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Written for Moore's Rural New-Yorker.
ERRORS OF THE HEAD AND HEART.
A TALE OF THE MORMONS.
BY EDWARD WEBSTER.
No error ever yet existed, how absurd soever it might be, but found its advocates and be-lievers. Men, well informed and sane on most subjects, not unfrequently become monomaniacs, and offer themselves as voluntary and conscien-tious martyrs to a false principle. Persecution is the last weapon that should be resorted to for the purpose of eradicating error; for, like poisonous weeds, it propagates itself from dis-severed roots, and rises superior to every blow leveled at its life.
The religious world seems to be one of the grand areas for a variety of opinions; and a multiplicity of sects, differing from each other not only in minor points of government and doctrine, but also not unfrequently upon those vital principles which lie at the root of religious faith and practice, everywhere abound. Off-shoots and subdivisions multiply themselves, until orthodoxy with one becomes heterodoxy with the rest. With these diverse opinions existing among men equally intelligent, equally conscientious, equally desirous of pursuing the right path and avoiding the wrong, it becomes us all, in a spirit of humility, to exercise the broadest charity, and to admit that it is quite as possible for ourselves to mis-judge as for our neighbors.
"The mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me"—
should be our prayer, while at the same time it would be well to take good heed, lest the an-swer to such an invocation result in our own condemnation. Where any opinion, religious or otherwise, leads its professor, however, to in-terfere with the peace and good order of society, or levels a deadly shaft at the public morals, it become the duty, even of a government pro-fessing the largest liberty, to exercise coercive and restraining powers ; but beyond this point, legal interference degenerates into tyranny and persecution.
Among the many modem sects which have, like mushrooms, sprung up in a night, most of them to perish as suddenly, none have passed through so many vicissitudes, endured so many persecutions, risen superior to so many calami-ties, and reached so high a position of influence and power as the self-constituted "Latter Day Saints." Driven out by violence and bloodshed from two or three " promised lands," spurned, despised and contemned, they have continued to extend their influence and power, until every nation of the civilized world has been visited by their missionaries, and contributed in money and men to build up a community claiming a whole territory for its seat of power, and yield-ing a nominal allegiance only to the Federal Government—the authority of whose officers sits so loosely upon them, that the High Priest openly declares he will be Governor of the people until the ALMIGHTY shall say to him di-rectly, "You need be Governor no longer."
It is within the recollection of the present generation that this modern theocracy sprung up. Its origin was in Western New York, where its founder—as Queen DIDO discovered the horse's head which betokened to her the future greatness of the Punic empire—dug out of the soil the golden tablets on which were inscribed, as with a pen of fire, the book of Mormon. Of the truth of this discovery, we have the testimony of the prophet, JOSEPH SMITH, with several of his kith and kin, who say, "We give our names unto the world to witness unto the world that which we have seen : and we lie not, GOD bearing witness to it." With such a record, and with such wit-nesses, did JOSEPH SMITH, Jr., found the Mor-mon church. Outsiders—scoffers they say—allege the book of Mormon was written, years before, by a Vermont clergyman, as a romance, during his leisure moments, and that it was consigned to that receptacle of a vast amount of published and unpublished matter, to wit, ob-livion, until disinterred and brought out, under the plea of inspiration, by the Mormon Prophet.
From this small beginning, as from a spark comes a mighty conflagration, the doctrine spread. The founder was declared a cheat, his followers were despised and persecuted, their religion pronounced blasphemous, and grave charges of immorality in profession and prac-tice brought against them; but not until they had gathered in an imposing and prosperous community, could any of these charges be satisfactorily and fully established. Reliable proof, indeed, has always been wanting to con-vict them of practices against good morals, until since their general gathering at Salt Lake City. From Jackson County, on the Western borders of Missouri, where they found the first "promised land," they were driven by violence and bloodshed, on allegations of immorality; but recent events in that quarter lead us to dis-trust the evidence and believe these allegations were gross exaggerations if not wilful misrepre-sentations, and insufficient, under any circum-stances, to justify the horrible cruelties inflicted upon them. The cry arose—" Eject the Mor-mons!" and women and children, the aged and the infirm, were driven from their homes, help-less and destitute, in the midst of an inclement winter, despoiled of all their property, and compelled to travel hundreds of miles on foot, until the Mississippi finally rolled its mighty waters between them and their persecutors.
