The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood

The first measure "to punish and prevent the practice of polygamy

in the Territories of the United States" was introduced in the

House of Representatives by Mr. Morrill of Vermont (Bill No. 7)

at the first session of the 36th Congress, on February 15, 1860.

It contained clauses annulling some of the acts of the

territorial legislature of Utah, including the one incorporating

the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This bill was

reported by the Judiciary Committee on March 14, the committee

declaring that "no argument was deemed necessary to prove that

an act could be regarded as criminal which is so treated by the

universal concurrence of the Christian and civilized world," and

characterizing the church incorporation act as granting "such

monstrous powers and arrogant assumptions as are at war with the

genius of our government." The bill passed the House on April 5,

by a vote of 149 to 60, was favorably reported to the Senate by

Mr. Bayard from the Judiciary Committee on June 13, but did not

pass that House.

Mr. Morrill introduced his bill by unanimous consent in the next

Congress (on April 8, 1862), and it was passed by the House on

April 28. Mr. Bayard, from the judiciary Committee, reported it

back to the Senate on June 3 with amendments. He explained that

the House Bill punished not only polygamous marriages, but

cohabitation without marriage. The committee recommended limiting

the punishment to bigamy--a fine not to exceed $500 and

imprisonment for not more than five years. Another amendment

limited the amount of real estate which a church corporation

could hold in the territories to $50,000. The bill passed the

Senate with the negative votes of only the two California

senators, and the House accepted the amendments. Lincoln signed


Nothing practical was accomplished by this legislation, In 1867

George A. Smith and John Taylor, the presiding officers of the

Utah legislature, petitioned Congress to repeal this act,

setting forth as one reason that "the judiciary of this

territory has not, up to the present time, tried any case under

said law, though repeatedly urged to do so by those who have

been anxious to test its constitutionality." The House Judiciary

Committee reported that this was a practical request for the

sanctioning of polygamy, and said: "Your committee has not been

able to ascertain the reason why this law has not been enforced.

The humiliating fact is, however, apparent that the law is at

present practically a dead letter in the Territory of Utah, and

that the gravest necessity exists for its enforcement; and, in

the opinion of the committee, if it be through the fault or

neglect of the judiciary of that territory that the laws are not

enforced, the judges should be removed without delay; and that,

if the failure to execute the law arises from other causes, it

becomes the duty of the President of the United States to see

that the law is faithfully executed."*

* House Report No. 27, 2nd Session, 39th Congress.

In June, 1866, Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio obtained unanimous

consent to introduce a bill enacting radical legislation

concerning such marriages as were performed and sanctioned by

the Mormon church, but it did not pass. Senator Cragin of New

Hampshire soon introduced a similar bill, but it, too failed to

become a law.

In 1869, in the first Congress that met under President Grant,

Mr. Cullom of Illinois introduced in the House the bill aimed at

polygamy that was designated by his name. This bill was the

practical starting-point of the anti-polygamous legislation

subsequently enacted, as over it was aroused the feeling--in its

behalf in the East and against it in Utah--that resulted in

practical legislation.

Delegate Hooper made the leading speech against it, summing up

his objections as follows:--

"(1) That under our constitution we are entitled to be protected

in the full and free enjoyment of our religious faith.

"(2) That our views of the marriage relation are an essential

portion of our religious faith.

"(3) That, in conceding the cognizance of the marriage relation

as within the province of church regulations, we are practically

in accord with all other Christian denominations.

"(4) That in our view of the marriage relation as a part of our

religious belief we are entitled to immunity from persecution

under the constitution, if such views are sincerely held; that,

if such views are erroneous, their eradication must be by

argument and not by force."

The bill, greatly amended, passed the House on March 23, 1870, by

a vote of 94 to 32. The news of this action caused perhaps the

greatest excitement ever known in Utah. There was no intention

on the part of the Mormons to make any compromise on the

question, and they set out to defeat the bill outright in the

Senate. Meetings of Mormon women were gotten up in all parts of

the territory, in which they asserted their devotion to the

doctrine. The "Reformers," including Stenhouse, Harrison,

Tullidge, and others, and merchants like Walker Brothers,

Colonel Kahn, and T. Marshall, joined in a call for a

mass-meeting at which all expressed disapproval of some of its

provisions, like the one requiring men already having polygamous

wives to break up their families. Mr. Godbe went to Washington

while the bill was before the House, and worked hard for its

modification. The bill did not pass the Senate, a leading

argument against it being the assumed impossibility of

convicting polygamists under it with any juries drawn in Utah.

The arrest of Brigham Young and others under the act to punish

adulterers, and the proceedings against them before Judge McKean

in 1871, have been noted. At the same term of the court Thomas

Hawkins, an English immigrant, was convicted of the same charge

on the evidence of his wife, and sentenced to imprisonment for

three years and to pay a fine of $500. In passing sentence, Judge

McKean told the prisoner that, if he let him off with a fine,

the fine would be paid out of other funds than his own; that he

would thus go free, and that "those men who mislead the people

would make you and thousands of others believe that God had sent

the money to pay the fine; that, by a miracle, you had been

rescued from the authorities of the United States."

After the passage of the Poland law, in 1874, George Reynolds,

Brigham Young's private secretary, was convicted of bigamy under

the law of 1862, but was set free by the Supreme Court of the

territory on the ground of illegality in the drawing of the

grand jury. In the following year he was again convicted, and was

sentenced to imprisonment for two years and to pay a fine of

$500. The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court,

which rendered its decision in October, 1878, unanimously

sustaining the conviction, except that Justice Field objected to

the admission of one witness's testimony.

In its decision the court stated the question raised to be

"whether religious belief can be accepted as a justification for

an overt act made criminal by the law of the land." Next came a

discussion of views of religious freedom, as bearing on the

meaning of "religion" in the federal constitution, leading up to

the conclusion that "Congress was deprived of all legislative

power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions

which were in violation of social duties, or subversive of good

order." The court then traced the view of polygamy in England

and the United States from the time when it was made a capital

offence in England (as it was in Virginia in 1788), declaring

that, "in the face of all this evidence, it is impossible to

believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom

was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most

important feature of social life." The opinion continued as

follows:--"In our opinion, the statute immediately under

consideration is within the legislative power of Congress. It is

constitutional and valid as prescribing a rule of action for all

those residing in the Territories, and in places over which the

United States has exclusive control. This being so, the only

question which remains is, whether those who make polygamy a

part of their religion are excepted from the operation of the

statute. If they are, then those who do not make polygamy a part

of their religious belief may be found guilty and punished,

while those who do, must be acquitted and go free. This would be

introducing a new element into criminal law. Laws are made for

the government of actions, and, while they cannot interfere with

mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices.

Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part

of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the

civil government under which he lived could not interfere to

prevent a sacrifice? Or, if a wife religiously believed it was

her duty to burn herself on the funeral pile of her dead

husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to

prevent her carrying her belief into practice?

"So here, as a law of the organization of society under the

exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that

plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his

practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To

permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious

belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit

every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could

exist only in name under such circumstances.

"A criminal intent is generally an element of crime, but every

man is presumed to intend the necessary and legitimate

consequences of what he knowingly does. Here the accused knew he

had been once married, and that his first wife was living. He

also knew that his second marriage was forbidden by law. When,

therefore, he married the second time, he is presumed to have

intended to break the law, and the breaking of the law is the

crime. Every act necessary to constitute the crime was knowingly

done, and the crime was therefore knowingly committed.*

* United States Reports, Otto, Vol. III, p. 162.

P. T. Van Zile of Michigan, who became district attorney of the

territory in 1878, tried John Miles, a polygamist, for bigamy,

in 1879, and he was convicted, the prosecutor taking advantage

of the fact that the territorial legislature had practically

adopted the California code, which allowed challenges of jurors

for actual bias. The principal incident of this trial was the

summoning of "General" Wells, then a counsellor of the church,

as a witness, and his refusal to describe the dress worn during

the ceremonies in the Endowment House, and the ceremonies

themselves. He gave as his excuse, "because I am under moral and

sacred obligations to not answer, and it is interwoven in my

character never to betray a friend, a brother, my country, my

God, or my religion." He was sentenced to pay a fine, of $100,

and to two days' imprisonment. On his release, the City Council

met him at the prison door and escorted him home, accompanied by

bands of music and a procession made up of the benevolent, fire,

and other organizations, and delegations from every ward.

Governor Emery, in his message to the territorial legislature of

1878, spoke as plainly about polygamy as any of his

predecessors, saying that it was a grave crime, even if the law

against it was a dead letter, and characterizing it as an evil

endangering the peace of society.

There was a lull in the agitation against polygamy in Congress

for some years after the contest over the Cullom Bill. In 1878 a

mass-meeting of women of Salt Lake City opposed to polygamy was

held there, and an address "to Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes and the

women of the United States," and a petition to Congress, were

adopted, and a committee was appointed to distribute the petition

throughout the country for signatures. The address set forth

that there had been more polygamous marriages in the last year

than ever before in the history of the Mormon church; that

Endowment Houses, under the name of temples, and costing

millions, were being erected in different parts of the territory,

in which the members were "sealed and bound by oaths so strong

that even apostates will not reveal them"; that the Mormons had

the balance of power in two territories, and were plotting to

extend it; and asking Congress "to arrest the further progress

of this evil."

President Hayes, in his annual message in December, 1879, spoke

of the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, and

said that there was no reason for longer delay in the

enforcement of the law, urging "more comprehensive and searching

methods" of punishing and preventing polygamy if they were

necessary. He returned to the subject in his message in 1880,

saying: "Polygamy can only be suppressed by taking away the

political power of the sect which encourages and sustains it . .

. . I recommend that Congress provide for the government of Utah

by a Governor and judges, or Commissioners, appointed by the

President and confirmed by the Senate, (or) that the right to

vote, hold office, or sit on juries in the Territory of Utah be

confined to those who neither practise nor uphold polygamy."

President Garfield took up the subject in his inaugural address

on March 4, 1881. "The Mormon church," he said, "not only

offends the moral sense of mankind by sanctioning polygamy, but

prevents the administration of justice through ordinary

instrumentalities of law." He expressed the opinion that Congress

should prohibit polygamy, and not allow "any ecclesiastical

organization to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and

power, of the national government." President Arthur, in his

message in December, 1881, referred to the difficulty of

securing convictions of persons accused of polygamy--"this

odious crime, so revolting to the moral and religious sense of

Christendom"--and recommended legislation.

In the spirit of these recommendations, Senator Edmunds

introduced in the Senate, on December 12, 1881, a comprehensive

measure amending the antipolygamy law of 1862, which, amended

during the course of the debate, was passed in the Senate on

Feruary 12, 1882, without a roll-call,*and in the House on March

13, by a vote of 199 to 42, and was approved by the President on

March 22. This is what is known as the Edmunds law--the first

really serious blow struck by Congress against polygamy.

* Speeches against the bill were made in the Senate by Brown,

Call, Lamar, Morgan, Pendleton, and Vest.

It provided, in brief, that, in the territories, any person who,

having a husband or wife living, marries another, or marries

more than one woman on the same day, shall be punished by a fine

of not more than $500, and by imprisonment, for not more than

five years; that a male person cohabiting with more than one

woman shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and be subject to a fine

of not more than $300 or to six months' imprisonment, or both;

that in any prosecution for bigamy, polygamy, or unlawful

cohabitation, a juror may be challenged if he is or has been

living in the practice of either offence, or if he believes it

right for a man to have more than one living and undivorced wife

at a time, or to cohabit with more than one woman; that the

President may have power to grant amnesty to offenders, as

described, before the passage of this act; that the issue of

so-called Mormon marriages born before January 1, 1883, be

legitimated; that no polygamist shall be entitled to vote in any

territory, or to hold office under the United States; that the

President shall appoint in Utah a board of five persons for the

registry of voters, and the reception and counting of votes.

To meet the determined opposition to the new law, an amendment

(known as the Edmunds-Tucker law) was enacted in 1887. This law,

in any prosecution coming under the definition of plural

marriages, waived the process of subpoena, on affadavit of

sufficient cause, in favor of an attachment; allowed a lawful

husband or wife to testify regarding each other; required every

marriage certificate in Utah to be signed by the parties and the

person performing the ceremony, and filed in court; abolished

female suffrage, and gave suffrage only to males of proper age

who registered and took an oath, giving the names of their

lawful wives, and promised to obey the laws of the United States,

and especially the Edmunds law; disqualified as a juror or

officeholder any person who had not taken an oath to support the

laws of the United States, or who had been convicted under the

Edmunds law; gave the President power to appoint the judges of

the probate courts;* provided for escheating to the United States

for the use of the common schools the property of corporations

held in violation of the act in 1862, except buildings held

exclusively for the worship of God, the parsonages connected

therewith, and burial places; dissolved the corporation called

the Perpetual Emigration Company, and forbade the legislature to

pass any law to bring persons into the territory; dissolved the

corporation known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day

Saints, and gave the Supreme Court of the territory power to

wind up its affairs; and annulled all laws regarding the Nauvoo

Legion, and all acts of the territorial legislature.

* The first territorial legislature which met after the passage

of this law passed an act practically nullifying such

appointments of probate judges, but the governor vetoed it. In

Beaver County, as soon as the appointment of a probate judge by

the President was announced, the Mormon County Court met and

reduced his salary to $5 a year.

The first members of the Utah commission appointed under the

Edmunds law were Alexander Ramsey of Minnesota, A. B. Carleton

of Indiana, A. S. Paddock of Nebraska, G. L. Godfrey of Iowa,

and J. R. Pettigrew of Arkansas, their appointments being dated

June 23, 1882.

The officers of the church and the Mormons as a body met the new

situation as aggressively as did Brigham Young the approach of

United States troops. Their preachers and their newspapers

reiterated the divine nature of the "revelation" concerning

polygamy and its obligatory character, urging the people to stand

by their leaders in opposition to the new laws. The following

extracts from "an Epistle from the First Presidency, to the

officers and members of the church," dated October 6, 1885, will

sufficiently illustrate the attitude of the church

organization:--"The war is openly and undisguisedly made upon our

religion. To induce men to repudiate that, to violate its

precepts, and break its solemn covenants, every encouragement is

given. The man who agrees to discard his wife or wives, and to

trample upon the most sacred obligations which human beings can

enter into, escapes imprisonment, and is applauded: while the

man who will not make this compact of dishonor, who will not

admit that his past life has been a fraud and a lie, who will

not say to the world, 'I intended to deceive my God, my

brethren, and my wives by making covenants I did not expect to

keep,' is, beside being punished to the full extent of the law,

compelled to endure the reproaches, taunts, and insults of a

brutal judge . . . .

"We did not reveal celestial marriage. We cannot withdraw or

renounce it, God revealed it, and he has promised to maintain it

and to bless those who obey it. Whatever fate, then, may

threaten us, there is but one course for men of God to take;

that is, to keep inviolate the holy covenants they have made in

the presence of God and angels. For the remainder, whether it be

life or death, freedom or imprisonment, prosperity or adversity,

we must trust in God. We may say, however, if any man or woman

expects to enter into the celestial kingdom of our God without

making sacrifices and without being tested to the very

uttermost, they have not understood the Gospel . . . .

"Upward of forty years ago the Lord revealed to his church the

principle of celestial marriage. The idea of marrying more wives

than one was as naturally abhorrent to the leading men and women

of the church, at that day, as it could be to any people. They

shrank with dread from the bare thought of entering into such

relationship. But the command of God was before them in language

which no faithful soul dare disobey, 'For, behold, I reveal unto

you a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that

covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this

covenant, and be permitted to enter into my glory.' . . . Who

would suppose that any man, in this land of religious liberty,

would presume to say to his fellow-man that he had no right to

take such steps as he thought necessary to escape damnation? Or

that Congress would enact a law which would present the

alternative to religious believers of being consigned to a

penitentiary if they should attempt to obey a law of God which

would deliver them from damnation?"

There was a characteristic effort to evade the law as regards

political rights. The People's Party (Mormon), to get around the

provision concerning the test oath for voters, issued an address

to them which said: "The questions that intending voters need

therefore ask themselves are these: Are we guilty of the crimes

of said act; or have we THE PRESENT INTENTION of committing these

crimes, or of aiding, abetting, causing or advising any other

person to commit them. Male citizens who can answer these

questions in the negative can qualify under the laws as voters

or office-holders."

Two events in 1885 were the cause of so much feeling that United

States troops were held in readiness for transportation to Utah.

The first of these was the placing of the United States flag at

half mast in Salt Lake City, on July 4, over the city hall,

county court-house, theatre, cooperative store, Deseret News

office, tithing office, and President Taylor's residence, to show

the Mormon opinion that the Edmunds law had destroyed liberty.

When a committee of non-Mormon citizens called at the city hall

for an explanation of this display, the city marshal said that

it was "a whim of his," and the mayor ordered the flag raised to

its proper place.

In November of that year a Mormon night watchman named McMurrin

was shot and severely wounded by a United States deputy marshal

named Collin. This caused great feeling, and there were rumors

that the Mormons threatened to lynch Collin, that armed men had

assembled to take him out of the officers' hands, and that the

Mormons of the territory were arming themselves, and were ready

at a moment's notice to march into Salt Lake City. Federal troops

were held in readiness at Eastern points, but they were not

used. The Salt Lake City Council, on December 8, made a report

denying the truth of the disquieting rumors, and declaring that

"at no time in the history of this city have the lives and

property of its non-Mormon inhabitants been more secure than


The records of the courts in Utah show that the Mormons stood

ready to obey the teachings of the church at any cost.

Prosecutions under the Edmunds law began in 1884, and the

convictions for polygamy or unlawful cohabitation (mostly the

latter) were as follows in the years named: 3 in 1884, 39 in

1885, 112 in 1886, 214 in 1887, and 100 in 1888, with 48 in

Idaho during the same period. Leading men in the church went

into hiding--"under ground," as it was called--or fled from the

territory. As to the actual continuance of polygamous marriages,

the evidence was contradictory. A special report of the Utah

Commission in 1884 expressed the opinion that there had been a

decided decrease in their number in the cities, and very little

decrease in the rural districts. Their regular report for that

year estimated the number of males and females who had entered

into that relation at 459. The report for 1888 stated that the

registration officers gave the names of 29 females who, they had

good reason to believe, had contracted polygamous marriages

since the lists were closed in June, 1887. As late as 1889 Hans

Jespersen was arrested for unlawful cohabitation. As his plural

marriage was understood to be a recent one, the case attracted

wide attention, since it was expected to prove the insincerity

of the church in making the protest against the Edmunds law

principally on the ground that it broke up existing families.

Jespersen pleaded guilty of adultery and polygamy, and was

sentenced to imprisonment for eight years. In making his plea he

said that he was married at the Endowment House in Salt Lake

City, that he and his wife were the only persons there, and that

he did not know who married them. His wife testified that she

"heard a voice pronounce them man and wife, but didn't see any

one nor who spoke." * Such were some of the methods adopted by

the church to set at naught the law.

* Report of the Utah Commission for 1890, p. 23.

But along with this firm attitude, influences were at work

looking to a change of policy. During the first year of the

enforcement of the law it was on many sides declared a failure,

the aggressive attitude of the church, and the willingness of

its leaders to accept imprisonment, hiding, or exile, being

regarded by many persons in the East as proof that the real

remedy for the Utah situation was yet to be discovered. The Utah

Commission, in their earlier reports, combated this idea, and

pointed out that the young men in the church would grow restive

as they saw all the offices out of their reach unless they took

the test oath, and that they "would present an anomaly in human

nature if they should fail to be strongly influenced against

going into a relation which thus subjects them to political

ostracism, and fixes on them the stigma of moral turpitude." How

wide this influence was is seen in the political statistics of

the times. When the Utah Commission entered on their duties in

August, 1882, almost every office in the territory was held by a

polygamist. By April, 1884, about 12,000 voters, male and

female, had been disfranchised by the act, and of the 1351

elective officers in the territory not one was a polygamist, and

not one of the municipal officers of Salt Lake City then in

office had ever been "in polygamy."

The church leaders at first tried to meet this influence in two

ways, by open rebuke of all Saints who showed a disposition to

obey the new laws, and by special honors to those who took their

punishment. Thus, the Deseret News told the brethren that they

could not promise to obey the anti-polygamy laws without

violating obligations that bound them to time and eternity; and

when John Sharp, a leading member of the church in Salt Lake

City, went before the court and announced his intention to obey

these laws, he was instantly removed from the office of Bishop

of his ward.

The restlessness of the flock showed itself in the breaking down

of the business barriers set up by the church between Mormons

and Gentiles. This subject received a good deal of attention in

the minority report signed by two of the commissioners in 1888.

They noted the sale of real estate by Mormons to Gentiles

against the remonstrances of the church, the organization of a

Chamber of Commerce in Salt Lake City in which Mormons and

Gentiles worked together, and the union of both elements in the

last Fourth of July celebration.

In the spring of 1890, at the General Conference held in Salt

Lake City, the office of "Prophet, Seer and Revelator and

President" of the church, that had remained vacant since the

death of John Taylor in 1887, was filled by the election of

Wilford Woodruff, a polygamist who had refused to take the test

oath, while G. Q. Cannon and Lorenzo Snow, who were disfranchised

for the same cause, were made respectively counsellor and

president of the Twelve.* Woodruff was born in Connecticut in

1807, became a Mormon in 1832, was several times sent on

missions to England, and had gained so much prominence while the

church was at Nauvoo that he was the chief dedicator of the

Temple there. While there, he signed a certificate stating that

he knew of no other system of marriage in the church but the

one-wife system then prescribed in the "Book of Doctrine and

Covenants." Before the date of his promotion, Woodruff had

declared that plural marriages were no longer permitted, and,

when he was confronted with evidence to the contrary brought out

in court, he denied all knowledge of it, and afterward declared

that, in consequence of the evidence presented, he had ordered

the Endowment House to be taken down.

* Lorenzo Snow was elected president of the church on September

13, 1898, eleven days after the death of President Woodruff, and

he held that position until his death which occurred on October

10, 1901.

Governor Thomas, in his report for 1890, expressed the opinion

that the church, under its system, could in only one way define

its position regarding polygamy, and that was by a public

declaration by the head of the church, or by action by a

conference, and he added, "There is no reason to believe that any

earthly power can extort from the church any such declaration."

The governor was mistaken, not in measuring the purpose of the

church, but in foreseeing all the influences that were now

making themselves felt.

The revised statutes of Idaho at this time contained a provision

(Sec. 509) disfranchising all polygamists and debarring from

office all polygamists, and all persons who counselled or

encouraged any one to commit polygamy. The constitutionality of

this section was argued before the United States Supreme Court,

which, on February 3, 1890, decided that it was constitutional.

The antipolygamists in Utah saw in this decision a means of

attacking the Mormon belief even more aggressively than had been

done by means of the Edmunds Bill. An act was drawn (Governor

Thomas and ex-Governor West taking it to Washington) providing

that no person living in plural or celestial marriage, or

teaching the same, or being a member of, or a contributor to,

any organization teaching it, or assisting in such a marriage,

should be entitled to vote, to serve as a juror, or to hold

office, a test oath forming a part of the act. Senator Cullom

introduced this bill in the upper House and Mr. Struble of Iowa

in the House of Representatives. The House Committee on

Territories (the Democrats in the negative) voted to report the

bill, amended so as to make it applicable to all the

territories. This proposed legislation caused great excitement in

Mormondom, and petitions against its passage were hurried to

Washington, some of these containing non-Mormon signatures.

As a further menace to the position of the church, the United

States Supreme Court, on May 19, affirmed the decision of the

lower court confiscating the property of the Mormon church, and

declaring that church organization to be an organized rebellion;

and on June 21, the Senate passed Senator Edmunds's bill

disposing of the real estate of the church for the benefit of the

school fund.*

* After the admission of Utah as a state, Congress passed an act

restoring the property to the church.

The Mormon authorities now realized that the public sentiment of

the country, as expressed in the federal law, had them in its

grasp. They must make some concession to this public sentiment,

or surrender all their privileges as citizens and the wealth of

their church organization. Agents were hurried to Washington to

implore the aid of Mr. Blaine in checking the progress of the

Cullom Bill, and at home the head of the church made the

concession in regard to polygamy which secured the admission of

the territory as a state.

On September 25, 1890, Woodruff, as President of the church,

issued a proclamation addressed "to whom it may concern," which

struck out of the NECESSARY beliefs and practices of the Mormon

church, the practice of polygamy.

This important step was taken, not in the form of a "revelation,"

but simply as a proclamation or manifesto. It began with a

solemn declaration that the allegation of the Utah Commission

that plural marriages were still being solemnized was false, and

the assertion that "we are not preaching polygamy nor permitting

any person to enter into its practice." The closing and important

part of the proclamation was as follows:--

"Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress, which laws have

been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I

hereby declare my intention to submit to these laws, and to use

my influence with the members of the church over which I preside

to have them do likewise.

"There is nothing in my teachings to the church, or in those of

my associates, during the time specified, which can be

reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy, and

when any elder of the church has used language which appeared to

convey any such teachings he has been promptly reproved.

"And now I publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-Day

Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by

the law of the land."

On October 6, the General Conference of the church, on motion of

Lorenzo Snow, unanimously adopted the following resolution:--

"I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as President of the

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the only man on

the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing

ordinances, we consider him fully authorized, by virtue of his

position, to issue the manifesto that has been read in our

hearing, and which is dated September 24, 1890, and as a church

in general conference assembled we accept his declaration

concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding."

This action was reaffirmed by the General Conference of October

6, 1891.

Of course the church officers had to make some explanation to the

brethren of their change of front. Cannon fell back on the

"revelation" of January 19, 1841, which Smith put forth to

excuse the failure to establish a Zion in Missouri, namely,

that, when their enemies prevent their performing a task assigned

by the Almighty, he would accept their effort to do so. He said

that "it was on this basis" that President Woodruff had felt

justified in issuing the manifesto. Woodruff explained: "It is

not wisdom for us to make war upon 65,000,000 people . . . . The

prophet Joseph Smith organized the church; and all that he has

promised in this code of revelations the "Book of Doctrine and

Covenants" has been fulfilled as fast as time would permit. THAT

WHICH IS NOT FULFILLED WILL BE." Cannon did explain that the

manifesto was the result of prayer, and Woodruff told the people

that he had had a great many visits from the Prophet Joseph

since his death, in dreams, and also from Brigham Young, but

neither seems to have imparted any very valuable information,

Joseph explaining that he was in an immense hurry preparing

himself "to go to the earth with the Great Bridegroom when he

goes to meet the Bride, the Lamb's wife."

Two recent incidents have indicated the restlessness of the

Mormon church under the restriction placed upon polygamy. In

1898, the candidate for Representative in Congress, nominated by

the Democratic Convention of Utah, was Brigham H. Roberts. It

was commonly known in Utah that Roberts was a violator of the

Edmunds law. A Mormon elder, writing from Brigham, Utah, in

February, 1899, while Roberts's case was under consideration at

Washington, said, "Many prominent Mormons foresaw the storm that

was now raging, and deprecated Mr. Roberts's nomination and

election."* This statement proves both the notoriety of

Roberts's offence, and the connivance of the church in his

nomination, because no Mormon can be nominated to an office in

Utah when the church authorities order otherwise. When Roberts

presented himself to be sworn in, in December, 1899, his case

was referred to a special committee of nine members. The report

of seven members of this committee found that Roberts married his

first wife about the year 1878; that about 1885 he married a

plural wife, who had since born him six children, the last two

twins, born on August 11, 1897; that some years later he married

a second plural wife, and that he had been living with all three

till the time of his election; "that these facts were generally

known in Utah, publicly charged against him during his campaign

for election, and were not denied by him." Roberts refused to

take the stand before the committee, and demurred to its

jurisdiction on the ground that the hearing was an attempt to

try him for a crime without an indictment and jury trial, and to

deprive him of vested rights in the emoluments of the office to

which he was elected, and that, if the crime alleged was proved,

it would not constitute a sufficient cause to deprive him of his

seat, because polygamy is not enumerated in the constitution as

a disqualification for the office of member of Congress. The

majority report recommended that his seat be declared vacant.

Two members of the committee reported that his offence afforded

constitutional ground for expulsion, but not for exclusion from

the House, and recommended that he be sworn in and immediately

expelled. The resolution presented by the majority was adopted by

the House by a vote of 268 to 50.**

* New York Evening Post, February 20, 1899.

** Roberts was tried in the district court in Salt Lake City, on

April 30, 1900, on the charge of unlawful cohabitation. The case

was submitted to the jury of eight men, without testimony, on an

agreed statement of facts, and the jury disagreed, standing six

for conviction and two for acquittal.

The second incident referred to was the passage by the Utah

legislature in March, 1901, of a bill containing this provision:

"No prosecution for adultery shall be commenced except on

complaint of the husband or wife or relative of the accused with

the first degree of consanguinity, or of the person with whom

the unlawful act is alleged to have been committed, or of the

father or mother of said person; and no prosecution for unlawful

cohabitation shall be commenced except on complaint of the wife,

or alleged plural wife of the accused; but this provision shall

not apply to prosecutions under section 4208 of the Revised

Statutes, 1898, defining and punishing polygamous marriages."

This bill passed the Utah senate by a vote of 11 to 7, and the

house by a vote of 174 to 25. The excuse offered for it by the

senator who introduced it was that it would "take away from

certain agitators the opportunity to arouse periodic furors

against the Mormons"; that more than half of the persons who had

been polygamists had died or dissolved their polygamous

relations, and that no good service could be subserved by

prosecuting the remainder. This law aroused a protest throughout

the country, and again the Mormon church saw that it had made a

mistake, and on the 14th of March Governor H. M. Wells vetoed the

bill, on grounds that may be summarized as declaring that the

law would do the Mormons more harm than good. The most

significant part of his message, as indicating what the Mormon

authorities most dread, is contained in the following sentence:

"I have every reason to believe its enactment would be the signal

for a general demand upon the national Congress for a

constitutional amendment directed solely against certain

conditions here, a demand which, under the circumstances, would

assuredly be complied with."

The admission of Utah as a state followed naturally the

promulgation by the Mormon church of a policy which was accepted

by the non-Mormons as putting a practical end to the practice of

polygamy. For the seventh time, in 1887, the Mormons had adopted

a state constitution, the one ratified in that year providing

that "bigamy and polygamy, being considered incompatible with 'a

republican form of government,' each of them is hereby forbidden

and declared a misdemeanor." The non-Mormons attacked the

sincerity of this declaration, among other things pointing out

the advice of the Church organ, while the constitution was

before the people, that they be "as wise as serpents and as

harmless as doves." Congress again refused admission.

On January 4, 1893, President Harrison issued a proclamation

granting amnesty and pardon to all persons liable to the penalty

of the Edmunds law "who have, since November 1, 1890, abstained

from such unlawful cohabitation," but on condition that they

should in future obey the laws of the United States. Until the

time of Woodruff's manifesto there had been in Utah only two

political parties, the People's, as the Mormon organization had

always been known, and the Liberal (anti-Mormon). On June 10,

1894, the People's Territorial Central Committee adopted

resolutions reciting the organization of the Republicans and

Democrats of the territory, declaring that the dissensions of the

past should be left behind and that the People's party should

dissolve. The Republican Territorial Committee a few days later

voted that a division of the people on national party lines

would result only in statehood controlled by the Mormon

theocracy. The Democratic committee eight days later took a

directly contrary view. At the territorial election in the

following August the Democrats won, the vote standing:

Democratic, 14,116; Liberal, 7386; Republican, 6613.

It would have been contrary to all political precedent if the

Republicans had maintained their attitude after the Democrats

had expressed their willingness to receive Mormon allies.

Accordingly, in September, 1891, we find the Republicans

adopting a declaration that it would be wise and patriotic to

accept the changes that had occurred, and denying that statehood

was involved in a division of the people on national party


All parties in the territory now seemed to be manoeuvring for

position. The Morman newspaper organs expressed complete

indifference about securing statehood. In Congress Mr. Caine,

the Utah Delegate, introduced what was known as the "Home Rule

Bill," taking the control of territorial affairs from the

governor and commission. This was known as a Democratic measure,

and great pressure was brought to bear on Republican leaders at

Washington to show them that Utah as a state would in all

probability add to the strength of the Republican column. When,

at the first session of the 53d Congress, J. L. Rawlins, a

Democrat who had succeeded Caine as Delegate, introduced an act

to enable the people of Utah to gain admission for the territory

as a state, it met with no opposition at home, passed the House

of Representatives on December 13, 1893, and the Senate on July

10, 1894 (without a division in either House), and was signed by

the President on July 16. The enabling act required the

constitutional convention to provide "by ordinance irrevocable

without the consent of the United States and the people of that

state, that perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be

secured, and that no inhabitant of said state shall ever be

molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of

religious worship; PROVIDED, that polygamous or plural marriages

are forever prohibited."

The constitutional convention held under this act met in Salt

Lake City on March 4, 1895, and completed its work on May 8,

following. In the election of delegates for this convention the

Democrats cast about 19,000 votes, the Republicans about 21,000

and the Populists about 6500. Of the 107 delegates chosen, 48

were Democrats and 59 Republicans. The constitution adopted

contained the following provisions:--

"Art. 1. Sec. 4. The rights of conscience shall never be

infringed. The state shall make no law respecting an

establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise

thereof; no religious test shall be required as a qualification

for any office of public trust, or for any vote at any election;

nor shall any person be incompetent as a witness or juror on

account of religious belief or the absence thereof. There shall

be no union of church and state, nor shall any church dominate

the state or interfere with its functions. No public money or

property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious

worship, exercise, or instruction, or for the support of any

ecclesiastical establishment.

"Art. 111. The following ordinance shall be irrevocable without

the consent of the United States and the people of this state:

Perfect toleration of religious sentiment is guaranteed. No

inhabitant of this state shall ever be molested in person or

property on account of his or her mode of religious worship; but

polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited."

This constitution was submitted to the people on November 5,

1895, and was ratified by a vote of 31,305 to 7687, the

Republicans at the same election electing their entire state

ticket and a majority of the legislature. On January 4, 1896,

President Cleveland issued a proclamation announcing the

admission of Utah as a state. The inauguration of the new state

officers took place at Salt Lake City two days later. The first

governor, Heber M. Wells,* in his inaugural address made this

declaration: "Let us learn to resent the absurd attacks that are

made from time to time upon our sincerity by ignorant and

prejudiced persons outside of Utah, and let us learn to know and

respect each other more, and thus cement and intensify the

fraternal sentiments now so widespread in our community, to the

end that, by a mighty unity of purpose and Christian resolution,

we may be able to insure that domestic tranquillity, promote that

general welfare, and secure those blessings of liberty to

ourselves and our posterity guaranteed by the constitution of

the United States."

* Son of "General" Wells of the Nauvoo Legion.

The vote of Utah since its admission as a state has been cast as


************* REPUBLICAN **** DEMOCRAT

1895. Governor 20,833 18,519

1896. President 13,491 64,607

1900. Governor 47,600 44,447

1900. President 47,089 44,949

The Expulsion Of The Mormons The Final Expulsion From The State facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail