the thinker

Nauvoo Expositor

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“To the Marshal of said City, greeting.
You are here commanded to destroy the printing press from whence issues the Nauvoo Expositor, and pi the type of said printing establishment in the street, and burn all the Expositors and libelous handbills found in said establishment; and if resistance be offered to your execution of this order by the owners or others, demolish the house; and if anyone threatens you or the Mayor or the officers of the city, arrest those who threaten you, and fail not to execute this order without delay, and make due return hereon.
By order of the City Council,
Joseph Smith, Mayor”

- History of the Church, v. 6, p. 448

“The legality of the action of the Mayor and City Council was, of course, questionable, though some sought to defend it on legal grounds; but it must be conceded that neither proof nor argument for legality are convincing.”

- LDS Historian B.H. Roberts, History of the Church, Introduction to v.6, p. XXXVIII

“... there was no legal justification in 1844 for the destruction of the Expositor press as a nuisance.”

- Utah Law Review, Summer 1965, pp. 890-891.

“The destruction of libelous ‘prints and papers' can scarcely be held to sustain the action of destroying a ‘printing press.'”

- LDS Historian B.H. Roberts, History of the Church, v. 7, p. 91, footnote

“... when Joseph Smith ordered the actual destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor printing press he provided his enemies with a clearly legitimate means of arresting him for violation of the law. They seized upon this to inflame the public even more, and this led directly to the assassination. Some people may be disturbed by the suggestion that Joseph Smith acted illegally in this instance, but it is important to understand that under the tense pressure of the times he too, may have made a mistake.”

- BYU Today, March 1976, p. 10

“Joseph Smith, acting as mayor, ordered the city marshall [sic] to destroy the newspaper and press without delay and instructed the major general of the Nauvoo legion to have the militia assist. Shortly after eight o'clock that evening, citizens and legionnaires marched to the ‘Expositor' office and smashed the press, scattering the type as they did so. This act infuriated the non-Mormons of Hancock County, who saw it as a final act of contempt for their laws. The ‘Quincy Whig' denounced the ‘high-handed outrage' and said that if this was a specimen of ‘Mormon attitude toward law and rights it is not surprising that the Missourians were raised to madness and drove them from the state.'…To provide justification for a march on Nauvoo, charges of prompting a riot were made up against Smith and several Mormon leaders, and Constable David Bettisworth was sent to Nauvoo on June 12 to apprehend them.... Emissaries were sent to Governor Ford, charging that Smith had defied the law and asking Ford to bring the state militia.... In the face of an imminent attack on his city, Smith declared Nauvoo under martial law and called out the Legion, a defensive action which later led to treason charges levied against him at Carthage.... he [Governor Ford] wrote the Mormon leader requesting that evidence be shown to justify the actions taken against the ‘Expositor.' After reviewing this and counter evidence from anti-Mormons, Ford wrote Smith on the next day, denouncing the city's proceedings as unlawful and demanding that those involved in the move against the ‘Expositor' submit to the processes of the law at Carthage.”

- Carthage Conspiracy, by Oaks and Hill, pp. 15-16

“General [Joseph] Smith.... I attribute the last outbreak to the destruction of the Expositor, and to you 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 resented 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 requisition of a writ, I conceive to be the principal cause of this difficulty, and you are, moreover, represented to me as turbulent and defiant of the laws and institutions of your country.”

- Prophet John Taylor's account of the interview between General Ford and President Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 334