excerpt – Reminiscences of Early Utah

Brigham D. Madsen

On a glorious first of June 1901, Salt Lake City was awakened at dawn by a 100-gun salute, followed by a performance by the old Nauvoo Legion martial band. In the afternoon, church and government leaders gathered at the Saltair resort to honor the hundredth-year birthday of Brigham Young, the frontier dynamo who had dominated the American West for three decades. Three of his widows attended, including Amelia Folsom, his last “favorite wife,” and one of his former slaves, Uncle Green Flake, as well as Governor Heber M. Wells and leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bishop Orson F. Whitney gave the opening prayer, followed by a xylophone solo from Professor Adelbert Beesley. Messrs. Clawson and Margetts entertained the throng with a comic duet. David McKenzie, who had served time in 1859 for counterfeiting warrants on the Young estate, was the master of ceremonies.1

Governor Wells spoke first, followed by Professor James E. Talmage and Apostle Heber J. Grant. However, the most remarkable speech came, not from one of the late LDS prophet’s most devoted disciples, but instead from Utah Supreme Court Justice Robert N. Baskin, who Apostle George Q. Cannon had once denounced as “one of the worst enemies the people had.” Baskin said the invitation showed how much conditions in Utah had changed and that “he was glad of it,”2 that he had “no patience with those on both sides who were trying to stir up the prejudices of the people.” According to the Mormon press, Baskin “thought it would be better for all to shut their eyes to the past and look forward to the future.”3

Over the next dozen years, this era of good feeling between the state’s majority and minority populations came to an end, the conflict between church and state re-igniting and intensifying. Baskin himself found good reason to rethink his position in light of the fact that Mormon historians asserted themselves with an extremely partisan approach to the state’s history—a trend that would persist for half a century. As Baskin explained in the preface to Reminiscences of Early Utah, his book would expose the “glaringly false statements in [Orson F.] Whitney’s History of Utah” and defend federal officials in the territory who had been “besmirched by him.” To understand the highly charged atmosphere that existed between the strongly sectarian Whitney and “gentile” Baskin, it is essential to examine their backgrounds and the motivations that excited each man.4

Robert Newton Baskin was born on December 20, 1837, in Hillsboro, Ohio. He attended Salem Academy, near Chillicothe, Ohio, and then began his study of law with the firm of James H. Thompson in Salem, Ohio. After two years, he left to pursue formal legal education at Harvard University, from which he graduated and then returned home to begin a law partnership in Salem with a Colonel Collins. In 1865, just after the Civil War, Baskin left Ohio and, on his way to California, stopped in Salt Lake City.5

George A. Townsend, a reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial, wrote from the Mormon capital in 1871 that Baskin was rumored “to have shot somebody in Ohio.”6 Townsend’s reports, which were collected in a pamphlet titled The Mormon Trials at Salt Lake City, had nothing good to say about any non-Mormons in Utah but affectionately described Porter Rockwell, Brigham Young’s notorious bodyguard, as “a fat, curly-haired, good-natured chap.” Townsend dedicated his pamphlet to Young’s son-in-law William H. Hooper, territorial delegate to Congress, suggesting the reporter probably benefitted from the tens of thousands of dollars the Mormon Church spent to buy favorable press between 1858 and 1896. Much of the most colorful information we have about the young gentile attorney from Ohio comes from Townsend’s unsympathetic reports.

The Salt Lake Tribune‘s later biographical sketch said nothing about Baskin’s alleged career as a gunslinger, noting merely that after a few days in Salt Lake City he met Thomas Hearst, son of celebrated attorney William Hearst. With Hearst as his guide, Baskin visited the Little Cottonwood mining district, saw the possibility of making a fortune in minerals, and decided “to cast his lot in Utah.” He established a law office in Salt Lake City and began the study of territorial statutes, which led to his role as a critic and denouncer of the economic and political control exercised by the LDS Church’s leadership.7 For the next thirty years, he held a prominent position with the area’s non-Mormon population as they battled against polygamy and political and economic hegemony and for more equality for the minority population.

Townsend described Baskin (consistently misspelling his name as “Baskins”) as “a lean, lank, rather dirty and frowsy, red-headed young man, but a lawyer of shrewdness and coolness, and inflamed against Mormonism.” He added that the lawyer got “his redhot temper from his hair.” Baskin did have a temper, as demonstrated in an altercation he had with the territorial Associate Justice, C. M. Hawley, in 1871. Townsend’s description of the fracas deserves quoting. Hawley presented Baskin with a ruling that was not to the attorney’s liking, and

Baskins threw the paper on the floor, and ground it with his boot-heel into an inoffensive tobacco quid. The Judge, who is slender, conscious, and respects himself and his rulings, told Mr. Baskins he would fine him. “Go ahead with your fine,” said Baskins, “you’re of no account.”
The Judge fined Baskins one hundred dollars and sent him to Camp Douglas for ten days. Baskins twitched the order out of the Judge’s hands and said that being an “old granny” the Judge should forthwith be kicked down stairs. At this Baskins threw open the door to expedite the descent of the venerable man, and rushed upon him, like Damon upon Lucullus. The Marshal interposed to save the author of so many learned and long opinions, and Baskins went to the Camp in custody. But as this notable Bench in Utah never consult together, [Associate Justice Obed F.] Strickland agreeing with [Chief Justice James B.] McKean in everything and Hawley in nothing, Judge McKean let Baskins out habeas corpus in four days, and Baskins disdained to pay his fine. It is Baskins, therefore, who insists, as Prosecuting Attorney, that the laws of the United States and the Courts thereof must be respected in Utah.8

Baskin’s contempt for plural marriage was so intense, he said in a speech before McKean’s court, “If Joseph Smith had been a eunuch he would never have received the revelation on polygamy.” The Mormon reply was that a man who had helped his wife obtain a divorce from her previous husband should not opine on other people’s marital arrangements. Both sides engaged freely in this kind of ad hominem and plain language that was so typical of frontier society.9 Much later, after agreeing to let bygones be bygones, the Mormon Deseret News, in its obituary of Baskin, commented that “he was not of the amiable, social temperament that makes friends everywhere” but that his better qualities “bound him to his intimate friends.”10 Journalist John Hanson Beadle added that he was the type who “did not know the word fail and would never give up beaten while there was a chance of success.”11

Baskin was indeed, as Townsend charged, “inflamed against Mormonism,” and even his political supporter, Colonel Joslyn, conceded that he was a “bitter man.”12 Baskin did have his reasons, as he asserted in his Reminiscences. For instance, when he represented a Dr. J. King Robinson, described as “an educated gentleman of courteous manners and affable disposition,” in a dispute with the Salt Lake police, Robinson was suddenly brutally murdered at the corner of Main and Third in the middle of the night while on an errand of mercy. Looking at the mutilated body, Baskin resolved “to do all that I possibly could do to place in the hands of the federal authorities the power to punish the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.” Mormon theocracy thereby acquired its most dedicated enemy.

Baskin fought his battles aggressively, with an extremism that led to his announcement in April 1877 that “unless the question [of Mormon control in Utah] is settled by appropriate legislation, it will be settled at the point of the bayonet and blood will flow.” Mormons returned fire. The Deseret News said Baskin should rather repent of his sins and be baptized for their remission. On Joseph Smith’s birthday in 1890, Abraham H. Cannon noted in his diary Apostle Joseph F. Smith’s prayer “that Baskin should be made blind, deaf and dumb unless he would repent of his wickedness.”13 Baskin vented his anger in 1877 in an altercation with District Attorney Sumner Howard. “These two gentlemen being unable to see eye to eye and failing to convince each other by the peaceful means of logical reasoning, resorted to the knock down style of argument, fists and canes being the implements of war brought into requisition,” the Deseret News reported. Both men survived without serious injury, although Howard’s cane was broken by its “sudden and forcible contact with such an exceedingly hard substance as the corpus of his antagonist,” the paper reported.14

In another typical insult, the Deseret News described Baskin as “overbearing and insolent,” wholly ignorant of “correct deportment.”15 But again, Baskin provided the paper with plenty of fodder for its characterization of him. In an exchange with attorney Thomas Fitch, the latter said he was happy the guns at Fort Douglas were not trained on the city and that the military had not besieged city hall.

Mr. Baskin: “That would have been my way to do it.”

Mr. Fitch: “I presume that Mr. Baskin would have knocked the City Hall and City Jail down.”

Mr. Baskin: “I would that.”16

When speaking to more sympathetic audiences outside the city in mining communities, Baskin would often lay out his principal charges against the state’s religious leaders, that they expected to be followed unquestioningly, thereby leading to “all manner of wickedness and abomination”; they refused to employ non-Mormons; and were generally un-American, which led him to think they should therefore not be allowed to hold office or vote.17 Among the Latter-day Saints were some who were receptive to such themes and detected in these orations an inspirational note. Edward Tullidge reported that, among a number of speeches on one occasion in 1871, Baskin’s had been “the ablest effort of the day.”18 It all depended on whose ox was being gored.

