The Utah Expedition (Part III)
Its causes and consequences
On the 3d of July, the Commissioners started on their return to the States. During their stay at Salt Lake City, the doubt which they had been led to entertain of the wisdom of the policy which they were the agents to carry out, had ripened into a firm conviction.
The people who were congregated on the eastern shore of Lake Utah did not begin to repair to their homes until the army had marched thirty or forty miles away from the city; and even then there was a secrecy about their movements which was as needless as it was mysterious. They returned in divisions of from twenty to a hundred families each. Their trains, approaching the city during the afternoon, would encamp on some creek in its vicinity until midnight, when, if intended for the northern settlements, they would pass rapidly through the streets, or else make a circuit around the city-wall. August arrived before the return was completed.
Morning after morning, one square after another was seen stripped of the board barricades which had sheltered windows and doors from intrusion. In front of every gateway wagons were emptying their loads of household furniture. The streets soon lost their deserted aspect, though for many days the only wayfarers were men, — not a woman being visible, except by chance, to the profane eyes of the invaders. It was near the end of July before a single house was rented except to the intimate associates of the Governor. Up to that time, those Gentiles who did not follow the army to its permanent camp bivouacked on the public squares. By a Church edict, all Mormons were forbidden to enter into business transactions with persons outside their sect without consulting Brigham Young, whose office was beset daily by a throng of clients beseeching indulgences and instruction. Immediately after his return to the city, however, he secluded himself from public observation, never appearing in the streets, nor on the balconies of his mansion-house. He even encompassed his residence with an armed guard.
Gradually, nevertheless, the necessities of the people induced a modification of this system of non-intercourse. The Gentile merchants, who were present with great wagon-trains containing all those articles indispensable to the comfort of life, of which the Mormons stood so much in need, refused to open a single box or bale until they could hire storehouses. The permission was at length accorded, and immediately the absolute external reserve of the people began to wear away. Both sexes thronged to the stores, eager to supply themselves with groceries and garments; but there they experienced a wholesome rebuff, for which some of them were not entirely unprepared. The merchants refused to receive the paper of the Deseret Currency Association with which the Territory was flooded; and its notes were depreciated instantly by more than fifty per cent. Many of the people were driven to barter cattle and farm-produce for the articles they needed; and for the first time since the establishment of the Church in Utah an audible murmur arose among its adherents against its exactions. The sight of their neglected farms was also calculated to bring the poorer agriculturists to sober reflection. They perceived that the army, which they had been taught to believe would commit every conceivable outrage, was, on the contrary, demeaning itself with extreme forbearance and even kindness toward them, and was supplying an ampler market for the sale of their produce than they had enjoyed since the years when the overland emigration to California culminated. Nevertheless, their regrets, if entertained at all, found no public and concerted utterance. The authority of the Church exacted a sullen demeanor toward all Gentiles.
The 24th of July, the great Mormon anniversary, was suffered to pass without celebration; but its recurrence must have suggested anxious thoughts and bitter recollections to a great part of the population. When they remembered their enthusiastic declaration of independence only one year before, the war-like demonstrations which followed it, the prophecies of Young that the Lord would smite the army as he smote the hosts of Sennacherib, the fever of hate and apprehension into which they had been worked, and contrasted that period of excitement with their present condition, they must, indeed, have found abundant material for meditation. By the emigration southward they had lost at least four months of the most valuable time of the year. Their families had been subjected to every variety of exposure and hardship. Their ready money had been extorted from them by the Currency Association, or consumed in the expenses of transporting their movables to Lake Utah. And more than all, the fields had so suffered by their absence, that the crops were diminished to at least one-half the yield of an ordinary year. To a community the mass of which lives from hand to mouth, this was a most serious loss.
Almost all agriculture in Utah is carried on by the aid of irrigation. From April till October hardly a shower falls upon the soil, which parches and cracks in the hot sunshine. The settlements are all at the base of the mountains, where they can take advantage of the brooks that leap down through the cañons. They are, therefore, necessarily scattered along the line of the main Wahsatch range, from the Roseaux River, which flows into the Salt Lake from the north, to the Vegas of the Santa Clara, — a distance of nearly four hundred miles. The labor expended in ditching has been immense, but it has been confined wholly to tapping the smaller streams.
By damming the Jordan in Salt Lake Valley and the Sevier in Parawan Valley, and distributing their water over the broad bottom-lands, on which the only vegetation now is wild sage and grease-wood, the area of arable ground might be quintupled; and any considerable increase of population will render such an undertaking indispensable; for the narrow strip which is fertilized by the mountain-brooks yields scarcely more than enough to supply the present number of inhabitants. Nowhere does it exceed two or three miles in breadth, except along the eastern shore of Lake Utah, where it extends from the base of the mountains to the verge of the lake.
Almost all cereals and vegetables attain the utmost perfection, rivalling the most luxuriant productions of California. Within the last few years the cultivation of the Chinese sugar-cane has been introduced, and has proved successful. In Salt Lake City considerable attention is paid to horticulture. Peaches, apples, and grapes grow to great size, at the same time retaining excellent flavor. The grape which is most common is that of the vineyards of Los Angeles. In the vicinity of Provo an attempt has been made to cultivate the tea-plant; and on the Santa Clara several hundred acres have been devoted to the culture of cotton, but with imperfect success. Flax, however, is raised in considerable quantity. The fields are rarely fenced with rails, and almost never with stones. The dirt-walls by which they are usually surrounded are built by driving four posts into the ground, which support a case, ten or twelve feet in length, made of boards. This is packed full of mud, which dries rapidly in the intense heat of a summer noon. When it is sufficiently dry to stand without crumbling, the posts are moved farther along and the same operation is repeated.
The country is not dotted with farm-houses, like the agricultural districts of the East. The inhabitants all live in towns, or “forts,” as they are more commonly called, each of which is governed by a Bishop. These are invariably laid out in a square, which is surrounded by a lofty wall of mere dirt, or else of adobe. In the smaller forts there are no streets, all the dwellings backing upon the wall, and inclosing a quadrangular area, which is covered with heaps of rubbish, and alive with pigs, chickens, and children. The same stream which irrigates the fields in the vicinity supplies the people with water for domestic purposes. There are few wells, even in the cities. Except in Salt Lake City and Provo, no barns are to be seen. The wheat is usually stored in the garrets of the houses; the hay is stacked; and the animals are herded during the winter in sheltered pastures on the low lands.
All the people of the smaller towns are agriculturists. In none of them is there a single shop. In Provo there are several small manufacturing establishments, for which the abundant water-power of the Timpanogas River, that tumbles down the neighboring cañon, furnishes great facilities. The principal manufacturing enterprise ever undertaken in the Territory—that for the production of beet-sugar—proved a complete failure. A capital advanced by Englishmen, to the amount of more than one hundred thousand dollars, was totally lost, and the result discouraged foreigners from all similar investments. Rifles and revolvers are made in limited number from the iron tires of the numerous wagons in which goods are brought into the Valley. There are tanneries, and several distilleries and breweries. In the large towns there are many thriving mechanics; but elsewhere even the blacksmiths trade is hardly self-supporting, and the carpenters and shoemakers are all farmers, practising their trades only during intervals from work in the fields.
The deficiency of iron, coal, and wood is the chief obstacle to the material development of Utah. No iron-mines have been discovered, except in the extreme southern portion of the Territory; and the quality of the ore is so inferior, that it is available only for the manufacture of the commonest household utensils, such as andirons. The principal coal-beds hitherto found are in the immediate vicinity of Green River. There are several saw-mills, all run by water-power, scattered among the more densely-wooded cañons; but they supply hardly lumber enough to meet the demand, — even the sugar-boxes and boot-cases which are thrown aside at the merchants’ stores being eagerly sought after and appropriated. The most ordinary articles of wooden furniture command extravagant prices.
Nowhere is the absence of trees, the utter desolation of the scenery, more impressive than in a view from the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake. The broad plain which intervenes between its margin and the foot of the Wahsatch Range is almost entirely lost sight of the mountain-slopes, their summits flecked with snow, seem to descend into water on every side except the northern, on which the blue line of the horizon is interrupted only by Antelope Island. The prospect in that direction is apparently as illimitable as from the shore of an ocean. The sky is almost invariably clear, and the water intensely blue, except where it dashes over fragments of rock that have fallen from some adjacent cliff, or where a wave, more aspiring than its fellows, overreaches itself and breaks into a thin line of foam. Through a gap in the ranges on the west, the line of the Great Desert is dimly visible. The beach of the lake is marked by a broad belt of fine sand, the grains of which are all globular. Along its upper margin is a rank growth of reeds and salt grass. Swarms of tiny flies cover the surface of every half-evaporated pool, and a few white sea-gulls are drifting on the swells. Nowhere is there a sign of refreshing verdure except on the distant mountain-sides, where patches of green grass glow in the sunlight among the vast fields of sage.
The buildings throughout the entire Territory are, almost without exception, of adobe. The brick is of a uniform drab color, more pleasing to the eye than the reddish hue of the adobes of New Mexico or the buff tinge of many of those in California. In size it is about double that commonly used in the States. The clay, also, is of very superior quality. The principal stone building in the Territory is the Capitol, at Fillmore, one hundred and fifty miles south of Salt Lake City. The design of the architect is for a very magnificent edifice in the shape of a Greek cross, with a rotunda sixty feet in diameter. Only one wing has been completed, but this is spacious enough to furnish all needful accommodation. The material is rough-hammered sandstone, of an intense red.
The plan of Salt Lake City is an index to that of all the principal towns. It is divided into squares, each side of which is forty rods in length. The streets are more than a hundred feet wide, and are all unpaved. There is not a single sidewalk of brick, stone, or plank. The situation is well chosen, being directly at the foot of the southern slope of a spur which juts out from the main Wahsatch range. Less than twenty miles from the city, almost overshadowing it, are peaks which rise to the altitude of nearly twelve thousand feet, from which the snow of course never disappears. But during the summer months, when scarcely a shower falls upon the valley, its drifts become dun-colored with dust from the friable soil below, and present an aspect similar to that of the Pyrenees at the same season. During most of the year, the rest of the mountains which encircle the valley are also capped with snow. The residences of Young and Kimball are situated on almost the highest ground within the city-limits, and the land slopes gradually down from them to the south, east, and west. This inclination suggested the mode of supplying the city with water. A mountain-brook, pure and cold, bubbling from under snow-drifts, is guided from this highland down the gently sloping streets in gutters adjoining both the sidewalks. A municipal ordinance imposes severe penalties on any one who fouls it. Young’s buildings and gardens occupy an entire square, ten acres in extent, as do also Kimball’s. They consist, first, of the Mansion, a spacious two-storied building, in the style of the Yankee-Grecian villas which infest New England towns, with piazzas supported by Done columns, and a cupola which is surmounted by a beehive, the peculiar emblem of the Mormons, although there is not a single honey-bee in the Territory. This, like all its companions, is of adobe, but it is coated with plaster, and painted white. Next to it is a small building, used formerly as an office, in which the temporal business of the Governor was transacted. By its side stands another office, on the same model, but on a larger scale, devoted to the business of the President of the Church. These are connected by passage-ways both with the Mansion and with the Lion-House, which is the most westerly of the group, and is the finest building in the Territory, having cost nearly eighty thousand dollars. Like both the offices, it stands with a gable toward the street, and the plaster with which it is covered has a light buff tinge. The architecture is Elizabethan. Above a porch in front is the figure of a recumbent lion, hewn in sandstone. On each of the sides, which overlook the gardens, ten little windows project from the roof just above the eaves. The whole square is surrounded by a wall of cobble-stones and mortar, ten or twelve feet in height, strengthened by buttresses at intervals of forty or fifty feet. Massive plank gates bar the entrances. In one corner is the Tithing-Office, where the faithful render their reluctant tribute to the Lord. Only the swift city-creek intervenes between this square and Kimball’s, which is encompassed by a similar wall. His buildings have no pretensions to architectural merit, being merely rough piles of adobe scattered irregularly all over the grounds.
