THE most entertaining newspaper-reading that we have noticed of late is about the Mormons. A party consisting of Speaker Colfax and several gentlemen, making a tour across the Continent, have recently visited Salt Lake city and received the hospitality of the Mormons, observed their ways, and entered into a free conference with them concerning all their affairs. The reports sent back by these ob-servers present a singular mixture of praise and protest—praise for the thrift and decency of the people, and orthodox protest against their poly-gamy. On the whole, the effect of these rep-resentations is to increase respect for the Mor-mons, for it is easy to see that the visitors themselves were surprised, and their prejudices somewhat disarmed by what they saw. Like the prophet Balaam at the camp of Israel, they went out to curse, but their expected imprecation like his, had to be changed into a modified blessing. We here extract from the reports of two newspaper men of the party, Mr. Richardson of the Tribune, and Mr. Bowles of the Springfield Republican, a few salient paragraphs, showing the first impres-sions made on the visitors by the Mormon state:
It will be eighteen years, on the 24th of July, since the first Mormons arrived in this lonely region. Their prophet killed, themselves exiles from Mis-souri and Illinois, after a weary journey of many months, they reached this basin to struggle for exis-tence with the unkindly soil, with Indians and with Mexicans. They claim that they left the Missouri River with no definite point of settlement; that on the route, in a vision Brigham Young saw a beauti-ful, mountain-guarded valley which Heaven assured him was their future home; that on coming in view of ensign Peak, the Jordan and the Great Salt Lake, he instantly exclaimed "Here is the spot."
They numbered 143, including four women. Im-mediately upon arrival they knelt down and thanked God for his guidance and protection. The same day they commenced plowing. An old trader, the only white man in this region, declared that he would give a thousand dollars for the first ear of corn they could raise from this parched and barren soil. But there is always a future for settlers who pray and then go to plowing. How this strange beginning carries one back to that other despised band which once landed at Plymouth on a dreary December morning?
Snowy Winters and rainless Summers, hostile In-dians and all-devouring grasshoppers did not dis-hearten the Mormons. They learned this new agri-culture; established homes; began to have cattle upon a thousand hills; contributed largely from their lean purses to the Church, sending missionaries all over the world. The great deluge of California mi-gration furnished a market for their grain and beef. Even Johnston's army, sent out to restrain, and, if needful, to subdue them, purchased their crops and added to their wealth. Later, the silver mines of Nevada, and the gold discoveries of Colorado, Idaho and Montana (the last among the richest placer dig-gings in the world) have contributed vastly to their prosperity. How can farmers fail to grow rich when flour commands $10 per hundred throughout the year.
Now a population of 100,000 is claimed for Utah and 20,000 for this city. Perhaps the last figures are too large, but already this is the most populous, as it is the most beautiful town between St. Louis and San Francisco. During the year ending June 1, Ben Holladay's Overland Express took $1,612,979,67 in gold dust hence to the states—though only a small fraction of the gold goes in by express. Last year a single merchant sold upward of $1,000,000 worth of goods, and paid for freight alone from the Missouri River over $150,000. This is the City of the Future. Here is the field of agriculture, the focus of com-merce, the pathway of empire.
Indeed, this treeless desert has been made to blos-som as the rose. The other evening a Mormon friend turned us loose among his delicious strawberries and juicy cherries. Apricots, peaches, plums, pears and apples were all ripening upon his trees. Right be-side them, just beyond his inclosure, the dreary sage bush was growing on the dry, sandy soil; and four years ago, what is now his garden was an unbroken desert like the rest. In his house the caterpillars were making silk. The linen of his coat and pan-taloons was woven in his own dwelling from his own flax, and his underclothing was manufactured in a factory of Brigham Young's from cotton grown in the southern counties. * * * *
On Saturday night we attended the theater. The playing, costumes, and scenery were decidedly bet-ter than metropolitan theaters will average; and the building in size and elegance is excelled by only five or six in the United States. The performance closed with an exquisite fairy spectacle, which made it dif-ficult to realize that we were in the heart of the American Desert. A dozen of Brigham Young's children were among the actors and ballet girls.
On the whole, the theater is the greatest mechan-ical triumph of Salt Lake. In view of its location, 1,200 miles from the steamboat and the railroad, it is wonderful. During the season the performers play twice a week. During the day they are engaged in their regular pursuits as clerks, mechanics, etc., and rehearse only in the evening.
The result of the whole experience has been to in-crease my appreciation of the value of their materi-al progress and development to the nation, to evoke congratulations to them and to the country for the wealth they have created and the order, frugality, morality and industry that have been organized in this remote spot in our continent, to excite wonder at the perfection and power of their church system, the extent of its ramifications, the sweep of its influ-ence, and to enlarge my respect for the personal sin-cerity and character of many of the leaders in the organization. Also, and on the other hand, to deep-en my disgust at their polygamy, and strengthen my conviction of its barbaric and degrading influences.
