[From The Mormons by Gunnison, 1852]
IN concluding our notice of this new territory, and of its peculiar people, we may be allowed once more to advert especially to the subject of controlling the government of Deseret. We hear that officers sent to them have had their feelings so outraged by treasonable expressions toward the supreme government, that they have felt it obligatory to return and place the subject before the national legislature and the chief magistrate. This may have resulted from too hasty conclusions and from not marking the qualifications usually due to such denunciations. Among portions of the citizens in every State, we may hear very opprobrious terms used. The government is frequently proclaimed corrupt, and dangerous to liberty, in party declamation; the writers and speakers being ready to defend it, however, with their life-blood.
We know that a prejudice existed against the appointment of one, at least, who went to Utah in an official capacity; and the Mormons were prepared to receive him with distrust, politically and morally; and however unjust the prejudices it undoubtedly had its bad influenceand in attacking one with harsh language, the cause may have become common to all.
Now, the Mormons regard themselves as placed in the position of our colonial fathers; with this differences, that the latter felt the burden of taxation without representation; the Mormons, an injustice in enforcing law upon them by foreigners. They have formed every thing on the model of a republican State; adopted a constitution, liberal, free, and tolerant of conscience in religion; and have a criminal code which applies to their peculiar situation and footings. It is not to be presumed that lawyers, though eminent at home, fresh from crowded cities, and long drilled in municipal laws suited to old societies, can have a just appreciation of the statutes of this wild country which have a peculiar religious sanction from the dependence of the civil code on revelation. Nor will the community place the same confidence in such judges, as in those whose acquaintance with their views and opinions is a matter of experience; and whose interests and sympathies are bound up together. And, too, we must remember that it is a matter of conscience to bring all subjects of contention before the heads of their own family, the household of the church.
So longs therefore, as they demean themselves as good industrious citizens of the United States, being geographically separate from other society, with no admiralty causes to adjudicate, and pay their portion of the indirect taxation for the support of the government, they feel a right to demand confidence enough to be allowed to have persons resident among themselves appointed to administer the laws over them, and fill official stations. And they can well laugh at all attempts to control them otherwise, though they may submit in appearance, to prevent collision.
And then comes up the question, is not this after all a matter of political etiquette ? and is it wise to make a case of treason on such a point ? They acknowledge the binding force of the Constitution, claim to be American citizens, and also to have a right that this courtesy be allowed them, after so many privations and sufferings endured, to make the wilderness and desert a habitable abode. To enforce rulers over them from abroad, by the power of the bayonet, will entail perpetual war, or necessitate the raising a force, and making an expenditure of funds such as has never been. called for at one time since our national existence. The theatre of war would be at a great distances and all supplies must be transported a thousand miles on land carriage. And what would be gained in the end ? Nothing but the same as persecution has heretofore given, increase of Mormon power. Indeed we are not sure but the leaders would like a display of forces in order the raise the cry of persecution, and turn the attention of the people upon foreign objects.
But we must remember this is no insurrection of a part of a State: the population is a unit, engaged to a man in the sacred cause of their freedom to govern themselves. They must be convinced of error, before they can abandon their position without disgrace. And it will be a difficult thing to bring one portion of American citizens to fight against another on such an issue. The Herald at once proclaims that liberty of conscience is infringed. They will be considered as contending for the right to worship God in their own way, and to govern themselves as other States do. Separated by a three months' journey from other organized communities, they are harmless to them, and individuals must seek molestation, if they have aught to complain about. Why then, they will ask, peril life and treasure, when the issue can be evaded so easily, and the benefits of their position as a State secured to the country, by means which it is generous to adopts and in our power to grant ?
The principle involved is the right of sovereignty; this is already conceded, so far as it can be, to the general government, and soon a half million of persons will demand the true position of a State, or declare themselves independent of all. Surely this looks like the case in contemplation of the wise man, when he advised so prudently, "leave off contention before it is meddled with," which can be applied to governments, as well as to individuals.
