THE MORMON QUESTION.
The Action of Governor Murray in the Matter of the Congres-sional Certificate of Election—A Reply to the Comments of East-ern Journals.
Salt Lake Correspondence of the Chicago Tribune.
The Mormon papers have for three weeks published little else than Eastern editorial criticisms of Gov. Murray for giving the Congressional certificate of election to a Gentile citizen, instead of to a Mormon alien and polygamist. It is strange that so many influential papers of both parties should take so restricted a view of the issues involved. It is a wonder what respect the average edi-torial writer has for law, custom, prece-dent; with what coolness he assumes to furnish judgment and conscience for other people; how they all run in ruts, parallel, and of about the same size and depth. As they all wear the same style of clothes, prescribed by fashion, so they all, as a rule, hold the same opin-ions. Their division into two great crowds, Democratic and Republican, di-ametrically differing on most subjects, only emphasizes their want of original-ity—their habit of airing the stock opin-ions in vogue on all occasions. Likely as not, Murray himself, as editor of THE LOUISVILLE COMMERCIAL, would, with-out hesitation or examination, condemn, with the great majority of the profession, what Murray, as Governor of Utah, felt it his duty to do.
When the anti-slavery contest began, it found the great guns of the press and pulpit spiked, or trained on the Aboli-tionists. Yet where is "the sacred insti-tution" today? Gone where the wood-bine twineth, together with the bastard divinity and the cowardly conservatism that sought to hedge it round and save it. It was a few men with convictions, and the courage to act them regardless of false alarms, of illusory lights, of sham morality, of sophistical reasonings, or of personal consequences, who brought about the downfall of slavery; and all the denunciations of thousands of presses hardly amounted to an obstruction.
It is always so: A few men make his-tory; the mass of men talk about it. There were doubtless plenty of sticklers for nice methods on hand when the Bos-tonians threw the tea into the harbor. Yet in it went; rebellion followed; inde-pendence was proclaimed and won, and a Nation founded. The Senate-Chamber was full of them when Seward announced a "higher law" than that written in Pro-slavery constitutions and statutes. He was hooted as Murray is; yet he lived to see his "higher law" incorporated in all our codes. There were many of them, doubtless, in the assemblage Wendell Phillips was years ago addressing in Boston about the capture and re-turn of a runaway slave by the Federal authorities. After de-scribing the perils and sufferings of the poor man in his escape from bondage, "Now," said he, "what does Massa-chusetts do to this wretched fugitive, who has paid such a price for liberty, and is claiming the protection of her free soil? Does she strike off his fetters and bid him breathe in peace the air of freedom? No! Massachusetts sends him back to slavery! [A long pause.] At the top of all our State papers we read the familiar legend, 'God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.' I say, God damn the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." The long-range critics of Gov. Murray can make the application of this story themselves.
But, in their tenderness for the tech-nicalities of the law, they do not do the Governor justice. They say he has usurped the powers of the House to judge of the qualifications of its mem-bers. As the Gentile organ here says:
"Congress does not begin to judge of the qualifications of members until they reach Washington. No act of Gov. Murray has interfered or can interfere to prevent any man from going to Wash-ington and preferring a claim to a seat in Congress; no act of his has prevented or can prevent Congress from seating any person it may please to. But Gov. Mur-ray is not a mere clerk or notary. His certificate, despite him and despite Con-gress, furnishes, in itself, a judgment upon the qualifications for a Delegate to Congress. It gives to the person holding it a prima facie claim to recognition from Congress. On a prima facie claim of that kind Cannon has held a seat in Con-gress term after term, though he is not only an alien, but it is impossible for him to become a citizen until either the laws are changed, or Cannon ceases a course of life which he declares he is commanded by revelation to continue. The law says "The Governor shall give a certificate to the person hav-ing the highest number of votes." It also says that in that connection "person" shall mean "citizen." In 1849 or early in 1850, Cannon, being an alien, left the United States and went to the Sandwich Islands, where he remained continuously for nearly five years. He returned to this city on the 28th day of November, 1854. Nine days later, on the 7th of December, 1854, without appearing in court (though the court was in session on that day), he received from a Mormon clerk a certifi-cate that he had that day become a citi-zen. There is not only no record of nat-uralization here, but such a record would have been impossible, except through wholesale perjury on the part of Can-non's witnesses. Now, was it possible for Gov. Murray to ignore these facts when the contest of Campbell brought them directly to his attention? The Gov-ernor is, in set words, directed to give the certificate to a citizen of the United States. Cannon is no citizen of the United States, and would not dare sub-mit his claims to citizenship to the de-cision of any court in the Union. Under such circumstances, was it the duty of the Governor to give Cannon a certifi-cate, which would have been prima facie evidence that he is a citizen?
