Mormon Wars Part 3: Hillbilly Rednecks
by Caveat Lector
In every case of bona-fide Mormon “outrage” against Christian antagonists, the actual record proves that the Mormons were the original injured parties, that they were only guilty of re-action, and in every case, this reaction became necessary only because civil protection had been denied them and they were left to fend for themselves. So they fended. Sometimes not so skillfully, sometimes not so fairly. Often not so calmly.Sometimes not very rationally.
Still, even “neutral” historians constantly feel obligated to point out that many of these Mormon reactions to Christianity’s non-stop persecution were over-reactions, and sometimes this led to collateral damage against innocent parties. No dispute there. Valid criticism. From the perspective of a minority community being systematically tormented, and when viewed within the context of a continual struggle against an openly hostile surrounding culture possessing superior numbers and openly avowing the death and destruction of Mormonism and all its adherents, men, women, and children, it must be conceded that it would be easy for the Mormon community to “over”-react to threats, real, and imagined. For instance:
Bill for Removing of the Press of the “Nauvoo Expositor.”
Resolved by the city council of the city of Nauvoo, that the printing office from whence issues the Nauvoo Expositor is a public nuisance; and also of said Nauvoo Expositors which may be or exist in said establishment; and the mayor is instructed to cause said establishment and papers to be removed without delay, in such manner as he shall direct.
Passed June 10th, 1844. Geo. W. Harris, President pro tem.
W. Richards, Recorder.
–Roberts, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, pg 284
Why did Mayor Smith and his city council think the Nauvoo Expositor a public nuisance? Apart from the lame serial dramas, the bad poetry features, and poor writing in general, is had been established right under the nose of Joseph Smith by several apostate Mormons who’d been excommunicated for wanting to set up their own franchise on multiple wives–only they didn’t want to actually marry any of them, and though they were claiming they had it, they certainly didn’t think they needed Smith’s approval. It was the Nauvoo Expositor’s only mission to harangue Joseph Smith particularly over the plural marriage issue, call him names, make charges of villainy and pretend he was behind the sex orgies and covert assassination squads its founders had been excommunicated for attempting to set up in the Mormon community under his name. Any other content in the rag was an exercise in vanity on the part of the contributors, and scarcely journalism anyway. And yes, they were “exposing” some sensitive doctrines about plural marriage Smith didn’t want publicly explored yet, and certainly not by a group he’d tried to rid himself of, and who now were deliberately attempting to twist a touchy doctrinal revelation before the public via the most unflattering and distorted characterizations of plural marriage a group of whore mongers, abortionists, lechers, and thugs could contrive. That sort of thing emanating from the capital of Mormonism could get a lot of Mormons killed.
The press was destroyed and the type was melted in a bonfire in the street. Was that an over-reaction? Perhaps. But not considering that anti-Mormon presses all around them were bringing death and persecution already, and one more from the heart of Mormonism would only add credibility to the already dangerous hyperbole being used against the church.
Was the Nauvoo Expositor’s destruction legal? As a zoning matter, yes, marginally. Was the “public nuisance” legal ploy used Constitutional? If proposed as a zoning issue, perhaps yes, in the same way you might ban whorehouses or sex shops or gun and whiskey stores near school playgrounds and so forth–in which case the Expositor’s company would simply be free to set up shop outside city limits. But, as Joseph Smith replied to this line of inquiry:
…In relation to the press, you say that you differ from me in opinion. Be it so; the thing, after all, is only a legal difficulty, and the courts, I should judge, are competent to decide on that matter. If our act was illegal, we are willing to meet it…
–Roberts, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, pg 437
The old Christian settlers and their apostate-Mormon enablers replied to this reasoned appeal to the law by shooting Joseph Smith all to hell before he could get into a courtroom. Joseph Smith had a habit of winning these sorts of legal challenges, from New York to Illinois, year after year, case after case. It was easier to just kill him than risk another loss. I’m not guessing. This is what was openly boasted by the mob before they murdered him. Then they raided, beat, pillaged, burned, tortured, shot, stabbed, and cannonaded their way through the rest of the local Mormon population, systematically, until they had all been killed or driven into the western wilderness.
So, you tell me. Who really over-reacted?
The question is, why were Mormons hated and persecuted? Was it really brought upon themselves via their overtly evil practices? Did their peaceful, God-loving neighbors spontaneously rebel against their tyranny in an attempt to liberate themselves from despotic Mormon oppression? Christian apologists will keep trying to sell you on that concept. But that’s not what history shows. History reveals a preponderance of evidence suggesting that Mormons are a very accommodating and industrious people. History however, also shows that if you heap enough crap on a Mormon he’ll eventually get fed up and kick your ass. And then he’ll want to keep kicking your ass until you aren’t a problem for him any more. All that proves is, Mormons are human beings.
The question again is, why did Mormonism’s frontier neighbors want to heap a load of poo on them in the first place, and just who was doing it?