Here again, after another brief sojourn, and another vain attempt to re-establish "Zion" at Nauvoo, the Mormons became embroiled in a feud with their neighbors, which merged into civil war. The Prophet and his brother were arrested on a charge of high treason against the State, and, while confined in jail at Carthage, were butchered by a band of ruffians in cold blood. Their city was soon after assaulted and captured, and the people again made houseless wanderers in the land. These crowning acts of violence and oppression set the Mormon taber-nacle upon a rock, and elevated their martyred Prophet, in the opinion of his followers, to a seat of influence and power beside the throne of the MOST HIGH.
It was at the moment of the Mormon exodus from Missouri that the individuals in whom we are specially interested appear upon the stage ; not as prominent actors historically, for they were reckoned among the humble followers of Mormon faith and fortunes. MILES CARTER was an operative, living in a quiet little manufac-turing village of Hillsboro County, New Hamp-shire. Surrounded by mountains, and nestling almost beneath the base of old Monadnock, whose granite crest and frowning battlements of rock were fit emblems of the endurance of her sons, these hardy villagers were true types of New England thrift and economy. Amid these descendants of the Puritans, a rough specimen of a Mormon missionary made his appearance unheralded one day, and began his proselyting work. Destitute of the polish of a pulpit orator, who has been admitted to holy ; orders after a thorough drilling to his profession through the college and the theological school, he possessed nevertheless a native eloquence, heightened to a degree of overmastering power by the injuries he himself had suffered, and the hardships he had endured—so that, when warmed by his theme, and dwelling upon the persecutions of his brotherhood and the holiness of his mission, his tongue was to the sympa-thizing audiences, which he gathered from the humbler classes of society, like a flame of fire. He had just come from Missouri, whence his brethren were but recently expelled, during the hardships of which expulsion his own wife and child had perished. No wonder, then, that the New England heart, ever ready to sympa-thize with the distressed, warmed in favor of an oppressed people, and that many of her sons and daughters, moved more by feeling than by judgment, embraced the new doctrine. MILES CARTER was one of these. Himself and wife were members of the Unitarian church, to which faith she still clung, notwithstanding the secession of her husband and the earnest argu-ments he urged to bring her over to the new light. He desired to join the brethren who were now gathering in Illinois, and was urged to do so by the missionary, but his wife would not consent, and a separation from his family was a step involving too great a sacrifice for him to take. "GOD," he said, "would accept the offering of a contrite heart, even if the one who offered it did remain among the Gentiles out-side the city of his chosen people, and would look favorably upon the sacrifice he offered for the sake of those whom Providence had made dependent upon him." The missionary was too shrewd a judge of human nature to urge the matter further, fearing lest the cords that bound the convert to the new doctrine would prove too weak for the ties of affection which bound him to his home ; so he compromised the matter by urging the young disciple to hold fast to the faith, and labor for the conversion, not only of his own family, but of the world—closing with the hope that he should yet wel-come him at the gate of the new city, with his wife and two little ones gathered into the fold of the Good Shepherd. The missionary then collected together what followers he could, and left the village to its original quietude.
MILES CARTER read with eager interest every scrap of imperfect news that came to him from his brethren in the West. He heard of the magnificent country in which they were located—of the city they were founding, with its un-rivalled situation, broad avenues, and splendid streets of the new temple, slowly rising in all its golden glories ; of the anxious court paid to the leaders by politicians for the purpose of se-curing the Mormon vote; of the renowned "Legion," armed and equipped by the State authorities of Illinois ; and of a thousand other things, which magnified in his eyes their short-lived prosperity.
