WHAT NEXT WITH THE MORMONS?
Tirma is no saying what we may yet hear about the Mormons which may discredit anything we can say of them now. They are so far off, their leaders are so astute, their proceedings so mysterious, their aims so unintelligible, that there is no treating of them with any security that they may not falsify all narra- tives, and every prognostication. It is now declared in America, however, and believed generally there, that the Mormons have re- turned to their homes, in the great city and all the lesser settle- ments; and that Brigham Young has offered himself br trial for high treason, on certain terms. Report adds that the body is torn by dissensions, and that the return indicates the loss of power on the part of the leaders, and, in that change, a probable break-up of the community, if not of the sect. The present time seems, therefore, to be fitting for a glance at the real relations be- tween the Mormons of Utah and the American Government ; at these relations which incite or compel the Mormon leader to sub- mit himself for trial for high treason towards the Federal Go- vernment of the United States. The question is an interesting one as a mere study, so new is the case in political history ; but it is also highly important for political guidance at a critical pe- riod, when California forms a part of the -United States, and Mexico is understood to be an object of desire in the same rela- tion; and when the sudden importance of British Columbia, and the dubious fortunes of the Hudson's Bay Company direct atten- tion to all bodies of capitalists and labourers who are known to want land, and to every political organization which is likely to come into collision with those which exist or are proposed. It is remarkable that while a great republic, growing monarchical co- lonies, a stationary monopoly of land and rule, and a mob of old Indian tribes are all face to face on that continent, and all alike distrustful of the next move and the ultimate destiny of each, there should be a modern people, regarding themselves as He- brews among the heathen, calling the United States their Egypt, and refusing to point out the direction of their promised land. Their movements concern us all; and now that they have, for the present, come back to their homes, and acknowledged, in some sense, the jurisdiction of the American Government, it is of im- portance to ascertain what their position in the republic really is. A few weeks ago, it seemed for a moment as if the curtain were about to be lifted, and the Mormons themselves disposed to in- struct us in their views and purposes. We had hitherto had no- thing in the way of information but their own preachments and fragmentary "scriptures," and their neighbours' reports, which were about as trustworthy as -village and sectarian scandal usually are. In the spring, Congress received from them a memorial of grievances, which was immediately promulgated in the country, and sent over to Europe. This memorial bears the date of Janu- ary last ; and we looked to it for an account of the latest views and temper of the body. We were justified also in expecting to learn how the Mormons came to desire and demand admission into the Union, if they were unprepared to assent to the primary and uni- versal conditions of such confederation.
In regard to this, the memorial taught us nothing. The long, prosy, plaintive appeal showed only that the Mormons did not m. tend to place their community and its action under the observa- taon of the Federal Government, according to the general practice of new states. While they had everything to complain of they had nothing to tell. Up to this time, there was a disposition among fairminded people to contend for a suspension of opinion about the Mormons, who were for ever reviled without reply, and who meddled with nobody (except in beating up for converts) while pursuing a very original course of their own. But when the Mormon leaders challenged observation, and appealed to an external public by the act of issuing a memorial, they took up their position on the ordinary ground of criticism, and must stand their chance with public opinion. The result was that they lost the benefit of reticence, while they declined the advantage of frank explanation. We must take them as they have shown themselves, and judge them as citizens of the republic to whose Ce. n. gress they have thought fit to appeal as aspirants for full citizenship. What, then, is their case ? There can be no doubt of the early impostures of the Mormon leaders. In England, we hear only of the Golden Bible, among the testimonies from above which were appealed to in the first days of Mormonism ; but there were " evidences " corresponding with all the leading incidents of the Old Testament history—as " the sword of Gideon," which was dug up and exhibited above twenty years ago, rather modern in its make, and found on close inspection to bear the inscription " e pluribus unum," which was hardlY Canaanitish enough even for the new converts. But the
great and continuous spread of the doctrine early proved that there must be something substantial at the bottom of it. The substantial quality we understand to be that which has preserved the existence of various other faiths and polities in the United States, as untenable in the eyes of European society as Mormon- ism itself ; the material prosperity arising from a cooperative sys- tem, withdrawn from all opposition. European travellers in America are aware how rich the Shakers are, and the Rappites, and other odd communities. They are not healthy, nor happy, nor wise, but they have plenty of wealth. Mormonism affords the wealth, without the celibacy ; and it disguises the enforced igno- rance and the unmitigated despotism which the others avow. A promise of the good things of both worlds, in the form of a new faith, attested by miracles, and graced by the bounty of Heaven in the form of abundant wealth, may well attract the "uneasy classes" of old European countries, and the immigrants from those countries, who find themselves addressed by Mormon re- cruiting agents, as they are toiling westwards, in search of a new home and a maintenance. Hosts of Germans, and a great num- ber of disciples from the Scandinavian countries are understood to have gone to the Salt Lake of late years. In addition to the ease of wealth, there is the temptation of a substantial religious go- vernment; a lifelong direction of each man's affairs by Heaven- appointed rulers, under whom a man cannot do wrong, and who will relieve him of his responsibility. Whatever Romanism offers of relief to irresolute and sensitive natures of higher cultivation, Mormonism holds out to the ignorant and inexperienced who are subject to the same trouble. When to this is added the charm which invests a persecuted faith, and the alliance of all those up- right and generous feelings which are aroused by the infliction of wrongs on the unresisting, we cannot wonder that the success of the Mormon leaders has been as great as we see it. NVe can understand the removals of their flock from station to station ; their pilgrimages in faith and patience ; their religious phenomena, and even their social and moral eccentricities : but not their poli- tical conduct. The question still arises,—do the Mormons, or do they not, desire to constitute a State of the American Union ? Their furnishing soldiers, and good soldiers, and plenty of them, for the Mexican war looks like a sincere desire to earn an entrance into the union: and so does the formal application for admission at Washington ; and so does the provisional organiza- tion of the State of Deseret, framed nine years ago when the leaders could no longer refuse to incorporate some secular author- ity with their purely ecclesiastical jurisdiction. On the other hand, it was avowed that the changes made were for the purpose of attracting "gentile" settlers to the colony ; and all civil offi- ces were still confided to the religious leaders. As a propitiatory measure, the Washington Government nominated. Brigham Young, the Mormon Highpriest, as the first Governor of the ter- ritory of Utah, while the community was undergoing probation before being admitted as the State of Deseret.