The Eastern press with some honora-ble exceptions, seldom see clearly the in-terests of the West. The East has driven the Mormons and Indians back into the West, and now lectures the West as to how it shall meet these evils. It must keep within the strict letter of the law, and, where there is a doubt, give its mor-tal enemies the benefit of it. "The end doesn't justify the means; the House is the sole judge of its members; canvass-ing officers cannot go behind the returns; the majority must rule; a man is inno-cent till he is proved guilty"—as if the West wasn't as familiar with these aph-orisms as the East. Once for all, the West doesn’t intend to be overrun by Indians, Chinamen, or Mormons—if it can help it.
The despotic political sys-tem and the degrading social system of the Mormons will not be allowed to fasten themselves permanent-ly on all the coming Rocky Mountain States. The only open ques-tion is as to how such a calamity shall be prevented. Perhaps it may be done within the law, but, if that can't be, it will be done outside of the law, as it was done in Missouri and Illinois. After fifty years' experience with Mormonism, the country should have a clear idea of its antagonism to free institutions, and of the necessity of limiting its spread, of a settled practical policy looking to that end. But there are few signs that it has, in all the political horizon. Unless this is mended, the outcome is plain. The railroads are pushing westward, and with them the great migrating crowd, the pi-oneers of empire—practical men, who sweep away obstacles as a great force of nature does. When they come face to face with that worse than African slave-ry, known as Mormonism, they will not run away from it, as Congress habitually does. If it attempts to stand its ground, there will be a "Nauvoo ex-pulsion"—"Jehovah and the Continental Congress" to the contrary notwithstand-ing—involving many vast States, instead of a single county in one State; and Con-gress will have the alternative forced upon it of reversing its Mormon policy or of maintaining by force of arms what its laws have made a felony. All moral agencies are at work now—the press, churches and schools. The Gentiles are schooling nearly 3,000 children in Utah, and are constantly founding new schools and churches. But there is a contumacy involved in the systematic violation of the law, which can only be properly dealt with by the strong band. While it is not put forth, moral forces enter the field with great difficulty, and are easily largely thwarted.
We understand, as well as our Eastern censors, that the Government can legiti-mately deal only with practical results. A Philadelphia paper says: "There can be no prosecution for opinions or beliefs; the Government must wait for some overt act." There are principles in Mor-monism more dangerous to free institu-tions than Polygamy; but they have not come in conflict with the laws—at least since it has been found convenient to waive the principle, or the practice rather, of “Blood Atonement." The Mormons make political unity a part of their religion, as well as Polygamy and murder; and it was this that mainly caused their expulsion from Nauvoo. While the President of the Church can "plump" 50,000 votes in Utah, as be can—and enough in some adjoining Territories to dictate their policy and their rulers, as he can—of what avail is the ballot-box to the Gentiles of Utah and adjoining Territories? It is swamped, and they are robbed of the very organ of self-government. It is as if you should cut out a man's tongue and then tell him to talk, and taunt him because he cannot. But there is no law against it, and there can be no law against it. The practice of polygamy, however, which soon pro-duces a community of one flesh as well as of one mind, is in conflict with the law—a law commended by the universal judgment of Christian mankind. It is an overt felonious act. The Government and the country have not to wait for it. It has, on the contrary, been waiting nearly the age of a generation, and rapid-ly growing all the time, for the Govern-ment and the country.
