Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair(s)

Philip Barlow


Philip Barlow


Daniel J. McInerney


Anthony A. Peacock


In 1833, enraged vigilantes expelled 1,200 Mormons from Jackson County, Missouri, setting a precedent for a later expulsion of Mormons from the state, changing the course of Mormon history, and enacting in microcosm a battle over the ultimate source of authority in America's early democratic society. This study will reexamine the motives that induced Missourians to expel Mormons from Jackson County and explore how government authorities responded to the conflict. Past studies contend that Mormon communalism collided with the Jacksonian individualism of Missouri residents, causing hostility and violence. However, recent studies have questioned many of the conventional notions of law and governance in the antebellum era, particularly that Jacksonian society was dominated by an individualistic, egalitarian, laissez-faire creed. Although Jacksonian America was a society in transition, communities continued to emphasize a tradition of localized self-government, communal regulation and distrust of outside interference. Therefore, this study will explore how the local orientation of antebellum governance and regulation contributed to the setting of violence in Jackson County and to the ways government officials responded to the crisis. An analysis of the conflict through the lens of American localism reveals the extent to which Mormonism challenged customary notions of local sovereignty and helps clarify the relationship between state and local government during the antebellum era.




This work made publicly available electronically on May 11, 2012.

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