LETTERS FROM WASHINGTON.
[FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT ]
WASHINGTON, D. C., Jan. 8,1859.
Private letters received here today from Utah by the Salt Lake mail represent the condition of affairs there as more lamentable than at any time since the ingress of the troops. From their tenor it would not surprise me if there should be an exodus of many of the Federal officials in the spring, similar to that of April 1857, when the Surveyor-General and the U. S Judges and Marshal quitted the terrritory and reported at Washington that civil government in Utah was impracticable without the assistance of military force. The rising of the Mormons in arms during the autumn of the same year seemed to solve the whole question, but all its difficult ies are revived by the subsidence of the armed rebellion. These let-ters speak hopelessly of the utility of any legal pro-ceedings in which reliance must be placed on the truthfulness of Mormon jurors; they affirm that the antipathy between Mormon and Gentile grows more and more intense every day, expressing itself not only in looks and words, but in bloody personal col-lisions; and they predict that the winter will not elapse without a necessity for the presence of troops in Salt Lake City to protect both the property and the lives of the Gentile residents. These statements will undoubtedly have effect upon certain members of Congress to whom some of them have been ad-dressed.
The dates from Salt Lake City are to Dec. 4. The U. S. District Court is still in session there and on Nov. 22, Judge Sinclair had delivered a charge to the Grand Jury in which he alluded as follows to polygam: y- There is one subject of general importance to which I desire to call your attention, and from an examina-tion into which we cannot well escape. Polygamy, it is charged, prevails to a considerable extent in Utah. This is an offence against the laws of every State and Territory in the Union, Utah only excepted.
The Statute book here is a blank upon that subject. There is nothing in the acts of Congress that touches the question. Whether the civil or the common law furnishes the basis upon which the statutes of this Territory have been erected, does not concern the inquiry. Each jurisprudence condemns polygamy and stamps it as a crime. Judge Kent in his com-mentaries, [vol. 2, page81] thus speaks of this of-fence:-
"The direct and serious prohibition of polygamy contained in our law, is founded on the precepts of Christianity and the laws of our social nature, and it is supported by the sense and practice of the civ-ilized nations of Europe. Though the Athenians at one time permitted polygamy, yet generally, it was not tolerated in ancient Greece, but was regarded as the practice of barbarians. It was also forbidden by the Romans throughout the whole period of their history, and the prohibitum is inserted in the Insti-tutes of Justinian. Polygamy may be regarded as exclusively the feature of Asiatic manners, and of half civilized life, and to be incompatible with civili-zation, refinement and domestic felicity."
Blackstone in respect to it employs this language: [Vol. 4, page 163.]
"Polygamy can never be endured under any ra-tional civil establishment, whether specious reasons may be urged for it by the eastern nations, the falla-ciousness of which has been fully proved by many sensible writers. But in northern countries the very nature of the climate seems to reclaim against it; it never having obtained in this part of the world, even from the time of our German ancestors, who, as Tacitus informs us, prope soli barbarorum singulis uxoribus contenti sunt.' "
Criminal courts are authorized of their own mo-tion, as a learned judge thus states, "to call the at-tention of grand juries to, and direct the investi-gation of matters of general public import, which, from their nature and operation in the entire com-munity, justify such intervention. The action of the courts on such occasions, rather bears on things than persons, tbe object being the suppression of general and public evils, affecting in their influence and oper-ation, communities rather than individuals, and, therefore, more properly the subject of general than special complaint."
In a condition of things so anamolous, and so ut-terly at war with the generally conceived opinions upon which the fabric of our government rests, free enquiry must be unchecked, aud a field opened where the maxim may be verified, that "error ceases to be dangerous when reason is left free to combat it."
You should enquire fully into this matter, and if it be true that polygamy does prevail in this Territory, and is sought to be incorporated as one of our social institutions, into the social and political body of the country; it is proper that so extraordi-nary a pretension should be presented to this Court, under the solemn sanction of your finding. Inquire into the extent to which this practice prevails, and report to the Court your conclusion upou the sub-ject. If the Legislature of this Territory then de-sires to conform to the code of each and every State and Territory in the Union, upon your presentment they will know the fact that polygamy does prevail here and they can act accordingly. If Congress can stretch out its arm to enforce the principles that underlie the American social fabric, upon your pre-sentment, Congress then can act.
Truth can harm nobody. Find that truth, gen-tlemen, in respect to this question; and according to my reading of the law, your responsibilities and those of this Court will be at an end respecting poly-gamy.
In regard to your general duties, permit me to warn you against passion-prompted accusations. Let coolness and deliberation guide your every act; for the responsibility upon you is not the responsibility of a day. You cannot enter into considerations of public policy; if the law denounces a crime and affixes punishment, and you have the power to in-quire into that crime, you cannot look aside from the operation of the law to avoid inflicting the pun-ishment.
You have been selected for your intelligence, and honorable character, to discharge the solemn duties of this inquest. It is probable that no Grand Jury in the United States, ever held in its grasp, questions more grave or comprehensive than those which ought to occupy your minds.
Further instructions from the Court will be afforded you, if in the course of your inquiries it shall be necessary. The whole demeanor of Judge Sinclair is warmly commended, and particularly his treatment of this topic. You will notice that he does not recommend the finding of bills of indictment at present, against individuals, under the statute punishing adultery, but a presentation to the Court of the extent and character of the practice throughout the Territory, to be made the basis of an appeal to Congress for a remedy. The Territorial Legislature was to convene at Fill-more City, 150 miles south of Salt Lake city, on the second Monday of December. All its members, but one, are Mormons, and he will probably be expelled from his seat. Among its earliest acts, it is antici-pated, will be one expressly legalizing polygamy, which will of course be vetoed by the Governor. A question will then arise whether that veto is not final, the organic act of the Territory making no provision for passing bills over it; but on the con-trary, requiring the Governor's approval of "all laws before they shall take effect."
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