Smarting under a bitter recollection of violence, that people could easily be goaded into rebellion, or rather into a warfare. A small force would be a vain insult among them. Protection they ask not, nor do they need it. They are a mighty moral force among the threatening cloud of savages on our frontiers. They compel the Indian to respect them. But they would dread far more than this the contaminating influence of an idle soldiery among them, upon industry,yet more than all, the gallantry of the epaulettes upon their peculiar institution of polygamy. A jealousy would be provoked that would be " cruel as the grave."
The whole United States army would probably be insufficient to garrison and control a hostile population on a line of five hundred miles, and enforce civil law by foreign judges. It could only compel martial law to be acquiesced in, if once such a force were well quartered upon them.
The causes which are at work to break up the clanship and oneness of the Mormon State, and reduce that people to the situation of others, with various bediefs and interests, are among themselves. The bursting power is internal, and loosening the outward bands will discover it. In short, the true policy is apparent, and may be given in their own peculiar phrase, "let them severely alone ;" which they apply to Gentile rulers sent to control their movements.
The first disturbing element we notice is the introduction of polygamy; and yet they give, or profess to allow, all the freedom to the females that is found in any Christian nation. Their education is quite as free and liberal as to the other sex, thus far. But with all this do we find them advocating the inferiority of woman in dignity of station. " Gentile gallantry and fashion", is declared to have reversed the natural relationship and social position of the sexes; and that to give the post of honor or of comfort to the lady, is absurd. If there is but one seat, they say it of right belongs to the gentleman, and it is the duty and place of a man to lead the way, and let the fair partner enter the house or room behind him. The glory of a woman is constantly held forth to be a "mother in Israel," or, literally, a child-tender. The delicate sentiment of companionable qualities and mental attachments finds no place in the philosophy of plurality of wives, separate from grosser sensuous enjoyments. While introducing this great cause of disruption and jealousies into families, they cultivate in schools the arts of peace that tend to soften and elevate a community; and the antagonistic principles, one of rolling back to Asiatic stationary civilisation, the other of progressive enlightenment, must come into collision. What then is the effect of their law of plurality ? The sacred bond between two persons, by which the twain are one, as declared in Holy Writ, is desecrated. In that union of the wills, the affections, and interests, lies the hope of improvement of the condition of society; and by the laws of nature and of grace, there the peace of the world and realisation of the Christian's hopes are centred. The law establishing the family circle was the first promulgated in social relations. And again the sacred historian takes up the theme, and relates the full-souled offering of his heart by Adam, and acknowledgment of equality and sameness; and then he declares that for this cause a man shall forsake all other ties, to obey the sacred promptings of a guileless nature, in conjugal fidelity to one wifewhich became the law of grace, and four thousand years after was once more affirmed as the holy rule of the sexes, by the Lord of all.
Nor is this a subject ever to be lightly touched, for he is a traitor to his country, to humanity, and to himself, who can point the finger of scorn, or lessen in the minds of any, the sacredness of the dual marriage; and, as all are scholars, from the cradle to the grave, as well as teachers in the social world, let every rightly balanced mind exert itself to learn, and to picture the delights and the sorrows of home, on the truthful basis of their heaven-born origin. When the lofty genius of the poet rises highest in scenes that enrapture and gladden less gifted minds, what inspires but this spirit of lovewhen the statesman is tossing restlessly on the waves of ambition, or the warrior rides fearless on the heights of a thousand dangers, their souls are nerved to their tasks by the rewards of love's admiration; and the peace of the Christian nestles in the hearts and bids each pure soul cherish, in calm sublimity, the love of its nearest and dearest neighbor; and all turn for beauty of expression and truthful illustration of the social good, to the appropriate comparison of "the love of woman." Let nothing then come between the object of regard and the whole affectionsbut rather call in aid every thing that can strengthen the union of souls, and bring it to perfection.