Where was Brigham Young during all this time? He was, in fact, prominently giving as well as he received, once calling Baskin a “pettifoger.”19 When the Cullom anti-polygamy bill was proposed, Young conceived the idea of organizing “female indignation meetings” and said he wished the government would give Baskin “some lick-spittle office here” so “our sisters [c]ould … show him his walking-papers in the shape of a forest of broomsticks.”20 Even so, after the Woodruff Manifesto advised against polygamy in 1890, Baskin could claim he had agreed with Young about “everything but polygamy.”21

This picture of a too-often pugnacious and angry man and bitter Mormon hater must be tempered with the acknowledgment that, when calm, Baskin could be judicious and even magnanimous. In 1870, when the gentiles of Corinne, Utah, proposed the annexation of northern Utah—everything north of the forty-first degree latitude—to Idaho Territory, Baskin testified to a Congressional committee that it was a hare-brained idea because it would break up the natural community formed by the Great Basin’s geographic boundaries.22 A reporter for the LDS Young Woman’s Journal conceded that “while Mr. Baskin may be set in his ways and have opinions on certain subjects that nothing on earth could change, yet he is a good parliamentarian and his judgment on matters relating to law and judiciary is generally sound.” The journalist was nonetheless critical of his tendency toward “flying machine oratory.”23 Mormon apostle John Henry Smith said he had always respected Baskin for his honesty despite the fact that Baskin had fought the Mormons “as viciously as any man ever did.”24

Perhaps the best statement concerning Baskin’s occasional calm judgment about Mormon practices came when he testified before the Committee on Territories in the U.S. House of Representatives: “I have been for five years past a resident of Utah. I must do the Mormons the justice to say that the question of religion does not enter into their courts in ordinary cases. I have never detected any bias on the part of jurors there in this respect, as I at first expected. I have appeared in cases where Mormons and Gentiles were opposing parties, and saw, much to my surprise, the jury do what was right.” While quoting the above, the Deseret News could not avoid speculating that Baskin had probably perjured himself in this sworn statement.25 Mormon antipathy to Baskin ran very deep.

Orson Ferguson Whitney, leading antagonist of Baskin and his circle, had come by his convictions from his Mormon parents who were descendants of the earliest church elite. Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, his mother, was a daughter of Heber C. Kimball and for a short time a polygamous wife of Joseph Smith. Orson’s father, Horace K. Whitney, himself the son of early bishop Newel K. Whitney, was a leading citizen of Salt Lake City with a particular interest in drama and the arts.26

Orson was born in the Mormon capital on July 1, 1855, and spent his early years there. As a youth, he worked as a section hand on the Union Pacific railroad, a clerk in both a music store and mercantile establishment, and as a sewing machine salesman in southern Utah. He attended a few sessions at the University of Deseret but did not graduate, wanting instead to follow his real passion in the theater and perhaps a stage career in New York City. But he was called as a missionary to the eastern states in 1876, and during the seventeen months of his mission he acquired a new focus, including a lifelong interest in writing poetry. On his return home, he became bishop of the Salt Lake 18th Ward despite being only twenty-three years old and not yet married. He served in that capacity, as bishop, for twenty-eight years.27

He was soon named city editor of the Deseret News, which brought him some prominence and a connection to the church leadership. He further cemented his connection to the church when he married Zina Smoot, daughter of a prominent Mormon stake president, Abraham O. Smoot, and sister of the even more famous future U.S. Senator Reed Smoot. Whitney’s public reputation was also enhanced through his poetry and public speeches, as well as by the fact that he periodically accepted roles in the theater.28 When a Tribune reviewer criticized his thespian ability, the sensitive actor attributed this to an anti-Mormon bias.29

In 1881, Whitney was sent to England on a second mission to edit the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, but the death of one of his children brought him back to Utah in 1883. Resuming his position at the Deseret News, he spent much of his energy during the next few years writing and speaking against the federal anti-polygamy Edmunds Act of 1882. This is what brought him into close conflict with the bill’s chief supporter, Robert N. Baskin. In 1884, Whitney left his Deseret News job to become Salt Lake City treasurer and was honored by being appointed a regent of the University of Deseret, of which he became chancellor in March 1884.30

As the national anti-polygamy campaign gained momentum, Whitney emerged as the public voice of the LDS Church in the absence of Mormon leaders, who were away hiding on the “underground” to avoid federal authorities.31 Whitney courted arrest himself by marrying a second wife. The details of this marriage are worth noting:

If one of the unexpressed reasons for allowing Bishop Whitney to represent “the brethren” in public was the fact that he himself was a monogamist, that condition changed in 1888. It was on his birthday that year, July 1, that his wife Zina gave him an unusual birthday present. It was a Sunday morning. She entered his bedroom, awakened him, knelt by his bed, kissed him and gave her permission for him to take as a plural wife May Wells, daughter of President Daniel H. Wells of the First Presidency. Later Whitney went to the Tabernacle for a meeting. When he returned he discovered May Wells sitting in the parlor while Zina was preparing dinner. “I was more than surprised—I was amazed,” Whitney later wrote, “for I knew how tender [Zina’s] feelings were, and realized in part what this generous act must have involved. Never had I admired her so much. She looked more like an angel than a mortal. Tearfully I drew her to me, saying, “You never do things by halves, do you, Dear?” She answered sweetly: “When I asked you whom you wanted to dinner, you said, ‘the members of my family.’ They are here.” Twenty-three days later Orson and May were married in Diaz, Mexico, with Zina present and repeating her consent.32

Baskin would never understand the logic of such a marital union, nor would the majority of Mormons ever become entirely comfortable with it—even less so their gentile neighbors.

The financial problems associated with providing for two families became acute in 1890 when Whitney lost his job as city treasurer because the non-Mormon Liberal Party won the election. He found help from an unexpected source when the LDS church accepted an offer from Dr. John O. Williams to publish a multi-volume history of the territory by an author of the church’s choosing. This was an era of commercial publishing ventures aimed at dollar profits and inoffensive content. In fact, a biographical volume was conceived to round out the offering, the assumption being that those whose lives were profiled would purchase copies for themselves and their friends. Whitney was hired at $200 per month, his second wife employed as his secretary at an additional $50 per month.33

In 1892 the first volume in this massive History of Utah appeared, followed the next year by a second volume, the third in 1898, and the final biographical tome in 1904. The narrative began with the early life of Joseph Smith and ended with the Woodruff Manifesto.34 In 1941, Catholic historian Robert Joseph Dwyer wrote that “with all its faults and inaccuracies—and they are legion—that work has not yet been superseded.”35 Woodruff Thomson agreed eight years later that Whitney’s work remained “the great storehouse of data on Utah history to 1890.”36 The explosion of research and writing about the history of Utah since World War II tempered that assessment, but Whitney’s work still proves useful as a reference tool.

The series had five major deficiencies: (1) no footnotes indicating source material; (2) an absence of primary documentation; (3) a polemical slant in favor of Mormon interpretations; (4) an oratorical, almost emotional style; and (5) inaccuracies, which were quickly exposed by critics like Baskin.37 Undaunted, Whitney produced an additional one-volume work in 1916 entitled Popular History of Utah, designed to reach the attention and pocketbooks of average citizens and serve as a textbook. It elicited an even more vitriolic attack from Baskin.38 Nor was Baskin content to let his 1914 Reminiscences stand as an answer to Whitney’s four volumes. In high indignation, the non-Mormon observer of Utah’s development published a second work, this time more of a pamphlet, to destroy once and for all the Mormon writer’s “duplicity and falsification of history, … [which] impels me to answer each of his groundless aspersions.” Baskin entitled his twenty-nine-page essay Reply to Certain Statements by O. F. Whitney.39

Perhaps as he began his treatise, the various insults issued by Whitney, whose latest history was still fresh in Baskin’s mind, provided grounds for the kind of anger and personal affront for which the non-Mormon jurist was known. Whitney had alluded to the author of Reminiscences as a “Bourbon of the dead past, who ‘learns nothing’ and ‘forgets nothing.'” Whitney let out all the stops, writing that Baskin’s reminiscences were:

largely a rehash of stale anti-“Mormon” stories, based upon the testimony of apostates, jail-birds, and self confessed murders. He complains of inaccuracies in other writings, while his own book fairly bristles with them. It abounds in coarse abuse and venomous vituperation. Under pretense of correcting alleged mis[s]tatements of history, he vents his personal spleen, and pours the vitriol of his implacable hatred upon “Mormons” and “Mormonism” in general.40

Baskin could take comfort at least in having been excoriated in excellent prose. As will be seen, he would return the favor with equally impressive Harvard English.

Whitney’s charge that Baskin’s recollection bristled with errors was partly justified, but the inaccuracies were mostly trivial and probably reflected an aging memory. Baskin recalled United States Attorney Sumner Howard as William Howard; the “northern route” from Salt Lake did not connect to the California Trail “by way of Soda Springs” as he said, but rather at City of Rocks; Arkansas Senator James H. Berry’s speech describing the return of the Mountain Meadows orphans to Carroll County was not in the Congressional Record of February 12, 1907; and Tecumseh Sherman sent the threatening telegram to Brigham Young before, not after, the murder of Dr. Robinson. A more serious failure was Baskin’s lack of knowledge about Utah Indians. He attributed the human skeletons “exhumed in various parts of the city” to the Danites when, in fact, most probably came from Indian burials. More seriously, he vigorously exposed the slander of the victims of Mountain Meadows but not the absurdity and injustice of blaming the massacre on the Paiutes. As a man of his time, Baskin preferred to believe it was the Indians who murdered the women and children of the Fancher Party, but as Nephi Johnson finally confessed to an apostle, “white men did most of the killing.”

Both in his Reminiscences and Reply, Baskin chose to criticize his opponent for his analysis of five historical topics: the Mormon Battalion, the causes of factional strife within the territory, the Mountain Meadows massacre, anti-polygamy legislation and raids, and Danite death squads. His Reply was forceful and denunciatory, as his Reminiscences had been on these subjects.

