The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience

In March, 1851, the two houses of the legislature of Deseret,

sitting together, adopted resolutions "cheerfully and cordially"

accepting the law providing a territorial government for Utah,

and tendering Union Square in Salt Lake City as a site for the

government buildings. The first territorial election was held on

August 4, and the legislative assembly then elected held its

first meeting on September 22. An act was at once passed

continuing in force the laws passed by the legislature of Deseret

(an unauthorized body) not in conflict with the territorial law,

and locating the capital in the Pauvan Valley, where the town was

afterward named Fillmore* and the county Millard, in honor of the


* Only one session of the legislature was held at Fillmore

(December, 1855). The lawmakers afterward met there, but only to

adjourn to Salt Lake City.

The federal law, establishing the territory, provided that the

governor, secretary, chief justice and two associate justices of

the Supreme Court, the attorney general, or state's attorney, and

marshal should be appointed by the President of the United

States. President Fillmore on September 22, 1850, filled these

places as follows: governor, Brigham Young; secretary, B. D.

Harris of Vermont; chief justice, Joseph Buffington of

Pennsylvania; associate justices, Perry E. Brocchus and

Zerubbabel Snow; attorney general, Seth M. Blair of Utah;

marshal, J. L. Heywood of Utah, Young, Snow, Blair, and Heywood

being Mormons. L. G. Brandebury was later appointed chief

justice, Mr. Buffington declining that office.

The selection of Brigham Young as governor made him, in addition

to his church offices, ex-officio commander-in-chief of the

militia and superintendent of Indian affairs, the latter giving

him a salary of $1000 a year in addition to his salary of $1500

as governor. Had the character of the Mormon church government

been understood by President Fillmore, it does not seem possible

that he would, by Young's appointment, have so completely united

the civil and religious authority of the territory in one man;

or, if he had had any comprehension of Young's personal

characteristics, it is fair to conclude that the appointment

would not have been made.

The voice which the President listened to in the matter was that

of that adroit Mormon agent, Colonel Thomas L. Kane. Kane's part

in the business came out after these appointments were announced,

and after the Buffalo (New York) Courier had printed a

communication attacking Young's character on the ground of his

record both in Illinois and Utah. President Fillmore sent these

charges to Kane (on July 4, 1851) with a letter in which he said,

"You will recollect that I relied much upon you for the moral

character of Mr. Young," and asking him to "truly state whether

these charges against the moral character of Governor Young are

true." Kane sent two letters in reply, dated July 11. In a short

open one he said: "I reiterate without reserve the statement of

his excellent capacity, energy, and integrity, which I made you

prior to the appointment. I am willing to say that I VOLUNTEERED

to communicate to you the facts by which I was convinced of his

patriotism and devotion to the Union. I made no qualification

when I assured you of his irreproachable moral character, because

I was able to speak of this from my own intimate personal


The second letter, marked "personal," went into these matters

much more in detail. It declared that the tax levied by Young on

non-Mormons who sold goods in Salt Lake City was a liquor tax,

creditable to Mormon temperance principles. Had the President

consulted the report of the debate on Babbitt's admission as a

Delegate, he would have discovered that this was falsehood number

one. The charges against Young while in Illinois, including

counterfeiting, Kane swept aside as "a mere rehash of old

libels," and he cited the Battalion as an illustration of Mormon

patriotism. The extent to which he could go in falsifying in

Young's behalf is illustrated, however, most pointedly in what he

had to say regarding the charge of polygamy: "The remaining

charge connects itself with that unmixed outrage, the spiritual

wife story; which was fastened on the Mormons by a poor ribald

scamp whom, though the sole surviving brother and representative

of their Jo. Smith, they were literally forced to excommunicate

for licentiousness, and who therefore revenged himself by editing

confessions and disclosures of savor to please the public that

peruses novels in yellow paper covers."* In regard to William

Smith, the fact was that he opposed polygamy both before and

after his expulsion from the church. Kane's stay among the

Mormons on the Missouri must have acquainted him with the

practically open practice of polygamy at that time. His entire

correspondence with Fillmore stamps him as a man whose word could

be accepted on no subject. It would have been well if President

Buchanan had availed himself of the existence of these letters.