To offer the person for a companion, and withhold the affections, would be like the Siamese twins in the death of Chang, while Eng should live, a body attached to, but not of himit would be the embrace of a corpses galvanised into some of the motions of life; but the warmth, the virtue of the vital principles departed for ever. And this must soon become the social fate of our mountain brethren, unless a change comes over the spirit of their revelations and they return to the primitive law of the marriage relation.
A second considerations arising from the same cause, is in the relation of parents and children. Separated now from those who can persecute them, it is hard to keep up the enthusiasm of the mass, by reference to the persecutions heretofore endured. But to the young, the children of the mountains, these are "oft-told tales," jejune and tiresome. The youth there are no fanatics, and seem to care but little for the detail of doctrines.
And the contemplation of plurality is highly distasteful to the young ladies of any independence of feeling, however acquiesced in by the more advanced in age. The subject was placed before one in its practical light, and the reply was most decided and prompt against such an arrangement. Asked if she could consent to become Mrs. Blank, No. 20, or No. 40or if now in youthful life she was espoused to one of her choices and who was all the world to her; and then, though ranking No. 1, when the first blush of beauty had departed, she could be contented to have the husband call at her domicil after several weeks' absence and say, "I am really glad to see you dearest, and how delighted it would make me to spend an hour here, butand, by the way, have you seen my last bride No. 17; how sweet a girl she isreally I'm sorry to leave you so soon,"the subject was out short by the reply, stern and true, " No Sir, I 'd die first.', We are informed that many on the frontiers have deserted the " sealed relation", and married half-breeds and Potawatamies, preferring such a life as that in the cabins of Nebraska to the ennui of the other.
Young men, too, feel insecure in proposing to embark in the matrimonial vessel. They must naturally feel envious, when the young women treat them with disdain by yielding to the advice of ambitious mothers, and attach their fortunes to the hem of a president or apostle, in order to obtain a celestial queenship among the dignitaries of the world to come.
Of all the children that have come under our observation, w must, in candor, says that those of the Mormons are the most lawless and profane. Circumstances connected with travels with occupations in a new home, and desultory life, may in part account for this: but when a people make pretensions to raising up a "holy generation", and are commanded to take wives for the purpose we naturally look at the quality of the fruit produced by the doctrines;and surely they would not complain of the Scripture rule " by their fruits ye shall know them".
Additions from abroad, and conversion of adults, can never sustain such a society, if the youth and children do not imbibe the principles that form the community and give it life and vigorit is the young who are to transmit and inculcate them, or else, being at variance with their feelings and enlightened reasons the character of that society must soon change. For what constitutes society ? It has been said, men make the statethis is true when the idea comprehends the humanity of man, wife, and children. No enduring blessing was ever promised to a people, without their children being expressly mentioned as participants; and heavenly pictures of a flourishing commonwealth are united with the merry gambolings and cheerful sounds of the young playing in the streets of busy cities. Break up the harmony of thought and purpose between the parent and child; make a man's enemies of his own household every where, and what becomes of society? It is at the home, at the firesides at the family altars that the principles and dispositions are obtained that govern individuals; and as the prevailing tone of the families, so will be the neighborhood, the towns, the legislatures; so too will be the union principle that constitutes a peaceful, prosperous state.
The first form of governments arising out of man's necessities and wants, is seen in the family, and is the Patriarchal; its inception is intuitive.
Now, we find the Mormons start in theory, right on the principle of Government, as on that of Labor. In true theory government rests on the Divine Will, and human minds must interpret that will, either by direct revelation, or by Reason, enlightened by experience. Expediency, or what promotes human happiness, is the rule, but never to infringe on Revelation. In other words, Justice between individuals and nations is the object of law leaving each person all possible freedom to choose his occupation. Security of Rights is the true political economy; the natural desire of good stimulates man to work out wealth and prosperity.
