[Correspondence of the N. Y. Observer.]
ORIGIN OF THE ANTI- MORMON WAR.
[The following letter brings to light some facts which ought to be known, but which do not justify the out- rages they are designed to palliate.]
HANCOCK COUNTY, Ill., 29th Sept.,1845.
Messrs. Editors,— Having been a resident of this seat of Mormon troubles from before the coming of the saints, I propose to give to the public a concise account of our affairs. Cautious as you are, agreat proportion of the statements in the papers in regard to the Mor- mons, are utterly untrue. The St. Louis papers abound in false reports. This is to be attributed chiefly to the Mormons. They are in the habit of procuring the pub- lication of outrageous fictitious reports of evils they have done, and then they raise the cry of persecution. They will soon have occasion to write another history of persecutions in Illinois as grievous as those in Mis- souri.
In this letter I propose to detail the principal events which have occasioned the present war, for war it is ; and there is reason to apprehend much bloodshed be- fore its end.
The present rupture began in a precinct called Green- plain, in the south part of the county. It was a beautiful district, with an enterprising and flourishing popu- lation of about 80 or 90 men. About the settlement was an extent of unoccupied land. Upon this the Mormons came and settled, most of them with the rights of squatters. Year after year they poured in till they were three times as numerous as the citizens. All other immigration has avoided Hancock as a dis- trict infected with the plague. We were a quiet peo- ple ; no bolts or locks secured our stables or our houses. But no sooner had the Mormons come, than cattle and horses and hogs began to strangely disappear and every description of moveable property was unsafe. The value of real estate was greatly depreciated. Re- sort for redress was had to the law with little success, for the amount taken at one time was generally small. But when the amount was larger, the arrangements for concealment were so complete that property was rarely recovered : the whole settlement was found to be a mutual insurance company of thieves, and this band of a thousand souls was but a branch of the great as- sociation at Nauvoo.
Once, in the life- time of Smith, they pushed their business so hard; that Joe sent them word to stop steal- ing, as the citizens began to be excited. The order was obeyed ; but after the death of Joe it recommenced, and was carried on most unmercifully.— But the stolen property was sometimes found. To meet this emer- gency, they had gathered in such numbers as to place the administration of the law in the hands of their chief men. Every week their numbers were increasing, and with their numbers their insolence. They were in the habit of swearing for each other, like the members of other piratical associations. No men are so at- tached to "law and order" as the Mormons. Take an example, to show the meaning of law and order, as they understand it. A horse was stolen and traced to the Holy City by the owner, and found in possession of the thief. But he proved by a Mormon oath, before a Mor- mon magistrate, that he had bought the horse, and it was decided that the horse belonged to the thief. The owner was then arrested for an alleged infraction of law in the attempt to recover his horse,— convicted,— robbed by the judge of the horse he rode, and of his watch, to pay his fine. Such are the men who have invaded this unhappy county. But the thriving settle-ment of Greenplains had suffered perhaps worse than any others, having a heavy settlement in its vicinity on the South, and the general rendezvous, Nauvoo, on the North. Every night something was taken : they had lost to the value of thousands. The Mormons had destroyed the value of their farms. They could sell for nothing. No decent immigrant would come among the Mormons. To seek protection from the law was worse than vain. It added injury to injury. Application had been made to the Governor, from whom they received an insulting reply, but no aid. Gov. Ford is a devoted party man, and the Mormons cast some thousands of votes, and those votes are always sold by the head of the church to the highest bidder. In this extremity, the citizens of Greenplains met—some sixty of them—to consult. The law in the hand of a society of free- booters was the instrument of heavy oppression but no relief. To crown the whole, the Mormons fired upon the house where they were met to consult. This fixed their purpose. They would drive their invaders from the vicinity. They gave notice to the Mormons that they must leave. They were allowed full time to re- move all their moveable effects, and when the shanty was clear, the torch was applied. The Mormons, with their usual truthfulness, affirm that furniture and grain in the stack were burned; but it was not so. One stack of grain, only, was burned, and that by the owner. They also appraised the value of the burnt houses at $500 each; but honest men do not estimate them at more than $20 average. They were generally the rudest kind of houses—all the joiner's work done with an axe. The sick, also, were not disturbed.
This work was carried on till, as is supposed, some 300 fighting men were driven out, and their nests burnt. The Mormons estimate the number burnt at 150, and their value $75,000. The only object of the burning was to put an end to the war which had been so long waged upon their property. There was no hope but in driving them out,— but they did not retaliate for the numerous losses they had sustained. They took no spoils, but they recovered some stolen goods.— I wish to state this case before the American people, that they may know these honest, law-abiding Mormons. I do not say they did right, but I do say the burning was not unlawful, for there has been no law in Hancock for some years, and where there is no law there is no trans-gression.
"But they should have waited in the hope of redress by legal means." How long ? Four or five years they had waited. They had every thing to fear from the law but nothing to hope. Our highest executive and judicial officers have been bound by their log- rolling obligations with the Mormon chiefs, who dispose of all the Mormon votes, as Bishop Hughes does of the Romish vote of your city. Here is the true secret of our whole difficulty and the strength of the Mormons. I grieve to say it; but without knowing this fact you can know nothing of our affairs.
It has indeed been very difficult to get the truth be- fore the public. Some months since, the writer of this prepared a sketch exhibiting the principal objects for which Nauvoo was built, and sent it to one of the most respectable journals in your city. They published the least important portion, and remarked respecting the parts omitted, that if they were true the Mormons were a much greater set of "scamps" than they supposed. But what should men expect of a set of infidel specu- lators who become prophets, and speak lies in the name of God, as a cloak of their dishonest plans of making money. Such was Mormonism in its origin, and what should we expeet of its maturity.
You will not give my name to the public, for it would seriously expose the life of any man in this county to have it known that he was the author of the above. Irvine Hodges, brother of the two Mormon murderers lately executed in Iowa, having had the imprudence to threaten some disclosures respecting the twelve at Nauvoo, was at once assassinated. Men here are very careful what they write. The Mormon spies and Danites are every where.
Yours truly, A CITIZEN.
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