The Temple Square is in the immediate neighborhood, and is of the same size. It is inclosed by a wall even more massive than the others, plastered and divided into panels. Near its southwestern corner stands the Tabernacle, a long, one-storied building, with an immense roof, containing a hall which will hold three thousand people. There the Mormon religious services are conducted during the winter months; but throughout the summer the usual place of gathering to listen to the sermons is in “boweries,” so called, which are constructed by planting posts in the. ground and weaving over them a fiat roof of willow-twigs. An excavation near the centre of the square, partially filled with dirt previously to the exodus to Provo, marks the spot where the Temple is to rise. It is intended that this edifice shall infinitely surpass in magnificence its predecessor at Nauvoo. The design purports to be a revelation from heaven, and, if so, must have emanated from some one of the Gothic architects of the Middle Ages whose taste had become bewildered by his residence among the spheres; for the turrets are to be surmounted by figures of sun, moon, and stars, and the whole building bedecked with such celestial emblems. Only part of the foundation-wall has yet been laid, but it sinks thirty feet deep and is eight feet broad at the surface of the ground. Its length, according to the heavenly plan, is to be two hundred and twenty feet, and its width one hundred and fifty feet. Beside the Tabernacle and the incipient Temple, the only considerable building within the square is the Endowment-House, where those rites are celebrated which bind a member to fidelity to the Church under penalty of death, and admit him to the privilege of polygamy.
The other principal buildings within the city are the Council-House, a square pile of sandstone, once used as the Capitol, — and the County Court-House, yet unfinished, above which rises a cupola covered with tin. Most of the houses in the immediate vicinity of Young’s are two stories high, for that is the aristocratic quarter of the town. In the outskirts, however, they never exceed one story, and resemble in dimensions the innumerable cobblers’-shops of Eastern Massachusetts.
None of the streets have names, except those which bound the Temple Square and are known as North, South, East, and West Temple Streets, and also the broad avenue which receives the road from Emigration Cañon and is called Emigration Street. Except on East Temple or Main Street, which is the business street of the city, the houses are all built at least twenty feet back from the sidewalk, and to each one is attached a considerable plot of ground. There is no provision for lighting the streets at night. The cotton-wood trees along the borders of the gutters have attained a considerable growth during the eight or nine years since they were planted, and afford an agreeable shade to all the sidewalks.
Around a great portion of the city stretches a mud wall with embrasures and loopholes for musketry, which was built under Young’s direction in 1853, ostensibly to guard against Indian attacks, but really to keep the people busy and prevent their murmuring. To the east of this runs a narrow canal, which was dug by the voluntary labor of the Saints, nearly fifteen miles to Cottonwood Creek, for the transportation of stone to be used in building the Temple.
Just outside the city-limits, near the northeastern corner of the wall, lies the Cemetery, on a piece of undulating ground traversed by deep gullies, and unadorned even by a solitary tree, — the only vegetation sprouting out of its parched soil being a melancholy crop of weeds interspersed with languid sunflowers. The disproportion between the deaths of adults and those of children, which has been a subject for comment by every writer on Mormonism, is peculiarly noticeable there. Most of the graves are indicated only by rough boards, on which are scrawled rudely, with pencil or paint, the names and ages of the dead, and usually also verses from the Bible and scraps of poetry; but among all the inscriptions it is remarkable that there is not a single quotation from the “Book of Mormon.” The graves are totally neglected after the bodies are consigned to them. Nowhere has a shrub or a flower been planted by any affectionate hand, except in one little corner of the inclosure which is assigned to the Gentiles, between whose dust and that of the Mormons there seems to exist a distinction like that which prevails in Catholic countries between the ashes of heretics and those of faithful churchmen. The mode of burial is singularly careless. A funeral procession is rarely seen; and such instances are mentioned by travellers as that of a father bearing to the grave the coffin of his own child upon his shoulder.
The interiors of the houses are as neat as could be expected, considering the extent of the families. Very often, three wives, one husband, and half-a-dozen children will be huddled together in a hovel containing only two habitable rooms, — an arrangement of course subversive of decency. Few people are able to purchase carpets, and their furniture is of the coarsest and commonest kind. There are few, if any, families which maintain servants. In that of Brigham Young, each woman has a room assigned her, for the neatness of which she is herself responsible; — Young’s own chamber is in the rear of the office of the President of the Church, upon the ground floor. The precise number of the female inmates can often be computed from the exterior of the houses. These being frequently divided into compartments, each with its own entrance from the yard, and its own chimney, and being generally only one story in height, the number of doors is an exact index to that of residents.
