated letter from his personal scribe, Quilliam Claypen, who he’d instructed just 3 days prior to burn or bury the Council of Fifty Minutes. The letter Jo received is interesting as there appears to be coded language, which wasn’t uncommon among the Mormon leadership. When the Mormons were stealing the Missourian’s property during the Missouri-Mormon war of 1838, they were instructed to call the hogs they stole bears and the cattle they stole buffalo. Some language in Claypen’s letter to Jo here could also be coded.
I write this line to inform you that Mr. Marsh, who lives down the river, and of whom you have had corn, pork, &c., has sent word that if you want any bail he is ready for one to any amount, and further that he has got some corn left which he wants you to have, lest the mob get it. (We will endeavor to obtain it.)
They have already taken two loads, but he has charged them a dollar a bushel for it.
The Amaranth [steamer] has just landed at the foot of Main Street, and unloaded 200 [barrels] flour,--95 for Mr. Kimball, the balance for Bryant.
Captain Singleton, who came at the head of the police this morning, is sending a request to the Governor to call them home; he says he finds no difficulties to settle here, but there is plenty to settle at home. He further more says that while the police were at Carthage, they were treated as soldiers, but since they came to Nauvoo they have been treated as gentlemen.
The company all got home safe and well last night.
A messenger is about to start forthwith to Judge Thomas.
All is peace in Nauvoo; many threats keep coming that the mob are determined to attack the city in yoru absence, but we have no fears.
With fervency and true friendship, I remain,
Upon reading the letter from Quilliam Claypen, Jo sent the messenger, Joel S. Miles, back to Nauvoo with a list of documents to bring to Carthage for the hearing tomorrow. Jo also “Sent a message to [his legal] Counselor [James] Woods to get subpoenas for Samuel James, Edward Hunter and Philip B. Lewis, with instructions to bring with them the papers that they carried to the Governor at Springfield, and which the Governor had not seen, as he had started for Carthage before they arrived at Springfield.”
Once these witnesses and documents had been sent for in Nauvoo, Jo and the city took supper close to 8 p.m. After dinner, however, Jo and Hyrum were visited in the debtors apartment of Carthage jail by their legal counsel, James Woods and Hugh T. Reid. They brought some interesting information with them concerning a meeting they’d just attended with Governor Thomas Ford. A decision had been made which would prove incredibly consequential, to the point of being fatal.
Counselors Woods and Reid called with Elder J. P. Greene, and said that the Governor and military officers had held a council which had been called by the Governor, and they decided that the Governor and all the troops should march to Nauvoo at 8 o’clock tomorrow, except one company of about 50 men, in order to gratify the troops, and return the next day, the company of fifty men to be selected by the Governor from those of the troops whose fidelity he could most rely on, to guard the prisoners, who should be left in Carthage Jail; and that their trial be deferred until Saturday, the 29th.
Now the original mittimus issued by Justice Robert F. Smith which said the hearing would occur June 27th at noon was silently amended to read 29th of June. “This was done without consulting either the prisoners or their counsel.” It was decided, the hearing would happen June 29th instead of 27th, the prisoners would languish in prison for 2 days longer than expected, and most importantly, Governor Ford would personally march a small contingent of his militia forces into Nauvoo to collect documents and witnesses and get a finger on the pulse of the city. He would leave tomorrow morning sometime, leaving only 50 of his most trusted guards in Carthage to make sure nothing bad happened to the prisoners.
Without Governor Ford in Carthage, the foxes will be guarding the henhouse. The decision was made and Ford would not be taking the prisoners with him to Nauvoo as he’d said he would. They were too much of a liability to carry to Nauvoo and attempt to bring back to Carthage once business was concluded in Nauvoo.
Let’s hear a bit from Governor Ford about the decision-making process which led him to head to Nauvoo on the morning of the 27th because the correct choice amidst all this public fury was anything but clear.
All these considerations [of a possible Illinois-Mormon war] were duly urged by me upon the attention of a council of officers, convened on the morning of 27th of June. I also urged upon the council, that such wonton and unprovoked barbarity [meaning waging war against Nauvoo] on their part would turn the sympathy of the people in the surrounding counties in favor of the Mormons, and therefore it would be impossible to raise a volunteer militia force to protect such a people against [the Mormons]. Many of the officers admitted that there might be danger of collision. But such was the blind fury prevailing at the time, though not showing itself by much visible excitement, that a small majority of the council adhered to the first resolution of marching into Nauvoo; most of the officers of the Schuyler and McDonough militia voting against it, and most of those of the county of Hancock voting in its favor.
A very responsible duty now devolved upon me, to determine whether I would, as commander-in-chief, be governed by the advice of this majority. I had no hesitation in deciding that I would not; but on the contrary, I ordered the troops to be disbanded, both at Carthage and Warsaw, with the exception of three companies, two of which were retained as a guard to the jail, and the other was retained to accompany me to Nauvoo.
