Mormon History

Letter to Secretary Seward - 1863

Letter by Stephen S. Harding to William H. Seward

Wednesday, March 11, 1863 (Affairs in Utah)

From Stephen S. Harding to William H. Seward1, March 11, 1863

Recd 30. Mar

Executive Department Utah Territory

Great Salt Lake City -- March 11 1863,


I have the honor to inform you that a petition unanimously signed by Mormon citizens of this Territory, has been forwarded to the President, asking him to remove me, together with the Honorable Charles B Waite and Thomas J Drake2 from our respective offices; and I deem it proper to make this Communication to you on that subject. It is right that the president should be fully informed, as to the real conditions of affairs here -- and in order that he may be, I shall have to claim your attention for a brief period--

I desire that no unnecessary haste may be taken in the premises; but that we who stand accused of a dereliction of duty, shall not be condemned unheard--

It is known to the President, that our duties are most delicate and difficult: he should also know, that no Federal officers here, can perform his duties faithfully to the government, without incurring the displeasure of Brigham Young: And his displeasure, is that of all his followers-- Out side of this, his position is such that he is enabled to exert a most malign influence, on the minds of others, not connected with the Mormon Church -- but whose interest it is, to keep on good terms with him; and who are dependent for favors and patronage.3

This last consideration, will readily account for certain Gentile names, which doubtless may be found on the petition above referred to. Prominent amongst these, will doubtless appear those of certain agents, and employees of the Overland Mail Company -- under the management and control of Mr. Frank Cook who is the Assistant Treasurer of the company stationed here--

His position and standing as the principal agent of a wealthy company, may add importance to his statement, and therefore, it is but right and proper, that the President should be advised as to his motive, and the causes which have superinduced his action in the premises.

In the first place he has never been friendly with me; at least since Brigham Young came to dislike me, the reason however is obvious, the Company which he represents is dependant to a great extent on Brigham Young for Hay and Grain, necessary to run the Mail line in this Territory. Mr. Cook in this, is more selfish than patriotic, yet it is the way of the world-- One of the Main reasons urged by this gentleman, for the withdrawal of the troops, and for preventing their being reinforced, is, that the Overland Mail Company would have to compete with the Army in procuring supplies, and thereby in his opinion they would loose at least $50.000. per annum-- Hence he may expect that all the power and influence of this Corporation, will be brought to bear on the question under consideration, and for no other reason, than by doing so, they retain the good will of Brigham Young-- In addition to all this, I am pained and humiliated to have to say, that I have good reasons for believing that certain Federal officers, some of which are engaged in other pursuits, out side of their official duties, and whose sympathy and confidence we ought to possess to the fullest extent, have secretly encouraged the late movement which culminated in the mass meeting on the 3d instant-- I can assure the President, that no man can be popular with Brigham Young who holds a Federal office, unless he can be used to advance his own personal ambition-- That this has been done in some instances at least, by those who ought to guard the rights of the Government at all hazard, is obvious to those who have watched events-- Hence it is, that complimentary resolutions have been passed by the last Legislature, and the one previous, in favor of a certain gentleman, who upon my removal, or absence, would discharge the duties of Governor. It should be remembered that Secretary Fuller,4 is plying his orb and trade here as a dentist-- He has the reputation of being a good workman and from his own acknowledgements, his business in this capacity, is much more lucrative, than his salary for official services-- He has been fortunate enough to gain the entire confidence and patronage of Brigham Young-- How, I will not pretend to say; but it is known here, that in no single instance, has he failed to do what his Mormon friend desired of him. That may possibly account for his paying out the Money of the Federal Government, to the Mormon Legislature against all former precedents here, and without any appropriation Bill having first been passed-- Perhaps, that it was for this reason, that he seemed unwilling to give me any aid in having my Message printed, when he found that its suppression was intended if possible here, by Brigham Young-- I admit that he sent a copy made by me to the New York Tribune, but his very unwillingness that his agency in the matter should be known certainly did not allay my suspicions-- I would not have any thing unpleasant grow out of this Communication, yet it is my duty to make these disclosures--

There is another reason, and perhaps the gravest of them all, which underlies this movement. It is known that in those parts of the Territory, to which Judges Waite and Drake have been assigned, the most ghastly crimes have been committed, which can be clearly traced to men, of high standing in the Mormon Church. The district of the former, includes the scene of the ever to be remembered "Mountain Meadow Massacre", where in 1857, one hundred and twenty innocent men women and children, were most cruelly murdered, in cold blood, and their bones left to bleach on the desert sand-- In the district of the latter, also, the most aggravated murders have been committed up to a recent period, in all which cases, the offenders have thus far escaped punishment -- notwithstanding the evidence necessary to insure a conviction is at hand-- These facts are widely known here, and the Mormon leaders have been advised that it was our intention to cooperate as far as possible, to bring the offenders to Justice-- Hence it is, that the above facts have alarmed the Mormon leaders; and they have left nothing undone, that was in their power to do, to compel us to resign and quit the country, Or if this should fail, then to spare nothing, either in money or fair promises, to set a strong influence against us.

But let me ask, what are the complaints against myself and the proscribed Judges--

1st. I am charged with having insulted the Legislature in delivering my late message--

2d, That we are enemies to our Government

3d. That we have attempted to bring on a collision between the troops under command of Col. Connor,5 and the people of this City and Territory--

4th. That we prepared a Bill in this City, and sent it to Senator Browning, which if adopted, would take away the liberties of the people, and enable me to establish a military despotism--

5. That I have charged these people and their leaders with being disloyal without cause--

Now if these charges are true, the duty of the President is plain-- He ought at once to remove us, and fill our places with better and safer men-- But before he passes judgment against me, I ask to be heard for a moment,

The 1st charge can be quickly disposed of -- the President can read the message which I herewith enclose--

2d. As to this allegation, my conduct must be security against such imprecations; and I leave the President to Judge.

As to the 3d, I simply deny it, as being without the shadow of truth; and I appeal to the Commanding officer, as well as each subordinate and private in the command--

As for the 4th. charge, I respectfully refer the President, to the Bill itself-- And as for the 5th, (viz) that I have said that I was sorry to say, that since my sojourn in this territory, I had heard no sentiments expressed, that would lead me to believe that much sympathy was felt for the Government of the United States, is true-- And I am sorry to say, that it is not only true in my saying, but in fact--

I believe that the above include all the charges made against us, that a mammoth Petition can be gotten up against me, or in my favor, just as Brigham Young desires, is certain-- There is no such thing here, as individual opinion-- Brigham sent forth his messengers immediately after the adjournment of the mass meeting, to all parts of the city and Territory, with this Command -- "Say to the men who refuse to sign the petition, that they will be immediately cut off from the Church" if they refuse-- In that single sentence, is contained more terror, to the true Mormon, than any Bull of excommunication ever had in the dark ages, on the mind of its victim-- Brigham Young has sent forth his Bishops and Elders, to all parts of the Territory, and to every "Stake of Zion", to call the people together in mass meetings; and they come "like spirits from the hasty deep"-- There it is, that he prints in double leaded capitals, "Voice of the People," when we all know, that they dare only echo his sentiments and wishes--

Day before yesterday, there was a great commotion in the city caused by a report, that Brigham Young and his two counselors were to be arrested, for violations of the act of Congress, against Polygamy.-- A signal was raised over the top of the Harem, and it was in effect, like a fire bell, with this difference, instead of rushing into the streets with fire buckets, -- each man as he ran held his loaded gun-- There had been no such writs to my knowledge at that time; but the "scene" called together at least a thousand armed men, of all nationalities-- Since then, I believe, that a writ was issued by Judge Kinny,6 against Brigham for the above named offence -- and it is understood, that he entered into bonds for his appearance at Court-- It amounts simply to this, he was compelled to make "a virtue of his necessity"-- It is probable too, that he has been advised to meet the case for the purpose of testing the question of the constitutionality of the act-- But in my opinion, the whole affair is a ruse to induce the Government to withhold any additional troops that had been intended for this Territory -- and finally, to withdraw those already here-- When this is done, the President may be assured, that no man can live securely in this Territory, who has become obnoxious to Brigham Young. I say this, that the President may be "forewarned and forearmed--" Suddenly there is an effort to make the people of the U. S. believe that these people are loyal. I tell the President, that those who attempt this, are intending to practice a deception--

The reason why Brigham Young has not set up an Empire here, is because he dare not-- Take away the troops, let the Federal Army meet with some great and decisive disaster, and this man would snap his fingers at the Federal authority -- and defy its power.

If Col. Connors', command should be ordered away, I do not believe that another like force, could get the possession of the same ground, without force and bloodshed.

"On last Sunday at the Tabernacle, Brigham used the following words. "Our late acting Governor, (meaning Secy Fuller) is a gentleman, and minds his own business and lets other peoples' business alone-- Have patience people, and he will soon be acting Governor again".-- In speaking of the loyalty of himself and people, he said, "Is there any thing that we would not do to show our loyalty to the Government, Yes, if the present administration, should ask us for a thousand men, or even five hundred to go down there, (meaning against the rebels) I would see them damned first, and then they could not have them"

Heber C. Kimball 2d president, said on the same occasion "We can defy the whole Government of the United States" -- besides many more insulting and traitorous expressions which were loudly responded to--

I can if necessary, procure the affidavits of persons of undoubted honesty -- to prove the above, and many more expressions far more traitorous--

I ask your patience in examining the foregoing statements-- I deem them important at the present juncture of affairs--

I have the honor to remain your

Obedient Servant

St. S. Harding

[Note 1 Harding, an Indiana lawyer, abolitionist and politician, was appointed governor of the Utah Territory in March 1862. Harding came into conflict with Brigham Young and was removed by Lincoln in June 1863. Lincoln appointed Harding the Chief Justice of the Colorado Territory in July 1863.]

[Note 2 Waite and Drake were justices of the Utah Supreme Court.]

[Note 3 For more on affairs in Utah, see Thomas J. Drake and Charles B. Waite to Lincoln, March 6, 1863 and Brigham Young to J. M. Rosse, March 7, 1863.]

[Note 4 Frank Fuller was secretary of the Utah Territory.]

[Note 5 Patrick E. Connor, colonel of the 3rd California, was commander of the District of Utah. In March 1863 Connor was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers.]

[Note 6 J. F. Kinney was Chief Justice of the Utah Territory.]