Try, then, this people by their own rule. We find them claiming to act by Divine Will and in the Patriarchal form. Look at its development! The divine will is changed at once into a scheme of Human Willand the latter is made the Lawgiver the Judgethe Executor. If the Seer is the Voice of God, all is wellright. The world denies this however. And then it falls into an autocracy, despotism.
So long as the governed people choose to obey one man in all things, they are not slavesthey may be secure in " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", in their own estimation. Practically thus far the Mormons are so; and as education is spreading right thoughts and will continue to do so, if let alone, among the masses of Yankees and Chartists, they will learn how and when to throw off the usurpations of a pretended Theocracy.
In the family, the fostering restraint of authority is necessary till a certain age, and then the young bird, full fledged, flies off in joyous freedom, to assume its natural responsibility. So of Coloniesand this one, in the Rocky Mountains, now asks the privileges of manhood from the parent Statesthat granted, and the vagaries of its youth on the science of government will be discarded in the schooling of experience.
But the proselyting from other Christian sects will be sadly interfered with, and checked, when the Bible shall be published as altered by Joseph the Seer. To be sure, each sect that gives an interpretation of the scriptures different from the apostolic sense, has a new Bible; but they all keep the same words, and individual judgment is the standard that causes diversity, which is ever changing; and thus there is left open the opportunity for a catholic, that is, universal opinion. But the Bible, printed with the emendations which we before referred to, will no more be the Christian's book of the present churches, than the Alcoran of Mahomet, or the Zendivesta. Then there will be something tangible, showing the tendency of the doctrines, and a direct blow be aimed at the " faith once delivered to the Saints ;" it will no longer be, in the minds of any, a transition and progression from one view to another, but necessitate an apostacy from one religion to a different creed, and to the worship of a different God.
These adult additions for bettering temporal condition, do not add to the strength of the theo-democratic principle of their government. This will merely give power to the selfish element, to what they already complain is so common, and numerously represented by the " Mormonish ;" while, to carry out the proposed plan, there is required the most complete disinterestedness; all that sinking of self in the prosperity of the order, so conspicuous in the devoted, holy brotherhood of the Jesuits. Whole families emigrate from abroad on account of the desire of a son, a daughter, or one parent, who are convertsthe faith of one or two, perhaps, making the occasion, not the motive, for the other members joining the society.
A fourth disturbing cause lies in the system of tithes. By this engine, immense sums are accumulated, and put at the disposal of the Presidency, and its corrupting influences of irresponsible expenditure will sooner or later be developed. It cannot be long before those restless, ambitious, and talented persons, who are denied the great privileges which untold treasures secure, will become dissatisfied at the sight of ease and luxury in the managers of what they may consider a religious speculation; and some may envy the harems of the shepherds of the flock, supported indirectly by the labors of the hirelings. The toiling laborer in the dusty field may raise the question of unequal burdens, as the princely carriage rolls past with the music-band in the train, which even now makes melody in the visiting processions and pleasure-rides in the mountains. The means for amusing the mind of the multitudes and distracting attention from its own increasing power, are daily becoming less; while on the other hand, the burdens grow more and more onerous, and are less voluntarily borne. The pressure for tithes from all parts is again vehemently made, and reminds of the times of Joseph, when engaged on the Nauvoo temple.
Nor is the harmony and union of the Presidency so strong that it could not be broken. What could happen to the first three, with the prophet at the head, can easily occur again. It requires no great shrewdness to perceive the growing affection manifested for different persons in that board of directors, and parties will carry the object of admiration with them. No open organisations are yet made in favor of the second in rank, who is reported to be the best business man in the valley, but it would require but little tyranny and novelty of doctrines preached by the Seer, to cause the cry of apostacy and ambition. Like Lucifer and Rigdon, he would be declared, by a numerous host, to have forfeited the high estate, and a vote of the chiefs of stakes, or expressed will of the majority of the people, would depose him. At present he is wary of giving revelations, rather hinting that something is soon to appear, of wonderful importance. He assures that Joseph the Seer has left more work carved out, than five years of faithful diligence will accomplishand when they have fulfilled all the duties entailed, then they may ask for more light from the angels.
