State of Missouri, Richmond
Ray County, May 13, 1839.
To the Honorable Austin A. King, Judge of the Court of this and the adjoining counties:
Having been confined in prison near seven months, and the time having now arrived when a change of venue can be taken in order for the further prosecution of our trials, and the time having come when I can speak my mind freely, without endangering the lives of any but myself, I now take the liberty of seriously objecting to a trial anywhere within the bounds of the state, and of earnestly praying to your honor and to all the authorities, civil and military, that my case may come within the law of banishment, which has been so rigorously enforced upon near ten thousand of our society, including my wife and little ones, with all my witnesses and friends.
My reasons are obvious, and founded upon notorious facts, which are known to you, sir, and to the people in general of this Republic, and therefore need no proof. They are as follows: First, I have never received any protection by law, either of my person, property, or family, while residing in this state, to which I first emigrated in 1831. Secondly, I was driven by force of arms from Jackson county, wounded and bleeding, in 1833, while my house was burned, my crops and provision, robbed from me or destroyed, and my land kept from me until now, while my family was driven out without shelter, at the approach of winter. Thirdly, these crimes still go unpunished, notwithstanding I made oath before the Honorable Judge Ryland, then Circuit Judge of that district, to the foregoing outrages; and I also applied in person to His Excellency Daniel Danklin, then Governor of the state, for redress and protection, and a restoration of myself and about 1,200 of my fellow sufferers, to our rights—but all in vain.
Fourthly, my wife and children have now been driven from our home and improvements in Caldwell county, and banished from the state on pain of death, together with about ten thousand of our society, including all my friends and witnesses; and this by the express orders of His Excellency Lilburn W. Boggs, Governor of the state of Missouri, and by the vigorous execution of his order, by Generals Lucas and Clark, and followed up by murders, rapes, plunderings, thefts and robberies of the most inhuman character by a lawless mob, who have from time to time for more than five years past, trampled upon all law and authority, and upon all the rights of man.
Fifthly, all these inhuman outrages and crimes go unpunished, and are unnoticed by you, sir, and by all the authorities of the state.
Sixthly, the legislature of the state has approved of and sanctioned this act of banishment, with all the crimes connected to it, by voting some two hundred thousand dollars for the payment of troops engaged in this unlawful, unconstitutional, and treasonable enterprise. In monarchial governments, the banishment of criminals after their trial and legal condemnation, has been frequently resorted to—but the banishment of innocent women and children from house and home and country, to wander in a land of strangers, unprotected and unprovided for, while their husbands and fathers are retained in dungeons, to be tried by some other law, is an act unknown in the annals of history, except in this single instance in the nineteenth century, when it has actually transpired in a republican state, where the Constitution guarantees to every man the protection of life and property, and the rights of trial by jury. These are outrages which would put monarchy to the blush, and from which the most despotic tyrants of the dark ages would turn away with shame and disgust. In these proceedings, Missouri has enrolled her name on the list of immortal fame—her transactions will be handed down the stream of time to the latest posterity, who will read with wonder and astonishment the history of proceedings which are without a parallel in the annals of time. Why should the authorities of the state strain at a gnat and swallow a camel? Why be so strictly legal as to compel me to go through all the forms of a slow and legal prosecution previous to my enlargement, [being set free] out of a pretense of respect to laws of the state, which have been openly trampled upon and disregarded towards us from the first to the last? Why not include me in the general wholesale banishment of our society, that I may support my family which are now reduced to beggary, in a land of strangers? But when the authorities of the state shall redress all these wrongs; shall punish the guilty according to law; and shall restore my family and friends to all the rights of which we have been unlawfully deprived, both in Jackson and all other counties, and shall pay all the damages which we as a people have sustained; then I shall believe them sincere in their professed zeal for law and justice; then shall I be convinced that I can have a fair trial in the state. But until then, I hereby solemnly protest against being tried in this state, with the full and conscientious conviction that I have no just grounds to expect a fair and impartial trial.
I therefore most sincerely pray your honor, and all the authorities of the state, to either banish me without further prosecution; or I freely consent to a trial before a judiciary of the United States.
With sentiments of high consideration and due respect, I have the honor to subscribe myself, your honor’s must humble and obedient; etc.
Parley P. Pratt.
To Austin A. King.
[History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 3]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, May 13, 1839, 2-3]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, July 2006]