The domestic habits of the people vary greatly according to their nativity. Of the forty-five thousand inhabitants of the Territory, at least one-half are immigrants from England and Wales, — the scum of the manufacturing towns and mining districts, so superstitious as to have been capable of imbibing the Mormon faith, — though between what is preached in Great Britain and what is practised in America there exists a wide difference, — and so destitute in circumstances as to have been incapable of deteriorating their fortunes by emigration. Possibly one-fifth are Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians. This allows a remainder of three-tenths for the native American element. An Irishman or a German is rarely found. Of the Americans, by far the greater proportion were born in the Northeastern States; and the three principal characters in the history of the Church—Smith, Young, and Kimball—all originated in Vermont, but were reared in Western New York, a region which has been the hot-bed of American isms from the discovery of the Golden Bible to the outbreak of the Rochester rappings. This American element maintains, in all affairs of the Church, its natural political ascendency. Of the twelve Apostles only one is a foreigner, and among the rest of the ecclesiastical dignitaries the proportion is not very different.
The Scandinavian Mormons are very clannish in their disposition. They occupy some settlements exclusively, and in Salt Lake City there is one quarter tenanted wholly by them, and nicknamed “Denmark,” just as that portion of Cincinnati monopolized by Germans is known as over the Rhine. Like their English and Welsh associates, they belonged to the lowest classes of the mechanics and peasantry of their native countries. They are all clownish and brutal. Their women work in the fields. In their houses and gardens there is no symptom of taste, or of the recollection of former and more innocent days; while in every cottage owned by Americans there is visible, at least, a clock, or a pair of China vases, or a rude picture, which once held a similar position in some farm-house in New England.
It is not intended to discuss here the cardinal points of the Mormon faith, for the subject is too extensive for the limits of this article. A great misapprehension, however, prevails concerning polygamy, that it was one of the original doctrines of the Church. On the contrary, it was expressly prohibited in the Book of Mormon, which declares: —
“Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord. … Wherefore hearken to the word of the Lord: There shall not any man among you have save it be one wife, and concubines he shall have none; for I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women.” — p. 118.
Up to this date, there have been four eras in the history of polygamy among the Mormons: the first, from about 1833 to 1843, during which it was practised stealthily only by those Church leaders to whom it was considered prudent to impart the secret; the second, from 1843 to 1852, during which its existence was known to the Church, but denied to the world; the third, from 1852 to 1856, during which it was left to the discretion of individuals whether to adopt its practice or not; and the fourth, since 1856, when its acceptance was inculcated as essential to happiness in this world and salvation in the next. It was the inevitable tendency of Mormonism, like every other religious delusion, from the advent of John of Leyden to that of the Spiritualists, to disturb the natural relation of the sexes under the Christian dispensation. The mystery surrounding the subject constituted the most attractive charm of the religion, both to the initiated and to those who were seeking to be admitted to the secrets of the Endowment, — for the Endowed alone possess the privilege of a plurality of wives. But until the community had become firmly fixed in Utah, no one dared to justify or even to proclaim the doctrine. At the time of the passage of the Organic Act of the Territory, in the autumn of 1850, and repeatedly during the next two years, prominent Mormons at Washington and New York denied its existence, with the most solemn asseverations. It was on Sunday, August 29th, 1852, that it was openly avowed at Salt Lake City, — Brigham Young on that day producing the copy of a revelation, pretended to have been received by Smith on the 12th of July, 1843, which annulled the monogamic injunctions of the Book of Mormon, and stating, that, although the doctrine of polygamy has not been preached by the elders, the people have believed in it for years. Upon the same occasion, another doctrine was urged, — that human beings upon earth propagate merely bodies, the souls which inhabit them being begotten by spirits in heaven.
The number of the wives of many of the principal Mormons has been greatly exaggerated. Attached to Young’s establishment in Salt Lake City, there are only sixteen. His first wife occupies the Mansion-House exclusively, while the others are quartered in the Lion-House. Besides these, he has probably fifty or sixty more, scattered all over the Territory, and in the principal cities of the United States and of Great Britain. His living children do not exceed thirty in number. Kimball’s wives, resident in Salt Lake City, are quite as numerous as Young’s, and his children even more so. Both of them aim to reproduce the domestic life of the Biblical patriarchs; and within the squares which they occupy their descendants dwell also, with their wives and progeny, all of them acknowledging the control of the head of the family. The harems of very few of the Church dignitaries approach these in magnitude. The extent of the practice of polygamy cannot be determined by a residence in Salt Lake City alone; for it is there that those Church officers congregate whose wealth enables them to maintain large families. As the traveller journeys northward or southward, he finds the instances diminish in almost exact proportion to his remoteness from the central ecclesiastical influence. There is even a sect of Mormons, called Gladdenites, after their founder, one Gladden Bishop, who deny the right of Young to supreme authority over the Church, and discountenance polygamy. No computation of their number can be made, for few of them dare avow their heresy, on account of the persecution which is the invariable result. The leaders of this sect maintain that a majority of the married men in Utah have but one wife each, and their assertion has never been controverted.