Yet what is the attitude of the Gov-ernment and the country towards it? That of imbecility simply. Congress will not amend the law—although urged to do so by Grant and Hayes for twelve years—so that it can be enforced. The Federal officers are "sat on" by the polygamists through decade after decade. If one of them attempts to throw off the monster, and to represent the majesty and power of simple manhood, let alone that of a mighty Nation, he is denounced all over the continent in the name of some petty technicality of law or precedent, and his dismissal in disgrace dem-anded. At the same time, the polygamists are per-mitted to plant polygamy in the National Legislature, and to draw pay from the National Treasury for sitting in the House and defending themselves.
In view of all this, is it strange that the polygamists claim the Almighty as their all-sufficient ally, and make much capital out of it among themselves; that their destiny is to "subjugate" the coun-try by solid voting in the guise of a higher morality and a-purer republican-ism than ours? The Government began by giving them an organized young State of the American Union, in the heart of the mountain region, as a polit-ical training-school and nucleus of their temporal Empire. It gave these Amer-ican Ishmaelites legislative and judicial powers, appointed their Grand Mogul Governor, allowed them to organize a church-army, and not only sold them the public lands, but placed a premium on concubinage by giving the home-stead and pre-emption right to each con-cubine. Although it afterward cost it $70,000,000 to install a successor to Brig-ham Young, it profited nothing. Its offi-cers were driven away or killed when ever Brigham Young chose to "crook his little finger." Twenty-three years ago the Church-army exterminated a large train of immigrants at Mountain Mead-ows, and engaged in open rebellion. The then United States Marshal vainly strug-gled to bring some of the criminals to justice; but, finding the Government then, as now and always, on their side, he threw up his commission in disgust.
Since we partially recovered the courts from them in 1874 we have tried to pun-ish some of their old criminals, but without success. John D. Lee was the single exception for a thousand religious murders (there has been none at all for ten thousand religious robberies and a hundred thousand religious adulteries); and we had to "treat" with this foreign power we have ourselves planted and nourished, the same as we would have had to with any other foreign power, for the surrender of Lee. We have pun-ished polygamy by taking a polygamous apostle into the National service as a leg-islator in the later Congresses, and by sending one poor tool of the Church to the penitentiary in eighteen years. That, too, the Church claims, was the re-sult of a treaty. The Church consented to the conviction of Reynolds just to see what the Supreme Court would say about it. That tribunal decided again-st Polygamy, but it avails nothing. Was it followed on the part of Congress by action becoming its dignity? No; there was some talk of "treating” with the Mormon power; of granting amnesty for the past in consideration of obedience in the future.
All this damning imbecility stands un-masked and rebuked by the action of Governor Murray, in effect giving the Ambassador of the Mormons at the Court of Washington his passports. That "handsome dog" of Kentucky, who "travels on his shape," and has no sand! Sand is just what he has—enough to supply thousands who are denouncing him, without missing it. The Governor may be condemned by the superficial; but his act is a thing which a world of words cannot outweigh or undo. He has forced the issue on the country and the next House! Shall this Nation longer foster Polygamy, or shall it suppress it by enforcing its just laws? Shall the nefarious devices of the polygamists, and their use of a vast cor-ruption fund, be longer suffered to defeat the ends of justice in Utah, to debauch the public conscience, and parry all ef-fective action in Washington? Is the proper place for polygamists the Nation's Congress, or the State's Prison? Murray may be dismissed, as some influential journals demand; but the country can no longer dodge the Morman issue. Virginia dismissed that old lunatic, John Brown; but "His soul goes marching on." The blood of martyrs may be the seed of one church as well as of another. So, "Off with Murray's head!" as one would-be Richard says, and put Cannon or John Taylor in his place. Nothing succeeds like suc-cess; but those laugh best who laugh last. One of these days it will be seen that there isn't room for the Asiatic colony in the West; and then all the brave words of a thousand small presses, all the doings of a venal Con-gress or an imbecile Executive, will go skyward, like cinders in the flame of a burning city.