Two simple answers: white, Anglo-Saxon, ProtestantChristians were persecuting the early Mormons, and they were doing it for two reasons—religion and politics. In the mind of the WASP, or really most any other period Christian however, that’s only one reason. Christians have always believed that religion and politics are inseparable, and that the arm of civil law must necessarily be expressly Christian to protect and enforce their Christian faith. In more liberal, even “mainstream” Christian sects today, this notion has been all but abandoned in favor of an almost equally self-hating and suicidal sense of “political correctness” that puts dog-worshippers, Satanists, Islamo-Jihadists, or GLBT neo-Pagan druidic sodomites on the same moral level as any of the Christian sects—with the exception of course of Mormonism. In that case, Liberal and Moderate Christians still choose to hate Mormons because they dare maintain that donkey-lovers and sexually altered sodomites don’t deserve the same rights to adoption and marriage as good Christian men and women do, and hold other “intolerant” social views about “negroes,” or so they believe. But even today the bulk of the Religious Right mentally screen and edit the inspired words of the Founding Fathers, and deduce that the Constitutional authors had always intended to form a nation built upon a document designed to protect American Christians from the polluting ideas and practices of the infidel. If you want to make some equivalent charge against the Mormons, if you want to claim that Mormonism is all about forcing an exclusive LDS theocracy upon the United States and the world in general, you’re fighting a litany of canonized LDS expressions of loyalty to the US Constitution and its principles. A simple Google of Mormon patriotism will instantly produce volumes of open, pluralistic professions of respect for Jeffersonian religious liberty from Mormon leadership, spanning over two centuries of their church.
As I have said to you before, so I say again, the Constitution of the United States is a great and treasured part of my religion, and the revelations of the Lord and the words of our inspired leaders compel it to be so. The overturning, or the material changing, or the distortion of any fundamental principle of our constitutional government would thus do violence to my religion.
God grant that this people shall never give the lie to Brother Brigham, and that ever and always “the Elders of Israel will protect and sustain civil and religious liberty and every constitutional right bequeathed to us by our fathers.”
–J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Stand Fast by Our Constitution, pp. 8-9
I have ranted frequently about the “Secret Constitution” of the old Christian settlers in the Mormon persecutions and expulsions from various counties in Missouri–including expulsion from one established specifically for Mormons by the state legislature, Caldwell. A “Mob Manifesto,” and an Extermination order from Missouri’s governor are hard to defend even today, even by the most apologetic Christian apologists. (They give it a good try anyway.) But it is seldom mentioned by Mormon or anti-Mormonist alike, that a similar, highly organized, Christian, Darwinian democracy-styled resolution was drafted by some nine counties around Nauvoo. These Christian patriots in southern Illinois, in the name of American liberty, drafted a compact, like their brethren had across the river in Missouri, issuing a demand for total Mormon expulsion from the state, under a bit morecarefully worded threat of extermination, but a threat nonetheless. Christian mobbers had by then of course, learned to be a little craftier at the tactics and language they used, to give their “spontaneous” mob violence and predatory, pack-mentality the sweet smell of law and order. In the Illinois version of deputizing the anti-Mormon mob, the first step was to repeal the Nauvoo City charter, which they pulled off in 1845, less than a year after murdering Joseph Smith. This removed from the Mormon community any legal standing to act in their own defense. As unincorporated land, Nauvoo and environs were stripped of a police force, local courts, local government, and most importantly, the Nauvoo Legion, which was a legislatively chartered city militia. Nauvoo was at that point dependent singularly upon the good graces of the County Sheriff for their only legal protection. The State Attorney, Josiah Lamborn, commented on this maneuver in a letter to Brigham Young:
I have always considered that your enemies have been prompted by political and religious prejudices, and by a desire for plunder and blood, more than for the common good. By the repeal of your charter, and by refusing all amendments and modifications, our legislature has given a kind of sanction to the barbarous manner in which you have been treated. Your two representatives exerted themselves to the extent of their ability in your behalf, but the tide of poplar passion and frenzy was too strong to be resisted. It is truly a melancholy spectacle to witness the law-makers of a sovereign State condescending to pander to the vices, ignorance and malevolence of a class of people who are at all times ready for riot, murder, and rebellion.
–Roberts, Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, pg 345
Vol. ? Friday, March 20, 1840. No. ?
For the Register.
THE MOBBING SPIRIT OF MISSOURI REKINDLING IN ILLINOIS.
The following is a statement of facts that may be relied on:
A short time since it was ascertained that a Mr. Clark, a member of the Methodist Episcopal church in Logan county, had in his possession the Book of Mormon. For this glaring outrage he was severely reprimanded, deprived of his station as a class leader, and the book demanded of him by his preachers, a Mr. Martin and a Mr. Watt.
He (the said Clark) contended that the book was his own property, and unless they bought it, they could not have the same. Accordingly, the necessary sum was raised, and paid for the book. Shortly after the said book was taken into De Witt county, to a Quarterly Conference meeting, there to await its final trial, and it was condemned, and burnt to ashes — the judges themselves being the executioners. And what is still more appalling, Mr. Watt, a preacher, has been heard unblushingly to assert, that if burning the book would not do, they would next burn the Mormons themselves. If testimony is required on this subject, it can be had at any time. AB’MPALMER.
Springfield, Ill., Mar. 12.
The Christian mobocracy had already secured the loyalty of most state and local officials before assassinating Joseph Smith. Some of it was willing, some of it reluctant, some active and some just key conspirators looking the other way at just the right moment. But there was one frustrating exception; the County Sheriff, JB Backenstos, who insisted in upholding his oath of office, much to the mobocracy’s consternation. The Christian mob had however, insured that their version of the “truth” of their past, present, and future violence against the Mormons would get to the federal government, by electing one of Smith’s murderers, an indicted, first-hand participant in the Mormon founder’s execution via lynch mob at Carthage, to represent their state as a US Senator. State Attorney Lamborn had a bit to say about that as well:
Your senator, Jacob C. Davis, has done much to poison the minds of members [of Congress] against anything in your favor. He walks at large in defiance of the law an indicted murderer. If a Mormon was in his position, the senate would afford no protection, but he would be dragged forth to jail or the gallows, or be shot down by a cowardly and brutal mob.
–Roberts, Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, pg 345
The next thing the Hancock County Holy Conspirators did was rally a mass meeting of Christian crusaders at Quincy, 22 September of that year. In spite of frequent small-scale mobbing, looting, burning and other intimidations, Mormons were still hanging out in Nauvoo. They had committed to complete their first major temple before they left it to the heathen to be defiled, and in the meantime were using it to initiate and “endow” as many of the Saints as possible with covenants Mormons take upon themselves in the course of educational theatrical sketches essentially, stories told in formalized, ritual ceremonial form, which occur therein and only therein. An ad-hoc mob committee had already demanded to know the intentions of the Mormons remaining in the vicinity. The Mormons responded that their desire was to simply live in peace, but ultimately the entire body of the church had plans to relocate in the West. The Quincy committee issued a resolution on 24 September, containing a number of clauses, all of which demanded that the Mormons had to leave in the Spring, and that they were not to be allowed to prosecute criminally or civilly any accused old Christian settlers, and that these old Christian mobbers were to be allowed to return to Mormon areas, unmolested and unprosecuted for any crimes against the Mormons they admittedly may have committed. Josiah B Conyers, who wrote A Brief History of the Hancock Mob, commented on the first of these clauses:
The first one, in our opinion, is unique. They accepted and recommended to the people of the surrounding counties to accept an unconditional proposition to remove. But understand, Mr. Mormon, though we accept it and recommend the surrounding counties to do so likewise, (reprobate you, unconditionally) we do not intend to bring ourselves under any obligation to purchase your property, or to furnish purchasers; but we will be very kind and obliging, and will in no way, hinder or obstruct you in your efforts to sell, provided, nevertheless, this shall not be so construed as to prevent us from running off the purchaser. But we expect this small favor of you; viz., that you must dispose of your property, and leave at the appointed time.
–History of the Hancock Mob, Conyers, pgs 13, 14
–Roberts, Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, pg 353
The Quincy anti-Mormonists concluded their meeting by drafting a general military strategy for the forceful removal of Mormonism from their God-given lands. They appointed the leadership of a sizeable military contingent also organized thus to meet the challenge of violently contending with any Mormons foolish enough to linger or dawdle past their deadline.
As I have implied, the Quincy committee then met with a similar group at Carthage, and together rallied an even larger convention which was held at Carthage, comprising religious, law enforcement, civil, militia, and volunteer forces from all nine surrounding counties. The Carthage assembly adopted all the principle resolutions of the Quincy gathering, adding a litany of crimes and outrages charged against most of the Mormon leadership by way of justification for said expulsion of all Mormons from the state. There was one further enablement they demanded:
Resolved, that it is expected as an indispensable condition to the pacification of the county, that the old citizens be permitted to return to their homes unmolested by the present sheriff (Backenstos,) and the Mormons, for anything alleged against them; any attempt on their part to arrest or prosecute such persons for pretended offenses will inevitably lead to a renewal of the late disorder. [Meaning wholesale riot and warfare against the Mormons.]
–Roberts, Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, pg 354
Having thus named Sheriff Backenstos personally, it was assumed he would back down from the nine-county threat. It was also moved that WN Purple, judge of the judicial circuit court be “requested” to withhold the fall session in Hancock County, on the grounds that opening the Mormon complaints against the old Christian settlers would again, result in open mob violence against the Mormons, so it was for their own protection. In this manner, Christianity had castrated the Sheriff, and if he dared arrest any of them, he now had no court and no judge to drag them to anyway. The only justice in southern Illinois was the mob.
The scene was brightly set for unfettered Christian fury to be released upon Mormondom, but that pesky sheriff, Backenstos, wouldn’t back off. And even in the regular State Militia’s ranks, the Mormons found many strong defenders. On 11 February, 1846, Brigham Young, the Twelve, and the High Council, made a show for the mobs of crossing the Mississippi on a fortuitous coating of ice, and made camp in distant Iowa. By the last of April, the main exodus had begun and the great majority of the Saints had vacated Nauvoo. Rather than easing the anticipation of the Christian defenders of liberty, and with the blessing of regional clergy, the mob saw no point in making even a token offer for what they could easily take by force, or inherit by default, simply by driving off the now greatly diminished body of Mormon stragglers.
An Illinois State Militia Major named Warren was commissioned to supervise Hancock County during this forced emigration process. He maintained peace with an even hand, but his orders had expected him to retreat from the vicinity once the main move had been completed. This news, he noted, was obviously of great anticipation amongst the old Christian settlers. He advised the governor that there was still a fair Mormon presence in the area and the wolves had begun to circle around them. His orders were changed to remain in defense of those Mormons who were attempting to pack up or sell the abandoned Mormon property. The problem was, a fair contingent of Mormons were to old or ill or broke to brave the trip immediately, and others had hoped to remain till the end of the summer to consummate their large number of pending sales and other business transactions, and protect personal, civic, church and communal property until it was sold or carted out. This short delay was too much for the old Christian mobbers. Again, they fell back into their old tricks of instigation and intimidation. Major Warren felt it necessary to put the mobs on notice by circulating a handbill:
The undersigned again deems it his duty to appear before you in a circular. It may not be known to all of you, that the day after my detachment was disbanded at Carthage, I received orders from the executive to muster them into service again, and remain in the county until further orders.