After a period of three or four years had elapsed, however, these rumors of success be-gan to lessen, and in their place came mutter-ings of a gathering storm. The sect again became entangled in political and civil difficul-ties, as heretofore stated, until there came to him at length the appalling report that the Prophet and his brother had been murdered, and the brethren compelled to sign a pledge to abandon the State, so soon as they could dispose of their property. Charging all the wrong up-on their opponents, and fired with indignation at a renewal of what he believed to be the un-just persecutions of GOD'S chosen people, CAR-TER bitterly reproached himself for remaining in the enjoyment of a quiet and peaceful home, while his brethren were in distress. He there-fore suddenly announced to his wife the deter-mination to join his fortunes to those of his sect. Tears and entreaties were now of no avail, so his wife, although still clinging to her former faith, declared her willingness to share his wandering fortunes. It did not take long, after the final determination was made, to dispose of their little patrimony, and turn the avails into cash. Men called him a fool and a madman, but the blood of the Puritans, always enthusi-sastic in whatever channel it might run, was up, and neither sneers nor ill-omened prophesies were sufficient to turn him from his purpose.— With many a heart-pang, and many a dark foreboding of the future, however, did the wife especially, bid adieu to the graves of her parents and the home of her kindred ; and as they turned a last look back upon their native vil-lage, before descending the western summit that hid it from their view, the pilgrim family, in the simple and touching language of the Scriptures, "lifted up their voices and wept."
CARTER, with his wife and two children, comprised the emigrating family. They were conveyed by the wagon of a neighbor as far as Albany, whence they proceeded westward by way of the Erie Canal and the Lakes. The net-work of railroads which now interlace all over the country and radiate to all points of the compass, was not then completed, neither was the fare upon such portions as were open within the reach of the mass of men. They were therefore compelled to take the slower, but more sure and cheap modes of conveyance. After a tedious voyage to Buffalo, and thence around the Upper Lakes, our pilgrims arrived finally at Chicago, that infant giant of the West, where all progress by public conveyance at that time terminated. A broad expanse of untamed prai-rie, glorious in its verdure, lay spread out illimitable towards the setting sun. Providing himself with two yoke of oxen, and the other appurtenances of an emigrant, such as a covered wagon, cooking apparatus, &c., CARTER set out on what he deemed the last stages of his jour-ney. Population grew sparser as the emigrants proceeded; now and then an embryo city staked out by some speculator met his eye, but these became less frequent, until long reaches of roll-ing prairie, dressed in all the rich luxuriance of primitive vegetation, lying in its unbroken sol-itude, alone was visible. At long intervals the isolated cabin of a pioneer settler would be seen amid the sea of waving verdure, at which he usually paused for rest and refreshment. At these points startling reports of " the Mormon War" reached his ears, such as, to one whose sympathies and opinions ran with theirs, filled him with doubt and apprehension. The set-tlers, however, were too glad to see the face of a human being, and had too much of the gen-uine hospitality and commiseration for the hardships of an emigrant family which had been so recently experienced in their own case, to treat the wayfarers rudely or unkindly.