Those most conversant with the histo-ry, the condition, the theories and the ambitions of Mormonism, do no feel sure—only hopeful—of breaking the institu-tion down and disintegrating its mem-bership by the suppression of Polygamy. The difficulties of suppressing Polygamy or of arresting its extension, under ex-isting laws, they are familiar with. The greatest of these is the want of will. With that, proper additional legislation would come, and the supposed difficul-ties vanish. It is the opinion of the best lawyers in Salt Lake City that, if there were the will, an entirely legal way could be found to suppress Polygamy. The trouble is the will doesn't exist, and therefore the way doesn't open. Congress hasn't done this, and it has done that; the laches of Congress are continually thrown in our faces, as if we were responsible for them, or as the real responsibility were on Con-gress, instead of on the press and people. The House has seated Can-non three or four times, says the New York Tribune—as if that were conclusive proof of his eligibility, whereas it is well known that either House, as a rule, seats the contestant of its own party. And, further, Congress seldom attends to any thing—save getting money out of the Treasury for its own constituencies—which it can by any possibility shirk. The press would do better to haul off their guns from the Gentiles, whose fight is unequal enough at best, and train them on Congress instead. They have exhausted the vocabulary of vitupera-tion in criticising Murray, and attrib-uted all but honest motives to him. They have denounced the Gentiles of Utah as a "predatory element," and as "persecutors." They evidently think it was the Gentiles who perpe-trated the Mountain Meadows mas-sacre. The Gentiles of Utah are neither more nor less "predatory" than those of Iowa or Illinois. In ten years they have doubled the value of all prop-erty in Utah. They pay one-third of all the taxes, and have no representation whatever in the Government, Territorial or municipal. Their attitude toward Mormonism is that of self-defense pure-ly. It is absurd to call them "persecu-tors." Nobody has ever persecuted the Mormons one iota. They were abated as a nuisance in Missouri and Illinois; that was all. It was no Government policy, either of those States, or the Nation. It was a convulsion of the people—instinc-tive—nay, functional, like the action of an overtaxed stomach—a movement of the "mob," so called, in every instance. In Utah the Mormons have been the per-secutors. The Government gave them all power in Utah, and they have used it in the spirit of the Holy Inquisition in-variably, and for many years, with no restraint whatever. Once a new Prophet appeared among them, drew together a few hundred adherents. The Church, which then controlled the courts and the Executive, killed the Prophet, and his aids, and his women, and literally exter-minated his followers. The Gentiles of Utah persecute the Mormons precisely as the lamb soiled the stream for the wolf in the fable.
They ask now, since Congress will not attend to matters in Utah, the appoint-ment of a Legislative Council instead of the polygamous Legislature, which, with the Governor, shall make the laws. Most of the Utah laws are well enough. With a good marriage law and a good election law, it is the belief of the Utah Gentiles that Polygamy could be quietly flattened out in no time. The Commis-sion or Legislative Council should be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate; and there probably isn't a State in the Union that wouldn't in reality be better off with its law-making power lodged in the hands of less than a dozen honest and competent men than it is now. We have besieged and urged Con-gress till we are wearied out. It has too much else to do, or it has an invincible repugnance to grappling the monster of polygamy; and if it will create this Legislative Council, as we desire, it will measurably have done its present duty, and may safely leave Utah to a fair trial of the policy of coercion. It is believed by most Utah Gentiles that in that case there would be no Utah problem to vex the nation ten years hence. DOUGLAS.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.