I have now been in Nauvoo with my detachment a week and can say to you with perfect assurance that the demonstrations made by the Mormon population , are unequivocal. They are leaving the State, and preparing to leave, with every means that God and nature has placed in their hands. … The anti-Mormons desire the removal of the Mormons; this is being effected peaceably and with all possible dispatch. All aggressive movements, therefore, against them at this time, must be actuated by a wanton desire to shed blood, or to plunder. …
A man of near sixty years of age, living about seven miles from this place, was taken from his house a few nights since, stripped of his clothing, and his back cut to pieces with a whip, for no other reason than because he was a Mormon, and too old to make successful resistance. Conduct of this kind would disgrace a horde of savages. … To the Mormons I would say, go on with your preparations and leave as fast as you can. Leave the fighting to be done by my detachment. If we are overpowered, then recross the river, and defend yourselves and property.
The fighting in Nauvoo progressed rapidly to full-scale warfare with canon and ball on both sides. The State Militia split and fought itself, one faction with the Christian-sponsored mobs, one faction defending the Mormons.
The Battle of Nauvoo was the final chapter in the forceful expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo. The so-called Anti-Mormon Party, or, as they preferred to call themselves, the “Regulators,” were bent on driving the remaining citizens out by force despite the well-known fact that most had gone and the rest were making plans to do so.
Some 600 to 1,000 strong, the Regulators were led first by Col. John Singleton and later by John Carlin of Carthage. The core of this unlawful mob was none other than the notorious Carthage Greys, who had played such a prominent role in the murders of Joseph and Hyrum two years before.
On the other side, two groups defended the city: the “Spartan Band” of heavily armed Latter-day Saints, and the “Kill Devils” made up of several of the so-called “new citizens,” that is recent non-Mormon move-ins who had a vested interest in preserving property values.
Gov. Thomas Ford, sensing imminent conflict, commissioned Major James R. Parker of the 32nd Regiment of the Illinois State Militia to order all the would-be combatants to return to their homes and “preserve the peace.” Parker, seeing the determination of Carlin’s force to wreak havoc on the city regardless of executive order, and sensing Ford’s reluctance to dispatch a large regiment of neutral militiamen, followed the course of political expediency by signing a treaty with Singleton which called for peace and disarmament. Singleton and Parker then quit the field and the Regulators chose Col. Thomas Brockman (“Old Tom”) to finish what Singleton had refused to do.
On Sept. 10, 1846, Brockman ordered the first assault on the city complete with cannon fire, driving families out of their homes and down toward the river. The first real exchange of volleys came two days later, on Sept. 12, and for the next four days the bell tower porch of the Nauvoo Temple served as an ideal perch from which to view the several forays and skirmishes across roadways, backyards and cornfields. Nauvoo’s defenders responded with cannon fire of their own. Despite a valiant resistance in which few men were killed on either side, by Sept. 16 the Nauvoo defenders had agreed to surrender the city.
The “Articles of Accommodation, Treaty and Agreement” – drawn up between the Nauvoo Trustees (John S. Fullmer, Almon W. Babbitt and Joseph L. Heywood) on the one side and Brockman and Carlin on the other and chaired by Andrew Johnson of the Quincy Committee) – stipulated the immediate surrender of the city and of all arms in return for a pledge of safety and protection for people and property. The defenders soon disbanded and about 3 p.m. on Sept. 17 the mob, numbering more than 1,500, marched into the city, down Mulholland Street to the temple, then to Main Street and down to Parley Street where Henry I. Young gave up the temple keys to Johnson.
The invaders, however, showed little respect for temple or treaty. Parties of armed men ransacked and desecrated the temple while others roamed around the city ordering families to leave within two hours or other short notice. Many of the sick were treated with cruelty and families were molested while burying their dead. Others went from house to house plundering cow yards, pigpens, hen roosts, and bee stands, tearing up floors and otherwise destroying property with impunity.
Meanwhile an unidentified preacher ascended the temple tower and proclaimed with a loud voice, “Peace, Peace, Peace to the inhabitants of the Earth, now the Mormons are driven.”5
The Mormons never really had a prayer making friends anywhere in the Midwestern region. In the end, it was inevitable by sheer force of numbers, that the frontier politicians, Christian preachers, Godless capitalists out to make a buck, and their attendant, Scots-Irish, Tennessee enforcement mob would win. The entire area was ruled by hick mobs for generations afterward. As Governor Thomas Ford, the man Mormons still claim set up their first prophet for mob execution summed it up:
I had a good opportunity to know the early settlers of Hancock county. I had attended the circuit courts there as States-attorney, form 1830, when the county was first organized, up to the year 1834; and to my certain knowledge the early settlers, with some honorable exceptions, were, in popular language, hard cases.
I won’t reiterate the whole history of Christian persecution of non-Christians. I won’t rehash the Christian persecution and common extermination of its own body–those deemed by the ruling Christian faction of the day to be heretical. That history speaks for itself and is certainly exposed adequately throughout my twenty-five previous essays in this series. Mormons are not only outside any historical view of Christian orthodoxy but Joseph Smith personally insulted the entire world Christian community by telling them they had lost the plot. So all of organized religion, all of American Christianity, openly sanctioned the genocide of the “Mormon Race,” as it was often called. American Christianity’s jihad against Mormonism was an openly published mission, so well documented that any Christian attempting to dispute it makes a total ass out of himself without any help from me. (But I do what I can to help them out.)