Fillmore stated in later years that at that time neither he nor

the Senate knew that polygamy was an accepted Mormon doctrine.

* For correspondence in full, see Millennial Star, Vol. XIII, pp.


Young took the oath of office as governor in February, 1851. The

non-Mormon federal officers arrived in June and July following,

and with them came Babbitt, bringing $20,000 which had been

appropriated by Congress for a state-house, and J. M. Bernhisel,

the first territorial Delegate to Congress, with a library

purchased by him in the East for which Congress had provided. The

arrival of the Gentile officers gave a speedy opportunity to test

the temper of the church in regard to any interference with, or

even discussion of, their "peculiar" institutions or Young's


Their first welcome was cordial, with balls and dinners at the

Bath House at the Hot Springs at which, for their special

benefit, says a local historian, was served "champagne wine from

the grocery," with home-brewed porter and ale for the rest. When

Judge Brocchus reached Salt Lake City, his two non-Mormon

associates had been there long enough to form an opinion of the

Mormon population and of the aims of the leading church officers.

They soon concluded that "no man else could govern them against

Brigham Young's influence, without a military force,"* and they

heard many expressions, public and private, indicating the

contempt in which the federal government was held. The

anniversary of the arrival of the pioneers, July 24, was always

celebrated with much ceremony, and that year the principal

addresses were made by "General" D. H. Wells and Brigham Young.

Some of the new officers occupied seats on the platform. Wells

attacked the government for "requiring" the Battalion to enlist.

Young paid especial attention to President Taylor, who had

recently died, and whose course toward the Mormons did not please

them, closing this part of his remarks with the declaration, "but

Zachary Taylor is dead and in hell, and I am glad of it," adding,

"and I prophesy in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the

priesthood that's upon me, that any President of the United

States who lifts his finger against this people, shall die an

untimely death, and go to hell."

* Report of the three officers to President Fillmore, Ex. Doc.

No. 25, 1st Session, 32d Congress.

Judge Brocchus had been commissioned by the Washington Monument

Association to ask the people of the territory for a block of

stone for that structure, and, on signifying a desire to make

known his commission, he was invited to do so at the General

Conference to be held on September 7 and 8. The judge thought

that, with the life of Washington as a text, he could read these

people a lesson on their duty toward the government, and could

correct some of the impressions under which they rested. The idea

itself only showed how little he understood anything pertaining

to Mormonism.

There was no newspaper in Salt Lake City in that time, and for a

report of the judge's address and of Brigham Young's reply, we

must rely on the report of the three federal officers to

President Fillmore, on a letter from Judge Brocchus printed in

the East, and on three letters on the subject addressed to the

New York Herald (one of which that journal printed, and all of

which the author published in a pamphlet entitled "The Truth for

the Mormons",) by J. M. Grant, first mayor of Salt Lake City,

major general of the Legion, and Speaker of the house in the

Deseret legislature.

Judge Brocchus spoke for two hours. He began with expressions of

sympathy for the sufferings of the Mormons in Missouri and

Illinois, and then referred to the unfriendliness of the people

toward the federal government, pointing out what he considered

its injustice, and alluding pointedly to Brigham Young's remarks

about President Taylor. He defended the President's memory, and

told his audience that, "if they could not offer a block of

marble for the Washington Monument in a feeling of full

fellowship with the people of the United States, as brethren and

fellow citizens, they had better not offer it at all, but leave

it unquarried in the bosom of its native mountain." The officers'

report to President Fillmore says that the address "was entirely

free from any allusions, even the most remote, to the peculiar

religion of the community, or to any of their domestic or social

customs." Even if the Mormons had so construed it, the rebuke of

their lack of patriotism would have aroused their resentment, and

Bernhisel, in a letter to President Fillmore, characterized it as

"a wanton insult."

But the judge did make, according to other reports, what was

construed as an uncomplimentary reference to polygamy, and this

stirred the church into a tumult of anger and indignation.

According to Mormon accounts,* the judge, addressing the ladies,

said: "I have a commission from the Washington Monument

Association, to ask of you a block of marble, as a test of your

citizenship and loyalty to the government of the United States.

But in order to do it acceptably you must become virtuous, and

teach your daughters to become virtuous, or your offering had

better remain in the bosom of your native mountains."

