Written for Moore's Rural New-Yorker.
ERRORS OF THE HEAD AND HEART.
A TALE OF THE MORMONS.
BY EDWARD WEBSTER.
[Concluded from last number.]
THE little knot of laborers speedily gathered around their associate at the magic word which exerts so powerful an influence over all man-kind. Religious enthusiasts as they were, and schooled to consider all things else as vanity, compared with the building up of a modern Zion, whose glories should outshine Jerusalem, and whose temple should surpass that wonder-ful structure in the ancient city of the LORD, they possessed nevertheless the shrewdness to understand that, even in such an enterprise, gold would be a potent instrument; and besides there remained that lurking desire for gain, in-herent in the human soul, which such an event as the one described is calculated to stir up from its profoundest depths. Incredulity, doubt, and amazement sat upon their counte-ances, as CARTER announced to them the dis-covery. They had great confidence in his judgment, however, and were speedily con-vinced of the reality.
Then came the question what was best to be done. The extent of the deposite was as yet unknown, and the fear that the supply might be soon exhausted in case the secret should be divulged, induced them to keep the whole affair as still as possible. They resolved, therefore, to make common stock of all the gold which might be obtained, for an equitable division afterwards— to proceed with the work as if nothing unusual had happened, and collect the treasures, washed out each day by the current, in such a manner as to attract no attention. It was also resolved to dispatch one of their num-ber to apprize the brethren scattered through-out the territory of the facts, in order to afford them also an opportunity to enrich themselves, before the secret should become divulged, as, sooner or later, it must be. The messenger's share in the final division was not to be preju-diced in consequence of his absence from the field of operations, and with this understand-ing he set out upon his mission.
The diggers kept on from day to day enlarg-ing the dimensions of the ditch, and of course appropriating vast amounts of treasure. Capt. SUTTER, observing the increasing magnitude of the excavation, at first gave the laborers great credit for integrity and honor, in thus execu-ting a piece of job-work for which they were to receive a specific and stipulated price. He therefore commended them highly, and gave them notice that he was satisfied and ready to pay for what they had done. They failed to call for a settlement, however, and still persist-ed in their work, day after day, with the most persevering diligence. He next commanded them to desist, alleging that they were washing away too much land, and that the ditch was already larger than necessary; but, with a per-tinacity that seemed a manifestation of insanity, they still kept on. In the mean time, swarthy, bearded, and uncouth men had straggled in, two or three at a time, and joined their labors to the others. The patriarch of the ranche was a straight-forward, simple-minded, and unsus-pecting man, yet he could not remain blind to all these proceedings, and accordingly set some of his men as spies upon the action of the new comers. The story of their conduct began also to be talked about among the adventurous and roving population, such as always abounds in in new territories, and particularly here where the receding wave of war had left upon the shore hundreds of discharged sailors and sol-diers, and of course the momentous secret speedily became divulged.
The news of the discovery once getting wind, swept over the country like a conflagration over the dry and withered grass of the prairie, pro-ducing the most intense excitement; the harvests were left ungathered in the fields, the herds were permitted to roam uncared- for over the plains, sailors deserted the merchantmen trad-ing upon the coast, and officers even left their ships and cargoes unprotected to wreck and plunder. United States soldiers defied martial law, and left their barracks in a body, and ships of war were compelled to haul off into the broad Pacific in order to retain their com-plement of men. It was very soon ascertained, that the auriferous deposite was not alone con-fined to the valley of the Sacramento, but on the contrary extended through a vast range of the territory, and that every stream which took its rise upon the western slope of the Sierra, rolled its waters over golden sands.
Our adventurers, having abundant opportu-nity to secure of the first fruits sufficient to satisfy the most covetous desires, made among themselves an equitable division, each man's share amounting twice over to what he was able to carry away. Taking, therefore, as much as was deemed prudent to encumber themselves with for the journey, each one concealed his balance in a secure place for future recourse, and then made preparation for departure. Pack-mules and provisions were speedily procured, and a file of pilgrims might soon thereafter have been seen, winding through the intricate passes of the Sierra, in an opposite direction from the usual course of continental travel. No one would have suspected, who looked upon the cortege, that anything in their possession was worth the trouble of a bandit's plunder; and besides, there appeared under the quiet and subdued bearing of the travelers the manifes-tation of a spirit that would have been danger-ous to meddlesome intruders. Thus they proceeded unmolested for many days, until at length, near the close of a tedious day's journey, the rising towers of the new Mormon city greeted their eyes, bathed in the glories of the setting sun. It is unnecessary to relate the sensation produced among "the Saints" at the announcement of the return, and the nature of their adventures. The glittering treasures brought in by the party, and the stories related by them of the abundance left behind threat-ened at once the dismemberment of the Mor-mon fraternity, and the depopulation of the new city. The cry "to California!" arose among the brethren, and hasty preparations were made on all sides to emigrate once more. (At this juncture, the rulers, who possessed un-limited influence among the people, assembled for consultation; whereupon it was proclaimed that the Prophet had received a Divine message in the form of a revelation, which ran as fol-lows:
"The true use of gold is for paving streets, covering houses and making culinary dishes; and when the Saints shall have preached the Gospel, raised grain, and built up cities, the LORD will open up the way for a supply of gold to the perfect satisfaction of his people. Until then, let them not be over anxious, for the treasures of the earth are in the LORD'S store-house, and he will open the doors thereof when and where he pleases." This epistle was suffi-cient to quiet most of the people, although a few, on whom the ties of Mormon brotherhood sat somewhat loosely, took up their connection with the sect, and made all speed to the land of gold.
