The John Taylor Papers, by Samuel W. & Raymond W. Taylor Volume I, The Apostle

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. . .

He states that "The demand of the people of Utah Territory for immediate

admission into the Union, as a State, . . . compels the nation to meet face to

face a question which it has apparently endeavored to ignore." Is there

anything remarkable in a Territory applying for admission into the Union? Why

should Utah be the exception? Since her application, California,

Nevada, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon and Nebraska have been admitted. And why

should Congress, as Mr. Colfax says, "Endeavor to ignore Utah?" Why should it

be so difficult a question to "meet face to face? . . ."

Something was said about United States officers. I am sorry to say that

many . . . may indeed be satraps and require homage and obeisance; but we have

yet to learn how to bow the knee. . . . Some remarkable conversation was had

between Brigham Young and Senator Trumbull. Now, as I did not happen to hear

this conversation, I cannot say what it was . . . . Brigham Young does not

generally speak even to a United States Senator with honeyed words and

measured sentences, but as an ingenuous and honest man.

[259] But we are told "the recent expulsion of prominent members of his

church for doubting his infallibility . . . ." I am sorry to have to say that

Mr. Colfax is mistaken here. No person was ever dismissed from the Church of

Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints for disbelieving in the infallibility of

President Young. I do not believe he is infallible, for one; and I have so

taught publicly. I am in the Church yet. Neither have I ever heard President

Young make any such pretensions."

Taylor took up in order the four major points of Colfax's argument:

I. Their Fertilizing of the Desert.

"For this they claim great credit, but the solution of it all is in one


Water! Mirabile dictu! Here I must help Mr. C. out. This wonderful little

water nymph, after playing with the clouds . . . for generations, . . . about

the time the Mormons came here took upon herself to perform a great miracle,

and, descending to the valley, with a wave of her magic wand . . cities and

streets were laid out, crystal waters flowed in ten thousand rippling streams,

fruit trees and shrubbery sprang up, gardens and orchards abounded, cottages

and mansions were organized, and the desert blossomed as the rose . . . .

But to be serious, did water tunnel through our mountains, construct

dams, canals and ditches, lay out our cities and towns, import and plant

choice fruit trees, shrubs and flowers, . . . and transform a howling

wilderness into a fruitful field and garden? . . . Unfortunately for Mr.

Colfax, it was Mormon polygamists who did it.... What if a stranger on gazing

upon the statuary in Washington and our magnificent Capitol. . . . would

announce that instead of the development of art, intelligence, industry and

enterprise, its component parts were simply stone, mortar, and wood? . . .


II. Their Persecutions.

"This also is one of their favorite themes . . . . They have been driven

from place to place, they claim, solely on account of their religious belief .

. . ."

This, sir, is all true. Does it falsify a truth to repeat it?

Regarding troubles at Kirtland, Taylor pointed out that "Smith and

Rigdon were tarred and feathered in March 1832, in Hiram, Portage

County." This had nothing to do with the bank's operations, for the bank

wasn't organized until 1836.

But did the bank fail? Yes, in 1837 in the great financial crisis; and so

did most of the banks in the United States, in Canada, a great many in

England, France, and other parts of Europe. Is it so much more criminal for

the Mormons to make a failure than the others?

Regarding Danite activities, Taylor flatly contradicted the

affidavits of Marsh and Hyde.

It is not true that these things existed, for I was there and knew to the

contrary . . . . (6)

I cannot defend the acts of Thomas B. Marsh or Orson Hydealthough the

latter had been laboring under a severe fever, and was at the time only just

recoveringno more than I could defend the acts of Peter when he cursed and

swore and denied Jesus . . . . but if Peter, after going out and "weeping

bitterly," was restored, and was afterwards a chief apostle, so did Orson Hyde

repent sincerely and weep bitterly, and was restored . . . .

Thomas B. Marsh returned a poor, brokendown man, and begged to live with

us. He got up before assembled [261] thousands and stated: "If you wish to see

the effect of apostacy, look at me." He was a poor wreck of a man, a helpless

drivelling child, and he is since dead. A people are not to be judged by such

acts as these.

As to the message of the governor of Missouri regarding Mormon

aggression, Taylor said, "Now, if the Governor had reversed his statement

it would have been true."

Mr. Governor, it was your bull that gored our ox. We were robbed,

pillaged and exiled. Were you? Our men, women and children were murdered

without redress, driven from their homes in an inclement season of the year,

and died by the hundreds . . . in consequence of hardships and exposure. . . .

Mr. Colfax, in summing up, says, "There is nothing in this as to their

religion." Read the following:

Tuesday, November 6th, 1838, General Clark made the following remarks to

a number of men in Far West, Mo:

"Gentlemen, . . . another article remains for you to comply with: that

is, that you leave the state forthwith, and whatever may be your feelings

concerning this, or whatever your innocence, is nothing to me. The orders of

the Governor to me were that you should be exterminated. I would advise you to

scatter abroad and never again organize yourselves with bishops, presidents,

etc., lest you excite the jealousies of the people."

Is not this persecution for religion?

Taylor termed the Nauvoo Expositor "an infamous sheet, containing

vile and libelous attacks," which "would not have been allowed to exist

in any other community a day."

[262] A warrant was issued for the arrest of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, for

treason. They were remanded to jail, and while there were murdered. . . by men

with blackened faces. . . . The guard helped them in the performance of their

fiendish act. I saw them, for I was there at the time. I could a tale unfold

that would implicate editors, officers military and civil, ministers of the

gospel, and other wolves in sheep's clothing.

The following will show in part what our position was:

"A proclamation to the citizens of Hancock County: Whereas, a mob of from

one to two hundred men, under arms, have gathered themselves together in the

southwest part of Hancock County, and are at this time destroying the

dwellings and other buildings, stacks of grain and other property of a portion

of our citizens in a most inhuman manner . . . . The rioters spare not the

widow nor orphan, and while I am writing this proclamation, the smoke is

arising to the clouds, and the flame is devouring four buildings which have

just been set on fire by the rioters. Thousands of dollars worth of property

has already been consumed, an entire settlement of about sixty or seventy

families laid waste, the inhabitants thereof are fired upon, narrowly escaping

with their lives, and forced to flee before the ravages of the mob. Therefore,

I . . . command said rioters and other peace breakers to desist, forthwith,

and I hereby call upon the lawabiding citizens, as a posse commitatus of

Hancock County, to give their united aid in suppressing the rioters and

maintaining the supremacy of the law.

"J. B. Backenstos, Sheriff of Hancock County, Ill."

Mr. Backenstos was not a Mormon.

We set out in search of an asylum, in some faroff wilderness, where we

hoped we could enjoy religious liberty. . . . because there was not virtue and

power in the State and United States authorities to protect . . . [263]

rights. We made a treaty with them to leave. After this treaty, when the

strong men and the majority of the people had left, and there was nothing

but old and infirm men, boys, women and children to

battle with, they violated their treaty by making war upon them, and driving

them houseless, homeless, and destitute across the Mississippi River.

The archaeologist, the antiquarian, and traveler need not then have gone

to Herculaneium, to Pompeii, to Egypt or Yucatan, in search of ruins of

deserted cities. They could have found a deserted temple, forsaken family

altars, desolate hearthstones and homes, a deserted city much easier: the

time, the nineteenth century; the place, the United States of America; the

state, Illinois; and the city, Nauvoo.

Taylor denied the Colfax account of events leading to the Utah War.

He added:

There was really no more cause for an army, then than there is now; . . .

and the bills of Messrs Cragin and Cullom are only a series of the same

infamies that we have before experienced, and are designed, as all unbiased

men know, to create a difficulty and collision, aided by the clamor of

speculators and contractors, who have, of course, a very disinterested desire

to relieve their venerated uncle by thrusting their patriotic hands into his

pockets. (7)

I am sorry to be under the painful necessity of repudiating Mr. Colfax's


It is said that "corporations have no souls," and nations are not

proverbially conscientious about their nomenclature or records. Diplomacy

generally finds language suited to its objects . . . . When President Polk

wanted to possess himself of the then Mexican territory of Upper California,

he sent Gen. Taylor with an army of occupation into disputed Mexican

territory, well knowing that an honorable nation would be obliged to resent it

as [264] an insult, and that would be considered a casus belli and afford a

pretext for making war upon the weak nation, and possessing ourselves of the

coveted territory. History calls it conquest and reprisals . . . .

President Buchanan, goaded by the Republicans, wished to . . . make war

upon the Mormons; but it was necessary to have a pretext. It would not have

been popular to destroy a whole community in cold blood, so he sent out a few

miserable minions and renegadoes for the purpose of provoking a conflict.

These men not only acted infamously here, but published false statements

throughout the United States, and every kind of infamyas is now being done

by just such characterswas laid at the door of the Mormons. . . .

But in place of the "Beauty and booty" expected by the invading

army, Taylor said:

The Lord put a hook in their jaws, and instead of reveling in sacked

towns and cities and glutting their libidinous and riotous desires in

ravishing, destroying and laying waste, they gnawed dead mules' legs at

Bridger, rendered palatable by the ice, frost and snow of a mountain winter, .

. . at a cost to the nation of about forty millions. We had reason to say

then, "The Lord reign, let the earth be glad."

Oh, how wicked it was for President Young to resist an army like the

above, prostituted by the guardians of a free and enlightened Republic to the

capacity of buccaneers and brigands!

In the spring rumors prevailed of an intended advance of the army.

Preferring compromise to conflict, we left Salt Lake City and the northern

part of the Territory en masse, . . . after first preparing combustible

materials and leaving a sufficient number of men . . . to destroy everything.

Had we been driven to it, . . . every house would have been burned; . . .

every barn, grain and hay stack; every meeting house, courthouse and store

demolished; [265] every fruit tree and shrub would have been cut down; every

fence burned, and the country would have been left a howling wilderness as we

found it. We were determined that never again should our enemies revel in our


I now come to Mr. Colfax's next heading:

III. Their Polygamy.

As this is simply a rehash of his former arguments, without answering

mine, I beg to be excused inserting his very lengthy quotations, as this

article is already too long. . . . (8)

Mr. C. again repeats his argument in relation to the suttee, or burning

of widows in India . . . . To present Mr. Colfax's argument fairly, it stands

thus: The burning of Hindoo widows was considered a religious rite by the

Hindoos. The British were horrified at the practice, and suppressed it. The

Mormons believe polygamy to be a religious rite. The American nation considers

it a scandal and that they ought to put it down . . . I think that is a fair

statement of the question . . . .

Hold! Not so fast. Let us state facts . . . . The British suppressed the

suttee, but tolerated eightythree millions of polygamists in India. The

suppression of the suttee and that of polygamy are two very different things.

If the British are to be our exemplars, Congress had better wait until

polygamy is suppressed in India.

Having "waded through Mr. Colfax's charges and proven the falsity of

his asserts and the tergiversation of his historical data," Taylor

launched again into denunciation of prostitution, foeticide and

infanticide, as threatening "the demoralization and destruction of our


[266] Your bans are but a mockery and fraud, as are your New England

temperance laws. Your law reaches one in a thousand who is so unfortunate as

to be publicly exposed. These crimes . . . run riot in the land, a withering,

cursing blight. The affected purity of the nation is a myth, like the whited

walls and painted sepulchers of which Jesus spake, "within there is nothing

but rottenness and dead men's bones. . . ." You are virtuous, are you? God

deliver us from such virtue.

To a Territory out of debt, prosperous, free from vice and crime,

"What are we offered by you in your proposed legislation?" Taylor asked,

"for it is well for us to count the cost."

First, confiscation of property, our

lands, houses, gardens, fields, vineyards and orchards legislated away by men

who have no propertycarpetbaggers, pettifoggers, adventurers, robbersfor

you offer, by your bills, a premium for fraud and robbery. The first robs us

of our property and leaves us the privilege, though dispoiled, of retaining

our honor and of worshipping God according to the dictates of our own


Now for the secondthe great privilege which you offer by obedience:

Loss of honor and selfrespect; a renunciation of God and our religion; the

prostitution of our wives and children to a level with your civilization; to

be cursed by your debauchery; to be forced to countenance infanticide in our

midst, and have your professional artists advertizing their dens of murder

among us; to swarm, as you do, with pimps and harlots and their paramours; to

have gambling, drunkenness, whoredom, and all the pestiferous effects of

debauchery; to be involved in debt and crime, forced upon us; to despise

ourselves; to be despised by our wives, children, and friends; and to be

despised and cursed of God, in time and in eternity.

This you offer us . . . . We have, and prefer, purity, honor, and a clear

conscience. And our motto today is, as [267] it ever has been and I hope ever

will be, "the Kingdom of God or nothing." (9)

Colfax was allied with the Gentile "ring," dedicated to political

and economic control of Utah. However, two years later his influence

suddenly was curtailed when the world learned that the public image of

piety of the VicePresident was indeed too good to be true. "Smiler"

Colfax was found guilty of accepting bribes to influence legislation.

Though he avoided impeachmentby the narrow margin of three votesit

was on the technicality that his bribery had occurred when he was a

Congressman, before he became VicePresident. "These charges of

corruption," Roberts, says in the CHC, followed him "to the close of his


(1) Life of John Taylor.

(2) A Gentile paper quoted Brigham Young as saying, "Who goes to the

White House these days? A gambler and a drunkard. And the VicePresident

is the same." (Salt Lake Daily Reporter, 10 April 1869.)

President Grant's weakness for the bottle was well known. As for

Schuyler Colfax, he evidently was protesting too much. He was known as

the "Christian Statesman," being famous for a display of public piety.

However, he also was called "Smiler" Colfax by those who suspected that

his ostentatious attitude of rectitude was too good to be true.

Subsequent events confirmed these suspicions.

(3) Taylor was aware that the first revelation on polygamy was

received in 1831. It was not policy, however, to mention this.

(4) Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois visited Salt Lake with a

party of Chicago businessmen, and held audience with Brigham Young. Then

at a Gentile banquet in the city, Trumbull related that Brigham "had said

in effect that, if the federal officers didn't behave themselves, he

would have them ridden out of the city; and from this meeting the report

. . . gave to Vice President Colfax the [268] advantage to push General

Grant almost to the verge of actual war against Mormon Utah." CHC


(5) These affidavits have previously been quoted in Chapter 3 of

this work.

(6) It Was policy at this time to deny the existence of the Danites,

just as previously it had been policy to deny the practice of polygamy.

Marsh, Hyde (and also W. W. Phelps) were cut off for revealing secrets,

just as men were cast out for revealing the practice of polygamy before

it was announced to the world.

For an LDS account, see Leland H. Gentry, The Danite Band of 1838,

in BYU Studies, Summer 1974.

(7) The Cragin and Cullom bills were typical of "a number of hostile

schemes during several previous years," states Roberts in the CHC, "which

aimed at nothing short of complete destruction of local selfgovernment

in Utah."

(8) In avoiding answer to Colfax's charges of excesses and abuses in

the practice of plural marriage, Taylor unfortunately lets such lurid

tales go unchallenged. A brief statement of the ascetic requirements and

the discipline involved in correctly living the Principle certainly would

have been in order. Taylor goes to exhaustive length defending the

importance of the practice, and its divine origin; but fails to refute

popular myths regarding its abuse.

(9) For complete text of the TaylorColfax debate, see The Mormon

Question, being a Speech of VicePresident Schuyler Colfax, at Salt Lake

City, a Reply thereto by Elder John Taylor; and a Letter of

VicePresident Colfax published in the "New York Independent," with Elder

Taylor's Reply. Two thousand copies of this pamphlet were issued by the

Deseret News office, Salt Lake City, 1870.

[269] Chapter 16



The aftermath of the Civil War brought the nation to its lowest ebb.

In a notable oration on the Fourth of July, 1867, John Taylor attributed

America's rise to reliance on Divine providence, and its fall on

arrogance, when "She gloried in her own strength and forgot the Lord."

It may be said we are met here to have a political jubilee, and why

introduce religious subjects? I answer that my religion and politics are so

blended and intermingled that it is difficult to separate the one from the

other. The honorable signers of the Declaration of Independence were not

ashamed . . . to profess, "a firm reliance on the protection of Divine

Providence;" and why should we feel ashamed to acknowledge that those patriots

and statesmen who framed the Constitution of the United States were led by

inspiration? It is an honor to any man or group of men to seek the inspiration

of the Almighty. It is a greater honor to receive it.

The new land was settled because kingcraft, or priestcraft, "had

ruled with an iron hand throughout Europe, Asia and Africa," Taylor said.

The "victims of tyranny" fled for asylum to America at a time when "the

sacred germ of liberty, just springing into life, was in danger of being

crushed by the iron heel of despotism."

[270] Here, then, was a body of men gathered from the various nations,

desirous to form a government to meet the wants and exigencies of common

humanity. The experience gained in those nations had taught them their evils.

It was for them to avoid the rocks and shoals oil which many of them had

foundered, and to produce a strong, a just and equitable government, "deriving

its just powers from the consent of the governed." They stood upon an elevated

platform; they were pioneers of a new world; they trod the verge of a mighty

continent, and were experimenting on a gigantic scale! . . .

The fate of a . . . new world was at stake, and the destinies of unborn

millions in their hands . . . . Was it strange that men of keen perceptions,

enlarged minds and philanthropic hearts, should sensibly feel the heavy

responsibilities resting upon them and seekand obtainDivine assistance? And

shall we, of all others, fail to recognize the dispensation of Providence in

this great national revolution, and acknowledge the hand of Almighty God? Let

us rather, reverently thank His name for the benefits of "life, liberty, and

the pursuit of happiness....

Let me here remark that in no part of tile political world could

a government like ours have been established. In no part of the

natural world could so good a place have been found . . . . Every material was

here, in rich abundance, for the sustenance of man, the building of cities,

the facilities of trade and commerce, the advancement of the arts and

scienceseverything essential to the comfort and convenience of humanity.

Where was there a country better adapted to try a governmental experiment? . .

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