SALT LAKE CITY.
Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial.
The Mormon Despotism.
SALT LAKE CITY, April 14, 1869.
After all that has been said and written on the "Mormon question," some people in the East are still asking: Why can not the residents re-form matters? If there is dissatisfaction or op-position to the hierarchy, can it not make itself felt in the elections? To such inquirers let me commend the following sections of "an act reg-ulating elections," approved January, 1853 :
"SEC. 5. Every voter shall supply himself with a bal-lot bearing the names of the persons he wishes to fill the various offices, and present it neatly folded to the judge of elections, who shall number it and deposit it in the ballot-box. The clerk shall then write the name of the voter, and opposite to it the number of his vote.
"SEC. 6. At the close of the election the judge shall seal up the ballot-box, and transmit it, with the pol list, to the County Clerk."
Isn't that a beautiful method of "protecting the purity and freedom of the ballot?" See how artistically they abolish the free ballot while they retain the vote. "Thus," says an apolo-gist, "they retain the privilege (?) of voting while they avoid the evils of universal suffrage; subjecting, as it always should be, the ignorant many to the supervision of the intelligent few."
Under this system, Brigham Young's emissary can go into any precinct in the Territory and find out just how any man has voted at any election for the last fifteen years! And with this ignorant people, alive to spiritual terrors and knowing too well what temporal trouble may be brought upon them, it is plain that the opposi-tion must be in a majority before it can venture to make itself known. The opposition can not make a start to consolidate.
And yet these solemn, funny fellows in Con-gress, go on talking and acting as if we had a republican government and a free ballot in Utah; and lately one bigger empiric than com-mon wants to add to the joke and heighten the humor of the burlesque, by giving this privilege (?) of the ballot to women. And he thinks such action would tend to destroy polygamy. It is im-possible to convey to any one, not a resident of Utah, any idea of the utter absurdity of such a proposition. Consider that at least five-sixths of these women are from coun-tries where the ballot is unknown, that one-third of them can not speak, nor half of them read, the English language; that they belong, originally, to those foreign classes where the wife is to the husband "a little dearer than his dog," "a little nobler than his horse," and that, superadded to this is the powerful sanc-tion of a religion whereof the prime principle is that the wife must, in every word and act, be obedient to the husband, and the futility of the Julian-Pomeroy bill will faintly appear. To one who has lived here, and knows what "voting" means in Utah, the idea is so ridiculous that nothing but my intense respect (?) for Congress keeps me from ha-ha-ing right out. Practically, one man in each settlement might just as well do all the voting. The Church puts her ticket in the field, and the bishop directs the people to vote it, and they do it.
On one memorable occasion, it is said, a sort of spiritual rebellion occurred in the Utah Lake District, where many American converts reside, and the opposition candidate to the Legisla-ture was elected. On reaching this city the successful candidate was simply "counseled" to resign, did so quietly, and the regular nomi- nee was declared entitled to the seat. Two years ago the Jews, Gentiles, apostates and recusant Mormons of the Thirteenth Ward in this city, found they had a majority, as nearly all of these classes in the city lived in that ward. They elected Bishop Woolley, a good Mormon, however, for Councilman, against the regular nominee. The Bishop was at once cited before Brigham, promptly resigned according to "coun-sel," and the other candidate was admitted to the seat.
When the celebrated and somewhat amusing Hooper-McGroarty race for Congress took place, hundreds who would have voted for a decent Gentile nominee, but regarded McGroarty as either a fool or a knave, did not vote at all; con-sequently that gentleman received less than two hundred votes, while—as the Mormons did their best—Hooper received some 14,000! It is still a standing joke here to repeat portions of McGroarty's speech, prepared to be delivered before Congress; he employed a lawyer to write it for him, and while committing it to memory he could never talk ten minutes with a friend without running into his speech, assuming an oratorical manner and the plural number, as if addressing Congress!
From the best data in my possession I can say there are now not less than 2,500 bona fide Gen-tile voters in Utah. By the Autumn elections we will probably have over 4,000, which will be concentrated almost entirely in Box Elder, Weber and Morgan Counties, through which the railroad passes. It is quite possible our vote will be much larger than I have stated, for the disaffected Mormons are already beginning to gather about the Gentile settlements, and their number is larger than is generally supposed. The Gentile residents of this city, of all ages and sexes, number about eight hundred, Cer-tainly not more than a thousand, of whom a lit-tle more than half are voters.
I make up this census from several sources; the subscription list of the Daily Reporter, the roll of membership of the Gentile Church (Epis-copal), the roll of the Hebrew Benevolent So-ciety, including every Jew in the city, and the membership of the Masonic and Odd Fellows Lodges, besides being personally acquainted with almost every one of them. Beside these there are, one day with another, a thousand more transients in the city, consisting of visi-tors, railroad men temporarily out of employ-ment, teamsters, miners, and travelers, stopping from one day to six weeks.
The legal Mormon vote of the Territory I think very near 9,000, certainly not more, probably much less. During the Hooper-McGroarty con-test it is notorious that thousands of illegal votes were polled—many voting who had come In that summer's immigration, while in the distant southern settlements the Bishops even took lists of a hundred names to the polls and had them checked off, many of these per-sons having been absent for years on foreign missions, others in California, and some dead. In this city I am acquainted with several boys of sixteen years, who voted, considering it merely a good joke.
The evils of this system of voting are numer-ous, but one is particularly to be noted, the num-ber and variety of offices held by the same man. In the town of Fillmore, the old capital, one man holds the offices of County Clerk and Recorder, Town Clerk and Justice of the Peace, Assessor and Collector of Internal Revenue, and ex offi-cio overseer of the poor. Besides all this he is a bishop in the church and an officer in the Nau-voo Legion. In this city, one Captain Robert I. Burton is Collector of Internal Revenue for the Territory, Sheriff of Salt Lake County, Assessor and Collector of State and county taxes, and a General in the Nauvoo Legion, besides being a prominent elder in the church, the husband of three wives, and one of the chiefs of the secret police.
This is the Burton who led the Brighamite army to capture the Morrisites, and, according to his own account, shot three of those people after their surrender. He is in manner and ap-pearance,
"The mildest mannered man
That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat."
But if there is truth in one-fourth of the private memoirs of apostates, he is a most blood-thirsty bigot. All these civil officers are at the same time leading dignitaries in the Mormon Church, chosen solely because they are such; they con-sider their civil offices far inferior, and, in fact, subordinate to their ecclesiastical dignities, and knowing little or no law, they are guided by ecclesiastical policy and "counsel."
Travel where you will through the outer settle-ments, and you never hear the people speak of the Probate Judges as Judges; it is always “the Bishop decided so and so." With them, he is act-ing always in his character as Bishop, never as Judge. Nor need we be surprised at this; it is the natural conflict under such a system between the theocratic, the spiritual, and the popular, the democratic and laical. The American idea is that power is derived from the people, is merely delegated to the officer, and rests upon the just consent of the governed. The Mormon idea is exactly the reverse; power and authority come from above, and operate downward through all the grades; the official is responsible not to those below him—to them he is the voice of God; but to those above him—from them he derives his authority, and to them he must render an ac-count.
In the words of a Mormon polemic, "It is not consistent that the people of God should organ-ize or be subject to man-made governments. If it were so, they could never be perfected. There can be but one perfect government—that organ-ized by God; a government by apostles, proph-ets, priests, teachers, and evangelists; the order of the original church, of all churches acknowl-edged by God." I am thus minute in my state-ments, because so many people in the East have an idea that polygamy is the only great evil of Mormonism. There are a dozen evils we feel more than that; in fact, polygamy in itself is but a slight annoyance to the Gentile residents of Utah.
Mormanism was an unmitigated evil before they had polygamy; the priests ruled the igno-rant people with spiritual terrors, and that made them dangerous neighbors and trouble-some citizens. Probably some of these other evils grow out of polygamy, but that of itself troubles us very little. It is that the Territory is ruled by a church, that civil and legal meas-ures are carried by ecclesiastical policy rather than law, that we are subjected to all the an-noyances of petty tyranny, that in our business and social life we are constantly subjected to the espionage of church spies, that we are hampered in business by church hostility and the imposition of excessive taxes, that our friends and fellow-countrymen have been secret-ly murdered and the church prevents our ob-taining justice; in short we are exposed to the tyranny of an unopposed majority, and that ma-jority controlled by a small and compact hier-archy, working out its Star-chamber decrees by secret and, to the people, irresponsible agents.