One of the most monstrous results of the practice is the indifference with which an incestuous connection is tolerated. The cohabitation, with the same man, of a mother, and her daughter by a previous marriage, is not unfrequent; and there are other instances even more disgusting. One or two of them will exemplify the character of the whole. One George D. Watt, an Englishman, residing at Salt Lake City, has for his fourth wife his own half-sister, who had been previously divorced from Brigham Young and one Aaron Johnson, the Bishop of the town of Springville, on Lake Utah, has seven wives, four of whom are sisters, and his own nieces. Young himself has declared in print, that he looks forward to the time when his son by one wife shall marry his daughter by another. Marriages also are effected with girls who are mere children. Accustomed from their cradles to sights and sounds calculated to impart precocious development, they mature rapidly, and few of them remain single after attaining the age of sixteen. They look around for husbands, and understand, that, if they marry young men and become first wives, in course of time other wives will be associated with them; and they conclude, therefore, that it is as well for themselves to unite with some Bishop or High-Priest, with perhaps half-a-dozen wives already, who is able to feed his family well and clothe them decently; so they plunge into polygamy at once. Another result of the practice is universal obscenity of language among both sexes. The published sermons of the Mormon leaders are utterly vile in this respect, although they are somewhat expurgated before being printed. They consider no language profane from which the name of the Deity is excepted.
There is, unquestionably, much unhappiness in families where polygamy prevails, — daily bickering, jealousies, and heart-burnings, — but it is carefully concealed from the knowledge of the public. If domestic troubles become so aggravated as to be unendurable, recourse is usually had to Brigham Young for a divorce. There are women in Salt Lake City who have been married and divorced half-a-dozen times within a year. The first wife maintains a supremacy over all the others. On the occasion of her marriage, a civil magistrate usually officiates, and the rite of “sealing” is afterwards administered by Young. By the civil process, in the cant language of the Mormons, she is bound to her husband “for time,” and by the ecclesiastical solemnization “for eternity.” Every wife taken after the first is called a “spiritual,” and is “sealed” ecclesiastically only, not civilly. It follows, as a legitimate consequence, that the first wife of one man “for time” may be the “spiritual” wife of another man “for eternity.” The power of sealing and unsealing is vested in the Head of the Church, which, however, he may and does assign, with certain limitations, to deputies. The ceremony is performed in a room in the Mansion-House within Brigham’s square, which is furnished with an altar and kneeling-benches. In every instance of divorce, the woman is supplied with a printed certificate of the fact, for which a fee of ten or eleven dollars is exacted. When a polygamist dies, it becomes the duty of his “next friend” to care for his wives. Thus, when Young became the President of the Church, he succeeded to all the widows of Joseph Smith.
Every year some modification of the system is effected, which tends to increase still further the confusion in the relations of the sexes. The latest is the doctrine, (which, like polygamy in its earlier stages, is believed, but not avowed,) that absence is temporary death, so far as concerns the transference of wives. This is intended to apply to the two or three hundred missionaries who are dispatched yearly to all parts of the globe, from Stockholm to Macao. It is astonishing that these missionary efforts, which have been pursued with unremitting zeal for the last twenty years, should not have ingrafted upon Mormonism some degree of that refinement which is supposed to result from travel. On the contrary, they seem to have elaborated the natural brutality of the Anglo-Saxon character; and especially with regard to polygamy, their effect has been to acquaint the people of Utah with the grossest features of its practice in foreign lands, and encourage them to imitation. Every Mormon, prominent in the Church, however illiterate in other respects, is thoroughly acquainted with the extent and characteristics of polygamy in Asiatic countries, and prepared to defend his own domestic habits, in argument, by historical and geographical references. Not one of their missionaries has ever been admitted to intercourse with the higher classes of European society. Their sphere of labor and acquaintance has been entirely among those whom they would term the lowly, but who might also he called the credulous and vulgar. The abuse of a knowledge of the machinery of the Masonic order—from which they have been formally excluded—is one of the least evil of their practices, not only abroad, but at home. Of the Endowment, one apostate Mormon has declared that “its signs, tokens, marks, and ideas are plagiarized from Masonry”; and it was a notorious fact, that every one of the Mormon prisoners at the camp at Fort Bridger was accustomed to endeavor to influence the sentinels at the guard-tents by means of the Masonic signs.
This cursory review of the domestic condition of the Mormons would not be complete without some allusion to the Indians who infest the whole country. In the North, having their principal village at the foot of the Wind River Mountains, in the southeastern corner of Oregon, is the tribe of Mountain Snakes or Shoshonees, and the kindred tribe of Bannocks. Throughout all the valleys south of Salt Lake City are the numerous bands of the great tribe of Utahs. Still farther south are the Pyides. The Snakes are superior in condition to any of the others; for, during a portion of the year, they have access to the buffalo, which have not crossed the Wahsatch Range into the Great Basin, within the recollection of the oldest trapper. The only wild animals common in the country of the Utahs are the hare, or “jackass-rabbit,” the wild-cat, the wolf, and the grizzly bear. There are few antelope or elk. Trout abound in the mountain-brooks and in Lake Utah. In the Salt Lake, as in the Dead Sea, there are no fish. Before the advent of the Mormons, the habits of all the Utah bands were very degraded. No agency had been established among them. They had few guns and blankets. For several years they were engaged in constant hostilities with the people of the young and feeble settlements, — their own method and implements of warfare improving steadily all the while. Ultimately, however, the Mormons inaugurated a system of Indian policy, which was highly successful. They propagated their religion among the Utahs, baptized some of the most prominent chiefs into the Church, fed and clothed them, and thereby acquired an ascendency over most of the bands, which they attempted to use to the detriment of the army during the winter of 1857-8, but without success. Brigham Young, being vested with the superintendence of Indian affairs, during his entire term of service as Governor, abused the functions of that office. He taught the tribe, that there was a distinction between “Americans” and “Mormons,” — and that the latter were their friends, while they were free to commit any depredations on the former which they might see fit. These infamous teachings were counteracted with considerable success by Dr. Hurt, the Indian Agent, to whom allusion has frequently been made; but it was impossible wholly to neutralize their effect. Some of the Mormons even took squaws for spiritual wives; and in all the settlements, from Provo to the Santa Clara, there are scores of half-breed children, acknowledging half-a-dozen mothers, some white, some red. The Utahs, though a beggarly, are a docile tribe. Several Government farms have now been established among them, and they display more than ordinary aptitude for work. But they require to be spurred to regular labor. None of the charges which have been preferred against the Mormons, of direct participation in the murder of Americans by the Indians in the southern portion of the Territory, have ever been substantiated by legal evidence; but no person can become familiar with the relations which they sustain to those tribes, without attaching to them some degree of credibility. The most noted instances were the slaughter of Captain Gunnison and his exploring party, near Lake Sevier, in October, 1853; and the horrible massacre of more than a hundred emigrants on their way to California, at the Mountain Meadows, still farther south, in September, 1857, from which only those children were spared who were too young to speak.