He first undertook to prove that Brigham Young had sought government aid for the move west in 1846 and had relied on the Mormon Battalion payroll to help finance the trek to the mountains. There was no coercion in this; only later, during the emotional excitement of the Utah War, did the Mormon leader charge the government with trying to injure his people. In September 1857, Young lectured his followers in a speech in Salt Lake City: “There cannot be a more damnable, dastardly order than was issued by the [federal] administration to this people … in 1846 … while we were doing our best to leave their borders[,] [and] the poor, low, degraded cusses sent a requisition for five hundred of our men to go and fight their battles. That was President Polk, and he is now weltering in hell with old Zachariah Taylor.”41 Whitney perpetuated the myth of persecution by the federal government. As Baskin pointed out, Mormon historian Brigham H. Roberts had corrected the record in rather forceful language in a July 4 address in 1911, stating that the enrollment of the battalion had been what Brigham Young wanted. This was confirmed by diary entries from John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.42

Incidentally, the recent splendid history of the Mormon Battalion by Norma Baldwin Rickets confirmed Baskin’s position. She demonstrated definitively that Young solicited help from the government and urged Mormon men to enlist. She cites Young’s written comments of April 5, 1848, that Mormon enlistment, “though looked upon with astonishment and some with fear, has proved a great blessing to this community. It was indeed the temporal salvation of our camp.”43 Baskin is thereby vindicated while Whitney remains, in this instance, somewhat reckless, whether deliberately or perhaps simply because of inadequate research.

The two antagonists agreed to disagree about the causes for the factional strife between Mormons and gentiles in Utah during the nineteenth century. Whitney pointed to the federal tendency, which he called “un-American,” of “sending strangers to rule over communities with which they have little or nothing in common.” Whitney’s solution was to rely on local government to solve the problems faced by Utahns. Baskin’s answer was a single “Pish!”44 The pugnacious Baskin asserted that the causes for the turmoil were the domination of local affairs by the Mormon priesthood and attempts to drive from the territory “all who were not connected with them (the Mormon sect) in communion and sympathy.” The final irritants in this regard were “the pernicious acts passed by the Mormon Legislature for the purpose of receiving immunity to polygamy and other heinous crimes.”

To legitimize and strengthen these charges, Baskin quoted from the annual messages of U.S. presidents Buchanan, Grant, Hayes, and Cleveland, all of whom had assailed the Mormons for making Brigham Young governor by “Divine Appointment”; for continuing to practice polygamy, “a remnant of barbarism repugnant to civilization”; by controlling grand and petit juries; and by making the Mormon kingdom of God superior to any earthly government, especially that of the United States. To remove what was the most obnoxious element of Mormonism, Baskin himself drafted the Cullom Bill, hoping to destroy polygamy for all time. This was an exercise that made him “very proud.”45

Baskin took particular exception to Whitney’s charge that he was one of the chief leaders of an “anti-Mormon Ring” operating from the “Wahsatch Club” in Salt Lake City. The Mormon historian cited the ubiquitous Cincinnati Commercial correspondent, George Townsend, who listed the following gentile leaders of an alleged cabal: Utah Chief Justice J. B. McKean; R. N. Baskin; George A. Maxwell, a former military officer from Michigan; U.S. Assessor J. P. Taggart; U.S. Collector O. J. Hollister; Corinne Reporter editor Dennis J. Toohy; Salt Lake Review publisher Frank Kenyon, “a paper which has superseded the Salt Lake Tribune in irritating the Mormons”; Utah Associate Justice C. M. Hawley; the judge’s son, C. M. Hawley Jr.; Secretary of the Territory George A. Black; and Utah Governor George L. Woods, someone the reporter characterized as having “little mental ‘heft.'”46

The derogatory jab at the Salt Lake Tribune reflected a long-term animosity between the Mormon Deseret News and the gentile Tribune, which lasted from 1871 until a truce was declared just before World War I. The editor of the Deseret News would have smiled at a blast delivered by another ally of the Mormon cause, the Salt Lake Herald:

And so Baskin has a spark of self-respect left when he gets away from Utah and mixes with respectable people. Here in Utah Mr. Baskin recognizes our unesteemed morning [daily, the Salt Lake Tribune]; … [H]e swears by the Tribune, he quotes it and upholds it financially and in its policy; but in Washington he understands how disreputable a thing his newspaper is, and he openly repudiates it, and begs not to be held in any way responsible for the slander it circulates.47

The Deseret News leveled similar criticism,48 to which the Tribune responded in kind, defending Baskin as its leading protagonist.

During his early years in Utah, Baskin would have had difficulty persuading his Mormon neighbors that he was their friend as he became prominent in the anti-Mormon political group soon known as the Liberal Party. Even before the Liberals were formally organized, Baskin participated in a meeting of gentiles on January 30, 1867, to nominate a delegate to Congress. His longtime rival for recognition as a political organizer, retired Major General P. Edward Connor, was elected president of the convention. Nevertheless, Baskin took charge and called the meeting to order. Attorney William McGroarty was nominated at the meeting and received 105 votes in the general election, compared to the 15,068 received by the Mormon candidate, William H. Hooper.49

Three years later the Liberal Party was officially organized in the small railroad town of Corinne. Newspaper editor Dennis Toohy invited people to convene on “Patriots Day,” July 4, 1870, and nominate a candidate for the office of Territorial Delegate. The initial meeting “broke up in a general row” over a split between uncompromising anti-Mormons and followers of Mormon apostate William S. Godbe who opposed “Brighamites” for political and economic reasons but wanted to retain their plural wives. A successful convention finally met on July 16 and nominated General George R. Maxwell as its delegate. General Connor presided as temporary chair and helped heal the breech between the two factions, aided by Baskin, who moved that Corinne and Box Elder County be allowed fifteen convention votes each instead of the ten votes first granted them. Ever since, Connor has been called the “father of the Liberal Party,” but Baskin certainly competes for that honor.50

For the next two decades, the Liberal Party pursued its intent to destroy priesthood control of territorial politics and economics. Members of the party also belonged to a private group known as the Gentile League, later known as the Loyal League, whose adherents sent lobbyists to Washington, D.C., to agitate for anti-polygamy legislation. Another objective was to help defeat proposals for statehood, which they believed would confirm the priesthood authority in controlling Utah politics.51

For the next twenty years, Baskin was involved in all these matters. He was nearly always chosen as a Liberal Party “stumper” for his oratorical skill at whipping up enthusiasm for party candidates. He was often promoted as a possibility for various state and municipal offices. For example, on January 14, 1874, he was one of four nominees for Salt Lake City alderman. According to one historian, “These nominees, with the possible exception of Robert N. Baskin, were quite highly esteemed by the Mormons and acceptable to them.” In a Liberal Party speech on July 27, 1874, the Salt Lake Herald noted that Baskin “knew there were those in the assemblage who did not sympathize with the Liberal party, and he was glad of it, as he wanted to talk to the lost sheep.” The Herald ridiculed him for offering to get a Congressional appropriation of $100,000 to plant trees in Utah if people would vote for him.52 Baskin continued as a loyal supporter of the party until November 1893, when as a realist he left and joined the “Citizens Party,” which elected him mayor of Salt Lake City. He served in that position through two terms.53

Throughout his years with the Liberals, Baskin was indefatigable, both with time and treasure, as an anti-polygamy lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He spent much of his own money for travel and living expenses, but Liberal committees also helped from time to time. The Salt Lake Herald reported on March 17, 1886, that “should the delegate’s funds run short, the deputation sent from Salt Lake on the lead and silver questions are reckoned to be flush, and will doubtless not see the political department suffer. Mr. Baskin will leave immediately.” During this particular appearance before the House Committee on Territories, Baskin was fair enough to contradict a report that half the Mormon males were polygamists. He averred that only about 2 percent were, which was a gross underestimate.54

Baskin traveled east often to oppose Utah statehood and speak in favor of the Edmunds Act to abolish polygamy, “exert[ing] all the influence he possesses for the injury of the ‘Mormon’ people, who have never wronged him in the least,” according to the Deseret News of March 18, 1886. At various times Baskin contested the election of Mormon delegates to Congress and elaborated on how “the priesthood in Utah assume to direct every member where he shall live, where he shall go, what shall be his employment and for whom he shall vote.” The Deseret News reported this in exaggerated disbelief, clarifying that these were Baskin’s “exact words.”55 As a lobbyist, Baskin was energetic and determined, much to the dismay of his opponents. He became nearly apoplectic in talking about the “persecution complex” of the Deseret News editor and the “malicious falsehoods” spread by Orson Whitney in claiming acts of “terrorism” by federal agents hunting down “cohabs,” the term for people living in polygamist cohabitation.

Whitney wrote of deputy marshals using paid informers, assuming the role of peddlers and tourists to catch Mormon polygamists, stopping children returning from school to interrogate them, prowling around people’s houses at night, peeping through windows, and “thrust[ing] themselves into sick rooms and women’s bed chambers, rousing the sleepers, by pulling the bed clothes from off them.” He said they broke into houses and fired upon fugitives if they did not immediately surrender. Baskin demanded from Whitney specific names, dates, and details. When these were not forthcoming, Baskin concluded that Whitney’s charges were “malicious falsehoods—framed in his own disordered brain to discredit the federal officers … to make it appear, that at the time, the Mormons were being persecuted.”56

Of all their differences of opinion, none assumed as much importance as the incident at Mountain Meadows, to which Baskin assigned a major portion of his Reminiscences and pursued again in his Reply. As a chief prosecutor at John D. Lee’s first trial which began on July 13, 1875, Baskin was intimately involved in obtaining an accurate assessment of the historical facts in the case. With his interrogation of Lee and other witnesses as a basis for his position, he was able to refute the story Whitney told in his History of Utah.57

Whitney, both in his long history and his later 1916 version, asserted that the Fancher party of Arkansas emigrants, as they moved through Utah in 1857 on their way south, “conducted themselves in the most offensive manner.” Specifically, they gave the “impression” they had been involved in the murder of Joseph Smith, acted like a “band of marauders,” left poisoned beef so Native Americans along the way would eat it and be killed, poisoned springs, and were far from being the “white-souled saints that a certain writer would have the public believe.”58

Baskin countered by quoting from the book, Rocky Mountain Saints, that the party of thirty families “were moral in language and conduct, and united regularly in morning prayers,” even refusing to travel on Sundays. Historian Hubert Howe Bancroft in his History of Utah wrote that when the emigrants camped at Mountain Meadows on the Saturday evening before the massacre, they were preparing to rest on the Sabbath and conduct “divine service in a large tent.” Baskin included remarks by U.S. Senator James H. Berry of Arkansas, who spoke during the U.S. Senate hearings on whether to seat Senator-elect Reed Smoot, that as a boy of seventeen he had witnessed the emigrants’ departure from Carroll County. Berry said they “consisted of the best citizens of that country.” Even Whitney himself had written that the “Arkansas emigrants were mainly made up of respectable people.” In light of this, Baskin wrote, Whitney’s continued characterization of the immigrants’ alleged bad behavior was as “dishonorable as it is despicable.”59

Baskin succinctly described the massacre in his Reply:

At the first trial of John D. Lee and after it was shown that Lee had, by his treacherous promise of protection, induced the Arkansas emigrants to surrender and give up their arms, it was further shown by the evidence that a number of Indians were placed in concealment in a clump of cedars and oaks, near the road, several hundred yards from the emigrant corral. The wounded men and seventeen little children, too young to expose the awful crime, were placed in wagons. The women and other children were formed into a separate procession, the men were arranged in rank, and by the side of each was placed a Mormon assassin armed with a gun, ostensibly to protect the emigrants.

