From William A. Morton, From Plowboy to Prophet: Being a Short History of Joseph Smith, for Children. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1912.
The Prophet’s Visit to Washington
Joseph now decided to go to Washington, and make a full report to the President of the United Stats and Congress of the wrongs which his people had suffered in Missouri. The Saints at that time were very poor, for they had been robbed of almost all their property. The Prophet hoped to be able to get them help. He felt that the State of Missouri should be made to pay the Saints for the great loss they had suffered.
In the month of October, 1839, in company with Sidney Rigdon and Judge Elias Higbee, Joseph started for the national capital. They traveled by stage. There were in the coach some women and children, also two or three members of Congress.
One day while they were traveling through the mountains the driver stopped at a house to get some liquor. While he was gone, the horses became frightened and started to run at full speed down a steep hill. The women screamed, and one lady, fearing she would be killed, was about to throw her baby out of the window when the Prophet got hold of her and kept her from doing so.
Of all the passengers, he was the least excited. When he had calmed the women, he opened the door and climbed up into the driver’s seat. Then he got hold of the reins, and in a little while brought the horses under control and stopped them. They had run about three miles.
The passengers gave much praise and thanks to the young man for his brave act. Had it not been for his heroic work perhaps some of them would have lost their lives. The gentlemen from Washington said they would call the attention of Congress to the noble deed. They asked the Prophet his name. he told them he was Joseph Smith. On hearing that, they looked at each other in surprise and said no more about the matter.
On the way, Sidney Rigdon took sick, and had to be left at Philadelphia. Soon after their arrival in Washington, the Prophet Joseph and Judge Higbee called upon President Van Buren and gave him their letters of introduction. when he had learned their errand, a frown came over his face, and he said sharply, “I can do nothing for you. If I do anything I shall come in contact with the whole State of Missouri.”
Then Joseph told him of the terrible wrongs which had been done to the Saints in Missouri. As he related them, the feelings of the President seemed to change, and he said he would think the matter over.
When the Prophet and his companion called on the President again they were surprised to find that he had no desire to help the poor people who had been so cruelly wronged. “Your cause is just,” he said; “I can do nothing for you. If I take up for you, I shall lose the vote of Missouri.”
A committee had been appointed by Congress to consider the matter, but the members of it, like the President, were afraid to do anything in behalf of the despised “Mormons.”
but Joseph’s mission to Washington was not an entire failure. he preached several public sermons, and made many warm friends, who afterwards wrote and spoke well of him.