Again, it’s not as if Mormons were the first victims of Christian vigilante justice in Illinois:
…As late as 1831 a gang almost controlled Pope and Massac counties, and even built a fort which had to be taken by storm by a small army of regulators. In 1837 occurred the better-known riots at Alton. A mob threw into the river the press of the Alton Observer, an Abolition newspaper published by Elijah Lovejoy. Lovejoy and a member of the mob were killed in a subsequent clash, and a second press destroyed. At about the same time Ogle, Winnebago, Lee and De Kalb counties all suffered from “organized bands of rogues, engaged in murders, robberies, horse-stealing, and in making and passing counterfeit money.
In 1841 in Ogle County a family of criminals named Driscoll shot down a Captain Campbell, of the respectables of the county, before the eyes of his family. Driscoll and one of his sons were convicted of the murder by a kangaroo court. “They were placed in a kneeling position, with bandages over their eyes, and were fired upon by the whole company present, that there might be none who could be legal witnesses of the bloody deed. About one hundred of these men were afterwards tried for the murder and acquitted.
One would think that the violence at Carthage Jail in 1844 would have sickened the people of the state, but the conflicts that followed in Hancock county were by no means the only disturbances to trouble Governor ford. Another small civil war took place in Pope and Masaac counties in 1846. The militia of Union County, called in to keep the peace, refused to protect the suspected bandits and left the counties to the government of regulators, who, as always, began by terrorizing known criminals, moved to threatening the suspected, and ended hated and feared by honest and peaceful men.
Governor Ford again gives us an example of his “hard cases”:
A party of about twenty regulators went to the house of an old man named Mathis…. He and his wife resisted the arrest. The old woman being unusually strong and active, knocked down the one or two of the party with her fists. A gun was then presented to her breast accompanied by a threat of blowing her heart out if she continued her resistance. She caught the gun and shoved it downwards, when it went off and shot her through the thigh…. The party captured old man Mathis, and carried him away with them, since which time he has not been heard of, but is supposed to have been murdered.
Who were these “regulators?” Well, it was a generation or two before the flour bags with holes cut into them, and perhaps three generations before the pointy hats and flaming crosses, but one could think of them as precursors to the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—a little neo-regulator outfit that later on likewise bedeviled the LDS Church. And of course, niggers, Kikes, Papist bastards, thieving redskins, Freemasons, foreigners of all stripes, Abolitionists, and so forth. (In their own unvarnished words.)
The first Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, as a terrorist organization by veterans of the Confederate Army. They named it after the Greek word kuklos, which means circle. The name means “Circle of Brothers.”
The KKK and these later frontier regulators are not to be confused with the original Regulator Movement, which actually began in 1760-1771, just before the American Revolution, as an uprising in North Carolina against corrupt colony officials. In South Carolina, around 1767, a group of farmers likewise organized an enforcement body to “regulate” back country affairs, which in their locale meant primarily ferreting out ruffians, highwaymen, thieves, and scoundrels of all sorts. Perhaps taking up the idea from North Carolinians, Yankee “regulators” essentially pulled off the Boston Tea Party. One of their chief features at the time was disguising themselves as Indians in the course of their dastardly deeds. One very famous “regulator” outfit was known as the “Sons of Liberty.”
Following the Regulator Movement in North Carolina (1766-1771), Sandy Creek Baptists played a key role in the tremendous growth of the Baptist denomination in the South, and their political beliefs influenced the changing views regarding the common man in America throughout the late eighteenth century.
While a noble effort on many levels, it was during this original regulator era that southern rednecks, Scots-Irish, mostly poor or working-class citizens, seemed to connect with a Calvinized Southern Baptist, Fundamentalist religious orientation, which in turn combined with a political belief that America was holy land set aside by God in which to build the ultimate, pure, Christian Nation. (An exclusively white, rednecked, Fundamentalist, slave-holding, Protestant Christian Nation that is.) Baptists had been persecuted from the OldWorld through the New England Colonial era, but in the American South, variants of this sect finally found a power-base amongst an ambitiously predatory class of generally disrespected “Ulster Scots,” or Protestant Irish, who had largely emigrated from Scotland to Ireland, and then on to the American colonies. Many of these immigrants left their homeland under dubious circumstances, and in general either never amounted to much in their homeland, were fleeing or being “transported” for criminal charges, or just desperate to escape hunger and poverty. They were keen converts to a message of the “American Dream,” and a promised “Manifest Destiny.”
By 1771 however, both the North and South Carolinian Regulators had been forcibly disbanded, more or less in deference to the greater power of the Crown and Tidewater Aristocracy. And here we have the Appalachian, East Tennessee, Born-Again connection to Mormon persecution appearing at its root: One of these groups of Regulators fled to what is now Tennessee, and there formed the Wautaga association from land leased from the Cherokee. They brought with them their own culture and tribal, shadow government. Their religious and civic orientation centered around a Christian Vigilante motif. To be expected, they soon stole all the rest of the Cherokee land in the region, with the help of fellow Scots-Irish, Calvinist rednecks like president Andrew Jackson. Then they stole allthe land from all the Indians. Then they kicked out the Indians entirely–even the “civilized” and “Christianized” ones. It’s a pattern of behavior that is unmistakable in the Christian Nation, “Manifest Destiny” community. And when they’d filled Appalachia to brimming with themselves and their friends, they began to spread their self-“regulating” culture west to Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and everywhere ol’ “Hickory”Andrew Jackson’s favorite Scots-Irish rednecks eventually migrated.