The wagons containing the wounded men and young children, under order moved ahead, the women and other children followed at some distance behind the wagons, and the men with their ostensible guards followed at a distance of about one hundred yards in the rear. When the women and other children reached the ambuscade of the Indians, the signal agreed upon was given by Bishop Higbee, who was a major in the Utah Militia, and each fiendish Mormon guard shot or cut the throat of the defenseless victim he was pretendedly guarding, and the Indians, not more merciless than the white skinned Mormons present, rushed from ambush and slaughtered the helpless women and innocent children, and the wounded men in the wagons were slain.60

Even the Deseret News gave a description of the massacre on August 5, 1875.61 Whitney, by contrast, while agreeing that Colonel Isaac C. Haight had ordered the Mormon militia to march to the massacre site under command of Major John M. Higbee, wrote that it was only “on a mission of mercy to bury the dead and protect the survivors.” Supposedly “others came upon the scene,” lured to the meadows to bury the dead, “and some of these also took part” in the butchery that followed. Baskin commented that no sensible person could accept such a ridiculously absurd scenario.62 He countered that besides Lee, those who had actually planned the massacre escaped punishment. Colonel William H. Dame, commander of the Iron County Brigade of the Nauvoo Legion, Haight, and Higbee all retained their militia commands, and Dame remained president of the LDS Parowan Stake until 1880. Higbee and Haight were excommunicated in 1870, together with Lee, but Brigham Young reinstated Haight in 1874. Haight, Higbee, Dame, and Bishop Philip Klingensmith were indicted with Lee, but all of them fled prosecution. Klingensmith eventually surrendered and turned state’s evidence at Lee’s first trial, but Haight died in exile, still protected by church leaders. Prosecutor Sumner Howard dropped the charges against Dame in 1876, apparently as part of the deal with LDS authorities allowing Howard to convict Lee. A local court dismissed the charges against Higbee after Utah achieved statehood. “None of the other fifty-two Mormon participants were ever disciplined by the church,” Baskin observed.63

Baskin described how the perpetrators appropriated the property of the slaughtered emigrants, branded some of their cattle with the Mormon church brand, and sold most of the property at public auction in Cedar City. He thought the failure to use proceeds from the emigrant property to succor the surviving children was “secondary in perfidy to the Massacre itself.” Whitney avoided any reference to the robbery of emigrant goods.64

The Harvard-trained attorney proved himself an able and fearsome cross-examiner as lead prosecutor in the first trial of John D. Lee. In questioning Klingensmith, Baskin attempted to prove that any male member of the church could be “put out of the way” if he did not obey his priesthood leaders. The bishop conceded he knew of one man who had been put out of the way, whereupon Baskin noted, “Then you acted upon that belief when you surrendered your manhood and took part in this transaction?” Klingensmith answered, “Yes, of course.”65

The bishop was not the only one who wished to escape Baskin’s ferocious questioning. John Hanson Beadle explained how Brigham Young escaped being on the witness stand by pleading ill health and filing a deposition before retreating to St. George. Beadle summed up his indictment of Young: “It was not age and ill-health, but the dread of Mr. Baskin’s cross-examination that kept him out of the court-room.”66

Baskin maintained it was “the cut throat sermons of Brigham Young and other high officials of the Mormon church” in the days and months before the massacre that had inspired the killings. He thought the unquestioned obedience to the priesthood and blood atonement doctrine, taught in the Mormon Endowment House, were the principal causes for the cowardly acts perpetrated at Mountain Meadows. Baskin quoted several sermons to substantiate his accusation, including the following excerpt from Young’s rhetoric:

I say, rather than that apostates should flourish here, I will unsheath my bowie knife, and conquer or die. (Great commotion in the congregation and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.) Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. (Voices, generally, ‘go it, go it.’) If you say it is right, raise your hands. (All hands up.) Let us call upon the Lord to assist us, and every good work.67

While many dismissed such high-flown emotional rhetoric as a way of venting frustrations and not to be taken literally, there were certainly those who accepted such denunciations as pronouncements of God’s real intent. Action might well have followed by individuals who knew how to use bowie knives. There were tales of blood atonement and Danite killings in circulation throughout Utah Territory. It may be true that the Danites were more common when the Mormons resided in Missouri and Illinois, but the folklore surrounding them, if not the reality of some accounts, permeated the frontier Utah culture.

Recently more research has substantiated that it was Baskin’s position that the “theocracy” was responsible for the massacre. In his speech to the jury at the first Lee trial, Baskin charged “that a part of the Mormon Religion is to kill—and a part and parcel of it—and a great part of it is to shed human blood for another. … There is no use to disguise it when counsel said that the Mormon Church was on trial.—I am willing to accept the gentleman’s statement.” He added: “I do hold Brigham Young responsible; I do hold the system which has carried out, which distinctly teaches and carries out in its preaching and practices the shedding of human blood to atone for real and imaginary offenses. I hold, I arraign this iniquitous system, and the leaders of the church.”68

Long after Baskin delivered this indictment of church leadership and compiled his answers to Orson Whitney’s histories, a highly competent and fearless historian wrote a volume that was hailed as the definitive history of the massacre. In 1950, Juanita Brooks, a native of southern Utah who had grown up surrounded by people whose ancestors had known of, or participated in, the incident, felt determined to get at the truth that had long been suppressed and ignored by church officials. She began a long period of research into documents that had been hidden from view for almost a hundred years. She pressed ahead despite knowing she was treading on dangerous ground and might bring censure on herself or even risk membership in the Mormon Church, to which she remained faithful.

In 1950 the first edition of her book, Mountain Meadows Massacre, appeared and elicited even more controversy than she had expected. I personally remember traveling with LDS Church Historian and president of the Council of the Twelve Apostles Joseph Fielding Smith and asking what he thought of this recently published book. “Very bad! Very bad!” was his reply. It was perhaps a particularly mild rebuke in the context of other more strident denunciations at the time. Yet, opinions began to change as Mormon leaders and members alike came to appreciate the real service Brooks had rendered and value in exploring the lessons to be learned from such terrible episodes in our history. Brooks has deserved all the encomiums since given her as a result of her courageous demonstration of scholarship.69

A puzzling question might be why Brooks included Baskin’s Reminiscences and Reply in her bibliography and yet referred to them only once in her book. She repeated Baskin’s statement that Brigham Young had entered an agreement with U.S. Attorney Sumner Howard, the prosecutor in the second Lee trial, which allowed Howard to impanel a Mormon jury and convict Lee on the basis of affidavits provided in exchange for a predetermined outcome—that Howard would “exonerate the authorities of the Mormon church of complicity in the massacre.”70 Why did Brooks not acknowledge Baskin’s remarkably accurate report of the incident issued some thirty-six years before her book appeared? After all, Baskin’s two-paragraph summary closely resembled Brooks’s own conclusions, showing that Baskin had the major facts correct. It turns out that Brooks learned of Baskin’s work late in the process and only from a colleague, Dale L. Morgan, who wrote to evaluate her bibliography. At the time, the book was essentially complete.71 It may also be that Brooks was reluctant to rely too much on a source so critical of Mormonism. In either case, it is unfortunate that Baskin’s brief but accurate account was ignored for so long.

Despite the opprobrium he suffered from Whitney and other Mormons, Baskin always asserted his friendship with the Saints and his position that having gotten rid of polygamy was to their benefit. Two years before his death in 1918, he expostulated that he was not the “inveterate Mormon hater” characterized by Whitney, not the “human mainspring of nearly every anti-Mormon movement that Utah has known.” He admitted to involvement with the movements that challenged Mormonism and said he was proud he had “materially assisted in stopping the bitter conflict and brought about conditions different from the evil ones that existed in Utah Territory.” At the end of his impassioned Reply, he reiterated that this did not mean he was a religious bigot. To the contrary, in a long contest to Americanize a theocratic stronghold and “stop the lamentable conflict and establish peace in the distracted Territory[,] [n]o one can be more highly gratified at the glorious results than I myself.”72 Like others approaching old age, Baskin wanted to be certain of his place in history, that it was told correctly and, naturally, from his point of view.

