Mormon History

Open Letter to Brigham Young #3 - 1871

Daily Corinne Reporter – August 19, 1871


(Written expressly for the Corinne Reporter and containing a
true and succinct account of the Reign of Terror in Utah. -- Ed.)

Brigham Young’s Indifference to the Mountain Meadow Massacre -- His Army of Defense -- Appeal to the Proper Authorities to Investigate the Massacre -- The Guilty Should be Exposed and Punished -- Etc.

Salt Lake City, Aug. 17, 1871.    

An Open Letter to Brigham Young.

SIR: That an entire company of peaceful families, as at the Mountain Meadows, should be butchered in cold blood, anywhere in the United States, upon the public highway, and within the easy reach of the arm of the civil power created expressly for the protection of life and property, is a mystery which the purely American mind finds very hard to understand.

And the marvel is only increased by the fact that no inquest was held over the remains of those slaughtered ones -- that no arrests were made of the murderers, although they were well and notoriously known, and that no official notice was taken of the matter (except as I have heretofore stated) during the remainder of your term as Governor, and no apparent authoritative notice since, except to gather up, by soldiers of the United States, what bones the wolves had left, and giving them respectable sepulture. Based upon American ideas, and, indeed, upon the more general notions of civilization, the whole story becomes incomprehensible.

In order to understand this matter, it will be necessary for the reader, first, to mentally segregate Utah geographically from the United States -- to consider it as absolutely a foreign State and nation, with a civilization such as existed thirty-live hundred years ago, and a religion as antagonistic to Christianity as Moslemism itself, including within its creed a tenet 'more cruel and bloody than the Thuggism of India. Second, to consider this Deseret nation as incensed to the last degree against the Government and people of the United States, for a series of wrongs committed against them, including exile and the loss of life and property. Third, to take into the account, that the American Government at that time had actually proposed to extend its jurisdiction over said Deseret (otherwise called Utah), and an army was then on its way to occupy said Utah for the purpose of maintaining the sovereignty of said Government there, and that a state of war was apparently existing between said two nations. Fourth, that you were, at the very time of the massacre at the Mountain Meadows, mustering and putting into the field an army of one thousand two hundred men, which was known in Utah as 'The Standing Army,' and that said army was designed for active operations against the forces of the United States, under Colonel Johnston, then en route for Salt Lake. Fifth, that you were the 'Sovereign' lord of Deseret -- that your rule was an absolute and unmitigated despotism -- that your word was the only recognized law -- that it was within your imperious nature to rule with a high hand and a stretched-out arm over all your subjects, and with fury poured out against your enemies. If the reader can grasp the ideas contained in the above items, and arrange them into one compound proposition, he will be able to form some idea of the causes which made the aforesaid massacre possible.

But the misfortune is, that said proposition being based upon falsehood and not upon the truth, affords you no justification whatever; for, first, Utah was a part of the United States, and not a foreign State; second, your intense hatred of Americans and their Government was without adequate cause; third, the occupation of Utah as a Military Department was altogether a friendly act, and in strict accordance with the known military policy of the Government; fourth, that all your acts in relation to the State of Deseret were and are treasonable in their intent, and therefore illegal and of no binding force. For these reasons, the American people will refuse to look upon that massacre from your stand-point. They will and do hold you to your responsibility as a citizen of the Republic. And as you were at that time the Chief Magistrate of Utah, they have the right to demand why you took no official steps to inquire into that sanguinary affair which is the shame and damning disgrace of your administration. They have the right to demand why you took no official action in the case of Dame, Haight, and Lee; and how it is that you have so far persistently and successfully screened those murderers from the officers and the action of the law. It is a foul blot upon the workings of the system of American jurisprudence that the Mountain Meadow Massacre should having been committed nearly sixteen years ago, and to this present writing you, and Lee, and Dame, and Haight, are at large, and come and go unquestioned by the proper authority. The blush of shame should mantle the cheeks of the Governor of our Territory so long as that bloody affair remains uninvestigated, now that such investigation is possible. The judges of our courts should not have the courage to look a law-abiding man in the face so long as anything remains undone which they can legally do to bring those murderers to justice.

It appears to have all along been the opinion that the investigation of the Mountain Meadow Massacre must originate in the criminal courts. With that view, and the Grand Jury subject to your dictation, and under your complete control, what could be done? Nothing, absolutely nothing, but to wait. Murder is shielded by no statute of limitations. But I will here suggest, that such investigation should be made by a military court, for the reason that the operations of Lee were purely and undeniably of a military character. Such a court would officially determine the military character of those operations, would collect all necessary facts in the case, and those facts would fix the responsibility where it justly belongs.

Then such ulterior proceedings could be had as the case would seem to demand. If there are not Gentile officers enough in the Utah militia to constitute such a court, enough can soon be commissioned. But no Mormon should be allowed to constitute a part of that court, nor any Gentile who could be allured from duty by your sirens or be purchased by your ill-gotten gold.

And now, in conclusion, as a Mormon, I demand of the proper authorities that this long-neglected affair be investigated, in order that the innocent may no longer suffer that reproach which belongs to Brigham Young and others only. In this connection it is proper to state that there is a strong and growing feeling in Southern Utah against Lee and his co-labourers on that bloody mission, and against their confederates, apologists, and protectors. Even in Cedar City those characters are now known as 'Mountain Meadow Dogs.' As a citizen of the United States, I demand that the veil of mystery so long covering that butchery be rent asunder, and the foul deed exposed in all its repulsive hideousness, bringing to the light those latent agencies which superinduced its commission, in order that justice may be meted out to the guilty parties, thus wiping out a foul blot upon the American name. In the name of Justice I demand it, that it may no longer be said that in Utah the direst of felonies may be committed with impunity. In the name of Truth, I demand that the facts concerning the Mountain Meadow Massacre be ascertained and stated in official form by competent authority, in order that the people of the United States may know that said massacre, even to its most sickening details, was only too true...

Note: The full content of the above "Argus" letter remains undetermined.