By the first few decades of the 1800’s, in the wild west of Missouri and southern Illinois, any altruistic, patriotic notion of a “regulator” had entirely degenerated from its original ethical mission. The title had been appropriated by half-assed mobs, loosely directed by ad-hoc vigilance committees. Most of these were hangers-on to Christian Fundamentalist, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant-supremist, sometimes nativist cabals, most of them connected to pro-slavery movements, particularly pro-slavery Christian churches, intent upon dominating local politics. Until the Baptists showed up, most of these churches were Southern Presbyterian offshoots, Episcopal or Methodist/Episcopal, dissenters originally split off of the Church of England over a disagreement with the English Crown’s claim as head of the Church. Yes, and give the Southern Baptist Convention it’s due: most of the pro-slave, Fundamentalist, Biblically-justified Christian Nation rationale came from the Americanized, Southern Baptist/Redneck Regulator ideologies. They were highly motivating notions that found a wide base of approval in the New Christian World. Indeed, the Knights of the Golden Circle, America’s first genuine, nation-wide, home-grown vigilante hate group, began to organize in 1846 while the Mormons of Illinois were still bugging out. These pro-slavery, redneck mobs, became highly organized, secretive, and succeeded in infiltrating political bodies, police forces, and militias. Their tactics were most effective, and it is this secret order which is credited with spawning numerous, famous outlaw gangs both before and after the Civil War, effecting the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and later evolving into the KKK, among other things.
The Warsaw Regulators for example, were in the core of the mob that stormed Carthage Jail to kill Joseph Smith. They, like all the other “regulators,” of the era, began as vigilante squads of bored farmers, ex-militia and militia with nothing to do for excitement, backslidden rabble along for the ride, and clandestine thugs just out for a thrill. Who directed them? Originally, their often murky direction came directly from the intimations of the good townsfolk as instructed usually by their Christian ministers. What was their original purpose? To clean up the lawless and pacify the region. Initially, this gave their otherwise, miserable, mundane or pointless lives a higher sense of purpose. And what did they do when they cleaned up the lawless and pacified the region? Well, they either annoyed the locals who had created them with their new-found skills of violence, terror and intimidation, which had to be kept honed, or the locals had to point them at some other form of “lawlessness” they could be assigned to clean up.
Enter the Mormons. If the local ministers all said Mormons were villains, confidence men, murderers and thieves, well, Mormons were fair targets. Indeed, Mormons were not only fair game according to period Christian authorities, they were mandated by God for extinction. The “regulators,” Al Qaeda of the era, didn’t need any more direction than that.
Of course, when they ran out of Mormons, the “regulators” had to find somebody else to harass. And they did. IE: Bleeding Kansas. And don’t let me give you the impression that the whole “regulator” concept and its attendant brutality was the exclusive patent of Southern, slave-holding rednecks, hicks, and hillbillies. John Brown is the most heroic, admired, Yankee Abolitionist figure in American history for instance:
“Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say, let it be done.”
–John Brown, statement at his sentencing on Nov. 2, 1859
“[John Brown is] that new saint, than whom none purer or more brave was ever led by love of men into conflict and death,–the new saint awaiting his martyrdom, and who, if he shall suffer, will make the gallows glorious like the cross.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his lecture “Courage,” delivered in Boston on Nov. 8, 1859
The same sort of pronouncements could have been, and indeed have been, made by Joseph Smith and other great Americans concerning Smith’s own struggles against redneck pro-slave Christianity. The difference between the heroic Abolitionist John Brown and Joseph Smith the Abolitionist Mormon heretic, is Smith was fighting both the Southern Born-Again mobs, while he was also being condemned for religious conflicts set up two generations earlier by the pious Northern Abolitionist Christians as well. The latter won the war with both of the former, and thus, Mormons and Johnny Rebs have been weighed as equal villains, equal traitors to the American cause in all official histories. But just how clean were the hands of Saint John Brown the Yankee Liberator, and his heroic, patriotic Christian crusade against slavery?
Brown and the free settlers were optimistic that they could bring Kansas into the union as a slavery-free state. But in late 1855 and early 1856 it was increasingly clear to Brown that pro-slavery forces were willing to violate the rule of law in order to force Kansas to become a slave state. Brown believed that terrorism, fraud, and eventually deadly attacks became the obvious agenda of the pro-slavery supporters, then known as “Border Ruffians.” After the winter snows thawed in 1856, the pro-slavery activists began a campaign to seize Kansas on their own terms. Brown was particularly affected by the Sacking of Lawrence in May 1856, in which a sheriff-led posse destroyed newspaper offices and a hotel. Only one man, a Border Ruffian, was killed. Preston Brooks‘s caning of anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner also fueled Brown’s anger. These violent acts were accompanied by celebrations in the pro-slavery press, with writers such as Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow of the Squatter Sovereign proclaiming that pro-slavery forces “are determined to repel this Northern invasion, and make Kansas a Slave State; though our rivers should be covered with the blood of their victims, and the carcasses of the Abolitionists should be so numerous in the territory as to breed disease and sickness, we will not be deterred from our purpose” (quoted in Reynolds, p. 162). Brown was outraged by both the violence of the pro-slavery forces, and also by what he saw as a weak and cowardly response by the antislavery partisans and the Free State settlers, who he described as “cowards, or worse” (Reynolds pp. 163–164).
Well, so far, John Brown hasn’t discovered anything the Mormons hadn’t long ago experienced first-hand from first, his old Puritan Pals back in New England, and later from the “Border Ruffians,” who later plagued Brown. These “ruffians” of course, were the selfsame hick, pro-slave, hillbilly rednecks from Missouri, who again, for the most part, emigrated originally from the Scots-Irish Tennessee “regulator” breeding stock. And how does the sainted Mr. Protestant Martyr Brown respond to this persecution?
Sometime after 10:00 pm May 24, 1856, it is suspected they [Brown and company] took five pro-slavery settlers – James Doyle, William Doyle, Drury Doyle, Allen Wilkinson, and William Sherman – from their cabins on Pottawatomie Creek and hacked them to death with broadswords. Brown later claimed he did not participate in the killings, however he did say he approved of them.
Account of the Pottawatomie Massacre by John Doyle, Son of James P. Doyle
“I, John C. Doyle, was born in Knox County, Tennessee December 19, 1838. My father, Pleasant Doyle, moved to Walker County, Ga., in 1845, moved to Chattanooga in 1848, and lived in and around Chattanooga until October 11, 1855, at which time we moved to Kansas; traveled through the country in wagons, via Nashville, Hopkinsville, Ky., St. Louis, Mo., Kansas City, Mo., then fifty miles southwest to Franklin County, Kansas, arriving there November 18, 1856. We settled on a claim of one hundred and sixty acres, built a house, and spent the winter there. In the spring of 1856 we planted a crop. Everything was quiet and peaceful until the night of May 24, when John Brown, with about twenty-five men, came to the house and demanded admittance. When refused admittance, they set fire to the house with torches made of prairie hay. To keep up all from being burned to death my father opened the door. They came in the house and handcuffed my father and my two older brothers and started to take me but my mother begged them to leave me, as I would be all the protection she would have. Brown told mother they were going to take father and the boys to the army, and left the house with them. They took them about three hundred yards from the house and murdered them. My father was shot in the head, my brothers cut to pieces. They left them all dead in a heap. They then went over two miles further to Potawatma River and killed two more men by the names of Wilkerson and Sherman. After they had killed my father and brothers, some of Brown’s men came back to our house to get our horses, but failed to find them, as we had them staked out on the prairie to graze, as that was the way we had to feed them.
In John Brown’s defense, murdering, terrorist that he is, the men he and his thugs dragged out of their homes and chopped up at Pottowottomie, apart from their homespun agricultural activities, were also probably in the habit of riding around the countryside all night with a pack of their friends, and similarly brutalizing Abolitionists–when they weren’t lynching or horsewhipping niggers to keep themin their place. Like the Fancher Party of Mountain Meadows fame, the conception of these victims of Brown’s violence as simple, honest farmers is highly subjective. Even my characterization of them as hillbilly, rednecked hicks is something of an anachronism. In the day, mobbing Indians, perverts, and Mormons, lynching niggers, burning presses and killing Abolitionists, was a mainstream, patriotic, Christian activity. It wasn’t society’s imbeciles, the inherently violent or the idiot-cousins in the culture that were instigators of this behavior. It was rather, the very God-fearing, simple country farmers with wives and families and dreams of success in America, we keep hearing about from their defenders. That’s who the “Regulators” were at the core of it all.
Most of the politics the Mormons found themselves embroiled in during their attempted settlement of what is now the American Midwest, had less to do with Mormonism per-se,and more to do with getting them out of the way so Christianity could fight with itself. I know I’ve titled my ramblings “Religion for Mormons and other Idiots,” but even an idiot should be able to see a number of consistent themes in the way Christians abuse one-another. For all the anti-Mormon “outrages” alluded-to by the rednecked mobs, their authorizing ministers, civil officials and their lackey press, for all their bemoaning of the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, and despite their claims of treason and rebellion, in reality, in this era, destroying presses you disagreed with politically or religiously was a common AmericanChristian practice. And when Christians wrecked a press historically, they nearly always killed the proprietors and authors of the writings they wanted suppressed. Just like the Inquisition did. Just like Calvin did. Just like the Church of England and nearly every other State-Church did.
Christian mob-militias didn’t just innovatively start to hack up and blow the heads off men and boys, or rape and pillage Mormon settlements like Haun’s Mill, Far West, or Nauvoo because they feared a hideous Mormon threat. This wasn’t a unique, reactive modality spawned out of some extraordinarily frightening sense of Mormon imposition upon American Christian sensibilities. Christianity has been hacking and raping and torturing and slaughtering itself up for centuries, millennia. The Quincy Committee, the Nauvoo Committee, the Mob Manifesto authors, these Christian “patriots” didn’t just put together their own “Secret Constitutions,” out of a singlular desperation to justify ignoring the law, reason, and common sense to achieve their political and social dominance. There is nothing unique at all in this pattern of Christian oppression, in the New World or the Old, in Roman Catholic circles or Protestant. Even John Brown, the “enlightened” Abolitionist, Yankee “good guy” drafted up a “Provisional Constitution” to ennoble his rebellion and butchery.That’s what Christians do. That’s a system of belief exposing its true nature for two-thousand years now.
But what do Mormons believe in this regard you may ask? And well you may. It’s almost as if I was leading you up to this:
…But if any man is authorized to take away my life because he says I am a false teacher, then upon the same principle I am authorized to take away the life of every false teacher, and where would be the end of blood? And who would not be the sufferer? But no man is authorized to take away life because of a difference of religion, which all laws and governments ought to tolerate, right or wrong….
