Ford claims 8 witnesses were self-deluded; never saw any plates.

Thomas Ford

Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois, From Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847 (Chicago, Ill: S. C. Griggs & Co., 1854), 256-258

S. C. Griggs & Co.
Martin Harris, Eight Witnesses, David Whitmer, Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Thomas Ford
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And the prophet was not without his witnesses. Oliver Cowdney, Martin Harris, and Daniel Whiteman, solemnly certify "that we have seen the plates which contain the records; that they were translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us, wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true; and we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven and brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates and tho engravings thereon." Eight other witnesses certify that "Joseph Smith, the translator, had shown them the plates spoken of, which had the appearance of gold; and as many of fie plates as the said Smith had translated, they did handle with their hands, and they also saw the engravings thereon, all of which had the appearance of ancient work and curious workmanship."

The most probable account of these certificates is, that the witnesses were in the conspiracy, aiding the imposture; but I have been informed by men who were once in the confidence of the prophet, that he privately gave a different account of the matter. It is related that the prophet's early followers were anxious to see the plates; the prophet had always given out that they could not be seen by the carnal eye, but must be spiritually discerned; that the power to see them depended upon faith, and was the gift of God, to be obtained by fasting, prayer, mortification of the flesh, and exercises of the spirit; that so soon as he could see the evidences of a strong and lively faith in any of his followers, they should be gratified in their holy curiosity. He set them to continual prayer, and other spiritual exercises, to acquire this lively faith by means of which the hidden things of God could be spiritually discerned; and at last, when he could delay them no longer, he assembled them in a room, and produced a box, which he said contained the precious treasure. The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty, they said, "Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates." The prophet answered them, "O ye of little faith! how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation! Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven." The disciples dropped to their knees, and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates. I leave it to philosophers to determine whether the fumes of an enthusiastic and fanatical imagination are thus capable of blinding the mind and deceiving the senses by so absurd a delusion.

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