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Illinois. Governor, 1842-1846 (Ford).  . . . Message of the Governor of the State of Illinois, in Relation to the Disturbances in Hancock County, December, 21, 1844.  Springfield: Walters & Weber, Public Printers, 1844.

21.6 cm.  21 pp.  (paged [3]-21, also bearing series page numbers [67]-85;  PLUS separate title page evidently supplied from another copy, slightly smaller [2 to 4 mm.] than the text leaves).  At head of title:  "Illinois Legis. }   {14th Assem.  1st Session."In very good condition, with no foxing or writing. Side-tied in modern bluish-grey blank fine-paper wrappers in the style of the period. A pleasing, clean example of a significant rarity. Preserved in a handsome custom leather-backed folding archival box.



VERY RARE, and of the greatest historical interest.  Acquired by the previous owner from an Illinois historian many years ago.  Taken from Flake 4185 . . .

Illinois. General Assembly. Reports Made to the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Illinois, at their session begun and held at Springfield, December 2, 1844. Springfield, Walters & Weber, Public Printers, 1845. (Two volumes).

The pamphlet offered here comprised pages [65]-85 of the first volume of that compilation, of which Flake locates only the examples preserved at Yale and the New York Public Library. Compare to Flake 4195 and 4196 (locating a total of three copies of two separate issues briefly described). I am not aware of another copy having been offered for sale in any of these original formats.

The title page present here does not mention the Senate or House. A gathering number, "(5)" is printed to the left of the year date at the bottom, corresponding to its placement in the first volume of the Reports mentioned above. The four previous gatherings (comprising other, unrelated items), would have consumed the 64 previous pages: 8 leaves X 2 pp./leaf X 4 gatherings = 64. Allowing pages [65-6] for the title page, we come to page 67, the compilation page number on this pamphlet's page 3, as noted above.

Contrary to the December 21 date on the title page, the text is dated at the end, "Springfield, December 17, 1844." p. 21.

Flake mentions that this text was . . .

    Also published in Journal of the Senate of the Fourteenth Assembly of the State of Illinois, at their regular session, begun and held at Springfield, December 2, 1844.  Springfield, Walters & Weber, Public Printers, 1844, p. 91-110.  [Flake entry 4195, note]

The text as printed in that Journal is virtually identical to the pamphlet offered here.  The relevant Journal pages were not printed from the same forms as the present offering, however, as seen by a different breaking of paragraphs from page to page, and occasional differences in line breaks (hyphenation differences, etc.).  In the Journal, page 91, we find Ford's Message submitted to the Illinois Senate or legislature, apparently in manuscript, on Monday, December 23, 1844.  It would have been Joseph Smith's thirty-ninth birthday . . .

    A message from the Governor by T. Campbell, Esq., Secretary of State.   Mr. Speaker:  I am directed by the Governor to lay before the Senate a communication in writing. . . . . .   Mr. Speaker laid before the Senate the communication just received from the Governor;  which was read as follows.  
Executive Department,
Springfield, Dec. 23, 1844.
    To the Senate:   I have the honor to lay before the Senate, a special message in relation to the disturbances in Hancock county.                     I am most respectfully, &c.
  To the Honorable, the Senate, and House of Representatives:

Then follows the text as seen in the pamphlet.  At the end of the Journal version, p. 110, the December 17 date (which appears at the end of the pamphlet version) does not appear.  The Journal version records, immediately following Ford's signature in type, that . . .

     On motion of Mr. Nunnally,   Said message was laid on the table and 2500 copies of the same ordered to be printed for the use of the two Houses.   Ordered, That the Secretary inform the House of Representatives thereof.  [Journal, p. 110]

For that presumably initial printing, see Flake 4195-6, mentioned further above. The Journal volume contains proceedings which extended through March 3, 1845, despite the 1844 date on its title page. Indeed, it would not surprise me if even the separate pamphlet versions were actually printed in 1845, given the fact that the text appears to have been presented to the legislature in manuscript only a few days before the end of 1844.