Here, (judging by the Mormon memorial,) occurred the hitch in the intercourse between the republic and the candidate territory. The memorial complains of the appointment of strangers to the territorial offices ;—a complaint so apparently unreasonable that readers are compelled to suppose a desire on the part of the me- morialists to pick a quarrel. How could the business of the United States Courts, and other public offices, be filled by Mor- mons? How could " Gentiles " live under such an administra- tion? Whereas, if Mormons petitioned to live under the national institutions, they could not object to have those institutions worked by national officers. Even Brigham Young and his colleagues and creatures could hardly be so infatuated by power as to suppose that they could obtain and use the name of those institutions, merely to mask their own proceedings. This would be too trans- parent a fraud for the Yankee "gentiles" whom they had at- tracted to their settlement. If we must propose a conjecture, it would be that the Mormon leaders changed their minds when the time came for sharing their power with the republican officials. They certainly closed the United States Courts, though they did not burn the records and great seal, as was at first reported. When they found that they could not with impunity drive out the authority they had invited in, they had recourse to three kinds of proceeding. They intensified their tyranny to the last degree, rendering every individual in the community absolutely dependent on them for life, and all that life is worth. The evi- dence of fugitives, and the prodigious amount of capital punish- ment inflicted in various forms,—by assassination, martial sen- tence, and executions abundantly testify this. They formed alli- ances with the wild Indian tribes who are all deadly foes of the American troops and settlers. They also addressed their memorial to the President and Congress, assuming a tone of injured inno- cence, and meek remonstrance, contrasting strangely with the contemporaneous pulpit threatenings of the writers. After hover- ing about the United States camps, and trying by all methods to scare away the handful of suffering troops, Brigham Young played his other card,—invited the United States representative to the city, used him not only civilly but deferentially, and pretended to treat ; but was all the while sequestrating him from intercourse with any but his own agents, and preparing to evacuate the set- tlement, and to burn the city on his departure. This catastrophe was prevented ; but the place was all but deserted, only a few persons being left to take care of the crops. While the "gentile" world was asking the two questions, "Why did they not stay ?" and "Where will they go ?" the community returned; and the newest question is, Why did they come back ?" We suspect it will appear that the return was against the will of the leaders. After all that has oozed out of the discontent of the European women in the harems of their vul- gar tyrants, and of the indignant disgust of many disciples of the other sex who find themselves controlled like children, and op- pressed like slaves, we cannot wonder at the opportunity of a se- vere march being made use of to overthrow the despotism of a hated chief. Brigham Young has no doubt made a virtue of ne- cessity, and led the march home, and offered himself for trial, as the only alternative from absolute deposition.
As to the trial—the proposal is another acknowledgement of the federal relation to the government at Washington. The absurdity of the condition of surrender, that he shall be tried by a jury of Mormons, seems to show the man's unfitness for rule, through contempt for the understandings of his neighbours. If he, the apostle of a theocratic administration, is committed to the judg- ment of his own disciples on the charge of refusing obedience to a "gentile" government, the verdict is clear beforehand. He will be acquitted with all honour as having chosen to obey God rather than having withstood the powers of the Gentiles on God's behalf, and BO forth. The process will, of course, be forbidden from Washington. What next ? Who will undertake to say ? Brigham Young will perhaps disappear for the present. As soon as assurance of federal pro- tection can be obtained, a multitude of the " disciples " will secede, and the women will desert the Mormon homes in crowds.
A remnant of the sect will, as usual, preserve the faith ; but it is not credible that they and the seceders can live side by side in the great Mormon city. If so, it is most probable that the stead- fast believers will be the movers. If so, Brigham Young may come down from some mount, and lead them to some new nook of the wilds. Those who remain in Utah will become like other frontier populations, probably—their license being all the wilder for the previous restraint. Things may turn out thus, or quite differently. The one thing that we wish was certain, is that the persistent Mormons should have no real grivances to complain of. We should like nothing so much as that they should be let entirely alone, and allowed to live and prosper in their own way. But then, they must not apply for a citizenship whose primary con- ditions they refuse to fulfil. Neither must they send out their emissaries to devour the ewes and lambs of the fold all over Christendom. They must not play fast and loose with Govern- ments or with families. If they can live and thrive on equal terms of liberty and harmlessness, by all means be it so. We have no doubt as to the event ; and our persuasion is that the fullest justice will prove the highest expediency.