So I am still reading David A. Copeland’s The Antebellum Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1820 to 1860 I found this account of the death of Joseph Smith from the Jonesborough Whig and Independent Journal. It was a fascinating look into the minds of people who have made a decision about Mormonism. In it one can hear some of the more modern voices who seem to speak not too differently.
Some of the public Journals of the country, we are sorry to see, regret the death of that blasphemous wretch Joe Smith, the Mormon Prophet. Our deliberate judgement is that he ought to have been dead ten years ago, and that those who at length have deprived of his life, have done the cause of God, and of the country, a good service.
So on that note they then end a small recounting of the Nauvoo Expositor incident with this line:
These things led to a war, and Smith was killed as he should have been. Three cheers to the brave company who shot him to pieces.1
This snapshot of public opinion, of course much of the journalism of that period in US history is akin to British tabloid journalism of the last thirty years. For me it is fascinating to see how they turned a singular even, the destruction of the Expositor into a war, it makes one realize that was how they justified themselves in these lynching incidents. Much like would be done with the “justifications” for lynching African Americans across the USA during the late 19th century to the mid 20th.
It is amazing to see how people self justify acts based on supposed offenses of others and a perception that people just deserve it.
1. David A. Copeland, The Antebellum Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1820 to 1860, (Westport, Cn: Greenwood Press), 2003, 245-246.