* The report of what follows, including Young's address, is taken

from Grant's pamphlet...

Mild as this language may seem, no Mormon audience, since the

marrying of more wives than one had been sanctioned by the

church, had ever listened to anything like it. To permit even

this interference with their "religious belief" was entirely

foreign to Young's purpose, and he took the floor in a towering

rage to reply. "Are you a judge," he asked, "and can't even talk

like a lawyer or a politician?" George Washington was first in

war, but he was first in peace, too, and Young could handle a

sword as well as Washington. "But you [addressing the judge]

standing there, white and shaking now at the howls which you have

stirred up yourself--you are a coward.... Old General Taylor,

what was he?* A mere soldier with regular army buttons on; no

better to go at the head of brave troops than a dozen I could

pick out between here and Laramie." He concluded thus:--

* In a discourse on June 19, 1853, Young said that he never heard

of his alleged expression about General Taylor until Judge

Brocchus made use of it, but he added: "When he made the

statement there, I surely bore testimony to the truth of it. But

until then I do not know that it ever came into my mind whether

Taylor was in hell or not, any more than it did that any other

wicked man was there," etc.--Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, p.


"What you have been afraid to intimate about our morals I will

not stoop to notice, except to make my particular personal

request to every brother and husband present not to give you back

what such impudence deserves. You talk of things you have on

hearsay since your coming among us. I'll talk of hearsay then--

the hearsay that you are discontented, and will go home, because

we cannot make it worth your while to stay. What it would satisfy

you to get out of us I think it would be hard to tell; but I am

sure that it is more than you'll get. If you or any one else is

such a baby-calf, we must sugar your soap to coax you to wash

yourself of Saturday nights. Go home to your mammy straight away,

and the sooner the better."

This was the language addressed by the governor of the territory

and the head of the church, to one of the Supreme Court judges

appointed by the President of the United States!

Young alluded to his reference to the judge's personal safety in

a discourse on June 19, 1853, in which, speaking of the judge's

remarks, he said: "They [the Mormons] bore the insult like saints

of God. It is true, as it was said in the report of these

affairs, if I had crooked my little finger, he would have been

used up, but I did not bend it. If I had, the sisters alone felt

indignant enough to have chopped him in pieces." A little later,

in the same discourse, he added: "Every man that comes to impose

on this people, no matter by whom they are sent, or who they are

that are sent, lay the axe at the root of the tree to kill

themselves. I will do as I said I would last conference.

Apostates, or men who never made any profession of religion, had

better be careful how they come here, lest I should bend my

little finger."*

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. I, p. 187.

If the records of the Mormon church had included acts as well as

words, how many times would we find that Young's little finger

was bent to a purpose?

Bold as he was, Young seems to have felt that he had gone too far

in his abuse of Judge Brocchus, and on September 19 he addressed

a note to him, inviting him to attend a public meeting in the

bowery the next Sunday morning, "to explain, satisfy, or

apologize to the satisfaction of the ladies who heard your

address on the 8th," a postscript assuring the judge that "no

gentleman will be permitted to make any reply." The judge in

polite terms declined this offer, saying that he had been, at the

proper time, denied a chance to explain, "at the peril of having

my hair pulled or my throat cut." He added that his speech was

deliberately prepared, that his sole design was "to vindicate the

government of the United States from those feelings of prejudice

and that spirit of defection which seemed to pervade the public

sentiment," and that he had had no intention to offer insult or

disrespect to his audience. This called out, the next day, a very

long reply from Young, of which the following is a paragraph:

"With a war of words on party politics, factions, religious

schisms, current controversy of creeds, policy of clans or state

clipper cliques, I have nothing to do; but when the eternal

principles of truth are falsified, and light is turned into

darkness by mystification of language or a false delineation of

facts, so that the just indignation of the true, virtuous,

upright citizens of the commonwealth is aroused into vigilance

for the dear-bought liberties of themselves and fathers, and that

spirit of intolerance and persecution which has driven this

people time and time again from their peaceful homes, manifests

itself in the flippancy of rhetoric for female insult and

desecration, it is time that I forbear to hold my peace, lest the

thundering anathemas of nations, born and unborn, should rest

upon my head, when the marrow of my bones shall be ill prepared

to sustain the threatened blow."*

* For correspondence in full, see Tullidge's "History of Salt

Lake City," pp. 86--91.