All these seeds of distrusts ambitions and discontents are sown in a fruitful soil; and if they are left quietly to germinate by the powers at a distances cannot fail to destroy that unity which renders the Mormon community so formidable to any that might seek to control it. That people may well be compared to the Puritans of New England, in its early settlementthey are as exclusive, as energetic, as enduring; have sustained persecutions more fieryhave toiled for rocks and snowylandscontended with the men, and subdued a desert for a residence. May no General Gage be directed to dragoon them into rebellion. On one area the theo-democratic government has yielded peaceful fruits, and been forgottenon the other, like results, we hope, are to follow.
There appears to be a crisis in the relations of the Mormons to the government of the Union, and sober counsels are demanded, to prepare the way for a peaceable, honorable future. No reference to State pride, no thought of religious aberrations, can be safely consulted in the case: nothing counselled but generosity on the side of powers towards those who have achieved so much in fertilising a barren regions and made "two spires of grass to grow where only one grew before"nothing but indulgent charity should be exhibited to men who declare themselves ready to enter upon an honest warfare of reason, enlightened by revelation, to maintain, if found good, or abandon, if demonstrated erroneous, long cherished opinionsand forbearance may honorably be exercised, while they continue to carry out practically the principles of republican liberty and human freedom' in accordance with American genius, though the method be theoretically absurd; having good assurance that there are improving elements within, that will "leaven the whole lump.', Such conservative views will produce harmonious action, and the STATE OF DESERET become a sound connecting link in the great empire chain, whose termini are riveted in the everlasting foundations of the turbulent Atlantic and calm Pacific; those station points, at which the ascending sun salutes, and, descending, bids a short farewell each day, lightly kissing the snow-capt brow of the lofty mountain peak, that looks so serenely down upon the vales, filled with the happy homes of peaceful industry.
Let us not then be the advocates of Mormonism, and opposers of our own form of Christianity, by counselling persecution and foreign control. This system is not what it was in its first decade.
Once it was aggressive, now it is on the defensivethen it was violent, now it is politic. The thousand mile wall of space uninhabited, hems it in and renders it harmless. The industry of its supporters makes it useful to the country. They are more than an army against the Indians on the West. The weary traveller to the land of Ophir shares in their hospitality.
Mormonism could not exist as a concrete system among other sects. It must rule or it must die. A fair field to test its virtues and its faults is before us. Its votaries are now to ascertain its claims to truth by prophecy. If , in a few short years, they see the great city of New York, its people, its temples, and its wealth, go down into the opening earth, and the sea sing a requiem over the graveif they see the Protestant world become only known in the records of the pastif a guard of angels in glittering armor descend and guide them back in military array across the desert plainsif they hear the groans of the Asiatic nations, dying in frantic battle, in myriads, on the plains of Palestine; then may they know that the testimony of Joseph was of " the spirit of prophecy."
This new creed arose out of the strife of conflicting human opinions, and is one of the great exponents of the age, in which individual mind is struggling to throw off the fetters of superstitionand in the rebound to unbridled private judgment here is added one more instance of exalted genius enlisted on the side of priestly tyranny, and sacrificed on the altar of ambitioncarrying hecatombs to an " auto da fe." Its founder will survive in history. He is embalmed in the affectionate memory of thousands; and as time lends a halo of enchantment to encircle his name, hymns of praise and legends of his holy deeds will be sung, and cherished by those who believe that the prophet saint of earth is to reign a God over a brilliant world of his own creation, surrounded by happy queens and carolling children, through his own blessed eternity. When the " knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea", then will this new church, the handy-work of man, fade away and be forgotten. For its virtuous industry we praise, for its brotherly unity we admireand for its induction into the one Catholic Church we offer our sincere prayers.