THE UTAH COMMISSION.
SUPPORT OF ITS WORK UNDER THE EDMUNDS LAW.
How the Mormon leaders Strive to Weaken the Law—The Mormon Leg-islature to Suppress Polygamy—The Outlook for the Saints.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30.—The report of the Utah Commission, of which ex-Secre-tary Ramsey is Chairman, and which was appointed under the provisions of the act of March 22, 1882, to amend the laws relating to Bigamy and Polygamy, was handed to Secretary Teller this evening. The Commission after reviewing the former legislation of Congress relating to Bigamy or Polygamy refers to the act of July, 1862, prohibiting Polygamy, and it is stated that under this law for a period of more than twenty years there were not more than three convictions in Utah. This was due largely to the fact that a great majority of the community are in sym-pathy with those brought to trial. In this connection the Commission say no reflection is intended to be cast upon the officers of justice in Utah appointed by the Government. Doubtless they have done the best they could with such means and legal measures as were fur-nished them. The act under which the Commission was appointed is referred to as much more comprehensive than that of 1862. New relations are introduced relating to the qualification of jurors, amne ty to offenders and the legitima-tion of children born before January 1, 1883. With the execution of these sec-tions the Commission have nothing to do, and there is, they say, a general misap-prehension in the public mind as to the extent of their authority which, though important and difficult of execution, is much more circumscribed and limited than many suppose. The duties of the Commission, the report says, appertain to matters of registration and election and eligibility to office, while the punish-ment of the crime of polygamy is left to the courts of justice. After referring to their report or last year and the measures adopted then for excluding polygamists from registration and from the polls, in all about 12,000 men and women, they re-port equal success at the general election held on the 6th of last August.
Continuing, the report says: 'The theo-ry of the act of March 22, 1882, appears to be this: that a discrimination between those Mormons who practice polygamy and those who do not, placing a stigma upon the former and depriving them of the right of suffrage as well as the right to bold office—while, on the other hand an inducement is held out to the latter class that by abstaining from the polyga-my relation that they will enjoy all the political rights of American citizens—would in time have the ef-fect of inducing great numbers of the Mormon people to refrain from plural marriage. While such con-siderations are not likely to have much effect upon elderly men who already have a plurality of wives and several families of children, they must have great weight with the young men of the Territory, many of whom are ambitious and aspir-ing, and would not like voluntarily to embrace political ostracism. The leading Mormons, who are generally in polyga-my, evidently perceive this tendency, and therefore, ever since the passage of the et they have assiduously taught their people that this measure is transient and that it will soon be set aside by the Fed-eral courts or by the action or non-action of Congress.
So far as we are advised, very few, if any, illegal votes have been cast in Utah since the Commission took charge of reg-strations and elections in August, 1882. As to the declared objects of the act of Congress, therein set forth, so far as appertains to our duties, it is not denied that the operation of the act has been eminently successful, that is to say, the polygamists have all been excluded from the polls and from eligibility to office. Considering that during the twenty years since the anti-polygamy act of 1862 was passed, the penalties of that law have been enforced against not exceeding three persons, it would seem that the enforce-ment of the present law against some 12,000 polygamists who have been ex-cluded from the polls, it must justly be regarded that the act has been fully and successfully executed. Before passing from this topic we deem it proper to ob-serve that no person well informed in regard to Utah affairs could reasonably have expected, at the passage of the act, that there would be an immediate change in the political situ-ation, nor that it would have an immediate effect in destroying the practice of polygamy, but the act must necessarily have a strong influence in that direction. The very existence of a law disfranchising the polygamists must tend to destroy their influence whenever it is understood that this is to be a permanent discrimination. Those Mormons who have the ballot will, after a time, be con-scious of a power which they will be un-willing to use forever at the bidding of those who have it not. The fact, also, that it will be necessary for the preserva-tion of the political influence of the "Peo-ple's Party" (as the Mormons style them-selves) to have a large body of their mem-bers who are not polygamists, must tend in time to weaken the practice of polyg-amy, for every married Mormon who takes but one plural wife loses three votes for his party—his own and those of his two wives, if woman suffrage is es-tablished by law in Utah. An-other consideration, already adverted to, the influence upon the young men and the rising generation, is entitled to great weight. Seeing all the offices of honor, trust and profit—such as delegate to Congress, members of the Legislative Assembly, Probate Judges, Clerks of the County Courts, Sheriff's and others, many of them quite lucrative—held by mo-nogamists, while the polygamists are wholly excluded, the aspiring young men of the Territory would present an anom-aly of human virtue if they should fail to be strongly influenced against going into a relation which thus subjects them to political ostracism and fixes on them the stigma of moral turpitude.
The difficulty of the situation can be better understood from the fact that among the orthodox Mormons of Utah polygamy is a part of their religious faith, and while but a small per cent of the whole adult Mor-mon population have actually entered anti-Polygamic relations, yet all the faithful believe in it as a divine revela-tion. The Mormons believe in the Old Testament, the New Testament and a great deal besides; namely, the "Book of Mormon," and divers so called "Revela-tions" claimed to have been received by the Prophet," Joseph Smith, and his successors, Brigham Young and John Taylor, which are mostly printed in their “Book of Doctrine and Covenants." Among these so-called "Revelations" is one in favor of a plurality of wives.
That a doctrine and practice so odious throughout Christendom should have been upheld so many years against the laws of Congress and the sentiments of the civilized world is one of the marvels of the Nineteenth Century, and can be scarcely appreciated even by those who re familiar with the world's history in elation to the difficulties of Gove-rnmental control or suppression of religious fanaticism. Certainly no overnment can permit a violation of aws under the guise of religious free-om, and while Congress may not legis-ate as to mere matters of opinion, yet it may denounce and punish as crimes hese actions which are in violation of ocial duties or subversive of good or-er. It was upon this principle that the upreme Court of the United States held ne anti-polygamy law of 1862 to be valid nd constitutional. (Reynolds vs. the nited States, 8 Otto.) The right of ongress to suppress this great evil is un-oubted. It is equally plain that the ignity and good name of this great Gov-rnment among the nations of the earth emand such Congressional action as all fectually exterminate that na-onal disgrace.”
The present Legislature of Utah, the port says, is composed wholly of Mor-mons, none of whom live in polygamy, it will be their duty under the act of 1882 to adopt measures for the suppres-sion of polygamy. If they fail in this respect the Commission will be prepared to recommend the adoption by Congress of most stringent measures necessary for the suppression of this great evil. Re-ferring to the result of the general elec-tion last August, the Commission note that “large numbers of the 'Liberals' re-frained from voting, a fact much to be regretted, for the reason that it is believed by proper effort and good management one or more non-Mormons might have been elected to the Legislative Assembly, who would have had the opportunity of putting the majority on record." The test suits institu-ted by Mormons against members of the Commission for depriving them unjustly of the right to register and vote, and which are understood to be designed to contest the constitutionality of the "Ed-munds act," as well as the construction the Commission put upon its provisions are still undecided, and are likely to be appealed to life Supreme Court of the United States.
The report concludes by asserting that polygamic marriages in Utah have de-creased since the passage of the Ed-munds act, and by commending the zeal of the Governor of Utah in his effort to inforce the laws.
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