This raised great excitement among the enemies of the Church. Joseph and seventeen others were arrested, tried before a court in Nauvoo, and acquitted; but this did not satisfy the mobbers. On the advice of the United States judge for that district, Joseph and his brethren allowed themselves to be arrested again and have a trial before Justice Daniel H. Wells, then not a “Mormon.” They were again discharged as innocent of crime.
Now mobs began to threaten again, but the Nauvoo Legion was ready to defend the city. As the Legion was drawn up in front of Joseph’s house one day—it was the 18th of June—he got upon a platform and spoke to the soldiers. That speech was long remembered by those who heard it. It thrilled them through and through and at the word they would gladly have marched and met the mob in battle; but that was not Joseph’s way. He was always willing to have the laws carried out even if he suffered thereby, so that his enemies could have no just excuse. That was the Prophet Joseph Smith’s last public speech.
During the excitement Governor Ford arrived at Carthage, a town about eighteen miles from Nauvoo, and the county seat of Hancock county. The governor sent word to Nauvoo that he wanted some explanation of the trouble, so Joseph sent some of the brethren to him. The governor treated his callers rudely. Carthage was full of mobs, and the governor seemed to believe all they told him about the “Mormons.” He organized the mobs into troops. Joseph asked the governor to come to Nauvoo and investigate the whole matter; but no: Joseph must go to Carthage. The governor said he would protect him if he would go.
It was on the evening of June 22nd. Joseph and Hyrum had called some brethren together: “All they want is Hyrum and myself,” said the Prophet. Joseph and Hyrum both seemed certain that if their enemies got them in their power again they would be killed. Joseph then proposed that he and Hyrum should escape to the Rocky Mountains. Preparations for this trip were made and they were rowed over the river to Iowa, when Joseph’s wife sent some of the brethren to plead with him to return. Some brethren also found fault with him in running away to “leave the flock to the wolves.”
Joseph replied, “If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself.” So they went back, Joseph saying, “We shall be butchered.”
On the morning of June 24th Joseph and eighteen brethren set out for Carthage to be tried again on the old charge. As he rode out the Prophet made many expressions of goodby to his friends. Four miles from Carthage they met a company of militia going to Nauvoo with an order from the governor that the Nauvoo Legion give up its arms. Joseph rode back with them to see that this was done. Twice he bade his family farewell. His face was pale, and he was suffering.
“I am going like a lamb to the slaughter,” he said, “but I am calm as a summer morning.”