The history of events in Utah since the encamping of the army in Cedar Valley and the return of the Mormons to the northern settlements is too recent to need to be recounted. It has been established by satisfactory experiments, that law is powerless in the Territory when it conflicts with the Church. No Gentile, whose property was confiscated during the rebellion, has yet obtained redress. The legislature refuses to provide for the expenses of the District Courts while enforcing the Territorial laws. The grand juries refuse to find indictments. The traverse juries refuse to convict Mormons. The witnesses perjure themselves without scruple and without exception. The unruly crowd of camp-followers, which is the inseparable attendant of an army, has concentrated in Salt Lake City, and is in constant contact and conflict with the Mormon population. An apprehension prevails, day after day, that the presence of the army may be demanded there to prevent mob-law and bloodshed. The Governor is alien in his disposition to most of the other Federal officers; and the Judges are probably already on their way to the States, prepared to resign their commissions. The whole condition of affairs justifies a prediction made by Brigham Young, June 17th, 1855, in a sermon, in which he declared: —
“Though I may not be Governor here, my power will not be diminished. No man they can send here will have much influence with this community, unless he be the man of their choice. Let them send whom they will, it does not diminish my influence one particle.”
The consequences of the Expedition, therefore, have not corresponded to the original expectation of its projectors. So far as the political condition of the Territory is concerned, the result, filtered down, amounts simply to a demonstration of the impolicy of applying the doctrine of Squatter Sovereignty as a rule for its government. The administration of President Polk was an epoch in the history of the continent. By the annexation of Texas a system of territorial aggrandizement was inaugurated; and the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which California, Utah, and New Mexico were acquired, was a legitimate result. Every child knows that the tendency is toward the acquisition of all North America. But the statesmen who originated a policy so grand did not stop to establish a system of Territorial government correspondent to its necessities. The character of such a Territorial policy is now the principal subject upon which the great parties of the nation are divided; and its development will constitute the chief political achievement of the generation. On one side, it is proposed to leave, each community to work out its own destiny, trusting to Providence for the result. On the other, it is contended, that the only safe doctrine is, that supreme authority over the Territories resides in Congress, which it is its duty to assign to such hands and in such degrees as it may deem expedient, with a view to create homogeneous States; that the same influences which moulded Minnesota into a State homogeneous to Massachusetts might operate on Cuba, or Sonora and Chihuahua, without avail; and that to various districts the various methods should he applied which a father would employ to secure the obedience and welfare of his children.
At the very outset, the Territory of Utah now presents itself as a subject for the application of the one system or the other. To all intents and purposes, the Mormons are proved to be a people more foreign to the population of the States than the inhabitants of Cuba or Mexico. Alien in great part by birth, and entirely alien in religion, there never can occur in the history of the country an instance of a community harder to govern, with a view to adapt it to harmonious association with the States on the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is undeniably demonstrated that it is unsafe to trust it to administer a government in accordance with republican ideas; for it acknowledges a higher law than even the human conscience, in the will of a person whom it professes to believe a vicegerent of Divinity, and in obedience to whom perjury, robbery, incest, and even murder, may be justifiable, — for his commands are those of Heaven. It is obvious that it is fruitless to anticipate fair dealing from a people professing such doctrines; and the result has shown, that, in transactions with Mormons, even under oath, no one who does not acknowledge a standard of religious belief similar to their own can count upon justice any farther than they may think it politic to accord it. The army is, indeed, placed in a position to suppress instantaneously another forcible outbreak; but everybody is aware that there are means of annulling the operation of law quite as effectually as by an uprising in arms. Recent proceedings in the courts of the extreme Southern States have caused this fact to be keenly appreciated. The pirates who sailed the slavers Echo and Wanderer yet remain to be punished. So far as South Carolina and Georgia are concerned, the law declaring the slave-trade piracy is a dead letter; and the sentiment which prevails toward it in Charleston and Savannah is an imperfect index of that which is manifested at Salt Lake City toward all national authority.