After the long attempt that has been made to write and ridicule Mormonism down, here are some quiet facts to contemplate on the other side. If we are above countenancing fanaticism we are not above nature and Prov-idence, and that the latter find somewhat to approve, or at least to tolerate in these people is very evident. What are the elements of their success? Religion, we doubt not, is one. The religious sentiment we infer, even if it is linked to an unsound theology and a question-able morality, is the best and only basis for great action. History shows states founded on faiths—diverse and antagonistic even—but nev-er on infidelity. Another element of Mormon success is, perhaps, their bold spirit of innova-tion in social matters. Polygamy is not a good thing; but it is an experiment, a varia-tion from ordinary society (which is itself not quite perfect); and as such, the spirit of progress to a certain extent endorses it.—Better sometimes a mistake, than always stagnant acquiescence. The lesson incul-cated by the present position of the Mormons is, that in a Republic sober and conscientious people are not to be snuffed out in the old summary manner, for deviating from the com-mon course; but that experiments must be tolerated, and left either to work themselves out in success, or to the refutation of time and reason.
On the subject of polygamy, the Colfax party had a free conversation with Brigham Young and the Mormon elders, of which the following is given as a partial report:
At last the discourse turned upon Polygamy, and a lively, frank discussion ensued, in which all pres-ent on both sides, took a part. Brigham insisted that experience and history, both sacred and pro-fane, justify it, and "posed" the scriptural members of our party by asking them to cite from the Bible a single direct prohibition. But when he admitted that even in Utah, as elsewhere, the births of males and females are about equal, he seemed a little stag-gered by Mr. Colfax's asking how he accounted for the fact if the Almighty designed more than one wife for each man.
Our Party—Is Polygamy a vital and inseparable part of your system?
Brigham—It is not in our Book of Covenants and Discipline. We did not adopt it of ourselves, but in consonance with a revelation from God I was ordered to enter into Plurality. (The Mormons in-variably use this word instead of Polygamy—COR-RESPONDENT.) So were several of the other breth-ren. But for the Church at large it is a privilege rather than an obligation. Abuses of it sometimes occur which it is difficult to prevent. But we can point to the highest morality. We have not a house of prostitution. I don't believe you can find four illegitimate children in the Territory. You all think Plurality cannot last. Now tell us frankly how you expect it to be done away.
Colfax—Well, we expect you to have a new rev-elation prohibiting it. [Laughter.]
Brigham—We should not be sorry for that. If God ever so directs we shall be glad to dispense with it.
Colfax—Or there may be another solution. You may do away with it by your own voluntary action, legally, peacefully, just as Missouri and Maryland abolished Slavery.
Brigham—But if we did so it would be only the beginning. You could then demand that we give up the Book of Mormon, and next our Church organi-zation.
Our Party—No, no! You would be tolerated in your faith just as Methodists, Presbyterians and all other sects are. We have no right to interfere with your religion—only your practice when it violates the civil law.
As the champions of ordinary marriage, we can not say that the distinguished vis-itors appear to very good advantage in the discussion. Listen to their main argument:
Mr. Young was asked how he got over the fact that the two sexes were about equally divided all over the world, and that, if some men had two, five, or twenty wives, others would have to go without altogether. His reply was that there was always a considerable proportion of the men who would never marry, who were old bachelors from choice. But, retorted one, are there any more of such than of women who choose to be old maids? Oh yes, said he—there is not one woman in a million who will not marry if she gets a chance!
Analyze this, and what is it all about? Why, it is the question whether some men (mark you, men only) shall fare better or worse than others, in their appropriation of women. "If you have two wives, you won't allow us to have any," say the Colfax party; "Yes," replies Brigham, "there will be enough; because some of you will be old bach-elors." "No," retorts the other, “we shall come short because the old maids will be as many as the old bachelors." This argument was thought to be a clincher, and was, in fact, the only one reported as having been brought forward by our monogamic advocates on the occasion. Not a word on either side appears to have been said of the rights and interests of women in the case. But is this the chivalry of the 19th century toward wo-man? Is this the best argument that a Speak-er of Congress and three eminent editors could offer against polygamy? As a man who expects again to look woman in the face, we confess, we rather blush for the representatives of our sex on this occasion.
There is a short method with polygamy, which a man with a grain of honor or chivalry in his composition, it would seem, could not miss. Such a man would say to the Mormon apostle, "Friend Brigham, you know the golden rule?" "Yes." "Is there any new revelation from God, that will supersede that?" “No.” “Well, how then can you claim the right to possess twenty women and not concede any corresponding liberty to them? To make one rule for your own sex and another for theirs is manifestly unjust, is doing not as you would be done by. If plurality is right in one it is right in the other, and vice versa." There is no answer to this reasoning. We need not go round about to consider the effect of the Mormon system on masculine rights. Its injustice to women, first and alone, is enough to condemn polygamy.
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