‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 10.’ by a Correspondent in New York (22 April, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the discussion focuses on Mormonism. An extremely contentious issue at the time which inspired much suspicion (see Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel ‘A Study in Scarlet’.

The Mormon Question.

One of the greatest questions now agitating the people of this country is, Shall Mormonless be permitted to continue its baneful, pernicious, and unholy despotism in this country, or shall we blot out for ever this deep stain on America’s [illegible]? Utah, the land of the Mormons, lies to the far west, almost direct west from New York. It s for the most part in a deep basin, surrounded by high mountains—the Great Salt Lake basin—and the lakes and rivers have no outlet. The Great Salt Lake is 100 miles long and 50 broad. There are 84,000 square miles in the territory. The soil is fertile and the climate, though dry and cool, is very healthy. About three-fourths dry and cool, is very healthy. About three-fourths of the inhabitants are Mormons. At the present time there are about 125,000 Mormons in Utah, and in the neighbouring States or territories 35,000 more. Some of your readers may not know to what extent this brutalising system is allowed to go on here. A celebrated New York preacher, the Rev. Dr Newman, speaking of Mormonism recently, said:—“Mormonism is a political body in the disguise of a church. It s a nullification, disloyalty, treason. It is a despotism, and the head of the Church is the despot. His immediate kingdom is Utah, with 150,000 deluded people; his remote kingdom is the world, and all men are his subjects. He is styled ‘prophet,’ ‘seer,’ and ‘revelator,’ and assumes that he is the only mediator through whom Jehovah reveals His will to man. He assumes infallibility, and claims the right to direct everything, from the slightest matter to the most important. The Mormons are bound to consult him. He claims the exclusive right to marry and to divorce. Each Mormon is required to pay one-tenth of his possessions when he enters the Church, and thereafter to pay one-tenth of his annual increases. This amount is paid over in trust for the saints to the President of the Church, who is to-day the richest man in America. As a civil and an ecclesiastical ruler the head of Mormondom claims the right to sentence offenders to death, and the twelve apostles believe in slaying the Lord’s enemies, no matter whom they may be. Mormonism is anti-republican. It is a kingdom within our Republic. It is a despotism under our own flag. It dreams of the conquest of the world. Polygamy is an incidental evil of this monstrous political despotism in our midst. We are reaping the evils of procrastination. We have dallied with this iniquity till it now alarms us. We esteemed Mormonism a standing joke to be laughed out of existence, but to-day it commands out most serious attention. We said it would succumb to the march of civilisation. In 1850 we organised a Territorial Government composed of Mormons, and thus recognised the Government. We have allowed the national domain to be parcelled out by that Territorial Legislature, and most of it by fraud. We have suffered emigrants to enter Utah from all lands. We have consented that all such persons should be clothed with the rights of citizenship, and we have permitted the women of that Territory to be invested with the power of the ballot, which women are white slaves. We have waited till the enemy is organised into secret military forces in the possession of arms, and who are now drilling for their advance. Nay, more, for ten years Republicans and Democrats have sat in Congress with a Mormon and a polygamist, who has recently flaunted in the face of the nation his contempt for the law of 1862. These are out delinquencies.”

The lamented Garfield, in his inaugural address, expressed decided opinions in regard to polygamy. He was in favour of removing the foul blot on American civilisation. The proselytes who travel the overcrowded countries of Europe and bring to this country women to gratify the lust of the “Latter-Day Saints” ought to be proscribed and interfered with by legislation. The sanctity of wedded life, the many tender influences that cluster around a home are annulled by the evil of Mormonism. The contamination of the plurality system infects the domestic circle. The existence of polygamy, although remote, has an immoral influence. Why should this blot on America and Americans be allowed? Why should women be prostituted by territorial rights, and made by the law more servile than African slaves, especially in this county, where the banner of freedom is said to flaunt in every breeze? In a letter sent to a Chicago meeting recently by one who has suffered under this obnoxious system, we read—“While it is right you should denounce in unsparing terms the utterly unrepublican principals of the Mormon hierarchy, the hypocrisy, greed, and cunning of the Mormon leaders and bling bigotry of the men, toward the women of Utah, there should only be feelings of pity and sympathy. Their sincerity and sorrow entitle them to this. Do not think them as stained and depraved, or even as coarse and ignorant; they are better than the system in which they live. The women of Utah are like the women of Illinois,—just as sincere, just as pious, just as faithful according to their light. Entangled in the meshes of polygamy are thousands of intelligent, sensitive,, and devout women. Do not think that polygamy is attractive to them. Are sorrow, self-repression, and heartache attractive to your mothers, sisters, and daughters? For these women in Utah polygamy is the one heavy cross which they sorrowfully believe the Lord commanded them to take up and carry. To all of this class there come moments of doubt, of rebellion against so grievous a burden. I may be permitted to speak positively on this question, for the first twenty-eight years of my life were passed in the very heart of Mormanism.” A clergyman who lived two years in Utah gives one illustration of woman’s lot in Utah. In March 1879 a young woman arrived in Odgen, Utah, from the isle of Guernsey, with other Mormon emigrants. She had embarked at Liverpool. Before leaving that port she had signed a paper, the purport of which to her was unknown, but is which she was made to promise that if after arriving in Utah she did not within a certain time refund the amount of her travelling expenses she would become the wife of say man who should hold this chattel mortgage on her body. With tears streaming down her cheeks, the girl told her story to a lady of my church. This lady told her that if she would renounce Mormonism the Gentiles would pay her travelling expenses, and she continued, “I will raise the money for you before Monday noon.” The girl promised to do this. It was then Saturday afternoon. But at four o’clock on Monday morning a wagon was driven up to the house where she was employed, and she disappeared. This clergyman adds—“Where she went to I know not, but I suppose to the den of that polygamist to whom she was sold.” This case illustrates well what polygamists will do in Utah to enslave women, gratify lust, and defy the law. The Yankees have plenty of bouncing and bragging of how they liberated from bondage the black slave. But is not this system, which is rampant in their midst, without let or hindrance, as foul a blot on their boasted land of freedom as ever was the black man’s slavery in its worst form? And yet we are told this is the greatest country in the world. Again I say I hope that some of their greatness will not extend to other countries. But it would seem that public opinion all through the country in going to assert its right to be heard and obeyed in this matter. Public meetings have been held all over the States condemning the apathy of the American Legislature on this question, and calling on Congress to stamp out for ever this social evil in this country. A number of Bills have already been brought before Congress to abolish polygamy. The whole country is up in arms against this polygamy system, and the sooner it is hurled into oblivion the soon will America be rid of this terrible cancer, and the stars and stripes wave over and protect another hundred thousand freed woman.

Correspondent.

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