Do not insult your own intelligence as well as mine by refusing to admit by now that apart from the claim of heresy, the whole Mormon era from Missouri to the Civil War, was politically dominated by a rather different religious question. One faction of Christianity believed the Bible had cursed the negro to an eternity of slavery, and another faction of Christianity determined that the Bible decreed slavery to be a primitive and barbaric practice. This was not in essence a political argument, except insofar as both Christian factions declared themselves to be the exclusive interpreters of both Biblical and Constitutional dogma, and that all other religious or political views were therefore detrimental to a pure Christian State in America. This is no more or less than warring Christian factions have always done. In this argument, while Joseph Smith was clearly an Abolitionist, by also claiming to be a prophet, his social and political righteousness earned the Latter-day Saints no friends on either side of this pressing American question. Mormonism was simply in the road, the common enemy of all, so and thus both the regressive, ignorant, Bible-thumping, slave-whipping rednecks, and the pious, “enlightened” educated, Beattitudinal Yankees hit Mormonism with everything they had. The Mormon wars were essentially but a practice run for a bigger and better war these American Christian factions already had festering between themselves, already impatiently pencilled in at the back of their Manifest Destiny planning schedule.
One cannot concede that Abolitionist, Northern, American Christianity–led first by the Whigs and then the new Republican Party, was any kinder to Mormonism than Southern, pro-slavery Christianity–led by the Democrat Party. It was however, the extreme, daily, misfortune of the Latter-day Saints to find that it was the latter, coarser, less-sophisticated branch of their Christian persecutors that they constantly found themselves rubbing community elbows with. And even after finding something of a haven for themselves in Utah, eventually the worst of the Appalachian rednecks, first in the form of Baptist and Methodist reformers who followed the US invasion forces into the Territory, and then in the form of three generational incarnations of the KKK, all spun from East Tennessee’s “regulator” heritage, who likewise migrated themselves and their ideologies all the way to Utah, and again listed Mormonism as their worst enemy, and again did their best to incriminate, irritate, and hopefully eradicate Mormonism.
As a persecuted minority, it’s today far easier for Mormonism to institutionally euphemize its persecutors into some nameless, generically evil, faceless mob. Thedevil made them do it. Satan hardened their hearts. That way Mormons can still pretend they’re all brothers and sisters in Christ with their contemporary “Christian” neighbors. For their part however, their Christian neighbors will only believe this if for some fluke reason they posses a shred of inherent inspiration and enlightenment from Christ Himself. Any good will and brotherhood from that source however, will vanish in a puff of dogma the second they are corrected by their “orthodox” Christian clergies. None of the essential Christian sects and doctrines have so centrally changed their core beliefs since their days of indiscriminately killing off opponents, that they don’t still count Mormons as Godless heretics and Satanic pawns—and this at a minimum. That rhetoric may be embarrassing to mainstream Christians today, but it remains essential Christianorthodoxy. In 1844 it was the common language of the pulpit and press. The day after the Expositor was destroyed by Nauvoo’s city council, this is the Christian response, drafted at the very first preliminary meeting of Christian civic leadership on the news, before any clear facts had been established:
Resolved…that we hold ourselves at all times in readiness to cooperate with our fellow citizens in this state, Missouri, and Iowa, to exterminate – UTTERLY EXTERMINATE, the wicked and abominable Mormon leaders, the authors of our troubles.
Resolved…that the time, in our opinion, has arrived when the adherents of Smith as a body, shall be driven from the surrounding settlements into Nauvoo; that the Prophet and his miscreant adherents should be demanded at their hands, and if not surrendered, A WAR OF EXTERMINATION SHOULD BE WAGED, To the entire destruction if necessary for our protection, of his adherents.
This is an honest, heartfelt, unapologetic, naked and untempered Christian demand for immediate, heretical Mormon blood–through any means and at any cost to law and society. This is the Christian mission statement that anti-Mormonists will never show you. This is the Christian charter that killed Joseph Smith. And for what? Was it prompted by some overt, impending, even if reciprocal Mormon threat? Was it because Joseph Smith, like the heroic, famed crusader for human liberty, the Christian Yankee Abolitionist John Brown,took a few “regulators” to the homes of his nearest political antagonists, dragged them off, shot them in the head, hacked them to pieces, and then left the bodies piled in a heap at the end of the driveway for their victims’ surviving wives and children to deal with? Or, if Christianity now declares Joseph Smith devilish and evil for discretely taking more than one woman to bed–as if this was ever anyone’s business but his own and that of the women who willingly shared his nocturnal companionship–was even this the excuse raised for his assassination? No, by their own admission, the Christian lynch mob that killed Joseph Smith did so as a reply to a disputed Nauvoo City Council decision concerning the operation of a printing press.
Those with any insight at all will immediately recognize in anti-Mormonism, all the key historically Christian rhetoric and stereotypical charges hurled against the Jews throughout their history of persecution: wicked, bloodthirsty, monopolizing all the goodies, keep to themselves, cheat the Gentiles, out to kill Christians and take their stuff, out to steal women, drink the blood of infants and virgins in Satanic secret rituals, bla bla bla…
The “orthodox” or “Historical” Christian political agenda screams from the media still today, even if largely muzzled and tamed out of necessity in “mainstream” congregations by a higher level of public enlightenment than in Joseph Smith’s day. But at the end of the day, it was the victorious, Yankee Calvinists who won their last bloody laugh, first at the Southern redneck slave-holders, and when those Godless Rebel bastards had been put in their place, they turned finally back to the Mormons they rediscovered hiding from their pious wrath out in Utah. The Rebel hillbillies we all know, got their comeuppance at the end of a massive national military battle the Yankee victors now call the “Civil War.” The Mormons, well, the forces of “enlightened” Christianity finally found a way to beat theminto humility as well. It took patience and finesse, but eventually they did with the stroke of a pen what they had failed to do from Palmyra to Salt Lake City by fire and sword.
And now the game is well afoot. On to Utah. in the words of the late-great Irish Republican Army: Do and say nothing ‘till you hear more.