It was early in the afternoon of a sultry au-tumnal day when, weary with weeks of tedious journeying and looking forward to a period of rest and refreshment amid his brethren in the new city, that our pilgrims, on ascending a bluff from whence might be seen the "Father of Waters" rolling his mighty and ceaseless flood towards the South, looked down with joyful exclamations and rapturous thanksgiving upon an extensive and pleasing prospect. The city of Nauvoo lay at their feet embosomed amid fields waving with the golden harvest, the white walls of the cottages sending back the rays of the sun almost in their primitive bright-ness, above which arose the temple-crowned hill dedicated to the Mormon worship. After gazing for awhile entranced upon the scene, CARTER resumed his journey and descended slowly into the valley. But strange and un-accountable phenomena met his eyes as he ap-proached the city. No travelers were passing over the roads ; no laborers were seen in the fields; the over-ripened harvest was wasting ungathered ; the plow was standing rusting in the furrow. An oppressive solitude reigned around, as if some sudden and fearful calamity had stricken down voiceless and motionless the once busy and teeming multitude. As he en-tered the suburbs, no noise of saw or hammer was heard in the shops ; the houses were ten-cantless, and marks of strife, such as shattered windows, broken doors, and in some places dark stains betokened in one direction acts of vio-lence, probably of bleed. In other quarters, where the invaders had apparently not pene-trated, or had conquered previously, so as to obviate the necessity of fighting, the houses were in order, even to the sweeping of a hearth or the shutting of a gate ; but no person ap-peared to clear up the mystery, and the hollow footfall of the solitary explorer sounded like the voices of the dead. Puzzled and mystified he turned his steps at last towards the temple, in which direction there seemed to be some signs of life. He had not proceeded far when he was startled by the violent ringing of a bell, and shouts of apparent revelers within, whence an armed guard of half a dozen men now issued, and advanced towards him down the hill.—When near at hand they halted, came to a charge, and ordered him to stand. The idea of challenging an unarmed and peaceable way-farer with such a warlike array would have been ludicrous, if its surroundings and con-comitants of desolated hearth-stones and de-serted homes had not rendered it so tragical.—Brief interrogatories and responses passed be-tween the non-commissioned officer commanding the squad and the traveler, which soon revealed to each the position of the other.
"I am a humble seeker after truth, and anew comer to the city of GOD'S chosen people," said the traveler; "I sought my brethren in the faith with peaceful intent, but I find their hab-itations desolate, and marks of violence along their streets."
"Yes, they are desolate, a curse upon them!" responded the other. "Illinois is well rid of the thieving and lecherous vagabonds, and if they, or any of their kind dare hereafter to set foot within our border, the bowie knife or the halter will speedily settle their accounts.—There are the tents of the rear rank of the fa-natical horde," he added, pointing with his finger to a line of encampment across the river on the Iowa shore. "They are on their way now to California, or the infernal pit, we care not which, so that they trouble us no more."
"Have you purchased their houses and lands, and paid them for their property?”
"No; we captured and confiscated it, as spoils of war!"
"Shame on you for a set of ruffians!" ex-claimed CARTER, indignantly. "The whole civilized world will cry out against such bar-barities. May the curse of GOD fall upon the persecutors of his people."
"Hark you!" rejoined the other, who, with his comrades, at the moment happened to be excited by whiskey as well as passion, both of which overcame what feelings of generosity and manliness might be naturally in their bosoms; "keep a civil tongue in your head, or by the GOD of a better sect than yours, the Mississippi shall receive your miserable car-cass !"
"Do it then, in the name of the Devil whom you serve! It would not be half so base and cowardly to mob an unarmed man, as to drive defenceless women and helpless children away from their homes to die. You have done the last already ; do the other here, and now!"
MILES CARTER was a man of impetuous feel-ings, to which prudence gave no direction when ruffled; so that at the moment he took no thought of the consequences to himself or oth-ers. His sharp reproaches therefore stung the already excited borderers to madness, and without further parley they seized upon him, struggling and resisting to the last, and bound him hand and foot, amid the shrieks and lam-entations of his wife and children—tied him to a log of wood upon the river bank, and then launched him, all helpless as he was, upon the rushing waters of the Mississippi.
"Now pray to the GOD of Mormon to work a miracle in your behalf, or before to-morrow morning the catfish will prey on you" shouted the leader, emphasizing the play upon words which were involved in the sentence. "We offer no violence to women and children, or yours should accompany you in the same boat!"
The captive sent back an answering shout of defiance, but added, after a pause, "In the name of all you hold dear, spare my family, and send them back unharmed whence they came. They are not of the true faith—I would to GOD they were;" saying which, the swift current bore away the frail raft with its helpless burden, until it speedily disappeared upon the bosom of the rushing waters. The band then hastily overhauled the contents of the wagon, each ap-propriating to his own use such articles from the scanty store as suited his fancy; after which, they conveyed the woman and children, the former in a death-like swoon, and the latter shrieking at what they supposed to be the death of both their parents, to a house near the temple, placing a guard over them until, after further consultation, they should determine what disposition should be made of the captives.
[To be continued.]
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