Gentiles Against the State of Deseret - 1850
Mention is frequently made of Deseret, as the name of a territory settled by the people commonly called Mormons, and now praying to be admitted into the Union under the name just stated. It is a matter of surprise that this subject has not attracted a greater degree of public attention. This circumstance can only be accounted for by the fact that other subjects of a more urgent nature have for the last few months occupied the thoughts and time of Congress and the people. Under ordinary circumstances, there are many questions connected with the settlement of the Mormons, and their present application to be admitted into the federal Union, which would have been thought to require very serious consequences.
In the first place, who and what are the Mormons? The answer is, they are a sect of fanatics, who have sprung up within the last few years, and who believe in the late Joe Smith as a divine prophet. Since the cruel murder of Joe Smith, they believe that his gift and power of prophecy have passed to his successors, and that Divine revelations are regularly and even frequently made by them and their followers. The "Book of Mormon" is a pretended revelation, which Joe Smith alleged was communicated to him on golden plates, dug up in the State of New York, written in an unknown language, but translated into English by himself. In point of fact, the greater part of this pretended new Bible was a sort of religious romance written by a clergyman of New York, not with any intention to deceive, but as an effort (a very ill-judged one) at an innocent exercise of the imagination. By some accident it fell into Joe Smith's hands, and was by him made the subject of the abominable fraud just named. The deluded followers of Smith, calling themselves "Latter-day Saints," emigrated, we believe from New York to the West, Whether their first establishment there was in the State of Missouri, we are not accurately informed. They had not been long in that State before they incurred the ill-will and odium of their neighbors, and were illegally and violently driven out of the State. They took refuge in Illinois, founded the city of Nauvoo, built an abortion of architecture which they called a temple, and grew rapidly in numbers and wealth. Recruits of two descriptions flocked to them; first, simple fanatics, who believed in the pretensions of Joe Smith, a considerable number of whom were enlisted by his missionaries. not only on the Middle and Northern States, but in England; and second, adventurers of every kind, who flocked to Nauvoo to speculate upon the credulity of the other portion.
To the disgrace of the age this wicked imposture flourished. As a specimen of its grossness, we may mention a fact, stated by an extremely respectable gentleman of this city, as one within his personal knowledge. Being on a tour to the West, he visited Nauvoo from curiosity. In the temple he was shown a collection of curiosities, and among them were one or two mummies, which had been imported from Egypt by Joe Smith. The attention of the visitor was called by Smith to the mummy clothes and the writing upon them. "There," said Smith, "that's the hand writing of the patriarch Abraham, and I am the only man that can read it," which he then proceeded to do!
In the course of a few years the scenes of violence which had occurred in Missouri, were repeated, and with still more fatal results, in Illinois, and the Mormons were driven from the State by armed and organized bodies -- not acting, however, with any legal authority. We do not, by any means, justify or palliate the manner in which the Mormons were treated, either in Missouri or Illinois. It was illegal and cruel, and this without any reference to the character and conduct of the Mormons. What credit is to be given to the reports which circulated to their disadvantage we have no means of knowing. They were believed to be guilty of the grossest immoralities; it has been constantly stated that they professed and practiced on the doctrine of community, or plurality of wives; and it was believed in their neighborhood that they made up their separate organization to screen each other in a general violation of the laws of the land and good morals. Whether this is true, false, or exaggerated, we have no knowledge; but it seems scarcely possible that, unless there had been some foundation for the prejudice, they should in so short a time have become the object of such bitter hostility in Missouri and Illinois.
In the conflict between the Mormons and the neighboring population of Illinois, Joe Smith was murdered in the prison in which he had been committed. His followers fled from the State and formed the resolution to emigrate to California; not then known to abound in gold. Having reached the region of the great Salt Lake they halted there and established a settlement, which has produced, and is now said to contain twenty thousand persons, one half of whom are unnaturalized foreigners, principally English. It is probable that their settlement has received a good many recruits from emigrants who had started for California. Their pretended theocratic government is still kept up; and revelations are a regularly announced to them as the orders of the day by a commanding general in time of war.