Latter-day Saints have traditionally regarded Thomas Ford as the incompetent governor of Illinois who allowed Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum to be murdered in 1844.  For some Mormons, indeed, Governor Ford remains one of the villains of history.  "Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins," wrote W. W. Phelps of the fallen prophet,  "stain Illinois while the earth lauds his fame."  The Saints would sing that line for a century, and repeat John Taylor's reference to Ford's "plighted faith" in failing to protect the men in the Carthage Jail. (HC VII:114)

Collectors who unearth the earliest descriptions of historical events, of course, realize that original sources can offer unexpected surprises.  Here is the governor's rare first Message to the State of Illinois describing the recent "disturbances in Hancock County."  It is naturally written from a different perspective than those of most Mormon histories.  It reveals a Thomas Ford quite unlike the one we may have met in Sunday School.  His lucid, painstaking explanations and unexpected insights - preserved here - can delight, clarify, and intrigue.  In precise, measured sentences, Ford explains himself step by step, revealing a character we must notice more closely, perhaps even admire.


FROM HIS DEATH BED half a dozen years later, Ford would hand over the manuscript of his History of Illinois for publication.  There, he would indulge in personal feelings which he could not have allowed himself to express to the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives in 1844.  Ford's restraint in the earlier Message (offered here) renders it the more valuable as a historical source and benchmark.  Yet we may draw upon his subsequent, dying words in order to open our minds to a fair examination of his description of the events as he first recalled them.  "It is to be feared," wrote Ford as he faced death,

that, in course of a century, some gifted man like Paul, some splendid orator, . . . may succeed in breathing a new life into this modern Mahometanism, and make the name of the martyred Joseph ring as loud, and stir the souls of men as much, as the mighty name of Christ itself.  Sharon, Palmyra, Manchester, Kirtland, Far West, Adamon Diahmon, Ramus, Nauvoo, and the Carthage Jail, may become holy and venerable names, places of classic interest, in another age;  like Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, and Mount Calvary to the Christian, and Mecca and Medina to the Turk.  And in that event, the author of this history feels degraded by the reflection, that the humble governor of an obscure State, who would otherwise be forgotten in a few years, stands a fair chance, like Pilate and Herod, by their official connection with the true religion, of being dragged down to posterity with an immortal name, hitched on to the memory of a miserable impostor.  There may be those whose ambition would lead them to desire an immortal name in history, even in those humbling terms.  I am not one of that number.  [Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois . . . (Chicago, 1854), pp. 359-60]  

A prophet indeed!  For good and ill, we will always remember Thomas Ford.  It seems only fair, then, to let him tell his own story of the miserable summer of 1844.  In the History of the Church, we find John Taylor's appraisal of Ford's possible culpability in the death of the Smiths.  Taylor suffered mightily in the jail, and must be allowed his ire.  Point by point, he offers his perspective. He is justified at times, but in other parts, he is unable to admit to basic principles of law.  "There had been various opinions about the complicity of the governor in the murder," Taylor wrote,

some supposing that he knew all about it, and assisted or winked at its execution.  It is somewhat difficult to form a correct opinion;  from the facts presented it is very certain that things looked more than suspicious against him.  

In the first place, he positively knew that we had broken no law.

Secondly.  He knew that the mob had not only passed inflammatory resolutions, threatening extermination to the 'Mormons', but that they had actually assembled armed mobs and commenced hostilities against us.

Thirdly.  He took those very mobs that had been arrayed against us, and enrolled them as his troops, thus legalizing their acts.  

FourthlyHe disbanded the Nauvoo Legion, which had never violated law, and disarmed them, and had about his person in the shape of militia known mobocrats and violators of the law.  

Fifthly.  He requested us to come to Carthage without arms, promising protection, and then refused to interfere in delivering us from prison, although Joseph and Hyrum were put there contrary to law.

Sixthly.  Although he refused to interfere in our behalf, yet, when Captain Smith went to him and informed him that the persons refused to come out, he told him that he had a command and knew what to do, thus sanctioning the use of force in the violation of law when opposed to us, whereas he would not for us interpose his executive authority to free us from being incarcerated contrary to law, although he was fully informed of all the facts of the case, as we kept him posted in the affairs all the time.

Seventhly.  He left the prisoners in Carthage jail contrary to his plighted faith.

Eighthly.  Before he went he dismissed all the troops that could be relied upon, as well as many of the mob, and left us in [the] charge of the 'Carthage Greys', a company that he knew were mobocratic, our most bitter enemies, and who had passed resolutions to exterminate us, and who had been placed under guard by General Deming only the day before.