It was with the feelings experienced by a mariner who has been tempest-tossed over un-known seas, that CARTER found himself once more restored to his family. Their experience since his departure had been of the most un-pleasant character, for the mother retained her former faith, notwithstanding the arguments and teachings, and even the denunciations of the leaders; and having inspired the children also with her own ideas, they were regarded as intruders and gentiles. The monstrous and demoralizing doctrine of polygamy, which had always been denied while the sect was under State authority, and its members liable to in-dictment for felony, had, since their arrival in Salt Lake Valley, been boldly proclaimed and acted on by the leaders as a revelation from on High. The doctrine of "Squatter Sovereignty," that is to say, leaving the scattered inhabitants of a territory in perfect freedom to regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, which had then recently been promulgated and maintained in high places, ensured to them perfect immunity in such a practice—and it began too early to produce its baleful fruits.—The wife of our adventurer had been repeated-ly urged, during her husband's absence, to be-come an inmate of one of the harems, and the pressure upon the family, in order that the daughter, now budding into womanhood, should be sealed as a spiritual wife, amounted to ab-solute persecution. It is uncertain to what extent the matter might have been carried, if a regiment of U. S. troops under Col. STEPTOE had not at this juncture come into the valley—and the husband and father also soon afterwards returned.
CARTER, during his wanderings and varied experiences, had gained higher and juster views of men and things, and was far more capable of judging correctly of his duties and obligations, than when, in the spirit of an hon-est but mistaken faith, he had sundered the ties of home and kindred, and joined his fortunes to those of the Mormons. He was shocked and outraged at the new dogma, or at least the old one, which, until recently, had lain dormant and concealed; and he was startled at the in-fluence it had exerted for the purpose of break-ing up his own household and blasting his domestic peace. Now that the enthusiasm of a new and ardent disciple had somewhat abated, he was able to discern what every intelligent and impartial observer cannot fail to see, viz., that the mass of the sect are ignorant and un-educated, and that, honest and sincere them-selves, they are made the blind and willing dupes of selfish and designing men. These truths forced themselves slowly but surely upon an unwilling mind, but they carried conviction in their train, and he therefore finally deter-mined to dissolve his connection with the sect and return once more to his own beloved New England. His wife and children received the announcement with rapturous joy, and readily set to work preparing for the arduous journey.
But how to withdraw from the Mormon church without exciting enmity and anathemas, and to prevent the interference of over-zealous members with his intentions, was now the question. He therefore sought a private inter- view with the Prophet, declaring frankly his change of sentiment and convictions, and an-nouncing his determination to shake the dust of Salt Lake Valley from his feet. He offered, as a propitiation to the church, the whole amount of gold he had brought with him into the city, reserving to himself only sufficient for the necessary outfit for California. The tempting offer had a wonderfully softening influence up-on the rising indignation of the Prophet, when he considered in addition that the wife and children of the disaffected member had proved incorrigible; and he therefore graciously con-sented to the arrangement. In order, however, to prevent scandal in the church, and hinder a wider spread of the defection at a dangerous moment like the present, it was resolved to let the backslider depart quietly and without a public exposure. Accordingly, availing him-self of an escort of United States troops which at the moment happened to be ordered from Utah to the Pacific coast, he bade adieu forever to the Mormon faith and city. The secret of his defection was well kept by the leaders, who ordered instead, a public exhibit of the splendid donation he had made to the church; and the people, blinded by the ruse, were boundless in praise of his liberality, and firmly impressed with the opinion that his present journey was intimately connected with some project for car-rying forward the work of converting the gen-tile world.
Having arrived a second time in California, CARTER hastened at once to the place of deposite where he had concealed his treasures, and found them fortunately untouched by the multitude of spades and mattocks, which, in the interim, had dug over every hill-side and turned up all the valleys. Of course he readily exhumed the treasure, keeping the secret as to his original knowledge of its position, and was thereafter designated as the lucky Mormon, who, the first day after arriving and striking a spade, turned out of the earth a mule load of gold; and then, without waiting either for a continuance of fortune's favors, or the risk of being robbed of this, hastened away with his prize to San Francisco. Here he deposited the gold in the: United States mint, just then established, tak-ing receipts therefor payable in New York, and embarking on board one of the Pacific Mail Company's steamships, was, with his family, very soon again landed upon his native shores,
Early one morning his native village was taken by surprise at the return of the pilgrim, cured of his errors, both of the head and heart, and asking re- admission to the bosom of the church whence his feet had been led astray.—The boon was readily granted by his Christian brethren, on due confession being made, and CARTER and his wife, ever mindful of the num-berless perils they had escaped, and recognizing the guiding hand of Providence in all their wanderings, now make a wise and beneficent use of their abundant means in doing deeds of charity and mercy.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.