Such is the people, who having founded a few straggling settlements on the public land of the United States -- of which they do not own an inch, of which the Indian title has not been extinguished -- have formed a constitution of government, chosen a Delegate to Congress, and asked admission to the Union as an organized territory by the name of Deseret. As far as we can judge, the region modestly included within the boundaries which they have granted themselves is about as big as all New England and New York. This is "vote yourself a farm" with a vengeance. If Congress admits the pretensions of these people, they all them to vote themselves to each adult male a domain about as big as Rhode Island; or rather, Congress will in so doing, grant its sanction to this most monstrous and unexpected appropriation, which has already been made by the Mormons.
Had the Mormons addressed a memorial to Congress praying for a small tract of land, say five or six townships 00 a quarter section for each head of a family (!) -- our individual feelings might have been in favor of complying with their request, and thus allowing them a place of asylum from persecutions. We very much doubt, however, whether Congress would have granted such a petition. It is entirely against the spirit of our legislation to bestow any such favor on large organized sects. It never has been done, and it may be doubted whether it ever ought to be done. There are about twenty thousand Shakers in New York and the Eastern States; they own valuable tracts of land, honestly bought and paid for, or acquired by gift. Suppose they should (with or without reason) become odious to their neighbors, be the subjects if a general persecution, and finally be driven by violence from their present homes; does any man propose for a moment that Congress would grant them an ample tract out of the public domain? Would such a grant be made to any sect -- to Mennonites, Rappists, to Trinitarians, Unitarians, Orthodox or Liberal? Is there any one of the kindred sects that fill the dictionary of denominations, to which Congress would grant an acre of land, or even a charter of incorporation? We think not.
But Congress is asked to make to this sect, not of Christians but of Mormons, of believers not in Jesus Christ but of Joe Smith, a more than imperial grant; to bestow upon them, not a township, but a region as large as Great Britain; not an act of incorporation, but an act of admission, on terms of equal membership, to this Union of States!
The name by which the Mormons have begun to call their new settlement, and propose to call their new State, is Deseret; and if there were no other objection to this name, it would be a sufficient and fatal objection that its adoption by Congress would be a direct recognition of the wretched fraud called the Book of Mormon. The following is the account which we find cited from the Frontier Guardian: "The name selected for that country is borrowed from the Book of Mormon, where a description is given of a voyage of the ancient Jaredites, from the Tower of Babel to the American continent, more than four thousand years ago. It is said they brought with them seeds of all kinds, and also 'Deseret,' which by interpretation is the 'honey bee.' The bee and the hive being emblems of industry, the citizens there, wishing ever to exhibit those qualifications, have chosen the above name, as being adapted to the character which they ever wish to sustain."
It is unnecessary to state that this whole attempt to connect the history of the Mormons -- a sect of fanatics formed in our own day -- with the dispersion of mankind at the tower of Babel is pure fiction. It is a part of the romance to which we allude above, and which Joe Smith adopted as his revelation. There is not the slightest reason for thinking that the word Deseret means Honey Bee in any language ever spoken by man. We have seen it stated, and that in a respectable journal, that Deseret is the ancient Egyptian word for Bee.
Of this we have no proof. Sir Gardner Wilkinson does not appear to have known the ancient Egyptian name of the bee, (see his Manners and Customs, second series, vol. 1, p. 81,) and if not known to him, it is not likely to have been known to any one else. In fact, we understand that the Mormons do not themselves pretend that Deseret is the ancient Egyptian word for bee, but that a certain ancient race called Jaredites (existing only in the imagination of Joe Smith and his followers) brought from the tower of Babel a something which they called Deseret, and which is, by the Mormon interpretation, honey-bee. The entire Book of Mormon being a forgery out of whole cloth, it is of course idle to discuss the meaning of anything contained in it. But we protest against the incorporation of any of this jargon into the statute book of the United States.
We have lately seen in the Washington papers handsome testimonials to the moral character of the Mormons in their present location, to their thrift, good conduct, and consequent general prosperity. How far these testimonials are well-founded we do not know. We do not at all enter into the question of the morality of the Mormons nor in the slightest degree apologize for the treatment which they received in Missouri and Illinois. At the same time, however, there is reason for believing that they hold some dangerous principles of practical morality, which should make Congress pause before they constitute them a coequal sovereign member of the Union. If their future history is to resemble the past, Congress, in taking steps to organize them into a permanent political community, will be laying the foundation of convulsions of a most dangerous character. If they were, or believed to be, a community which neither Missouri nor Illinois would tolerate, even in the number of a few thousands, is it likely that they can live in peace and harmony with neighboring states, when they themselves have grown into a powerful State, wielded by artful chiefs who pretend to add Divine to human power?
It has been publicly stated by seceding members of the Mormon body that their leaders already threaten vengeance for the wrongs they have suffered; and among the wild visions of Joe Smith's heated brain was that of acting over again the part of Mahomet, and founding a new Mormon caliphate on this continent. We may smile at the egregious absurdity of these delusions, and yet not think it prudent to assist his followers, already boasting of their tens of thousands, to plant themselves on the high-road to California, and give them complete control of our line of communications between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. FRANKLIN.
We notice that Mr. Wentworth
has introduced a petition into the House of Representatives, remonstrating
against the admission of Deseret into the Union. They object on the grounds that
the leaders there are enemies to the United States -- are robbers, murderers,
polygamists, &c., &c. The petitioners represent themselves to be Mormons
residing in the State of Illinois, and we presume are Strangites belonging to
Mr. Wentworth's District.
The attention of our readers is directed to an article on the subject of the admission of Deseret, from the National Intelligencer, to be found on the outside of our paper to-day.
Note 1: The petitioners "residing in the State of Illinois" were not exactly "Strangites;" rather, they were former Strangites, allied with William Smith at Shelbourne, Lee Co., Illinois. Shelbourne was the western terminus of Palestine Grove, immediately south of what is now Amboy, Illinois. This was the headquarters of William Smith's "Palestine Stake of Zion." In Chapter 5 of his 1901 book on the Mormons, William Alexander Linn provides the following information: "The constitution of Deseret was presented to the House of Representatives by Mr. Boyd, a Kentucky Democrat, on January 28, 1850, and referred to the Committee on Territories. On July [sic] 25, John Wentworth, an Illinois Democrat, presented a petition from citizens of Lee County, in his state, asking Congress to protect the rights of American citizens passing through the Salt Lake Valley, and charging on the organizers of the State of Deseret treason, a desire for a kingly government, murder, robbery, and polygamy." According to the Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Wentworth's presentation was made on February 25, 1850 -- the relevant entry for that date reads: "Mr. Wentworth presented the petition of Thomas Hunt and other citizens of the State of Illinois, praying Congress to protect the rights of American citizens while trading through the valley of the Salt Lake, and setting forth other matters concerning the treasonable designs of the Salt Lake Mormons. On motion of Mr. Wentworth, the said petition was read. Mr. Wentworth moved that the petition be referred to the Committee on Military Affairs. And debate arising thereon, the petition was laid upon the table under the rule." See Feb. 26, 1850 issue of the Washington D. C. Congressional Globe for further information on this petition.
Note 2: According to the Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, on July 19, 1850, "Mr. Robert M. McLane reported that the... Committee of Elections, to whom were referred the credentials of Almon W. Babbitt, esq., and his memorial, praying to be admitted to a seat in the House as a delegate from the provisional State of Deseret, together with the resolution reported by the said committee, had come to no resolution thereon." The issue for July 20, 1850 records that John Wentworth voted against tabling the resolution to admit Almon W. Babbitt, Esq., as the "delegate from the alleged State of Deseret."
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