Prominent Latter-day Saints reacted positively to Baskin’s olive leaf. “I never enjoyed a little speech more in all my life than that of Robert N. Baskin,” future LDS President Heber J. Grant said of Baskin’s birthday tribute to Brigham Young. Grant thought the judge was an “honest, straight-forward man who was once very much opposed to the Latter-day Saints, who today takes pleasure in bearing testimony as to the honor and integrity of the Mormon people.”73 Even the Deseret News eventually supported Baskin’s campaigns for high public office and sang his praises: “He lived to see wonderful changes in the isolated country to which he came as a young man, and none will dispute the influential role he performed in affecting some of those changes, nor the prominence which he attained as a public character and a citizen.”74

Given the ardor with which Baskin attacked Brigham Young in his memoirs, how could he in good conscience have saluted him on the occasion of the anniversary of his birth? “While he had differed with Brigham Young’s policies in many particulars, as everybody well knew, he had still believed the Mormon leader to be a great man,” read the newspaper summary of his remarks. Baskin observed that his old adversary “was not only a great leader, but a judge of men, and never made a mistake in selecting those who were to carry out his will.”75 The crowd might not have appreciated the subtle irony of this observation.

In judging the accuracy and impartiality of Baskin’s works, it is important to remember that a reminiscence written long after the fact can suffer the hazards of convoluted memory and self-justification. Baskin’s recollections contain some of that kind of baggage. But on the whole, his report of events he participated in reveal the trained mind of a competent attorney devoted to an accumulation and analysis of facts. That cannot be said of Whitney, whose manipulation of evidence in favor of his life-long religious allegiance comes through with a decided bias and pursuit of a personal vendetta against his non-Mormon antagonist. Baskin certainly was not free of animus toward Whitney either, but perhaps had better cause to vent in the face of some of Whitney’s more outrageous falsifications. “Some of [Baskin’s] points are well taken,” two prominent Mormon historians, Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington, confirmed in discussing Whitney’s scholarly contributions. They concluded that “current scholarship on almost all if not all of the topics [Baskin] mentions would come closer to his interpretation than to Whitney’s. But,” they continued, “tempers were not cool enough in the 1890s—or in 1916—to make truly balanced history possible.”76 Let us hope that today such equilibrium is possible.

1. “Utah Honors Brigham Young’s Memory,” Salt Lake Herald, June 2, 1901.
2. “Exercises at Saltair: Judge Baskin Pays a Tribute,” Daily Salt Lake Tribune, June 2, 1901; George Q. Cannon to Brigham Young, March 23, 1876, Brigham Young Collection, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
3. “Utah Honors Brigham Young’s Memory.”
4. Robert N. Baskin, Reminiscences of Early Utah (Salt Lake City: Tribune-Reporter, 1914), 4.
5. Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 27, 1918.
6. George A. Townsend, “Letters from Salt Lake City,” Cincinnati Commercial, Oct. 20-27, 1871.
7. Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 27, 1918.
8. Townsend, “Letters from Salt Lake City.”
9. Ibid.
10. Deseret News, Aug. 27, 1918.
11. Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons, 1893), 2:634.
12. Ronald Collett Jack, “Utah Territorial Politics: 1847-1876,” Ph.D. diss., University of Utah, 1970, 333.
13. “Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” vol. 14, daily entry for Apr. 18, 1877, LDS Archives; microfilm copy in Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
14. Ibid., Aug. 7, 1877.
15. Ibid., Feb. 13, 1889.
16. Whitney, History of Utah, 1:581.
17. “Journal History of the Church,” Nov. 1, 1888.
18. Edward W. Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City (Salt Lake City: by the author, 1886), 526.
19. Stephan Cresswell, “The U.S. Department of Justice in Utah Territory, 1870-90,” Utah Historical Quarterly 53 (Summer 1985): 219.
20. Brigham D. Madsen, Corinne: The Gentile Capital of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1980), 96.
21. Truman G. Madsen, Defender of the Faith: The B. H. Roberts Story (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 247.
22. Madsen, Corinne, 75.
23. William B. Dougall, “Utah Legislature of 1892,” Woman’s Journal 3 (Apr. 1892): 312.
24. Baskin, Reminiscences, 97.
25. “Journal History of the Church,” May 13, 1886.
26. Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington, Mormons and Their Historians (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988), 56.
27. Woodruff C. Thomson, “Orson F. Whitney, Mormon Writer,” M.A. thesis, University of Utah, 1949, 1-3.
28. Ibid., 3.
29. Bitton and Arrington, Mormons and Their Historians, 58.
30. Thomson, “Orson F. Whitney,” 4-5.
31. Ibid.
32. Bitton and Arlington, Mormons and Their Historians, 59-60.
33. Ibid., 60-61.
34. Ibid., 62.
35. Robert Joseph Dwyer, The Gentile Comes to Utah: A Study in Religious and Social Conflict (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1941), 253.
36. Thomson, “Orson F. Whitney,” 120.
37. Ibid., 120-23; Bitton and Arrington, Mormons and Their Historians, 63-65.
38. Orson F. Whitney, Popular History of Utah (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1916), preface.
39. R. N. Baskin, Reply to Certain Statements by O. F. Whitney in His History (Salt Lake City: Lakeside Printing, 1916), 4.
40. Ibid., 3-4.
41. Ibid., 5-7; quoting Journal of Discourses, ed. George D. Watt, 26 vols. (Liverpool: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1854-86), 5:231.
42. Ibid., 6; B. H. Roberts, Studies of the Book of Mormon, ed. Brigham D. Madsen (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 20.
43. Norma Baldwin Ricketts, The Mormon Battalion (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996), 2-10.
44. Baskin, Reply to Certain Statements, 9, 14.
45. Ibid., 9-14, 29.
46. Townsend, “Letters”; Whitney, History of Utah, 2:624-25.
47. “Journal History of the Church,” May 7, 1886, quoting the Salt Lake Herald.
48. Ibid., Feb. 13, 1889, quoting the Deseret News.
49. Brigham D. Madsen, Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1990), 168.
50. Madsen, Corinne, 102-103; Jack, “Utah Territorial Politics,” 159.
51. Edward Leo Lyman, Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 14-15.
52. “Journal History of the Church,” quoting the Salt Lake Herald, July 19, 1874.
53. Lyman, Political Deliverance, 212-13.
54. “Journal History of the Church,” quoting the Salt Lake Herald, Mar. 17, 1886; quoting the Deseret News, Apr. 17, 1886.
55. Madsen, Corinne, 84; “Journal History of the Church,” quoting the Deseret News, Mar. 18, 1886; Nov. 12, 1874; Jan. 26, 1889.
56. Baskin, Reply to Certain Statements, 23-24.
57. Baskin, Reminiscences, 83-149; Baskin, Reply to Certain Statements, 15-22.
58. Baskin, Reply to Certain Statements, 15-16, 21.
59. Ibid., 20-21.
60. Ibid., 16.
61. “Journal History of the Church,” quoting the Deseret News, Aug.5, 1875.
62. Baskin, Reply to Certain Statements, 17.
63. Ibid., 21, 22.
64. Ibid., 22.
65. Anna Jean Backus, Mountain Meadows Witness: The Life and Times of Bishop Philip Klingensmith (Spokane, WA, 1995), 120.
66. John H. Beadle, Western Wilds, and the Men Who Redeem Them (Cincinnati, 1878), 510.
67. Journal of Discourses, 1:83, transcript of address delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, Mar. 27, 1853.
68. Leonard J. Arrington, ed., “Crusade against Theocracy: The Reminiscences of Judge Jacob Smith Boreman of Utah, 1872-1877,” Huntington Library Quarterly 24 (Nov. 1960): 41n60.
69. Juanita Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1950).
70. Ibid., 195, referring to Baskin, Reminiscences, 136.
71. Dale Morgan to Juanita Brooks, Sept. 2, 1948, Juanita Brooks Papers, MS 486, Special Collections, Marriott Library.
72. Baskin, Reply to Certain Statements, 29.
73. Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, Apr. 1902, 81.
74. “Judge Baskin,” Deseret Evening News, Aug. 27, 1918.
75. “Exercises at Saltair.”


The Conditions in Utah Which Caused the Opposition of the Gentiles.

A few days after my arrival in Salt Lake City, in the latter part of August, 1865, I became acquainted with Thomas Hearst of Philadelphia, the son of William Hearst, a distinguished lawyer of that city.

Young Hearst was the agent of James P. Bruner of Philadelphia, who owned the North Star mine situated in Little Cottonwood canyon. Near this property was the Emma mine, the richness of which, disclosed by development a few years afterwards, attracted to Utah a large number of prospectors and miners to whom is due the credit of developing the wonderful mineral resources of the State. Mr. Hearst, in urging me to accompany him to the mine, said he had the utmost confidence that in Utah, upon the completion of the Union Pacific railroad, there would be discovered many rich and extensive mines which would soon constitute one of the most important sources of the wealth of the Territory; and in view of that fact alone, Salt Lake City, prospectively, was a very desirable location for any attorney at law.

I accompanied him to the mine, and from the quantity of galena ore on the dump, the large boulders of the same material disclosed at the point of discovery, and the value of the ore as stated by Mr. Hearst, I was convinced that his confidence in the future of the city was probably well founded.

After this visit I changed my intention of going on to California, and concluded to settle in Salt Lake City. I secured an office and began to study the statutes of the Territory and inquire into its existent political and social conditions.

The provisions of the two following acts of the territorial legislature were the first to attract my attention.

“An Act for the Regulation of Attorneys. Sec. 2. No person or persons employing counsel, in any of the courts of this Territory, shall be compelled by any process of law to pay the counsel so employed for any service rendered as counsel before, or after, or during the process of trial in the case.”

“An Act in Relation to the Judiciary. Sec. 1. That all questions of law, meaning or writings other than law, and the admissibility of testimony shall be decided by the court; and no laws or parts of laws shall be read, argued, cited or adopted in any court during any trial, except those enacted by the Governor and Legislative Assembly of this Territory, ane those passed by the Congress of the United States when applicable; and no report, decision or doings of any court shall be read, argued, cited or adopted as precedent in any trials.

In commenting on the foregoing acts, let me quote fror recognized legal authority:

“The criminal law of England, both written and unwritten, in force at the date the colonies gained their independence, became common law in each colony, and remained in force in the states of the Union so far as it was adapted to the condition of the people and in harmony with the genius of their institutions, and so far as it was not changed by the constitution or laws of the particular state.” (1 McLain’s Crim. Law, Sec. 12).