NinthlyHe was informed of the intended murder, both before he left and while on the road, by several different parties.

Tenthly.  When the cannon was fired in Carthage, signifying that the deed was done, he immediately took up his line of march and fled.  How did he know that this signal portended their death if he was not in the secret?  It may be said some of the party told him.  How could he believe what the party said about the gun signal if he could not believe the testimony of several individuals who told him in positive terms about the contemplated murder?     He has, I believe, stated that he left the 'Carthage Greys' there because he considered that, as their town was contiguous to ours, and as the responsibility of our safety rested solely upon them, they would not dare suffer any indignity to befall us.  This very admission shows that he did really expect danger;  and then he knew that these people had published to the world that they would exterminate us, and his leaving us in their hands and taking of their responsibilities was like leaving a lamb in [the] charge of a wolf, and trusting to its humanity and honor for its safe-keeping.    

It is said, again, that he would not have gone to Nauvoo, and thus placed himself in the hands of the 'Mormons', if he had anticipated any such event, as he would be exposed to their wrath.  To this it may be answered that the 'Mormons' did not know their signals, while he did;  and they were also known in Warsaw, as well as in other places;  and as soon as the gun was fired, a merchant of Warsaw jumped upon his horse and rode directly to Quincy, and reported, 'Joseph and Hyrum killed, and those who were with them in jail.'  He reported farther that 'they were attempting to break jail, and were all killed by the guard.'  This was their story;  it was anticipated to kill all, and the gun was to be the signal that the deed was accomplished.  This was known in Warsaw.  The governor also knew it and fled;  and he could really be in no danger in Nauvoo, for the 'Mormons' did not know it, and he had plenty of time to escape, which he did.     It is said that he made all his officers promise solemnly that they would help him to protect the Smiths;  this may or may not be.  At any rate, some of these same officers helped to murder them.  

The strongest argument in the governor's favor, and one that would bear more weight with us than all the rest put together, would be that he could not believe them capable of such atrocity;  and, thinking that their talk and threatenings were a mere ebullition of feeling, a kind of braggadocio, and that there was enough of good moral feeling to control the more violent passions, he trusted to their faith.  There is, indeed, a degree of plausibility about this, but when we put it in juxtaposition to the amount of evidence that he was in possession of it weighs very little.  He had nothing to inspire confidence in them, and everything to make him mistrust them.  Besides, why his broken faith?  Why his disregard of what was told him by several parties?  Again, if he knew not the plan how did he understand the signal?  Why so oblivious to everything pertaining to the 'Mormon' interest, and so alive and interested about the mobocrats?  At any rate, be this as it may, he stands responsible for their blood, and it is dripping on his garments.  If it had not been for his promise of protection, they would have protected themselves;  it was plighted faith that led them to the slaughter;  and, to make the best of it, it was a breach of that faith and a nonfulfillment of that promise, after repeated warning, that led to their death.     Having said so much, I must leave the governor with my readers and with his God.  Justice, I conceive, demanded this much, and truth could not be told with less;  as I have said before, my opinion is that the governor would not have planned this murder, but he had not sufficient energy to resist popular opinion, even if that opinion led to blood and death.  [HC VII:113-6]

Taylor's "Martyrdom of Joseph Smith," quoted above, was also used by B. H. Roberts in the Comprehensive History of the Church II:338-41, citing its earlier publication in Daniel Tyler's Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War . . . (SLC, 1881), introduction, pp. 57-60.  Roberts fully institutionalizes Mormon hatred of Governor Ford, reciting - with almost malevolent glee - Ford's haggard appearance at the burial of his wife, his penniless death and the sad fate of the Ford children - as if by carrying the misery to later Ford generations, Roberts might more fully elevate the fallen Smiths (CHC II:342-3).  Roberts accepts the condescending characterization of Ford which was cranked out by the Bancroft history mill half a century after the fact . . .

    Thomas Ford, governor of Illinois, was as a man rather above the average politician usually chosen among these American states to fill that position.  Not specially clear-headed, and having no brain power to spare, he was quite respectable and had some conscience, as is frequently the case with mediocre men.  He had a good heart, too, was in no wise vindictive, and though he was in no sense a strong man, his sense of right and equity could be quite stubborn upon occasion.  Small in body, he was likewise small in mind;  indeed, there was a song current at the time that there was no room in his diminutive organism for such a thing as a soul.  Nevertheless, though bitterly censured by some of the Mormons, I do not think Ford intended to do them wrong.  [Hubert Howe Bancroft, . . . History of Utah . . . (San Francisco, 1889 ed.), pp. 172-3;  Roberts uses this in CHC II:337 as his introduction to the section on Ford.]