The legislation of Utah has been conducted with a view to precisely the condition of affairs which now exists, and the Territorial statute-book shows that the transfer of executive power from Brigham Young had long been anticipated. It is impracticable to adduce, in this place, proof of the fact in extenso; but a brief enumeration of some of the principal statutes will indicate the character of the entire code. An act exists incorporating the Mormon Church with power to hold property, both real and personal, to an indefinite extent, exempt from taxation, coupled with authority to establish laws and criteria for its safety, government, comfort, and control, and for the punishment of all offences relating to fellowship, according to its covenants. By this act the Church is invested with absolute and perpetual sovereignty. Under it the whole system of polygamy is conducted, for plural marriages are sanctioned by the covenants; the Danite organization is authorized, for it is instituted for the comfort and control of the Church, and the punishment of offences relative to fellowship; the burden of the taxes is thrown in a yearly increasing ratio upon Gentiles, for the Church property exempted from taxation amounts already to several millions of dollars, and increases every day; and the treasonable rites of the Endowment are celebrated, and the inferior members of the Church tithed and pillaged, for the benefit of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles. Acts also exist legalizing negro and Indian slavery. There are within the Territory at the present time not more than fifty or sixty negroes, but there are several hundred Indians, held in servitude. These are mostly Pyides, into whose country some of the Utah bands make periodical forays, capturing their young women and children, whom they sell to the Navajoes in New Mexico, as well as to the Mormons. There are other acts, which rob the United States judges of their jurisdiction, civil, criminal, and in equity, and confer it on the Probate Courts; which forbid the citation of any reports, even those of the Supreme Court of the United States, during any trial; which regulate the descent of property so as to include the issue of polygamic marriages among the legal heirs; which withdraw from exemption from attachment the entire property of persons suspected of an intention to leave the Territory; which authorize the invasion of domiciles for purposes of search, upon the simple order of any judicial officer; which legalize the rendition of verdicts in civil cases upon the concurrence of two-thirds of the jurors; which command attorneys to present in court, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, in all cases, every fact of which they are cognizant, “whether calculated to make against their clients or not”; which restrict the institution of proceedings against adulterers to the husband or the wife of one of the guilty parties; which levy duties on all goods imported into the Territory for sale; which abolish the freedom of the ballot-box, by providing that each vote shall be numbered, and a record kept of the names of the electors with the numbers attached, which, together with the ballots, shall be preserved for reference; and which empower the county courts to impose taxes to an indefinite amount on whomsoever they may please, for the erection of fortifications within their respective jurisdictions. But the most extraordinary and unconstitutional series of acts—no less than sixty in number—exists with regard to the primary disposal of the soil, with which the Territorial legislature is expressly forbidden by the Organic Act to interfere. These pretend to confer upon Church dignitaries, and especially on Brigham Young and his family, tracts of land probably amounting in the aggregate to more than ten thousand square miles, as well as the exclusive right to establish bridges and ferries over the principal rivers in the Territory, — together with the exclusive use of those streams flowing down from the Wahsatch Mountains which are most valuable for irrigating and manufacturing purposes. The virtual control of the settlement of the eastern portion of Utah is thus vested in the Church; for these grants include almost all the lands which are immediately valuable for occupation. After a glance at a list of them, it is not hard to understand the causes of the great disparity in the distribution of wealth among the Mormons. They have been so allotted as to benefit a very few at the expense of the whole people; and they are protected by a terrorism which no one dares to confront in order to challenge their validity. The majority of the population are ignorant of their rights, — and too pusillanimous to maintain them against the hierarchy, if they were not. They therefore contribute to its coders not merely their tithing, but heavy exactions also for grazing their cattle on pastures to which they themselves have just as much title as the nominal proprietors, and for grinding their grain and purchasing their lumber at mills on streams which are of right common to all the settlers on their banks.
From the Utah Expedition, then, it has become patent to the world, if it is not to ourselves, that the Mormons are unwilling to administer a republican form of government, if not incapable of doing so. The author of the letter recently addressed by “A Man of the Latin Race” to the Emperor Napoleon, on the subject of French influence in America, comments especially upon this fact as symptomatic of the disintegration of this republic; and allusion is made to it in every other foreign review of our political condition. it is obviously inconsistent with our national dignity that a remedy should not be immediately applied; but when we seek for such, only two courses of action are discernible, in the maze of political quibbles and constitutional scruples that at once suggest themselves. One is, to repeal the Organic Act and place the Territory under military control; the other is, to buy the Mormons out of Utah, offering them a reasonable compensation for the improvements they have made there, as also transportation to whatever foreign region they may select for a future abode.
The embarrassments which might result from the adoption of the former course are obvious. It would be attended with immense expense, and would embitter the Mormons still more against the National Government; and it would also deter Gentiles from emigrating to a region where three thousand Federal bayonets would constitute the sole guaranty of the security of their persons and property.
The other course is not only practicable, but humane and expedient. During his whole career, Brigham Young committed no greater mistake than when he settled in Utah a community whose recruits are almost without exception drawn from foreign lands; for, since the removal from Illinois, every attempt to propagate Mormonism in the American States has been a failure. Every avenue of communication with Utah is necessarily obstructed. No railroad penetrates to within eleven hundred miles of Salt Lake Valley. There is no watercourse within four hundred miles, on which navigation is practicable. Neither the Columbia nor the Colorado empties into seas bordered by nations from which the Mormons derive accessions; and the length of a voyage up the Mississippi, Missouri, and Yellowstone forbids any expectation that their channels will ever become a pathway to the centre of the continent. The road to Utah must always lead overland, and travel upon it is the more expensive from the fact that no great passenger-transportation companies exist at either of the termini. Each family of emigrants must provide its own outfit of provisions, wagons, and oxen, or mules. Through the agency of what is called the Perpetual Emigration Fund of the Church, the capital of which amounts to several millions of dollars, — which was instituted professedly to befriend, but really to fleece the foreign converts, — few Englishmen arrive at Salt Lake City without having exhausted their own means and incurred an amount of debt which it requires the labor of many years to discharge. The physical sufferings of the journey, also, are severe and often fatal. The bleak cemetery at Salt Lake City contains but a small proportion of the Mormon dead. Along the thousand miles of road from the Missouri River to the Great Lake, there stand, thicker than milestones, memorials of those who failed on the way. A rough board, a pile of stones, a grave ransacked by wolves, crown many a swell of the bottom-lands along the Platte; and across the broad belt of mountains there is no spot so desolate as to be unmarked by one of these monuments of the march of Mormonism.