“It is plain, both on principle and authority, that the common law must extend as well to criminal things as to civil. (Bishop’s Crim. Law, Sec. 35).

Bigamy and polygamy are one and the same crime. Blackstone states that the latter term is “the better expression to designate that crime.” At the date of our independence, under the laws of England, bigamy was a felony. Under the statute of James I, Sec. 11, bigamy was punishable by death; and under 9th George IV, any person counseling, aiding, or abetting the offender was equally guilty with him and subject to the same punishment.

All the states except Louisiana, and territories except Utah, had by statute adopted the common law so far as applicable to new conditions. That law was and is indispensably necessary for the proper government of any American community. It was, therefore, the imperative duty of the Utah legislature to adopt it at the first territorial session. Instead of doing so the foregoing absurd section of the judiciary act excluding it was passed. By adopting the common law under which polygamy is a felony, the legislature would have made the practice of the alleged divine polygamy tenet of the Mormon church a crime. For that reason the legislature failed to perform its imperative duty and stultified itself by passing the section which excluded the common law, and all other laws except those passed by Congress and the territorial legislature.

By the provisions of the act of Congress organizing the Territory, the judicial power of the Territory was vested in a supreme court, district courts, probate courts and justices of the peace. By that act the supreme and district courts were given, respectively, chancery and common law jurisdiction, and the jurisdiction of the probate and justices’ courts was to be as limited by law. By an act of the territorial legislature the probate courts were given civil and criminal jurisdiction in all cases except those arising under the acts of Congress. The act in relation to marshals and attorneys provided that there should be elected by a joint vote of both houses of the legislative assembly, a marshal and district attorney, and these officers were respectively made, by said act, the executive and prosecuting officers of the district courts in all cases arising under the laws of the Territory. Moreover, the act of Congress organizing the Territory had already provided for the appointment, by the President of the United States, of executive and prosecuting officers of the district courts.

Another subversion of legal procedure is disclosed in the act prescribing the mode of procuring grand and petit juries for the district courts. This act contained the following provisions:

“Sec. 2. The county court in each county shall at the first session in each year and at subsequent sessions, or other times as a neglect so to do at said first session and as other circumstances may require, make, from the assessment roll of the county, a list containing the names of at least fifty men, residents of the county eligible to serve as jurors.”

The further provisions of said act required the names so selected to be placed in a box in the possession of the clerk of the county court, and that both the grand and petit juries were to be drawn from that box by the territorial marshal or sheriff, and the clerk of the county court. In case the names in the box during any session of the district courts became exhausted, under a provision of said act, talesmen could not be summoned by the court, but the deficiency could only be met by the county court convening and selecting additional names. Until this was done, when the names in the box became exhausted, no case requiring a jury could be tried. To permit the summoning of talesmen—which an ordinary method of filling the panel—might have resulted in forming a jury which was not subject to the will of the priesthood. Said act was evidently formed with a view of making it impossible to impanel any but a jury composed of Mormons. The acts containing the foregoing provisions were passed at the first session of the territorial legislature in 1852, and were approved by Brigham Young, then governor of the Territory.

As the offices of territorial marshal and the coun courts were, under an act of the legislature, elective, none but members of the Mormon church were ever elected to any of said offices as long as the act relating to the selection jurors remained in force. It remained in force for many years, and until superseded by an act of Congress. The evident intent of the provisions to which I have referred was to secure immunity to those practicing polygamy, and to enable Brigham Young, the President of the High Priesthood1 of the Mormon church, and his successors, to control the execution of the laws by the district courts in all matters requiring trial by jury. That such was the purpose and effect of said provisions is apparent from the failure for so many years to execute the law of Congress respecting polygamy, and to indict and bring to trial the perpetrators of many horrible crimes hereinafter mentioned. And the sentiments expressed in numerous Mormon sermons of the period is practically conclusive evidence on this point.

Governor Harding, in a message to the legislature, said:

“I am aware that there is a prevailing opinion here that said act (the act of Congress on the subject of polygamy) is unconstitutional, and therefore it is recommended by those in high authority that no regard whatever should be paid to the same. I take this occasion to warn the people of this Territory against such dangerous and disloyal counsel.”

That message was supplemented by Governor Harding, Chief Justice Waite, and Associate Justice Drake, sending to Congress and recommending for passage, a bill providing that juries be selected by the United States marshal; that the governor be authorized to appoint militia officers, and that the powers of the probate courts be restricted to their proper functions. This so intensified the antagonism of Brigham Young that he issued a call for a meeting at the tabernacle, at which many vindictive and inflammatory speeches were made by the leading members of the Mormon church, and resolutions unanimously adopted condemning said message, and the action of the governor and judges. A committee was also appointed to wait on the governor and judges, and request these officers to resign. A petition to the President of the United States was also drawn up and signed requesting their removal. According to Whitney, the motive which inspired the territorial acts referred to is stated in the second volume of his history, page 551, as follows:

“Doubtless the fear, well-founded it seems, that judges would be sent to the Territory who would use the tribunals over which they presided as engines of oppression, was one of the reasons why the legislature clothed the probate courts—whose officers, instead of being sent from abroad, were elected by the people or their representatives—with unusual powers. A similar reason—the fear of conspiring United States attorneys and marshals using their functions to persecute, and not merely to prosecute—may have influenced in part the creation of the offices of territorial attorney general and marshal. A desire to maintain the principle of local self-government, was doubtless the ruling motive.”

Yes, without doubt it was “fear” that inspired these disloyal acts—fear that the federal government would send judges and other officials here to execute impartially the law of the land—the same fear that today inspires the wrongdoer under the shadow of the law. What criminal would not prefer laws and decisions of his own making to those of legally constituted authority? Whitney is right here—if we read between the lines.

It may be well to instance a case in point. The incident following took place in the year 1867:

Isaac Potter, Charles Wilson and John Walker, residing at Coalville, were apostate Mormons. Walker was a boy about nineteen years of age. These three persons had previously been arrested for alleged thefts, and in every instance had been discharged by Judge Snyder, who at the time was probate judge of Summit county. In August of this year, they were again arrested on the charge of having stolen a cow. While they were under guard in the schoolhouse at Coalville, ten persons, armed, appeared about twelve o’clock at night at the building and ordered the prisoners to leave. Upon reaching the street they were placed in single file, a short distance apart, and in each intervening space two of the armed persons placed themselves. The others took positions at the front and rear of the procession thus formed. In this order they marched along the principal street of Coalville, through the mainly inhabited part of the town. Arriving at the outskirts, and their captors continuing to move on, Potter turned around and said to Walker: “John, they are going to murder us! Wouldn’t you like to see your mother before you die?” Thereupon one of the armed men marching behind Potter thrust the muzzle of a shotgun against Potter’s mouth. Potter in terror, shouted “murder!” Whereupon the armed man discharged the gun against the body of Potter at a range so close as to cause his instant death. At the discharge of the gun, both Wilson and Walker broke away and ran for their lives. Wilson was overtaken and killed at the edge of the Weber river. As Walker made his escape, a charge from a shotgun grazed his breast and lacerated his hand and wrist. He was wearing neither coat nor vest, and the charge set his shirt on fire and as he ran he extinguished the fire by the blood from his wounds. He was an athletic youth and soon distanced his pursuers. Although a number of shots were fired at him in the pursuit, he reached the river without further injury, swam across, and thereby escaped assassination. After numerous hardships he succeeded in reaching Camp Douglas, where the commanding officer, upon hearing what had taken place, gave him support and protection.

No steps having been taken by the authorities of Summit county to arrest any of the participants in the homicides mentioned, Judge Titus, whose judicial district included Summit county, upon the affidavit of Walker, issued a warrant for the arrest of the persons accused of the crime. They were arrested, and at the hearing before Judge Titus, at which I was present, what I have here stated respecting the murder of Potter and Wilson and the assault upon Walker, appeared from the testimony of Walker, who was a witness. Several of the residents of Coalville testified that they were awakened by the shots fired, and rushed out to learn the cause of the disturbance; that they saw Potter dead upon the ground, with his throat cut from ear to ear. Walker, when on the witness stand, identified the prisoners severally, and stated what each had done up to the moment Potter was killed. Judge Titus committed the accused to the penitentiary to await the action of the grand jury. John T. D. McAllister, who under the territorial statute before quoted, was the executive officer of the district court, took charge of the prisoners and conducted them in wagons to the penitentiary. Upon arriving there, the prisoners gently lifted the marshal out of the wagon occupied by him and drove away. No effort was made to rearrest them, and a short time afterwards, over the signature of all of them except Arza Hinkley and John C. Livingstone, the following insolent letter appeared in the Salt Lake Daily Telegraph. This newspaper was owned and edited by one Stenhouse, then a zealous member of the Mormon church, but who afterwards apostatized and published a book, and in which he mentioned the murder of Potter and Wilson. The aforesaid letter reads:

“In the Pines, Elk Ranch District, Rocky Mountains,
September 7th, 1867.

“Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and to all whom it may concern:

“After arriving here we thought it due to judge, warden and marshal that they should know the reason for our refusing to accept the proposal of his honor, Judge Titus, to take up our abode in the penitentiary for the period of forty days to await the action of the grand jury then to be assembled.

“Firstly: On our arrival at that beautiful mansion in the delightful neighborhood of the Sugar House ward, we were astounded to learn that mine hosts’ penitentiary larder was but sparsely supplied, and his stock on hand but limited, no appropriation having been made by nation, territory or county for the entertainment of guests whom the fates may send in that direction.

“Secondly: Not wishing to tax the warden’s hospitality unnecessarily, and it generally being our custom to maintain ourselves by the sweat of our brow.

