Mormon History

Open Letter to Brigham Young #6 - 1871

Daily Corinne Reporter September 23, 1871


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

Salt Lake City, Sept. 21, 1871.    

An Open Letter to Brigham Young.

SIR: If you have ever asserted by a direct negation that you were not in some way connected with and responsible for the massacre at the Mountain Meadows, I am not aware of it. That you have in an indirect, non-committal, Mormon sort of fashion seemed to deny such responsibility is undoubted. It is true, however, you have said but very little about it. It was a bad egg to break, and the farther it was kept out of reach of expression the better. Besides, you have certainly rested your hopes of escaping the perils and possible consequences of a criminal charge in the matter by the ill-advised and unasked-for pardon of President Buchanan, and therefore hoped the whole subject, if it could be kept quiet, would die a natural death. But I think, sir, your attorneys will find that while said pardon included your operations in Echo Canyon, and the Plains and elsewhere where you were operating against the military forces of the United States it did not include a warfare against non-belligerents as in Lee's expedition. It did not include the extermination of peaceable families traveling upon the public highway, The massacring of those families was not an act of rebellion for which you were pardoned, but a commission of murder for which the principals and accessories are to-day liable to be hung. There is one plea which you have made ostensibly to establish your innocence, but really in extenuation of your crime. I refer to the story of your sending a special messenger to Colonel Dame forbidding the massacre. There are some items connected with this matter to which I wish to call your attention. To begin with, you never sent a special messenger at all after your troops had left Cedar, but you probably did send a reply by the courier sent by Colonel Dame asking you some question connected with the expedition against the emigrants. What that reply was is not certainly known, but was supposed to be in the emigrants' favor. I wish to ask you why it was that Dame should take the trouble and go to the expense of expressing through you any message whatever concerning a company of emigrants quietly pursuing their way and especially a message which evidently affected and was intended to effect their lives and property? What would be thought to-day if a courier from Colonel Dame should reach the office of Governor Woods with a similar message? That's the question! Then again, at what time did Dame dispatch that courier? Was it at the time the emigrants left Cedar? or at the beginning of the fight? If the former, then he had nine days before the massacre in which to receive an answer and dispatch it to Major Lee. If the latter, then he had five days. Now the time necessary to start a message from Parowan to Salt Lake City and receive a reply to the same would require not to exceed sixty-five hours, and from Parowan to the Meadows four hours. Then, supposing that Lee immediately started a courier to Dame at the commencement of the fight, I will add four hours more, which would have given twenty-three surplus hours in which a message from you would have saved the loves and property of the Arkansans had it pleased your Excellency to send such an order of mercy. But, then, what reason have we to suppose that Colonel Dame waited until the fight had begun before he sent his courier? On the evening preceding the morning the troops left Cedar there was a meeting of the troops in that town, at which Dame was present and instructed the militia in general terms as to the object of the campaign, and as to what they were expected to accomplish. After the troops had started, Dame returned to Parowan, and doubtless sent you word of the fact. If this be so, then he had nine instead of five days in which to save that company. And it is not to be forgotten that when the troops left Cedar, Dame knew the fate in store for the emigrants as well as he did at any time thereafter.

Now, sir, one of two things is certain; either the idea of exterminating that company originated at Parowan and Cedar, or at Salt Lake City, and if the latter place, then in your office. But if Lee had started that idea it would not have met with the sanction of Colonel Dame, who is one of the most timid of men, and is known and acknowledged as the greatest coward in Southern Utah. And one of the clearest evidences that Lee's expedition was the result of your direct and specific order consists in the fact that the militia was called out and started on by Dame. But if we draw so far upon our imagination as to suppose that the proposition of the expedition was Dame's, still it would not have met with the approval of General George A. [Smith], independently of you, and, of course, it would have been dropped then and there. And, besides, that precious trio were too good Mormons, and too well posted to dare originate anything, more especially so important a campaign as the one in contemplation. For a little regimental officer to originate a public measure or act would have been presumption unknown in the annals of Utah. They knew that your rule included everything civil and military within its active, vigilant, vigorous notice, and with a string and unsparing arm controlled public and private action throughout the Territory. Dame, Haight and Lee would no more have dared to order out the militia, and carry out to completion the campaign that accomplished the Mountain Meadow massacre, than they would dare sever their limbs from their bodies. Then why were the militia called out at all? There is an ugly fact that comes in here -- I mean the mission of your aid-de-camp, General George A. He had traveled ahead of that company, commanding the people to sell them nothing and to buy nothing from them, and was in Dame's office when the courier from Lee reached Parowan. But what is strange and somewhat tinges this "courier" story with romance is that your express and Lee's should enter Dame's office precisely at the same moment! Yours forbidding the massacre, and Lee's reporting to his Colonel that the job was done! Upon the whole, it is fair to doubt that you sent any such message, and if you did it was one of your artful dodges to shun responsibility, knowing, as you must have known, that the chances were a thousand to one that your message would arrive too late to save the emigrants. Here the inquiries come in: How was it that you sent your message of mercy to Dame and not to Lee? and why should it have been Dame who sent the courier to you if he was not as the Colonel of the regiment operating against the emigrants? The true answers to these questions would give to the while movement its proper military look. Now comes the pith of the whole matter: It was clearly understood, and was doubtless the fact, that you had put the Territory under martial law. Keeping this fact in view, the following queries include the whole matter: First, in the calling out of that regiment, did Col. Dame act upon his own responsibility? Second, did he act in pursuance of your order? Third, did he act upon his order based upon some general order of yours which would require such proceedings in such a case? Fourth, if he had that bloody job done without specific order from you, would you not have called him and Lee to an account fir it? Of course you would.

You perhaps think that Argus is pressing matters pretty closely. And I am satisfied that a possible future, terrible and retributive in its character, forces itself, not unfrequently, upon your guilty imagination. My letters are but thoughts, long pent up, but now finding expression; and that expression finds its justification in a clear and undoubted sense of duty. I have neither ambition nor desire to prosecute or aid in the prosecution of anybody. Notwithstanding I am so well satisfied -- so thoroughly convinced of your complicity in the massacre at the Mountain Meadows, and in all the blood-atonement murders that have been committed in Utah, that were I your judge I should undoubtedly hang you, and then States-prison every anointed perjurer who had tried to swear you clear. And severe as this language is, I am sure it will find responsible echoes in more than one Mormon breast. In order to consider the history of "your administration" in its true light, and to hold your acts at their just value, the Mormon mind must disrobe you of the regal purple in which you seem to be arrayed, and displace from your brow that imagined dazzling tiara of divine authority. For so long as the mind shall receive you as the monarch to rule and the inspired seer to teach, your voice will be the voice of God, your affirmation the inspiration of Heaven, and your every counsel and command a law which may not be disregarded. It was your ambition so to teach and impress your people; and their unhappiness to receive such instruction as the manna which comes from Heaven. It was this false and wicked estimate in which you have been held, that has compelled the acceptance as pure and true of dogmas which make no appeal to the scruples of a well-trained conscience, which have no voice for the heart -- no sympathies for the soul. It was the Mormon faith in the reality of the prophetic office, and in the inspiration of ots acknowledged incumbent, which enabled you to fasten "blood-atonement" upon the church as an institution, and to sanctify in their estimation as the perfection of holiness, pleas and practices which the moral and religious sense of Christendom has pronounced to be earthy, sensual and devilish. It is astonishing that in the United States a whole religious denomination can be found to accept as divine truths your favorite dogmas. That the right hand of the Almighty is red with human blood; and the road which leads the worshipper into the presence of God and the holy angels, should have petticoats for guide-flags! We will get bravely over this by and by, when the sober after thought shall come to dispel the illusion of your imaginary royalty and semi-divinity. Then the deceptive show, the false reasoning, the Utopian dream will disappear, and you will be to us simply as a citizen of the United States. Then will we be able to measure your words by the same rule, and weigh your actions in the same balance that we do other men's! Then, sir, will the dark and blood thirsty history of Utah appear to Mormons as it should appear, and her chief Priest, who has offered up so many human sacrifices upon the altar of his treasonable ambition and unholy lust, the foul murderer that he really is.   ARGUS.