As these difficulties of transit subside under the surge of population toward the new State of Oregon, or to the gold-diggings on the head-waters of the South Fork of the Platte, an element must permeate Utah which would be fatal to the supremacy of the Church. That depends, as has been so often repeated, upon isolation. Already the presence of the army with its crowd of unruly dependents has begun to disturb it. In the trail of the troops, like sparks shed from a rocket, a legion of mail-stations and trading-posts have sprung up, which materially facilitate communication with the East. A horseman, starting now from Fort Leavenworth, with a good animal, can ride to Salt Lake City, sleeping under cover every night; while in July, 1857, when the army commenced its march from the frontier, there were stretches of more than three hundred miles without a single white inhabitant. On the west, under the shadow of the Sierra Nevada, there is a settlement of several thousand Gentiles in Carson Valley, who, though nominally under the same Territorial government with the Mormons, have no real connection with them, politically, socially, or commercially, and are petitioning Congress for a Territorial organization of their own. A telegraphic wire has already wound its way over the sierra among them, and will soon palpitate through Salt Lake City in its progress toward the Atlantic.
Brigham Young perceives this inevitable advance of Christian civilization toward his stronghold, as clearly as the most unprejudiced spectator. No one is better aware than himself, that, if the great industrial conception of the age, the Pacific Railroad, shall ever begin to be realized, the first shovelful of dirt thrown on its embankments will be the commencement of the grave of his religion and authority. Among the projects with which his brain is busy is that of yet another exodus; and it must be undertaken speedily, if at all, — for a generation is growing up in the Church with an attachment for the land in which it was reared. The pioneers of the faith, who were buffeted from Ohio to Missouri, from Missouri to Illinois, and from Illinois to the Rocky Mountains, are dwindling every year. Their migrations have been so various, that no local sentiment would influence them against another removal. Such a sentiment, if it exists at all among them, is not for Utah, but for Missouri, where they believe that the capital will be founded of that kingdom in which the Church in the progress of ages will unite the world. They dropped upon the shores of the Salt Lake in 1847, like birds spent upon the wing, only because they could not fly farther.
Two regions have been suggested for the ultimate resort of the Mormons: one, the Mosquito Coast in Central America; the other, the Island of Papua or New Guinea, among the East Indies. During the winter, while the army lay encamped at Fort Bridger, Colonel Kinney, the colonizing adventurer, endeavored to communicate from the East to Brigham Young an offer to sell to the Church several millions of acres of land on the Mosquito Coast, of which he purports to be the proprietor. His agent, however, reached no farther than Green River. But during the spring of 1858, other agents, dispatched from California, were more successful in reaching Salt Lake Valley. They were hospitably received by the Mormons, but Young declined to enter into the negotiation. The other scheme—that for an emigration to Papua—originated at Washington during the same winter. It was eagerly seized upon by Captain Walter Gibson, the same who was once imprisoned by the Dutch in Java. He put himself into communication on the subject with Mr. Bernhisel, the Mormon delegate to Congress, who appeared to regard the plan with favor. After it was developed, as a step preliminary to transmitting it to Utah for consideration, Mr. Bernhisel waited upon the President of the United States in order to ascertain whether the coöperation of the National Government in the undertaking could be expected. The reply of Mr. Buchanan was fatal to the project, which he discountenanced as a vague and wild dream.
Nevertheless, it may well he considered whether the movement toward Utah appeared any less Quixotic in 1846 than does the idea of an emigration to Papua now. On that island the Mormons would encounter no such obstacles to material prosperity as their indomitable industry has already conquered in Utah. They would find a fertile soil, a propitious climate, and a native population which could be trained to docility. Transplanted thither, they would cease to be a nuisance to America, and would become benefactors to the world by opening to commerce a region now valueless to Christendom, but of as great natural capacities as any portion of the globe. The expense of their migration need not exceed the amount already expended upon the Army of Utah, together with that necessary to maintain it in its present position for the next five years. Into the seats which they would relinquish on the border of the Salt Lake a sturdy population would pour from the Valley of the Mississippi, and develop an intelligent, Christian, and Republican State. That portion of the Mormons which would not follow the fortunes of the Church beyond the seas would soon become submerged, and the last vestige of its religion and peculiar domestic life would disappear speedily and forever from the continent.
For that consummation every genuine Christian must fervently pray. If the Message in the Book of Mormon be, as one of its own Apostles has asserted, indeed “such, that, if false, none who persist in believing it can be saved,” the sooner this nation washes its hands of responsibility for its toleration, the better for its credit in history. The Constitution, to be sure, denies to Congress the power to pass laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion; but it is the most monstrous nonsense to argue that the Federal Government is hound thereby to connive at polygamy, perjury, incest, and murder. There are principles of social order which constitute the political basis of every state in Christendom, that are violated by the practices of the Mormon Church, and which this Republic is bound to maintain without regard to any pretence that their transgressors act in pursuance of religious belief. Thirty years ago, no other doctrine would have occurred to the mind of an American statesman. It is only the special-pleadings and constitutional hair-splittings by which Slavery has been forced under national protection, that now impede Congressional intervention in the affairs of Utah. The Christian Church of the United States, also, has a duty to perform toward the Mormons, which has long been neglected. While its missionaries have been shipped by the score to India and China it has been blind to the growth, upon the threshold of its own temple, of a pagan religion more corrupt than that of the Brahmin. Never once has a Christian preacher opened his lips in the valleys of Utah; and yet the surplice of a Christian priest would be a sight more portentous to the Mormon, on his own soil, than the bayonet of the Federal soldier.