“Thirdly: The atmosphere of warden’s boarding rooms was slightly impregnated with a bad influence arising from being occupied by individuals of the Potter, Wilson and Walker stamp, which is decidedly offensive to our olfactory nerves.

“Lastly: We concluded to sustain ourselves until the memorable fourteenth day of October, 1867, free of expense to the territory and county. On that day we will appear at the court house, G. S. L. City, individually and collectively. (His Honor may put that down).”

“Yours, etc.,

The only excuse ever claimed by any of the accused was that Potter, Wilson and Walker attempted to escape, and were shot while running away. In the light of the fact that Potter’s throat was cut and his clothes scorched by the charge which killed him, and that Walker’s shirt was set on fire by the shot which wounded him, such a claim is absurd. It was shown by the testimony that Arza Hinkley was in command of the participants in the affair and directed their movements. He was not a resident of Coalville at the time, his home being in Salt Lake City. He went to Coalville shortly after Potter, Wilson and Walker were arrested. After Potter and Wilson were killed he moved permanently to Coalville, was soon installed in the office of probate judge of Summit county in place of Judge Snyder, and served in that capacity for many years. Walker remained for some time at Fort Douglas after the, accused parties were committed, but before the time set for the grand jury of the district court to convene he left the fort to visit his mother at Coalville. He did not visit his mother, but mysteriously disappeared, and has neither been seen nor heard of since that time. No doubt he was assassinated before reaching his home. His testimony was necessary to make a case against the accused, and his disappearance gave them perfect immunity.

The deportment of these men at the hearing, notwithstanding the evidence, showed beyond a reasonable doubt that they were guilty. What subsequently transpired at the penitentiary, and their insolent letter, convinced me that their crime was one of that class of homicides which like the Mountain Meadows massacre, the murders of Brown, Arnold, of Potter and Parish, of Hartley, Brassfield, Dr. Robinson and others, could be committed with perfect impunity under the conditions then existing, and that the accused were conscious of security from punishment.

Perhaps I should have first cited the cases of Dr. Robinson and Brassfield, since these precede the Coalville tragedy. My only object in reversing the order of events was simply to bring to the attention of the reader a more striking illustration of the subversion of legal procedure and justice than is afforded by the earlier cases.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dr. Robinson was assassinated on October 22, 1866. At that time there were no public or private hospitals in Salt Lake City. He decided to build one, and began by erecting in the vicinity of the Warm Springs, upon unoccupied land situated a considerable distance beyond any habitation of the city, a small frame house to be used as a workshop in the construction of the hospital. Shortly after the workshop was finished a police force tore it down and warned the doctor that it would not be healthy for him to renew his operations there. The doctor subsequently came to my office, and after stating what had occurred, announced that he contemplated bringing suit to recover damages for the destruction of his property and enjoining further interference by the police. He also stated that another attorney whom he had consulted refused to institute a suit because he feared it would subject him, the attorney, to personal violence. Some of his friends had warned him that he would incur great personal hazard by bringing suit.

I replied that the attorney and his friends certainly must be very timid, for I did not believe it possible anywhere in the United States that a citizen would jeopardize his life by applying to the courts of his country for an adjudication of his rights in any case; that while in view of what he had stated I would not advise him to bring suit, if he decided to do so, I would not hesitate to act as his attorney. Shortly afterward he requested me to proceed in the matter, which I did.

A few weeks after the suit was instituted he was called from his bed at midnight by some unknown person, who stated that an acquaintance of the doctor had been severely injured by being thrown from a mule, and that his services were immediately required. Disregarding the dissuasion of his wife, he proceeded with the unknown person, and upon reaching a point near where the Walker dry goods store is now situated, at the corner of Main and Third South streets, he was brutally murdered. At the inquest held it appeared that seven persons were seen running from the place at the time the crime was committed. The suit instituted was never finally tried, and not having been revived, was abated by the death of the doctor.

Some circumstances antecedent to this murder are significant. A short time before, a crowd of men armed with axes broke the windows, doors, and fixtures of a building belonging to him, and destroyed a bowling alley situated therein. He procured a warrant for the arrest of the chief of police and other members of the police force on the charge of having maliciously destroyed his property, and they were bound over to answer to that charge. Two days before the doctor’s assassination he called upon Mayor Wells, who was one of Brigham Young’s counselors, and requested him to interpose and restrain the police force. In place of granting that natural and reasonable request, the mayor grossly insulted the doctor and ordered him out of the house.

Doctor Robinson was an educated gentleman of courteous manners and affable disposition. His deportment was in every respect exemplary. He was superintendent of the first Gentile Sunday school in Salt Lake City: was a skillful physician and surgeon; had an extensive practice, and it was generally known that his attendance could always be obtained by anyone, even when compensation was out of the question. He was charitable, and humane motives alone induced him to begin erecting a hospital. He was exceptionally popular, had no known enemy, nor quarrel with anyone except the city authorities. He had done nothing, so far as known, calculated to subject him to any hostility except that of occupying the land before mentioned, which was against the settled policy of Brigham Young respecting the acquisition of property in Utah by Gentiles. That policy will be fully elucidated herein further on.

As at least seven persons were participants in the murder of Dr. Robinson, it is evident that they had previously met and deliberately agreed upon the manner in which it was to be accomplished. It is anomalous, in view of the circumstances disclosed, that seven or more persons living in a civilized community should conspire to murder such an estimable man as Doctor Robinson.

Following are quotations from an interview by a correspondent of the New York Evening Post, on November 7, 1867:


“I have stated that the only explanation given by any of the Mormons of the murder of Dr. Robinson is that it was committed by Gentiles with the object of criminating the church. I called again today on President Young, notifying him that my object was to obtain some facts for the public eye, and in my long conversation with him he said that most of the Gentiles living here were bad enough to commit any act that would injure him and his people, and that he had no doubt that some wretch had been hired for about $10.00 to murder Dr. Robinson. He said that Dr. Robinson was one of the worst men he ever knew. ‘He was saucy and impudent, and pushed himself right against us,’ he said. He said he was sorry that the doctor had been killed, for he wanted him to live and die in the ditch like a dog, as he would have done if he had gone on. Still, he hoped the murderers would be discovered, though he had no idea the one-sided and prejudiced attorney conducting the case meant to discover them, for it would show the wickedness of their own clique, who had planned the deed, he thought. ‘They selected Doctor Robinson,’ he said, ‘on account of having difficulty with the Mormon authorities, thereby intending that the blame should be thrown on them.’ He lavished vigorous epithets on Governor Weller, the Gentile lawyer, and above all on Justice Titus. Referring to the latter gentleman, and some of his decisions, he said they were dictated occasionally by law, but generally by his personal feelings; that all of the United States judges were a set of prejudiced scoundrels, and he did not want any more of their decisions; that they had better be careful or they would have to go out of this place. ‘Yes, I’ll put them out myself pretty soon; send them home by a short cut.’ 2 I referred to the destruction of Doctor Robinson’s bowling alley, and other deeds of mob violence, to which Young said that in his opinion that band of men had done wrong; that instead of going by night to destroy the building, they should have gone through it in broad day. ‘I’d have gutted it at noon, torn it down and destroyed it in the light of day, so that every man might see me.’ ”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Brassfield married a woman who had previously been the plural wife of a man named Hill, then on a mission in England. Hill and the woman had severed their relations and had not cohabitated for several years. Shortly after said marriage, Brassfield was brutally assassinated at twilight of an evening on one of the principal streets of Salt Lake City, at the time thronged with people. The assassin escaped and was never arrested.

Brigham Young, in a sermon reported in the Deseret News of April 12, 1866, referring to the event, said: “Whether he (Brassfield) was killed by someone whom he threatened to shoot, or by some relation or friend of Hill’s family, or by someone who had made a catspaw of him in his ill-starred operations, or by some of his acquaintances to settle a grudge, thinking of course it would be laid upon the Mormons, is yet to be learned.”

Such disgusting statements as the above, and those made respecting the murder of Doctor Robinson were characteristic of Brigham Young, as will appear more fully further on.

Brassfield was, beyond doubt, murdered because he married the former plural wife of Hill. There can be no doubt whatever that Brigham was aware of the facts of the crime, and that later he also knew why Doctor Robinson was murdered, and who murdered him.

Marriage between members of the Mormon church and Gentiles had been interdicted by the priesthood, and it was dangerous for any man not a member of the church to even become a suitor of a woman of Mormon predilections. I know of one instance in which a brilliant young man of good character was maltreated because he was a suitor of a daughter of a prominent Mormon. He had for a considerable time been paying his addresses to the young lady. While the father of the girl opposed, her mother favored his addresses. He and the young lady became engaged. He had been warned several times by anonymous letters to cease paying further court to the young lady, but paid no heed to these warnings. One night he and the young lady had attended the theatre, and having escorted her home, while returning to his home he was set upon by several masked men and dragged to one of the trees east of the temple block. His coat and waistcoat were taken off, and while his arms were held around the tree, a policeman named Bill Hyde, whom the young man identified, most brutally lacerated his back with a blacksnake whip.

Under the conditions then existing, it would have been useless for the young man to institute criminal proceedings against Hyde: and to have killed him, as he intended, but from which he was dissuaded by me, would, beyond question, have cost him his life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From my investigations I became thoroughly convinced that the high priesthood of the Mormon church were the actual rulers of Utah, and that the government established by the Organic Act had only a nominal existence; that the priesthood claimed to be divinely authorized to rule the members of the Mormon church in all matters, temporal and spiritual; that the adherents of that church constituting almost the entire population of the Territory, conceded the claim of the priesthood; that the legislative powers granted by the Organic Act, instead of being used as intended—namely, to pass laws necessary for the proper government of an American community, and thus to prepare the Territory for admission into the Union as a State, republican in spirit and in form, and with institutions in harmony with American civilization—were used only to sanction in legal form the will of the priesthood; to give immunity to the Asiatic system of polygamy which had been adopted as a tenet of the Mormon church, and to prevent the execution of any law except by agencies created and controlled by the priesthood. In short, that there existed here an irrepressible conflict between the system established by the Mormons and the republican institutions of the United States which would preclude the admission of the Territory into the Union as long as that conflict continued, and that it could only be ended by destroying the temporal power of the priesthood. As to the reliability of my convictions on these matters the quotations following are in point.