It is this that grinds the feelings of American citizens; not polygamy, though that is a great moral evil. The Mormon people as a mass are naturally disposed to deal justly, but, unfortu-nately, the people are ciphers, and it seems to be the policy of their leaders to keep them in a constant state of irritation and hostile feeling to all outsiders, and to the Government of the United States. All those who imagine there is the faintest trace of loyalty or decent patriot-ism about Brigham Young should have heard his closing speech at the April Conference, last Thursday. With many other Gentiles, I sat and listened to a harangue, which would have startled the Committee on Territories if they had heard it. Remember that it was delivered to an audience who accept his every word as equal to the Gospel, embracing at least five thousand females, and you will appreciate this extract:
"Who does the Government send here for officers? The d—dest scalawags that could be raked out of hell! There was old Judge Drake, the d—d old scoundrel, that said he 'loved to damn the Mormons;' he'd 'get up at midnight and walk ten miles over thistles to damn them,' and he'd ‘damn any man that wouldn't damn them;' and I say, G—d d—n him, and God will damn him, and all such scalawags as they send here. And these men are the representatives of Congress! And of the President! Who goes into the White House now-adays? A drunkard and a gambler! And the Vice President is the same; and you may hunt clear through both houses of Congress, and if you can find any men that are not liars, thieves, whoremongers, adulterers, gamblers and drunkards, I tell you they are mighty scarce, for no other kind can get in there. They will deny their own children; and I say, G—d d—n such men, and God will damn them. Yes; and he'll damn the nation that permits them. Now, if these d—d Gentiles give us any more trouble we'll drive them right out of the Territory. We won't have such scala-wags among us, and we ask no odds of the Govern-ment."
An apology is due for presenting such stuff, and yet the country should know the feelings which animate the leaders here. Let it be un-derstood that Americanism, as we understand it, is a foreign element to Mormonism. The last move of the Administration was in the right di-rection; removing Captain Burton, and appoint-ing in his place, as Revenue Collector, Mr. O. J. Hollister, a loyal man and honest gentleman, who will reform the revenue service here, which is now in a condition disgraceful to the Govern-ment. Much more remains to be done in the ap-pointment of an efficient Governor, the revision and correction of the voting system, the restora-tion of United States Courts to their true dig-nity, and other measures for the protection of all who differ from the hierarchy.
Under this better system we would soon build up a liberal party here, and in time bring at least the northern portion of Utah under a re-publican government. I have thus endeavored briefly to portray the political situation in Utah, and have been careful to state only such facts as can be verified by abundant evidence. The evil is great, but not without remedy if fully under-stood by Congress; the redeeming forces are quietly at work; let them be seconded by the Government.
With this letter closes my series of sketches from Salt Lake City, and for some time at least my connection with the readers of the Commer-cial. To-morrow I leave for the new railroad town at the north end of the Lake, ending a seven months' residence in the "City of the Saints."
I came among the Mormons with but few ideas of them, and my first impressions of them were in the highest degree favorable. My first friends here were all Mormons, for in a Mormon train I crossed four hundred miles of the Plains, in the humble character of a "mulewhacker"—a team-ster for pay. Those persons are still my friends; they have often extended me courtesies, for which I am grateful; I have "eaten their salt, and warmed at their fires." But not all their kindness or personal friendship could blind me to the monstrous defects of their social system, or the odious features of a church tyranny. During my work here, whether as editor of the only Gentile paper in Utah or as correspondent, it has been my constant aim to
Nor set down aught in malice."
I have constantly endeavored to distinguish between the virtues of the people and the crimes of their rulers, being as to the former,
"To their faults a little blind,
To their virtues very kind."
As for the Hierarchy, if my feelings soon changed toward them, it was from the best of evidence. That evidence has constantly accu-mulated, until language fails me to describe my utter detestation of their system. That the people are frugal, industrious and honest, will avail but little while they are fanatically de-voted to such a power. If these desultory sketches have assisted any to a better under-standing of the "Mormon question;" if they have contributed in any degree to make the duty of Government and people more plain, or to lead to more earnest inquiry on this pain-fully interesting problem; it they have roused the sympathies of American women for their unhappy sisters crushed beneath the double weight of religious fanaticism and man's de-basing lust, or have called the notice of the press to the true wants of Utah, they have ac-complished the dearest wish of their author.
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