Not only did Governor Ford not listen to the majority of militiamen that he should march to Nauvoo with the state’s militia forces, but he went so far as to disband the 1300 some odd militia men in Carthage and Warsaw and send them all home so he could handle this issue without the constant presence of militias making everything more urgent and complicated. He continues:
The officers insisted much in council upon the necessity of marching to that place [Nauvoo] in search for apparatus to make counterfeit money, and more particularly to terrify the Mormons from attempting any open or secret measures of vengeance against the citizens of the county, who had taken a part against them or their leaders. To ease their terrors on this head, I proposed to them that I would myself proceed to the city, accompanied by a small force, make the proposed search, and deliver an address to the Mormons, and tell them plainly what degree of excitement and hatred prevailed against them in the minds of the whole people, and that if any open or secret violence should be committed on the persons or property of those who had taken part against them, that no one would doubt but that it had been perpetrated by them, and that it would be the sure and certain means of the destruction of their city and the extermination of their people.
I ordered two companies under the command of Capt. R.F. Smith, of the Carthage Greys, to guard the jail. In selecting these companies, and particularly the company of the Carthage Grays for this service, I have been subjected to some censure. It has been said that this company had already been guilty of mutiny, and had been ordered to be arrested whilst in the encampment at Carthage; and that they and their officers were the deadly enemies of the prisoners. Indeed it would have been difficult to find friends of the prisoners under my command, unless I had called in the Mormons as a guard; and this I was satisfied would have led to the immediate war, and the sure death of the prisoners.
Governor Ford, for the security of his prisoners, disbanded the militias as they were not needed, refused to march a large force into Nauvoo except for himself and a small platoon to search for the counterfeit machinery and deliver a speech telling the Mormons they were on thin ice, and left only a small contingent of the Carthage Greys, under the command of a guy he trusted, to guard the prisoners while he was in Nauvoo. What else could he do? He said it himself, he couldn’t find anybody to guard the prisoners who weren’t their enemies unless he called in the Nauvoo Legion to do the job which would immediately escalate tensions and result in war.
Although I knew that this company were the enemies of the Smiths, yet I had confidence in their loyalty and integrity; because their captain was universally spoken of as a most respectable citizen and honorable man… I relied upon this company especially, because it was an independent company, for a long time instructed and practiced in military discipline and subordination. I also had their word and honor, officers and men, to do their duty according to law. Besides all this, the officers and most of the men resided in Carhtage; in the near vicinity of Nauvoo; and, as I thought, must know that they would make themselves and their property convenient and conspicuous marks of Mormon vengeance, in case they were guilty of treachery…
That’s a great point. If the Carthage Greys were to assassinate Joseph Smith, the Mormons would know and their property was the closest to the Mormon settlement upon which they would wreak their vengeance. But, of course, Governor Ford had many more demons on his shoulders attempting to influence his decision-making.
I must here be permitted to say, also, that frequent appeals had been made to me to make a clean and thorough work of the matter, by exterminating the Mormons, or expelling them from the State. An opinion seemed generally to prevail, that the sanction of executive authority would legalize the act; and all persons of any influence, authority, or note, who conversed with me on the subject, frequently and repeatedly stated their total unwillingness to act without my direction, or in any mode except according to law.
This was a circumstance well calculated to conceal from me the secret machinations on foot. I had constantly contended against violent measures, and so had the brigadier-general in command; and I am convinced that unusual pains were taken to conceal from both of us the secret measures resolved upon.
With all of these pressures tugging Governor Ford in all directions, his resolve to go to Nauvoo provided exactly the window the assassins needed to put their plan into effect. Ford’s decision to not take the prisoners with him on the trip to Nauvoo the following day would echo through the remainder of his career and blight Ford’s legacy from that time forward.
With this troubling information about Ford’s decisions, the prisoners settled into their apartment in the upper story of Carthage jail.
Elder John Taylor prayed. Willard Richards, John Taylor, John S. Fullmer, Stephen Markham, and Dan Jones stayed with Joseph and Hyrum in the front room.
During the evening the Patriarch Hyrum Smith read and commented upon extracts from the Book of Mormon, on the imprisonments and deliverance of the servants of God for the gospel’s sake. Joseph bore a powerful testimony to the guards, of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon—the restoration of the gospel—the administration of angels—and that the kingdom of God was again established on earth, for the sake of which he was then incarcerated in that prison, and not because he had violated any law of God or man.
Jo’s ranting concluded, the men resigned to the exhaustion overcoming them as the sun had long set beneath the horizon.
They retired to rest late; Joseph and Hyrum occupied the only bedstead in the room, while their friends lay side by side on the mattresses on the floor. Dr. Richards sat up writing until his last candle left him in the dark;
As sleep was about to overcome the men, a troubling report came from outside, a gunshot.