WE WERE RAISED on such opinions of the man, but we were not at Carthage in 1844, and neither was B. H. Roberts.  John Taylor was there, at the very center of the action, but he remembered the events from the inside the jail, and with the bullet which ached in his hip until the day he died.

Shall we allow Thomas Ford to respond?  His text is too long to reproduce here in its entirety, but it is tempting to show substantial portions, linked from John Taylor's accusations cited above.  The fortunate reader who obtains this seldom-seen imprint may study it in its entirety, and benefit from a more informed conclusion than most people are allowed to gain.  Most of the text of this pamphlet was copied into Ford's History, but with added reflections of a personal and rather embittered nature.  Here, on the other hand, is the governor's best, most disciplined and most immediate summation of what he believed, experienced, and transacted, affecting indirectly the lives of millions of people to the present day.

To compare portions of the following text to John Taylor's perceptions (above), click in the area of interest on each illustrated page . . .



Perhaps the most clearcut point which Ford emphasizes was the utter illegality of the destruction of the anti-Mormon press in Nauvoo by order of municipal agencies under direct influence of Joseph Smith (page 4, portion illustrated below). This ill-advised move, of course, led directly to the death of Joseph and Hyrum ten days afterward . . .


Ford begins his pamphlet by explaining forthrightly why he placed the potential mobs under military control. It was specifically to protect the Saints by swearing unruly, loosely-controlled militiamen - arriving in Carthage from several counties - to obey legally constituted officers (page 3):



After describing the apparent extreme fury of the anti-Mormons, Ford refutes unfounded rumors which were being spread against the Saints. As an example, the Mormons were thought to possess up to thirty state-issued cannons, and thousands of state-issued rifles. By recalling the few actual state-issued arms from the Legion (which, after all, had acted illegally in destroying the press of the Nauvoo Expositor), Ford felt that he was actually doing the Saints a favor. He knew they had thousands of personal arms with which to protect themselves anyway, and the negligible number of state-issued arms he recalled would help remove one of the mob's complaints (pp. 10-11). . .


The promised protection for the prisoners, perhaps, is the most repeated complaint heard against Governor Ford in LDS history today. Ford insists that he acted in good faith, page 9, . . .



. . . and that criti cs are legally misinformed when they complain that he did not remove the prisoners from the Carthage Jail to a safer location, pp. 11-12:




John Taylor critizized Ford for having left him and his fellow prisoners to the tender mercies of the Carthage Greys, known enemies of the Mormons, while dismissing potentially more friendly militiamen from outlying counties. Only by reading the entire pamphlet can the reader form an independent opinion. The heart of Ford's defense on this point, however, appears on pages 14-15 . . .




Was the governor "informed of the intended murder" as John Taylor stated later? It is an easy matter to accuse; Ford does not avoid the question. But throughout the pamphlet, he insists that he acted responsibly in the face of wild and varied rumors and accusations on all sides. A specific example appears on page 16 . . .



"The governor" knew of the murder at the jail while he was in Nauvoo, John Taylor accused afterward, ". . . and fled;  and he could really be in no danger in Nauvoo, for the 'Mormons' did not know it, and he had plenty of time to escape, which he did." A careful reading of the pamphlet strongly suggests otherwise. In fact, Ford later complimented John Taylor for having helped to prevent the Nauvoo Saints from retaliating! Only a portion of the relevant text can be reproduced here, comprising most of page 17 . . .



Perhaps the most extreme portion of John Taylor's invective against Thomas Ford is the following statement, already quoted earlier:

Why so oblivious to everything pertaining to the 'Mormon' interest, and so alive and interested about the mobocrats?  At any rate, be this as it may, he stands responsible for their blood, and it is dripping on his garments.



Only through careful research can the reader best evaluate the fairness of this accusation. I offer, on behalf of Governor Ford, one paragraph, taken from page 13. It is not unlike several other defenses and reflections Ford expressed in behalf of the Mormon side of the story in this important historical source . . .


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