Mormon History

Open Letter to Brigham Young #8 - 1871

Daily Corinne Reporter October 7, 1871


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

From Nauvoo to Council Bluffs -- The Mormon Battalion -- Brigham's Treachery -- Bishops Stealing the Supplies -- Some Splendid Rascality -- Incidents from Missouri -- Stupendous Lying -- The Two Governors of Utah.

Salt Lake City, Oct. 5, 1871.    

An Open Letter to Brigham Young.

SIR: The hardships and privations endured by the Mormons in 1846 at Mt. Pisgah, and indeed all along the road from Nauvoo to Council Bluffs, probably exceeded in real suffering anything of the kind ever before experienced in the history of voluntary emigrations. The labors incident to traveling over new and unbroken roads; unwonted exposures to the elements, and the malarias of the ciuntry; and an insufficient supply of food; told with dreadful effect upon young and old; and the road could have been traced by the graves by its side. Your headquarters had advanced as far as the Bluffs, while the main body of the emigration lay in a helpless condition at Pisgah. Absolute starvation was only averted by the sending into the settled parts of Missouri and Iowa of hundreds of men to labor for food. Even with this aid famine was in our midst, bringing with it its ever accompanying plagues. Deadly fevers and scurvy were slaying scores daily, and, to all human appearance, Mormonism had found its last resting place. The sufferings and sorrows of those days can never be written, neither can they be fully comprehended, except by Him who knoweth all things. It was during this dark and dreadful period in Mormon history that the intelligence reached the Bluffs, that the United States had declared war against Mexico. Immediately the way and the means to save the people occurred to you; and, besides, it would enable you to use the General Government in aiding you, in part, to accomplish your great emigration scheme. You without delay made application to the War Department at Washington, tendering a battalion of troops to aid in the invasion of California, coupled with the request that said troops at the close of their term of service should be discharged in that country. That application, sir, was, and doubtless is on file at the War Office, to substantiate this statement. And, what is more, you preserved a copy of that paper; and in 186_, it was (unintentionally), seen, and was read by one who had employment in your office. You had inadvertently left your desk open. The Government accepted your proffer at once, and the Mormon battalion was immediately raised, and as soon as could be, started upon its war mission. You, of course, had arranged to draw the advanced money for the troops, and was acknowledged by the Department as their financial agent. With this money you, without delay, loaded a steamboat at St. Louis with provisions, clothing and medicines for the Mormons, which was delivered up the Missouri in due time and distributed among the people. By this means they were saved from perishing. All this is to your credit. Notwithstanding you got the Lion's share, and the bishops (your distributing agents) were accused of stealing in some instances, your [action] at this time, and in subsequent distributions unquestionably saved the people.

It would give me a very great satisfaction indeed to write of this commendable action of Brigham Young's, had not his vile nature and vaunting ambition utterly neutralized its virtues and turned its sweetness by making it into gall the occasion of an unpardonable fraud upon the people, which had for [a] base intention, the alienation of the affections of the Mormons from their country. Your tender of the battalion to the Government had been kept a secret from the Mormons, who would haardly have forgiven you for initiating a measure which was to draw from them what little of strength they had left, and leave them exposed to Indian raids. It was probably known only to Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards, by whom it was also signed. When it is considered how fairly and honorable the Governmant had dealt with you in this matter; how readily your request had been granted; with what dispatch the means had been forwarded to you which had saved so many lives, and averted so much suffering; and how fully an unusual favor had been accorded you in guaranteeing the discharge of the battalion in California; (then a foreign State) it was to be supposed that you, in the presence of the congregation, would give the Government due credit for the same, and when you spoke of it at all, it would be only in its honor.

But, sir, you, not as the man Brigham Young, but in your public capacity as the chief priest of the Mormon sect, told us that the Governmnet of the United States had concocted a plan for our extermination! The plot was, to demand troops from the Mormons to aid in the war against Mexico. In our present wretched and helpless condition we would refuse compliance; and that refusal would be the Government's excuse for a Mormon war. Such, substantially, was the falsehood told with such apparent sincerity, and its credibility enforced with such earnest declamation, that it deceived everybody. Ot was received as true; and for years made a standing subject for public and private discourse, until it became so fully impressed upon the general mind, that Mormons even of American birth and education could look upon the United States only as an enemy and persecutor of the church, whose cold-blooded purpose had been to destroy us with the edge of the sword, and exterminate the whole Church from the face of the earth, regardless of law or humanity! This outrageous lie, told in the first place only as you can tell a lie, and for so long a time carefully nursed and kept alive by you, did more than any other thing to make the people of Utah hate the United States; to reconcile them to your monarchical projects; and to create within them the hope that you might succeed in the establishment of an independent government.

Ot is a long time since I became convinced that you were altogether unscrupulous in your affirmations when it suited your purpose so to be; but I was amazed to find that you could conceive and publish such an execrable falsehood against your country! There was to it a degree of baseness that defies comparison with the fiercest assaults upon private character. You may search the record of Jeff. Davis and other leaders of the late rebellion, and you will find nothing in their history that equals it in moral depravity and damnable meaness. The United States had never for one monent been derelict in duty to the Mormon people. In the rise of the Church, our preachers in the several States, suffered less criminal persecution by thirty percent, than did the first American Methodist preachers. And, after the Jackson county troubles in Missouri, when we made an appeal to the courts for a redress of the serious wrongs we had suffered from the violence of mobs, and petitioned the Government for a military force to protect us during the trial of our causes; President Jackson responded at once, affording us all necessary protection; and if we did not then and there get the remedy we sought for, it was not the fault of the Government. It was because the courts and people of that State were prejudiced against us; and that prejudice was due more than anything else to Mormon blockheads who could not hold their tongues about the negroes; and Missouri was a slave State. It is but the truth to say, that in all the Mormon troubles in that State, the Government of the Unoted States was blameless. Unfortunately, Joseph had studied the Bible to the neglect of the constitution; and so in after years when the Church had settled in Illinois, he, by "revelation," went to Washington and laid our grievances before President Van Buren, who replied that, "our cause was just but he could do nothing for us." For that answer the Almighty was to curse the whole United States. Joseph should have known that the Mormon grievances, at that time were purely judicial questions, and that the Government could only afford protection to the courts, which it had already shown its readiness to do; and that President Van Buren's answer was altogether proper and right. But many in the church did not view the matter in that light, and were already feeling sore about it when Joseph was killed, and then when we, who were the proper parties, failed to make complaint against individuals concerned in his death, because the whole nation did not rise up and punish those murderers, you accused the country to consenting to his death and declared that his blood was required at the hands of the whole American people. For these reasons it can be readily understood that the Mormon mind was in a good condition to be impressed with the foul falsehood we have been discussing. It is not to be forgotten that at the breaking out of the Mexican war the people of the States, called upon to furnish soldiers, responded in overflowing numbers, and the Government had no occasion to call upon any church for men. The whole story of the demand for Mormon troops was a falsehood, concocted for the purpose of aiding you in your monarchist designs by its tendency to farther alienate the hearts of Mormons from their country.

Having disposed of your meanest lies, I can not close without a brief reference to your meanest one. When Governor Cumming assumed the duties of his office, the story of the Mountain Meadows was yet fresh in the minds of the people; the actors in that scene had not yet begun to scatter through the Territory, and were not yet lost in the multitudes, and the duty of the chief magistrate in the matter had not yet lost its impressiveness by the modifying influences of time. That massacre was uppermost in the mind of the new Governor, and he sought diligently to make its punishment the act of his administration. He, however, soon found that you were still the real Governor; that he was about the most useless individual there was in the land; and that even the arrest of the murderers of the Arkansas emigrants was out of his power. Still he determined not to give it up, and in his perplexity as to the best mode of proceedure he consulted "Argus." I told him that any one of those men could be arrested, but the force that could succeed in making the arrest would be insufficient to hold him, as the populace would undoubtedly come to the rescue, and, perhaps, make it "warm" for the officers. I told him there was but one way in which those men could be arrested and brought to trial, and that was, through your orders executed by Mormon officers. I advised him to go to you and get you to pledge your word that you would have Dame, Haight, Lee and Smith arrested and delivered into the proper custody; and assured him that if you so gave your word it would be done. I have thought of that many times since and wondered how it was possible for me to have been so "green." But I confess that I did think that if Brigham Young should pledge his word to a high public officer to do a certain thing, he would do it. Well, sir, His Excellency waited upon you at your office, and I had his word that you did so promise him. He was content, fully relying upon your honor. But as months passed by without any perceptible movement in that direction, he became uneasy and called upon you and refreshed your memory upon the subject. You renewed your promise and he left. Still, nothing was done. His term of office was now drawing to a close, yet no effort was made on your part to redeem your promise. He made you several calls; you putting him off with excuses until his term expired and he was about to leave Utah. Before he left he called upon you and told you to your face, and in your own office, that you had purposely lied to and deceived him. Now, sir, the corruption and faithlessness of Gentile officials is a favorite theme of yours. Yet I do not believe there is an officer in the service of the American Government so corrupt, so abandoned, so wanting in self-respect that would so shamelessly falsify his word pledged as yours was pledged, and so utterly repudiate his honor as you repudiated yours. You afterward made the flimsy excuse that those men "should not be tried before a Gentile Court." In this subterfuge you disregarded the fact that, except the first six days of their session, and by virtue of your own legislation in the premises, our Superior Courts were not Gentile Courts, in a proper sense, because, in criminal matters, they could have no business not furnished by Mormon grand juries; and could pass sentence upon no man not found guilty by a Mormon trial jury, which latter could find no verdict except for offences against our own Criminal Act, which, itself, was supposed to be based upon the common law, a compend of the legal wisdom of all the ages since the days of Moses, your model and great prototype. But, sir, the true reason why the President of the Mormon church shielded those men from arrest and trial can be seen and understood at a glance. He did not fulfill his promise to Governor Cumming, not because he was unable so to do, but because he dared not. Even with the juries at his command, and under his entire control by virtue of the Endowment House oath, he dared not take the risk of something leaking out during the trials that would reveal the dread secret that, after all, he himself was the murderous chief of the poor Arkansas emigrants!   ARGUS.