Letter from Joseph Smith to Thomas Ford (1 January 1844)
Nauvoo Jan'y 1 1844
Gov. Thomas Ford
Your Letter of the 12th Dec last is before me, and lest a wrong impression may be imbibed, or may have been cherished by your excellency or his friends relative to the late disturbances of the mob in this section as well as the outrageous act of kidnapping two citizens of Illinois and my question whether I should call out any portion of the Legion &c, let me say that there must have been a mis conception of my idea as expressed in the letter, <and> as backed up by the affidavit of Mr Chapman. We have never talked of sending men to Missouri <to fight.> No you can not even compel a witness to go there much less an armed force, but as Col. Levi Williams (sworn to support the constitution) had there, and still has, (if I am correctly informed and the numerous affidavits are true) from one to three hundred men well armed with rifles, pistols bowie [knives] &c to guard himself from being taken by a warrant, now in the hands of some constable; and as was affirmed, to kidnap a Mr Turner of this city and others as reported, in addition to the two Averys already there groaning in the prisons of Missouri I thought it advisable to have a portion of the Legion ready to resist a mob. A burnt child dreads the fire, and when my old friends, men women and children look to me in the hour of danger for protection, and the wives and children of kidnaped men beg with tears for Justice and protection I am bound by my o[a]th of office and by all laws human and divine to grant it. I have always said I should act constitutionally. I know I have no power to call out men to go to Missouri, or to take Col Williams. the constable can take such a posse as he pleases, or the sheriff may, if necessary to affect the ends of Justice, call out the power of the county, and I as Mayor of the city of Nauvoo, have power when an armed mob has been organized for weeks, and carried off to another state innocent citizens, and flung them into prisons, and threaten to take more and if resisted, say they will slaughter the inhabitants of the city, and swear "if the Governor opens his mouth, they will punch a hole in him." I say I have power to call upon any portion of the Legion to resist them and keep the peace of the city, and from the good opinion I have of your excellency and the favorable reports from others of your excellencys honorable intentions for all laudable citizens, and a high minded spirit to magnify the Law and make it efficient. I know I shall merit your sanction for honest endeav[o]r to keep the peace, and shall be boul=stered up by the Governors cordial co=operation in every move that is virtuous, patriotic, and wise.
I would say Orin P. Rockwell has just returned from about <nine> months prison service in Missouri, and tha<t> he has had to walk upon the burning ploughshare, with bare feet. they are unblistered. and his garments are unscorched. he has suffered innocently. who will not see the injustice of Missouri? Mr Rockwell rec[eiv]ed an honorable acquittal from a Jury in the very hot bed of mobbery and Boggs violence. Mr Daniel Avery too, as per affidavit is fairly discharged. And what will your excellency direct as to the three Missourians named in Mr Averys affidavit who kidnaped him from Illinois?
Your Excellencys opinion that the Nauvoo Legion are <part of the> Militia of the State of Illinois, seems so consistent with the spirit and genius of the charter and the common law of the land, as well as the intention of our consti=tutions, that the Attorneys Generals opinions, to the contrary notwithstanding, are some what like an eclipse on the opposite side of the earth, "to us in visible!"
With a devout calculation to magnify the law and safely confide in it, and the integrity of its executors, I, as well as the Latter day Saints generally, will be sure that the Missourians, and disaffected Illinoisans, are law breakers, aggressors and made themselves guilty before we move with<out> counsel, and not then but for self defence. We [always] let our enemies violate law. With highest consideration &c.