The report of a gun fired close by, caused Joseph to arise, leave the bed, and lay himself on the floor,
They wouldn’t enquire as to the source of this gunshot until the following morning but it was understandably upsetting for the men who all feared their lives would be taken by vigilante justice by the infuriated militias occupying the city under the careful watch of Governor Ford. Governor Ford could keep the peace tonight, but what about when he leaves tomorrow morning? A touching and iconic moment of Mormon history takes place on Jo and Hyrum’s last living night.
[after the gun was fired, Joseph] lay himself on the floor, having Dan Jones on his left, and John S. Fullmer on his right.
Joseph laid out his right arm, and said to John S. Fullmer, “Lay your head on my arm for a pillow, brother John”; and when all were quiet they conversed in a low tone about the prospects of their deliverance; Joseph gave expression to several presentiments that he had to die, and said, “I would like to see my family again”; and “I would to God that I could preach to the Saints in Nauvoo once more.” Fullmer tried to rally his spirits, saying he thought he would often have that privilege; when Joseph thanked him for the remarks and good feelings expressed to him.
Soon after Dr. Richards retired to the bed which Joseph had left, and when all were apparently fast asleep, Joseph whispered to Dan Jones, “Are you afraid to die?” Dan said, “Has that time come, think you? Engaged in such a cause I do not think that death would have many terrors.” Joseph replied, “You will yet see Wales, and fulfill the mission appointed you, before you die.”
This night of June 26th, 1844 marks the final night Joseph and Hyrum Smith would lay their heads down to sleep. The mad tyrant would be dead before the sun set the following day.
Alright listeners, let’s step back a bit and chat for a minute here. The death of Joseph Smith has been an inevitable conclusion we’ve been pursuing for 5 and a half years now. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and put scores of hours into how to handle Carthage in a way that will do justice to the literal thousands of hours of research which have gone into constructing our historical timeline. I want to be proud of the result. When I’m recording this, Naked Mormonism is ranked 5th in its category on iTunes with over 2.5 million overall downloads. Honestly, I take a lot of pride in those milestones but that pride also comes with the recognition that the death of Joseph Smith will be the greatest undertaking of the podcast so far. I know that y’all have been waiting years for this just like me and I want us all to get there together and feel happy with the result. This is a big event and that means we’re going to take our time so I can do this right.
What does “right” look like? A ten-part series over the coming weeks. These will be special episodes. 7 of them will be devoted to examining the life of Joseph Smith and early Mormonism through different perspectives and highlighting certain aspects. Then, episodes 8-10 will cover the June 27th assassination of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the aftermath.
I’ve come to understand the listening audience falls into three broad categories and I want to speak to each of those categories individually right now.
The first category is new listeners who haven’t heard the entire backlog of the podcast and just jump in at an arbitrary point. I want this 10-part series to essentially be an index or a directory to the entire 200+ episode backlog. These episodes will contain stories from all over early Mormon history with episode numbers to back them up in case you want to venture into the backlog for a deeper dive.
The second category are the casual listeners. Maybe you’ve listened to the entire backlog, maybe you’ve skipped a few episodes here and there. Y’all usually put on the podcast when you’re doing menial tasks or falling asleep. You remember a lot of stories from early Mormon history, but a lot of that information isn’t readily available upon recall. This series will be a refresher for all of you and bring y’all up to speed on the entire 39 years of Jo’s life and 14 years of ministry.
The third and final category of listeners represent a small percentage of the audience, but in many ways they’re the listeners to whom I owe the most. These are the listeners who’ve listened eagerly to every episode as soon as it dropped. They’ve watched every presentation, heard every guest spot or interview I’ve done, and often they’re supporters of the show on patreon.com/nakedmormonism. You know more Mormon history than 99% of Mormons will ever learn. I want this 10-part series to leave you feeling like we’ve all collectively arrived to the end of a massive journey together. Through thick and thin, hardship and leisure, joy and sorrow, you small group of devoted listeners have been with me the longest and have been the most supportive and I’ve learned the most along this journey from these amazing people. I owe it to each and every one of you to do the death of Joseph Smith right which is going to require patience and tenacity from each and every one of you who’ve been looking forward to the death of Joseph Smith for years now.
With all that said, the series isn’t ready yet and I refuse to go to air until it’s up to my expectations. For at least the last 10 episodes, we’ve been rocketing to Carthage focusing solely on Joseph Smith and leaving a lot behind. There are plenty of loose threads and people I want to catch up with in the timeline. What’s Emma been up to? How’s Bloody Brigham Young doing out in the eastern states electioneering for the prophet? What’s Eliza R. Snow been doing on the Morley settlement while basically running the Relief Society in Emma’s absence? What have the publishers of the Expositor been doing since the press was destroyed? We’re going to spend the next few episodes drawing these threads together to get everything set up for the coming Road to Carthage series. I’ve left enough behind to fill multiple episodes. But I also don’t want to bore everybody with superfluous details until the 10-part series is ready to air so I promise I won’t keep you waiting a second longer than I have to in order to really stick the landing here.
That’s the podcast forecast for the coming months. Hang in there, listeners. I want to thank all of you for giving me your time and support. Let’s all eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow Jo dies.
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