As early as 1857 President Buchanan, in his message to Congress, said:

“Brigham Young has been both governor and superintendent of Indian affairs. * * He has been at the same time head of the church called the Latter-day Saints, and professes to govern its members by direct inspiration and authority from the Almighty. His power has been, therefore, absolute over both church and state.”

President Garfield, in his inaugural address, said:

“The Mormon church not only offends the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law * * * nor can any ecclesiastical organization be safely permitted to usurp in the smallest degree the functions and powers of the national government.”

Brigham Young, in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. IV, page 77, said:

“The Kingdom is established. It is upon the earth. The kingdom we are talking about, preaching about and trying to build up is the Kingdom of God on earth—not in the starry heavens, nor in the sun; we are trying to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth, to which really and properly everything pertaining to men, their feelings, their faith, their convictions, their desires, and every act of their lives belong, that they may be sealed by it spiritually and temporally. We are called upon to establish the Kingdom of God literally just as much as spiritually. There is no man on the earth who can receive the Kingdom of God in his heart and be governed according to the laws of that kingdom without being governed and controlled in all temporal matters.”

In Vol. VI, page 23, of said Journal, he further said:

“The Kingdom of God circumscribes the municipal law of the people in their outward government.”

In Vol. I, page 361, he said:

“Admit for the sake of the argument that the Mormon elders have more wives than one, yet our enemies have never proved it. If I have forty wives in the United States they do not know it and could not substantiate it. Neither did I ask any judge, lawyer or magistrate for them. I LIVE above the law, and so do this people.”

In Vol. XI, pages 354 and 355, he said:

“Why do we believe save as we do on these points? Because God has spoken, and we believe him. We are aiming at something more than religious unity. We have a political existence none can ignore and destroy. They think they can ; but they cannot. They cannot make us mingle with the confusion of Babylon no more than they can make oil and water coalesce. There is no affinity between us. They profess very little faith in God, and know nothing about him. While we profess faith in God, and we do know that he loves and speaks to his people. Hence unity between them and us is impossible.”

Orson Pratt, one of the twelve apostles, and the most celebrated scholar of the Mormon church, published, in Liverpool, England, a series of essays from which the following is an extract:


“The Kingdom of God is an order of government established by divine authority. It is the only legal government that can exist in any part of the universe. All other governments are illegal and unauthorized. God, having made all beings and worlds, has the supreme right to govern them by His own laws and by officers of His own appointment. Any people attempting to govern themselves by laws of their own notion, and by officers of their own appointment are in direct rebellion against the Kingdom of God. * * * For seventeen hundred years the nations upon the Eastern hemisphere have been entirely destitute of the Kingdom of God—entirely destitute of a true legal government—entirely destitute of officers legally authorized to rule and govern. All emperors, kings, princes, presidents, lords, nobles and rulers have acted without authority * * *. Their authority is all assumed; it originated in man. Their laws are not from the great law giver, but are the production of their own false governments. Their very foundations were laid in rebellion, and the whole superstructure from first to last is a heterogeneous mass of discordant elements, in direct opposition to the Kingdom of God, which is the only true government which should be recognized on earth or in heaven.”

The following is an extract from a sermon of John Taylor, one of the twelve apostles, and afterwards the successor of Brigham Young, found in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. V, page 149:

“Some people ask, What is priesthood? It is the legitimate rule of God, whether in Heaven or on the earth, and it is the only legitimate power that has a right to rule upon the earth. We came to serve God, to a place where we could more fully keep His commandments, where we could fulfil His behests upon the earth. This is why we came here. Well, then, if we are the only people whom God acknowledges as a nation, have we not a right to the privileges we enjoy? Who owns the gold and silver and the cattle on a thousand hills? God. Who then has a right to appoint rulers? None but Him or the man He appoints.”

I could add a large number of other quotations of like import from Mormon sermons and publications, but it is unnecessary to do so. I will, however, add some enunciations from Gentiles of high standing, who have given the subject studious attention. The following is from the reply of Judge Rosborough, chairman of the Democratic central committee, to a communication from the chairman of the central committee of the People’s party (church party) requesting him to participate in a constitutional convention called by the church party:

“Your party is the dominant church, and that church as a political organization constitutes your party; nothing contained in one is wanting in the other, and neither contains what is not tolerated in the other. They are one and the same in their membership, so that independent political action by an individual can never occur except with apostasy from the creed. The theory upon which our republican institutions are based is that all political power is derived from the people. On the contrary, the leaders of your party claim and teach, and their followers concede, that all rightful political power is derived from God, and is delegated to his chosen ministers, who have a divine commission to rule over the people whose first duty it is to obey counsel (i. e., submit to dictation) in temporal as well as spiritual concerns; and they further hold and teach as a political maxim as well as a dogma of a creed that this divine commission entitles them to the present right to and the near-future possession of sovereignty to be founded upon the ruins of all secular (man-made) governments. Such assumptions are utterly repugnant to American institutions, but at the same time these pretentions gauge the patriotism of these leaders and denote the intelligence and other qualifications of their followers for citizenship and statehood.”

Judge McBride, committee chairman of the Republican party, in reply to a like communication, said:

“If Utah shall be clothed with the forms of a State, the result would be a theocratic State in which, as Mr. Cannon, one of your ablest and wisest oracles expressed it, ‘the voice of God will be the voice of the people,’ and this voice finds expression through his chosen mouthpiece—the head of the Mormon church. This political axiom of your People’s party is announced by its recognized leaders, and is accepted with full faith and obedience. It reverses the entire theory upon which all republican governments are founded, and derives the authority to govern not from the people, but from those anointed, as you claim, by a divine commission to rule over them. These differences are too radical for accommodation, for our fundamental idea of all civil government is that it is derived from the people. In a State established under a theocratic idea, a free public sentiment finds no place. It extinguishes and annihilates all the fundamental beacons of the republican government around us, and remits us to the darkness of that superstition and fanticism which the world of intelligence and law has been struggling to escape. This element of your system—or faith, if you choose to call it such—renders it impossible for your people to live in harmony with any other communities in our land.”

The supreme court of the Territory, in the case of the United States v. The Church (15 Pac. 467), uses this language in the opinion delivered by Chief Justice Zane:

“At the head of this corporate body (the church), according to the faith professed, is a seer and revelator who receives under revelation the law of the Infinite God concerning the duty of Man to himself and to his fellow beings, to society, to mankind and to God. In subordination to this head are a vast number of officers of various kinds and description comprising a most minute and complete organization. The people who comprise this organization claimed to be directed and led by inspiration that is above all human wisdom and subject to a power above all municipal government, above all man-made laws. These facts belong to history, therefore we have taken notice of them.”

Governor West, in a message to the territorial legislature, said:

“These many voices of the past, replete with anguish, ask us why–of all the people in our land of nearly every nationality, of no religion, and all religions, with beliefs and creeds as various and numerous almost as the different nations of men–should this people stand singular and alone in its woeful history? Can anyone doubt who approaches with unprejudiced mind the consideration of the question that the cause is founded in the theocracy established and maintained here, in the education of the people to believe that God has chosen this people to take possession of the earth and dominate and control all other peoples? That through his priesthood God governs them immediately, not alone in faith and morals, but in all the affairs and relations of life, and that the council of the priesthood is the supreme voice of God, and must be obeyed without question.”

“It necessarily follows that perfect and complete unity has and does exist among the Mormon people; an absolute oneness, without division and dissent. The unity in the State which comes from a fair discussing of public questions, securing by merit conviction of the mind and triumph of the right, is desirable and commendable. The unity that is obtained by recognizing the supremacy of one man, or set of men, the attributing to him or them a knowledge and power not granted to others—derived from a superhuman and supreme source, and therefore not to be questioned, but must be obeyed—is the establishment of complete absolutism in those holding power, and the most abject and servile slavery on those submitting. The submission to a government by God through his priesthood, and the unity it enforces, brought this people to accept, sustain, and uphold polygamy whether practicing it or not, regardless of the sentiment of the Christian world, and in defiance to the laws of the land.”

The Utah Commission, composed of G. Y. Godfrey, A. B. Williams and ex-Governor Arthur L. Thomas, in their report to the Secretary of the Interior, said:

“They (the Mormons) have established in the Territory a religious system with a political attachment, the two forming a strong, compact government, with the power of control centered in a few men who claim the right to speak by divine right, and whose advice, counsel and command is law unto the people.”

In other connections, further facts in support of my statements will be set forth. The eradication of the intolerable conditions, the existence of which in the Territory I have shown, was the motive which inspired the outspoken opposition of the Gentiles. In Whitney’s history these undesirables are variously designated as “conspirators,” “crusaders,” and “the ring.” In view of these evil conditions which existed, the Gentiles would have shown themselves to be wretched miscreants if they had failed to organize and make a vigorous and united effort to end the iniquitous system. They organized the Liberal party for that purpose alone.


1. The High Priesthood consists of the president of the Mormon church and his two counselors.
2. In Whitney’s History, Vol. II, page 82B, it is stated that at a banquet in Salt Lake City, Senator Trumbull, of Illinois, related a conversation he had with President Young in which the latter, it was claimed, had said something to the effect that if the federal official in Utah did not behave themselves, he would have them ridden out of the Territo[ry.] [original had only partial word]

[Note: Punctuation in the above, however incorrect, has been maintained from the original.]