Judge Brocchus wrote to a friend in the East, on September 20:

"How it will end, I do not know. I have just learned that I have

been denounced, together with the government and officers, in the

bowery again to-day by Governor Young. I hope I shall get off

safely. God only knows. I am in the power of a desperate and

murderous sect."

The non-Mormon federal officers now announced their determination

to abandon their places and return to the East. Young foresaw

that so radical a course would give his conduct a wide

advertisement, and attract to him an unpleasant notoriety. He,

therefore, called on the offended judges personally, and urged

them to remain.* Being assured that they would not reconsider

their determination, and that Secretary Harris would take with

him the $24,000 appropriated for the pay and mileage of the

territorial legislature, Young, on September 18, issued a

proclamation declaring the result of the election of August 4,

which he had neglected to do, and convening the legislature in

session on September 22. "So solicitous was the governor that the

secretary and other non-Mormon officers should be kept in

ignorance of this step," says the report of the latter to

President Fillmore, "that on the 19th, two days after the date of

a personal notice sent to members, he most positively and

emphatically denied, as communicated to the secretary, that any

such notice had been issued."

* Young to the President, House Doc. No. 25, 1st Session, 32d


As soon as the legislature met, it passed resolutions directing

the United States marshal to take possession of all papers and

property (including money) in the hands of Secretary Harris, and

to arrest him and lock him up if he offered any resistance. On

receipt of a copy of this resolution, Secretary Harris sent a

reply, giving several reasons for refusing to hand over the money

appropriated for the legislature, among them the failure of the

governor to have a census taken before the election, as provided

by the territorial act, the defective character of the governor's

proclamation ordering the election, allowing aliens to vote, and

the governor's failure to declare the result of the election, his

delayed proclamation being pronounced "worthless for all legal


On September 28 the three non-Mormon officers took their

departure, carrying with them to Washington the disputed money,

which was turned over to the proper officer.*

* Tullidge, in his "History of Salt Lake City," says: "Under the

censure of the great statesman, Daniel Webster, and with ex- Vice

President Dallas and Colonel Kane using their potent influence

against them, and also Stephen A. Douglas, Brandebury, Brocchus,

and Harris were forced to retire." As these officers left the

territory of their own accord, and contrary to Brigham Young's

urgent protest, this statement only furnishes another instance of

the Mormon plan to attack the reputation of any one whom they

could not control. The three officers were criticized by some

Eastern newspapers for leaving their post through fear of bodily

injury, but Congress voted to pay their salaries.

All the correspondence concerning the failure of this first

attempt to establish non-Mormon federal officers in Utah was

given to Congress in a message from President Fillmore, dated

January 9, 1852. The returned officers made a report which set

forth the autocratic attitude of the Mormon church, the open

practice of polygamy,* and the non-enforcement of the laws, not

even murderers being punished. Of one of the allegations of

murder set forth,--that a man from Ithaca, New York, named James

Munroe, was murdered on his way to Salt Lake City by a member of

the church, his body brought to the city and buried without an

inquest, the murderer walking the streets undisturbed, H. H.

Bancroft says, "There is no proof of this statement."** On the

contrary, Mayor Grant in his "Truth for the Mormons" acknowledges

it, and gives the details of the murder, justifying it on the

ground of provocation, alleging that while Egan, the murderer,

was absent in California, Munroe, "from his youth up a member of

the church, Egan's friend too, therefore a traitor," seduced

Egan's wife.

* J. D. Grant, following the example of Colonel Kane, had the

affrontery to say of the charge of polygamy, in one of his

letters to the New York Herald: "I pronounce it false.... Suppose

I should admit it at once? Whose business is it? Does the

constitution forbid it?"

** "History of Utah," p. 460, note.

Young, in a statement to the President, defended his acts and the

acts of the territorial legislature, and attacked the character

and motives of the federal officers. The legislature soon after

petitioned President Fillmore to fill the vacancies by appointing

men "who are, indeed, residents amongst us."

The Suppression Of The Expositor The Witnesses To The Plates facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail